Page 353

National Geographic Magazine—April, 1923



IN THEIR role as arteries of commerce, the railroads of the United States carry the lifeblood of trade to the ends of the nation.

So great is that task that it is difficult to get an adequate picture of it; for the statistics of train-miles, car-miles, passenger-miles, and ton-miles expand into millions and billions so rapidly that only those who combine the industry of the busy bee and the patience of the suffering Job can reduce them to terms within the grasp of laymen.

If all the people of the United States were reviewed in single file, passing at the rate of one a second, forty months would elapse from the day the head of the column marched by to the hour the rear guard approached. Yet the annual transportation task devolving upon the railroads is equivalent to moving all these people, with eight tons of freight for each of them, from Paris, France, to Genoa, Italy.

Stated in another Way, if Father Adam, according to Biblical chronology, had started a mixed train running down through the centuries, at a speed of 22 miles per hour, carrying 40 passengers and 346 tons of freight, and if that train had never stopped from then to now, it sill would not have covered as great a distance or performed as large a passenger or freight service as the trains of the United States do in a normal year.


Counting all sidings, yards, and multiple tracks, there are approximately 375,000 miles of rails in the United States. How distant the first mile from the last will the better appear if it be told that the Twentieth Century Limited—the crack New York Central flyer between New York and Chicago, maintaining an average terminal-to-terminal speed of approximately 50 miles per hour-would require from the birth of the New Year to within a fortnight of Thanksgiving to cover this mileage.

It is a far cry from the splendid four-track route, with grades reduced to negligible percentages, and curves all but eliminated, stretching between the major cities of the country, to the neglected single-track line, with grades everywhere and curves more numerous than tangents, stretching between Junctionville and Podunk, the latter characteristic of the railroads of 50 years ago and the former the latest development of the art of railroading.

Some two decades ago the freight traffic of the country had grown so heavy that curves and grades regarded as inconsiderable in the first half century of American railroading became serious obstructions to the free movement of traffic under 20th century conditions.

All over the United States one may today see traces of abandoned rights of way, meandering here and there in a fashion that makes the traveler think that the car]\engineers must have followed the cows about and plotted their paths, and remind him that tens of thousands of miles of railway had to be rebuilt to meet the nation's demands for better freight and passenger facilities.


With the abandonment of these early railroads have come the splendid multiple-track highways, without which the present volume of traffic could not be handled.

A typical case of spending millions to save minutes and pennies appears in the history of the Lackawanna. That road was first built half a century ago, primarily as a coal-carrier between Scranton and New York. Money was not plentiful in those days; so many a compromise with grades and curves had to be made.

But a day dawned when the Lackawanna saw that if it were to compete with other companies it must have scores of the grades and curves on its line ironed out. Across New Jersey from Port Morris to Delaware Water Gap was a stretch

Page 354—"The Spirit of Transportation"


of road, 39½ miles long, meandering about and dipping up and down as only old-fashioned roads did.

Nothing less than a cut-off would cure that situation, and so a line only three miles longer than air-line distance was laid out, shortening the route between Scranton and New York 11 miles.

Fills and cuts and tunnels required to carry the road diagonally across deep-valleyed watercourses and high-ridged watersheds made the cut-off one of the most expensive in the history of railway building; but it shortened the schedule of passenger trains by 20 minutes, cut down the running time of freight trains by an hour, and more than doubled the length of the average coal train moving over the Lackawanna; so that even a million dollars a mile spent to shorten the line proved one of the best investments that road ever made.

The same company did another spectacular thing in eliminating grades and curves when it built its famous viaduct across the Tunkhannock Valley. That viaduct is nearly half a mile long' and as high as a 20-story building. The cut-off of which it is a part saves 3.6 miles between Scranton and Binghamton, but even though built at a cost of three and a third million dollars per mile, the Lackawanna made a fine investment in its construction (see illustration, page 363).


The Pennsylvania main line between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh strikes the lay traveler as being about the last word in grade and curve reduction; and, so far as passenger trains go, it is. But such a tremendous freight traffic as the Pennsylvania handles eastward called for even better grades than the main line offers. The traffic from the Last to the West is so much lighter than that moving from the West to the East that the engineers can concede much to westward grades.

So it was decided to build a low-grade freight line from Pittsburgh to New York. That line now is in operation, except for 23 miles over the Allegheny Mountains, where the grade is 52.8 feet to the mile. Its steepest grade in the path of eastbound traffic is only 17 feet to the mile, up which an engine can pull any train that it is able to start on the level.

The Pennsylvania has for some time been studying the question of electrifying this heavy grade over the Allegheny Mountains, which includes the famous "Horseshoe Curve."


When the Union Pacific was building its line toward the Golden Gate, the Great Salt Lake lay across its path. In those days it did what any other railroad would have done—it made a detour.

That detour became a nightmare to the management several decades later, for it added 44 miles to the journey from Omaha to San Francisco, made every train lift itself an unnecessary 1,500 feet, and forced all trains to follow needless curves equivalent to 10 full circles.

So the Lucin Cut-Off across the Great Salt Lake, costing $10,000,000, was built. It proved a good investment, for the curves, climbs, and distance eliminated saved some two hours of precious time and millions of dollars in operating expenses.

The Canadian Pacific, which gets a little look-in oil the United: States by crossing the State of Maine, has been one of the roads to modernize its pioneer lines in many places, particularly in the Rockies and the Selkirks. In the region of Kicking Horse River in the Rockies there was a heavy grade more than four miles long, with a rise of 237.6 feet to the mile. It was known as the Big Hill. Getting a train up that hill was a tremendous task, four to six engines being required. But getting it down was an even more arduous undertaking.

Switches were introduced along the line, and those who operated them had strict instructions to listen for a certain whistle signal. It meant that the train giving it had gotten out of control and must be shunted off onto the siding which ran up a grade, thus effecting a stop.


To overcome these difficulties, the Canadian Pacific decided to build two spiral tunnels, the first of their kind in America.

The first of these "corkscrew" bores is 3,200 feet long under Cathedral Mountain. A train entering from the east turns in


the direction whence it came, and, after emerging, crosses Kicking Horse River. Then it enters the second spiral tunnel, and, after descending an elliptical curve, emerges, headed west again.

