Rail cars

Three box cars sit on a siding along Midway Drive east of Albany. (Mark Ylen/Democrat-Herald)

Mark Ylen

ALBANY — They aren’t from Area 51. They didn’t arrive by black helicopter. And as far as we can tell, they aren’t hiding Bigfoot.

That said, the ghostly white boxcars sitting motionless on the tracks off Midway Road east of Albany has mystified more than one observer.

What are they? Where did they come from? Should we hide the women and children?

Just three cars sit off Midway for the moment, with another two dozen or so parked near the Lowe’s distribution center in Lebanon. A few readers have called the Democrat-Herald to ask about them.

Robert Melbo, state rail planner for the rail and public transit division of the Oregon Department of Transportation, said the railroad line there belongs to Albany & Eastern. The company is storing the cars for Greenbrier, a company that manufactures railroad equipment and assembles railroad cars at a factory in Lake Oswego.

These particular cars are being fitted out to be mechanical refrigerator cars: the kind that held Frosty on his way to the North Pole, but much more high-tech.

As Melbo understands it, they’ll be equipped with fossil fuel-driven mechanical refrigeration units that will allow the cars to perform as mobile freezers or refrigerators, depending on the products inside.

Greenbrier representative Jack Isselmann said the cars are new-built, 72-foot, mechanical reefer boxcars, “one hundred percent made in Oregon.” The shells were built at Gunderson in Portland and they were moved to Greenbrier Rail Services in Springfield for outfitting of the interiors and mechanical refrigeration units.

“They have been stored on the Albany & Eastern and Portland & Western short line railroads pending placement with final customer,” he said via email to the Democrat-Herald. “Cars will start moving to customer soon.”

No official word on whether Frosty might indeed be hitching a ride inside, or if so, where he’s headed and when.

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