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PASSENGER AND FREIGHT SERVICE IN 1918
ITH the United States Railroad Administration pledged to the purpose of operat
ing the railroads so that they would assist most effectively in war, it was inevitable that there would be a curtailment in service for civilian travelers and limitations upon the transportation of non-essential freight.
One of Mr. McAdoo's first public statements as Director General dealt with the reductions in passenger train service. It was dated January 5, 1918, and read as follows:
“An important change in the passenger train service on the eastern roads goes into effect Sunday, January 6. I have consented to this change because it is imperatively necessary that passenger travel shall be reduced as much as possible during the present serious emergency which confronts the people in the eastern section of the country. By elimination of unnecessary passenger train service, much motive power, skilled labor, track and terminal facilities are released for the han. dling of coal and food and other supplies essential to the life of the people as well as to the successful prosecution of the war. Every patriotic citizen can directly help the Government in clearing up the present unsatisfactory situation on the railroads by refraining from all unnecessary travel at this time.
“The breakdown in passenger service of the various railroads in the East has not made a pleasant impression on the public, but it must be borne in mind that the railroad companies in the East are still seriously congested with an unusual amount of freight traffic, the movement of which is more vital to the country than the movement of passengers, and that the weather conditions for the past two weeks have seriously impeded railroad operations.
During the summer of 1917 the Railroads' War Board had made substantial reductions in passenger train mileage. It was estimated that the curtailed service meant an annual saving of 20,000,000 train-miles. The Director General's cuts went much deeper. In May, 1918, he approved a drastic rearrangement of the service west of Chicago. The reductions were estimated to save 11,728,000 passenger train-miles per year. They were accomplished by abandoning duplicate service between Chicago and the Pacific coast cities and assigning to the short and direct routes to each city the fastest through service. Under this plan the Santa Fe was to be the preferred route to Los Angeles; the Chicago & Northwestern, the Union Pacific, and the Southern Pacific to San Francisco; the Burlington and the Northern Pacific to Portland, and the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul to Seattle. Similar plans were adopted in other sections of the country as, for example, between Chicago and the Twin Cities, between Chicago and St. Louis, and between New York and Florida points. In the aggregate the savings in passenger train-miles during the first seven months of federal control were at the rate of 67,290,482 per year. .
frankly attempted to discourage civilian travel; but its appeals apparently made little impression upon the public.
One of these appeals was made in a public statement by Theodore H. Price, of the Director General's personal staff. After calling attention to the drastic curtailment in passenger train service in Great Britain, and emphasizing the extreme importance of meeting the heavy transportation demands of troops and materials, Mr. Price stated:
“Those who travel unnecessarily are therefore need. lessly overtaxing the railway service and are making themselves and others who must travel uncomfortable, and are really impeding the prosecution of the war. To 'Stay at Home' has now become a patriotic duty and everyone who feels disposed to 'take a trip' these days ought to seriously ask himself whether it is necessary or cannot be postponed before he buys his ticket. If this habit of self-examination becomes general the congestion of passenger traffic will disappear, for there are lots of journeys that are a waste of both money and time, and 'Home Sweet Home' is a pretty good and restful place after all. Those who feel an irresistible desire to roam may be able to control themselves if they will re-read 'Prue and I,' the charming story in which George William Curtis describes the imaginary journeys of an old bookkeeper and his wife who, being unable to afford the cost of travel, found exquisite pleasure in imagining that they were visiting the places described in the books of celebrated travelers." (Railway Age, September 6,
" 1918, p. 427)
Notwithstanding these appeals and the higher passenger rates, the volume of passenger traffic grew steadily and during the two years of federal control it exceeded all previous records. The
Director General's report to the President under date of February 28, 1920, states that the passengers carried one mile in 1917 were 39,361,369,062; in 1918, 42,498,248,256; and in 1919, (partly estimated) 46,200,000,000. These figures include troop movements, but military traffic does not account for all of the increases in 1918 and 1919. It should be noted further that the passengermiles of 1917 also included heavy troop movements in the latter part of the year.
In addition to the curtailment in passenger train mileage there was a drastic cut in the number of parlor cars and dining cars, as well as a reduction in the number of sleeping cars. The general policy was to run only the number of sleeping cars regularly assigned to each train and not to put on extra cars and run extra train sections except under unusual circumstances. Observation cars and Pullman smoking and buffet cars were practically eliminated, as were many other “frills" connected with the extra-fare trains.
From the viewpoint of the public, the consolidated ticket offices had certain advantages. The traveler could purchase tickets, arrange for Pullman car reservations, obtain information, and secure other services at one central point for any or all of the routes available for his intended trip. In case the sleeping cars via one route were sold out, he could change to another route without going to another office. Tickets for points served by two or more railroads were honored via any route. On the other hand there were certain disadvantages. The very size of the office and of the volume of business transacted required a much larger number of clerks than had ever worked together in one ticket office. It took months to weld them into a smooth-working organization. At the hours of the peak load there was much standing in line, and trying delays. In a few offices, such as those in New York and Chicago, there was a subdivision of the office organization by roads or sections of the country. In the majority of cases, however, there was no such subdivision. A ticket clerk whose previous experience had been confined to one road or section had to become familiar with all roads or sections served by that office. This took time, and in the process there was a loss in the quality of service. The defects in the service of the consolidated ticket offices grew less obvious as the organization “found itself,” and the clerks became more familiar with their broader range of work, but the typical traveler missed the former stimulus of competition between separate passenger-soliciting forces with their intimate knowledge of their own roads and the territories served, and their painstaking efforts to excel in personal service.
While the man who traveled was asked to make substantial sacrifices in the interest of the expeditious movement of troops and of war materials, it is doubtful if he contributed any more to the common cause than the average shipper of freight not included on the priority lists. The traffic for export or for other war purposes,