Re: Ethyl Corporation tank cars

Tim O'Connor


I suspect that heating oil, gasoline, diesel fuel, etc almost all arrived at
Bridgeport, New Haven, New London, Providence, Fall River, Hyannis, Boston,
Charleston, Marblehead, Portsmouth, Portland, and various lake ports (including
Lake Champlain ports including Burlington VT) by boat or barge -- And that truck
hauls within 100 miles of a port would be able to reach a good 90% of the population
if not more -- in the 1930's.

In fact oil barges still ply the Connecticut River -- I don't know how far they
used to go but perhaps at least as far as Hartford CT or even Springfield MA.
There is some kind of rail transfer operation at Bellows Falls VT for heating
oil and there was a similar operation at Burlington VT.

The reason that railroads were able to muster the thousands of tank cars to
replace coastal tankers at the start of America's entry into WWII was precisely
because there were so MANY unemployed tank cars !! They had been built to move
crude oil etc in the 1900's to 1920's but pipelines displaced them extremely
rapidly and by the 1930's tens of thousands were surplus.

I always found it interesting that pipeline "ton-miles" were (and still are) not
counted in statistics about "ton-mile market share". If pipelines were counted,
by the 1950's they moved more freight more miles than any other form of transport.

Tim O'Connor

You make a good point, but I think it depends a bit on region and era, and how you define "local". I model New England in the mid-1930s. Petroleum products arrived by both rail and boat, with the latter coming into just a handful of ports. Some was of course used locally, including bunker-fuel facilities in the harbors proper, but a great deal went out to the inland areas by rail (we had no pipelines yet AFIK). And of course there was a major curtailment in boat transport during the war, with a corresponding surge in rail traffic.

Or look at it this way: in the 1945 ORER I can easily get to 100,000 tank cars in service just by counting the obvious players, all companies.primarily in involved petroleum products (as opposed to chemicals). As I recall, you came up with something in the 200-300 range for cars dedicated to TEL transport. So maybe 400:1?

Dave Parker
Riverside, CA

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