Re: A Guy C Wilber Kinda Question -- The Great Black Fleet

Gerry Fitzgerald

I find A history of the Petroleum Administration for War, 1941-1945, edited by John Frey and H. Chandler Ide a very useful book on the topic and have used data from it in both undergraduate lectures and also a long clinic I do on railroads and industrialization during WWII. I gave that clinic at the NMRA national this summer and at the MARPM meet a few weeks back. Some very interesting charts and tables and a better read as a cultural source than current government publications. A new book which some might find a useful overview is Hugh Rockoff’s America’s Economic Way of War: War and the US Economy from the Spanish-American War to the Persian Gulf War (Cambridge University Press, 2013). Chapter 6 is on WWII.

One of the most interesting wartime changes from an oil and petroleum transportation standpoint is the pivot in 1945 from the war in Europe to the secondary conflict in the Pacific. It comes much later than you think. The US agreed to a Europe First approach to combating the Axis, a decision the US Navy was never completely happy about. WWII was also a time when the major overland pipelines were first built from the Gulf Coast and Texas up to Philadelphia and various eastern port cities. The war began and ended with the majority of oil and petroleum movement by coastal tankers and barges. In addition, by war's end the railroads faced a new threat in overland pipeline routes.

From a model railroading operations standpoint oil shipments were even more complicated by late 1943 as the US was already started to shift "back" to a postwar civilian industrial economy. This is really intriguing when you look at the overall economy, industrial production, and the invasion plans for the Japanese home islands in the late Fall of 1945 and the spring of 1946. The unexpected end to hostilities in late summer 1945 brought the movement of goods and oil west to a rapid drop off. In some ways the data is still sort of a mess.

Some of the other data listed by others on this post shows useful numbers that can be plotted to give a useful indication of "flow" rates during the war. It is interesting to remember that the German U-boat attacks were the first successful interdiction of transportation by a foreign power (I am skipping the US Naval blockade of states in rebellion during the Civil War) in the US since the War of 1812 when the British shut down not only sea movement but many coastal roads through naval gunfire.

I discussed chemical plant construction and operations during WWII in a Layout Design Journal article back in 2007 and if anyone wants a copy they can drop me a note offline at   gfitzgerald111@...



Gerard J. Fitzgerald

Department of History and Art History

George Mason University

---In STMFC@..., <stmfc@...> wrote:

From page 9 of the "Steam Era Freight Cars Reference Manual, Volume Two: Tank Cars," published by Speedwitch between 2006-2008, "During World War II German submarines attacked ocean shipping and sank many U.S. ships including the oil tankers that were the primary mode for shipping oil from Gulf Coast refineries to the Eastern U.S.  Railroad tank cars were pressed into service to fill the gap. Trucks were used for oil shipments under 200 miles and the tank cars in oil service were operated as a pool.  Many older cars that had been idle during the 1930s, including some very old cars, were repaired and put back into service....UTLX 15487, built in April 1912, is an example."  See also comment on p. 11.

UTLX 15487 appears on p. 70 and its caption on p. 71.

William Bryk

On Mon, Nov 4, 2013 at 9:31 AM, Bruce F. Smith <smithbf@...> wrote:


Lots of great discussion of this, waaaay back in the archives (circa 2001)

Information posted by Tim Gilbert from the ICC Annual reports has the following:
12/31/1942 - 149,426 american owned tank cars (of which 140,971 were privately owned)
12/31/1943 - 149,769 american owned tank cars (of which 141,313 were privately owned)
Of these, approximately 110,000 were assigned to petroleum service, 18,000 to chemicals and acids, 3,000 to alcohol and molasses, 9,000 to vegetable oils and 9,000 to railroad service.

Very few new tank cars were build during the war and most of those were to the war emergency "USG-A" design

ICC stats on tons originating (no mileage) in 1,000's of tons 
Year Crude Refined Total
1940 5,035 50,509 55,543
1942 21,880 54,778 76,657
1943 24,891 55,155 80,046
1947 9,918 49,835 59,753

Daily Deliveries of petroleum to the East Coast (in 1,000s of barrels)
1941       1942 1943 1944 1945
Tankers (A) 1,421 391 160 276 451
Tank Cars 35 627 852 646 504
Pipeline 54    121 267 663 733
Barges & Lake 
Tankers 28 81 112 128 127
Total Overland 117 826 1,231 1,436 1,364
Total Movement 1,538 1,216 1,391 1,712 1,815
(A) - Barrels delivered by tankers appear to include the transport of Petroleum to overseas forces.
(Information from Tim Gilbert, summarizing American Wartime Transportation, by J.R. Rose)



Bruce F. Smith            

Auburn, AL

"Some days you are the bug, some days you are the windshield."


On Nov 4, 2013, at 2:41 AM, Phillips, III, J.A. wrote:

GCW, All-

A report on NPR this week about oil companies switching to rail while the Keystone Pipeline project lingers brought to mind Harold Ickes circa 1941 comment that U.S. roads would be unable to handle the oil traffic generated by the withdrawal of coastal tankers with the U.S. entry into World War Two. Today's heavy movement of oil by rail out of North Dakota brings back memories of dedicated oil trains moving oil during World War Two, especially movements to the Pacific Coast to support the U.S. Navy operations in the Pacific. Some questions I was thinking about while battling Puget Sound traffic:

How much oil did U.S. roads move per year from 1939 to 1946?

How many tank cars were in general use in 1939 to 1946?

With the clamp down on getting steel for equipment, did Uncle Sam allocate anything for tank car construction during the circa 1941/2 period through the end of the war? My suspicion is that U.S. roads had to make do with what was on hand at the entry of the U.S. into the conflict, rather than adding car capacity. Of course, as the situation evolved, perhaps there were increases in tank car construction in 1943 or 1944?

Anyone have details, sources or articles that might cover the above?

John Phillips

William Bryk
Attorney and Counsellor-at-Law
578 74th Street
Brooklyn, New York 11209-2614
Tel/Fax: (347) 497-5972

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