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Full text of "Railroads carrying the load / Ralph Weaver Bromley"

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Llarch 1, 1944 

Ralph YJeaver Bromley 

The /merican Railroads have done the unbelievable 
in solving the transportation problems brought about by the* 
war* They have been handicapped by lack of equipment and 
shortage of new equipment. Yet , cooperating among themselves 
and with the agent of the government, the Office of Defense 
Transportation, they have prevented a serious bottleneck 
which could defeat the war effort with one blow. The railroads 
are now in a period of prosperity and with this boon the 
railroads are looking to a brighter future. 

Probably the greatest single effort of private enter- 
prise put forth during this war has been that of the American Rail- 
roads. They are carrying raw materials to factories and the fin- 
ished war products to the ports, besides handling regular freight 
traffic. They are carrying an increase of passenger traffic^ along 
with war-time troop trains. A few figures will indicate the mag- 
nitude of the job the railroads are doing. At the beginning of 
1943 the freight ton miles was thirty three percent (22%) above 
the previous high peak of 1929. The passenger miles was fifty per- 
cent (50/o) above the 1929 level and well above the previous peak 
of 1920. 

The most amazing element is the handicap under which the 
railroads are operating. They have 20ji less employees, 20^ less 
freight cars, 2C? S less locomotive tractive force, and Z7f Q less 
passenger cars than in 1920. In addition to this they could only 
expect a 5% increase in freight cars, a 2% increase in locomotives 
and no increase in passenger cars last year. As a last bit of 
statistics, the ton miles per hour of freight trains has been in- 
creased from 7303 in 1920 to 15,000 now end is still rising. How 
have the railroads, a business that only ten years ago was on the 
verge of bankruptcy, accomplished this feat? 

One of the first contributions to this rejuvenation was 
the development of a new type of train, the l.c.l, fast freight. 
Ten percent of l.c.l. (less than car load lots) had been taken 
over by trucks which were eyeing ten percent more unt£l such trains 
as the B. «. O's "Merchandiser" w££ e introduced. The "Merchandiser" 


runs the 525 miles between i-iew York and littsburgh in thirteen 
hours. It is a freight made up of a passenger engine with up to 
three dozen cars equipped with steel and not cast iron wheels* 
All cars contain an assorted shipment and are filled to capacity. 
Twenty five such cars carry as much as seventy five trucks. This 
train operates at such speeds that at times it beats the time table 
of the crack "Capitol Limited", and is so dependable that Pittsburgh 
stores order supplies in tew York one day and advertise their sale 
that evoning for the next day while the goods are still enroute. 

Other railroads operate similiar trains such as the 
Southern Pacific's "Coast Merchandiser", familiarly called the "Zipper", 
running between San Francisco ard Los Angeles. The Illinois Central 
has the "Merchandise Special" between Chicago and Memphis 'which 
beats all passenger schedules except one. Between lie* York and 
Buffalo there are four railroads, the Lackawanna, the Eric, the 
Lehigh and It&n York Central all operating a fast freight. The 
New York Central traveling up the Hudson River water level route 
averages sixty miles per hour between Rensselaer and Harmon using 
Twentieth Century passenger locomotives. 

Remaining on the freight side of the discussion there 
were three practices of railroad shippers that cut efficiency. 
They were the under loading of cars, the low average running time 
of cars, and the sending of empty cars in the opposite direction. 

To overcomes, the first of these, the Association of Amer- 
ican Railroads had a campaign to load all cars to capacity. The 
0. D. I. stepped in and issued Order I,o. 1, which stated that all 
l.c.l. cars be loaded with at least six tons which was, later, in- 
creased to ten tons. L.c.l. cars had contributed less than two p«r 


cent of the total ton miles but used fourteen percent of box car 
capacity* The average load for l.c.l. cars was five net tons 
against twenty six and a half for the average box car. The 
result of this order was that it took 80,000 cars in Septenber, 
1942 to haul the same lead that lo9,000 cars hauled in September, 
1941. This meant an increase of ten percent in the available box 
car supply. 

O.D.T. order Ko. 18 has to do with the same practi*e. 
It requires that all cars must be loaded to visible capacity if 
loaded light and to the limit if loaded heav^y. L.c.l.'s covered 
in order No. 1 are excepted* This order decreases the percent 
dead weight of the cars and thus reduces drag. If two cars with 
a drag of twenty thousand pounds each and a capacity of forty- 
thousand pounds each are only one half loaded the total drag is 
eighty thousand pounds, fifty percent due to the cars. Now if the 
total load of forty thousand pounds is put in one car the drag is 
only sixty thousand pounds and the car contributes only one third 
instead of one half of the drag. 

