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Still hard to believe that covered grain hoppers were not accepted until after 1950.

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July 4, 2012 9:31 PM

I happened to look at a Grain Journal from 1917 where everything seemed more modern than 50 years earlier in the USA, but they were still using wood boxcars for hauling grain.

 

There were steel open-top hoppers in the early 20th century, but covered hoppers fleets were slow in coming.


Was the delay in building fleets of covered hoppers caused by the steel shortage in the world wars?

 

Was it just some men being stubborn about changing something that barely worked because they had something to prove?

 

How could that one concept have been so slow in changing.

 

Even when they had the choice to build new steel cars especially for grain, some railroads still chose to use sloppy box cars. Was it so expensive to haul empty boxcars that they had to use them for all commodities, even if it caused damage and loss to one of the commodities?  

 

Andrew

 
 
 
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July 4, 2012 10:07 PM

Don't really know, but might be because of cost of steel cars, vs. fleets of wooden

cars in inventory, built for the WWI war effort, coupled with the highly seasonal nature of grain shipping.  Could have equaled a reluctance in investing in an inventory of dedicated cars that might remain idle for months.  A related question might be...what were they hauling all those other dry powder products in at the same time....not open top hoppers subject to wind and contamination?

(For the period I am modeling, it means I don't need to buy any covered hoppers)

 
 
 
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July 4, 2012 11:56 PM

One of the problems with the adoption of the covered hopper was that both the loading and unloading sites had to be set up differently for covered hoppers as compared to loading and unloading boxcars.  My guess is that it was a chicken or egg problem.  Customers could not convert as the railroads did not have hoppers to supply and the railroads did not want to convert to covered hoppers because their customer's sites could not handle them.

 

As late as the late 1980s UP (MP) still had customers who could not unload covered hoppers and they had to move bulk beans in boxcars.

 
 
 
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July 5, 2012 12:58 AM

If memory serves there was a GREAT deal of labor back then.

 

Now you cannot pry people out of colleges for any amount of manual labor.

 

And entire grain facilities has been dynamited to make way for condos....

 

A living Steam Engine hauling a train with commerce, reaching across time and space; is a wonderful journey undertaken by Man.

 

A product of our fine College System that has been made redundant by imports of Foreign Workers willing to push a Keyboard for a living.

 
 
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July 5, 2012 7:59 AM

Seasonal.  It was easy to adapt a temporary fix, labor being what it was. Box car's with a little cardboard worked, why expect a railroad to invest in something for a few months of the year.

 
 
 
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July 5, 2012 10:08 AM

Originally Posted by Lee 145:

If memory serves there was a GREAT deal of labor back then.

 

Now you cannot pry people out of colleges for any amount of manual labor.

 

And entire grain facilities has been dynamited to make way for condos....

As with any industry today, less people are required to do the same work than 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago because of improvements in technology.

 

There was a great deal of manual labor back then because the lack of technology required it.  The elevator owners would not go back to boxcars and manual unloading today. 

 

Rusty

 
 
 
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July 5, 2012 11:44 AM

Before 1950, grain threshed by the early combines and stationary threshing machines on farms was frequently not handled in bulk; it was in burlap sacks. Boxcars make sense for handling grain if it is bagged. With the advent of bulk grain and fertilizer handling on the farm, it then made sense to do it by rail as well.

 
 
 
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July 5, 2012 2:17 PM

trains magazine done a special issue on grain about 2 years ago. it was of great interest to  me,since in the 60's and70's we took wheat to the small local mill here in litchfield. it stopped accepting grain around 1970 and used boxcars right up to the end. i think some places were forced to use boxcars due to weight limits on the track sidings, -jim

 
 
 
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July 5, 2012 3:08 PM

Originally Posted by Lee 145:

If memory serves there was a GREAT deal of labor back then.

You could make enough wage to support a family doing a basic labor job.  Now two adults doing labor can't support themselves.

 

Kitbashing Reading Company steam engines until the day I can build a layout.  Sometimes I do custom work for others.

 

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July 5, 2012 4:46 PM

My understanding is that Pennsylvania's H30 Covered Hoppers were the first such cars built as covered hoppers.  That would have been about 1936 or so.  Before that, the only covered hoppers were older coal hoppers that were cleaned out and sealed tops with hatches were installed on them.  The problem with those cars was that they were necessarily heavier cars because they had been designed to haul bulk coal.  Grain hoppers would have been much lighter so that payloads could be increased.

