Home  

Railroads Carry "Anything, Anytime"

Railroads are unique among transportation agencies in that they are able to handle shipments of every kind.

In their role as mass movers for the world's greatest industrial nation, they are frequently called upon to perform transportation tasks of truly herculean proportions-tasks indeed which could not be performed by any other mode of transportation.

Great generating units and transformers for power plants; huge tubings for subterranean structures; immense steam engines for manufacturing plants; great turbines for steamships; huge paper-making machines for paper mills; immense printing presses for metropolitan newspapers; steel girders for bridges and other structures; long flag poles and spars; forgings for industrial plants and dams; boilers; tanks; heavy machinery for automobile plants, for coal mines, and for refineries, foundries, machine shops and rolling mills—these are some of the many Brobdingnagian shipments that move over the American railroads.

In the picture is shown a bubble tower, or fractionating column, used in the refining of petroleum. It is 91 feet long, about 18 feet in diameter, and weighs approximately 490,000 pounds. This huge shipment, loaded on two flat cars, was hauled from Missouri to Texas in 1938. It is said to hive been the largest single unit shipment ever handled by the railroads of the United States.

The freight cars upon which the shipment was loaded were of extra heavy steel construction capable of bearing great loads. Most freight cars are equipped with eight wheels—a double truck at either end—but it will be noted that each of these cars is equipped with sixteen wheels, consisting of two double trucks at either end.

The enormous weight of the bubble tower was distributed on two pivoted bolsters, one on each car, and the tower was held firmly in place by steel cables. The pivoted bolster was necessary to allow sufficient flexibility for the cars to negotiate the curves encountered along the route. The pivotal parts were greased so as to reduce friction to the absolute minimum.

Before a shipment of this kind is sent on its journey, the railroad or railroads which handle it must make certain that it will clear all overhead structures, wires or other objects along the route. If the most direct route does not have sufficient clearances to accommodate the shipment, it is given another routing.

The tallest big-unit shipment on record was an electrical transformer standing 18 feet 10 inches above the platform of the railroad car, shipped from a manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania to a power plant near Niagara Falls, New York.

The longest big-unit shipment on record was a steel girder 156½ feet in length—about half the length of a football gridiron—shipped from a manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania to a point near New York City, for use in the construction of a highway bridge. Six flat cars were required to carry it. Its weight of 308,000 pounds was distributed on two pivoted bolsters resting on the second and fifth cars of the 6-car unit. The other four cars carried no part of the load but acted as "spacers." Two big railroad cranes were required to unload the girder and fit it into place.

Among the many unusual shipments which the railroads have been called upon to handle was the almost priceless 200-inch telescope lens shipped from Corning, New York, to Pasadena, California, for the world's largest telescope at Mt. Wilson Observatory. The slightest fracture, cracking or chipping of the lens would have ruined it and set the completion of the telescope back for years. Therefore, the lens was packed for shipment with the utmost care and was attended and guarded constantly on its 2,960-mile trip across the continent. The lens reached its destination and was delivered to the observatory in perfect condition.

This picture is taken in a large railroad yard. Note (1) the many railroad tracks; (2) box cars, in foreground behind bubble tower; (3) round-house and (4) steam locomotives, in left background; (5) oil tank, to right of Engine 1525; (6) hopper cars, this side of Engine 1525; (7) tank cars, next to hopper cars; (8) dump cars, in background above right end of bubble tower; (9) cabooses, beyond tank cars; (10) cooling station, tall structure in center background; (11) water tank, to right of cooling station.


I've Been Working on the Railroad | Contents Page

Home
Do you have any information you'd like to share on this subject? Please email me!
The Catskill Archive website and all contents, unless otherwise specified,
are 1996-2010 Timothy J. Mallery