MDT #12549

The nearby community of East Rochester was once home to Merchants Despatch Transport, builder and operator of leased refrigerated freight cars. The long history of this town’s development stretches back to 1897, when MDT began construction of a new car construction shop in some grassy fields outside of Penfield. The first railcar to emerge from this complex rolled in 1898, thus beginning 72 years of manufacturing in East Rochester. By 1899, more than 700 workers were employed in the growing facility, which was used by MDT to manufacture and maintain its line of leased freight cars. The Despatch Shops eventually became a subsidiary of the New York Central, and was shut down by successor Penn Central in 1970. However, the MDT name would survive until the present day as a transportation lessor.

MDT #12549 came from nearby Buffalo, New York. While its cosmetic appearance may not be museum quality, this car is certainly worthy of preservation. MDT 12549 was built by Despatch Shops in East Rochester in September 1953. Like its West Coast twin, this car is ice cooled, using Equipco Overhead M-29-3 electric air circulating fans powered by an axle generator. Measuring 42’-6 over the couplers, MDT 12549 was equipped with dual 2’ plug doors, and has the unique “DSI” car ends. At the time, the average cost to construct cars like these was $9871.22.

After a long career of transporting produce around the country, this reefer came to rest at the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal in Buffalo, where it was used as a support car. It was donated to Rochester Chapter by MDT in November 1996, and moved to the museum by Silk Road Transport in 1997. Currently this car is stored at Industry awaiting cosmetic restoration by our volunteers. When completed, this steel car will be an integral part of our proposed “farm to market” museum display.

Technical Data

  • Ice-cooled refrigerator car
  • Built by Despatch Shops Inc., East Rochester, New York
  • Lot: 12200-12699, built 1953
  • Average build cost: $9,871.22
  • Last Use: Support car in Niagara Frontier Food Terminal in Buffalo
  • Donated in November 1996 by MDT
  • Length: 42′ 6″ over couplers
  • Capacity: 70,000lbs
  • Doors: Dual 2′ plug
  • Car Ends: Unique Despatch-manufactured car ends

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