locked Re: From the SRHA Archives - Gondola Shortage in 1948

George Eichelberger


There is not a specific file or folder to refer to and read but these kinds of letters appear in the Southern Railway Presidents’ files quite often. They provide insights into both the technology and business of railroading across many years.

BTW, drop bottom (DB) and double drop botton (DDB) gondolas went through a name change in SR terminology. Before the "Hopper car” designs that we see today (open top, slope sheets and hopper doors), “coal cars” (sounds like Lionel?) were DB and DDB gons. The jpg below is a portion of an 1899 freight equipment capacity chart prepared for Samuel Spencer. Note “coal cars”…. (First column is 1899 quantities, third are 1898, second is the difference between the two years. Other columns are quantities and tonnage by different size cars.

The entire chart will be published as a “From the Archives” item in a future TIES magazine. The chart, and a complete inventory of Southern rolling stock acquired when the Southern was created from the Richmond Terminal Company bankruptcy provides a starting point for all SR rolling stock and locomotives.


On May 31, 2020, at 4:03 PM, A&Y Dave in MD <dbott@...> wrote:

The AAR was almost funny.  The Southern had one of the larger gondola fleets in the US, especially relative to its size (obviously nothing like the Pennsy).   I guess Faricy figured if a road had so many, it wouldn't mind adding a few more.

I'm curious since I've been reading about ATSF gondolas designed for both gravel and other loads (with drop doors) and for mill materials also (with drop ends).  Didn't the AAR think to consider the types of gons used by Southern customers vs others?  That's hinted at in the letter about 10% having to be returned empty (other than low side gons).  I wonder  also if that rule had anything to do with the fact that the Southern obtained a lot of low side gons?  A lot of people who I have talked to think it was due to the surplus of cheap manual labor in the southeast  and so low side fixed gons for gravel, sand, etc, would be cheaper and easier to unload than high side gons.  It's a plausible theory, but here's a hint that there may be more to the story.

Interesting bit of correspondence.


Sunday, May 31, 2020, 9:56:33 AM, you wrote:

For a medium size railroad, the Southern maintained sufficient freight cars to receive, rather than pay, per diem for interchanged freight cars. When cars were MOL free running, there are multiple letters in the Southern Presidents’ files complaining to the AAR and other railroads that Southern’s cars were not being returned in a timely manner.

The two attached letters discuss a gondola shortage in 1948, a request that the Southern buy gons and the response from SR President EE Norris.

<9-27-48 AAR ltr to EEN about gons.jpeg>

<10-1-48 gon response letter.jpeg>

David Bott

Sent from David Bott's desktop PC

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