Prologue Magazine

Riding the Rails Up Paper Mountain: Researching Railroad Records in the National Archives, Part 3

Spring 1997, Vol. 29, No. 1

By David A. Pfeiffer


Reconstruction Finance Corporation Railroad Division

Records vitally important to the study of the financial history of railroads in the twentieth century are the records of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), Railroad Division. The division was responsible for processing loan applications received from railroads and for making recommendations to the Board of Directors regarding future action. The "Records Relating to Paid, Canceled, and Withdrawn Railroad Loans, 1932-57," is the most voluminous (313 cubic feet) series of records in the division. This series consists of applications for loans submitted by railroads and their supporting documentation, mainly financial and legal documents.(24)

The loan files for the Southern Railway contain several applications for loans and extensions of loans during the 1930s and 1940s, the purchase and execution of equipment trust certificates, loan closing papers, leasing agreements, and mortgage documents. These files contain various RFC and ICC reports and memorandums including ICC finance dockets. The ICC finance dockets contain information concerning RFC loans for the purpose of purchasing new equipment for the railroad, reorganization plans, the sale of stocks and bonds, track abandonment proceedings, and acquisition of railroad property or companies. Also included is legal supporting documentation such as the Southern Railway by-laws, reports of ICC railroad accident investigations, the charter of the Virginia & Southwestern Railway, a monthly publication entitled Rails: A Financial Survey of the Southern Railway System, and various Southern Railway publications including circulars, annual reports, timetables, and financial statements. Information on Southern Railway salaries and benefits, especially of upper level management, can also be found in the files.(25)

Other Railroad Records

The National Archives and Records Administration has custody of a wide variety of records relating to the federal involvement with railroads, both foreign and domestic. The foregoing examples illustrate this variety but there are many more areas of research. Textual railroad records in the National Archives, also concern the Alaska Railroad, the Panama Railroad, railroad labor unions, railway postal service, Civil War railroads, the Railroad Retirement Board, and U.S. District Court actions relating to railroads and railroad workers. All of these simply await the next research request.

Letter head: Union Pacific Railroad Company, 1869
In its 1869 annual report, the Union Pacific Railroad Company proudly announced the connection of its rails with those of the Central Pacific Railroad Company, completing the transcontinental railway. Records of the Secretary of the Interior, RG 48, Textual Reference Division. Also at ARC, NWDT2-48-598.



Riding the Rails Up Paper Mountain, Part 1

Riding the Rails Up Paper Mountain, Part 2



1. T. Lane Moore, "Railroad Valuation Records," in Railroad History, ed. H. Roger Grant, Vol. 163, pp. 93-102. See also David A. Pfeiffer, "ICC Railroad Valuation Records," unpublished National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) brochure.

2. The best map for Camden Station and Yards is the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, Right-of-Way and Track Map, Valuation Section 17.1 Maryland, Map 1, Valuation Maps, Records of the Interstate Commerce Commission, Record Group 134, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC (hereinafter, records in the National Archives will be cited as RG ___, NA). In addition to the track maps, land maps for the station and yards area list the owners of each parcel of land adjacent to the right-of-way. These names are also listed in the land acquisition schedules. There are additional track maps for the northern part of the yard and tunnel to President's Street station in valuation section 16.1.

3. The structural notes section of the engineering field notes for Camden Station and Yards (Valuation Section 17.1 Maryland) are located in B&O volume 51 (accession 58A329, box 865), Engineering Field Notes, Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, Railroad Valuation Records, RG 134, NA.

4. The land field notes and the land acquisition schedules are located in accession 62A708, box 18, Land Field Notes, and accession 62A738, bundle 32, Land Acquisition Schedules, respectively. Both series are part of the Railroad Valuation Records, RG 134, NA.

5. The inspection reports are in accession 63A950, boxes 1-5, Railroad Valuation Records, RG 134, NA.

6. Railroad Accident Report #3931, Chicago, Rock Island, & Pacific Railroad, Beech, IA, Nov. 16, 1961, Reports of Investigations of Railroad Accidents, 1954-64, Records of the Federal Railroad Administration, RG 399, NA.

7. This information is taken from Pfeiffer, "Records Relating to Railroad Accident Reports," unpublished NARA brochure.

8. Annual Report of the Union Pacific Railroad, 1869, submitted by Oliver Ames, president, Union Pacific Railroad Company, to Secretary of the Interior J. D. Cox, Sept. 30, 1869, Railroad Package #318, Railroad Packages, 1849-1901 (entry 598), Lands and Railroads Division, Records of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior, RG 48, NA.

