Early Comments On Pacific Fruit Express
This historical text is from the Proceedings of The Thirty-Third Fruit-Growers'
Convention of the State of California. This was held under the auspices of the State Commission of Horticulture at Marysville, commencing Tuesday, December 3, and ending Friday, December 6, 1907 .
The author, Paul Shoup, was to become President and later Vice-Chairman of the Southern Pacific Railroad in the 1920s and 1930s, was a founding board member of the Stanford University School of Business and founder of the community of Los Altos, California.
Only that part of his address that concerns Pacific Fruit Express appears below.
COMMON INTERESTS OF FRUIT-GROWERS AND RAILROADS
By Paul Shoup of San Francisco
Three years ago the pleasure was mine of addressing the State Fruit Growers' Convention at San Jose. Since then many transportation changes have taken place. Some have affected the relations of the railways with the public at large; some more especially the relations of the railroads with the fruit-growers…
Now, the problems of transportation are of as much importance to you as to the railroad. You want conditions to be such as to give you service—good service. Scores and scores of times, business men have said to me, "Your rates are all right; they're not hurting us; we don't care so long as we get the same as the other fellow; but give us service." If you ship for a certain market, the vital element in transportation is that your product reach its destination for that market, as, for example, oranges for holiday trade. If you buy for a certain market, say Christmas gifts for the holidays, the important element is that the goods be received in season. Now, anything that impairs the efficiency of this service, anything that prevents the growth of railroad facilities to meet the growth of commerce, is of real interest to you.
These problems of efficiency as well as of rates are not to be settled by ex parte judgment or perfervid oratory. They are to be considered without confusion, one at a time, after careful consideration from all points of view, in the same, sober, common-sense manner you treat other business problems. About some of these problems I wish to speak a word before we are through.
Usually there is publicity for the things the railroad has not done. Its shortcomings have a thousand voices. Once again, I ask your indulgence in listening to statements of a few things the Southern Pacific Company has done, or is doing, to solve these problems in which we all are mutually interested. These are not offered in the light of defense, but as improvements in which I believe you have a personal interest.
The greatest freight transportation problem faced by the railroads is the movement of California green fruit so deftly and quickly that in a trip of two thousand or three thousand miles, or may be to London or Paris, its color, its fine aroma, its delicate texture and flavor shall be as perfect as when taken from the tree or vine in the sunshine of California. Through heat and cold, over high mountains, across deserts and wind-swept prairies, your fruit must be carried quickly in an environment of even temperature.
Three years ago we depended upon a refrigerator company of independent Eastern ownership to supply our green-fruit shippers with cars. The agreement with the Southern Pacific Company provided for cars up to five thousand in number—a number now insufficient. Some of the gentlemen here present will remember the discussion in relation to the Southern Pacific furnishing its own cars. At that time I gave $8,000,000 as the estimated minimum cost of seven thousand refrigerator cars, and stated the fact that the freight charges the Southern Pacific alone would receive from the movement of green fruit under ice would not pay interest on cost, taxes and repair charges on such equipment.
Later, conditions became such that it was necessary to give further consideration to the car supply. And here I wish to point out to you the benefit of- associated ownerships of railroads—of consolidation, if you will. That which the Southern Pacific alone could not afford as a business project to undertake, because of the number of cars required in relation to its individual haul, the lines associated under the presidency of Mr. Harriman could and did undertake—all having an interest to be served by such an enterprise. Thus was born the Pacific Fruit Express.
I have heard some criticism of the merging of interest of the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific railways. Why, is not apparent; no one can point out harm resulting. There has been no curtailment of service, no raise in rates as a result. On the contrary, the evidence in behalf of its benefit to California is overwhelming.
At the time of this association of interests the Union Pacific had reconstructed, Omaha to Ogden, a fine highway, but only half the way. The Central Pacific needed reconstruction badly. The line was congested. California products could not be moved with any degree of certainty whatever; very well I remember studying the tissue sheets of ear movements to locate cars thirty days out and not yet into Ogden, before and during reconstruction. With the present tonnage, actually more than double that at the time of consolidation, the old Ogden route would be with its grades and curves completely blockaded. But the association of interests has resulted in the expenditure of almost $40,000,000 in reconstructing this main highway, Ogden to California. It extended the interest of Eastern men of wealth and enterprise to the Golden Gate. Since that time the energy and money commanded by Mr. Harriman and his associates have been given without stint to the development of California commerce and California's transportation facilities, whether the job be one of creating mammoth ships to carry commerce to Asiatic shores, the capture of a runaway river that threatened to engulf an area larger than many an Eastern state, the construction of a double-track water-level railway across a bay and through five hills into San Francisco, or the creation in two years of 6,600 refrigerator cars, the best yet built, to carry your green fruit to its market in the best possible condition.
