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:
Here is page 2:
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:
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.