Re: Train Schedules and the USRA

railwayman <stevelucas3@...>

While I so very respectfully disagree with some of Al Westerfield's points in his posting regarding rail labour, he did a very good job of outlining the problems US railroads faced in WWI.

Canadian National Railways had been formed by the Canadian government to deal with a number of bankrupt railways in Canada, and this solution appeared to be favoured to a larger extent by the US government. Valuation was taken of all railroad property in the US with an eye to nationalising the entire US rail system--many of these records have survived to become excellent research materials for modellers and historians today!--including, I'm sure, a few on this list.

The rail industry had a number of inherent problems by the time the USRA took over them. Insufficient plant for the traffic offered in WWI, which called for investment that the railroads could not afford or obtain financing for to improve this situation. Money-losing branchlines and passenger services, for example. The 16-hour day for train crews (and shorter on-duty times for dispatchers and signalmen) had been imposed by the Hours of Service Act of 1907. This caused the railroads to have to make large capital investments in plant (new yards, etc.) that they could not immediately amortise. Not to mention scarcity of capital due to the financial panic of 1907. Then along came WWI to increase traffic levels and create a manpower shortage with millions of able-bodied men gone off to fight a war.

To exacerbate the situation, the railroads could not raise freight rates to a sufficient extent to recover the cost of capital.

Then along came the Adamson Act of 1916. This mandated a 100-mile/eight hour basic day for train crews.

In 1917, the US Supreme Court ruled the Adamson Act constitutional. This imposed increased labour costs that (surprise, surprise) the railroads could not recover.

With these multiple issues facing the railroads of the US, scheduling of freight trains became a very minor issue in the creation of the USRA. There were just too many other issues to address.

Steve Lucas.

--- In STMFC@..., "lnbill" <fgexbill@...> wrote:

The comments my message generated have been interesting and at times amusing, but except for a couple of points, I don't think I saw an answer to the question "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? But it sounds like the answer may be "No."

Bill Welch

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