Condition of Freight Cars in the 1950s and 60s

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Condition of Freight Cars in the 1950s and 60s
Posted by Shock Control on Tuesday, November 14, 2017 2:05 PM

In recent years, I have watched vintage 8mm railroad films, shot by railfans and uploaded to the InterTubes.

This is anecdotal, of course, but I am struck by the clean condition of the freight cars in 1950s/60s films. The logos are all easy to read, there is no graffiti, and no massive rust like you started to see in the 70s and 80s. Older cars show some weathering but nothing like you would see in more recent decades. 

Does my observation reflect reality, or did I happen to click on the right films?

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Posted by Deggesty on Tuesday, November 14, 2017 2:25 PM

Sixty or so years ago, you may have seen some chalk marks on cars--but there was no paint applied by people who have no respect for other people's property. And, I do not think that this difference was because such paint was not available back then.

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, November 14, 2017 3:41 PM

Deggesty
Sixty or so years ago, you may have seen some chalk marks on cars--but there was no paint applied by people who have no respect for other people's property. And, I do not think that this difference was because such paint was not available back then.

60 years ago rattle can spray paint wasn't cheap or readily available additionally the tagger mentality had yet to be created.  Following WW II the carriers not only renewed their motive power fleet but also their car fleets that were worn out by their service during the war.

         

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Posted by Miningman on Tuesday, November 14, 2017 5:46 PM

Sante Fe All the Way

Be Specific Ship Union Pacific

Mainline of America

Serves All Canada

Spans The World

Timesaver, Pacemaker, Sentinel, Blue Streak

High Speed Service

Route of the Zephyrs

Serves the West

If some loser painted over those slogans in those days the Railroad PO-lice would be on them right quick.  They would also be shamed in the press and prosecuted to the max. Probably have to clean it up and pay for repairs too.

Case closed. 

 

 

 

 

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Posted by BLS53 on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 3:07 AM

If the railroads cared, they would do something about. If someone vandalized your property, would you just say shucks, too bad and leave it as is, or would you restore the property back to it's original condition?

Passing off society's ills as justification for not maintaining one's property, doesn't cut it among private citizens. Railroads are like a bunch of vehicles that have been in a series of minor fender benders, that the owners never seem to have repaired. The owners justify the lack of repair, by stating there's too many reckless drivers these days, and society won't enforce driving laws. Same deal with the mentality towards graffiti and RR's here. 

There's very little objective thinking going on here. Try using such rationalization with your local property abatement officer.

 

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Posted by tree68 on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 7:19 AM

BLS53
Same deal with the mentality towards graffiti and RR's here. 

I think the better comparison is the Ford Pinto gas tank issue.  Ford apparently decided it was cheaper to pay the claims than to fix the problem in the first place.

So it is with the railroads, I would opine.  As long as the information necessary to operate is available (reporting marks, etc), why waste the time and materials to cover up (or completely refinish) the grafitti?  And many taggers have gotten smart - they leave or work around the reporting marks and such so their work of art doesn't get covered up as quickly.

Of course, there are those who feel that if it weren't for the taggers, the cars wouldn't see any paint at all.

But I'm wandering into forbidden territory here, so I'll quit while I'm ahead.

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Posted by RDG467 on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 8:03 AM

Since more and more cars are shipper or lessor-owned, the RR's have no incentive to repaint those. The time lost to take equipment out of service and pay a painter counts against the owners bottom line.  

As a rule, I don't like graffitti, but I did see the work of a clever tagger in Florida a few months ago.  He painted over the FEC marks and road number on a stack car, and then removed the vinyl lettering, essentially using it as a mask.

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 8:22 AM

BLS53
If the railroads cared, they would do something about. If someone vandalized your property, would you just say shucks, too bad and leave it as is, or would you restore the property back to it's original condition?

Passing off society's ills as justification for not maintaining one's property, doesn't cut it among private citizens. Railroads are like a bunch of vehicles that have been in a series of minor fender benders, that the owners never seem to have repaired. The owners justify the lack of repair, by stating there's too many reckless drivers these days, and society won't enforce driving laws. Same deal with the mentality towards graffiti and RR's here. 

There's very little objective thinking going on here. Try using such rationalization with your local property abatement officer.

In the 40's - 50's and 60's rail employment encompassed many more people than it does in the 21st Century.  

I came across a B&O Magazine from the middle 50's announcing a promotion for my father - a 'tag line' in one of the articles mentioned the 50K people of the 'B&O Family'.  CSX, which includes the B&O as well as C&O, ACL, SAL, L&N (all of which would have had similar employment levels) as well as a host of smaller properties Georgia RR, Clinchfield, Gainesville Midland, Western Maryland, A&WP, W of Alabama and a number of others I probably have forgotten (parts of the NYC & PRR) now employs less than 30K.  There were 127 Class 1 carriers in 1950 and in the 21st Century there are 7.

