Keith W. "Tant" Tantlinger, 92, an engineer and inventor whose designs include the corner castings found on every shipping container, died in his home in Escondido, Calif., on Aug. 27.
Tantlinger, who worked for Malcom McLean as vice president of engineering and research at Pan Atlantic Steamship Co. (which became Sea-Land Service), developed the ubiquitous corner casting and twist-lock system used to load, unload and secure containers to ships, truck chassis and rail cars and other equipment used in containerization.
A licensed mechanical engineer and fellow of the Society of Automotive Engineers, he was granted 79 United States patents, all related to transportation equipment. Many of his patents related to commercial highway freight trailers and transit buses
In 2010 he was awarded the Gibbs Bros. Medal by the National Academy of Sciences "for his visionary and inventive design of the cellular containership and the supporting systems, which transformed the world shipping fleet and facilitated the rapid expansion of global trade."
Charles R. Cushing, naval architect and president of C.R. Cushing in New York, remembered Tantlinger as not only a "mechanical genius," but also the man who convinced McLean that containers should be built so they could be separated from chassis, with strong corner posts and built so they could be stacked atop each other.
He said Tantlinger was a modest man with a sense of humor. Raised on an orange grove in Tustin, Calif., Tantlinger was also owner and operator of a citrus and avocado grove in Valley Center, Calif., for 35 years.
Cushing recalled he used the term "prune picker" as the basis for his e-mail address because that's what "Okies" during the Dust Bowl had called California farmers.
Cushing also pointed to the gooseneck skeleton container chassis as another of Tantlinger's clever ideas. By building a "tunnel" into the container floors, four to six inches of increased interior loading height is gained in shipping containers.
Tantlinger also worked on the basic structure and many features of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) cars for San Francisco and the rapid transit cars for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority.
During his career he also worked as chief engineer and vice president of engineering at Brown Trailers in Spokane, Wash.; vice president of engineering and manufacturing at Fruehauf Corp. in Detroit; and senior vice president, ground transportation systems at Rohr Industries in Chula Vista, Calif.
Survivors include his wife of 30 years, Wanda; daughter Susan L. Tantlinger of Clark, Wyo.; stepson Daniel W. Delinger, wife Kelly, and grandchildren Rachel and Jason of Zeeland, Mich. He is also survived by nephews Peter and Michael Newman of California, and Keith Sorensen, who resides in Canada.
At his request there will be no services.