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Carrier at New Orleans: 1910

Circa 1910. "Southern Pacific R.R. transfer boat Carrier at New Orleans." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

Circa 1910. "Southern Pacific R.R. transfer boat Carrier at New Orleans." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Boxcars with lumber doors

According to the ORER, both these cars were built as straight boxcars, not ventilated cars. Clare is correct, those are lumber doors. Rough, unfinished lumber was carried on flatcars, but machined or finished lumber was carried in boxcars.

When bulk grain was carried in boxcars it was loaded through the side doors once "grain doors" were installed. These were timber (later cardboard) sheets that were fitted across the inside of the door opening to prevent the grain from spilling out of the sliding doors, and to limit the depth of the lading to avoid overloading the car.

Converted cars

In the early days of railroading, there was a type of car commonly called a "combination" car. These boxcars, also called ventilated cars, were designed for carrying fruit. As originally built the cars had a special double door on the side, and doors on the end as we see here. Over time, as early refer cars came into use, and started pushing the ventilated cars out of service. (Early ice bunkered refer cars hit the tracks in 1870, but were widely used by 1890-1900.) This presented a problem for railroads. They had a number of surplus ventilated cars left over and nothing to do with them. So the railroads converted them into regular boxcars with solid side doors. The end doors were kept and used for situations where the railroad needed to transport grain or flour, or any loose item other than coal or stone. (This was before the covered hopper existed and all bulk items were unloaded by hand.)

As for lumber? Typically lumber was carried on 28 to 40 foot long flatcars with wooden stakes in the side.

Retaining Valve

The "peanut" looking thing next to the handbrake is probably the "retaining valve," which was used in mountain territory to help control the train downgrade by retaining a portion of the air in the brake cylinder on the car, while the air brakes were released on the train to allow charging of the reservoirs. It was the days before pressure-maintaining-equipped automatic brake valves, so once the brakes were set on the train, brake pipe leakage would continue to add to the braking effort, causing the cars to brake harder and harder. A way had to be found to release and recharge the brakes on the car, while still retaining at least some braking effort, and then they could be set again. It took a lot of skill to handle those old trains down steep and long grades!

Lumber doors

The doors on the box car ends are known as lumber doors. Lumber was loaded one stick at a time. This is well before fork lift trucks and lumber stacked on open bulkhead flat cars.

Ice, continued

Mr K: Hatches could definitely be for loading purposes as well. Later reefers had ice hatches in the roof for quick loading at online icing stations, but as these are early ones I could see it. Would certainly be difficult getting ice up those ladders, especially when cars were coupled together.

As for the whistle-looking thing, my guess is it's the air reservoir release valve to drain the car's braking system. These days the release is on the side of the car toward one end.

Ice Ice Baby!

Lost World: I might echo your comment about the hatches. Could they be used to LOAD ice into the ends of the cars as well as for venting? Sure, I know that iced cars had the hoppers at each end for the ice but these look a little different.

Also, on the left boxcar, did you notice what looks like a peanut whistle near the brake wheel? Could just be a vent, too.


I pride myself on my railroad knowledge. However, I have no idea what those hatches are on the ends of the boxcars. All I can think is that these were early ice refrigerated cars for produce, which had ice bunkers at each end. The hatches would be opened to allow ventilation to circulate the cold air throughout the car, as on later cars which had vents on the ends. If someone has a better explanation I would love to hear it.


Note the "ML&T" insignia on the side of the vessel - for Morgan's Louisiana & Texas RR, a Southern Pacific operating subsidiary. For many years, railroads operating in Texas were required to be incorporated there, giving rise to a number of these subsidiary companies. Love the Kansas City, Mexico & Orient boxcar!

Transfered by the Kingfish.

The Carrier worked near Canal street for many years until the completion of the Huey Long bridge put her out of a job in 1936. Built in 1892 at Newburgh, New York, she was sold to interests in Mexico after 1936.

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