Employment numbers mean boots on the ground - boots on the ground mean a ever present manned presence in far flung locations - far flung locations that don't have that manned presence today and have thus become locations that taggers can create their rattle can 'art'.

         

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Posted by Deggesty on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 10:50 AM

Back when the Guide listed all sorts of people working for railroads, the larger roads had freight and passenger representaives in many, including off-line, places. Do the roads still have freight representatives scattered about the country?

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Posted by Euclid on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 12:32 PM

Ford may have made a decision that paying the claims for gas tank explosions was cheaper than fixing the problem.  But I doubt their decision was sound when they factored in the damage it caused to their brand.  That had to be ten-thousand times more costly than what they saved by not fixing the gas tank problem.  I believe that same effect follows the Pinto analogy into the failure to maintain freight cars, in the sense that the value benefit of not maintaining the freight cars is more than offset by the cost of brand damage. 

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Posted by Norm48327 on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 1:05 PM

Euclid

Ford may have made a decision that paying the claims for gas tank explosions was cheaper than fixing the problem.  But I doubt their decision was sound when they factored in the damage it caused to their brand.  That had to be ten-thousand times more costly than what they saved by not fixing the gas tank problem.  I believe that same effect follows the Pinto analogy into the failure to maintain freight cars, in the sense that the value benefit of not maintaining the freight cars is more than offset by the cost of brand damage.

Euclid,

I am in complete agreement with you regarding that the Pinto fiasco was damaging to Ford's reputation. They could, and should have been required to rectify their engineering faux pas.

OTOH, there are so many different freight car owners whose assets have been denegrated by taggers it would not be equatable for most to require repainting each time one were defaced. It would severely affect their profits.

Norm


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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 1:38 PM

Euclid

I believe that same effect follows the Pinto analogy into the failure to maintain freight cars, in the sense that the value benefit of not maintaining the freight cars is more than offset by the cost of brand damage. 

How many more employees would the carriers need to put on the payroll to prevent your version of 'brand damage', and what would be the cost of those employees in direct pay and fringe benefits.

         

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Posted by Deggesty on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 1:40 PM

How can the markings applied to the exerior of freight cars by childish people cause damage to the freight carried therein? I see no parallel to the gas tank problem of certain Ford cars.

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Posted by zugmann on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 2:05 PM

BaltACD
How many more employees would the carriers need to put on the payroll to prevent your version of 'brand damage', and what would be the cost of those employees in direct pay and fringe benefits.

I've never had a customer say "nope - we don't want that carload of soybean meal!  There's graffiti on that 30 year old rustbucket lease hopper!"

The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

I occasionally post off-topic remarks.  Adults can handle that.

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Posted by ROBERT WILLISON on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 3:22 PM

RDG467

Since more and more cars are shipper or lessor-owned, the RR's have no incentive to repaint those. The time lost to take equipment out of service and pay a painter counts against the owners bottom line.  

As a rule, I don't like graffitti, but I did see the work of a clever tagger in Florida a few months ago.  He painted over the FEC marks and road number on a stack car, and then removed the vinyl lettering, essentially using it as a mask.

 The fact that railroads haul so many cars they do not own plays into the rusty issues. The other morning I watched a CSX and a ns train with no company owned cars including the Head end power. You would never have seen trains like that in the 50's or 60's.

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Posted by samfp1943 on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 5:51 PM

BaltACD

 

 
BLS53
If the railroads cared, they would do something about. If someone vandalized your property, would you just say shucks, too bad and leave it as is, or would you restore the property back to it's original condition?

Passing off society's ills as justification for not maintaining one's property, doesn't cut it among private citizens. Railroads are like a bunch of vehicles that have been in a series of minor fender benders, that the owners never seem to have repaired. The owners justify the lack of repair, by stating there's too many reckless drivers these days, and society won't enforce driving laws. Same deal with the mentality towards graffiti and RR's here. 

There's very little objective thinking going on here. Try using such rationalization with your local property abatement officer.

 

In the 40's - 50's and 60's rail employment encompassed many more people than it does in the 21st Century.  

I came across a B&O Magazine from the middle 50's announcing a promotion for my father - a 'tag line' in one of the articles mentioned the 50K people of the 'B&O Family'.  CSX, which includes the B&O as well as C&O, ACL, SAL, L&N (all of which would have had similar employment levels) as well as a host of smaller properties Georgia RR, Clinchfield, Gainesville Midland, Western Maryland, A&WP, W of Alabama and a number of others I probably have forgotten (parts of the NYC & PRR) now employs less than 30K.  There were 127 Class 1 carriers in 1950 and in the 21st Century there are 7.

"...Employment numbers mean boots on the ground - boots on the ground mean a ever present manned presence in far flung locations - far flung locations that don't have that manned presence today and have thus become locations that taggers can create their rattle can 'art'..."

