Frt Train Speeds

Mike Brock <brockm@...>

Richard Hendrickson and Tony Thompson seem to agree that SP frt train speeds
were not particularly high in most circumstances. I wonder how much the
terrain in which they operated contributed to that. IOW, if one were a
member of the crew of an SP Cab Forward, it's a bit difficult to picture the
engineer climbing into the cab and commenting something like...

"Well, Jim, we'll really burn up the rails tonight as we zoom over Donnor."
And, probably the same thing could be said about traffic in "the Shadow of
Mount Shasta." OTOH, Santa Fe encountered not exactly flat running over
Cajon. I am aware that Santa Fe dispactchers were not particularly pleased
when UP was running one of their...I think passenger trains...up Cajon with
a light Challenger and no helper...hitting the summit at about 10 mph. I'm
probably wrong about some aspect of that example but I believe without
checking that it was true. As I have remarked about before, I am amazed that
UP determined in 1943 that their relatively new Big Boys could manage 3800
tons on
the long 1.14% Wasatch grade but would be down to 14 mph over some
stretches. The solution? Increase the tonnage rating to 4450 tons. Even
supposedly fast running RRs liked to tie everything they could on the

From reading the comments about the advantages of running extra trains, I
conclude that using the concept of extras, RR dispatchers had fewer rules to
constrain their efforts to get efficient usage out of the trackage and
consist origination factors [ read that, the oranges aren't delivered yet ].
Still, the frt trains I referenced did basically run on schedules...albeit
not tight. It still surprises me slightly that there is no reference to the
train other than engine number in Fraley's book. Maybe they were practicing
security concepts and ol' Fraley didn't have a "need to know". 'course...he
might not have wanted to know either.

Mike Brock

Richard Hendrickson offered:
With a few notable exceptions (e.g., fruit
blocks and the SF-LA overnight merchandise train), the SP was always a
freight railroad. They ran long freight trains at relatively low speeds
behind big power like the cab-forwards and tended to despatch them at
infrequent intervals. Sooner or later (often later), there would be a
third class freight scheduled whose departure time would suit, and a
would leave when that time rolled around (or maybe a half hour or an hour
later - no big rush).
Largely true, and true for decades. And true for most other railroads,

Andy's point about extras making up time, rather
than being limited by the times called out in the timetable, would have
been incomprehensible to the SP's operating department, whose objectives
were met if a train simply managed to somehow make it to the next
Actually, they had hot trains other than fruit blocks and the
there were auto parts manifests and others (I won't bother to list them),
and employees testify that those trains were indeed operated smartly--at
least by comparison to other SP freights.

One SP President is known to have sneered at other
RRs that ran fast freight trains - "just money out the stack," he
" and when they hand those cars off to the next railroad they'll sit
for hours without turning a wheel." Certainly he was right if the RR
were handed off to was the SP.
And most others. The notable thing about Santa Fe fast freight operation
is that it was such an exception. Given that, the SP president's remark
probably a good generalization.

Tony Thompson Editor, Signature Press, Berkeley, CA
2942 Linden Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705
(510) 540-6538; fax, (510) 540-1937; e-mail, thompson@...
Publishers of books on railroads and on Western history

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