tv World War I U.S. Railroad Operations CSPAN May 28, 2020 11:26am-12:36pm EDT
on c-span's q&a. >> "the presidents" affairs available now in paper back and e-book. presents biographies of every president organized by their ranking, by noted historians, from best to worst. and features perspectives into the lives of our nation's chief executives and leadership styles. visit our website, c-span.org/thepresidents to learn more about each president a historian featured and order your copy today wherever books and e-books are sold. up next, historian rudolph daniels talks about his book "the great railroad war: united states railway operations during world war i." he says the strategy of moving troops, equipment and ammunition faster helped allied forces to win the war. the national world war i museum
and memorial in kansas city, missouri, hosted this event. it's just over an hour. hello. welcome, everyone, to your national world war i museum and memorial. i'm camille kulig program specialist and thrilled to have everyone joining us here this afternoon. whether you have braved the rain, congratulations. you made it. or if you're warm at home watching through our live stream. today we have the pleasure of hosting dr. rudy daniels who is going to present his lecture, the great railroad war, united states railroad operations in world war i. today we also have the pleasure of being joined by one of the museum and memorial's esteemed board members. he is going to speak more about his ample experiences with railways in the midwest. and his connection to the museum
and memorial. without further ado, please help me in welcoming dave everick. >> thank you very much. yeah, i'm really pleasured to join you today. we have a great guest and dr. ru rudy daniels who is going to join us. i've been with the railroad industry for about 23 years now. i have quite an experience with the military, too. i went to west point in '88 and was out in the military for nine years as an attack helicopter commander. and then joined csx railroad. i was there five years and then came to kansas city southern where i was there for 14 years and was able to make it up to the rank of chief operating officer there. and so i had a wide variety of experiences both in the u.s., midwest, and in mexico.
and then for the last five years, i've been working with gener genosy railroad. i'm out helping the railway. one thing that a lot of people don't take into their thought process is that railroads have been around for 150 years. rudy and i were just talking about the union pacific driving the golden spike celebrating 150 years. and when you think about how long the railroads have been around and really how the u.s. has grown up around the railroads and how much technology has come so far, the
railroads have not changed very dramatically. sure we went from the steam efrpg u engines to the steel locomotives. it is still the most efficient way to move freight that's out there. i think the latest stat with the current freight operations is that we can move one ton of freight on one gallon of gasoline of diesel for 500 miles. so you think about that. it's pretty impressive. and then you think about all the roles that the railroads have played in a lot of the wars. even the civil war. you know, one of the major objectives was to get behind the lines and get to your enemy's rail structure. they would heat up the rail and bend it around trees in the civil war. just to make sure that they cannot resupply or get resources to the front lines easily. you know, i just look at those
things in the united states and the development even every town west of the mississippi river, every major city you see primarily used to be a rail hub. and then it built up around that rail hub. but the development of a lot of our history revolves around the railroads. and what you're going to hear about today is something you don't usually hear about. the role of the rails in world war i. it really had a dramatic impact. but you just don't see a lot about it out there. and really looking forward to dr. samuels talk today. let me give you a little bioon daniels, i'm sorry. he received his phd in russian and soviet studies from the pennsylvania state university. and since then taught a college and universities, united states and germany. he has written numerous articles and books including trains across the continent, complete history of the u.s. and canadian railroads. and the great railroad war which
can be purchased in the store that we have here. most recently, dr. daniels was a contributing editor to the railway atlas of the united states and currently gives talks on a variety of aspects of railroad history. please help me in welcoming dr. rudy daniels. >> thank you very much. first of all, it's an honor to be here this afternoon at the national world war i museum here in kansas city. a great honor to be invited and to do this presentation. and as far as world war i, the railroads of world war i, as a historian, i have written several other books on various subjects, but i feel it's almost
a privilege. now it is a privilege to have written this story, to bring it to light. and basically to quote the french army during world war i, he said this is a railroad war. quite simply this. you need a train to get the young men and women to ports to lead the united states, of course, ships overseas and trains again to get everything to the front. so railroads played not just a critical but a vital part in the american victory and the victory of world war i. i want to start off with a couple of slides here. this first one is all controversial. you see the soldiers:this is the