In the secend practise the average car running time was 
only two hours a day. This is due mainly to switching and off-peak 
seasons. The off-peak season is now a thing of the past. To further 
increase the running time, the reduction of unloading time has been 
spurred by the leveling of demurage charges if not unloaded in a 
limited time. In Germany a car must be unloadei in an hour or a 
heavy penalty is leveled. A Port Control system has been introd- 
uced to prevent a transport breakdown similiar to that in 1918; 
when 200,000 cars or eight percent of the total were lined up at 


ports, and urgent cars had to be lifted from tie tangle by wreck- 
ing cranes. How, before export goods can be moved an order has 
to be obtained from O.D.I. This order is only issued if shipping 
space on boats or a warehouse for supplying is available. Also 
required by Q.D.T. are daily reports from the divisions of 108 rail- 
roads. It takes five or six days for a congestion to develops, 
end from these reports Q.D.T. can see it coming and re-route cars. 

The third practise of sending cars back to their own 
railroad empty has had to be eliminated due to the increase of 
freight traffic. An example of this was Maine refers carrying 
potatoes to Florida and Florida refers carrying fruit to Maine, 
end then *pr,ssing each other empty on the way back. 

Greater utilization of locomotives also helps to 
increase capacity. Freight engine use has risen from 9G to 123 
miles per day in the last three ^ears while that of passenger 
locomotives has gone from 183 to 200. An example of one rail- 
road will show how this was done. 

The Southern Pacific has stretched their available 
locomotives by such things as building two lunch houses at a water 
stop. One is where the front of the freight train stops. The 
other is located where the end stops. This saves the time of the 
crew in the caboose fran walking twice the length of the train to 
eat while water is taken on. The Espee has resurrected 179 old- 
timers from the boneyards to relieve larger engines for mail line 
duty. Also they have leased locomotives from other roads. It is 
not unusual to see a Burlington, a Northern Pacific, a Great North- 
ern or even a U.S.A. military engine on the Southern Pacific's tracks. 
Two of the biggest tine-savers are the use of purified water on the 


desert and the Lidgerwood. The use of purified water saves an 
eight hour boiler washout ever^ trip and a several day boiler 
scrape twice a month. It used to be a week's job to lift the 
boiler off the frame, to take the wheels off and put them on a 
lathe to true them, liow by slowly pulling the engine over a Lid- 
gerwood the job is completed in a day. 

Until rather recently , railroads were never interested 
in passenger traffic revenues, freight being the main source of 
income. A change in attitude has brought about the glamourizing 
of passenger service. Trains have been painted gaudy colors and 
given names to mention a few, the "Sunset Limited", "Hiawatha", 
"Super Chief", "Royal Blue", "Tamiani Champion", and the "Twentieth 
Century" and "Broadway Limited" being old standbys. Today some 
of the cars are architectural masterpieces. Twenty eight thousand 
dollars was the fee for the design of one club car. The modern 
train is air conditioned, the railroads being excelled only by 
the movies in this capacity. The trucks are insulated with rubber 
to reduce noise and dampen vibration. The windows are sealed and 
double- pane d and do not fog. The interior of a modern coach is 
decorated in subdued colors. There are adjustable individual re- 
clining seats. The lighting is indirect and the lights are put 
out at ten o'clock. Blue and ember floor lights are maintained 
to prevent stumbling in the aisles. lio longer do brakemen call 
out stations in the middle of the night and conductors wake you 
up for tickets. Also on the lu>airy trains is a stewardess to aid 
with children and to help the sick and infirm. 

At first, streamlining was introduced to prevent air 
drag. The cars had walls sloping inward toward the top, and the 

end ear had a long sloping tail. But passengers liked an obser- 
vation end. The length of the trains and the powerful engines 
reduced the importance of air resistance, so the tail ends were 
cut off end the sides built straight up to increase the roominess. 
Also, the first streamlined trains were composed of articulated 
units. The trouble in uncoupling such cars and storing them was 
too much and they were abandoned. The sheathing was formerly 
continued all the way under the car, but due to difficulties in 
repair work this was modified. These cars are made of alloys and 
their decreased weight enables an engine capable of pulling ten 
standard cars to pull fifteen of the new type. 

To go into the new Diesel engines is a subject in itself 
but a few of its details can bu stated. They can start faster, 
pull up hill faster but not rur any faster on the level than a 
stean engine. The engineer has good visibility through large 
windshields equipped with wipers and defrosters. The seats are 
specialy designed to prevent fatigue. They are also equipped 
with a deadifian control that immediately stops the train if the 
engineer removes his foot. The greatest novelty is the new air 
horrs that can be heard for at least five miles. The greatest 
advantage of the Diesel is its availability. It needs less att- 
ention and fewer repairs than the ordinary engine and single units 
can be fixed even while running. Another advantage is that it 
needs fewer stops for refueling and water. 

All of the forementioned have helped the railroads carry 
the load but in looking to the future they have taken to research 
to insure their present prosperity. An outstanding example is that 

of the Denver and Rio Grand© R. R. which has produced a new type 
of rail with the web thicker at the top than at the bottom. This 
type produces less stresses than the older one. 

Twice a week in Southern California people go cut to 
see the "Fifty Second Show*' as the "Super Chief" goes by. It is 
a good sign for the railroads when people are again going down to 
the tricks to sec the trains. 



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