The road in this relocation doubles back on itself twice, spirals its way under two mountains, and crosses the river twice in order to avoid the Big Hill. The improvement cost $1,500,000, but two engines do the work of five or six, and a 10-mile speed has become a 25-mile gait.

The Grand Trunk, in order to command its share in the through business from Chicago to the Last, had to find a way to eliminate the river difficulty at Detroit. The St. Clair River connecting Lakes Huron and Ontario is here about a half-mile wide. Bridging it was out of the question. Car ferries were too slow. Hence the railway officials decided to tunnel under the river. They ran steam engines through, but this soon proved so unsatisfactory that a substitute had to be found. The B. & O. pioneering in Baltimore showed the feasibility of electricity, and so the St. Clair Tunnel was electrified, with such success that under-river electrified tunnels became a matter of recognized engineering practice.

Most roads to-day are old ones transformed by extensions and relocations, but once in a while a new line is built without any of the limitations imposed by former conditions.

Such a railway is the Virginian, extending from Deepwater, West Virginia (near Charleston) to Sewalls Point, Virginia (near Norfolk)—a coal road pure and simple. "I want a road from the West Virginia coal fields to the sea," said H. H. Rogers. "It must be a road on which a modern locomotive can haul 80 fifty-ton carloads of coal from the mines to the seaboard without breaking up the train. The grades eastbound must not exceed 10 feet to the mile."

It was a large order, but one which the engineer daringly executed, the

Page 357—The Lucin Cut-Off Across the Great Salt Lake

Page 358—Five Modern Means of American Transportation

Page 359—Hell Gate Bridge, Giving a Through Rail Connection Between New England and the South


only exception being a stretch of 11 miles, where the eastbound grade is over a 100 feet to the mile.

But here the largest locomotives in the world act as pushers and raise the 80-car train intact over the crest of the line. A whole new coal territory has been tapped, and if the Virginian Railway hauls 10,000,000 tons of the mined product to market annually it can operate for 400 years before exhausting its freight supply.


When one comes to the rolling stock of all the railroads of the United States, consisting as it does of 2,348,000 freight cars, 65,000 locomotives, and 53,000 passenger-train cars, and attempts to visualize its immensity, perhaps the best picture to be obtained will come from imagining all these engines and cars coupled into one train.

Suppose this train to be on a sort of vast horseshoe curve, sweeping through Africa, Asia, North America, and South America via the Suez Canal, Siberia, Alaska, and Panama (see map above).

So long will the train be that when the last caboose is at the Cape of Good Hope the forward engine will be only 1,200 miles out of Cape Horn.

The conductor on the rear platform might listen to the break of the waves on the South African coast while the brakeman on the forward freight car gave ear to the ripple of the waves on the shore of Lake Titicaca, Peru.

The passenger-train cars would add enough length to the train to make it reach 100 miles beyond Antofagasta, Chile, and the engines would still further extend the train's length, so that it would reach nearly to Valdivia, Chile—a train, indeed, stretching from 30 degrees south latitude in Africa to the Arctic Circle in Asia, and back to 40 degrees south latitude in South America!

What a vast series of contrasts among the thousand miles of locomotives in service on the railroads of the United States! Here is one that made its appearance in the days of brass bands around the boiler, red stripes and stars around the smoke-stack and a name on the cab. Here is the old 999, that once hauled the Empire State Express on its road to fame, and later took the prosaic job of hauling light freights on a branch line. Down the


track is a big Mallet articulated engine weighing 449 tons, having a length of 105 feet, and possessing cylinders of a diameter equal to that of the boilers of many locomotives built since the Civil War.


The work of an average freight locomotive is no light chore. Its job is to haul a 1,300-ton train 56½ miles each day, a traffic task equivalent to moving 20 tons from the Statue of Liberty to the Golden Gate.

Hauling such a train, rain or shine, in warm weather or in cold, over heavy grades and around sharp curves, takes a heavy toll out of the freight engine's frame, with the result that for a full quarter of its time it is on the operating table in the engine hospital, or waiting its turn to go there.

When the big mogul's performance is measured by the energy it is able to extract from a pound of coal, it looks like a sheer waster of fuel, for only about one-twentieth of that energy is transformed into drawbar pull. But when one remembers that, for all its limitations, the average



freight engine is able to move 10 tons of train a full mile for each cent's worth of coal burned, its record does not seem a bad one.


The electric locomotive, of which there are several hundred in operation in the United States, could tell a startling story.

It was born of necessity. When the B. & O. wanted to burrow under Baltimore, coal-burning locomotives seemed out of the question for a tunnel so long. So an electric substitute was created. It showed such good results that one railroad after another tried electrified tunnels, uniformly with success.

Finally the Pennsylvania and the New York Central decided that the electric's past performances had been good enough to justify their building vast terminals in New York City into which no steam locomotive could be admitted. The electric engine's cleanness made possible under the river tunnels in the case of the Pennsylvania, and a two-level track-layout in the case of the New York Central.

Electrifying the terminals led to electrified approaches, and wherever electricity got a chance to compete with steam, the former never lost the argument. The electrically propelled train could show the steam train its green flags at the rear any day, and its red lights any night. The electric engine was able to get a 1,000-ton train started from a standstill more quickly than the steam locomotive, at every trial of their relative power.

In the matter of cleanness and economy of operation, also, every test showed in electricity's favor. So the Pennsylvania New York Central, and the New Haven began to electrify their suburban lines.

Seeing the striking results of electrification around New York, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Co. decided to give the electric engine a tryout on a long stretch of its transcontinental


line. It first electrified a division extending from Harlowton, Montana, to Avery, Idaho (near St. Maries), a distance of 440 miles. This section of the C., M. & St. P. crosses the three ridges constituting the Rocky Mountains, and at one place climbs to 6,300 feet.

When put to work battling trains over that section, the electric locomotives began to show their real mettle. Terminal performances, commuter-zone competitions, and tunnel electrifications are all well enough, but when one comes down to essentials, a long stretch of road with three mountains to cross, innumerable grades to negotiate, and all kinds of weather to face—there is the place to put a locomotive to the real test.