cs -- from the chesapeake and ohio historical society. they said well, they have soldiers embarking for europe. and ei kind of think this is in virginia because of the bridge. i've been there. today csx transportation and someone said well, no, the soldiers are arriving from europe after the war. the historical society said these are soldiers leaving for war. the reason for is it is they had overseas hats. the overseas hats were issued during the war because the standard hat they had originally took too much room. so if anyone here has an idea and a source that can help me with that, i would be more than happy to hear what you have to say. this is ascene thscene that hap over the country. the american red cross set up volunteers mostly women,
sometimes children. and they would at these station stops, they would bring refreshments. it would be sandwiches and coffee in winter. watermelon, ice cream, so forth in the summer. you know, seasonal and what not. the red cross operated almost 700 of these canteens during world war i. and, of course, canteens would be operated during world war ii also. but this is kind of like the beginnings of it. during world war i, the troops were segregated. here you have african-american soldiers also to show the red cross is serving them. with refreshments at various station stops. this photo was courtesy of the red cross. they did not know where this station or depots was. here again, this supposedly is washington, d.c. here you have, again, volunteer women, red cross women being --
bringing refreshments to troops on the train in major metropolitan area. this is really controversial. this is a field kitchen on a flat car. the pulling company offered to build for the united states during world war i kitchen cars that could serve, they claim, up to 400 soldiers an hour on a train. the army said, no, no, no, we're not going to bite cars. we'll just use flat cars and we'll just use baggage cars. didn't work. the men were actually eating rations, their rations on the train. they just couldn't feed them. the soldiers' life in world war i, um sure yi'm sure you see th the museum is very, very difficult to say the least. notice here about how the united states did not want to give into the war. but once you got into december
1916 into january 1917, the mood of the nation changed. a large part of it in during the war is due to a man by the name of george kreel who had a campaign in movie theaters in particular to bolster people for the war. as soldiers and draftees and national guard were offer to the off to their camps for training, these are scenes from nebraska, a small town west of omaha. you see these scenes. these were popular in the metro areas. here is another such scene. this is chicago and northwestern that served that town. you see the towns people, family, everybody getting together to send the soldiers
off. they traveled in coaches and night travel. the deployment company rearranged some luxury sleepers at that time, sleeping cars, into more spartan conditions so there would be more room for the men to have their supply -- bring their supplies with them. and here's the other scene. you can see it clearly there. you see how people were anxious. civilians putting luggage on the train. in the early years of the war -- first months of the year, soldiers could take baggage and everything with them. some of them even took their pets. the army said no more, only taking standard issue along with them. okay, during the united states railroad administration there were 12 types of locomotives. we'll get into this a little bit more. they were standardized. the idea was to standardize them for efficiency and also to be able to move locomotives from
one part of the country to another no matter what company had the label. we're going to see the government is eventually going lease or rent the railroads from their original owners. the u.s. and the original company that purchased the locomotive could keep its name at the top in small letters of the tender. this is the chesapeake in ohio locomotive with the railroad. so they could keep their own name there. a lot of the railroads didn't like this. they didn't want to purchase the locomotives. they were limited to two types, heavy and light. lighter ones because a railroad company may have trestles or bridges that could not take the heavier weight.
and the variance of weight was nur fr from 5,000 to 12,000 tons. they had to follow all these government specifications. that is how parts could be easily interchangeable. beforehand, a railroad company would order locomotive to its own specifications for a particular need and the government said, no, you can't do that anymore. there were only three manufacturers. baldwin, philadelphia, american locomotive and lima in ohio. what is this? we're looking at these. p this this is a narrow gauge railroad we used in france. they were built by baldwin. contracts were issued to other companies when defects of the locomotives became apparent. one of the big defects was there was a pipe that connected these two water tanks.
