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Livestock Operations on Model Railroads

with an emphasis on the ATSF

December 22, 2007

Railroad Specific Importance

A modeler wishing to incorporate livestock operations into their layout had best research their era and location as it was far from uniform. The Santa Fe in 1948 was the largest rail carrier of livestock in the US. They moved over 100,000 carloads of cattle, sheep, goats, hogs, horses, and mules that year. Chicago was home to the nations largest stockyard with other substantial ones in Los Angeles, Kansas City, Fort Worth, Denver, Wichita, St. Joseph, and Oklahoma City - all Santa Fe cities. The second largest stockyard in the country was in East St. Louis, IL, which was interchanged from Kansas City via Missouri Pacific.

Different railroads show considerable variation in the make-up of their car fleets. The following chart shows the percentage make-up of the car fleets of some major roads in 1950. This comparison does not consider private owner cars.

Stock 75111
Box 475432243
Gondola 11815318
Hopper 725488919
Cov. Hopper52214
Tank 3----
Rack 1-1213

In 1950, 66 railroads owned a total of 54,555 stock cars. The largest was the Santa Fe with 13% of the national fleet. Only 3 roads east of the fleet Mississippi: PRR, NYC, and B&O, had 1000 stock cars or more. 18 railroads had 80% of the stock cars.

Leading Stock car owners

ATSF - 7461
UP - 4386
CB&Q - 3753
MILW - 3690
CP - 3346
CNW - 3147
SP/T&NO - 3040
CN - 3037
PRR - 2315
GN - 2045
NP - 1715
NYC - 1675
RI - 1207
B&O - 1192
IC - 1100

In 1955, stock car movements amounted to only 1.2% of the total national freight movements. But nearly 25% of all stock movements nationally were on the Santa Fe.

Stock movements were normally from the country to the city, from all direction to the northeast. Stock movements on the Santa Fe were primarily in the easterly direction. The major exception were the packing plants around Los Angeles. There was a large area of packing plants in Vernon, Calif. just south of L.A.and in the Cudahy area of LA, near Hobart yard. In the analysis of stock movements through San Bernardino in January, 1943, 37% came from Texas.

Chicago was the meat packing capital of the US. The railroad stockyards were established there in 1866. By 1900, the most common pattern was for stock to be raised on rangeland for up to 2 years. When the range started to dry up seasonally, they would be shipped by rail to stockyards at various locations to be fattened for 3-6 months. The fattened stock was then shipped by rail to public markets.

Winter grazing was a source of reverse moves for stock. Some ranchers from the colder climates would ship their livestock south for the winter. The D&RGW and RGS narrow gauges both did heavy traffic in moving livestock from summer to winter pasture and back.

Many loads of livestock were riders, i.e. the stock had not been sold when they were loaded. In such a case, the shipper might choose a roundabout route in hopes of securing a buyer while in transit. They might therefore start their journey going to one destination, only to be pulled and shipped elsewhere in route.

Clarification: Is it livestock or live stock, stockyards or stock yards, stockcars or stock cars?

  • The Santa Fe was not consistent. Form 1846 is called a Livestock Freight Waybill. However the block on the back of the form twice refers to live stock.
  • Form 2232 is the consent to confine live stock for 36 hours, and the term live stock is repeated in the body of the consent form.
  • In 1940 the Santa Fe published a book entitled "Meat." In the same paragraph it talks of live stock being nurtured on the plains and farms and individuals who buy livestock. The booklet does use livestock most of the time.
  • The Santa Fe Instructions for Trainmen system circular 33-S (1943) has a section on live stock express shipments and uses live stock throughout and in conjunction with live animals, live birds, live poultry, live pigeons and live fish.
  • In 1946, the Santa Fe published a booklet for its employees in an attempt to reduce loses through damaged or dead stock. The cover letter is from the General Live Stock Agent and the booklet uniformly refers to live stock and stock yards.
  • The Santa Fe Official list of Officers, Stations, Agents, etc. No. 52, 1945, has a list of stock yards.
  • Santa Fe form 822 Standard contains a "Stock Yard Foreman's Record."
  • A 1953 booklet in my possession which tells the history of the Chicago Union Stock Yards and calls it the "World's greatest livestock market." Inside the text talks of "tavern stockyards." A photo is identified as the "International Live Stock Exposition and Horse Show." Another is identified as "Chicago Stock Yards by Night." It also describes the "Stock Yard Inn" as "associated with America's live stock industry."
  • The Wabash contract in my possession is a Live Stock contract and talk of "Ordinary Live Stock" and "Other Than Ordinary Live Stock," the distinction being meat stock versus racing or show stock.

The Official Railway Equipment Register refers to the class of car that carries "stock on the hoof" as "Stock Cars."

So, "livestock" or "live stock," "stockyard" or "stock yard," you take your pick, and feel free to use both in the same document - the industry did. The ORER seems to have settled the mode of transport at in "stock cars."


Livestock Cars

Compiled by J. Stephen Sandifer

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