Their performance astonished even electricity's chief supporters. The railroad company found it could operate its trains much more efficiently with 42 electrics than with 112 steam-engines. With the former type it was able to increase the length of each train by a fifth, thereby reducing the number of trains required. Likewise, the running time was cut down by a fifth. The electrics, in fact, demonstrated that they could increase the capacity of a single-track railroad to a point approaching double-track capacity under steam operation.

Many a time a train hauled by a "double header" of steam locomotives rolled up to the electrified division two hours late, after a bitter struggle with the elements.


Radiation from their boilers weakened them, and snow slowed down their pace.

But the electrics are never happier than when there is zero weather around, and they made up all the time the steam-engines lost.


Not only did the big motors demonstrate their power to pull trains up 2 per cent grades that would break a steam locomotive's heart, and at a speed that even three of the latter could not maintain, but when they got to the top of the mountain they taught a new lesson—superior efficiency in climbing down again.

Being equipped with what are known as "regenerative" brakes, the electric's motor, by the throwing of a switch, is transformed into a dynamo, and the surplus momentum of the train rolling down the mountain is expended in driving this dynamo and sending the electricity thus generated back into the transmission line.

The problem of getting a steam-drawn train down from the crest of the Rockies was frequently as serious as that of dragging it up. The airbrakes frequently were hard to manage, the wheels often got red hot, the shoes sometimes melted.

But with "regenerative" braking, things have changed. All the momentum the brakes had to absorb and waste goes back into the transmission line, to be used as power to pull some other train up the mountain.

When a steam locomotive has its fires banked in the roundhouse it burns 200 pounds of coal an hour; when getting up steam it requires 800 pounds; when standing on side track or at stations it burns 500 pounds, and when coasting downhill 1,000 pounds.

In none of these situations do electrics require any power at all. Coasting down the mountain side, they can pay back from a fourth to a half as much as they borrowed to climb the mountain.

Without a jerk, without noise, without smoke, and without a cinder, they take


their trains up the mountains and down again, at 20 miles an hour on even so heavy a grade as a rise of 105 feet to the mile, and at 60 miles on the straightaway level.


So gratifying was the electrification of the Harlowton-Avery branch to the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul authorities that they decided to electrify the line from Seattle to Othello. This leaves only a 200-mile stretch to be electrified between the eastern approach to the Rockies and the Pacific Ocean, and gives the United States the longest electrified railroad in the world.

But the test of which the electric locomotive may be proudest took place not so long ago at Erie, Pennsylvania. One of them, just out of the shops on the St. Paul's new order, was pitted against two of the steam giants of the New York Central. They could not be matched in a tug of war, for, pulling against one another, a drawbar would be sure to pull out, with perhaps dangerous results.

So a pushing contest was staged instead. The two big steam locomotives were coupled together, and thus entered the fray. On a long stretch of track their engineers were told to open the throttles wide. With current off, the electric rival was no obstacle in their path, and they were soon taking it down the track at a passenger-train pace.

Then something happened; the engineer in the electric slowly turned on the current. The speed of the big locomotives began to slacken, and their smokestacks started to spout black smoke in a way that told how hard they were laboring.

Slower and slower they moved; harder and harder they worked, as though they were dragging a tremendous train up a heart-breaking grade; but with all that they could do they continued to lose speed.

Finally, though their throttles were still wide open and their cylinders were hissing with the pent-up steam that was unable to drive the big moguls forward, they were forced to a dead standstill.

Put the pause was only for an instant. Still pushing with the last ounce of energy within them, their grip on the rails gave way and they bowed to their master—the electric locomotive. The latter not only


had stalled them, but, turning on them, was driving them back in full retreat, in spite of the fact that they continued to strain every rod in their effort to check their onrushing rival (see page 371).

But, even with that sturdy proof of its supremacy, the electric was not content. Again it allowed itself to be pushed down the track by its two big contestants. Again, with wide-open throttles they rushed it along at high speed. But again a little switch on the electric engine was thrown, a little switch which converted the motor that had overpowered its antagonists into a dynamo that acted as a brake.

Again the big giants began to labor, to shiver at the load they were encountering, to slow down under the burden. Slower and slower they moved, harder and harder they labored, but in vain! For, whether plunging forward, motor-driven, or holding back, regenerative-braked, the electric showed itself their master and proved itself the Samson of rail transportation.

The argument was over, and since that day railroad men everywhere have realized that the electric locomotive is destined eventually to succeed the steam locomotive wherever traffic is heavy and trains frequent.

Already roads are planning in that direction. The Pennsylvania, the Virginian, and many other lines are reckoning with electrification of busier divisions as an end to be aimed at.


How much the electrification of the railroads of the country will save is strikingly shown by an investigation based on the St. Paul's experience and other data. This shows that electricity can be produced at 2½ pounds of coal per kilowatt hour, and that 53,000,000 tons would suffice to produce all the electricity


required to move the freight of the United States—a saving of more than 100,000,000 tons a year.

These figures do not deduct anything for the added saving made possible by the use of hydroelectric power-the white coal of the country's unharnessed rivers. They are based on all power being produced by coal-driven dynamos

Think of five big carloads of coal being wasted every single minute of the year; of five Niagaras running unharnessed to the sea! There you have a measure of what the electric locomotive promises to save, once it supplants the steam locomotive as the source of rail transportation's power.

With all their lines electrified there would be no reason for the railroads hauling a ton of coal for themselves. There are hundreds of power sites that could be developed, which would greatly reduce the coal tonnage required to drive the dynamos necessary to generate sufficient current to move all the trains of the country.

The power remaining to be supplied by coal could be generated at the mouth of the mine and sent out over wires.

To be relieved of the transportation of approximately 150,000,000 tons of coal a year would mean the saving of more than 3,000,000 carloads of freight, or 60,000 trainloads of 50 cars each. In other words, the coal trains required to haul the fuel used by the railroads themselves to-day would fill eight tracks reaching from Sandy Hook to Golden Gate, and all of this tremendous train movement would be saved by electrification of all lines.

