California Fruit Transportation Company

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Refrigerated Car Line

Detroit Refrigerator Car Company

Swift and Company

The California Fruit Transportation Company was a refrigerated car line shipping California fruit to the East Coast. The company was a pioneer in refrigerated shipping of fruit in 1890, but battles with Armour and Company forced them to sell out quickly to Swift and Company.

C.F.T.C. was founded by Carlton B. Hutchins, a Detroit inventor, Bert Thomas (a member of a commission merchant), William H. Hubbard, and Harry H. Hubbard, all of Chicago. Hutchins had invented an improved refrigerated railroad car; Thomas and the Hubbard brothers helped organize a company to take Hutchins's prototype cars (built under his own company), and create a large fleet. The company found that the California fruit trade were particularly eager to use the new cars, and had two years of greatly increasing interest and profits.

In 1892, Edwin Tobias Earl, founder of the Earl Fruit Company approached the company, reminded them that 75% of their business came from his traffic, and demanded a commission or kickback for his business. When C.F.T.C. refused, Earl made a deal with the Armour company to supply cars. For the next few years, C.F.T.C. found itself fighting for - and losing - significant traffic. The company attempted to arrange an exclusive contract to provide refrigerator cars to the Southern Pacific Railroad's customers, but found the exclusive contract turned out not to be exclusive in practice[1]


  1. Charles Edward Russell, The Greatest Trust in the World. Part 1: The Great Yellow Car: the Bandit of Commerce.". March 1905 Everybody's Magazine.