A Great Decline


laramielarry <ostresh@...>
 

Hi Folks

I just finished transcribing portions of the February 1932 ORER into
an Excel spreadsheet (U.S. box, auto and ventilator car interior
dimensions, capacities, and number of cars, by series) and will soon
begin pestering you for information regarding sheathing type (double,
single, or steel sheathed). Before I do that, however, I thought
I would pass along some summary information that some of you might
find interesting, if not unexpected.

The total number of box, auto, and ventilator cars in 1932 was
1,025,203; in January 1938 it was 764,055. This is a reduction in
the U.S. fleet of over a quarter of a million cars, about 25%,
and presumably due to the Great Depression.

The attrition was not evenly distributed around the county: The
Great Lakes and the Southern ICC regions were hit especially hard,
both with a loss of about a third of their fleets. The Pocahontas
ICC region lost less than 5% of its cars.

Among the larger railroads – those with over 10,000 box/auto/vent
cars in 1938 – one of the biggest percentage losers was the ERIE,
which went from 23,624 cars in 1932 to 10,533 in 1938. The NYC went
from 89,932 cars to 63,111 and the PRR from 93,414 to 76,123. The
ATSF "only" declined from 39,997 to 35,826; the SP from 27,105 to
24,398; and the UP from 29,851 to 27,624.

Nearly all of the attrition was among the "shorty" cars – those under
40 feet IL. In 1932 there were 394,573 such cars, while in 1938
there were 153,010. The number of cars with IL of 40 feet to just
less than 50 feet went from 604,785 to 578,349 – a loss of less than
5%. The number of long cars (IL of 50 feet or longer) increased by
over 6%, from 25,845 to 32,696.

The decline in number of cars was accompanied by a decline in
aggregate capacity: In 1932 this was 2,944,908,870 cubic feet for
the U.S. box/auto/vent fleet; in 1938 it was 2,349,031,999 cubic feet
(it rebounded to 2,432,155,623 cu ft by April 1942, the last ORER for
which I have capacity in cubic feet). Measured in pounds, capacity
in 1932 was 85,884,780,000 lbs; in 1938 it was 67,018,717,000 lbs and
remained close to this figure until July 1950.

I posted an Excel file summarizing these data in the files section of
our list: "Number_of_boxcars_by_road_and_length_1932-1950.xls"

Best wishes,
Larry Ostresh
Laramie, Wyoming


Stokes John
 

Would relative age of cars on a specific railroad, say the Erie vs. the Santa Fe, be a great part of this story? It would seem that the Depression did two things, make a large number of old cars obsolete or redundant because of greatly reduced business, which was not uniform across the Nation, and it negated the ability, again not uniformly, to replace the old stock with new. Are these reasonably accurate assumptions?
Thanks,

John Stokes
Bellevue, WA



To: STMFC@yahoogroups.comFrom: ostresh@uwyo.eduDate: Sun, 26 Oct 2008 18:41:26 +0000Subject: [STMFC] A Great Decline




Hi FolksI just finished transcribing portions of the February 1932 ORER into an Excel spreadsheet (U.S. box, auto and ventilator car interior dimensions, capacities, and number of cars, by series) and will soon begin pestering you for information regarding sheathing type (double, single, or steel sheathed). Before I do that, however, I thought I would pass along some summary information that some of you might find interesting, if not unexpected.The total number of box, auto, and ventilator cars in 1932 was 1,025,203; in January 1938 it was 764,055. This is a reduction in the U.S. fleet of over a quarter of a million cars, about 25%, and presumably due to the Great Depression.The attrition was not evenly distributed around the county: The Great Lakes and the Southern ICC regions were hit especially hard, both with a loss of about a third of their fleets. The Pocahontas ICC region lost less than 5% of its cars.Best wishes,Larry OstreshLaramie, Wyoming


Ray Breyer
 

John Stokes wrote:
>>>Would relative age of cars on a specific railroad, say the Erie vs. the Santa Fe,
>>be a great part of this story? It would seem that the Depression did two things,
>>make a large number of old cars obsolete or redundant because of greatly reduced >>business, which was not uniform across the Nation, and it negated the ability,
>>again not uniformly, to replace the old stock with new. Are these reasonably
>>accurate assumptions?