the locomotives didn't have a tender. so they had water tanks. the water would slosh about. they had a pipe between the two of them and they would tip over very easily. and i kind of say tongue and cheek, interesting that the engineers were recruited because they were short. when the locomotive tipped over, you had to be able to jump quickly out of the cab. as someone that is 5'3" could get out of that cab a lot sooner than someone that is 6'2." we'll look at this. the usa there does not mean the united states of america. it would be in this little bunker in the water here in the tanks. these were used primarily -- this 50 horsepower was used near the front because they didn't want the smoke and fire from the steam engines to be seen close
to the front because that would indicate a buildup of everything. and everything had to be mofrd within 20 miles of front because everything near the trenches was contaminated. the ground was contaminated from gas, poise onlies from poisons from the artillery shells. everything had to be brought in by train. when you got close, just a couple miles to the trenches, they would use these mechanicals. until then, they used the gasoline mechanicals before that they would use the steam locomotives. this is one of the gasoline mechanicals. by the way, as far as hiding any troop movement or any movement to the front for the germans, it was impossible. these things made so much noise. you could hear them ten miles away. so i don't know whether it did much good. although general pershing used some of these for a ruse for his
victory. this is a smaller version. these were usa again, united states army. smaller version could move one or two cars. they were used to switch cars at a regulating station which we'll look at a station where your standard gauge met the narrow gauge. again, these were narrow gauge. there's been a whole book written on the narrow gauge, particularly the men who operated them and in my book i have a chapter on how they were operated, the operations of them. this is a car used by ouffficer to ride to the front. they tipped over easily. you push them down the track and they went. you can stop them with a break, one spe with a brake, one direction only, one speed only. that's it. there were two sizes they used. the lever here, that's what made it go. that was it. go and neutral. this is the typical narrow gauge
boxcar. they could only fill it up two-thirds or three quarters because, again, they would tip over very easily. this he did not -- they would lay down the tracks very quickly and take them up quickly as front moved back and forth. because the germans the same gauge track, by the way. and they used each other's track as -- whenever possible. these were the wounded -- they were braced on the narrow gauge cars, flat cars. they were set up so. those who were critically wounded were moved by ambulance. these were taken to a regulating station about 20 miles away to then be put on a standard gauge hospital car. these are from the national archives. just to show you the railroad
guns. we'll see another one in a moment. you see the railroad gun. we used these gasoline mechanicals because we -- in the mountains, united states had its own lumber operation where it used narrow gauge to cut down trees and they were used for fence posts, for bunkers and so forth at the front. so this was critical. so the french said, okay, you can use the mountains. start your own lumbering effort. again, all done by the army. this photo kind of shows a lot of things. >> they were moved 20 or so miles from the front lines. every woman was evacuated. only military could be there. these are the knights of columbus. i got this photo from the knights of columbus. all the men, the knights of columbus, the ymca that was there, had to wear military
uniforms and were subject to military law. now this is a little tram that was smaller than the narrow gauge. we'll look at this in a second. they would move artillery shells, food, other supplies in and around the trench area. the third trench area. the knights of columbus opened up these huts. they call them huts out of boxcars where the soldiers can go and get free donuts, coffee, anything for free. here they're tending to a wounded soldier. he's not critically wounded. but he's placed on one of the trams. they even had a turn table at the front to show these cars to go around to be moved in different directions. so this is a third you railway tram, th that was used in the w. here you can see the deceased that would be placed on these trams to be sent to the
regulating station. we're going to see -- we'll talk about that in a moment, to be sent home. this is from russia. i got this from the national world war i museum here. this is a typical russian train, if you will. old locomotives. dated from the 1890s. people traveled mostly in what we would call freight cars. if you will, this was a train still under the control of the imperial side, imperial side, the emperor side and so forth. this gives you an idea. this is a five foot gauge railroad in siberia:a. and here are civilians exiting the trains. there was a great epidemic in russia. some people mentioned that more people died of the epidemic in world war i than bullets. i don't know how you measure