The saving effected if electrification

Page 368—Climbing the Rocky Mountains

Page 369—The Prosperity Special at Stein's Pass, New Mexico


were adopted only on the Atlantic seaboard from Boston to Washington is strikingly shown in a report prepared, at the instance of former Secretary of the Interior, Franklin K. Lane, by the United States Geological Survey, under the direction of Dr. George Otis Smith.

This report, entitled "A Superpower System for the Region between Boston and Washington," shows that in 1930 the territory in question, for its municipal, industrial, private, and railroad purposes, will require 31 billion kilowatt hours of power, which could be furnished under a coordinated power system at a saving of $239,000,000 per annum.

In the case of the railroads, 19,000 out of 36,000 miles of track could be profitably electrified, at an annual saving in operating costs of $81,000,000 on a capital investment of $570,000,000.

To-day the average steam locomotive works eight hours a day, while the average electric is ready for twenty hours a day service.

It is estimated that there will be a doubling of traffic in this zone by 1930, and that the cost of electrification would be less than the cost of added facilities necessary in adhering to steam power.

One of the secrets of the electric engine's efficiency as compared with the steam locomotive is the greater adhesion of its drivers to the rails. Indeed, it can run twice as fast at maximum adhesion as the steam locomotive.

Some roads are beginning to use motor buses with marked success for the transportation of passengers on lines where the traffic is light. The Pennsylvania's western lines, feeling the pinch of competition from interurban electric lines and highway bus lines, are turning to motorized train service in order to reduce the


cost of operation to a point in keeping with the revenues derived.


When one sees a string of freight cars, some of them for carrying live stock, others for moving products needing refrigeration or ventilation, still others for hauling such diverse products as coal and oil, bulk molasses and ore, it is probably With little realization of the stories they might tell.

If their several stories were made into one composite tale, we would learn that the average car in a recent year ran about 22 miles a day, carried 27.8 tons of freight per load, and secured about 17 loads during the year. One-third of the 9,200 miles it traveled was as an empty.

One does not have to study transportation problems long to find out what a valued public servant the little-appreciated and unpretentious freight car actually is. There is one of them for every eight families in the country, and to them agricultural and industrial America owes a tremendous debt.

What would bonanza crops be worth if there were no freight cars to carry them to the markets of the nation and to start them to the hungry mouths of the world?

How could great factories thrive without the raw materials and the fuel the freight car brings to them, or without the many markets to which it gives them access?

"You never miss the water till the well runs dry" might be paraphrased into "You never appreciate the freight car till there's a car shortage." Indeed, the freight cars are the red corpuscles of the body politic, through which the oxygen of industry and the nutriment of commerce reach the cells that constitute our national life.

In order to obviate the building of large numbers of new freight cars, a national campaign has been started to increase their average daily mileage, to add to their average load, and to cut down the number of days they are out of service awaiting and undergoing repairs.

The railroad executives responsible for the campaign want to speed up the cars, so that they will average 30 miles a day

Page 372—An Electrified Road in the Cascades

Page 373—The De Witt Clinton Runs Once More

Page 374—When a Locomotive Goes to the Hospital

Page 375—Loading a Passenger Car at Seattle for Shipment to Alaska


instead of the 23 they have been making. They want to increase the average load by 2.2 tons, and to cut down the average daily number on the "sick list" from 7 per cent to 4 per cent.

This would appear to the layman a very easy task. Yet the railroad man realizes that it is vastly more difficult than it seems. The fact is that thirteen-fourteenths of a car's year is spent off of the main tracks, either being switched around some yard, being loaded or unloaded, undergoing repairs, or just standing idly by waiting for something to turn up.


Of its year the average car spends fourteen weeks on loading and unloading tracks; six weeks being switched into and out of trains and onto and off of loading tracks; two weeks awaiting shippers' orders; five weeks working its way through the maze of division yards; nine weeks in delivery from one road to another.

Then there are three weeks more lost by its arrival at its destination on Sundays and holidays, and five more while going through the repair shops. Slack seasons cause it another two weeks of idleness.

These items show forty-six weeks out of the year spent off of the road. Of the remaining forty-three days, which represent its gross time on the road, eleven may be counted off for time spent running empty in search of a load, and five more may be deducted for delays incident to washouts, congestion, and the like.

All of which so taxes the car's time that it is able to spend only 27 days of actual running under load, and all of which tends to make an average Of 30 miles per day a hard one to attain.

Thirty tons per car, the second aim of the railroads to-day, is almost as difficult of realization as 30 miles per day. Even under the severest stress of the war period, when every shipper made it a point of patriotism to get his cars loaded to capacity, it wasn't possible to reach that standard of loading efficiency.


In the first place, a stock car carries less than 10 tons of hogs, less than 11 of sheep and goats, and less than 12 of horses and mules. Likewise, box cars load less than 13 tons of hay and straw, cotton, wool, and eggs. On the other hand, coal cars force the average loading upward. During the second quarter of 1920 they moved more than 50 tons of bituminous coal, nearly 48 tons of anthracite, and more than 51 tons of iron ore.

The third aim of the railway managers is to shorten the time lost by the cars forced out of service by bad condition. It is estimated that by a little careful scheming the average car's "sick leave" can be cut down to 14 days a year.

If the slogan of "30 miles per day, 30 tons per load, and 14 days for 'sick leave'" could be transformed into an achievement, the railroads would have additional service out of its cars already in commission equal to that which could be rendered by 260,000 new ones. An






additional mile per day would equal the mileage of 100,000 new ones; an additional ton per day would give as much service as 80,000 new cars could render, and the reduction of "sick leave" to 14 days would yield the same results as the addition of 80,000 new cars.


Freight cars have a way of wandering from their own lines and becoming the rail counterparts of tramp steamers. When the demand for cars is acute it is very much cheaper for a railroad to keep a "foreign" car than to return it to its home line; for the "per diem" charge for a foreign car is only one dollar a day.

Not long after the outbreak of the World War a St. Louis car-builder had an order for some freight cars from a California road. He started one west loaded, to save haulage charges. It delivered its load and then began to wander around. It made two or three trips to the Atlantic seaboard, a half dozen up and down the country, and finally, long after the armistice, reached its destination. There are instances of cars wandering around the country for seven years before setting wheels on home rails once more.