Hi John,

That's what I'm seeing in my own ORER research. I'm giving a clinic at Naperville next weekend on the remnants of the short boxcar fleet in the USA and Canada after WWII. I used the January 1930 ORER as a baseline set of numbers for comparison purposes. In 1930 there were 1,224,702 boxcars in the USA and Canada, with 44% of those (538,150) being cars under 40 feet long.

By 1945, the overall number of boxcars had shrunk to 876,079 cars, with 124,873 short cars remaining (half of which were CN and CP cars). The number of all steel 40 and 50 foot cars had increased by at least 64,654 cars in the same period. Add in retirements of 40 foot plus cars and the total number of retired older boxcars over that 15 year period reaches almost 500,000 cars.

These are huge turnover numbers, and can only be attributed to the two things you mentioned, besides annual car losses (has anyone else noticed just how many cars a railroad would lose to wrecks in an average steam era year?). Remember, for good or bad, railroads are only in business to make a profit for their shareholders. "Golden Age" railroads were notoriously stingy when it came to their freight car fleets, which is why they stuck with conservative wood car designs for so long.


I do have to make one qualifier here. Of that half a million cars lost from the national fleet, almost 100,000 of those retired cars came from just two railroads: the Pennsy, which retired the 33,268 Xl class boxcars still on their roster, and over 60,599 short boxcars cars from the NYCS. By comparison the CN and CP combined only retired 29,607 cars during the same period.

The retirement of older cars from the steam era fleet makes for an interesting set of numbers. I'm going to tackle the trends in double sheathed boxcars next, followed by single sheathed cars.

Regards,

Ray Breyer


Earl T. Hackett <hacketet@...>
 

A new list member. I got into this conversation a bit late, but would
like to suggest a reason for the variation in the decline of the short
box cars. The lines with the least declines are all south west roads.
The cars were all wood construction. Wood lasts a lot longer in the
desert SW than in the relatively wet NE. With reduced demand there
was no reason for the NE roads to repair the cars while the SW roads
may not have wanted to spend the money to scrap them out.

Did any of the short car last into the 50s? A short car would make an
interesting addition to my car fleet.

--- In STMFC@yahoogroups.com, "laramielarry" <ostresh@...> wrote:

Hi Folks

Among the larger railroads – those with over 10,000 box/auto/vent
cars in 1938 – one of the biggest percentage losers was the ERIE,
which went from 23,624 cars in 1932 to 10,533 in 1938. The NYC went
from 89,932 cars to 63,111 and the PRR from 93,414 to 76,123. The
ATSF "only" declined from 39,997 to 35,826; the SP from 27,105 to
24,398; and the UP from 29,851 to 27,624.


water.kresse@...
 

Larry,

I believe you have an interesting mix of events going on there. On the C&O: Auto rack equipped cars were going up after Evans Prod Co released their auto-loaders in 1933. Ventilated box cars car were going down, i.e. being converted into regular box cars. All steel box cars were replacing wooden-sheathed box cars. Dry-bulk covered hopper cars were replacing box cars for certain services. Reefers were replacing ventilated boxes also. Did your data include FGEX, PFEX, etc.

For the conservative C&O, coal carried them through the Depression. 1929 and 1934-37 were big years for buying twin hops. Their merchandise freight business was secondary until it absorbed the PM in 1947.

Wasn't the Erie into or near custodial bankruptcy and a reorganization in the 30s?

Your 1938 statistics seem to imply the we were in sad shape box car wise going into WW2?

Al Kresse

-------------- Original message --------------
From: "laramielarry" <ostresh@uwyo.edu>
Hi Folks

I just finished transcribing portions of the February 1932 ORER into
an Excel spreadsheet (U.S. box, auto and ventilator car interior
dimensions, capacities, and number of cars, by series) and will soon
begin pestering you for information regarding sheathing type (double,
single, or steel sheathed). Before I do that, however, I thought
I would pass along some summary information that some of you might
find interesting, if not unexpected.

