Freight Conductors' Train Book, 1938 (summary of car contents)

Wendye Ware

Hi Everyone

Here are a few details about the contents of the cars from Ferguson's Freight Conductors' Train Book, May 13 to June 21, 1938. He listed the railroad and car number for 1,938 cars, and the contents (including empty) for 1,863 of them. The content of every one of the eastbound cars was given. All but one of the 75 cars whose contents were unlisted were on the first train in his book, a westbound freight.

As I transcribed Ferguson's data into an Excel spreadsheet, it was apparent that there was a substantial shift in the contents of the eastbound reefers between May and June. In May, the reefers carried a lot of lettuce and oranges, while those in June were led by carrots and potatoes. The two tables that follow document this change.

EB Reefer contents, May 1938 (carloads)
Lettuce 57
Oranges 51
Peas 28
Spuds 27
Apples 20
Carrots 14
Empty 9
Canned goods 8
Lemons 8
Other 26
Total 248

EB Reefer contents, June 1938 (carloads)
Carrots 47
Spuds 47
Oranges 22
Lettuce 21
Cats 16 (I have no idea what this is!)
Peas 13
Lemons 11
Dried Fruit 8
Eggs 8
Empty 8
Merchandise 7
Apples 6
Plums 6
Other 24
Total 244

Not unexpectedly, over half of the westbound reefers were empty:

WB Reefer contents (carloads)
Empty 161
Unknown 70
Merchandise 22
Beer 7
Tomatoes 5
Other 11
Total 276

The eastbound box and auto cars, combined with the cars whose types are presently unknown, were dominated by loads of lumber. Next most common were empties:

EB contents of box, auto and unknown car types
Lumber 242
Empty 151
Sugar 36
Merchandise 35
Grain 16
MR 11 (What is "MR"?)
Paper 11
Canned goods 10
Flour 10
Oil 10
Wool 10
Co MR 9 (Company MR?)
Spuds 9
Wheat 9
Pr Coal 8 (Private coal vs. company coal?)
Bullion 7
Other 82
Total 666

While the 10 cars carrying oil in the above list are probably tankers, this is not a foregone conclusion. In Ferguson's Book, one of the cars carrying oil is an M-K-T auto car, and four are UP reefers!

Empties led the list for westbound cars box, auto and unknown car types:

WB contents of box, auto and unknown car types
Empty 43
Merchandise 32
Auto 6
Co Mtl 6 (??? Company Metal?)
Cement 6
Corn 5
Wire 5
Other 57
Total 160

While perusing the above lists, one should keep in mind the following:
1. There were 20 east bound trains with 1,495 cars – Ferguson lists the railroad, number, and other details of 1,385 of these cars.
2. There were 21 westbound trains with 1,331 cars, of which Ferguson individually lists only 553 cars.

Best wishes,
Larry Ostresh
Laramie, Wyoming

Join to automatically receive all group messages.