Variables from Digest 3180

Tim Gilbert <tgilbert@...>

Russ Strodtz wrote:


You lost me somewhere. Why does boxcar distribution
have "considerably less variables" than other car

Primarily because a higher percentage of boxcars were loaded on foreign roads than any other car type with the possible exception of general service boxcars because of the wide variety of commodities a boxcar could carry. Therefore, a foreign boxcar on a line was a normal event. Page 154 of Kent Healy's PERFORMANCE OF US RR'S SINCE WW II (Vantage Press, 1985) has the following table showing the proportion of Empty Freight Car Miles to Total Car Miles of the principal car types:

EMPTY CAR MILES as a Percent of Total Car Miles
Type 1948/1949 1956/1957 Boxcars 24% 26.5% Gons 40% 40% Hoppers 46% 46% Cov. Hoppers 53% 53% Reefers 38.5% 42%
Tank Cars 50% 51%
Flat Cars 35.5% 40%
Total All Types 35.3% 36.8%

Another way to phase this is ask the question how far did the average empty car return before it was reloaded which is what the percentage of empty car miles to loaded car miles answers per the table below:

Type 1948/1949 1956/1957
Boxcars 32% 36%
Gons 67% 67%
Hoppers 85% 85%
Cov. Hoppers 113% 113%
Reefers 63% 72%
Tank Cars 100% 104%
Flat Cars 55% 67%
Total All Types 55% 58%

The only car type having less than 55% ratio of empty to loaded car miles was Boxcars. An average of 67% of the Gons were returned to their original point of loading empty; the hopper average was 85%. Therefore, what the outbound load of either gons or hoppers was much more of a factor towards who owned the car than boxcars because a much higher proportion of boxcars were loaded in foreign boxcars than loads for gons or hoppers.

When you get to "guess" what percentage of hoppers or gons were on a road, where those loads were originated becomes a factor in assessing who was the owner of those gons & hoppers. No such "guess" is necessary for determining the ownership distribution of boxcars because almost any boxcar could be loaded with a variety of commodities loaded on a foreign road destined for termination on still another foreign road.

This assumes that few boxcars were in assigned service - in the Fall of 1947 when there was a severe boxcar shortage, there is evidence that even automobile cars equipped with loading devices were reloaded with Lumber on the west coast. With lesser boxcar shortages, those automobile cars would have been returned to Detroit empty. In the Spring of 1949 when there was a recession and the Fall Grain Rushes were over, empty eastbound automobile cars were sighted on Sherman Hill (vs. none during the Fall of 1947). As time went on, more boxcars were assigned, and that increased the percentage of empty car miles as did the decline in LCL.

But for the majority of the period from the end of WW II until the 1958 Recession, where boxcars were loaded were mostly a non-factor in determining who owned boxcars on a layout depicting that era. The 1958 Recession resulted in a glut of 40' boxcars which remained on storage tracks until suitable loads were found - for many of those forty-footers, no loads were ever found.

While it is correct to view a road's boxcar roster as
a contribution to a National Pool geography also paid
a part in what was where. Most roads did not have a
lot of interest in following SCO 90 guidelines so cars
without any logical home route would be used over and
over again. One example is the rather heavy usage of
T&NO and TP box cars in the Chicago Area in the late
50's and early 60's.
SCO 90's were first issued in the early 1950's. They could be effective in routing home empties via short routes rather than the roundabout reverse routing dictated by the routing of the loads which the road had emptied. How effective the SCO 90's were in the routing of loads is a matter of how well the Car Service Rules were followed in reloading foreign road empties and routing them in the direction of the home road. I have seen little evidence that the "routing loads in the direction of the home road" was ever followed except when the Car Service Bureau sent out police to monitor a yard.

Regarding the T&NO and T&P boxcars in the Chicago Area, how about other non-Chicago roads like the MP, SOU, UP, SP-Pac, GN, NP, ACL, SAL, RDG, DL&W, NH, B&M?

Yes, I do realize that there is some kind of map in the
back of ORER's that talks about loading to various
geographic zones but that information was not binding
on any Railroad Employee that was actually doing car
distribution. I followed the instructions issued by my
Employer. So did everyone else.
Agreed - the first priority for a railroad was to find a car suitable for loading a commodity - what empty was available was the first choice in the local yard. Often empties had to be plucked from passing trains, or brought in especially for that load. The problem with loading foreign gons and hoppers on line were that there were not enough commodities which could be reloaded on the foreign line; no such problem existed for boxcars.

Tim Gilbert