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In Their Words : The Story of BC Packers
A railcar of cooked salmon being pulled from a retort
A railcar of cooked canned salmon being pulled from a retort at Imperial Cannery, 1940s. Notice the rails at bottom. Notice all of the hot steam!
City of Richmond Archives 1985 4 623
A railcar of cooked salmon being pulled from a retort Six steaming retort cars being pulled from a retort loading a retort car with cans of salmon pushing carts full of canned salmon into the retort ovens Men loading sealed salmon cans into retor trays Two men stacking full retort trays at Imperial Cannery

Cooking the Cans

Cans were cooked by high pressure, high temperature steam in large ovens called retorts. Sealed cans of salmon passed through a can washing machine on their way to the retort ovens. Cans cascaded down a chute to men who arranged them on cooler trays. Once filled with cans, the trays were stacked onto small railcars and wheeled into the great big retort ovens. Loaded with railcars, the retort door was closed. The cans cooked by high pressure, high temperature steam for seventy-five to ninety minutes, depending on the size of can. The Retortman, the steam engineer in charge of cooking, monitored the pressure and temperature gauges to ensure that the salmon was thoroughly cooked. When the door was opened the steam poured out. Men laboured in the heat to haul out the railcars and push them to the warehouse for cooling.

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