N.P. Ry.

Tell Tale Extra

The USRA Era, 1922-1924, Part V


US average tons handled per loaded car: 24.31
US average tons per train: 611
[Daggett, pp. 668-69, via Annual Report, 1924, ICC, pp. 105-06]

US railroad employment: 1,626,834
US railroad compensation: $2,640,817,005
US average compensation per hour: .613
US average compensation per employee: $1,623
(Includes General and Divisional Officers)
[Daggett, p. 660, via Annual Report on the Statistics of Railways in the United States, ICC, 1922, p. xxi]


December 31
Estimated cost of the USRA is set at $1,123,500,000.00. [Daggett, p. 650]

Most traffic was eastbound, to Middle Atlantic States and New England; German submarine campaign slowed and destroyed shipping; Foreign merchant fleets recalled; US merchant fleet nearly nonexistent; Coastal shipping affected; Operating revenues decline ten percent between 1920-21; Railroad employment is cut 15 percent in 1921; Wage reductions averaging 12 percent become effective July 1, 1921; Operating ration declines from 94 to 82 in 1921, and average under 75 for the remainder of the decade. [Stover, p. 197]

''The Fuel Administrator for New England state that removing coal-carrying vessels from coastwise service was equivalent to pulling up a four track railroad in his section. This movement as compared with rail and ocean, doubled the number of car days.'' [Loree, p. 284]

The total cost of coal and locomotive fuel nearly doubled between 1916 and 1918, although the total freight movement in the period increased by only 11 percent. [Stover, p. 192]

[Average] operating ratio is 65.6 in 1916, 70.4 in 1917, 81.5 in 1916, 85.5 in 1919, and 94.3 in 1920. [Stover, p. 193]

I think the points made, that the USRA was effective as a war-time expedient, but not especially desirable for the railroad's owners, are well supported by the evidence shown. The dispute between J. Krutschnitt and the USRA freight car design committee underscores the problems involved in such an undertaking. Krutschnitt's arguments may well be true--but these sort of disagreements over design were long-standing. One of the problems with standardizing safety equipment (grab-irons, end ladders etc.) in the 19th century was the disagreement between railroad companies and car-builders dragged on until it was resolved by the Safety Appliance Act of 1910.
Public calls for nationalization before 1915 seem to have been declining as the Populists disappeared, and the more radical elements (socialists, anarchists) came to be viewed by an increasing number of Americans as dangerous subversives. However, we should note that in much of the world, World War I was a watershed, with France and Great Britain moving toward national ownership of railroads. In Britain, the war-time expedients were followed by grouping the railways of the UK into four operating groups. A similar proposal in the US did not come to pass--but proposals to group the railroads of the US into a smaller number of large systems was considered--as we have seen on this list. Private ownership of the US railroads managed to perform efficiently during World War II, and after the war, the railroads rushed to dieselize and modernize. In Britain the war-time government under Churchill was swiftly voted out, and a left-leaning government was voted in--and promptly proceeded to nationalize the four grouped railways into British Railways. British Rail's experiences are probably best left to one of our UK members, but let me conclude by pointing out that fifty years later, privatization, rather than nationalization seems to be the trend.
Is the United States better off with four (or two) large, genuinely transcontinental railroads instead of one (the USRA?) Probably too soon to say. But, much of the increased productivity gained under the Staggers Act is probably attributable to changing the work rules on the US railroads to fit the present technology more closely than that of the 1915 period. My final conclusion--the USRA was an effective war-time expedient, but not any great savings to the nation's tax-payers. The USRA locomotive designs were a success, the freight cars may have been less so, though I suspect that given the conservative nature of most railroad design engineers, over-design was likely. An interesting, and often overlooked subject!
-Charles Mutschler, 30 Jun 1997, The Railroad List, RAILROAD@CUNYVM.CUNY.EDU


Professor of Transportation, University of California.
Office: Berkeley, California.
Born: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, March 2, 1881.
Son of: George and Marion Chapin (Stuart) Daggett.
Married: Constance Dorothea De Ronden-Pos, May 19, 1910.
Children: Carlos (Deceased), Stuart, Jr., and Marion.
Education: Harvard University (A.B. 1903, A.M. 1904, Ph.D. 1906).
Career: Instructor, Harvard University, 1906-09; Assistant Professor, University of California, 1909-14; Associate Professor, same school, 1914-17; Professor, 1917--. Dean, College of Commerce, 1920-27.
Author: ''Railroad Reorganization West of the Mississippi,'' 1908; ''Chapters on the History of the Southern Pacific,'' 1922; ''Principles of Inland Transportation,'' 1928.
Clubs and fraternities: American Economic Association; Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Unitarian. Independent politically.
Home address: 1427 Hawthorne Terrace, Berkeley, California.
p. 121