 

Incidentally, Weaver's new H30 hopper car is really and excellent model of this historic car.  It looks significantly different than your more modern covered hoppers and  would be correct for grain service.

 

Paul Fischer

 
 
 
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July 5, 2012 5:54 PM

Originally Posted by fisch330:

My understanding is that Pennsylvania's H30 Covered Hoppers were the first such cars built as covered hoppers.  That would have been about 1936 or so.  Before that, the only covered hoppers were older coal hoppers that were cleaned out and sealed tops with hatches were installed on them.  The problem with those cars was that they were necessarily heavier cars because they had been designed to haul bulk coal.  Grain hoppers would have been much lighter so that payloads could be increased.

 

Incidentally, Weaver's new H30 hopper car is really and excellent model of this historic car.  It looks significantly different than your more modern covered hoppers and  would be correct for grain service.

 

Paul Fischer

 

The PRR H30s were originally built for cement service. 

 
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July 6, 2012 10:19 AM

A lot of things were transported in boxcars 100+ years ago that later would be shipped in specialized cars. The Northern Pacific Ry. Historical Society's magazine had an article a couple of years ago that talked about how in the 1890's-1900's coal was shipped by lake boat to Duluth-Superior harbor in sacks, which were then loaded into boxcars to be sent to Mpls-St.Paul, Fargo-Moorhead, or the Iron Range.

 
- Stix
 
 
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July 7, 2012 12:12 AM

So what was keeping the Fabric Sack producers in business were the lack of advancements in the freight car fleet.

 

These days there are very few fabric sacks to be seen anywhere.

 

National Geographic had a photo of sacks of beans being unloaded from a steel Seaboard box car in Southern Indiana during the late 1970's.

 

Andrew

 
 
 
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July 7, 2012 1:21 AM

My guess is found in many of the posts above.

 

I do think that the steel was ear marked for the war industry. Also grain handling after wwii was by belt conveyors and screw conveyors and screw lifts. The more modern pneumatic conveying systems and storge facilities at the end users were not plentyful because lots of cheap labor was avaiable.

 

In the early 60's labor as a part of mfg expenses was growing and so mfg's were looking to cut cost with investment in tech items that had an ROI(return on investment). Also grain unloading/loading was not a skilled job and the labor force was starting to look toward better paying jobs. 

 

The manual labor jobs were not very desirable. All this coupled with the problems of cross contamination of various items hauled in the box cars helped push investments in new infustructure of hopper/cylindrical hoppers, silos, sock type dust collectors, pneumatic conveying components such as the use of Gas blowers for pressure systems and various types of metering feeder devices.

 

Sugar is another item that has seen an impact from bags in railcars to airslide cars to liquid sugar in tank cars or grainular sugar being liqufied on rail sidings and then distributed by truck rather than shipping all that water in the rail tankers. 

 

Some mfg's spemt their own Capital on rolling stock to move the transition to new methods forward. The mfg's also bought their own fleet of boxcars to ship their own finished goods in. But as the trucking industry was deregulated many of these mfg's shifted from 90%+ rail to 90%+ truck.

 

Andrew you picked an intresting subject that has had a huge impact on the rail system during my life time. Thanks for your post.

 

Running CN, GTW & Santa Fe Power...Reg April 09,2006

 

 

 
 
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July 7, 2012 8:52 AM

Popsrr? "granular sugar being liquified on rail sidings and then transported by truck"?

Since I and somebody else on here has modeled sugar factories, I'd like to know where that can be seen and facilities photographed, although it is probably of recent

occurrence and too late for my modeled period.

 
 
 
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July 7, 2012 10:10 AM

I have seen the sugar liqufied at a small facility in Michigan where it then can be delivered by truck to  local end users. It saves on the transportation cost by not having to haul the water by rail. When I get a chance I will take some pictures when I am over in that area again and post them.

 

Running CN, GTW & Santa Fe Power...Reg April 09,2006

 

 

 
 
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July 8, 2012 10:38 AM

Bag products are still around as is the labor.

Interesting to note that as a young teenager on the farm 100 lbs was the going weight.  Move to the 70's, 80's, 90's the weight went to 80 lbs and today most people want those 50 lbs bags or sacks of salt, cement, mortar, fertilizer,  feed,  mulch,  etc.  Most is done with pallets and the pallets are stackable. Fork lifts are well designed, as are storage areas and transportation systems to limit manual movement, but eventually a customer moves the product the old way.  It is not uncommon to see a skid loader on a farm that has a fork lift attachment. Most construction sites will have multiple skid loaders and once out of the mud, a fork lift, or larger JLG lift. 

