Re: Harriman Codes

Larry Rice

The B2 identifier Allen refers to is part of Great Northern's General
Superintendent of Transportation (GST) Codes. The two character alphanumeric
system was used to identify cars by similar characteristics, such as B2
identifying all unequipped, uninsulated 40' boxcars with six foot doors or
BD identifying all uninsulated 40' boxcars equipped with load restraining
devices regardless of door size. These codes are most often found on train
lists, wheel reports and switch lists and were used to identify all cars,
not just those owned by GN. Recorded radio conversations of the late GN,
along with written orders, show these codes were used in regular
conversation by the operating employees as well, with comments such as "Pull
the first six B2's from the siding" or "Spot the two C6's at the ramp" (C6
indicated jumbo covered hoppers with a capacity greater than 4,000 cu. ft.).
Northern Pacific used a similar system, at least on its train lists, and BN
adopted, modified and added much greater complexity early in its history.

As an aside, I've looked at something near 10,000 entries on GN/NP/SP&S
train lists and similar material, and I've found many, many errors in the
use of this system. The first character is usually correct (F for flat, G
for gondola), but the second is often wrong... It seems many employees
didn't really care (probably because they didn't need to know) what the
exact door sizes were or what the internal fixtures were within the cars in
their train.

The GN GST codes and the Harriman system are in no way comparable, as the GN
system did not identify specific classes nor did it provide any indication
of capacity (with the exception of volume of covered hoppers). I would
strongly caution Allen, in his role as Vice-President of the SP&S Historical
Society, not to try to blend the two in any way, nor use one in an attempt
to translate the the other. The two ideas/systems are apples and oranges.

Larry Rice
Port Townsend WA

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