moderated Southern "Package Car" Services

George Eichelberger

With SEARS bankruptcy in the news, it may be interesting to mention how "big" they were in the Southern's LCL business. SEARS had a distribution facility on the Southern belt line in Atlanta. The (large) building still exists and I expect the ROW of the tracks into it off the Southern are still visible. In addition to the Southern's own freight houses in Atlanta, plus Inman Transfer, (a FedEx like hub at Inman Yard) package cars were loaded by SEARS at their facility and left on scheduled freight trains every week day.

If you look at many photos of SR steam era freights, you may notice a group, of Southern 40' box cars directly behind the engine. While SR freights had a high percentage of home road cars, seeing six, eight or a dozen together on the front of a train defied what would be expected out of a classification yard such as Inman. A reason was that scheduled afternoon departures from Atlanta (and Knoxville and Spencer) would depart the yard then make a pickup as they passed the different freight houses. In turn, the Southern used only SR 36', 40' and then 50' box cars for the service. All of the large freight houses had multiple tracks accessed from the same platforms. To make that work, all car doors were opened and aligned so bridges could be used between cars on different tracks. Everything was handled by men with hand-trucks so the system worked. When cut-off time for shipments came, the bridges were removed and doors were closed.

Depending on the day of the week, as many as 50 package cars left Atlanta every evening. The SEARS cars for Florida would be in Jacksonville the next morning with some passed to the FEC, ACL and SAL.

Here are two items that will be included in a package car article being researched for TIES. We have two complete package car schedules in the SRHA archives, if anyone can copy or donate anything on the subject they may have, we'll use it in the article.


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