N.P. Ry.

Tell Tale Extra

The USRA Era, 1917, Part II




1917
US railroad trackage (in miles): 231,819.47
US freight equipment: 2,305,216
US length of haul (average in miles): 167.77
US rate per ton-mile (average): .00738
[Loree, pp. 274-5]

US average income per mile operated: $4,851
[Daggett, p. 648]

US revenue tons carried one mile: 394,382,077,643
US average miles per car per day: 26.1 (b)
US average car capacity (in tons): 40
US average tons handled per loaded car: 25.00
US percent of average tons per car to average capacity: 62.50
US aggregate car capacity (in tons): 94,590,533
(b) via USRA
[Loree, p. 278]

US average tons per train: 597
[Daggett, pp. 668-69, via Annual Report, 1924, ICC, pp. 105-06]

US railroad employment: 1,732,876
US railroad compensation: $1,739,482,142
US average compensation per hour: .320
US average compensation per employee: $1,004
(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: 2,616
US railroad workers injured on the job: 52,236
[Loree, p. 645]

Traffic is 43 percent higher than 1914-15, 430 billion ton-miles. [Stover, p. 191]

Between April and December 1917 railroads move 9.8 percent more ton miles of freight during the corresponding period in 1916, though average number of freight locomotives increased only 1.1 percent, and the average number of freight cars only 2.9 percent. Average increase in train load over the corresponding period in 1916 was 6.9 percent, and the tonnage per car increased 9.2 percent. [Jones, p. 443]

February
The ARA's Committee of Five becomes the Special Committee on Cooperation with the Military Authorities, and is enlarged by 14 members.
The ARA's Commission on Car Service becomes the Committee on Car Service, and is made a sub-committee of the executive committee of the Special Commission. [Daggett, pp. 642-43]

Spring
Railroads bring a test case against the Adamson Act to the US Supreme Court. While the case is ongoing, the brotherhoods call for another strike, this time to begin March 17. President Wilson steps in again, arranging to have the controversy submitted to a committee of the Council of National Defense, whereupon the brotherhoods postpone the strike until March 19, the first day the Supreme Court would hand down a decision. [Jones, pp. 429-31, Loree, p. 614]

March 19
''The railway managers, because of the representations made to them of the acute international situation, authorized the committee of the Council of National Defense to grant the employees whatever adjustment was necessary to prevent a strike. The Council's committee thereupon, at 5:30 A.M. on March 19, made an award granting the eight hour day to the men. Later that day the Court upheld the law. Two [weeks] later the United States declared war on the Imperial German Empire.'' [Loree, pp. 615-6]

April
Fifteen percent of US freight locomotives and 5.7 percent of the nation's freight car fleet are awaiting repair. [Jones, p. 439]

April 6
The United States enters World War One. Later, some 70,000 railroad employees will be drafted. [Jones, p. 437]

April 11
Daniel Willard, President of the Baltimore and Ohio and Chairman of the Advisory Commission of the Council of National Defense, calls a conference in Washington, D.C. Nearly 700 railroad presidents signed a resolution in which they agreed to contribute to the war effort by running their lines as a 'continental railway system.' They created a five-man 'Railroads' War Board' [also referred to as the Railway War Board] Chaired by Fairfax Harrison, President, Southern Railway, along with E.E. Clark, ICC (ex-officio), Howard Eliot, Chairman Executive Committee Northern Pacific, Hale Holden, President Burlington, Julius Kruttschnitt, Chairman Executive Committee Southern Pacific, Samuel Rea, President Pennsylvania, and Willard (ex-officio).
Their goals were to: Organize car pools [between May and December orders were sent for the relocation of 222,000 cars, of which 188,000 moved off the initial line]; urge heavier loading of cars [the average car capacity in 1916 was 41 tons, the average carload of revenue freight was 22.8 tons, percentage of capacity utilized being only 56]; urge faster loading and unloading of shipments [this generally consumed two days in loading and two more in unloading]; speed up shipping times [average daily mileage for a locomotive was 75, with just 25 for freight cars; in addition coal and iron ore were given preference over all other traffic, to this end, all hopper and gondola cars were to be returned to their home roads as soon as possible, disciplinary measures included the publication of the names of offending officers and railroads]; secure more use out of existing equipment [in April 1917, 15.1 percent of freight locomotives and 5.7 percent of freight cars were awaiting repair; the Railroad's War Board sought to reduce these to ten and four respectively]; eliminate duplicate passenger trains [after these policies were in place the Board estimated 28 million passenger train miles were discontinued, saving 1.8 million tons of coal per year, and releasing 570 locomotives and 2,800 men for freight service]; streamline classifications [coal classifications were reduced from 677 to 97, in tidewater coal specifically they were reduced from 900 to 125]. The problems they faced were: some of their goals were legally impossible under the Sherman Anti-trust Act of 1890; individual roads were prone to keep and use traffic advantages; low employee morale; high turnover in labor, especially skilled shop crafts ['On some roads...the mechanical force was turned over two or three times in the year]; labor shortages [70,000 railroad workers were drafted, along with nine regiments of railway engineers being sent to France and a large advisory corps to Russia], equipment shortages, parts shortages, terminal space shortages, capital shortages. Their organization was entirely voluntary. [Stover, p. 185; Jones, pp. 435-9]

