Re: December 1930 Railroad Freight Car Fleet

tim gilbert <tgilbert@...>

I admire David Thompson's tenacity in providing the summaries of roster
totals by car types which he has delved from the Westerfield CD's of the
1919 & 1930 ORER's. I have dreaded doing it even directly from the
ORER's themselves: - a much easier process although it does beat up the
ORER's - many of my ORER's are now held together by scotch tape.

A couple of things to note:

1) If the Box, Automobile & Ventilator Cars were grouped together as
they were for ICC Reports, and the NYC's & its 100%-owned subsidiaries
(ex-P&LE which had a minority interest), the NYC owned more boxcars than
the PRR through 1938 per the following tables:

A) From the November 1925 ORER:

XM XA XF Vent. Total
NYC 45,540 15,994 61,534
B&A 6,195 40 6,235
Mich. Cent. 8,624 19,111 27,735
Big 4 16,274 686 16,960
Ohio Cent. 1,134 39 1,173
Peoria & East. 636 18 654
Total NYC 78,403 35,888 114,291
PRR 80,898 8,631 17 1,591 91,137

B) From the August 1931 ORER:

XM XA Vent. Total
NYC 46,740 16,049 62,789
B&A 5,988 38 6,026
Mich. Cent. 7,673 20,361 28,034
Big 4 16,599 1,688 18,287
Can. Sou. 481 1,242 1,723
Peoria & East. 639 18 657
Total NYC 78,120 39,396 117,516
PRR 83,298 10,382 90 93,770

C) From the January 1938 ORER:

NYC 31,824 280 6,007 2,014 4,269 44,394
B&A 5,726 38 5,764
MC 4,185 13,925 90 357 18,567
Big 4 7,118 2,927 24 670 10,789
Tot NYC 48,851 280 22,897 24 2,104 5,296 79,452
PRR 67,701 2,556 2,567 1,183 2,113 76,123

I don't know what conclusions can be made except that the PRR was not #1
in everything. It also shows that the NYC retired a higher percentage of
relics during the PRR, but then again, the SPF's would argue that the
Pennsy had a more modern boxcar fleet in 1930 than the Central. The
SPF's might want to argue that their numbers could not include the
WABASH's & subsidiary Ann Arbor because of the court order forbidding
the PRR from exercising any operating control when they bought the
common shares. It should be pointed out that, in the routing guides, the
NYC separated the B&A, Big 4, MC, the NYC (East), NYC (West), and West
Shore up through the formation of Conrail in 1976.

That the NYC kept these entities separate was part of their
decentralized management policy versus the Pennsy which had a much more
centralized philosophy - another one of reasons that the management of
the Penn Central was such a disaster.

2) In 1955 finally, the ICC separated Special Service Boxcars from
General Service Boxcars. Included in the General Service category were
the Mechanical Designations - XM, XME, XI, VA, VM, VS & LC - While in
the Special Service category were - XAP, XAR, XML, XMP & XT. Since 1925,
certain Mechanical Designations had been superseded - XA, XAB, XF and
XAF, but these would have been considered to be Special Service under
the 1955 definition.

The table below compares the percentage of General Service Boxcars with
Special Service Boxcars for the US Fleet (ex CP & CN) as per seven
ORER's which I have from the 1925-1961 period. Ventilators are separated
from General Service because a Ventilated Car had a special use before
the WW II, but after the War they was used as a General Service Boxcar.
Because the Boxcar summaries in the ORER's did not include either the LC
or XT cars, they are excluded from the table.

US Total Other Total
ORER (000's) Vent. Gen'l Gen'l Special
11/1925 1,088 5.4% 81.1% 86.5% 13.5%
8/1931 1,046 4.8% 76.9% 81.8% 18.2%
1/1938 756 3.1% 77.0% 80.1% 19.9%
1/1943 749 1.5% 82.8% 84.3% 15.7%
4/1949 729 1.4% 92.0% 93.4% 6.6%
4/1955 716 0.6% 92.4% 93.0% 7.0%
4/1961 689 0.2% 91.6% 91.8% 8.2%

Special Service Boxcars were almost entirely cars for the Auto Industry
before the War. They were generally newer than the General Service
Fleet; hence, they were not retired as quickly during the Depression as
the older General Service fleet was.

Special Service Boxcars maintained their double digit percentage during
the War probably mostly because the ORER publishers (or the RR's
submitting) never got around to changing the designations. With
virtually no auto industry, most of the Special Service Boxcars were
used in more Generalized Service - recognition of which was reflected in
the April 1949 ORER ( & probably before, but I don't have any ORER's
between Jan. 1943 & April 1949).

After the European War started in 1939, there was much concern as to
whether there would be a car shortage if the US entered the War - the US
boxcar fleet of Class I RR's had dropped 32.3% from 1,040,818 in 1917 to
704,472 on 12/31/1939 although the average Capacity had increased from
36.6 tons per car to 44.8 tons per car in 1939; thus, in terms of
aggregate capacity of all US boxcars, the decrease was only about 15%.

Still, the increased volume of war-time traffic stretched the capacity
of the boxcar fleet. Heavier loadings per car were mandated - for
instance the average tons of LCL carried in a car was around 5 tons;
during the war, LCL cars had to carry 10 tons with some exceptions.
There was federal control of loadings for the seaports - in 1917, every
Tom, Dick & Harry in America loaded boxcars for the east coast
regardless of whether shipping was available or not. The result was a
log jam of cars caused not by the railroads, but by the procurement
agencies. In WW II, cars were not loaded until the shipping was
scheduled to be available.

The Feds, indeed, controlled the routing of all car types. One of the
results of this control was ignoring the Interchange Rule to reload
foreign car empties only if the the load could be routed in the
direction of the car's home road. Special Service Boxcars also had to be
utilized to provide a supply of cars. These factors "generalized" and
dispersed the boxcar fleet all over the USA.

When peace came, consumer demand surged so that there was more demand
for boxcars for loading than there was during the War. Meanwhile, there
was not enough steel allocated to build enough cars to reduce the
shortages - in January 1947, the AAR estimated that there was a shortage
of 100,000 boxcars - roughly 15%. As a result, ignoring the rule to
reload in the direction of the home road was maintained during the

With the decline in automobile loadings due to the decentralization of
the assembly plants (and increase in the auto parts business - more
efficient in the terms of utilizing the cubic and weight capacity of
boxcars), not as many special service boxcars were needed as the
percentage of General Service Boxcars went over 90% of all Boxcars.

Ignoring the Rule to Reload and Route in the direction of the Home Road
did cause problems particularly the Granger roads. The number of boxcars
these roads contributed to the national fleet was based upon their needs
during the seasonal grain rush. Thus, what they rostered was probably
greater than what they would have owned if there was no seasonal grain
rush. Whatever surpluses of boxcars they might have evaporated during
the period of car shortages. They complained heartily - Senator Reed of
Kansas was probably the most quoted man in the post-war RAILWAY AGES.
They probably wanted to get some car order out of the AAR's Car Service
Bureau similar to the one that the N&W, VGN, C&O and L&N got for their
hoppers - no reloading by a foreign road. This, the Granger Roads never
got. But by careful management of the empties returning to their home
road, substitution of other car types for otherwise normal boxcar
loadings as well as car orders just before and during the Grain Rush
mandating the return of a specified number of empty boxcars at a
junction point, they managed to survive. The Recession of 1949
alleviated this pressure when there were enough boxcars returned home
empty since there were not enough loads available to reload them on
foreign turf.

I have ran on long enough; hope this has been helpful,

Tim Gilbert

Join to automatically receive all group messages.