Re: GATX fleet breakdown?

Steve and Barb Hile

Let me add a bit more to what Dave is saying.  Attached is an Excel file of data gleaned from GATX 1898-1948 A History of the General American Transportation Corporation by Ralph C. Epstein.  There is data buried in the text and summarized in Appendix tables.  Hopefully this will make some sense.


Some things to note include that GAT built lots of cars for other lines, besides their own fleet.  The owned fleet expands rapidly in the period between 1925-1935 with the acquisition and management of other lines.  Very few new cars are built in the early 1930’s, but cars were being repaired and refurbished.


Steve Hile


From: [] On Behalf Of Dave Parker via
Sent: Friday, October 2, 2020 1:58 PM
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] GATX fleet breakdown?


Well, I do have some numbers that may or may not shed any light on the question of the abundance of GA 1917 design cars.

First, a reminder that the 1917 design represented the advent of MCB/ARA Class III cars  built by GA.  The "double rivet" Class III cars became the required standard on May 1, 1917.

Second, a distinction needs to be made between cars built by GATC, and the subset built for use by the GATX leasing arm (at least initially). 

Railway Age published annual tabulations of car orders (not deliveries) at this time, and I have teased out the numbers for GATC-built tank cars as follows:

1917  284
1918  2499   (555 went to GATC)
1919  869
1920  5386  2104 of these "not reported in detail" i.e, buyer not identified
1921  41

Total  9079   (for comparison, there were ca. 7000 and 19,000 UTLX Class X and X-3 cars built, respectively)

Exactly how many of these conformed to the 1917 design is a matter of speculation (I have already excluded some cars built for UTLX to their X-3 design).  I am tempted to say "all" of the 1918-1919 orders, and some subset of the 1920 orders.  My only clue for 1920 is a lot of 240 8000-gal cars ordered by Sinclair, but never delivered.  I have long assumed this order somehow got canceled due to the changeover to longitudinal courses.  It will prove very difficult to ever pin this down, as these orders are peppered with small lots of 100 cars or less across a great many private companies.

It's also hard to know how many of these cars actually went into the GATX fleet initially.  The 555 cars from 1918 are suggestive, but could also represent a "speculative" build for later sale.  That chunk of 2104 cars without a named buyer in 1920 is also curious/intriguing.

The ORERs and tariffs may shed a little light.  The October, 1919, ORER lists 4540 cars under various GATC reporting marks, all but ~350 as GATX.  The 1919 (August) tariff seems to agree.  My next ORER is from May, 1925, and shows 11,000 cars, suggesting the addition of ~6500 cars.  I would guess most of these were new cars when added to the GATX roster, as the gobbling up of failing leasing companies seems to date to the 1930s. The December, 1930, register gives 12,123 GATX cars.  I am inclined to believe that much of the ~7600-car increase from 1919 to 1930 reflects the longitudinal-course GA cars from the 1920s, but that's just a guess. A 1921 count for GATX could be helpful.

I have absolutely no handle on how many GA 1930 design cars were built, or who bought them.  The GATX fleet did double from 1930 to 1935, but this was a time when lots of used tank cars could be had on the cheap.

I also want to mention  a couple of things about the 1919 Railway Age data.  This was strange year (perhaps due to the war and USRA control) in that about 2/3 of the 29,893 cars ordered for US companies were tanks cars (as per Railway Age; I have not counted them all).  In that particular year, GA got a very small slice of the pie; AC&F and Penn Tank Car received orders for 3686 and 2418 cars, respectively.  This reminds me of two other gaps in our modeling options for "classic" tank cars:  nothing for Penn Tank, and nothing easy for a transitional design of the ACF -- Type 11 frames, but fitted with Class III tanks. 

Last, I'm not sure I agree with Bruce about these 1917 design cars disappearing in large numbers by the war.  These were Class III cars, no different from the UTLX X-3 cars except for the use of radial courses.  They were fully compliant with all needed safety standards (as were a great many Class II cars).   It's hard to quantify, but a significant number of X-3s survived into the 1950s (as per the Hile book), and I'm not sure there is any a priori reason to think the GA cars were different.  From 1935 to 1945, the GATC fleet seems to have grown by about 14,000 cars.  Maybe they were concurrently scrapping cars, but my (very) limited understanding of the war years is that tank cars were in high demand.  It seems likely that a lot of the retirements of these cars occurred post-1950, but I am not sure how one would get a numerical handle on that given available resources.

Hope this helps.
Dave Parker
Swall Meadows, CA

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