locked Extraordinary Obsolesce - Section Houses

George Eichelberger

Two days of work in the SRHA archives has turned up yet another category of Southern Railway data...and a question.

After WWII, there were a number of "programs" that included the retirement of various structures and facilities. Memos show at least 20 different programs but a comprehensive list has not been found. One large system wide program identified structures and tracks no longer needed because of dieselization. Lists of items were prepared, then reviewed to determine which would be removed. Not every item made the final list, for example if a track used to service steam locos was also being used for diesels it would be taken off the list. The timing of the dieselization list is obvious, when a division stopped using steam. That list included all roundhouses, turntables, and coal and water stations as well as any stem rerlated tracks and "appurtenances".

The time of another "program" is not clear. 1951 appears to be when the Southern decided section houses were no longer needed. Can anyone suggest what happened in 1949-51 for the railroad to make the decision to dispose of many section houses: a new labor agreement, an ICC ruling, changes in tax laws?

There are several drawings and many photos of section houses in the SRHA archives, certainly enough for a comprehensive TIES article. I've attached one example of the documents used to sell company property. Although I have always been aware that section houses and depots were sold and then removed from railroad property, the proportion of "sold" properties is much higher than expected. The attached sale document may explain why, even in 1951 dollars, $65 to purchase a house, coal shed and outhouse is a good price, even considering they had to be removed from Southern property in most cases.

Although many section houses were constructed in the 1880s and 90s, some survive today as residences.


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