Southern Pacific Railroad History Center


Transportation Department

The transportation department is under the direction of the assistant vice president – transportation and is a unit of the operating department.  The primary function of the transportation department is the distribution and utilization of freight cars in order that cost and service goals are met.  The officers include an assistant vice president – transportation and superintendent of car service, headquarters San Francisco.  At Houston, there is headquartered an assistant superintendent of transportation handling matters pertaining to the territory east of El Paso, including the Cotton Belt, but coordinating activities with the San Francisco office.

The car service section is staffed seven days a week and has responsibility for the overall distribution, as well as utilization, of freight cars.  During periods of peak traffic movement of such commodities as lumber and other forest products, grain, cotton, sugar beets, and other seasonal commodities, advance planning is required to obtain sufficient cars to protect loadings.  Often it is necessary to move empty freight cars of particular types and classes long distances to loading areas and this requires close attention to hold empty car mileage to a minimum. Also, during periods of the year when there are more cars available on line than are actually needed, action must be taken to have surplus foreign line cars returned to owning roads in line with Association of American Railroad (AAR) car service rules. The transportation department also provides representation for Southern Pacific System on shippers advisory boards and AAR Committees.

The transportation department maintains close liaison with other departments of the Southern Pacific System, principally with the traffic department, and connecting carriers, for the purpose of providing the best transportation service to our customers, while maximizing the utilization of our equipment and keeping costs to a minimum.

Other functions of the Transportation Department include:

  1. Handling of clearance matters pertaining to excess weight and dimension loads, and handling disposition of cars without waybills and waybills without cars.
  2. Review and recommend freight car acquisition and shopping programs.
  3. Perishable, merchandise, and manifest freight train schedules are prepared and published by the department consistent with service requirements, and these schedules are revised as necessary to remain competitive with other forms of transportation and to meet changes in shipper-receiver requirements or changes in overall operations.
  4. Provide special moves for customers, including special train service.
  5. Investigate and respond to customer complaints, collaborating with appropriate departments for necessary corrective action.
  6. Provide morning review sessions for senior officers covering train performance for the preceding twenty-four hours.
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