Re: Railroads and the Auto Industry: A Research Question

Richard Hendrickson

Regarding RRs and the auto industry, Dave Nelson writes that in 1950

Texas was ranked #2 (behind NY) in states receiving automobiles shipped by
rail 11.6% of all such shipments. CA, WA, OR were #4, 5, and 6 -- strongly
suggesting that few (or no) auto assembly plants were in those states. All
5 of these states were in the top 6 again for trucks. At the same time, CA
was ranked #2 for receiving auto parts in rail shipments, NY #4 -- so the
data suggests those two did have some assembly plants (and from other
sources I know CA did)....
California was a major market for automobiles, even ca. 1950, and in the
post-WW-II era Ford, GM, Chrysler, and Studebaker all had assembly plants
in the Los Angeles area. Some dated from as early as the 1920s (e.g. the
Ford plant in Wilmington) but most were set up in surplus WW II facilities
for war production which became available after the war for pennies on the
dollar. There were auto assembly plants in the Bay Area as well (e.g.
Chevrolet in Oakland), and cars produced in these Calif. plants were
shipped throughout the western states, as well as supplying the local
market. In the freight interchange records between the WP and GN at
Bieber, CA for this era many auto rack equipped cars are shown northbound
to Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, and the same cars often returned empty
over the same route, suggesting that they were in assigned service.

Of course, only the most popular models were produced from parts shipped to
the satellite factories, so many complete cars and trucks also had to be
transported from factories in other parts of the country. For example, the
Santa Fe wrecked (at considerable cost) several auto cars loaded with new
Lincolns on Cajon Pass ca. 1950.

Richard H. Hendrickson
Ashland, Oregon 97520

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