Re: Multi-dome tank car data

Tony Thompson

Doug Harding wrote:
Distilate was an early fuel, a cheap byproduct (some considered a waste product) of the petroleum refining process. It is not diesel nor is it gasoline. Distilate was commonly used over gasoline because it was half the cost. Diesel engines were expensive, thus were not commonly used in farming or highway trucks until the late 50’s when their higher torque proved popular. A lot of early farm tractors ran on distillate (but started with more expensive gasoline or kerosene), hence the large amounts of distilate delivered to local oil jobbers in the 30’s & 40’s. A three dome tank car could contain distilate, kerosene and gasoline in amounts a small dealer could receive. Distilate was also used in the earliest gas electrics, the UP’s M10000 burned distilate. 

        We should be a little careful here with terms. "Distillate" can be a general term to denote ANY product distilled from crude oil. Its meaning has varied over time. Today it tends to mean "medium" distillate, which is heavier than gasoline, such as diesel and kerosene. Back in the period Doug is talking about, it meant a light fraction that contained several components now usually separated, which is why it was cheap. Moreover, each refinery had a little different meaning of "distillate" in those days. But I think Doug's main point is excellent: before 1950, diesel was little used by consumers, with still a lot of kerosene for all kinds of utility uses around farms and homes. Gasoline and distillate would be the two other fuels that most dealers would receive, in addition to kerosene and fuel oil.

Tony Thompson             Editor, Signature Press, Berkeley, CA
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