N.P. Ry.

Tell Tale Extra

The USRA Era, 1918, Part III




1918
US railroad trackage (in miles): 231,303.36
US freight equipment: 2,320,216
US length of haul (average in miles): 175.41
US rate per ton-mile (average): .00848
[Loree, pp. 274-5]

US revenue tons carried one mile: 398,442,019,620
US average miles per car per day: 24.9 (b)
US average car capacity (in tons): 41
US average tons handled per loaded car: 65.56
US percent of average tons per car to average capacity: 62.50
US aggregate car capacity (in tons): 96,545,239
(b) via USRA
[Loree, p. 278]

US average tons per train: 628
[Daggett, pp. 668-69, via Annual Report, 1924, ICC, pp. 105-06]

US railroad employment: 1,841,575
US railroad compensation: $2,613,813,351
US average compensation per hour: .458
US average compensation per employee: $1,419
(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: 2,759
US railroad workers injured on the job: 46,961
[Loree, p. 645]

USRA price for rental (12 months): $965,788,896.97
[Daggett, p. 648]

Revenue freight tonnage by classes of commodities, 1918, via ICC
Products of:
Agriculture: 228,322,331--9.9 percent
Animals: 61,404,525--2.66 percent
Mines: 1,263,502,734--54.76 percent
Forests: 192,616,711--8.35 percent
Manufacturers: 377,366,031--16.36 percent
Miscellaneous: 85,645,364--3.71
LCL: 98,368,439--4.26
[Loree, p. 293]

''If, however, the mileage per car per day had been speeded up to 26.9 (as in 1916), the available equipment would, under like operating conditions, have handled more than 433,000,000,000 tons, or an increase of 8.74 percent.'' [Loree, p. 270]
''Tons handled one mile in the years 1917 and 1918 [were] more than 100,000,000,000 above any one year of the years 1906 to 1915, inclusive, with the exception of the year 1913, which is exceeded by approximately 93,000,000,000.'' [Loree, p. 271]

The Bureau of Railway Economics, as cited by Loree, came up with the following information for freight car travel that year. The average trip consisted of 18.05 days, with 11.66 days in the hands of the railroads and 6.39 days in the hands of the shippers and consignees. The largest portion of the railroads share was consumed by 'Abnormal delays-Other causes as reflected in accumulations' 3.28 days. 1.97 days were spent in normal road movement, with .68 of a day in road delays. The largest portion of the shippers and consignees share was consumed with loading and unloading, four days, the same number as Loree cited for 1910. The car fleet at that time stood at about 2,939,963, as its not clear if the table includes cars out of service for repairs. [Loree, p. 268]
Loree adds to the figures for that year, stating that the war-time effort to increase the loading of cars drove the average up to 65.56 percent of capacity. [Loree, p. 270]

January 18
McAdoo appoints Secretary of the Interior and former ICC member Franklin K. Lane to head the Railroad Wage Commission to investigate wages and working conditions on US railroads. [Stover, p. 191]

Spring
McAdoo divides railroads into three regions: East--east of Chicago and north of the Ohio and Potomac Rivers; West--west of Chicago and the Mississippi River; South--East of the Mississippi River and south of the Ohio and Potomac Rivers. Alfred H. Smith President New York Central System, appointed Regional Director of the Eastern Region. [Stover, pp. 189-90]

Operational changes: duplicate passenger services eliminated; sleeping car service curtailed and additional surcharge added; limited trains obligated to handle local traffic. Consolidation of timetables, ticket offices, single ticket book for all roads under USRA control. Joint use of terminals, shops and other equipment. Closing of traffic offices. Though passenger service reductions, passenger traffic increased by eight percent.
[Stover, p. 190]

New equipment ordered: 100,000 new freight cars and 1,930 locomotives, at a cost of $380 million (see Revolving Fund under March 21). ''...but freight car shortages were a thing of the past by the late spring of 1918.'' [Stover, p. 191]

The freight cars, according to Loree, broke down to: 25,000 single-sheath box of 100,000 pounds capacity; 25,000 double-sheath box of 80,000 pounds capacity; 5,000 low side gondolas of 140,000 pounds capacity; 20,000 drop-bottom gondolas of 100,000 pounds capacity; 25,000 hopper-bottom gondolas of 110,000 pounds capacity. [Loree, p. 303]

