The real gap between the two railroad systems.

DaveBrt

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
It seems that the confederates for ideological reasons were tardy in taking the aggressive measures needed. Clearly there was a lack of manpower for building and rebuilding track which could have been remedied by the purchase of 40 or 50 thousand slaves by the war department. As for production Tredegar should have been contracted to focus on rail, engine production and Selma on heavy artillery.
Cotton and tobacco plantations had plenty of slaves that could have been purchased by forced sale at prices determined by the war department with payment via a six month bond.
Hard-headed decisions like those, and others, required a leader of iron will and strong political backing. The South had no such person.
 

atlantis

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 12, 2016

DaveBrt

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
The railroad industry illustrates why more cotton exports by the Confederate states and more purchasing power in Europe would not have made much of a difference. The railroad equipment still would have to run the blockade and be distributed in the south. By June of 1862 the US blockade was good enough to keep all the ships big enough to carry such material out of the Confederate ports.
I think you are overstating your case. Most iron rails and locomotives transported into the South by water before the war did so on small sailing ships -- usually schooners. What the South needed most was rail and repair/maintenance parts. A very large number of locomotives were out of action for most of a year each for want of tires, and these idle locomotives increased the load on the operating engines, leaving them less time for the maintenance required to operate efficiently.

Car wheels and axles would also have been very useful in allowing contractors to build cars. The army was stymied in the construction of cars in quantity for two years. Sims was finally getting the program going in later 1864, but ironwork -- mainly wheels and axles -- remained the main sticking point.

Replacement rails would have been hard to import in the quantity needed. More political will could have provided many miles of unimportant rails for the main lines, but the Navy and the powerful men would have fought such a plan even harder than they fought what was attempted.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
I think you are overstating your case. Most iron rails and locomotives transported into the South by water before the war did so on small sailing ships -- usually schooners. What the South needed most was rail and repair/maintenance parts. A very large number of locomotives were out of action for most of a year each for want of tires, and these idle locomotives increased the load on the operating engines, leaving them less time for the maintenance required to operate efficiently.

Car wheels and axles would also have been very useful in allowing contractors to build cars. The army was stymied in the construction of cars in quantity for two years. Sims was finally getting the program going in later 1864, but ironwork -- mainly wheels and axles -- remained the main sticking point.

Replacement rails would have been hard to import in the quantity needed. More political will could have provided many miles of unimportant rails for the main lines, but the Navy and the powerful men would have fought such a plan even harder than they fought what was attempted.
I disagree. The number of places in which the Confederate railroad system touched the coast was very limited. And by June of 1862 the US either occupied them or had them under close blockade. The blockade runners gradually became shallower, thinner and faster, and they were not suited to carry bulky locomotive parts. By the time the Confederates had lost the town of Pensacola, Fernandia Beach, and Norfolk, the competition for space on a vessel that could penetrate the blockade was intense.
The same was true of iron production. The competition for iron production by the states that wanted to build an ironclad was intense.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The Confederates did accomplish some new construction during the war. And they did connect the Danville road to rest of the North Carolina system.
 

DaveBrt

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
I disagree. The number of places in which the Confederate railroad system touched the coast was very limited. And by June of 1862 the US either occupied them or had them under close blockade. The blockade runners gradually became shallower, thinner and faster, and they were not suited to carry bulky locomotive parts. By the time the Confederates had lost the town of Pensacola, Fernandia Beach, and Norfolk, the competition for space on a vessel that could penetrate the blockade was intense.
The same was true of iron production. The competition for iron production by the states that wanted to build an ironclad was intense.
Except for rolling stock itself, which I agree would not have been run in, required railroad parts were not that large. Wheels, tires, axles were not large compared to the holds of ships. An axle was 5' long, a car wheel was about 4' diameter, tires were about 5' in diameter -- these things would fit in any ship that ran the blockade.

Who decided what went into each ship is a different subject, but the ships could do it.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
These numbers relate to shops listed as involved in new manufacturing, not rebuilding.
See page clxxxix
1617138186332.png

https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/1860/manufactures/1860c-05.pdf

They suggest that keeping skilled railroad or steam ship maintenance labor was difficult in both sections. Those men worked for whom and where they wanted to.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Except for rolling stock itself, which I agree would not have been run in, required railroad parts were not that large. Wheels, tires, axles were not large compared to the holds of ships. An axle was 5' long, a car wheel was about 4' diameter, tires were about 5' in diameter -- these things would fit in any ship that ran the blockade.

Who decided what went into each ship is a different subject, but the ships could do it.
True. But they are very heavy, and they are competing with rifles and ammunition for cargo space.
 

DaveBrt

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
The Confederates did accomplish some new construction during the war. And they did connect the Danville road to rest of the North Carolina system.
What new construction are you talking about? If roads, they only completed a road that was mostly complete when the war started (Selma & Meridian), the Piedmont road that you mentioned, and the Florida connection (completed in March 1865). All other road construction was minor connections in cities and towns (usually less than 2 miles long).