The freight car is the Cinderella of the transportation household. The passenger car flits about at high speed, day after day, and never would be able to support itself except for the toiling of its humble sister. If the passenger trains had to pay their half of all the expenses of railroad operation-for they make half the train mileage-they world show one of those dreaded red-ink balances in the profit-and-loss account.

The average passenger car runs far enough to make two trips around the earth every year, and some of them run for a full generation-first, usually, in the big express trains, then on the mainline locals, and finally out on some "Jerkwater" branch or in the dollar-excursion equipment.


Turning from tracks and rolling stock to freight, one finds an equally startling story of the amazing proportions of railroad transportation.

Page 379—A Freight Yard in the Anthracite Region: Carbondale, Pennsylvania


The national balance sheet of work accomplished in 1919, which year is taken as the most nearly normal of any since the armistice, showed that 1,096,000,000 tons of freight were loaded into cars, and that the average ton was hauled 301 miles.

That represents the loading of a pile of merchandise as big as the great Pyramid of Cheops and hauling it from Washington, D. C., to New Haven, Connecticut, every eighteen hours,

If we could load the tremendous store of freight that moves in a year's time into one string of cars, it would be 312,000 miles long.

Imagine, if you can, a huge transcontinental railroad yard, stretching from New York to Seattle, via the meanderings of the Pennsylvania and the St. Paul, through Pittsburgh, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, Butte, and Spokane; and then imagine one hundred tracks in this vast continent-spanning yard packed solid with cars—box cars, coal cars, tank cars, refrigerator cars, stock cars, and flat cars—each and every one of them filled with the products of a nation's industry! That will give you a picture of the vastness of the interchange of commodities between the communities of a busy nation.

Forty of these tracks would be filled with the products of the nation's mines, 29 with the merchandise of its factories, 18 with the commodities that come from its farms, and 11 with forest products.


If one wishes an itemization of some of the individual commodities included in those major groups, it may best be given in terms of trains standing in this imaginary transcontinental yard, with cabooses resting on the banks of the Hudson.

The butter and cheese moving by freight (there are no statistics of commodities moving by express) would fill a train reaching almost to Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.

The American hen gives the railroads more traffic as a producer of eggs than the American cow contributes through her output of butter and cheese, for the


egg train would exceed by more than a hundred miles the length of the one carrying butter and cheese, and would reach considerably beyond Johnstown. There are no comprehensive statistics which would enable one to estimate the length of the annual milk and cream train, as these products are hauled largely by express.

Our love of "something to drink" brings to the railroads more traffic than our demands for something to wear, the textiles requiring some three thousand fewer cars than beverages, which would load a train reaching from Hoboken, New Jersey, to Alliance, Ohio.

The annual freight traffic in horses and mules, despite the competition of the automobile, sends some 80,000 carloads over the rails—enough to make up a train reaching to a point considerably beyond Bucyrus, Ohio—while the train required to represent our citrus-fruit movement would stretch from Hoboken, New Jersey, to Lima, Ohio.

American devotion to "my lady Nicotine" contributes considerably to the traffic task of the railroads. In a recent year more than 90,000 carloads of tobacco and tobacco products moved by freight, and the train required to move it would be some 750 miles long-extending all the way to Fort Wayne, Indiana.

That we are considerably addicted to the use of canned foods is shown by the fact that those moving by freight in a recent year would fill a train reaching from the banks of the Hudson almost to the banks of the Wisconsin.

The American sweet tooth, likewise, is well catered to by the railroads. Sugar, syrup, glucose, and molasses moving by freight during a single year yield nearly 200,000 carloads of traffic—enough to make up a train whose headlight would illuminate the banks of the Missouri River at Mobridge, South Dakota, while its caboose was still in the Jersey City yards.

Even at that, the humble potato can go

Page 382—An Airplane View of the Clearing East Classification Yard, Near Chicago

Page 383—A "Container Car" Operating Between New York and Chicago

Page 384—Railroad Yards at Cleveland, Ohio

Page 385—An Aerial View of the 72d Street Freight Yards, New York

Page 386—A Rotary Snow Plow in Operation

Page 387—Ice-Covered Locomotives Just in from a Wintry Run

Page 388—Jersy City Terminal Equipped with Electro-Magnetic Interlocking Signal Service


our sweet goods one better, requiring nearly 25,000 more cars. Our annual potato train is more than 1,800 miles long and would reach to a point within 100 miles of the Montana border.

The American hen, in addition to her egg contribution to the freight traffic of the country, makes a second large contribution; the train required to move the poultry she offers would fill a track reaching from the banks of the Hudson to the foothills of the Rockies.

The ice moving by rail as freight is a very small percentage of that used by the American people, and yet the cars required for its movement would fill a track reaching well into the valley of the Yellowstone, while the cotton train's forward engine would be farther west than the western boundary of Yellowstone National Park. The products of the American packing towns would fill a train reaching from New York to Spokane.

The automobiles and trucks moving by freight would fill one solid transcontinental train and a second one reaching to Pittsburgh, while the wheat so moving would fill one transcontinental track and another one reaching half way across the continent.

Iron ore would demand 4,300 miles of cars, while coal and coke would require a train 40,000 miles long.

The variety of the requirements of the American people is no less remarkable than the volume of those requirements. On the list of commodities hauled by the railroads there are more than 8,000 different items, which embrace every kind of product, from abas, worn by Arabs as garments, to zymoscopes, used by zymologists as ferment-testers.


Under the blessings of adequate transportation the interchange of products is amazing. For instance, take so simple a thing as your copy of the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE.

The paper is made in Massachusetts, from pulpwood grown in Canada, treated with acids coming from half a dozen States, and coated with clays coming from England and Florida.

It is printed with presses made of steel wrought in Pennsylvania, from pig iron extracted in Ohio, with the aid of limestone from Michigan and coal from West Virginia, from ore mined in Minnesota.

The glue for the rollers of the presses comes from the trimmings of skins brought from India, China, and South America, including goatskins, beef hides, and horse hides. The glue for pasting on the cover comes from Pennsylvania, where it is manufactured from raw materials coming from as widely separated points as Cape Town, South Africa, Aden, Arabia, and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The ink is a lesson in geography all by itself. It is made of carbon gas black from Louisiana; linseed oil from Minnesota, Argentina, and India; mineral oils from many American oil fields; vegetable oils other than linseed, from the cotton belt and China; dryers from Brazil and Canada; dyes from various States; and gums from New Zealand, the Dutch East Indies, and the South.