The total number of box, auto, and ventilator cars in 1932 was
1,025,203; in January 1938 it was 764,055. This is a reduction in
the U.S. fleet of over a quarter of a million cars, about 25%,
and presumably due to the Great Depression.

The attrition was not evenly distributed around the county: The
Great Lakes and the Southern ICC regions were hit especially hard,
both with a loss of about a third of their fleets. The Pocahontas
ICC region lost less than 5% of its cars.

Among the larger railroads those with over 10,000 box/auto/vent
cars in 1938 one of the biggest percentage losers was the ERIE,
which went from 23,624 cars in 1932 to 10,533 in 1938. The NYC went
from 89,932 cars to 63,111 and the PRR from 93,414 to 76,123. The
ATSF "only" declined from 39,997 to 35,826; the SP from 27,105 to
24,398; and the UP from 29,851 to 27,624.

Nearly all of the attrition was among the "shorty" cars those under
40 feet IL. In 1932 there were 394,573 such cars, while in 1938
there were 153,010. The number of cars with IL of 40 feet to just
less than 50 feet went from 604,785 to 578,349 a loss of less than
5%. The number of long cars (IL of 50 feet or longer) increased by
over 6%, from 25,845 to 32,696.

The decline in number of cars was accompanied by a decline in
aggregate capacity: In 1932 this was 2,944,908,870 cubic feet for
the U.S. box/auto/vent fleet; in 1938 it was 2,349,031,999 cubic feet
(it rebounded to 2,432,155,623 cu ft by April 1942, the last ORER for
which I have capacity in cubic feet). Measured in pounds, capacity
in 1932 was 85,884,780,000 lbs; in 1938 it was 67,018,717,000 lbs and
remained close to this figure until July 1950.

I posted an Excel file summarizing these data in the files section of
our list: "Number_of_boxcars_by_road_and_length_1932-1950.xls"

Best wishes,
Larry Ostresh
Laramie, Wyoming


Don Burn
 

Earl,

I don't have the references in front of me, but I believe the D&H, NH and Southern 36' box cars made it to 1950. L&N 36' box cars may have also. In additon there were a fair number of 40' wood box cars on a number of north eastern railroads in that era.

Don Burn

----- Original Message -----
From: "Earl T. Hackett" <hacketet@verizon.net>
To: <STMFC@yahoogroups.com>
Sent: Sunday, October 26, 2008 7:41 PM
Subject: [STMFC] Re: A Great Decline


A new list member. I got into this conversation a bit late, but would
like to suggest a reason for the variation in the decline of the short
box cars. The lines with the least declines are all south west roads.
The cars were all wood construction. Wood lasts a lot longer in the
desert SW than in the relatively wet NE. With reduced demand there
was no reason for the NE roads to repair the cars while the SW roads
may not have wanted to spend the money to scrap them out.

Did any of the short car last into the 50s? A short car would make an
interesting addition to my car fleet.


--- In STMFC@yahoogroups.com, "laramielarry" <ostresh@...> wrote:

Hi Folks

Among the larger railroads - those with over 10,000 box/auto/vent
cars in 1938 - one of the biggest percentage losers was the ERIE,
which went from 23,624 cars in 1932 to 10,533 in 1938. The NYC went
from 89,932 cars to 63,111 and the PRR from 93,414 to 76,123. The
ATSF "only" declined from 39,997 to 35,826; the SP from 27,105 to
24,398; and the UP from 29,851 to 27,624.





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The message was checked by ESET NOD32 Antivirus.

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benjaminfrank_hom <b.hom@...>
 

Don Burn wrote:
"In additon there were a fair number of 40' wood box cars on a number
of north eastern railroads in that era."

Don is not the only one guilty of this example of sloppy terminology -
what exactly do you mean by "wood" boxcars? If you are lumping
together both single-sheathed and double-sheathed boxcars, it's a huge
mistake. While these cars may appear similar in function to the
untrained eyes of many modelers, single-sheathed and double-sheathed
boxcars are at least a generation apart technology-wise.


