Re: Railroads and the Auto Industry: A Research Question
tim gilbert <tgilbert@...>
Dwight Smith, a B&M traffic rep. in the 1950's, wrote an article about
traffic into and out of New Hampshire and Vermont fifteen years ago in
the B&M BULLETIN which included the following about Automobiles
A) Chevrolets - from the Tarrytown NY Assembly Plant via rail to
B) Cadillacs - hauled via rail to White River Jct. VT from where cars
were hauled by trucks to dealers;
(Note: There was no mention by Dwight about GM's Assembly Plant in
Framingham MA which, I believe, was built during the 1950's. After it
was built, the automobiles produced there were hauled most likely to
NH/VT dealers via trucks.)
C) Hudsons - direct from factory to dealers via rail.
D) Fords - either hauled by trucks either from the Somerville MA
Assembly Plant (closed during the 1950's) or from Buffalo NY.
I would assume that most of the other makes of cars arrived in NH/VT via
trucks from either factories-direct or central distribution points as in
the case with Ford from Buffalo and Cadillac from White River Jct..
How what happened in NH/VT can be extrapolated to the rest of the nation
is another matter, but maybe there was a pattern of how the different
brands distributed cars from factory to dealer either directly or via
central distribution points.
During the 1920's, the auto companies started to decentralize final
assembly operations from Ohio, Indiana & Michigan to the far reaches of
the country in order to save transportation costs - a carload of autos
ranged about 10 tons per car (freight) vs. twenty-plus for automobile
Many of the smaller brands could not afford the branch assembly plants -
Studebaker, I believe, only assembled cars in South Bend IN, Packard in
Detroit, Nash in Racine WI, Crossley in Cincinnati and Willys in Toledo.
After the War, Henry J Kaiser started the Kaiser Frazier Automobile Co.
on the West Coast in the LA Area, I believe - the "Henry J" was one of
the brands. Buick, Oldsmobile & Pontiac's assembly operations may have
been thrown together by GM in the 1950's to realize cost-effective
decentralized assembly plants - I believe the first B-O-P assembly plant
was in Wichita KS as per a 1950's GM Annual Report when I owned one
In the early 1950's, imports were limited mostly to British cars
probably using the port of New York. By the end of the 1950's decade,
companies in Germany, France, Italy and Sweden also became major players
surpassing Britain, and automobile carriers began to transit the Panama
Canal and deliver directly to the West Coast. The Japanese only became
major players during the 1960's - at least on the east coast. I have no
statistics to back me up - only memory.