Re: DS cars in grain service

Richard Hendrickson

On Aug 31, 2007, at 11:41 AM, Dennis Storzek wrote:

I, for one, believe your original premise, that the USRA intentionally
allocated DS cars to roads with a lot to grain traffic (how's that for
doing an end run around the "Granger road" debate :-), is flawed.
First off, as a gov't agency, it's hard to believe they had that kind
of clear thinking and foresight. Secondly, in the face of the national
emergency, they likely didn't have that kind of luxury anyway. Very
likely, groups of cars were assigned as they became available to plug
holes and put out brushfires in the car supply.
There was certainly a great deal of confusion about which railroads got
which cars from the USRA. As William D. Edson pointed out in his
seminal account of the USRA standard freight cars (Railroad History No.
128, Spring, 1973), the war had ended before most of the USRA cars were
delivered and some railroads simply refused to accept the cars the USRA
wanted to allocate to them (e.g., in the case of the 40 ton double
sheathed box cars, the C&EI and the Nickel Plate) while others accepted
cars that hadn't been originally allocated (e.g., DT&I and KCS) or
accepted more cars than had originally been allocated (e.g., CRI&P,
SL-SF, WAB). There was a great deal of negotiation involved before the
final allocations were made. To quote Edson,

"only 22 of the 69 railroads...were finally allocated the exact number
and type of car as was originally assigned to them.... Thirteen
railroads which appeared on the original allocation list received no
cars under the final allocations.... On the other hand, seven
railroads which were not originally given car allocations were later
assigned cars by the USRA." (pp. 18-19)

Reasons for the changes in allocation ranged from financial (the B&M
was in receivership and the T&P was in such bad financial condition
that neither could afford to pay for the cars originally allocated to
them) to the fact that several RRs (e.g., UP and NP) were already hard
at work building the cars they needed in their own shops.

It's clear, at any rate, that the USRA bureaucracy was unable to simply
impose allocations on the railroads at will, and that the individual
railroads had a good deal to say about which cars they received and how
many. As you yourself point out, the RRs that got double wood sheathed
cars were, for the most part, those that purchased such cars on their
own initiative both before and after WW I. In the case of the Santa
Fe, company policy was to make moving the annual grain rush traffic a
very high priority in planning the design and purchase of new box cars,
and it seems likely that similar policies were in effect on the other
granger railroads. So I think it's reasonable to assume that the
assignment of wood sheathed box cars to railroads like the Santa Fe,
Frisco, Wabash, and Rock Island reflects the preferences of their
mechanical departments and not merely the luck of the draw or
bureaucratic inflexibility.

Richard Hendrickson

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