N.P. Ry.

Tell Tale Extra

The USRA Era, 1900-1916, Part I




1900 to 1915
Circa World War One US railroads were experiencing one of their most difficult financial periods their history: Cost of living increased 30 percent; Fuel and labor costs increased more than 30 percent; Average wages increased 50 percent; Taxes tripled; Gross earnings doubled; Freight rates remained constant at about 0.73 cents per ton-mile.
--John F. Stover, American Railroads


1906
US railroad trackage (in miles): 194, 726.58
US freight equipment: 1,659,168
US length of haul (average in miles): 148.53
US rate per ton-mile (average): .00756
[Loree, pp. 274-5]

US average income per mile operated: $3,330 [Daggett, p. 648]

US revenue tons carried one mile: 215,877,551,241
US average miles per car per day: 24.8 (a)
US average car capacity (in tons): 32
US average tons handled per loaded car: 18.92
US percent of average tons per car to average capacity: 59.12
US aggregate car capacity (in tons): 59,059,302
(a) via ICC
[Loree, p. 278]

June 29
Hepburn Act. ICC increased from five to seven, terms increased from six to seven years. ICC is given rate making authority, with the burden of proof to railroads, given the authority to request railroads make annual, monthly, and special reports, and for the first time the power to enforce these requests, along with the power to fine offenders, and imprison those who gave false testimony. Finally, the ICC was given the power to heavily fine and imprison those who engaged in rebating and other nefarious rate practices of railroading's freewheeling days. [Jones, p. 237-47]

1910
US railroad trackage (in miles): 216, 418.87
US freight equipment: 2,069,231
US length of haul (average in miles): 152.06
US rate per ton-mile (average): .00743
[Loree, pp. 274-5]

US average income per mile operated: $3,644 [Daggett, p. 648]

US revenue tons carried one mile: 255,016,910,451
US average miles per car per day: 23.6 (a)
US average car capacity (in tons): 36
US average tons handled per loaded car: 19.85
US percent of average tons per car to average capacity: 55.13
US aggregate car capacity (in tons): 81,077,028
(a) via ICC
[Loree, p. 278]

Rate increase requested of ICC, rejected.

The ICC in 1910 calculated some of the following statistics about car movements. Average miles per day per car was slightly less than 24. Average haul on all railroads was 249.68 miles. The ARA in the same year calculated the following statistics about cars. Average surplus was 92,048, about 4.3 percent of all freight equipment. Percentage of cars in shop was 6.28. Average delay to loading or unloading, according to the Eastern Demurrage Bureau was two days. [Loree, p. 265]

June 18
Mann-Elkins Act. ICC gains power over telephone, telegraph, and cable companies, both wired and wireless. ICC granted power to suspend changes in rates. [Jones, p. 249-50]

1913
US railroad trackage (in miles): 225,452.34
US freight equipment: 2,212,053
US length of haul (average in miles): 155.42
US rate per ton-mile (average): .00719
[Loree, pp. 274-5]

US average income per mile operated: $3,584 [Daggett, p. 648]

US revenue tons carried one mile: 301,398,752,108
US average miles per car per day: 24.6 (a)
US average car capacity (in tons): 38
US average tons handled per loaded car: 21.12
US percent of average tons per car to average capacity: 55.58
US aggregate car capacity (in tons): 86,978,145
(a) via ICC
[Loree, p. 278]

US railroad workers killed on the job: 2,939
US railroad workers injured on the job: 56,619
[Loree, p. 644]

Rate increase requested of ICC, granted five percent increase.

March 1
Valuation Act. ICC is directed to ascertain the value of all the property owned or used by common carriers. ''The main purpose of this Act was to furnish the Commission with some standard by which to test the reasonableness of railway rates...'' The extent of the valuation included ascertaining and reporting ''...in detail as to each piece of property used for common carrier purposes, the original cost to date, the cost of reproduction new, the cost of reproduction less depreciation...'' [Jones, pp. 264-67]

July 15
Newlands Act. Supersedes Erdman Act of June 1, 1898. Provides for mediation and conciliation in industrial disputes. [Loree, p. 617]

1914
US railroad trackage (in miles): 227,753.37
US freight equipment: 2,265,792
US length of haul (average in miles): 155.48
US rate per ton-mile (average): .00725
[Loree, pp. 274-5]

US average income per mile operated: $3,006 [Daggett, p. 648]

US revenue tons carried one mile: 288,319,890,210
US average miles per car per day: 23.8 (a)
US average car capacity (in tons): 39
US average tons handled per loaded car: 21.09
US percent of average tons per car to average capacity: 54.08
US aggregate car capacity (in tons): 90,848,095
(a) via ICC
[Loree, p. 278]

US railroad workers killed on the job: 2,533
US railroad workers injured on the job: 50,814
[Loree, p. 644]

Traffic declines.
Rock Island, NYNHH, SLSF, Wabash face bankruptcy.

1914-15
Request for freight rate advance of 15 percent. "The Commission replied with token increases...By the end of the year operating costs were such that the full requested rate increase, even if granted, would have been inadequate." [Stover, pp. 184-5]

October 14
Clayton Act. ''...No corporation engaged in commerce should acquire, directly or indirectly, any stock in another corporation also engaged in commerce, where the effect of such acquisition might be to lessen substantially competition between them or restrain commerce in any section or community, or tend to create a monopoly of any line of commerce.'' [Jones, pp. 268-70]

1915
US railroad trackage (in miles): 229,147.90
US freight equipment: 2,261,154
US length of haul (average in miles): 163.05
US rate per ton-mile (average): .00724
[Loree, pp. 274-5]

US average income per mile operated: $2,972 [Daggett, p. 648]

US revenue tons carried one mile: 276,830,302,723
US average miles per car per day: 22.7 (a)
US average car capacity (in tons): 40
US average tons handled per loaded car: 21.39
US percent of average tons per car to average capacity: 53.47
US aggregate car capacity (in tons): 92,848,095
(a) via ICC
[Loree, p. 278]

US railroad workers killed on the job: 1,594
US railroad workers injured on the job: 38,060
[Loree, p. 645]

ARA sets up the Committee of Five on Cooperation with the Military Authorities. This is a response to coordinate troop routing when US troops are used to quell troubles with Poncho Villa on the US-Mexican border. [Daggett, p. 642]

1915-16
Traffic increases.