Ben Hom


Anthony Thompson <thompson@...>
 

Earl T. Hackett wrote:
A new list member.
Welcome, Earl. This topic raises a number of points.

I got into this conversation a bit late, but would like to suggest a reason for the variation in the decline of the short box cars. The lines with the least declines are all south west roads. The cars were all wood construction. Wood lasts a lot longer in the desert SW than in the relatively wet NE.
First of all, the cars ran freely everywhere, so it's not as if the SW cars lived there all their lives, and the NE cars stayed in their home region. Second, the whole point was to maintain the paint on the cars. It had been proven in the 19th century that wood held up for very long times, longer than the technical service usefulness of most cars, if it was painted every five to seven years. Third, there had not been many all-wood box cars since before World War I, and after 1900 most roads were changing to steel underframes, the most vulnerable part of a car.
I'll suggest a different reason. The SW roads, as you term them, had bigger clearances and were building bigger cars earlier. The NE roads had a surfeit of small, old cars. That's an important reason for the differences in scrapping rates.

Tony Thompson Editor, Signature Press, Berkeley, CA
2906 Forest Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705 www.signaturepress.com
(510) 540-6538; fax, (510) 540-1937; e-mail, thompson@signaturepress.com
Publishers of books on railroad history


destron@...
 

I'll suggest a different reason. The SW roads, as you term them,
had bigger clearances and were building bigger cars earlier. The NE
roads had a surfeit of small, old cars. That's an important reason for
the differences in scrapping rates.
Weren't there some pretty big (50+ foot) cars being built out west already
before WW1? I recall reading with some surprise about some surprisingle
massive cars, quite early along.

Frank Valoczy
Vancouver, BC


laramielarry <ostresh@...>
 

--- In STMFC@yahoogroups.com, "Earl T. Hackett" <hacketet@...> wrote:

A new list member.
. . .
Did any of the short car last into the 50s? A short car would make
an
interesting addition to my car fleet.
Hi Earl

Welcome to our list! If you check the Excel file that I mentioned in
my post, you will see that in the July 1950 ORER there were 23,242
short cars (from a U.S. total of 712,098 box, auto and ventilator
cars) - a little over 3% of the fleet. Over half of these were in the
Southern ICC region (15,458), with the L&N, SEABOARD, and ACL leading
the list.

The file is in the Files section of our list and is called
"Number_of_boxcars_by_road_and_length_1932-1950.xls". Excel "readers"
are available for free download at a variety of sites on the web.

Best wishes,
Larry Ostresh
Laramie, Wyoming


Ray Breyer
 

"Earl T. Hackett" <hacketet@verizon.net> wrote:
>>Did any of the short car last into the 50s? A short car would
>>make an interesting addition to my car fleet.

Hi Earl,

Past 1952 and the K brake ban, you've essentially got four choices for a short boxcar on your roster: CN or CP "Fowler" single sheathed boxcars, ACL or SAL ventilated boxcars, DL&W or D&H double sheathed plain boxcars, or MP or NC&StL double sheathed boxes. A fifth option would be one of the 1100 or so NC&StL short all-steel rebuild cars, which I hear will be coming out as a resin kit some time in the near future.

Regards,

Ray Breyer


Bruce Smith
 

On Oct 26, 2008, at 7:33 PM, Anthony Thompson wrote:
I'll suggest a different reason. The SW roads, as you term them,
had bigger clearances and were building bigger cars earlier. The NE
roads had a surfeit of small, old cars. That's an important reason for
the differences in scrapping rates.
To add to Tony's response, looking at the number of cars is only half the equation. The cars being removed from the roster were small capacity cars, which were being replaced by fewer higher capacity cars. For example, during WWII, the railroads carried vastly more freight than during WWI, with many fewer cars. They did that by increasing all sorts of parameters including load per car, longer trains, average speeds, etc... A student of freightcarology should realize that post WWII fleets were very much smaller than the pre- WWII and WWI fleets. The NYC USRA steel cars and the X29s were the last vast fleets for any RR. For example, the nearly 30,000 X29s were followed by the X31 which numbered around 12,000 (counting all subclasses), which in turn was followed by approximately 3,000 X37s, essentially setting the tone for the rest of the steam era.

