Sunday, January 30, 2011

Modeling freight traffic: Coast Line, 1953-Part 4

An important part of the handling of freight equipment on the prototype, certainly including SP, was the document known as “Equipment Instructions.” This was typically issued for an entire division, at intervals as needed (weekly or less frequently), and was addressed to agents, yardmasters, conductors and clerical forces associated with car handling.
     This document did two important things, over and beyond the Car Service Rules: it instructed those receiving the document how to handle empty company cars as well as foreign empties (in particular, where they were needed and should be sent), and also identified any special needs for foreign-road cars to be returned promptly to their owners. An example of the latter might be that the C&O was experiencing shortages of coal hopper cars and needed all empty C&O hoppers to be returned as soon as possible.
     Since these documents were frequently issued, the old one was normally thrown away in favor of the new one, and they are hard to find. But I have been able to obtain copies of a few SP documents of this type. With those copies as guidance for language and format, I have constructed an “Equipment Instructions” letter for the Coast Division in 1953. It’s been examined by a couple of former SP employees, who could vouch for its general tone and content, although the specifics might or might not be accurate for 1953.
     Using a typewriter font, I made this up as a two-page letter (typical size) and have placed it in Google Docs with this link:

You will notice that it separately treats company and foreign cars, and does refer to Car Service Rules for many situations.
     One explanatory point: the instruction to promptly move empty ATSF and SFRD cars homeward may seem like “helping the enemy,” but numerous employees have stated that this was indeed the practice, likely to avoid any possibility of such a competitor’s car being spotted for loading by an SP customer. All indications I have seen are that Santa Fe and SFRD did exactly the same with SP and PFE empties. 
     The “Equipment Instructions” fill a gap in the methods and practices of car distribution. When I describe (in a future post) the role of the local agent in freight car handling, I will have reference to this document as part of the story.
Tony Thompson

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