    

 
 
 
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July 9, 2012 8:45 AM

Everyone here has added important elements to the story of the evolution of the movement of grain in sacks in 1900 to bulk shipments in box cars and finally 100 ton coverd hoppers in the 1960s.  Changes in car building, changes in the labor market and investments in shipping and receiving facilities are all a part.  I'll add a few more elements to consider.

 

Two more important pieces to the economic puzzle were the development of trucks and farm to market roads.  Thousands in miles of paved roads were built in rural America in the 1920s, 30, 40s and 50s.  And by the 1940s the truck building industry has advanced to the point where farmers and freight haulers could move loads of nearly the size we see today and at similar speeds.

 

Here are a few views of the Washington Co-Op Farmers Association feed mill in Tacoma in the 1950s.

 

The first photo from 1953 shows box cars being loaded with sacks of blended feed as well as a Kenworth tractor hauling a load of bagged feed.  A truck is also being loaded with bulk feed.  Bulk shipments of grain are received in box cars on the other side of the mill.

 

 

The next photo from 1958 shows new construction completed to serve the Co-Ops growing bulk feed market.  Note that a bulk truck is being loaded with blended feed along with a box car and a new 70 ton covered hopper.

 

 

Perhaps the single most important reason that covered hoppers did not come into widespread grain service earlier is that government regulation prevented grain shippers and receivers and the railroads from being able to get a payback from investment in new facilities and cars.  The Southern Railway had to essentially sue the federal government to be allowed to offer lower rates to customers for shipping in multiple car lots of grain in covered hoppers.  Until the railroads had the ability to pass along part of the cost savings from multiple car shipments of 100 ton covered hoppers the grain shippers and receivers lacked an incentive to invest in larger and more modern facilities.

 

To get the full benefit of unit grain trains takes bigger grain elevators.  Bigger elevators are further apart than older smaller elevators to gather enough grain.  Farmers have to drive farther but with bigger and faster trucks they can do it and big elevators could offer a better price than smaller elevators due to the shipping cost advantage that came with unit trains. A better price for the farmer made the longer truck haul worth the extra effort.

 

Reduced cost to the railroad meant reduced cost to the shippers and receivers and a better price for the farmer.  Railroads, elevator operators and farmers all had to make investments to take full advantage of new technology.  But just as soon as the government got out of the way it happened.  Within two years of the landmark Southern Railway case car builders like Pullman-Standard, ACF and Magor were all selling 100 ton covered hoppers by the thousands.

 

 
Last edited by Ted Hikel July 9, 2012 8:53 AM
 
 
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July 9, 2012 9:14 AM

Thanks Ted, Intresting how the laws of the country get in the way of progress. Just like the deregulation of trucking moved the country further ahead.

 

Running CN, GTW & Santa Fe Power...Reg April 09,2006

 

 

 
 
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July 10, 2012 5:35 PM

The SOU began with a rate reduction when they bought the "big john" hoppers.  They tries to reduce rartes, but uncle Sam said "NO!"  Then the law suits started!

 
 
 
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July 11, 2012 10:12 AM

One of the earlier posters noted this too, but the grain company I worked for at the time was still using boxcars loaded out of certain country elevators in Oklahoma and west Texas going to Mexico back in 1980.  In every instance, loading and/or unloading facilities were antiquated and required the use of boxcars.  For export movements through Houston and Galveston, we were 100% covered hopper by that time.

 

Curt

 
 
 
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July 11, 2012 5:19 PM

All very interesting.....what was the reason the gummit opposed lower rates for more

efficient shipping of grain, or did it oppose some of the technology of the change..

less labor required, etc.?  Or was it all political fixed price like so much used to be..?

 
 
 
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July 11, 2012 8:34 PM

If memory serves me, the ICC believed the lower rates SOU wanted to charge were unfair to the other railroads.  You have to remember that government regulation years ago, particularly those agencies such as the ICC that were created during the Rockefeller years, were intended to level the playing field between all carriers and all shippers, so that a small railroad or shipper had exactly the same size "stick" as the big railroad or shipper.

 

Curt

 
 
 
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July 11, 2012 8:51 PM

Also, I think Big John was considered a threat to barge shipping.

