Monday, April 01, 2013

How many locomotives, freight trains, industries? ...

From: "Robert Selberg",

At any one time how many 70 ton loco's were used on the line and on average how many freight trains ran in either direction? How many industries were served and what type?



Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Larry Mullaly"

Thank you for your question. Breaking it into parts, I can make some suggestions.

Regarding 70-ton locomotives: Over time the Central Pacific, and its successor corporation, the Southern Pacific, had over 4000 steam locomotives. These can be examined by weight, date of service, and type in the important volume: Southern Pacific Steam Locomotive Compendium by Timothy S. Diebert and Joseph A. Strapac (Shade Tree Books, 1987). This could help clarify what engines you are speaking about.

Because of the size of the Southern Pacific System (it embraced most of the Far West on multiple long lines), virtually all far western industries of note were served by the railroad at some time in some way. To my knowledge there is no easy way to quantify this however.

The date is a critical factor here. The West during the heyday of the Central Pacific was a far cry from the West of 1925 or 1965. To get a sense of the different eras, you might consult The Southern Pacific in Los Angeles, that I co-authored with Bruce Petty (Golden West, 2002).

Volumes of freight traffic are difficult to determine. The best source for any given day are dispatcher’s sheets, giving the locomotive number and train tonnages. However, much of this is “through” freight (long-haul East Coast to West Coast or vice versa) and is not directly connected to local industries. Also such sheets (besides being very rare) are limited to one operating division at a time. These would give you, at best, detailed activity on only a few hundred miles of much larger railroad. A excellent example of research done with this source is A.D. McLennan, Texas & New Orleans: Southern Pacific’s Lines in Texas and New Orleans (Signature Press, 2008).

As a researcher, I find that it is best to hunt for source primary material first, then when you have raw information in hand, ask the questions. To do this in reverse order can be very frustrating, since one can ask many questions for which there may never be answers.

A good place to start is in the Library of the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, after first checking their list of holdings that is online. Pick a set of documents that interests you, pay the library a visit, and ask to see the documents. Take good notes, and be sure to record your sources.

I hope this is of some help. Let me know your thoughts.

—Larry Mullaly

4/03/2013 10:43 AM  

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