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The Hump Office: 1942

December 1942. "Switch lists coming in by teletype to the hump office at a Chicago & North Western railroad yard, Chicago." 4x5 Kodachrome transparency by Jack Delano for the Office of War Information. View full size.

December 1942. "Switch lists coming in by teletype to the hump office at a Chicago & North Western railroad yard, Chicago." 4x5 Kodachrome transparency by Jack Delano for the Office of War Information. View full size.


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Those Initials and more

COFG = Central of Georgia (Railroad)
GCX = General Chemical (Company)
WAB - Wabash (Railroad)

The Belt (Railway Company of Chicago) gets all of its empty Railroad owned cars on the same Track 28, but the PENNA (Pennsylvania Railroad) gets its empty PA (Pennsylvania Railroad) cars on Track 10 and an empty RDG (Reading Railroad) car on Track 9.

Couple more abbr.

BELT = Beltline RR (Chicago local freight)
CBQ = Chicago Burlington & Quincy (Burlington route)

Let's dissect a switch list

The very top of the page shows the train's origin and date.

1. The left column is the position number of the car in the train followed by the car initials and number. The double letter indicates car type, i.e.XG, gondola; XM, boxcar, etc.

2. The next column lists the car destination as far as this yard is concerned. Belt would be Belt Railway of Chicago; IHB is Indiana Harbor Belt, with initials after indicating IHB's connecting destination, for instance CBQ is Burlington Route. Most of this train is being delivered to C&NW's connecting railroads in the neighborhood.

3.Third column of typed numbers is the track number the car is headed for. The hand written number shows multiple car cuts. To the right of the track numbers is any special notations or instructions. It looks like "Ride" is the big note, meaning the car should be ridden by a trainman off the hump, to slow the car to prevent damage to lading.

In this time, most humps employed "hump riders", trainmen who controlled speed of cars as they rolled into the tracks by gravity after being uncoupled in motion.

Early in my career, only the yard conductor got a nice printout like this. He would scribble out a simple switchlist for his trainmen that only listed how many cars to which track number. The conductor was the only one who had car numbers to work with; if he missed an extra car, or a car missing, all the work beyond that was wrong and had to be straightened out. (Most guys were careful about that.)

Hump list

The list most likely represents train 284 out of Butler Yard (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) on the Wisconsin Division, with conductor GL Stewart in charge. The 1, 2, 3...designation indicates the first car to go over the hump, the second, etc.

I find in interesting that the official reporting marks of the various railroads are not used. Regarding bigguy1960’s question: CIM represents the Chicago and Illinois Midland railroad. MP represents the Missouri Pacific railroad, often called the Mopac. EJE represents the Elgin Joliet and Eastern railroad, owned by US Steel at the time to handle their product. MDT stood for Merchants Despatch (the “e” is correct) Transportation. CNW was the Chicago and Northwestern railroad, the host railroad for the picture. The X designation in a reporting mark meant the rail equipment was owned by a company other than a railroad. Hence, UTLX refers to the Union Tank Car Company, still with us today.
The “COFG” and “GCX” have me stumped.

The two character designation to the right of the initial/number represents load or empty, and car type. X stands for empty, thus CIM 5449 is an empty “gon,” or gondola. Lines three and four are empty hoppers. Lines 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, 22 and 23 are loads, with a brief description of the lading.

The next block of information indicates which railroad in Chicago the car goes to. The line one through six block will go to the BRC, the Belt Railroad of Chicago. The handwritten twos and sixes are for the pin puller on the hump. He will see a block of six cars and pull the pin “behind six,” instead of scrutinizing each car reporting mark and number.

The two digit number to the right of the off going line represents the cars weight, critically important to the retarder operator. A couple of the cars show “10” tons, and I’m assuming they are wooden sided gons, which would account for their very light relative weight.

Railroad Abbreviations

CIM = Chicago, Illinois, and Midland
MP = Missouri Pacific
EJE = Elgin, Joliet, and Eastern
COFG = Central of Georgia
GCX = General Chemical
UTLX = Union Tank Car Co.
CNW = Chicago & Northwestern
MDT = Merchants Despatch Transportation

Full disclosure: Other than CNW, I had to rely on the magic of the interwebs.

The List - Railroad Abbreviations?

I can figure out some of the abbreviations in the left column as railroads: SFE = Santa Fe, RDG = Reading, PA = Pennsylvania, NYC = New York Central, RI = Rock Island, MIL = Milwaukee Road. Maybe someone out there can figure out the others: CIM, MP, EJE, COFG, GCX, UTLX, CNW, MDT. I also think the ones in the center column are abbreviations (BELT, PENNA, IHB, IHLOC, CBQ), but of railroads or cities?

Could it be?

General MacArthur above the pictured man's head?

[Good catch! Time magazine, December 29, 1941. -tterrace]

20 Years Later 1962, a similarly attired C+O clerk, leaning back in a swivel chair, feet up on the console of the Univac 1 at Case Tech, watching the neon lights blink and the metal tapes spin.

C+O's corporate offices were in the Terminal Tower, and a clerk came out to Case every day to run accounting jobs. This was the only use the Univac 1 got at the time, with the Burroughs 220 and the new Univac 1107 taking over student class load.

My phone has more computing power than all of them put together.

The List

Click to enlarge.

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