Re: Lumber Loads on Flat Cars and in Box Cars

Richard Hendrickson

On Jun 29, 2012, at 1:11 PM, Guy Wilber wrote:

Richard Hendrickson wrote:

"Packaged lumber (i.e., even-sized stacks wrapped in plastic) wasn't
shipped on flat cars until the '60s and later."

The move towards "packaged" lumber was underway by the early 1950s
when most industry was fully realizing the benefits of mechanized
loading and unloading. The AAR's Special Committee on Lumber
Loading (appointed in 1942) developed Figure 6-C to cover open top
loads of packaged lumber during 1950 as shipments of this type
proved problematic prepared and shipped under the existing
provisions of Figure 6. Though not yet wrapped in plastic the units
were banded (or wired) and of uniform lengths and widths.

The renamed Special Committee On Forest Products introduced the new
figure and rule covering lumber packaged in lengths from ten to
sixteen foot long during the following year (1951). After numerous
authorized tests of cars originating from both Southern and
Northwestern territories Figure 6-C was issued by supplement in
early 1951. Figure 6-C would subsequently be re-titled Figure 9 (as
amended) and issued within Manual MD-3 on June 1, 1951.

Figure 9 was revised again in 1953 with minor changes designed to
reduce the amount of dunnage used in separating and blocking
packages. The revised figure and rule was issued within MD-3 on May
1, 1953. During 1955 lumber shippers requested Figure 9 be revised
to allow for the shipments of eight foot long "studs". Revised, the
new Figure and rules were issued by circular letter as a complete
new Manual MD-3 was to be issued in 1956. Revisions would continue
thru the 195os including figures for seven foot "studs" as well as
Figure 9-B covering the loading of packaged lumber on bulkhead
flats which was issued on January 24, 1957 (effective February 15,

As for the plastic wrapping of packaged lumber; the first mention
within the Forest Products Loading Committee report was during
1955: "The packages are protected from the elements with sheets of
polyethelene (sic) plastic..."

From an article within Railway Freight Traffic, June 1957:
"Shipment of lumber in packaged unit loads is rapidly gaining
acceptance among both shippers and receivers. Unitized steel-
strapped packages provide a convenient, economical method of
shipping and handling. Receivers' unloading costs are cut up to 90%."

Mr. H. L. Hewing, Superintendent of Interchange, Chicago Car
Interchange Bureau (June, 1958); "In my opinion, one of the most
noteworthy accomplishments made in the recent years in the movement
of cut lumber, rough or dressed, on open top railroad cars,
resulted from the lumber industries adoption of packaging their
product and subsequent unitizing of the packages."
As usual, Guy has lots of documentation, so I stand corrected (at
least partly). I would still maintain that large-scale shipment of
plastic-wrapped packaged lumber was largely a '60s phenomenon, but
the concept of packaging lumber of uniform sizes obviously caught on
earlier than I had thought.

Richard Hendrickson

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