BTW, "scrapped" may not be the right term for some of these cars. The PRR burned tens of thousands of wood XL boxcars in massive funeral pyres, salvaging the metal out of the ashes.

Regards
Bruce

Bruce F. Smith
Auburn, AL
http://www.vetmed.auburn.edu/index.pl/bruce_f._smith2

"Some days you are the bug, some days you are the windshield."
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Earl T. Hackett <hacketet@...>
 

Thanks for that bit of info. I've been looking for some interesting
freight car projects and a couple of ventilator boxes was at the top
of the list, but I just didn't know if they would be correct for 1952.
Since I model the eastern section of the C&O there was direct
interchange with all three of the lines mentioned below. Somewhere in
this stack of stuff I have drawings of a couple of them.

As for those big wooden box cars - also somewhere in the same stack I
have photos of several 50' double sheathed cars and IIRC, a single
sheathed car. I have always considered them a rarity and thus have
never modeled one. Maybe I should do something about that.

--- In STMFC@yahoogroups.com, "laramielarry" <ostresh@...> wrote:
in the July 1950 ORER there were 23,242
short cars (from a U.S. total of 712,098 box, auto and ventilator
cars) - a little over 3% of the fleet. Over half of these were in
the
Southern ICC region (15,458), with the L&N, SEABOARD, and ACL
leading
the list.


laramielarry <ostresh@...>
 

--- In STMFC@yahoogroups.com, water.kresse@... wrote:

Larry,

... Did your data include FGEX, PFEX, etc.?

Al Kresse
Hi Al. No.

(And thanks for the C&O information.)

Best wishes,
Larry Ostresh
Laramie, Wyoming


laramielarry <ostresh@...>
 

--- In STMFC@yahoogroups.com, destron@... wrote:

Weren't there some pretty big (50+ foot) cars being built out west
already
before WW1? I recall reading with some surprise about some
surprisingle
massive cars, quite early along.

Frank Valoczy
Vancouver, BC
Hi Frank

In the February 1932 ORER there were 31 box/auto cars over 50' 7 5/8"
IL. The MILW had 30 cars with IL = 60'0"; and the PRR had one with IL
= 70'6". Both were gone by 1938. In the 1949 and 1950 ORERs there
were 111 "long" cars.

Best wishes,
Larry Ostresh
Laramie, Wyoming


Anthony Thompson <thompson@...>
 

Bruce Smith wrote:
To add to Tony's response, looking at the number of cars is only half the equation. The cars being removed from the roster were small capacity cars, which were being replaced by fewer higher capacity cars.
Quite true, and a trend which continues today, even if invisible from the viewpoint of this list. There may be fewer trains today, but annual tonnages are well in excess of our favorite steam-diesel transition era.
Speaking of larger cars, as this thread does, inevitably reminds me of the late Harriman era, when UP and SP were building very large (for that day) furniture/automobile cars. These immediately attracted the attention of the eastern lines, and at a 1909 meeting of the Association of Transportation and Car Accounting Officers, the Pennsylvania Railroad representative complained about the ". . . very high box cars belonging to certain Western Lines . . ." This is, of course, somewhat ironic in that 25 years later, the PRR would be taking credit for pressuring other railroads to accept higher box cars. I guess it's not only whose ox is being gored, but when it's gored.

BTW, "scrapped" may not be the right term for some of these cars. The PRR burned tens of thousands of wood XL boxcars in massive funeral pyres, salvaging the metal out of the ashes.
Yes, a dramatic story, and another illustration of one danger of standardization (and here I mean for anyone, not singling out the PRR): you can get overenthused about your new standard and buy way too many, or for too long. When first designed, the XL was a progressive car, but over those years in which the PRR continued to build huge numbers of them, car design was progressing rapidly, and by the time XL production ceased, they were already obsolete.

Tony Thompson Editor, Signature Press, Berkeley, CA
2906 Forest Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705 www.signaturepress.com
(510) 540-6538; fax, (510) 540-1937; e-mail, thompson@signaturepress.com
Publishers of books on railroad history