Re: WWII Freight Movements to the Charleston POE

George Eichelberger

Re the Southern Railway’s huge number of 36’ box cars in 1938-42. Fairfax Harrison, President of the Southern 1914-1937 was very concerned about the railroad’s financial health during the depression and was opposed to buying new rolling stock. The first all-steel 40’ box cars were purchased in 1938, after he had left office and died three months later in Feb, 1938. An article in the Atlanta Journal of Labor in Dec ’38 complained that the Southern was buying new box cars when it had 15 - 20,000 (sic 36’) box cars out of service that could be repaired by its shop forces. That number seems high out of a total of around 24,000 cars but between the depression and bad ordered cars it was probably a large number.

The older cars remained in service throughout WWII and into the 1950s. Although quite a few still sported truss rods, virtually all had been built or given steel center sills (SCS) or underframes (SUF). Many were “vents” used for peach and watermelon traffic out of the south. So, 36’ box cars remained in service on the Southern through the War because of economics and lack of replacement equipment to handle the huge increase in wartime freight traffic.


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