>> How far would coal be shipped in hoppers?
ALL tariffs after the creation of the ICC were subject to regulation
and review. In order to ship commodity X from point A to point B there
had to be a tariff on file. Shippers as well as other railroads could
comment on or protest a tariff filing. But once the tariff from A to B
was in place, then ANY railroads that could fulfill that movement could
offer to move commodity X under the tariff to all potential shippers.
Why the roundabout explanation? Because A to B may not be a straight line.
Railroad P may have a direct route from A to B, but railroad Q might have
to go from A to C to B, possibly adding HUNDREDS of miles to the route. In
that case, the rate is the SAME regardless of the distance. Why would Q do it?
Many reasons are possible. Q might figure that a little extra tonnage on
their daily A-to-C or C-to-B freights is a tiny fractional cost, so why not?
Or maybe they're doing it to spite railroad P. Real examples abound, so we
know it happened all the time. My favorite example is Peoria to St Louis
via the CNW (less than 200 miles), and the Rock Island signed on to the
same tariff and had to haul the cargo Peoria to Kansas City, and back to
St Louis - about 600 miles!
In general, though, "steam coal" was widely available around the country so
the average haul was definitely less than 500 miles. Special grades of coal
such as met coal or anthracite could travel much farther because it wasn't
found in all coal deposits.