The type metal is made of lead from Missouri, copper from Montana, tin from the Straits Settlement, and antimony from Japan.


Handling freight trains is an interesting task from the layman's standpoint, a hard one from the trainman's point of view, and an involved one from the yard-master's aspect of the work.

With a tremendous export balance and such a large percentage of the country's population massed along the eastern seaboard, it is inevitable that much more freight has to move eastward than is dispatched westward. How to keep the car supply adjusted without unnecessary westward movement of empties is one problem, and how to prevent empties from moving eastward after they have discharged westbound loads is another.

In a recent year the freight trains of the country ran, in round numbers, 51,000,000 hours. Each train ran about 72 miles a day at 10.5 miles an hour, including stops and waits.

The making up and breaking up of the vast number of trains that move each 24 hours are constantly being accelerated through the installation of improved freight yards.

Page 390—The Union Station and its Environs, Washington, D.C.


Formerly, all tracks in these yards were level, and a train was broken up or made up, as the case might be, only by innumerable switchings back and forth. In the new "hump" yards much of this is done away with. A train comes in off the line. It is backed up to the top of a steep grade. Here, mayhap, a score of tracks spread out from the one on which the train stands, each connected with it by a series of switches, or a "ladder," as these switch series are known in railway parlance.

Then one by one or group by group the cars in the train are uncoupled and allowed to roll by gravity down the ladder and onto the several tracks on which all cars of common destinations beyond are being gathered. These tracks are known as classification tracks. To one go the cars bound through to Chicago; to another those with St. Louis as their destination; to still another those having transcontinental destinations. And so it goes (see illustration, page 382).


Whether the cars being sent by gravity down the incline and onto their respective tracks are from a train that has just rolled in or from scores of sources, each goes to its particular track, and one switching crew with one engine does the work that six crews and engines do in the old-fashioned yards.

And it is well that things can be speeded up, for in 20 years the freight business of the American railways has increased threefold and is still expanding.

In one yard not long ago 121 eastbound trains, with more than 3,200 cars, and 78 westbound, with 3,600 cars, arrived in 24 hours—a train every 7½ minutes; and of course these had to be broken up and made over into about as many other trains.

To the train crew the caboose is a "hack," and most crews have their "pet hacks." When the end of the division is reached they usually get a load back, but if there is nothing in sight the engine runs "light" back to the other end, sometimes taking the caboose along.

Getting freight over the road is hard work at best. Ask the firemen who have to fire the engines through the Baltimore tunnels of the Pennsylvania how often one of their number shows up unconscious after a trip through these gas-filled bores. Ask the brakeman who has to toil through the night with rain and cold as companions as he walks the long platform atop his train.

But at worst, think of 40 transcontinental trains snow-bound and idle in the single State of Wyoming! Think of 25 feet of snow on the level and 50 in canyons and gulches! Think of thermometers in which the mercury tries to hide itself from the frost, in weather where zero temperature would seem moderate by contrast!

Yet through it all the engineer must have an unobstructed vision; the fireman must shovel an unwonted quantity of coal into the firebox; the brakeman must protect his train, operate his switches, and always be ready if the air-brakes should fail to work. Water tanks become masses of ice without and freezing water within.

On one line 40 miles of telegraph poles were broken down by a snow and sleet storm, most of them falling across the tracks. On another every bridge and trestle for miles was carried down stream by an unrelenting downpour.

Snow time is worst of all. When the weather forecaster sees a big snow storm in the offing he acts as intelligence officer for the railroads, and they begin to marshal their forces for the fray. Every engine in every roundhouse must have steam up, ready at an instant's notice to take the road and help to keep the rails clear. An ounce of prevention was never worth a fuller pound of cure than in fighting the snow. The division superintendent becomes a general, and mobilizes the last ounce of his reserves in motive power and men.

Trains are shortened, and the intervals between them cut down. If the flakes come too fast for such strategy in keeping the line open, the engines are equipped with ordinary plows, which buck the drifts and push them to one side.

But if the hordes of the snowflake armies become so numerous as to overwhelm even these, the big rotary plows are sent into the fray. These possess great cutting wheels able to drill a bore whose diameter will permit the passing of a train.


Shoved forward by perhaps three engines, a rotary plow eats its way into a big drift, discharging the snow through a giant nozzle that extends out over the right of way, and throwing a stream of flakes that would engulf an ordinary building in short order. Therefore it is built so that the nozzle-man can regulate the direction of his stream and thus avoid such catastrophes.

In the terminals and freight yards a snowstorm means frozen frogs and out-of-commission switches. Brooms, oxyacetyline blow-pipes, and such have to be called into service, and a stiff battle must be waged if trains are to be kept moving.

Latterly, experiments have been made in the direction of installing electric heaters at switches, and one of the foremost terminal superintendents in the country tells me that lie believes the day is not








distant when snow will be deprived of its terrors, so far as terminals are concerned.


The story of the passenger traffic of the United States is one of a volume of business no less astonishing in proportions than the freight traffic.

Imagine the vast array of folk who ride over the rails of the country in a year transformed into an army of marching troops, in solid formation and 257 abreast. The rear guard of that vast army would be waving their farewell to the skyline of New York as the advance guard was hailing the Golden Gate at San Francisco, if the line of march were an air line. Truly, 1,175,000,000 passengers is an imposing multitude of people!

And the aggregate miles they traveled! In its annual marathon around the sun, the earth is about the speediest thing we




Page 394—A Berth in a Regulation Pullman


know. It hurtles through space at so great a gait that it covers a distance equal to that which stretches between Ottawa, Canada, and Tallahassee, Florida, in a single minute. And yet, even with such a speed record, it cannot pile up mileage as fast as the American people in their railroad travel.

Indeed, if the earth were to speed up its gait eighty-fold its annual mileage would be no more than equal to the 46 billion miles covered by the travelers of the United States in a normal year.

