About the Santa Fe Historical Society

Milk on the Santa Fe

By D. K. Spencer

When I was a Santa Fe worker in the mid to late 1940's, milk in small shipments of five and ten gallon cans shipped in baggage service by local farmers on the Colorado Division, were a daily occurrence on eastbound local passenger trains such as #4 - California Limited; #10 - Centennial (Denver-Kansas City); #14 (Denver-La Junta), and the "plug" #128, name forgotten, (La Junta to Newton).

Most were going to Newton Creamery in Newton Kansas. Not sure why farmers sent milk over 300 miles for processing, but assume Newton paid a higher price than local creameries. With the depression just ending, Newton Creamery might have been the only reliable income source for farmers just barely making ends meet.

Five gallon cans were a snap, but lifting the ten gallon cans from a baggage wagon upwards to the baggage car doorway was a chore, especially if you were working alone and had several. That is when you learned how to boost with your knees and thighs, as well as back muscles. That was also the time when a lid not firmly tight, would douse you good with milk, and sometimes when the milk was sour, the inside pressure would blow a lid off, when jostling it around.

I believe the Newton Creamery supplied milk for Fred Harvey restaurants and dining cars, as well as for Hamlin Supply, who was the food supplier for various Santa Fe railroad gangs and mess halls around the system. I remember getting twice weekly shipments of bottled milk from Newton when I was store keeper for Fred Harvey in La Junta in 1941-43.

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