Fair banks Morse Engines Survive In Louisiana Ice Plant


| December/January 1993



Fairbanks Morse diesel engine

P.O. Box 51, Laplace, Louisiana 70068

In the early 1900s, my grandfather, Armand Montz Sr., was a vegetable grower and shipper in Louisiana. His first major crop was shallots; he shipped his first barrel of these tender onions by rail in 1911. In an effort to keep his produce fresh until it arrived at its destination, he soon started the practice of packing his vegetables in crates, topping each crate off with ice, and then packing the crates in even more ice in railcars.

This method provided a fresher product for market, but my grandfather had to rely on outside vendors for ice. As his packing business flourished, Montz decided to build his own ice factory, which he located on a spur of the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad (now the Illinois Central) in Laplace, Louisiana. Machines in the plant made what is known as 'snow' ice.

He had his own farm in conjunction with the plant, and grew what he shipped. He also purchased vast amounts of vegetables from all the other smaller farmers of this area. About 10 refrigerated railroad cars per day were shipped from this plant. He also had his own refrigerated trucks to ship his vegetables.

Powering the ice plant were four Fairbanks Morse diesel engines. These engines date back to around 1912. My grandfather soon realized that he had an excess of power from these engines, so he strung wire and put up poles until an area of about 25 miles was provided with electricity from the plant. Three of these engines remain at the plant. The control board is also intact. Our grand' father sold his electrical franchise to Louisiana Power 6k Light in 1927.

A 1921 article in L'Observateur, a local newspaper, stated that the factory was equipped with a 40 HP Fairbanks Morse crude oil engine and a York refrigerating machine, 'of the latest type,' with a daily output of 15 tons of ice and a storage capacity of 40 tons.