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CHAPTER VII

STANDARDIZING THE DESIGN OF EQUIPMENT

M

UCH publicity was given to the Administration's policy of standardizing the de

sign of locomotives and freight cars. Mr. McAdoo's statement that there were “2023 different styles of freight cars and almost as many different descriptions of locomotives,''* appealed to the public imagination, as did also his announcement that a committee of experts of the Railroad Administration had agreed upon 12 standard types of freight car and 6 standard types of freight locomotive of two weights each. Obviously the process of standardization would make the problems of new construction much easier and eventually would reduce the cost of maintenance. In 1918 the Director General ordered 1,430 locomotives and 100,000 freight cars of standard design.

Under the terms of the contract between the Director General and the railroad companies the Director General was required to secure the approval of the corporation before he could permanently assign any of the new standard equipment to that corporation. There was much opposition to the universal adoption of these standards and long drawn out controversies over the assignment of the new equipment to the individual companies. The Railway Age, the leading technical railroad journal, devoted much space to criticism of the policy,* and much time and effort were expended by the spokesmen for the Administration in defending it.

* Report to the President, for seven months onded July 31, 1918. *There was, of course, strong opposition from manufacturers of special parts or appliances. The specifications for new equipment were so drawn as to exclude certain of these specialties and to favor others as, for example, in the case of friction draft gear for freight cars.

An analysis of the conflicting views on the subject indicates, however, that the railroad companies had no quarrel with standardization as a principle. Practically all of the negative arguments attached to the degree in which the principle was applied. Many of the larger railroad systems, such as the Pennsylvania, the Union Pacific, and the Southern Pacific, had been following the principles of standardization for years, and the Master Car Builders' Association and the American Railway Association had made substantial progress toward standardization in freight car design. There was a natural resentment against the upsetting of these programs by the enforced adoption of new standards which had been somewhat hurriedly adopted by Administration experts of no greater professional standing than the experts of the larger individual systems, who had a more intimate knowledge of the peculiar local needs.

Many flaws may be picked in the details of the Government standards. It can easily be shown that the requirements of an individual road cannot be efficiently met by any one of the twelve standard types of locomotive. On one road, for example, the lighter type of locomotive designed for slow freight service was not quite powerful enough to haul the train which the locomotive of local design could haul. The heavier type of standard locomotive, on the other hand, exceeded the capacity of the bridges. That road had to choose between a loss in train-loading efficiency with the lighter type of locomotive, or undertake an expensive program of bridge strengthening or rebuilding at a time when both labor and materials were scarce. If it accepted the second alternative it faced the fact that the additional capital expenditures for bridges would earn returns only on the heavier trains hauled by the relatively few new locomotives and could not avail itself fully of the additional capacity of its line until all of its own standard of locomotive were displaced by the heavier standard of the United States Railroad Administration.

In another case a road with heavy grades had worked out a design of locomotive which with a lighter type as a helper on the maximum grade gave a maximum of power utilization both on the minor grades with one locomotive and the major grade with two locomotives. In that case there was no possible combination with the new standards which would give the same degree of trainloading efficiency.

It was plain, therefore, that the Administration's locomotive standards were too few in number to meet all of the requirements of the different physical and traffic characteristics of the 160 Class 1 roads in federal control. And it was equally plain that some compromise might profitably be made between a policy of arbitrarily fixing a few types to meet all conditions and a policy of individuality and regard only for local needs. Two or three times the number of types prescribed by the Administration would probably save nearly all of the advantages of standardization and at the same time would give each road the opportunity to select a type or types which it could use without loss of efficiency.

The case for the standardization of the freight car is stronger. Locomotives ordinarily are confined in service to the rails of the owning company. Freight cars are used in common under car service rules and the per diem rules agreement. They are repaired (with certain exceptions) on the road where the need of the repairs develops. The average freight car of an individual road is at home not much more than one-half of the time. Obviously if there is a common standard for the types of car used for the great bulk of the interchanged traffic, each road will be required to carry a much smaller stock of repair parts, and there will be a reduction in the time now lost by cars which are held while the repairing road is obtaining parts of special design.

Yet here, as in the case of locomotives, local traffic characteristics have an important bearing. The granger roads have found it advisable to design their box cars with a special view to the requirements of the grain traffic which they originate. The roads serving the Michigan peninsula have found it necessary to consider the special requirements of automobile shipments. The railroads of Maine must look to the peculiar needs of the potato traffic. One type of box car cannot be ideal for all classes of traffic. Then, too, there is the debatable point of weight of frame and trucks. The standards of the Railroad Administration differed materially from those, for example, of the Southern Pacific. The Harriman Lines had been leaders in the movement toward standardization. Their freight car standards were the results of a very careful study of experts over a series of years. The officers of that com

. pany, therefore, quite naturally objected to the permanent acceptance of other standards prepared under war-time pressure by engineers whose qualifications were no greater than those of their own engineers and consultants.

The objections of the Southern Pacific are mentioned specifically because Chairman Kruttschnitt of that company, in discussing the subject with other railroad executives when the continuation of Railroad Administration standards was under consideration at the conclusion of federal control, made the point that the excess weight in the Railroad Administration standard box car over the Southern Pacific standard was not justified by traffic or engineering requirements, and that this excess weight meant a needless expense, not only in first cost, but also in train operating expenses because of the increase in the dead weight of the train.

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