The cost of these cars exceeds considerably the estimate made for 7,000 cars three years ago, because these are much better cars—by far the most expensive refrigerator cars yet constructed, with the largest loading capacity. The average cost is $1,750, a total of $111,550,000 for the 6,600 cars received to date. They were built by the Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, Oregon Short Line, and the Oregon Railway and Navigation companies to care for the fruit business originating on these lines, ninety per cent of which grows in California. To insure greatest efficiency in operation, a separate company, the Pacific Fruit Express, was originated to look after the distribution, use, icing, etc., of these cars. It has its own representatives, but all .agents and departments of the Southern Pacific give these cars the same consideration as if they were directly operated. The cars were built specially for fruit transportation. The inside dimensions are: length 32 feet 11% inches, width 8 feet 2% inches, height 7 feet 1 1-16 inches, outside length 41 feet 10 inches. I believe the shippers who have used them agree that these cars give better service than any other without question. The large inside*dimensions make it possible to load the product low, giving full efficiency in refrigeration. The Bohn patent ice tank, proved to be the best made, is used.
Icing is done carefully, and shippers are invited to visit the plants, to inspect the methods, and to satisfy themselves they are receiving all they pay for.
During the season ending October 31, 1906 , 5,930 cars of deciduous green fruit were shipped East; this season to November 1st, 7,048 cars. This has been the banner year in the green-fruit business. California has received more money net than during any previous season. Many cars of fruit brought over $2,000 each, while cherries in a number of cases ranged from $3,000 to $5,000 per car. The total northern California shipments of vegetables, green deciduous and citrus fruits, during the season just closing have been 10,912 cars, nearly a thousand more than last year. From southern California the shipments via all lines were 27,533 cars of citrus fruit and 3,477 cars of vegetables.
The prospect for this season is good. Since October 1st over 450 cars of deciduous fruit and 1,400 cars of oranges and lemons have been shipped from northern California—a far greater number than during last year's corresponding period. The present outlook for the southern* California citrus fruit crop is 32,000 cars, and 4,000 cars of vegetables—this season, altogether, spelling prosperity in capital letters for California fruit-growers. There has been no shortage of cars so far save a very temporary delay in getting in a supply to the Porterville district, a trouble quickly remedied by borrowing from our neighbor; and without minimizing the difficulty in distributing cars in the face of a tremendous freight movement, the Pacific Fruit Express and the Southern Pacific expect to meet the situation throughout the winter satisfactorily.
The ice shortage of last season is being met by the construction by the Pacific Fruit Express of two great ice-making plants, one at Colton and one at Roseville, to supplement the private companies' supplies; and other plants will be built if needed. Other cars will be constructed as business demands.
The precooling process has not quite passed from an experimental stage. The system being experimented with at Roseville bids fair to prove satisfactory; if so, it will mark a great improvement in fruit transportation, and the gentlemen originating it are to be heartily congratulated.
The refrigerator cars are not only expensive, but because of their weight and their relatively less carrying capacity than ordinary box cars, they are not economical cars to use in the transportation of the majority of other classes of freight. The gentlemen here present interested in the dried-fruit and canned-fruit industries are therefore more concerned with the prospect for increase in other equipment, such as box cars; and you are all concerned with the condition of motive power. But I wish to say here, that we are called upon to face a peculiar situation in the matter of car supply for the fruit industry. Of the total tonnage loaded on Southern Pacific cars last year, only 5.78 per cent—less than 6 per cent—was fruit of any kind: green, dried, or canned. I suppose the green deciduous fruit aside from oranges represented about 1 per cent, and with oranges possibly 3 per cent. The figures for local movements are not easy to obtain. Our total freight equipment last year was 44,294 cars. The Pacific Fruit Express has for service 6,600 cars, or about 15 per cent of those devoted to other service.
These figures indicate relatively how well the fruit traffic has been cared for in California, for practically all of the Pacific Fruit Express cars are now engaged in serving your shipments and will so continue throughout the winter. The refrigerator cars cost twice as much as ordinary box cars, and in proportion to the actual tonnage loaded are more plentiful. This recognition of your green-fruit industry should be gratifying to you. You have captured fruit markets half way round the world in one direction, and I think I may safely say half way round in the other direction, too. And the management of the Southern Pacific is glad to feel that it has had some part in this spread of California's influence. The value of the fruit industry to the State is recognized to be out of all proportion to its tonnage; it is a great factor in bringing us wealth, in advertising our State's resources, in attracting people from all over the globe.