that. this is still under imperial control because of insignia on the train, people would come to the east for medical treatment or as much medical treatment as they could get. they were also fleeing the civil war which was beginning at that time in russian. this is not a railroad photo. but this sf t but this is the united states flag in russia. the united states that's what by invitation. this is a regulating station. this is where the narrow gauge tracks meet the standard gauge tracks. and if you can look, there is a sailor there. there's a sailor there. and who is this guy here? walking. wait a minute. wait a minute. naval officers are there. this is where supplies were brought about a month's worth of
supplies at this regulating station. that's what it was called. you see some of the supplies, lumber in the back and what not. and then they would by telephone call the regulating station. please send supplies, whatever they needed, ammunition, water, food, whatever was needed at the trenches. and then they would dispatch for 20 miles on the narrow gauge. but this was the meeting place. let's look a little bit closer. there's that guy again. here's that guy again. he's inspecting the train and with the army -- oops. there's navy here, too. there's navy here. look closely here. it has usn on that car. this is about 450 miles from the coast. we have usn. maybe it's a good discussion question. oh! here again, usn.
sailors. hmmm? look at this. a whole train. these were run at units. we're going to see. there he is more closely. i think some of you know who this this gentleman is. yeah. and there is the big gun. there is the big gun. bernard baroque, this is the guy who will solve the supply problem and organize the economy successfully to fight world war i. baroque will call in a civilian, and wilson will call him in to solve the logistical problems of supplies. this is the car in which, i really should not have this photo, but this is world war ii where hitler had the car taken out of a museum in paris and brought to the same place the
arm citi armistice was signed. later on, he will have the car brought to germany and destroyed. this is a replica of the car in which the armistice was signed. i am proud of this. this is in the arms museum in france. and i took a chance. i had not used french for 40 years, so i wrote to them and i sent them an email. and i asked in french if i could purchase some photos of this car, a replica, to be used in presentations on world war i. i got a response within 12 hours and they give me six photos, saying any american who will write to us in french for the photos, you can have them for free. so i got them. one of the reasons for our operations in russia was the czech legion. the this shows the czech
soldiers. the numbers differ about them. we are probably saying 60,000. this is why the united states got involved in russia, it was to help evacuate these czech soldiers. that is because president wilson promised the creation of a country called czechoslovakia. uh, upon the end of the war, that this new country would be created. and this czech legion would be the fighting force. they were supposed to be brought to the french. the french side of the war to fight alongside the americans, then have their own country. of course, the war ended by the time they reached vladivostok. they were supposed to cross the pacific, cross the united states and then go fight in france. the war ended. the last of these troops, president wilson met and they stood in review. the american red cross took care
of all transportation and took care of the wounded of these soldiers. these are my maps. and these were the principal routes used by the americans, the united states army. and they are later to become known as the transportation corps. we set up port cities. here we have some, this was probably the largest. and then -- which we will share with the british. then we would take these routes. these are the principle routes we would use. we had to supply the men in southern france, so we completely rebuild this line to lyon. we completely rebuilt that line, including putting a block signals, believe it or not. we will get to that. so the united states will completely rebuild the french
railway network during world war i. also, too, we built our own telephone exchanges. so we had her own telephone that worked from the front, to paris and to the port cities. and this is where we operated trains in siberia. men volunteered to work the trains and operate the trains all the way from vladivostok to umsk, and that is greater than the distance across the united states. then we sent the army they are, about 6000 of our troops, 2000 international troops, to keep the railway open, because this was the supply line to the eastern front. because, after all, turkey as a nation had blocked off the black sea, you couldn't use that route. and the two ports, mansk was just beginning as a port, and then archangel here were the
