The Fruit Growers Express Refrigerator Car came to Midwest through the keen eye and perseverance of Doug Fink. The somewhat rare car was seen sitting at the old Northern Ohio Food terminal in the flats for many years. Midwest obtained ownership and moved it to the roundhouse but that was just the beginning.
A thorough inspection revealed a number of problems that had to be rectified if the car was to survive. The body had an obvious tilt to one side and due to the nature of the car being refrigerated with ice, the interior contained a lot of rotted wood. The car’s restoration began headed by the team of Ray Chipgus, Don Johnson and Charlie Irwin with the assistance of many more volunteers.
The body tilt was eliminated by removing some of the interior walls and straightening the frame. Wood was then reapplied to hold the frame in its’ original framework. To keep rainwater out of the interior, new hatch covers were fabricated using the remains of the original ones as a pattern. The roof was needle gun scaled to remove the flaking rust coating and then primed and painted. The wooden walkway across the length of the car had pretty much rotted away and was restored back to its’ original condition. A rotted wooden beam which sat upon the iron frame of the car that supported the bottom end of the siding was replaced by a new six-inch by eight-inch beam that was installed in three sections and spliced together.
Today the car is a popular attraction during open houses because it houses Midwest’s operating model train exhibits. Also used in the popular night photo shoots it is part of a string that normally includes the Gulf Oil tank car along with a vintage box car and caboose.
Sitting year round on a siding outside in Northeast Ohio does no favors to any car whether it is wood or steel construction and the FGX Refrigerator car is showing sides of fading and peeling paint along with a few leaks in the roof. The car is one more item on our list of maintenance and restoration items that will be addressed when time and funds are available. In the mean-time, some of our younger members are developing a plan to reconstruct the train layouts within to make better use of the space while allowing better access to visitors.
Note: Portions of this article were taken from the MRPS car histories written by Mike Kole