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Tank Cars
Wooden Tank Cars
The Densmore–Roudebush Team
The Game
Metal Tank Cars
Early Failed Attempts
Evolution of the RR Tank Car
Special Cars
Builders and Car Shops
Counting Cars
Tank Cars - Bibliography

The Game

In those days, an improved flat car could hold 60 wooden barrels closely placed on end in one layer, and that was the basic formula used initially by the railroads to calculate the freight rate for each tank car. The Densmore tank cars, however, held 80 barrels minimum in the two wooden tanks so the shippers were actually getting free ride for 20 barrels. These high jinks prevailed over enough time so that thousands of barrels worth of oil made it to Roudebush in New York riding on top, as it were, of the paid freight. Finally H.F. Sweetzer, Superintendent of the Oil Creek Railroad, figured out that the tightly covered tanks held 42 to 45 barrels each which was pretty close. The game was over.

This particular game may have set a precedent in fiddling with the rates applied to the bulk transportation of oil in those unmonitored and unregulated days. The railroads played their own games as soon as opportunity arose while the bigger shippers won price cuts or rebates on their side. In those times tinkering with rates was a part of the shipping game from the day the first oil tank car rolled down the tracks with serious cargo, 1865.

© 2004, Samuel T. Pees
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