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Eastern Railroad Discussion > "Big John"

Date: 04/16/03 14:45
"Big John"
Author: Sick_Puppy

Was passing thru Charleston last Monday and saw this hopper at the east end of town. I was wondering just what is the significance of "Big John" on the side of this hopper? It looks like a shop job and not grafetti......Sick

Date: 04/16/03 14:48
Re: "Big John"
Author: bentnosewillie

It means they finally gave the crew a toilet. :^S

Reaching for the stack of _Trains_ back issues atop the toilet taknk, I remain:

Date: 04/16/03 14:58
Re: "Big John"
Author: ddavies

I think it was just a Southern RR marketing term for the large covered hoppers.

Date: 04/16/03 14:58
Re: "Big John"
Author: jch9596

Named after D. William Brosnan (1903-1985), a blunt, domineering, unforgiving professional engineer, "changed the economy of the South and led the lethargic railroad industry in adopting modern methods," said Newsweek. As Southern Railway CEO (1962-1967) he invested in the first lightweight, mostly aluminum 100-ton coal hoppers, 100-ton Big John covered grain hoppers, centralized computing, radio-controlled helper locomotives, and microwave communications. Brosnan was Railway Age\'s Railroader of the Year in 1964.

Taken verbatum from http://www.railwayage.com/dec99/century.html

I see them all the time on the L&C.


Date: 04/16/03 15:00
Re: "Big John"
Author: nsrayman

Big John = big car for carrying big loads of grain , SR developed these during the Bronson years.

Date: 04/16/03 16:17
Re: "Big John"
Author: ls

The Big John car was invented in 1960,america\'s first freight car made out of a heavy duty aluninum,and could haul 100 tons of grain.It also was the car that they used to market the bulk train rates in the 60\'s.

Date: 04/16/03 18:22
Re: "Big John"
Author: galen74

Believe it or not… but Southern pioneered the idea of unit grain trains and other unit trains of bulk commodity cargo. It caused quite a stir back then.

Galen Wright
Lynchburg, VA

Date: 04/16/03 20:59
"Big John" rate cases
Author: Ts1457

You might not believe it, but back then a railroad could not charge what they wanted to. They had to publish the proposed rates with the ICC, then the competition (other railroads, truckers, barge lines) could protest the rates. It was rare that the ICC would approve any major rate decreases. Southern Railway had to go to court to get the lower rates made possible by the efficiencies of the larger capacity Big John\'s. IIRC, the rates were not unit train rates but "multiple car" rates, with bigger rate breaks for different levels of cars shipped at one time.

Incidently, Graham Claytor made the crossover from lawyer to railroad manager by winning the Big John case for the Southern.

The cheaper grain in the Southeast, among other things, greatly encouraged the growth of the poultry industry.

I cringe whenever I hear talk of "re-regulation" after seeing in my lifetime the constraints that the railroads used to operate under.

Date: 04/16/03 23:43
Re: "Big John"
Author: CShaveRR

Back in the early 1960s there was a popular ballad-type song about "Big John", which is probably how the name itself originated.

It took quite a while before Southern actually began lettering the cars with the name, though.

Date: 04/17/03 12:03
Re: "Big John"
Author: rresor

The version of the story I heard came from John Ingram (former FRA administrator and former president of the Rock Island), who was in Southern\'s marketing department in the mid 1960s. He claimed they were named for him (and John Ingram was a *big* guy).

Southern had to justify the lower rates they offered to shippers who used the bigger cars. Ingram had a group of people with telephones spend all their time keeping the cars moving by nagging yardmasters and shippers, to generate the high utilization the ICC demanded they document in order to lower rates.

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