February 10, 2009

Daily Delivery of Cars in Early 1863 at Aquia

I found some very interesting data in "Railroad Generalship: Foundations of Civil War Strategy" by Dr. Christopher R. Gabel. He tabulates daily tonnage deliveries on the Aquia-Falmouth Line in early 1863, the time period I am modeling. I converted the data into number of cars per day assuming each car carries 10 tons. Forage for horses, mules and oxen was clearly the largest tonnage component. Interestingly, ammunition was the smallest.

This is excellent data to use in structuring operating schemes for the model railroad. Haupt reports that the average train length was 16 cars. Since my layout uses 12 car trains, I need to scale the scope of my operations by 12/16 or three quarters. Even scaling back, this is probably too much operation for one operating session.

I also learned that the Army instituted a railroad speed limit on the Aquia-Falmouth Line of no more than walking speed. I assume that was 5 miles per hour. They also placed a speed limit on horseback riding. The message that enacted these limits did not address why, but I think it was to reduce accidents while in camp. The implication is that it should take 11 minutes to go the half scale mile of my main line. With stops and switching, a typical run should take about 30 -40 minutes. This seems just about right for a fun model railroad job.


  1. I love the presentation of that chart.. makes me think of railroad tycoon, "civil war edition".

    What would forage be? Is that basically stuff looted from surrounding area, thrown on a box car, and shipped out to the camps?


  2. Chris,

    Forage is animal feed - primarily hay, altough oats or barely may also be found (in much smaller quantities).
    The number of horses and mules a Civil War army had to feed every day was staggering and the local grasses, etc . . . didn't offer enough grazing land.

    I'm not sure but would guess the Commissary Stores were "people food" and the "QM Stores" were "supplies" - uniforms, tents, and the like.


  3. The Army Quartermaster is in charge of all classes of supply. The data for this chart used these categories, so I used them too. I agree with Marty's definitions, they sound about right.