 
 
 
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July 11, 2012 8:58 PM

Some US mfg's have long shipped Quality US Grain into Mexico to raise the quality of the products being made with the grains and were/are using grain cars over boxcarsfor transportation. Some of the mfg's have invested in their own Mills in Mexico to better control the milling.

 

Running CN, GTW & Santa Fe Power...Reg April 09,2006

 

 

 
 
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July 14, 2012 9:43 AM

http://search.tacomapubliclibr...ges2/19/t1/16354.jpg

Originally Posted by Ted Hikel:
Everyone here has added important elements to the story of the evolution of the movement of grain in sacks in 1900 to bulk shipments in box cars and finally 100 ton coverd hoppers in the 1960s.  Changes in car building, changes in the labor market and investments in shipping and receiving facilities are all a part.  I'll add a few more elements to consider.

Two more important pieces to the economic puzzle were the development of trucks and farm to market roads.  Thousands in miles of paved roads were built in rural America in the 1920s, 30, 40s and 50s.  And by the 1940s the truck building industry has advanced to the point where farmers and freight haulers could move loads of nearly the size we see today and at similar speeds.

Here are a few views of the Washington Co-Op Farmers Association feed mill in Tacoma in the 1950s.

The first photo from 1953 shows box cars being loaded with sacks of blended feed as well as a Kenworth tractor hauling a load of bagged feed.  A truck is also being loaded with bulk feed.  Bulk shipments of grain are received in box cars on the other side of the mill.



The next photo from 1958 shows new construction completed to serve the Co-Ops growing bulk feed market.  Note that a bulk truck is being loaded with blended feed along with a box car and a new 70 ton covered hopper.



Perhaps the single most important reason that covered hoppers did not come into widespread grain service earlier is that government regulation prevented grain shippers and receivers and the railroads from being able to get a payback from investment in new facilities and cars.  The Southern Railway had to essentially sue the federal government to be allowed to offer lower rates to customers for shipping in multiple car lots of grain in covered hoppers.  Until the railroads had the ability to pass along part of the cost savings from multiple car shipments of 100 ton covered hoppers the grain shippers and receivers lacked an incentive to invest in larger and more modern facilities.

To get the full benefit of unit grain trains takes bigger grain elevators.  Bigger elevators are further apart than older smaller elevators to gather enough grain.  Farmers have to drive farther but with bigger and faster trucks they can do it and big elevators could offer a better price than smaller elevators due to the shipping cost advantage that came with unit trains. A better price for the farmer made the longer truck haul worth the extra effort.

Reduced cost to the railroad meant reduced cost to the shippers and receivers and a better price for the farmer.  Railroads, elevator operators and farmers all had to make investments to take full advantage of new technology.  But just as soon as the government got out of the way it happened.  Within two years of the landmark Southern Railway case car builders like Pullman-Standard, ACF and Magor were all selling 100 ton covered hoppers by the thousands.


Wow, talk about two photos that peaked my interest.  I'm in the process of designing the final track plan for my HO railroad in my basement, and I was looking for ideas for an interesting terminal, and this really fits the bill.

First, a short note about finding out more on line about this facility.  Ted's excellent photos above showed this as the Washington Co-Op Farmers Association Feed Mill in Tacoma.  I wanted to learn more about this facility, as since this was a receiver of grains, and a producer of feed, this facility has the possibility to take a bunch of rail cars during an operating session, as well as originate a bunch of cars.

Doing a simple Google search took me to the Tacoma Public Library site, where there are 31 photos of this site:

Here is a link to page 1:

http://search.tacomapubliclibr...;fuzzy=&maxfiles=

Here is page 2:

http://search.tacomapubliclibr...;fuzzy=&maxfiles=

I was also interested in what the actual track layout was of this facility.  Off I went to HistoricAerials.com  If you have never used this site, it is one of the best sites around for doing historic research of rail yards, industrial sites etc.  Not only do they have a vast amount of historic aerial photos available, they now also have historic topographical maps available.

So here is the link to the Historic Aerials site:

http://www.historicaerials.com/

In the case of this particular facility I was able to learn from the Tacoma Public Library site that the facility was located at 1801 Taylor Way, Tacoma Washington.  Put in that address and you will see a wealth of photos.  This facility was not all that old, I believe they started construction in the late 1940s (lots of info on the TPL site), and it was closed in the 1990s.  I also went on Google Earth, and found a photo of this building getting dismantled.