There are many things about passenger traffic that constitute wonder stories of the transportation industry, concerning which lack of space forbids even a mention. The tales of the time-table, the baggage business, the ticket-sellers, the sleeping-car service, to say nothing of scores of other activities, must go untold.

But there is one phase of passenger travel that arrests the attention of everybody—that of the modern passenger station in a major city.

To visit one of these big terminals and there to study the art of handling vast throngs of humanity and amazing numbers of trains, to go down into the dispatcher's office, out to the information bureau, and through the whole plant, indeed is an experience not to be forgotten.

South Station, in Boston, with its 45,000,000 passengers and 196,000 trains a year, holds the American record for volume of traffic. North Station, in the same City, with its 32,000,000 passengers annually and 400 trains daily, holds the record for a station serving only one road. Union Station, in St. Louis, with 22 roads entering it, holds the record for the number of lines served.

But in their modernity, in the intricacy of the problems solved, in their construction and operation, in the probable future expansion of their patronage, no other


stations in the world claim as much interest from the public generally as the Pennsylvania and Grand Central stations, in New York.

The Pennsylvania is the largest terminal under one roof in the world; but the Grand Central, with its two levels, covers double the acreage of the Pennsylvania. The latter was built as a railroad station pure and simple, while the former was constructed as a real-estate development, which should provide every possible convenience known in the art of transportation, and to surround the station with associated interests, such as hotels and office buildings.

The New York Tunnel Extension of the Pennsylvania, with the station and its appurtenances, cost about $115,000,000 while the Grand Central cost $75,000,000. By the broad idea of making a business center on the land redeemed by electrification







and that which had to be condemned to provide for the underground trackage, the Grand Central Station, with its group of surrounding edifices, has been made a self-supporting institution.


A trip through the Grand Central Station is a revelation. Every day 600 trains arrive and depart; 33,000,000 passengers pass its portals in a single year. Its public rooms have an area of six acres and its main concourse could accommodate 15 regiments of infantry. Its facilities are so arranged that no passenger need retrace a step-ticket window, Pullman office, checking-room, all coming in their order on the traveler's way to his train.

While, of course, the primary purpose of the New York Central was to build a great station, with an ultimate capacity of upward of 75,000,000 passengers a year, yet electrification made it possible to reclaim 40 acres of land in the very heart of upper Manhattan—all over the two levels of the 32 miles of terminal tracks—and to utilize this area for the biggest single civic development in the history of architecture,

The main station building, whose suburban and express levels are connected by long inclines, or ramps, instead of by stairs, has a veritable labyrinth of inside streets and passages lined with shops and stores. One can, without going out of doors, reach three subways, three hotels with 3,000 rooms a series of office buildings housing 6,000 workers, and two big university clubs.

Great as has been the development of the reclaimed areas by the construction of 'office buildings, hotels, clubs, stores, and apartment houses over the station and approach tracks, vast additional structures are expected to rise, Even the main concourse itself was built with a view of ultimately surmounting it with a 17-story office building.

One of the remarkable things about the construction of the Grand Central is that it was built as a substitution. The whole structure and its satellite buildings had to go up, their predecessors had to be torn down, and the substitution of electricity in the place of steam had to be wrought




Page 398—Results of a Rear-End Collision at Sulpur Springs, Missouri


while passengers were coming and going and trains arriving and departing.

Vast yardages of stone and dirt were blasted and moved, amazing tonnages of structural steel and hollow tile and brick were removed here and put into buildings there, but traffic went on as though nothing could happen.

There are hundreds of superlatives about the Grand Central Station to which space does not permit even a passing reference.

But surpassing everything else is its work of handling 600 trains that come in and go out every day. To get a faithful picture of that task, one must take a few notes to begin with.

The two-story railroad—for that is what it amounts to—in the terminal is entirely below the street level. The second story tracks are 34 feet below the street level and the lower story tracks 55 feet.

On the upper level there are 41 tracks




Page 400—A Modern Interlocking Signal Tower
The Men Who Control a Modern Classification Yard


and on the lower 22. In addition to these, there are 62 other tracks on the two levels used for storing engines and cars, with a big loop on the lower level, built so as to permit trains to be turned around without shifting or backing out of the station.

Under the old way of railroading, men had to set switches and signals by hand, out on the track itself. Then came the tower, with its levers enabling a man to set them at a distance, but still by hand.

But manifestly, with 238 different sets of points and crossings, 570 signals, and 1,200 train movements, on 113 tracks, every railroad day, the very latest equipment had to be installed—indeed, had to be invented to meet the situation.

And the human element had to be eliminated. One slip of the hand, one lapse of the mind, and a wreck would be almost inevitable. So mechanisms had to be devised that would make it impossible for signals and switches to conflict. Plans had to be worked out that would make it impossible for one train to get into a block occupied by another.

The result was the development of what is probably the most complete switch and signal layout in the world. Men send trains in and out of the station without seeing them.

Some distance out of the station the four tracks over which trains come to Manhattan Island spread out into ten tracks, four of them leading to the suburban level, 55 feet below the street, in the station, and the other six to the through-train level. Here an interlocking tower controls the ten tracks. Three-quarters of a mile nearer the station, the four lower-level tracks spread out into 22 and the six upper into 41.

Here, under 49th Street, is located the largest interlocking plant in the world. The machine controlling the suburban-level tracks has 400 levers. That on the floor above has 376.

The director of these tracks has a long case before him, covered with frosted glass, on which is outlined the entire track and switch layout of the territory under his command. It is drawn to scale, and little lights at their appropriate positions tell the director the condition of each track, whether occupied or vacant.

Whenever a train passes over a switch, its lights go out and do not shine again until the wheels have passed over the next switch ahead and have extinguished its lights in their turn.

There are many levermen whose duty it is to manipulate the 400 levers that operate the switches and signals, as the director calls out the tracks he wants the trains to take.

These men see neither the tracks nor the trains on them, and possess no picture of the track transformation their operations result in. To put the average train onto its appropriate track in the station requires the manipulation of twenty-odd levers, each in its own particular order in the sequence, while some of the more complex berthings may take sixty-odd lever movements.

But so deft does practice make these men's brains that they never hesitate. They manipulate the levers as precisely as a professional pianist touches the keys of his instrument.

