December 20, 2014

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Haupt's Car Float

An empty ferry off Aquia Landing. Box cars can be seen on the wharf, but the loading ramp is not visible.

Joel Salmons recently alerted to the some fascinating information regarding a letter about the USMRR Alexandria-Aquia car float operation that was posted to the National Archives Blog. Here is a link that includes all four pages of the letter 

The NARA blog post discusses a letter from Herman Haupt to Quartermaster Meigs. It is what we in the defense industry today would call a "cost-benefit analysis" of car ferry operations at Alexandria to Aquia. He analyzes how operating a car ferry could save money for the Union treasury. There is lots of good data in the letter.

I thought it interesting that Haupt says that even with a single loading track they can load or unload the ferry in a half hour. That seems very quick to me. I suspect it actually took longer than that, and that is why the added the extra two ramps at Alexandria. There are several photos showing the triple ramps at Alexandria. There must have been a comparable set of ramps at Aquia. Unfortunately, I can find no photos showing those ramps at Aquia.

Although Haupt proposes using  the ferries to haul all supplies, they never did completely convert to only using car ferries. Ships continued to bring a lot of supplies direct to the wharves.

The NARA has copies of the USMRR Report of Operations at Alexandria Railroad Wharf. While I did get some data from that document, my review is not complete. I did note that in most days in April they shipped one ferry a day,  but on May 1st, three car ferries departed Alexandria. I need to revisit that document and completely tabulate the car ferry operation. Also this log shows that the USMRR shipped barges  from Alexandria to Georgetown, Norfolk and even North Carolina.

From a model railroad perspective, having both car ferries and warehouses to serve with direct-from-ship  (break bulk) cargo will make the switching at Aquia more interesting. But it is fun to think that the USMRR Aquia Line could be considered the first use of containerized shipping ever. Chalk up another great idea to Herman Haupt.

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