An interesting take on the effectiveness of the USRA versus the ARA in this matter comes from the SP's Krutschnitt as cited by Loree: 'After years of fruitless activity, the life of the ARA Committee on Standard Box Car[s] was terminated with federal control. At the close of 1917, the Committee was divided in the consideration of two designs; one prepared by its sub-committee was estimated to weigh 46,000 pounds, and another, carefully proportioned by competent engineers to safely stand all stresses imposed by prescribed specifications, to weigh 40,738 pounds...' Kruttschnitt went on to heap a bit of scorn on the USRA as well, stating their design 'weight 16.3 percent or 3.3 tons more than a possible on of equal load and space capacity, hence we may expect an increase in its initial cost of about 16.3 percent.'
'Center sills, draft sills, side steel, under- and end-framing, roof, doors, floor, trucks, etc., can be built lighter...and in many cases materially stronger.'
'The cost of hauling the excess 3.3 tons causes unnecessary and easily avoidable expense of millions of dollars per annum which might be saved by the elimination of useless dead weight.'
'A train of 40 [USRA] box cars loaded to 55 tons, contains 2,200 tons paying load and weight 944 tons; 42 carefully designed cars will carry 2,310 tons and will weigh 853 tons, an excess of paying freight over the others of 110 tons. As the total weight of the two trains is the same, the cost of running them will be the same, but the 110 tons of additional paying freight, the haul of which is made possible by elimination of unnecessary dead weight, would bring in a revenue at existing ton mileage rates of $1.10 per train mile, every cent of which would be net. This is substantially ten percent more than the net earnings of the train of [USRA] cars.'
'We ascertained in the latter part of 1917 that the car which we contrast with the [USRA] car could have been built for between $2,300 and $2,400. The [USRA] box contracted for in the early part of 1918 cost $3,050.' [Loree, pp. 303-4]
An implicit lesson in railroading, engineering, and bad design to be sure.

According to Daggett, the curtailment of traffic expenses, defined as the outlay for solicitation, advertising, industrial and immigration bureaus, and the cost of employing these staffs rose, fell, and climbed to new heights between 1916 and 1922. The outlay for these items in 1916 was $62 million, $64 million in 1917, falling to $48 million in 1918 under the USRA and cut further to $47 million in 1919, then expanding rapidly over the next three consecutive years, to $74 million, $84 million, and $86 million respectively, a rate far above pre-war levels. In terms of percentages of these outlays to total operating expense, the figures were not the same. The $62 million spent in 1916 represents 2.66 present of the total operating expense, while the much larger $86 million of 1922 represents just 1.96 percent. [Daggett, p. 665]

March 16
The Pennsylvania extends their Sailing Days for LCL freight to cover all 25 divisions east of Pittsburgh and Erie. Division reports show a dialing saving of 654 cars and discontinuance of 20 local way freights a day. [Loree, p. 375]

March 21
Railroad Control Act. Grants full protection of property rights to railroad owners, sets annual compensation ('rental') at the average of the net operation income of three previous years (three previous fiscal years ending June 30, 1917), agrees to return property ''...in substantially as good repair and in substantially as complete equipment as it was at the beginning of Federal control.'' Revolving fund of $500 million set up to cover initial costs. Finally, the properties were to be returned to their owners within 21 months of the signing of a peace treaty. [Stover, pp. 188-9]

''Inasmuch as the earnings of the last peace year-1917-seemed too high to serve as a reasonable basis for compensation, Congress adopted the average of the three years ending June 30, 1917, in their stead. This included two good years and one year of light railway earnings.'' [Daggett, p. 648]

April 30
Lane's Railroad Wage Commission makes its report (the Commission was disbanded after the report). Findings include: cost of living had increased 40 percent between December 1915 and December 1917. Fifty-one percent of all railroad employees were now earning less than $75 per month. The Commission [suggested] applying wage increases to adjust the current rate to one equal with that of December 1915 via a sliding scale. Employees earning up to $85 per month would receive a 40 percent increase, those earning up to $100 per month would receive a 31 percent increase, those earning up to $150 per month would receive a 16 percent increase, with those earning $250 per month receiving no increase at all. Current railroad employment levels were between 1.75 and 1.8 million people.
''Many of the higher paid workers were unhappy because the new rates did violence to the long established wage differentials in the industry.'' [Stover, pp. 191-2]

''Urged on by [NYC's] Alfred H. Smith McAdoo decided to raise the wages.'' [Stover, p. 191]

Thus, the average annual compensation per railroad employee rose from $1,003 in 1917, to $1,419 in 1918, to $1,485 in 1919 and $1,820 by 1920. [Stover, p. 192]

''Their [the railroad executives] bitterness seems rather reasonable when one recalls that the average railroad worker's annual compensation of roughly $1,000 in 1917 was 27 percent above the average for workers engaged in manufacturing that year. Average railroad wages in 1920 were 33 percent above those in manufacturing.'' [Stover, p. 192]

[Note: this seems to be a direct contradiction of both Lane's Railroad Wage Commission report, as well as figures Stover himself cites on p. 182.]

May 25
McAdoo announces General Order No. 28 an average of a 28 percent increase in freight rates and an 18 percent increase in passenger fares, effective June 25. Since the rate increase could note be retroactive the increase in operating costs during 1918 were substantially higher than the increase in total revenue. [Stover, p. 193]

''On the whole, these increases were moderate... Indeed, they were probably less than the situation called for. Except for General Order No. 56, increasing express rates, there was no further general advance in rates during federal control.'' [Daggett, p. 663]

November
McAdoo retires to private life, Hines becomes Director-General. ''Wishing to help the man who had done so much for them, the railroad workers of the country started a campaign to have each worker contribute a dollar a year to keep McAdoo at the head of the Railroad Administration.'' [Stover, p. 193]
''Faced with an unprecedented decline in rail traffic and record expenses, [Hines] decided to save the national economy from the burden of higher rates, which the rail industry clearly deserved.'' [Stover, p. 193]



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