 

           I would have to say that Balt ACD's point is well taken, and is probably a 'root cause ' in the rise of graffitti on the railroads...  My position as to the 'rise' of graffiti is that it was started as a two pronged effort.  

       Post WWII there were many individuals 'riding the rails' ,[HobosSigh ] both 'experts', and 'rank amatures'.  Also, another group wiriting 'info' on passing cars were the railroad employees themselves ! Whistling  Remember, that individual radio communication was in its infancy on the railroad workplace, and to provide it was an expensive arrangement for the railroad. In the yards, the usual arrangement was to have the individual with a list of cars to be positined at a 2way speaker. Fown in the yard the individual communications were  by hand and arm signals, plus the  marks that had been chalked on a car.    

 Both Hobos and railroaders developed a vocabulary of marks [ sometimes in railroad provided chalk!]  Hobos  would communicaqte a good 'jungle location', locations where they could cadge food or sleeping spot.  Railroaders would mark Train numbers, siding position assignments, bad order cars [or other potenitial car issues]. and so it went.  Both railroaders and hobos  seemed to develop small chalk art pictures to let somebody know they had been 'there' . The various drawings and notations :   Another one I recall that seemed to appear a lot on various cars was a chalked reperesntation of a man asleep under a palm tree...generallly, noted with the name 'Pancho'. 

  While looking around I found the following linked PDF of a Thesis and Disertation regarding this topic , as an art tradition.  [linked here @ https://preserve.lehigh.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1882&context=etd

"We Were Here:Marks, Monikers, and the Boxcar tradition" [2005]

BY Matthew Burns, Lehigh University 

{at 91 pages its a long, but interesting read!}

Addendum: 11/16/2017 .. I understand the Forum Rules, But I felt like an academic, non-judgemental, reference to the topic of graffitti, would be of interest to some here.    Unfortunately, graffiti has been with the industry for longer than most of us have been living. Sad  As mentioned, its roots go back to older times, when life was a lot less technologically, complicated. 

        Graffiti, at one time, was a valid form of communication witin the railroad industry. BUT, as the technology advanced [availibility of chalk Hmm allowed it to be used by others,] for their own purposes! Pirate.  We cannot re-write History, it is what it is...SO NOW, we live in a society that has amped up its technology, and its availiblility to less unsavory parts of the society.  { As BaltACD pointed out, about 'rattle cans' Bang Head , and a valid rationale for WHY it is a larger, blighted presence in the Railroad landscape of today }  Just my thought & My 2 Cents

Sam

 

 


 

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Posted by Shock Control on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 6:47 PM

samfp1943
 

Hobos  would communicaqte a good 'jungle location', locations where they could cadge food or sleeping spot.  Railroaders would mark Train numbers, siding position assignments, bad order cars [or other potenitial car issues]. and so it went.  Both railroaders and hobos  seemed to develop small chalk art pictures to let somebody know they had been 'there' .    

This topic was covered in an excellent episode of Mad Men

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Posted by rdamon on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 7:58 PM

Just a reminder of the rules on the forum ...

"No discussions about train-hopping, hobos, or the hobo lifestyle. It’s dangerous, illegal, and sets a poor example for the youth that visit this forum. Plus, like graffiti discussions, it usually leads to arguments."

It is a facinating subject however ...

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Posted by jeffhergert on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 8:19 PM

I heard today that there was an engine stored in North Platte that someone or ones covered with a non-standard decorative display.  I don't know if it was kind of artistic, but some thought the engine might get displayed because of it.  Instead, they had the engine repainted back to a standard decorative display state.

Supposedly, the "artists" filmed themselves applying the non-standard decorative display.  Afterwards, they posted it to youtube.  I tried (although not very hard) to find it.  I couldn't, so if true it may have been pulled.  Or I just don't know the right words to search for it.

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 10:02 PM

jeffhergert
I heard today that there was an engine stored in North Platte that someone or ones covered with a non-standard decorative display.  I don't know if it was kind of artistic, but some thought the engine might get displayed because of it.  Instead, they had the engine repainted back to a standard decorative display state.

Supposedly, the "artists" filmed themselves applying the non-standard decorative display.  Afterwards, they posted it to youtube.  I tried (although not very hard) to find it.  I couldn't, so if true it may have been pulled.  Or I just don't know the right words to search for it.

Jeff  

Don't know if this is real or photoshop!

         

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Posted by rdamon on Thursday, November 16, 2017 5:52 AM
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Posted by samfp1943 on Thursday, November 16, 2017 6:04 AM

rdamon

Just a reminder of the rules on the forum ...

"No discussions about train-hopping, hobos, or the hobo lifestyle. It’s dangerous, illegal, and sets a poor example for the youth that visit this forum. Plus, like graffiti discussions, it usually leads to arguments."

