Re: A Great Decline

Anthony Thompson <thompson@...>

Bruce Smith wrote:
To add to Tony's response, looking at the number of cars is only half the equation. The cars being removed from the roster were small capacity cars, which were being replaced by fewer higher capacity cars.
Quite true, and a trend which continues today, even if invisible from the viewpoint of this list. There may be fewer trains today, but annual tonnages are well in excess of our favorite steam-diesel transition era.
Speaking of larger cars, as this thread does, inevitably reminds me of the late Harriman era, when UP and SP were building very large (for that day) furniture/automobile cars. These immediately attracted the attention of the eastern lines, and at a 1909 meeting of the Association of Transportation and Car Accounting Officers, the Pennsylvania Railroad representative complained about the ". . . very high box cars belonging to certain Western Lines . . ." This is, of course, somewhat ironic in that 25 years later, the PRR would be taking credit for pressuring other railroads to accept higher box cars. I guess it's not only whose ox is being gored, but when it's gored.

BTW, "scrapped" may not be the right term for some of these cars. The PRR burned tens of thousands of wood XL boxcars in massive funeral pyres, salvaging the metal out of the ashes.
Yes, a dramatic story, and another illustration of one danger of standardization (and here I mean for anyone, not singling out the PRR): you can get overenthused about your new standard and buy way too many, or for too long. When first designed, the XL was a progressive car, but over those years in which the PRR continued to build huge numbers of them, car design was progressing rapidly, and by the time XL production ceased, they were already obsolete.

Tony Thompson Editor, Signature Press, Berkeley, CA
2906 Forest Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705
(510) 540-6538; fax, (510) 540-1937; e-mail, thompson@...
Publishers of books on railroad history

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