Re: Santa Fe & PFE's-Erie Citrus Traffic

Malcolm Laughlin <mlaughlinnyc@...>

I try to be polite in my postings and apologize in advance for some of the tone of this one, but the following quote is maddening, and I can’t understand why such nonsense persists.

> "Maybrook and Jersey City that avoided any place bigger than Akron, OH" is a terrific advantage when the NYC and the PRR had their trains yarded every 100 miles, causing huge delays. "

That statement is completely false. It may refer to the late 19th century, but has nothing to do ith the era after railroads constructed the large hump yards that enabled long distance blocking.

If you look at PRR schedules for 1952, you will see that at 59th st. Chicago traffic was blocked through to Enola. At Enola, blocks were made for Waverly, Greenville, Harsimus Cove and other metro NY destinations and connections.

I know the NYC service from having been there and I will quote from the freight schedule book of 1967, which was not substantially different from the late 50’s. Many western roads had troans with meat and perishables from the west arriving in the hours before midnight. For example, meat loaded in Iowa on Monday would go into a Tuesday morning train to Chicago and be there Tuesday evening.

The IHB had “pullers” waiting at Proviso and Bensenville to take traffic to Blue Island, with a 3:00 am cutoff. These pullers handled most of the meat and produce from the west, including lots of PFE and SF traffic. There were similar arrangements with the PRR, B&O and other eastern roads.

That traffic was over the hump at Blue Island in time for the deaprture of NY-2 at 11:00 am. That train had two blocks:
- DeWitt other than Wayneport reicers.
- Perishables for reicing at Wayneport.
NY-2 arrived DeWitt at 8:00 am, was humped, and departed at 2:00 pm. Arrival in New York was around midnight. Produce cars were placed at 33rd Street in time for the opening of the produce market at 3:00 am, a little more than two days after interchange receipt at Chicago and sixth morning after loading in California. Here’s a link to the schedule

I had some personal experience with that 3:00 am market. We paid freight claims for market loss on cars placed after 3:00 am. If the market ofr the particular type of produce in a carload between 3:00 am and the time of placement, the customer could claim the difference. One of my trainee assignments in the transportation department in 1963 was verifying car movement times as needed to validate market loss claims.

The Erie had similar expedited schedules. They were under a bit of a handicap because their cars had to be floated across the river to the market, which meant the absolute schedule wasn’t as good. But it was service that counted and missed connections hurt. I know we always had to goal of matching the the Erie in service reliability. It was difficult because the NYC was much more concious than the Erie of performance indicators like cost per car switched and gross-ton-miles per freight train hour.

Service on the PRR was similar, but it was widely believed at the time that for service reliability Erie was tops and PRR was a laggard.

It was not and is not known whether spending the extra money for greater service reliability actually attracted enough traffic to contribute to overall profitability of the railroad. I can speak with some authority on that having done my master’s thesis in 1961 entitled “The Effect of Railroad Service Quality on Freight Traffic Potential.” Any useful data was very hard to find and a careful look at costs showed that a tremendous traffic differnec would have been needed to justify many service improvements.

It was normal for an ordinary freight car on the NYC to be classified three or four times, occasionally two and rarely six between origin and destinations. A car would always be switched at origin and destination yards. Rarely were those two yards erved by the same train, so most cars had at least one intermediate classification, often two. Three intermediate classifications was unusual and four was rare. One reason for that was that the blocking policy was designed to move the highest volume car flows the longest distances between yardings.

The NYC was not so different from other railroads that you couldn’t estimate the same to be true of other railroads. When I was the supervisor of schedule information in the NYC marketing department in 1965, I had the freight schedules of nearly 100 Class 1 railroads in my desk. I did once read the PRR book and found it not basically different in scheduling and blocking policy, except that it was a lot more pages.

The stuff about switching every hundred miles just has no connection with the reality of 50’s railroading.

Malcolm Laughlin, Editor 617-489-4383
New England Rail Shipper Directories
19 Holden Road, Belmont, MA 02478

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