GM&Nís big task from the traffic standpoint was to show a
constantly increasing total for its freight tonnage.
This meant that new sources of freight must be found, not only to
replace the anticipated decline in timber tonnage, but also to show a
net increase in total freight. The
traffic department began to improve its staff of solicitors almost at
once. More people were
employed for traffic work along the line and in 1920 the road opened
off-line traffic offices in the five big shipping centers of St. Louis,
Chicago, Memphis, Detroit, and New Orleans.
Two more of these offices were opened in 1921 at Louisville,
Kentucky, and Kansas City, Missouri.
road knew that these outside offices would not produce a large increase
in business immediately, but a start had to be made toward competition
for high-class freight.
managers of the Traffic Department were forced to go outside the
existing personnel rosters of the company to find men who had the
experience, the know-how, and the contacts which a major traffic
solicitation office needed.
addition to building a full-time force of traffic men, the GM&N
worked almost as hard to build its other employees into a part-time
sales force. Everyone who
worked for the road was informed that solicitation was the key to
growth. No employee was ignored in the drive to get more traffic.
Stores which sold goods to employees found that they were asked
to route their goods over the GM&N.
Passenger train crew members were encouraged to solicit freight
from industrialists, merchants, and salesmen who might travel over the
GM&Nís lines. Employees
were given credit in the News for outstanding effort in
soliciting business for the road.
of these measures, coupled with the growth of employee morale, brought
much favorable attention to the GM&N and produced a substantial
volume of business which the road probably could have obtained in no
sales effort of the professional solicitors and the other employees
would not have been nearly so successful without the backing of an
aggressive rate section in the Traffic Department.
This group also had to be enlarged and reoriented.
The men in the rate section in the years that followed were ready
and, indeed, eager to meet the needs of potential railroad users with
rates and charges that would secure traffic for the GM&N. If the existing rates were unworkable, new rates were often
designed. One of the most
helpful rate adjustments of this type was the creation of in-transit
rates for rough lumber.
timber-hauling roads for many years had used intransit rates for hauling
logs to the mill. The
GM&N pioneered, in its area at least, with a rate which would allow
small mills to do the rough sawing and then send this material for
further processing at central points.
As the timber regions of Mississippi decreased, this maneuver
helped keep a number of large mills in operation at important collection
centers and thus keep tonnage on the rails instead of trucks.
of the aspects of GM&N solicitation which proved most helpful was a
somewhat unusual procedure. The
GM&N sought, and rather successfully, to be given complete control
of shipments which originated or terminated on its lines.
The shipper was asked not only to let the GM&N haul his
merchandise over its lines but to let the GM&N decide which road
outside of its territory should handle these shipments.
Where this control was given, the GM&N was in a position to
bargain with its northern connections.
program to control freight became a major principle in GM&N traffic
solicitation in the years after 1920.
It was developed to a high degree of perfection, and its value
was to be demonstrated most clearly in 1938 when the GM&N suddenly
stopped hauling freight into Paducah, Kentucky.
Even the Interstate Commerce Commission was impressed with the
ability of the GM&N to direct the transfer of its through freight.
order to improve its chances of getting competitive freight, the road in
May, 1922, began a fast, scheduled, through freight service.
After this date, the GM&N was in a position to promise
delivery by a specified time. These freight schedules were set to make connection with the
principal interchange lines, the two most important to the GM&N
being the Frisco at New Albany, Mississippi, and the IC at Jackson,
Tennessee. Both the NC&STL
at Jackson, Tennessee, and the Louisville and Nashville at Bells,
Tennessee, were important interchange points, but the bulk of the
GM&Nís tonnage northbound went to the IC at Jackson in this period
prior to 1926.
GM&NíS traffic solicitation program coupled with its better
service and public relations brought results.
In the period 1920-25, the GM&N increased its freight from
1,546,000 tons in 1920 to 2,522,000 tons in 1925.
This was an increase of 63 per cent in the six year period.
(See chart II). The MN&0 in the same period dropped from 7,199,000 tons
in 1920 to 6,824,000 tons in 1925.
Figures for the whole IC system are not comparable to those for
the GM&Nís operations, but the IC in 1920 hauled 49,233,000 tons
and in 1925 had increased to only 49,566,000 tons, or 100.7 per cent of
with the increases in tonnage, certain shifts in emphasis were taking
freight dropped from 84,000 tons in 1920, or 4.7 per cent of the yearly
total, to 68,000 tons in 1925, which was 2.7 per cent.
The truck apparently was making its competition felt even in this
changes in the major classes of traffic were quite noticeable.
During the six-year period, forest products declined as a
percentage of the total from 63.1 per cent in 1920 to 57 per cent in
1925. At the same time,
forest-product tonnage had increased from a total of 975,000 tons in
1920 to 1,448,000 tons in 1925. Agricultural
products in 1920 provided 125,000 tons, which constituted 8.1 per cent
of the total. In 1925,
agricultural products had increased to 300,000 tons and made up 11.9 per
cent of the total tonnage. Products
of animals, 12,000 tons in 1920, dropped to 9,000 in 1925, and the per
cent of total dropped from 0.8 to 0.4.
Manufactures showed both a positive tonnage and a percentage
increase. In 1920, 166,000
tons were classed as manufacturing or miscellaneous, which was 10.7 per
cent of total tons hauled. In
1925 the figures stood at 456,000 tons, or 18.1 per cent of the total.
evidences of the changing pattern of traffic tonnage were also apparent
in the 1920-25 period. In
1920 the GM&N originated 71 per cent of all its freight.
In 1925 it originated only 61 per cent, which indicates that much
of the added business was coming from interchange connections.
Another index of change is the fact that average haul for 1920
was 140 miles, but by 1924 it had increased to 174 miles.
This average slumped in 1925 to 166, but it went back to 173 in
1926 and kept climbing until traffic conditions changed in 1932, with
the inclusion of New Orleans Great Northern mileage in the totals.
pattern of freight traffic changed sharply with the changes of lines
which took place in 1926-27. Originated
business dropped steadily: 58 per cent in 1926; 55 per cent in 1927; and
by 1930, 40 per cent. This
last figure obviously was caused in part by the slump in building after
the 1929 stock-market collapse, for GM&N tonnage in 1929 was 47.5
per cent originated. Products
of forests dropped from 52.4 per cent in 1926 to 33.8 per cent in 1930.
The actual tonnage also dropped, from 1,337,00 to 932,000.
of mines and manufactures increased actually and in per cent of total in
1930 over 1926. Fortunately
for the GM&N, these two items more than offset the loss in forest
products, and total tonnage did not collapse as fast as its former
mainstay of lumber and timber however, total tonnage fell from a high of
3,242,000 tons in 1928 to the 2,759,000 figure for 1930 and was to touch
a much lower figure in 1932 before improvement began again.
the circumstances, it is useless at this point to conjecture what would
have happened if the GM&N had not made its connections with the
Chicago, Burlington and Quincy at Paducah and the New Orleans Great
Northern at Jackson, Mississippi, in 1926-27.
Certainly the GM&Nís forest tonnage would have declined,
but the road might somehow have held together on the traffic which would
have remained. At any rate,
the changes were made and the road continued its development program
after a lapse during the worst of the depression years.