If you are talking about rolling stock, I have detailed that at http://csa-railroads.com/Essays/Confederate_Rolling_Stock_Production.htm and as you will see, it was very minor in number and in comparison to the need.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
My great grandfather purchased a Phillips & Shepherd steam tractor in 1914. “Old Tom” is still in the family & running. The Choo-Choo Forge, a member of our Appalachian Area Blacksmiths’s Association is on the grounds of the RR engine shop in Chattanooga. They do heavy restoration & maintenance work on steam locomotives there. My dad from boyhood worked “Old Tom” & maintained coal fired boilers all his long working life. I don’t claim hands on expertise, but have been up close & dirty many times.

Steam engines of the CW era were constructed with materials that would send a modern day inspector running for the door in panic. They used leather bearings. The cast iron was, by rule of thumb, 300% oversized to compensate for inclusions that weakened the castings. The concept of metal fatigue did not even exist as an engineering principle.

Cast iron is both brittle & soft. The puddle iron, literally a man with a long handled hoe pulling out slag & judging by eye, could have radically different characteristics depending.

Many Southern short lines ran on wooden rails with a piece of flat iron rod on top. When the president of the N&CRR loaded his family onto his private car & fled Nashville, his engineering department reported over 1,000 broken rails on the line. The letters & journals of travelers & soldiers are replete with tales of passengers dismounting & walking up grades clapped out engines could not climb. (Clapped out refers to the sound that worn out steam engines made when the rods slapped.) My personal favorites are accounts of passengers dismounting to push cars across rickety trestles one at a time.

The point is that keeping CW era RR’s operating was an intense, daily, slog. Deferred maintenance led directly to disasters. Southern RR’s simply did not have what it took to both handle wartime traffic & essential maintenance.

Exacerbating the Southern crisis was that journeymen self-liberated blacksmiths could walk into any shop & make $25 a month. That was a good wage. The word was out, & shops, plantations & iron works in Tennessee had a terrible time keeping slave blacksmiths.
 
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wausaubob

Colonel
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Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
If one starts with the understanding that the southern railroads had a much smaller number of locomotives at the start of the war one can appreciate how the towns and the most direct routes were vitally important.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
What new construction are you talking about? If roads, they only completed a road that was mostly complete when the war started (Selma & Meridian), the Piedmont road that you mentioned, and the Florida connection (completed in March 1865). All other road construction was minor connections in cities and towns (usually less than 2 miles long).

If you are talking about rolling stock, I have detailed that at http://csa-railroads.com/Essays/Confederate_Rolling_Stock_Production.htm and as you will see, it was very minor in number and in comparison to the need.
Neither section built significant new track during the war period. https://alfred.stlouisfed.org/serie...tm_term=related_resources&utm_campaign=alfred
Therefore, unless they had the telegraph system, the manpower and the vendors to run more trains on the same tracks, both sides were stuck with what they had.
Both sections had excess capacity, due to the slow down in the US economy prior to the war. But each individual railroad was built to carry its expected traffic.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Low water in the Cumberland River & the raging torrent it becomes today, March 30, 2021, kept steamboats from coming to Nashville. Capitalizing on an initiative begin before the war, Rosecrans’ ordered the completion of the Nashville & North Western RR. The line still runs 80 miles westward to Johnsonville TN State Historic Park on the Tennessee River. The only thing most folks know about the N&NWRR, Forrest’s 1864 attack, was the least important event.
 

LetUsHavePeace

Volunteer
Joined
Dec 1, 2018
Many skilled men were laid off in late 1860 as the economy ground to a halt after Lincoln's election. Many men quickly joined units in order to get an income. Later, the skilled workers who were in the army were, on the RRs' application, detailed to a RR, usually for 60 days at a time.

All of the conscription acts had provisions to exempt RR employees. The number exempted was too small, but the need and solution were understood from the start.
By "late 1860" the war economy in the North was booming in terms of employment and purchasing. Did you mean "late 1859"?
 

LetUsHavePeace

Volunteer
Joined
Dec 1, 2018
No, I am talking about the South and I mean 1860.
Thx. Could you share more about the layoffs among railroad men in the South in that period? I was under the impression that the Southern railroads were busy with troop movements and that very little cotton moved by rail.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
No, I am talking about the South and I mean 1860.
I think that is correct. The recession caused by the end of the California gold rush hit the middle 8 states too. The cotton revenue states were not impacted as severely, but the slow down in the US economy was going to have an impact there, also.
 

DaveBrt

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
Thx. Could you share more about the layoffs among railroad men in the South in that period? I was under the impression that the Southern railroads were busy with troop movements and that very little cotton moved by rail.
The slow down was because of the uncertainty of the political and therefore economic situation. Would there be a return to normal? War? Two nations with tariffs? Who would accept what money? Would cross border contracts remain valid? Etc.

There were no troops movements until February/March and they were not enough to sustain an entire railroad system.

With reduced income from reduced freight shipments, railroad Supers let men go to keep expenses down to match the reduced income.
 
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