Fall
One sixth of US mileage, 41,000 miles, awaiting receivership. [Stover, p. 185]

1916
US railroad trackage (in miles): 230,468.32
US freight equipment: 2,235,868
US length of haul (average in miles): 163.73
US rate per ton-mile (average): .00708
[Loree, pp. 274-5]

US average income per mile operated: $4,247
[Daggett, p. 648]

US revenue tons carried one mile: 343,099,937,805
US average miles per car per day: 26.9 (a)
US average car capacity (in tons): 40
US average tons handled per loaded car: 22.64
US percent of average tons per car to average capacity: 56.60
US aggregate car capacity (in tons): 93,590,533
(a) via ICC
[Loree, p. 278]

US average tons per train: 560
[Daggett, pp. 668-69, via Annual Report, 1924, ICC, pp. 105-06]

US railroad employment: 1,647,097
US railroad compensation: $1,468,576,394
US average compensation per hour: .283
US average compensation per employee: $892
(Includes General and Divisional Officers)
[Daggett, p. 660, via Annual Report on the Statistics of Railways in the United States, ICC, 1922, p. xxi]

US railroad workers killed on the job: 2,210
US railroad workers injured on the job: 48,310
[Loree, p. 645]

Railroads secure the highest per day car mileage of the war years: 26.88. [Loree, p. 270]

The ARA appoints the Commission on Car Service, to work with the ICC. The Commission is reconstituted in 1917, then becomes the USRA's Car Service Section after nationalization. [Daggett, pp. 642-643]

March
Four operating brotherhoods (BLE, BofLF&E, BRC, BRT, with a combined membership of approximately 400,000) request eight hour day [in freight train service, without a reduction in pay, with overtime pay after eight hours to be set at regular pay plus 50 percent]. ''The railroad executives asserted that the demand of the brotherhoods was not in fact for shorter hours, as was claimed, but for increased wages. The executives pointed out that...the effect of establishing an eight our day with penalty for overtime would be merely to increase the wage without reducing materially the hours of labor. The intimated that the unions put their demands in the form of a request for a shorter day, because such an objective would be more likely to enlist public sympathy than would a request for more pay.'' [Jones, pp. 428-9]

June 1-15
Conferences begin between National Conference Committee of Managers and the Big Four. No settlement reached and the Big Four decline offer to arbitrate. [Loree, p. 610]

Brotherhoods begin a strike poll, which comes back several weeks later with roughly 90 percent of the membership in favor of such action. [Jones, p. 429]

Summer
Demand for coal skyrockets, production of 579,386,000 tons is a 39 percent increase over 1915 levels. [Loree, p. 281]

August 8-9
Conferences begin again between National Conference Committee of Managers and the Big Four. Executives invoke the services of the US Board of Mediation and Conciliation [Set up in 1913 under the Newlands Act] but this also fails to reach a settlement. [Loree, p. 610, Jones, p. 429]

August 9-13
Board of Mediation confers with both parties, ''finally announcing that both parties refused to recede from their positions.'' [Loree, p. 610]

The same day President Woodrow Wilson then stepped in, suggesting arbitration, to which the brotherhoods refused. He then suggested the executives accept an eight hour day, and the brotherhoods continue on the same pay scales, until a disinterested commission could investigate the effects on railroad revenues. [Jones, p. 429]

''..the Conference Committee declined to accept it on the ground that the principle of arbitration had been sacrificed and that the increase of 25 percent in the wage bill could not be borne by the carriers.'' [Loree, p. 610]

August 16
Wilson summons the executives of the railroads. [Loree, p. 610]

August 18-19, 21
Wilson confers with the executives. The executives agree to the eight hour rule with overtime to be pro rata, with the ICC and a presidentially appointed commission to oversee and study the effects. [Loree, pp. 610-11]

August 28
With Congress on the eve of adjournment, the brotherhoods declare a strike will begin 7 A.M. on September 4, Labor Day. [Loree, p. 611]

August 29
Wilson addresses a joint session of Congress, asking the threat of the strike be ended by enacting legislation with the eight hour day as the basis for pay. He also argues for: the enlargement and reorganization of the ICC; authority to appoint a commission which look into the eight hour day, report to Congress, but not give a recommendation; approval of an rate increase if the ICC found it necessary. [Loree, p. 611]

The same day the Army Appropriation Act is passed. Under the Federal Possession and Control Act in this legislation the President is given the power to take possession of any transportation system in wartime.

August 31
William C. Adamson introduces a bill along Wilson's outline in Congress.

September 1
Bill passes the House of Representatives.

September 2
Bill accepted by the Senate.

September 3
Wilson signs the bill, which is to become effective January 1, 1917. [Strike called off about this time]

September 5
Wilson signs the bill again, "...in order that the legality of his first signature might not be attacked." [September 3 was a Sunday, September 4 a national holiday].

Stover: 'Good call for labor.' US is on the verge of war, rail revenues are high and traffic is up due to war, skilled labor is being lured to higher paying defense industry, railroad labor pool is tight.



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(C) 1997
J.A. Phillips, III
July 1, 1997
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