April 26
Under the Railroad War Board the Commission on Car Service orders virtually all box car pooled. [Loree, p. 368]

May 29
Esch-Pomerene Act. The ICC is given the authority to establish rules covering movement, distribution, exchange and return of all railroad cars. ''Whenever an emergency existed...the Commission was empowered, without hearing, to suspend the operation of any or all car service rule, and to make...directions...[that] would best promote car service in the interest of the public and the commerce...'' ''As a matter of fact the ICC found it unnecessary to exercise the summary power conferred by the [Act].'' [Jones, pp. 440-1] "The Commission was slow to exercise any real authority under this Act." [Stover, pp. 186-7]

July 24
Eastern ports have 1,006,296 tons held for overseas unloaded on the ground, with 104,934 tons still remaining on cars [about 4,197 40 ton capacity cars at the average 25 ton load of 1917]. [Loree, p. 309]

August 9
ICC commissioners enlarged from seven to nine, the Commission was authorized to divide its members into as many divisions as it might deem necessary.

August 10
Priority Law. Judge Robert S. Lovett, Chairman Executive Committee Union Pacific is appointed Director of Priority by Wilson. In the first two and a half months Lovett issued just one order; prioritizing coal traffic from the east to the northwest before the close of the navigation season on the Great Lakes so as to avert a coal famine. ''The laws, the regulations of the ICC, the carrier's rates and practices all prohibited discrimination at a time when intelligent and conscientious discrimination was the only remedy. This was ameliorated by the Lever Act and the Transportation Priority Act of 1917.''
''The arbitrary action made possible the complete protection of the Northwest served through the Great Lakes in the severe winter of 1917-18...'' [Loree, pp. 284-85]
''Prior to the passage of this act the railroads had been giving preference to particular shipments upon the request of the various government departments such as the Food Administration, Fuel Administration, US Army, US Navy and US Shipping Board. These departments were naturally anxious to perform satisfactorily the several tasks confided to them, and the result was that they abused the priority privilege [extreme example, a rush order of anchors for ships which were not yet begun].'' [Jones, pp. 442-3]

September 4
The Pennsylvania Railroad studies, develops and adopts the 'Sailing Day Plan,' at Philadelphia, whereby [primarily LCL] freight was to be accepted for shipment on specified 'sailing' days only, doing away with the necessity of holding freight in freight house one, two or more days... the cars were to 'sail' as ranged, insuring a dependable service. This is later adopted by the USRA. [Loree, p. 374]

Fall
''In the fall of 1917, when the national shortage of freight cars was reported at 158,000 cars, some 180,000 loaded cars piled up at or near eastern ports with no where to go.'' [Stover, p. 185]

Winter
Under Federal Possession and Control Act, the Food Administration, Fuel Administration, US Army, US Navy and US Shipping Board were allowed to tag shipments as priority. The Pennsylvania estimated that 85 percent of the traffic on their Pittsburgh Division was so labeled. [Stover, p. 187]

November 1
Car shortage reaches 158,000 cars and continues to climb.

November 24
Railroads' War Board directs that ''...all available facilities on all railroads east of Chicago be pooled to the extent necessary to furnish the maximum freight movement...that to the fullest extent that conditions render it desirable that these railways will be operated as a unit, entirely regardless of their ownership and individual interests.'' [Jones, p. 443]

November 28
Eastern ports have 1,335,00 tons of steel, iron and other commodities unloaded on the ground or still remaining on cars. [Loree, p. 309]

December
Average percentage of home cars to total cars on US roads was 48. [Daggett, pp. 665-66]

December 1
ICC suggests to Congress railroad management cannot meet present crisis; Chairman ICC separately suggests government should nationalize railroads in the face of the crisis.
At the same time, two of the operating brotherhoods make a wage demand calling for a nearly 40 percent increase in pay, with the remaining brotherhoods considering comparable requests. [Stover, p. 191]

ARA-Railroads War Board General Eastern Operating Committee orders all open top equipment east of the Mississippi and north of the Ohio and Potomac pooled. [Loree, p. 368]

December 26
Nationalization. Wilson uses the Federal Possession and Control Act to assume control of most US railroads. Appoints William Gibbs McAdoo, Secretary of the Treasury, as Director General of Railroads. Appoints Walker D. Hines, Chairman Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, Assistant Director General. Government control to being at noon on December 28. McAdoo's first order on December 26 is for railroads to continue operating normally until directed otherwise. [Stover, p. 189]

A short summary of the reasons Daggett cites for nationalization are: private carriers were operating under several sets of laws which were or might become conflicting [it might be remembered that pools had been outlawed since before the turn of the century]; conflict of priority orders between Judge Lovett, the ICC, and other government agencies including the Army and Navy; private interests of the carriers appeared to be hindering their operations as a truly continental system; employees were being attracted away from the industry by higher pay elsewhere; and that railroads 'were not able to sell securities to finance necessary additions to their plant and equipment, nor could they count on with any confidence on being bale to buy supplies even when the money was at hand.' [Daggett, pp. 644-45]



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J.A. Phillips, III
July 1, 1997
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