But even if the lever man were to try to move any lever of the combination out of its proper order, he could get no response from it, for it is so locked that it cannot be moved out of its sequence or wrongly.

Imagine a piano whose keys could be so interlocked that each note of each piece had to be played in its proper order!

The electric lights on the frosted glass chart are interlocked and arranged in such a way that the trains passing over switches automatically duplicate the track situation for the director.


Let us watch a train coming into Grand Central Station from New Haven.

When it passes Mott Haven junction the director of the big interlocking station at 49th Street gets a message telling him what kind of a train it is, how many cars, etc., and the time it passed the junction.

When the train reaches 72d Street it automatically closes a circuit that turns on an electric light in the director's cabin at 49th Street, advising him that it is ready to be a "guest in his house." He thereupon looks at his frosted glass diagram, determines what track is available, and calls out his orders to the levermen.

As soon as this is determined the fact is written on a telautograph, which duplicates


the in formation to the bulletin-board and other points around the station, advising the 200 or more porters, baggagemen, and others on what track and at what minute the train will stop.

Among loud-speaking telephones, telegraph instruments, and electric lights, the interlocking station director is a commanding general who is in constant touch with every sector held by his forces.

All the switches and signals must be set positively before the leverman at the "pianobox," as the mechanism is known, can lock the switches.

At the Grand Central Station trains leave on schedule time. No wait is made for belated passengers. The gates close and the train goes, each at a predetermined time. A red light near 45th Street signals the closing of the gates.








Train dispatching at the Pennsylvania Station differs somewhat from that at the Grand Central. Here the tower spans the tracks and the tower director sees the trains he guides in and out of the station.

It is a fascinating experience, though one conducive to high stepping, to be privileged to go down through the maze of tracks and third rails to the big tower, where the trains are guided into and out of the big station.

Here one may see the whole track layout, from the New Jersey portal of the Hudson tunnels into the station. Instead of a frosted glass diagram, as at the Grand Central Station, one finds the tracks themselves in miniature. Every switch is in its appropriate place and every signal also; and as the leverman throws the switches on the steel highway itself, the ones on the brass miniature move in harmony. Every part is built, and every motion is made, to scale.

As one stands in the big tower a signal light goes out as a big limited leaves the Hackensack Meadows and begins its plunge under the Hudson. The director of the Jersey tower reports its passage and the station-tower director gives orders to the levermen, who set the switches for the track on which the train will roll into the station.

With watch in hand one observes the course of the train through the Hudson tube. As it starts into the tube the speed increases, as is shown by the rapidity with which the miniature signal lights go out and come on again, for the tubes swing down deep under the Hudson.

Then, as the lowest point beneath the river is passed and the train begins to climb the steep grade up to the east bank, it slows down rapidly. Light after light goes out, stays out until another ahead of it is darkened, and then shines again, proclaiming the fact that the block ahead of it is clear.

Presently in rolls the big limited, right under the big tower, and several hundred people flock out of it, little thinking of the wonderful mechanism that stands guard over the maze of tracks and switches and


never fails to send each train into its appropriate berth.

With regret one leaves untouched a hundred and one phases of railroad operation that would add to the picture of the vastness of the task of moving the nation's freight and carrying its passengers, as well as of the intricacy of the details of a year's transportation business. Put the phases that have been considered are representative as well of those which must be passed by. The economics of railroad operation are beyond the scope of this article.


The history of railroad transportation in the United States is a story of amazing development. At the outbreak of the Civil War the country had less than 31,000 miles of line, of which only about 2,000 were west of the Mississippi. It was not until February 22, 1863, that the first sod was turned in the projection of the first transcontinental line, on the Pacific end at Sacramento; and not until December 2 of the same year that work began in the Mississippi Valley.

Six years later, after many vicissitudes and after 225 miles of overlapping line had been built, an agreement was reached whereby the two companies joined forces, and the golden spike which tied together the East and West was driven at Promontory, Utah (west of Corinne), on May 10, 1869.

The railroads, indeed, constitute the key that unlocked the treasure-house of American resources. The story of the nation's rise to greatness and power is an account of a succession of frontiers.

At the beginning the frontier stopped at the Blue Ridge Mountains. The turnpike and the canal finally pierced these heights and let it move on to the Alleghenies. These became an isolating influence that held the pioneers in the eastern half of the Mississippi Valley almost a separate people from those on the Atlantic seaboard until the railroad builders' faith removed these mountains, as far as the flow of commerce and communication was concerned.

In turn the Mississippi River became the frontier. What was the good of the land west of the Father of Waters if that stream remained unbridged?

Even as late as the early eighties our people thought that it was useless to build railroads through western Minnesota and the Dakotas, arguing that the region was a desert in summer and a wilderness of snow in winter; and it took Custer's campaign against the Indians to persuade the public that the Northern Pacific extension beyond the Mississippi, at St. Paul, could be kept open more than five months a year.

During the Civil War the South had much less than a third of the nation's railways. Furthermore, these linked up distant communities rather than industrial centers. Comparatively few of them were strategic, whereas the North had rail connections admirably fitted both for the movement of men and munitions and for the interchange of commodities essential to the fabrication of these munitions.

In Europe the history of railway construction has been that of roads laid down to meet the demands of traffic already there. In this country tens of thousands of miles of line have been built through virgin territory, which it was hoped would grow up to their facilities.

Linking the ore of the Minnesota mines and the coal of the Pennsylvania mountains, the farms of the Mississippi Valley with the markets of the Atlantic Slope, the trucking and fruit-growing districts of Florida and California with the consuming centers of the East and the North, the geography of railway traffic in America has been developed along lines that eliminate distance and make the whole United States one great homogeneous community, tied together by bands of common interest, as are the people of no other equal area in the world.

Far-flung as are the boundaries of the United States, it is now possible to interchange commodities between any two places within those boundaries with less transportation costs than were paid between relatively close communities a hundred years ago.

The United States has about one-sixteenth of the earth's land and an equal proportion of its population, yet it has nearly a third of the world's railway mileage. Its population is only one-fourth that of Europe, yet it has almost enough miles of line to duplicate the systems of Europe and Asia together.

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