Keeping Tab on Freight Cars

December 1 1909

Keeping Tab on Freight Cars

December 1 1909

Keeping Tab on Freight Cars

THE way in which the railroad companies keep tab on their freight cars is entertainingly described by William Hard in the Technical World Magazine. A freight car is worth approximately $1,200. When it is passed over to another road, the latter is charged 50 cents a day for its use, or $177.50 a year. Now, as the fixed charges on this car are $144, and its earning capacity is about $67 a month, it is clear that the road that owns the car is not making money by letting other roads use it. Therefore, every road is extremely anxious to get its cars back.

On the first of last December the Pennsylvania owned 221.810 freight cars. On its own tracks it had less than seventy per cent, of this number. More than thirty per cent, of its cars—that is, 72,010—were carrying loads on other lines. But the Pennsylvania was not left entirely bereaved. In place of its own children, it had adopted some of its neighbors’ children. In place of the 72,010 cars which it had loaned to foreign lines it had borrowed, as partial compensation, some 56.354 cars belonging to other railroads from all parts of the United States.

The system for keeping a record of cars, as employed on the Chicago & Northwestern, is described in some detail, as being the simplest and most economical.

In the broad, well-lighted room, opening out of Mr. Betts’ private office, there are a number of girls who spend their time affixing certain fluttering strips of paper to certain spindles. These spindles stand in two long rows along the middle of a long desk. Each strip of paper refers to one certain freight car. Each spindle

refers to a certain big book kept elsewhere in the same room.

The poor modern freight car belonging to tho Chicago & Northwestern Railway is bound to be impaled on one of those spindles whenever it moves anywhere on the tracks of the Northwestern Railway or whenever it moves off the tracks of the Northwestern on to the tracks of any other road. ■

The source from which the slips of paper come is the official report of the freight conductor. This report is a long sheet of paper which is sent in by the conductor as soon as his train, reaches the end of its run. Every morning a pile of these sheets lies in Mr. Betts’

The whole pile is placed under a cutting machine. The knife of this machine descends and clips off a line at a time. Each line makes a slip about an inch wide and each slip is the record of a car. It says that a certain car— say, number 44733—on the way from Chicago to Portland, has now arrived at Cedar Rapids.

The impaling of these slips on their spindles starts early in the morning. Pretty soon a boy comes along and takes each bunch of slips off its spindle and carries it ovor to a desk on which is placed a long row of books. The records are now transferred from the slips to the books.

You look over the shoulder of the young man who is doing the transferring on book number three and you understand why the wild freight car can no longer escape from its cage.

Each page of the book is ruled off into columns for all the days of the month. On the first of the month car number 12854 was at Leroy. Wisconsin : on the second,

it was at DeKalb. Illinois ; on the

third, it was at Cedar Rapids, Iowa ; on the fourth, it was at Des Moines, Iowa ; on the fifth, being still at Des Moines, it was delivered to the Burlington. There the record stands. On the sixth to the Burlington. And the Burlington pays fifty cents a day as long as it hap

that car.

But look along the page. There are no entries for the seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh or twelfth. But in the column devoted to the thirteenth of the month there is a little scrawl of initials. Being interpreted, it means that on that date the Burlington delivered car number 12854 to the Santa Fe at Fort Madison, which is on the Mississippi. From that day on the Santa Fe pays the per diem of fifty cents. And it must keep on paying until it reports

that it lias delivered that ear to some other

The Northwestern therefore knows that the Santa Fe is in possession of its car number 12851. It doesn’t know just where that car is on the Santa Fe line. It may be in Illinois. Colorado or New Mexico. But it is somewhere on the Santa Fc. And the Santa Fe keeps paying half a dollar every twenty-four hours until it can pass the charge on to somebody else.