It is a facinating subject however ...

 

  Thanks for the reminder! [I added these thoughts]

"We Were Here:Marks, Monikers, and the Boxcar tradition" [2005]

BY Matthew Burns, Lehigh University 

{at 91 pages its a long, but interesting read!}

****Addendum: 11/16/2017[AM] .. I understand the Forum Rules; But I felt like an academic, non-judgemental, reference to the topic of graffitti, and its History; would be of interest to some here.   

  Unfortunately, graffiti has been with the industry for longer than most of us have been living. Sad  As mentioned, its roots go back to older times, when life was a lot less technologically, complicated. 

        Graffiti, at one time, was a valid form of communication witin the railroad industry. BUT, as the technology advanced [availibility of chalk Hmm  allowed it to be used by others,] for their own purposes! Pirate We cannot re-write History, it is what it is...SO NOW, we live in a society that has amped up its technology, and its availiblility to less unsavory parts of the society.  { As BaltACD pointed out, about 'rattle cans' Bang Head and a valid rationale for WHY it is a larger, blighted presence in the Railroad landscape of today }  Just my thoughts & My 2 Cents

Sam

 

 


 

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Posted by Euclid on Thursday, November 16, 2017 7:01 AM

BaltACD
 
Euclid

I believe that same effect follows the Pinto analogy into the failure to maintain freight cars, in the sense that the value benefit of not maintaining the freight cars is more than offset by the cost of brand damage. 

 

How many more employees would the carriers need to put on the payroll to prevent your version of 'brand damage', and what would be the cost of those employees in direct pay and fringe benefits.

 

I don't know.  What is the cost of the brand damage?  I don't know that either.  But solid trains of tagged rolling stock are ugly in an strangely threatening way.  The art seems to be predominated with a message of anger, hosility, and extreme aggression. So it is not just that a surface has been "defaced." 

Long trains of menacing, garbage dump-like tagging being handled with complete indifference sends a powerful message to the public.  I doubt the industry is even aware of that message let alone considered its effect on them. 

And the effect is not that somebody decides not to ship a carload because they don't like the look of the train.  I believe the effect is there and it works on a much broader scale throughout public perception and the perception of regulators.  That area is the domain of the brand. 

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Posted by tree68 on Thursday, November 16, 2017 7:34 AM

I think the brand damage is minimal.  Any more, there's no visible brand to damage, except by association.

Most folks probably have no idea what railroad they're even looking at.  One train goes by with CSX power, the next says Union Pacific, then comes a mismatched set of leased power with a funny collection of letters on the cab (what the heck is a nerx?).  

The same is true of the freight cars.  The billboard cars of days past are long gone.  Every now and then you'll see one with more than just the reporting marks and other necessary data.  But not often.

Besides, who's watching the train go by?  They're too busy looking at their phone (or grousing into it about how they'll be late for their meeting because of that danged train...).

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Posted by Deggesty on Thursday, November 16, 2017 8:04 AM

Well said, Larry.

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Posted by zugmann on Thursday, November 16, 2017 8:10 AM

Euclid
I believe the effect is there and it works on a much broader scale throughout public perception and the perception of regulators. That area is the domain of the brand.

You can believe what you want, but until you have real studies and numbers - you're just another railfan complaining on an internet forum.

The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

I occasionally post off-topic remarks.  Adults can handle that.

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Posted by Euclid on Thursday, November 16, 2017 8:16 AM

Logos and trademarks get damaged by tagging, but that is not what I refer to as brand damage. When I refer to “brand ,” it is not what is painted on the side of the freight car.  That is the brand name with its logo or trademark.   That is objective and fixed.  But the actual brand exists only in peoples’ minds.   It is everything the public thinks it knows about your offering. 

 

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Posted by zugmann on Thursday, November 16, 2017 8:25 AM

Yeah, that's pretty much ripped from any marketing 101 book.

The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

I occasionally post off-topic remarks.  Adults can handle that.

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Posted by Miningman on Thursday, November 16, 2017 8:27 AM

I don't know.  What is the cost of the brand damage?  I don't know that either.  But solid trains of tagged rolling stock are ugly in an strangely threatening way.  The art seems to be predominated with a message of anger, hosility, and extreme aggression. So it is not just that a surface has been "defaced." 

Long trains of menacing, garbage dump-like tagging being handled with complete indifference sends a powerful message to the public.  I doubt the industry is even aware of that message let alone considered its effect on them. "----Euclid

Could not agree more. That is it in a nutshell.

This could be stopped in short order with today's technology and surveillance.

If the public does not care and the Railroads do not care then it is a very bad indication of where things are going. Roman Empire anyone? 

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Posted by rdamon on Thursday, November 16, 2017 9:00 AM

Not like the Class 1's are trying to sell a product (ie: Passenger Service) anymore to the direct public.

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