9. Preliminary Inventory, "Records of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior" (RG 48), Vol. 2, comp. Edward E. Hill and Renee M. Jaussaud (1980), pp. 255-257, 286.

10. Preliminary Inventory #158, Records of the Commissioner of Railroads (RG 193) comp. Marion M. Johnson (1964), p. 2. These annual reports are included in the Reports and Other Documents Relating to Aided Railroads, 1864-1904 (entry 28).

11. The first segment of these annual reports are on microfilm entitled Annual Reports by Common Carriers to the Interstate Commerce Commission, 1887-1914 (National Archives Microfilm Publication T913, 1,348 rolls), RG 134. The second segment is available on paper and is entitled Annual Reports of Common Carriers, 1915-61, RG 134, NA. Both segments are indexed.

12. Invention Patent Application File #1, Locomotive Steam Engine for Rail and Other Roads, patentee John Ruggles, issued July 28, 1836, Invention Patent Application Files, 1836-1918, Records of the Patent and Trademark Office, RG 241, NA.

13. Invention Patent Application File #138,405, Car Couplings, patentee Eli H. Janney, issued Apr. 25, 1873, Invention Patent Application Files, 1836-1918, RG 241, NA.

14. Stuart J. Little, "The Freedom Train: Citizenship and Postwar Political Culture, 1946-1949," Journal of Popular Culture 25 (Spring 1992): 35-62. There is further detailed information concerning the Freedom Train in James Gregory Bradsher, "Taking America's Heritage to the People: The Freedom Train Story," Prologue: Journal of the National Archives 17 (Winter 1985): 229-245.

15. There are several documents, including the sheet music, concerning the song "Freedom Train" written by Irving Berlin in file "Films, Music, Pledges, Slogans," Records Relating to the Freedom Train, 1946-1950, Records of the American Heritage Foundation, in National Archives Collection of Donated Materials (formerly RG 200).

16. Inventory #7, Records of the Office of Inter-American Affairs (RG 229), comp. Edwin D. Anthony (1973), pp. 20-24.

17. Elmer T. Howson, "U.S. Railway Men in Novel Role," Railway Age 117 (Nov. 22, 1944): 807, in Miscellaneous Reports and Publications (entry 67), U.S. Railway Mission to Mexico, Department of Transportation, RG 229, NA.

18. Ibid., pp. 808-809. See also Robert J. de Camp, "The U.S. Railway Mission to Mexico," Foreign Commerce Weekly 22 (Feb. 23, 1946): 12-13, 19; and Dorothy M. Tercero, "Rehabilitation of the National Railways of Mexico," Bulletin of the Pan American Union (July 1944): 385-391. Both of these articles are located in a file entitled "Monthly Reports" in Records Relating to Railway Missions and Technicians (entry 50), Railway Transportation Division, Department of Transportation, RG 229, NA.

19. Inventory #7, Records of the Office of Inter-American Affairs (RG 211), comp. Charles Zaid (1973), pp. 20-24.

20. Decimal 877, 1942-1946, Records of the American Embassy, Mexico City, Records of the Foreign Service Posts of the Department of State, RG 84, NA. There is additional material in decimal 812.77 of the Department of State Central Files, 1940-1944 and 1945-1949, General Records of the Department of State, RG 59, NA.

21. "Report to the Secretary of War From the Commanding General ASF, Plan for the Possession, Control, and Operation of the Railroads by the Army, 27 December 1943, Army Service Forces, War Department," Rail Division Seizure of Railroads 1943, box 39, Historical Program Files, 1940-1950, Records of the Office of the Chief of Transportation, RG 336, NA.

22. Various files, Historical Program Files, 1940-1950, RG 336, NA.

23. Various reports, Foreign Railways, boxes 44, 48, Historical Program Files, RG 336, NA.

24. Preliminary Inventory #173, Records of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, 1932-64 (RG 234), comp. Charles Zaid (1973), pp. 22-25.

25. Southern Railway files, Records Relating to Paid, Canceled, and Withdrawn Railroad Loans, 1932-1957 (entry 92), boxes 760-765, Railroad Division, RG 234, NA.

Articles published in Prologue do not necessarily represent the views of NARA or of any other agency of the United States Government.