Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Stock car (rail)
In railroad terminology, a stock car is a type of rolling stock that is designed for carrying livestock. Stock cars are designed to carry the livestock while they are still alive, rather than after slaughtering. Generally, a stock car resembles a boxcar with slats missing in the car's side panels for ventilation; stock cars can be single level for large animals such as cattle or horses or they can have two or three levels for smaller animals such as sheep and pigs. Specialized types of stock cars have been built to haul live fish and shellfish and circus animals such as camels and elephants. Until 1880, when the Mather Stock Car Company introduced a more humane stock car, loss rates could be quite high as the animals were hauled over long distances. Improved technology and faster shipping times have greatly reduced shipment losses.
Initial use and development
Stock cars have been in use on railroads almost since railroads were first built.
Hauling livestock by rail became much more humane when the Mather Stock Car Company introduced their new stock car in 1880. Mather's designs were the first to include amenities for feeding and watering the livestock while enroute. Alonzo C. Mather, who designed the new cars and founded Mather Stock Car Company, was awarded a medal in 1883 by the American Humane Society for the humane treatment afforded to animals in his stock cars.
In the 1870s the railroads of America were called upon to transport a new commodity: live fish. The fish were transported from hatcheries in the Midwest to locations along the Pacific coast to stock the rivers and lakes for sportfishing. The first such trip was made in 1874 when Dr. Livingston Stone of the US Fish Commission (which later became the United States Fish and Wildlife Service) "chaperoned" a shipment of 35,000 shad fry to stock the Sacramento River in California. The fish were carried in open milk cans stowed within a conventional passenger car. Dr. Stone was required to change the water in the cans every two hours when fresh water was available. The majority of the fish made the trip successfully and the result was a new species of shad for western fishermen.
The technologies involved in hauling live fish improved through the 1880s as new fish cars were built with icing capabilities to keep the water cool, and aerators to reduce the need to change the water so frequently. Some of the aerators were designed to take air from the train's steam or air lines, but these systems were soon deprecated as they held the potential of reducing the train's safe transit; the air lines on a train were used in later years to power the brakes on individual railroad cars.
Fish cars were built to passenger train standards so they could travel at higher speeds than the typical freight trains of the day. Also, by putting fish cars into passenger trains, the cars were held at terminals far less than if they were hauled in freight trains. Fish car service, throughout their use, required that the fish keepers ride along with the cargo; a typical fish car crew consisted of five men, including a "captain" who would coordinate the transportation and delivery, several "messengers" who would serve as freight handlers and deliverymen, and a cook to feed the crew. The cargo's need for speedy transportation and passenger amenities for the crew necessitated the cars' transport in passenger trains.
Fish car operations typically lasted only from April through November of each year, with the cars held for service over the winter months. The cars became a bit of a novelty among the public and they were exhibited at the 1885 New Orleans Exhibition , the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. As fish cars became more widely used by hatcheries, they were also used to transport regional species to non-native locations. For example, a fish car would be used to transport lobster from Massachusetts to San Francisco, California, or to transport dungeness crab back from San Francisco to the Chesapeake Bay.
The first all-steel fish car was built in 1916. Fish car technology improved again in the 1920s as the milk cans that had been used were replaced by newer tanks. The new tanks were about 5 pounds (2.3 kg) lighter than the milk cans and they included integrated containers for ice and aeration fittings. One 81 foot (26.7 metre) long car, built in 1929, included its own electrical generator and had enough capacity to carry 500,000 young fish up to 1 inch (2.54 cm) long. Fish car use declined in the 1930s as fish transportation shifted to speedier means of transport by air. The US government operated only three fish cars in 1940 with the last of this fleet taken out of service in 1947.
Many circuses, especially those in the United States in the latter 19th and early 20th centuries, featured animals in their performances. Since the primary method of transportation for circuses was by rail, stock cars were employed to carry the animals to the show locations.
The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, which still travels America by rail, uses stock cars to haul their animals. When a Ringling Brothers train is made up, these stock cars are placed directly behind the train's locomotives at the front of the train to give the animals a smoother ride. The cars that Ringling Brothers uses to haul the elephants are custom built with extra amenities for the animals including: fresh water and food supply storage, heaters, roof-mounted fans and water misting systems for climate control, treated, non-slip flooring for safety and easy cleaning, floor drains that operate whether the train is moving or not, backup generators for when the cars are uncoupled from the locomotives, and specially-designed ramps for easy and safe loading and unloading. Some of their stock cars even have built-in accommodations for animal handlers so they can ride and tend to the animals at all hours.
The Union Pacific Railroad, in an effort to earn more business hauling pigs into Los Angeles, California, converted a large number of boxcars into stock cars. The conversions were done by removing the box cars' side panels and replacing them with panels that included vents that could be opened or closed. Strings of 5-10 of these cars were hauled at the rear of conventional freight trains in the area.
- Dieffenbacher, Jane (2002), Mather Family of Fairfield, NY. Retrieved March 24 2005.
- Railroad History Timeline 1880. Retrieved March 23 2005.
- Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Circus Train Facts. Retrieved March 23 2005.
- U.S. Government Printing Office (1979), The Fish Car Era of the National Fish Hatchery System. Retrieved March 28 2005.
- Capsule History: Rutland Stock Cars - how the stock car was developed, improved and used by one railroad in New England.
- Sacramento History Online - Transportation/Agriculture - photos of livestock transportation subjects in northern California in the early part of the 20th century.
- Union Pacific #43009 - photo of a 3-level stock car built for Union Pacific Railroad in 1964 and a short history of the pig hauling service to Los Angeles.
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