Professor or Railway Transportation, Leland Stanford University.
Office: Stanford University, California.
Born: Grinnell, Iowa, February 12, 1887.
Son of: Richard D. and Carrie (Grinnel) Jones.
Married: Amy Eleanor Jenckes, June 20, 1914 (died March 7, 1927); Mrs. Isabel Charles, June 17, 1929.
Children: Eliot, Jr.
Education: Vanderbilt University (B.A. 1906), Harvard University (M.A. 1908, Ph.D. 1913).
Career: Instructor, Harvard University, 1912, since when he has been engaged as follows: 1913-14, Instructor, University of Pennsylvania; 1914-16, Associate Professor, Iowa State University; 1916-17, Professor, University of Texas; 1917-20, Associate Professor, Stanford University; 1920--, Professor, University of Illinois; Summers, 1920, 1921, 1924, Professor, University of California; Summer, 1925, Professor, University of Chicago.
Vice Chairman, Education Institutions Commission of Pacific Coast Transportation Advisory Board, 1927--; Vice President, American Economics Association, 1925; President, Pacific Coast Association of Schools of Business and Departments of Economics, 1923; National Council of National Economic league; Royal Economic Society; Examiner, Federal Trade Commission, 1917; Expert, War Industries Board, 1918.
Author of ''The Anthracite Coal Combination in the US,'' 1915; ''The Trust Problem in the US,'' 1921; ''Principles of Railway Transportation,'' 1924; ''Railroads--Cases and Selections'' with H.B. Vanderblue. 1925; and articles on railway subjects.
Methodist. Independent in politics.
Clubs and fraternities: Los Altos Golf and Country; Sigma Nu; Phi Beta Kappa.
Home address: 611 Salvatierra Street, Stanford University, California.
p. 270

President, Delaware and Hudson Co., and Chairman of Executive Committee, Kansas City Southern Railway.
Office: 32 Nassau Street, New York.
Born: Fulton City, Illinois, August 23, 1858.
Son of: William Mulford and Sarah Bigelow (Marsh).
Married: Jessie Taber, January 29, 1885.
Children: James Taber, Robert Fresnel, and Mrs. David M. Collins.
Education: Rutgers University, (B.S. 1877; M.S. 1880; C.E. 1896; LL.D. 1917).
Entered railway service: 1887 as assistant in engineer corps, PRR, serving in this capacity until 1879. His subsequent career has been as follows: 1897-81, transitman, US Army Corps of Engineers; 1881-83, leveler, transitman, and topographer on preliminary survey and location, Mexican National Ry.; 1883-84, Assistant Engineer, Chicago Division, PRR Lines West of Pittsburgh; 1184-89, Engineer, maintenance of way, on various divisions, same lines; 1889-96, Division Superintendent, same lines; 1896-1901, General Manager, same lines; 1901, Fourth Vice President, same lines; 1901-04, President, Baltimore and Ohio; 1904, President, Rock Island and Chairman of the Executive Committee, same road; 1906--, Chairman of the Executive Committee, KCS; 1907--, President, Delaware and Hudson, also president and director of 35 companies controlled or affiliated with same; 1926-28, Chairman of the Board, Missouri-Kansas-Texas; Director, Erie, National Railways of Mexico, and Wheeling and Lake Erie; 1898-1901, President, American Railway Association; 1913--, Chairman, Eastern Group, Presidents' Conference Committee on Valuation.
Devised lap-passing track and improvements in train dispatching system. Supervised intensive development of PRR Lines West to handle great business following 1898 revival. Organizer of the first railroad police. Developed system of disbursement accounting later standardized by ICC. Inventor of the upper quadrant semaphore signal.
Member or Chairman of several boards cooperation with government during World War, including the War Labor Board; 1928--, President, Chamber of Commerce of State of New York; Trustee, Rutgers University and New Jersey College for Women.
Author, Railroad Freight Transportation (1922) [written while bedridden in 1920 and dedicated to PRR's A.J. Cassatt and UP's E.H. Harriman ''It was my fortune to be associated upon terms of intimacy with both these men, and to have rendered them some poor service.''].
Clubs and fraternities: Metropolitan, Century, Brook, Union League, Midday, Bankers, all of New York; Baltusrol Golf, Short Hills, New Jersey; Essex County Country, Orange, New Jersey; Rock Spring Country, West Orange, New Jersey; Automobile Club of America [also founder of the Newcomen Society in North America].
pp. 313-14.

Jones, Eliot Principles of Railway Transportation New York: Macmillan, 1929
Loree, Leonor Fresnel Railroad Freight Transportation New York: Appleton, 1922
Stover, John F. American Railroads Chicago [Ill.]: The University of Chicago Press, 1961
Who's Who in Railroading Ninth Edition Simmons Boardman: New York, 1930

For many years the Northern Pacific's Commissary Building in Seattle was decorated with a giant diorama of the road's renown baking potato. The designers of this unique advertisement included a giant fork, pat of butter, and electric-lit 'eyes' that winked at passersby.
As World War One and nationalization loomed, Northern Pacific Vice-President George Theron Slade killed the pride of the dining cars and the road's self-made moniker. The potatoes were pulled for the duration, as ''...An economic war measure.''
--Auburn, Washington Globe-Republican, May 11, 1917

E-mail Address:
Page URL:
J.A. Phillips, III
Last updated:
(C) 1997
J.A. Phillips, III
July 1, 1997
To Davison Site
To Phillips Site
To Zuhn Site