A Great Decline

laramielarry <ostresh@...>

Hi Folks

I just finished transcribing portions of the February 1932 ORER into
an Excel spreadsheet (U.S. box, auto and ventilator car interior
dimensions, capacities, and number of cars, by series) and will soon
begin pestering you for information regarding sheathing type (double,
single, or steel sheathed). Before I do that, however, I thought
I would pass along some summary information that some of you might
find interesting, if not unexpected.

The total number of box, auto, and ventilator cars in 1932 was
1,025,203; in January 1938 it was 764,055. This is a reduction in
the U.S. fleet of over a quarter of a million cars, about 25%,
and presumably due to the Great Depression.

The attrition was not evenly distributed around the county: The
Great Lakes and the Southern ICC regions were hit especially hard,
both with a loss of about a third of their fleets. The Pocahontas
ICC region lost less than 5% of its cars.

Among the larger railroads – those with over 10,000 box/auto/vent
cars in 1938 – one of the biggest percentage losers was the ERIE,
which went from 23,624 cars in 1932 to 10,533 in 1938. The NYC went
from 89,932 cars to 63,111 and the PRR from 93,414 to 76,123. The
ATSF "only" declined from 39,997 to 35,826; the SP from 27,105 to
24,398; and the UP from 29,851 to 27,624.

Nearly all of the attrition was among the "shorty" cars – those under
40 feet IL. In 1932 there were 394,573 such cars, while in 1938
there were 153,010. The number of cars with IL of 40 feet to just
less than 50 feet went from 604,785 to 578,349 – a loss of less than
5%. The number of long cars (IL of 50 feet or longer) increased by
over 6%, from 25,845 to 32,696.

The decline in number of cars was accompanied by a decline in
aggregate capacity: In 1932 this was 2,944,908,870 cubic feet for
the U.S. box/auto/vent fleet; in 1938 it was 2,349,031,999 cubic feet
(it rebounded to 2,432,155,623 cu ft by April 1942, the last ORER for
which I have capacity in cubic feet). Measured in pounds, capacity
in 1932 was 85,884,780,000 lbs; in 1938 it was 67,018,717,000 lbs and
remained close to this figure until July 1950.

I posted an Excel file summarizing these data in the files section of
our list: "Number_of_boxcars_by_road_and_length_1932-1950.xls"

Best wishes,
Larry Ostresh
Laramie, Wyoming

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