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Livestock Operations on Model Railroads

with an emphasis on the ATSF

January 25, 2012

Feeding Stations

Main lines would also have feeding stations provided at regular intervals. Federal law passed in 1906 stated that stock could be in cars no longer than 28 hours at a stretch. Before that time expired, they must be removed for at least 5 hours of rest and feeding. A shipper could provide written authorization the railroad to keep the cattle on the train up to 36 hours. This became the norm for most movements after that time.

Both the 28 hour and 36 hour limits could be extended in cases of weather that might prevent unloading, an unforeseen accident, or other "unavoidable causes." Shipments of sheep were allowed to proceed in transit or remain confined on site for a period of time up to 36 hours (without signed permission) should they arrive for unloading in darkness.

There has been much discussion on the internet concerning hog traffic. Some report that they were subject to the same 28/36 hours laws. Others have told of their experiences where they could be kept in cars as long as provisions were made to flush or drench them with water at regular intervals. The 1906 law makes no such provision. I do have stock records from San Bernardino of three Armour stock cars of hogs which were not unloaded, but the hogs were fed and watered in the car, Jan. 1943. These all arrived after dark.

At Wellington there were a pair of hog watering stands at each end of the yard. These watering poles were set up on the 2 freight leads and operated by car men as the trains left with hogs. They were simply poles with holes in them that sprayed the cars as they passed. Such watering poles were common. Photos appear in Pamphlet No. 19, Association of American Railroads, Methods for Loading and Handling Live Stock, Revised January, 1942, provided by John Moore.

A Santa Fe Pamphlet, 1945, stated, "Water should never be applied to the heads or back of hot hogs. Many hogs have been instantly killed by having water sprayed over them while hot. When necessary to cool hogs in transit, water should be allowed to run on the floor of the car... The car floor should be drenched before, or immediately after hogs are loaded at origin and at every opportunity in transit... Upon arrival at terminal, the floor should be drenched at once, and the car not allowed to stand around. If unavoidably delayed at terminal, floor should be drenched at once and car not allowed to stand around. If unavoidably delayed at terminal, car should be set to a track where there is ample circulation of air, and in no case be allowed to stand between strings of cars on adjacent tracks."

Santa Fe had feeding stations at 69 locations on the system: Richmond, Riverbank, Calwa, Bakersfield, Barstow, Needles, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles, CA; Seligman, Ash Fork, Winslow, Holbrook, Prescott, and Phoenix, AZ; Gallup, Belen, Abajo, Vaughn, Raton, and Clovis, NM; Amarillo, Plainview, Lubbock, Slayton, Sweetwater, Hamlin, Brownwood, Tampa, San Angelo, Ft. Stockton, Alpine, Whiteland, Gainesville, Dallas, Paris, Cleburne, Temple, Cameron, Milano, Somerville, Belleville, Sealy, Rosenburg, Alvin, Galveston, Conroe, Cleveland, San Augustine, Silsbee, and Beaumont, TX; Boise City, Waynoka, Alva, Fairfield, Altus, Purcell, Pauls Valley, Ardmore, Shawnee, and Arkansas City, OK; La Junta, CO; Dodge City, Belvidere, Sawyer, Wellington, Morris, and Emporia, KS; Ft. Madison, IA, and Chicago, IL.

For those in Texas, the Amarillo feeding station might be of interest. It had a capacity of 823 cars with 467 pens with feed racks and water, single and double deck chutes, 18 covered pens with a capacity of 39 cars, 12 pens with cement floors, electric lights, 24 hour service, and 5 scales. This means as many as 40,000 cows could be rested in Amarillo at one time.

Emporia, KS, was the most modern feeding station on the Santa Fe. The cattle section had a capacity of 175 cars (7000 head). There were 66 pens, concrete floors and alleys, water troughs, hydrants, feed grain bunks in each pen, 25 chutes and 25 pockets to load and unload simultaneously with 3 tracks on each side the facility. There was a 20 ton scale, flood lighting, two hay barns with a capacity of 1000 tons, and a branding chute.

