Cattle car operations?

Can someone help answer some questions about rail transport of livestock circa 1950? Questions include:

1) I believe RR's preferred to run solid stock trains when the volume allowed as this would ease the required 28-Hour Law stops and be more efficient for the traveling drovers. Is this correct?

2) Where would a stock train rank for priority with respect to fresh produce, refrigerated meat, mixed merchandise, minerals, etc.?

3) Did the train wait while the livestock was unloaded for en-route exercise and watering?

4) When there were too few stock cars to merit a dedicated train, where would the cars be placed in a mixed consist - near the caboose with the traveling drovers, or near the loco to facilitate switching?

5) Would a train with a few stock cars mixed with other freight also wait for the 5 hours of exercise and watering IAW the 28-Hour law, or switch out the stock cars to be picked up by a subsequent train?

6) I've seen photos of stock trains on the Rio Grande narrow gauge captioned as being part of the annual "fall stock rush" when livestock was moved out of mountain gazing lands before the winter snows. Were there similar peak periods for livestock movements on RRs like the UP and ATSF, or did livestock move to the slaughter houses more uniformly through the year?

Thanks in advance. Geezer

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First, have you googled? Try various combinations of stock car, cattle car, freight operations, etc.

Second, here are some comments based on not very systematic research I conducted some time ago.

Either solid trains, or blocks of stock cars within trains.

Same as fresh produce, but for different reasons. Stock trains were run to minimise the number of watering/rest stops (preferably to zero.) Cattle were assembled in large yards, then loaded on the stock train(s) for delivery to the slaughter houses.

No. The cars were switched to the sidings serving the layover yards. On occasion, the cattle were unloaded, watered and rested, and reloaded.

I believe that depended on where the layover yards were in relation to the arrival tracks in the switch yard.

AFAIK, the stock cars were always switched out. What happened to the rest of the train depended on whether it needed switching or not.

The high season for cattle movements was April to November, according to one source. Other livestock may have been seasonally varied, too: I couldn't find that out.

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Wolf Kirchmeir

July Model Railroader had a column (Information Desk) describing stock shipments.

Wolf's reply pretty much covers it.


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the OTHER Mike

Excellent link!! (Too bad it's from the competition - I favor the UP.) Answers all my questions, but raises some new ones - what did the RRs do with the used bedding? I don't ever recall seeing a picture of piles of fouled sand and straw around cattle pens or in freight yards. Thanks very much. Geezer

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Sorry I can't answer any of your questions. I just stumbled upon that place in a " I can't sleep and got lost on the web" moment. I was actually reading some of the same guys stuff about reefer service and saw that and remembered your post.

I asked our resident "real" engineer at the club about stock cars and shipments right after your post, but with him being a big "union" guy, what he said about animals getting better treatment then the crews could not be printed.

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the OTHER Mike


In which they printed a caption explaining that livestock was a 'low value' commodity, and the article seemed to say that it paid high rates but demanded excessive effort. Sigh. So which was it?

Cordially yours: Gerard P.

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