Re: Coal car loading on "home"roads...A. Thompson's answer (reprise).

Gatwood, Elden J SAD


I found this discussion very interesting.

The PRR, for one, in my area had actual "captive" cars, in that they could
not go off-line and were deemed either too od for interchange, or too ratty.
They were often stencilled as such.

The rest of the PRR "coal car" fleet roamed anywhere anyone needed coal or
other on-line bulk minerals, as far as I can figure. You saw PRR hoppers
most anywhere, but obviously as all have observed, declining in number as one
moved ever further from home. If there were intervening sources of coal,
that could be had at a cheaper cost (with transportation costs a big factor
in lower value bulk commodities like coal), then one might not see so many
loads of coal in a PRR hopper! The exceptions, as far as I can see, were for
those requiring a specific type of coal, like use of metallurgic coal in
coking operations, for one. This may have traveled widely. Ordinary
bituminous for power plants? Less so.

In the past, and even recently, I participated in numerous economic geography
studies that demonstrated how far away a business was likely to serve, based
on transportation costs, local availability of commodities, etc. The coal
business fits nicely in this area of study, but I have not been able to find
any studies that specifically focused on this (unlike retail market theory).
I would guess those economies would be the largest determinant on what you
saw and where.

Finally, at the end of this list's timeframe, the PRR did go to designating
cars in captive "turn-around" service, in strings, betweem mine and delivery
point, as so called "unit trains". These truly were not meant to leave a
given routing, back and forth, over and over until not needed, but as we all
know, eventually wandered out into the wider world...

Elden Gatwood

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Mike
Sent: Wednesday, July 08, 2009 12:08 AM
Subject: Re: [STMFC] Re: Coal car loading on "home"roads...A. Thompson's
answer (reprise).

First...donning my Head Judge robes...tattered as they may be...I think we
are forgetting something with this debate about coal carrying cars. Remember
that the STMFC culture welcomes debate. If someone asserts that Santa Fe
designed better frt cars than, say, UP [ we all know, of course, that that
could not be <G> ], that's fine. Let us hear the argument supporting that.
Please bring to the table facts that you might have to support it. If it
turns out that someone else PROVES that Pennsy frt cars were better than
either Santa Fe or UP...fine. That's one function of the ferret
out truth. So, please, we don't have to apologize for disagreeing and we
don't have to worry about offending IF all members are treated with respect.
So, the discussion about coal carrying cars is within scope, is not in itself
offensive, it should not be treated that way and we are probably learning
from it...I hope so anyway. OTOH, if you have no interest in such
cars...simply pass.

Now, removing my robes, I think I'll add a few more comments because I still
think something is missing...perhaps not, however.

Tony Thompson writes:

I won't defend Andy's comment about N&W, since I was then and am now
well aware that N&W hoppers made numerous off-line trips (no, I'm not
going to assess the Sherman Hill story). But please NOTICE what Andy
SAID. He said "for the most part" captive. If that means 80%, as some
data suggest, what on earth is wrong with Andy's statement?
Nothing...except it is perhaps too general. And, I'm not certain of the term
"captive". Let's examine "captive". To means a car is operating in a
confined area. That could be a Mopac hopper car operating on the B&O between
Lake Erie and West Va or it could simply be an N&W hopper operating between
Roanoke and Norfolk. The suggestion is that the car is confined to a
particular RR and appears in this case, to be confined to the home road. If
the definition means confined to the home RR, as I have postulated...based on
the coal moved into specific areas...that 80% percentage fails with regard to
the N&W. At least in 1948. That yr we know N&W sent 63% of its carried coal
offline. The what does this mean from a modeling point of
view? Well, for one thing, those N&W cars were not becoming captive
somewhere...they were coming back home. Second, they had places to go when
off line...they were heading to a locale where by contract, they were to
deliver coal. IOW, it was not like a UP box car that might wander around the
country before coming back home. So, while one might say that 63% of N&W coal
carrying cars went off line [ I realize that such a projection is subject to
more thorough analysis ], that doesn't mean that 100% did not operate on N&W
rails. In fact, I would argue that close to 99% of N&W coal carrying cars
traveled on N&W tracks during a rather short time period [ based on how long
they were off line and the distances off line weren't large ]. The
significance of this simply means that if one models a RR in the area
Illinois, Indiana, Mich, and Ohio, one needs quite a few N&W coal carrying
cars...primarily hoppers. One might also ask about N&W...with its fleet away
from home, were non N&W cars more pravelent? I think not because N&W's cars
were coming back home fairly efficiently from what I read of N&W operations.
However, photo evidence does suggest that other RR's coal carrying cars were
operating on N&W trains. Certainly L&N, Interstate, and Clinchfield cars are
seen in numbers. I don't believe these cars are "captives" in the sense that
N&W is using them, but, more likely they are carrying coal from mines L&N
served [ for example ]...just as Q cars traveled on the C&EI in the Illinois
coal fields...and are proceding to places where by contract the coal is being
delivered...just as N&W cars moved on Pennsy and NYC tracks north of Columbus
[ although north of Columbus, the number of N&W cars was huge ]. What the
numbers of non N&W coal cars on N&W tracks would be is beyond the scope of
this message <G>.

In Matt's case, he is...I think...referring to coal GENERATING RRs whereas I
am referring to coal RECEIVING RRs...NYC, NKP and Pennsy north of Columbus,
other smaller lines northwest of Cincinnati. This is, I think, a significant
difference when it comes to determining home cars on home rails.
IOW, I would bet, as I said, that 99% of N&W coal cars would operate on N&W
tracks within a given, relatively short period of time, but only 63% [ again,
subject to analysis ]...would find their way off line. The time off line,
BTW, would likely be LESS than the time on line by more than traveled
distances might suggest. IOW, in traveling to a lake port, an N&W car might
be off line for, say, 30% of its trip from the mine but it might be off line
for much less than 30% of a specific period of time.

BTW, just because N&W carried coal moved in large quantities north and west
of Cincinnati and Columbus does not mean that RRs depicting areas south and
west of those areas would have N&W coal cars in significant numbers.

Of course, the notion of eastern coal carrying cars operating west of the
Mississippi [ whatever that area is called ] is insignificant. I might add
that I doubt that such coal carrying cars entered the state of Florida very
much during our time period. I'd like to know more about how far south coal
moved by train in our period.

Mike Brock

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