The sheep yard at Emporia had a capacity of 147 double deck or 294 single deck cars (45,000 sheep). It had 79 pens and 3 barns with water troughs, hydrants, self feeders and salt boxes in each pen, double deck chutes, 29 double deck pockets, 10-man electric sheep shearing plant, 70 ton wool storage, 400 tone alfalfa storage, 57,750 bushel grain elevator, electric grain grinder and feed mixer, concrete alleys and a 20 ton scale. When photographer Jack Delano visited in March, 1943, he reported 40,000 sheep in residence.

Emporia was about 4 hours from the next feeding station east at Morris, just west of the Argentine yards. Trains arriving in Emporia would need to see if the 36/28 hour law would allow them to continue on or if the cars needed to be set out in Emporia for resting and feeding. Other concerns might cause a car to be unloaded even though it's time was not about to expire.

Emporia was a division point. In steam days, locomotives would be removed for servicing and new power added for the trip to Kansas City. Some locos were assigned to a division, so this being the end of two divisions, many engines would be serviced and turned to remain in their assigned service area. Before the days of pool waycars (cabooses) - 1962, waycars would be changed as crews changed. An east bound freight would stop, and yard crews would change power and waycars and remove any stock needing rest in addition to any normal switching.

Removed stock cars would be transferred to the feeding station, the stock unloaded and careful note made of any damaged stock. The cars would be moved to another track for cleanout and bedding change. Foreign road cars would be put back in the main yard for return to their home roads and Santa Fe cars brought in and bedded to continue the journey. After a minimum of 5 hours of rest, the stock would be loaded into clean cars, usually the ones they arrived in if home road, and sent on their way. Some stock might remain in the feeding station longer depending on the train schedules and owner's requirements.

In the accompanying analysis of stock movements at Purcel, OK, 82 of the 230 loads examined arrived in foreign road cars. 51 of those were transferred to ATSF cars and the foreign cars sent home. However, another analysis of San Bernardino movements showed no transfers at all. These cars were going to the LA area, and it was probably not considered feasable to reload them for such a short trip.

Not all cars would continue to Kansas City. Some would be routed northeast through Topeka to St. Joseph, MO. Others might be destined for the feeding areas on the Howard or Alma braches or other close environs. It would be rare for a loaded stock car to spend much time in a yard. The Howard Branch had one local a day each direction before the early 50s. Then it had a turn originating from Moline, therefore stock headed down the branch from Emporia only could travel 3 days a week. If a few cars of stock arrived for the Howard, either an extra would run to get them immediately to their destination, or they would be rested and watered until the next local south (west by RR terminology) was scheduled to run.

The feeding station at Emporia would require several other rail shipments. There was a large grain elevator and two big hay barns for feed storage. Bedding also would require large quantities of sand. Waste products from the livestock would need to be removed for disposal elsewhere.

Based on Purcell, OK, records, a single deck stock car of sheep was allotted 2 bales of hay during a rest stop; a double deck received 4 bales. Calves and steers received a bale for every 10 head, which worked out to 6 bales for a car of calves and only 3 bales for a care of steers. Those that stayed 24 hours consumed double these amounts. Cattle generally received prairie hay, while sheep received alfalfa.

If the standard bale of hay is 4'x18"x18", a 40' box car would hold around 270 bales. A 50' car would hold 360. Assuming the 40' car would be the standard in hay service until the late 50s, one car load of hay would service 135 single deck or 68 double deck cars of sheep at a feeding station. If they stayed 24 hours, hay consumption would double. Cows would consume one third more per car than single deck sheep cars, therefore one box car of hay would feed 90 stock cars for resting or 45 cars for 24 hour service.

See my Emporia page for photos and maps of the Emporia feeding station.

Continue for An Analysis of Stock Movements at Purcell, OK, Feeding Station, 1939.

An Analysis of Stock Movement at San Bernardino in January, 1943 is also available.


Compiled by J. Stephen Sandifer

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