Re: Livestock through Chicago

Ray Breyer

Hi Dave,

The ICC may have only been looking at rail shipments, while the USDA was looking at all animals and how they were shipped. I'll have to dig through my piles of PDFs to find the specific source for my material (and a link back to Google Books). More later!
Regardless, the ICC traffic statistics DO show a general decrease in overall animal tonnage, to the point that it took WWII to bring it back up to a level last seen in 1920. The country's population was still growing and meat consumption really didn't decrease during the 1930s; with those two data points as a given the animals had to be moving to market somehow.

(as a point of reference, that Drover's Journal I mentioned earlier states that in 1901, 3906 hogs came into the Chicago yards by truck/wagon/foot, but by 1911 the numbers had increased to 353,845 hogs into the yards "other than by rail". That's sort of an important jump)

Ray Breyer
Elgin, IL

From: "devans1@... [STMFC]"
To: STMFC@...
Sent: Wednesday, October 14, 2015 5:42 PM
Subject: [STMFC] Re: Livestock through Chicago


Interesting that ICC data does not substantiate a reduction in animal traffic due to trucks prior to and through WWII (and trucking within the US was frowned upon during WWII - see the earlier thread on WWII tank car utilization and an attempt by the ODT to limit trucks to only very short hauls of oil and oil products - they were trying to conserve fuel and tires for the war effort.)

For all animal and animal products, the steam RR's hauled an average of 24.5M tons per year for 1928-1930 (before the depression hit). During the depression it bounced around between 14.7M and 20.4M between 1932 and 1940, with 1938 being the minimum. Not sure if that is from in-roads by trucks, or by economic distress (My guess since the oscillations appear to correspond to the false economic starts that occurred in the 30's). In 1944 traffic hit 25.4M tons, so I would say the real transition to trucks likely started post-war, not pre-war. In 1945 it dropped to 23.7M tons, the last year I have data for.

Not sure why the USDA and the ICC data conflicts, or more likely, what the difference is in the data reported by the two that appears to indicate a conflict.

I heartily concur with the benefits of modeling WWII - traffic levels were off the charts. Only down side is that heralds were kind of bland through the war - billboard reefers were gone and most RR's hadn't started using their own cars as billboards....

Dave Evans

---In STMFC@..., wrote :Hi Tim,

I fully realize that, and that the trend had started LONG before the 1950s. Farmers, especially those intimate with the Grange movement in the Midwest, HATED the railroads and did all they could to avoid them, starting in the early 1920s. As soon as the internal combustion engine became common, cheap and reliable, farmers jumped on them and moved as much of their product as possible themselves.

The USDA reports that by 1938 fully HALF of all livestock was moved by truck. Calves and especially hogs were hardest hit, with farmers being willing to drive stock several hundred miles to a major brokerage yard. In Illinois this meant that by WWII hogs would have been rail shipped from Peoria to Chicago, but if a farmer lived in LaSalle he'd just drive them directly to Chicago. The USDA tried to convince farmers that it was more economical to rail ship their stock, but farmers generally trust the Feds a little less than railroads.

(as an aside, there's a great film on the IL pork industry in 1956 on Internet Archive, featuring the hog brokerage yards in Peoria: )


Ray Breyer
Elgin, IL

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