Re: Train Schedules and the USRA

Gatwood, Elden J SAD

Tim and all;

I think it was wishful thinking that they were all scheduled, but I would not
be too quick to dismiss the number of trains. The Mon Division alone ran
dozens. All the ex-PRR guys I've talked to agree that, while there were
published schedules with freight trains on them, like Bruce said, freights
were almost always run as extras; the system had to have flexibility to
handle the kind of train density you mention. And we are talking density
like no one can comprehend in this day and age. WW2 must've been an
incredible lesson in how to run a railroad. There were also good reasons for
the PRR to have had the kind of complicated trackage and interlockings they
had. Density.

That being said, the PRR did run trains in certain slots, pre-designated by
that schedule. A "for instance" would be all the "symbol" freights they ran
(like MA-50/51 and PT-6/7), in areas with a lot of industry, mostly at night,
to avoid stumbling over all the locals and such running during the day,
crossing the mains and creating tie-ups. Most of the trains in my area of
interest ran during these time slots to avoid one another, and to provide for
sufficient time and capacity at intervening yards, for setting out blocks and
allowing for switch crews to keep things clean.

I have also been doing research on Pennsy trains, schedules and actual
operations for some time, and have some very interesting breakdowns of
traffic for 1918, 1935, the 50's and 60's. What really interested me were
the details of what pops out vis-à-vis interchange, actual times running,
number of trains, and figuring out why they did what they did. Another is
the disappearance of stations, team tracks, branches, and industries over

If anyone is interested in more detail, just ask.

Elden Gatwood

-----Original Message-----
From: STMFC@... [mailto:STMFC@...] On Behalf Of Tim
Sent: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 6:33 PM
To: STMFC@...
Subject: [STMFC] Re: Train Schedules and the USRA

I'd like to know more about 2900 scheduled freight trains! I know the SP had
-some- scheduled freights, but most freights ran as extras.
And of course the number of daily freights was nowhere near 2900 on the SP.

Some railroads have tried (and failed) to run fully scheduled systems in the
modern era (i.e. last 20 years). CSXT even tried to run all freights at a
constant speed (30 mph) thinking that would simplify train operations and
eliminate yard congestion. It was a total failure.

It's fun to pick on PRR but the traffic density on the PRR (especially east
of Pittsburgh) dwarfed anything on western railroads, or the Erie for that
matter. Average freight train speed west or east was less than 20 mph in that
era so a "full day" freight train might get 500 miles over the road... For
the SP and other long haul roads that was fine and easy, that was basically
the distance between major terminals. For the PRR, 500 miles meant 1/2 the
maximum distance of the system and meant encountering 2 or 3 major terminals
enroute. Density matters!

Tim O'Connor

I recently acquired through eBay a Pennsylvania Railroad ad from the
October 20, 1928 "Literary Digest" entitled "A New Era in Agriculture."
It heralds the increase of the output of fresh fruits and vegetables
and the PRR's role in transporting this increased production. One
paragraph reads: "A few years ago, scarcely 10% of freight trains were
on regular schedules. Today the Pennsylvania Railroad's 2900 freight
trains are operated on regular schedules as dependable as those of
passenger limiteds."

My question is assuming the statement is true that "A few years ago,
scarcely 10% of freight trains were on regular schedules," was this
lack of regular schedules the cause (or a factor at least) of the RR's
inability to get the job done moving freight in WWI resulting in the
creation of the USRA?

Bill Welch

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