The main fall time exports of the Bridgton area were corn and apples. Both were susceptible to the weather and insects, but when the crop came in, it was good for the railroad, and sometimes good for the farmers.

In 1904, the orchards were full and the apple buyers took to the fields. Unfortunately for the farmers of this year, the regional market was saturated and the buyers were offering a dollar a barrel for the best Baldwins. Many comments made within the Bridgton NEWS indicate that this was just over break-even. The crop was good shipping business for the B&SR though, as they couldn’t keep up with the load, even though they were throwing every available car at the business with extra freight trains.

To frame the situation, product started shipping out of Bridgton the week of Monday, 17 October 1904, and by Saturday 12 November, 13,000 barrels had been shipped, with about 1,100 more arriving 14 November and 400 more departing the other Bridgton stations (No. & So. Bridgton, Sandy Creek, etc.). By the 18th of November, the Harrison branch had contributed an additional 12,000 barrels. That’s a lot of potential apple sauce to be put up.

So what exactly is a barrel of apples? At that time, definition was a bit fuzzy still. The Canadians had argued about it in 1884, and from the records reviewed, continued to do so for many years to come. The buyers wanted to use the same barrel that flour was shipped in, which had been previously defined, but the farmers wanted to use a smaller barrel, one which was defined by the state of New York. The NY barrel was defined to have heads 16 1/2 inches in diameter, a bilge (middle circumference) of 63 inches, staves 28 1/2 inches long and not hold less than 100 quarts. The United States Congress further refined this definition in 1912, to set common weights and measures for interstate commerce:

1. Aug 3, 1912, c 273 §1, 37 Stat. 250.

15 USC Sec 231 (01/16/96)

§ 231. Standard barrel for apples; steel barrels

The standard barrel for apples shall be of the following dimensions when measured without distention of its parts: Length of stave, twenty-eight and one-half inches; diameter of head, seventeen and one-eighth inches; distance between heads, twenty-six inches; circumference of bulge, sixty-four inches outside measurement, representing as nearly as possible seven thousand and fifty-six cubic inches: Provided, That steel barrels containing the interior dimensions provided for in this section shall be construed as a compliance therewith.

The volume of the USC barrel was larger than that of the NY barrel, holding 3 bushel and a peck, rather than 2.7 bushels in the latter. The weight of a barrel varied as well. A bushel of apples weighs between 40 and 48 pounds, dependent upon species, size, etc.. A more modern source for small farmers states a barrel of apples weighs 135 lbs. If the barrels of the time were built to hold 2.7 bushels (100 quarts), the weight would range from 108 to 130 pounds. A 1918 Special Report of the Railroad and Warehouse Commission lists a “Full Apple Barrel”* at 30 pounds. This is the weight for the container only, and is a complete barrel as we visualize one to be. For the sake of picking a number, I’m going to assume a filled, Full Barrel of Baldwins weighed 150 pounds.

The interiors of the B&SR box cars are a tad over six feet wide on the inside, between the protective planking. Three of the NY barrels, at a 20 inches diameter waistline, can fit across inside, and if stored horizontally, will stack three rows high before contacting the roof. at 28.5 inches long, 11 barrels can lay end to end inside a 28 foot boxcar (27′-6″ inside) for a total of 33 barrels per layer, or 12 barrels end to end inside a 30 food boxcar (29′-6” inside) for a load of 36 barrels per layer. That is a total capacity of 99 barrels (14,850 lb) for the 28 foot car and 108 bbls (16,200 lb) for the 30 footer, so volume was the shipping restriction. This was further extrapolated to 90 bbls (13,500 lb) in the 26 foot car.

28-ft Boxcar with Apple Barrels

Getting down to the brass tacks, the B&SR had eighteen boxcars (7-26′, 7-28′ & 4-30′) in 1904 to move 26,500 barrels of apples (1,988 tons), or approximately 272 average boxcar-loads, in about 5 weeks. Working 6 days a week, that is nine full boxcars per day, making the trip from Bridgton or Harrison to the Junction.

Let’s backtrack to the internal planking of the boxcars, put in place to protect the structure of the car from its contents. Would the B&SR have loaded the cars with freight above this planking, which was 30.5″ above the floor? Possibly. If it was my equipment, I’d carry bags of cotton or rags above that line, but I don’t know if I would do it with 150 lb apple barrels. In such a case, they could load two layers of horizontal barrels or one layer of vertically stored barrels below the planking line. Using only the 28-footer as an example, its capacity would be 66 bbls horizontal, or 48 bbls vertical.

What this really comes down to is how you might like to operate your scale railroad should you model this period. If you wish to run a lesser number of cars with apples, stack them high, but should you wish to really strain the equipment availability, limit the load to below that plank line and run 1/3 more cars of apples.

I’m seeing visions of flatcars with barrels passing by now…


* The other container option is a “Half Apple Barrel” which is a full barrel cut in half around its midsection with a larger drum head applied here.

(Originally published December 27, 2016; Updated January 16, 2017.)