As Ted points out, the feed grain is delivered on the opposite side of the building from the two pictures are that he posted.  Here are two shots of that portion:



 

Sorry for the small thumb nail above, while writing this, the site wasn't always cooperating.  Doing this from Beijing China, across a VPN connection, doesn't help either LOL. 

 

It appears that the unloading was the traditional way for the day, bang out the boards on the door opening, let the grain flow out, then shovel out what was left.  Both the tracks in the photos that Ted posted, and these unloading tracks, were stub end tracks.  There must have been car pullers on this side of the facility.   

 

One other interesting thing about this facility is the appearance of several different railroad's cars at this facility.  The facility was served by the Tacoma Belt, so cars came in off of the GN, NP, and UP.  But notice the Pennsy and Pere Marquette cars in the photo. 

 

Regards,

GNNPNUT 

 

Please visit my Youtube and Photobucket links at: [url]http://www.youtube.com/user/JerryZeman[/url] and [url]http://s578.photobucket.com/albums/ss221/GNNPNUT/[/url]

 
 
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July 25, 2012 7:57 PM

gnnpnut, Great pictures and enjoyed reading your comments. Thanks for the effort ftom so far away.

 

Running CN, GTW & Santa Fe Power...Reg April 09,2006

 

 

 
 
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July 26, 2012 8:50 PM

It often happens that once one part of the equation is made larger, another part is pushed to be made larger, until everything is huge compared to the earlier operations.

 

Andrew

 
 
 
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July 27, 2012 8:24 AM

GNNPNUT

 

I'm glad you found the photos so interesting the Hylebos is an interesting part of the Tacoma waterfront.  With a ship yard, power plant, Hooker & Penn Salt plants as well as forest products and more it had quite a variety and and quantity of traffic.

 

I also went on Google Earth, and found a photo of this building getting dismantled.

 

I hope not!  I just checked Google Earth and it is still standing in the aerial and street views.  Could you have seen another facility that was razed?  The port deliberately took out much of the manufacturing there to make way for a container terminal this has yet to be developed.

 

the site wasn't always cooperating.

 

Sometimes the TPL website doesn't cooperate from Seattle.  It's quirky. 

 
 
 
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July 27, 2012 9:12 AM

For me working for Nabisco in Niagara Falls NY in the mid seventies I saw the old boxcar unloading of wheat and then the transition to grain hoppers.....Paul

 
 
 
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July 27, 2012 9:01 PM

Originally Posted by Ted Hikel:
GNNPNUT


I also went on Google Earth, and found a photo of this building getting dismantled.

I hope not!  I just checked Google Earth and it is still standing in the aerial and street views.  Could you have seen another facility that was razed?  The port deliberately took out much of the manufacturing there to make way for a container terminal this has yet to be developed.


The photo I was referring to is a street view shot a little down to the left of the facility, but shows a significant chunk of the building getting demolished.  It sure looks like the same facility, but I hope I'm wrong.  I hate seeing large industrial facilities go by the wayside.   

67154947
 

Please visit my Youtube and Photobucket links at: [url]http://www.youtube.com/user/JerryZeman[/url] and [url]http://s578.photobucket.com/albums/ss221/GNNPNUT/[/url]

 
 
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67154947
 
 
 
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July 27, 2012 9:03 PM

Originally Posted by gnnpnut:
Originally Posted by Ted Hikel:
GNNPNUT


I also went on Google Earth, and found a photo of this building getting dismantled.

I hope not!  I just checked Google Earth and it is still standing in the aerial and street views.  Could you have seen another facility that was razed?  The port deliberately took out much of the manufacturing there to make way for a container terminal this has yet to be developed.


The photo I was referring to is a street view shot a little down to the left of the facility, but shows a significant chunk of the building getting demolished.  It sure looks like the same facility, but I hope I'm wrong.  I hate seeing large industrial facilities go by the wayside.   

67154947

Regards,

GNNPNUT

 

Please visit my Youtube and Photobucket links at: [url]http://www.youtube.com/user/JerryZeman[/url] and [url]http://s578.photobucket.com/albums/ss221/GNNPNUT/[/url]

 
 
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July 31, 2012 2:59 AM

Another one bites the dust!

 

That was the feed mill.  I guess the Tacoma Rail guys will never have to worry about putting 100 ton hoppers on those old street car tracks again.

 
 
 
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