other suppliers, but due to ice and other problems and whatnot. so the united states was in russia at the invitation of the russians. we were invited there. this area here, the chinese eastern railway was built with the united states steel. harriman of the union pacific had a hand in that. and great northern had a lot of enterprises in eastern siberia. it is very similar to growing wheat in this part of the country, the climate in this eastern area. and we had a whole number of enterprises in that area. so we were somewhat familiar. the chinese eastern was in original part of the trans-siberian railway during the war in 1905. the russians built their railroad entirely on their own territory, said they did not have to go through manchuria. the japanese were constantly
trying to colonize this area, get this area during the war. and we staved them off of that. we will go back to wahoo -- my part of the program is the narrative. and that is in organizing and logistics, which was left to the railroads to move the troops. and it was due to george hodges of the baltimore and ohio railroad. they actually had a round-robin use of coaches and pullman's to move men from being drafted or volunteered to army camps for training, and then move them to primarily camp merit in new jersey for embarcation overseas. he worked out a really neat way on 30 day notice to move these men around. he even developed a secrecy code that all of the troop trains
were called mains, the details would follow in code. the code was by the way used by the various railroad companies for years after the war, because it was so efficient. freight was another problem. freight was bottlenecked like you would not believe. this is what got me into world war i. railroads moved things from point a to b, you hear it all the time. point a to point b. okay. what was the problem of moving things from point a to point b? the bottlenecks got so bad, we are talking about the war going to the eastern seaboard to western europe, and it got so bad that every freight yard between new york and pittsburgh, and new york and buffalo was congested. nothing could move. and the railroads had volunteered at the beginning of
the war, the railroads -- 600 executives met in washington, d.c. to place their entire support into the warrest, but they could not get through these bottlenecks. troops could move, because the railroads are moving themselves. then we have to say, what was the problem? one of the problems, a huge one, was that supplies were being moved to depots and warehouses that were not yet built. supplies were sent to hospitals not yet built. so simply the army kept the supplies in boxcars, in freight cars and so forth. so, this proved another problem, but how they did -- how did this occur? by the end of december 1917, both of the railroads and the united states government were talking about having the government take over and run the railroads. lease the railroads from the class ones, the major companies like the trump lines, and that
is what happened. they were able to lease them, take things on the freight cars, get them moving and get things moving because the army owned the supplies. what was the problem, why did this occur? it is because each area of the army competed with the other in ordering supplies. the quartermaster, medical and engineering. and they all actually competed in getting the supplies first. then on top of that, the manufacturers were paid once the thing was loaded on the train, not received. so the manufacturers wanted to loaded things on the trains and send it off as fast as possible, whether there was a place there or not.
and really into the army later into the spring of 1918 to coordinate all the ordering, so you would not have this fiasco occur. and it was finally bernard baroque who actually designed a system from mine, to farm, to the trenches in france. so when the government leased to the railroads, they found out something else, all the changes that came about. textbooks say that the progressive era ended with world war i, but in the u.s. railroads, what about this? the government mandated equal pay for equal work, for women and for african-americans. they also regulated the processing.
they recognized the labor unions. so progressivism continued. believe it or not, it was only later that the official legislation went through congress for this to occur. and the war ended before the government could lease all the railroads, so they still had railroads without leases functioning in this way. ok, we are solving the problem in the united states. the yanks are coming by train and by boat. and then by train again. the french promised that they would take care of all of the transportation in france, but the demands for troops grew from thousands to one million, then 2 million, then 4 million. and the network could not do it. so the u.s. sent over observers and then sent over our army to build and rebuild the tracks. the initial order stood for this -- 980 locomotives, steam locomotives.
consolidations 280, if you know the code. these were the largest team locomotives that could make the tighter curves on french railroads and make also their platform clearances and so forth. we also requested over 9000 freight cars. we are going to send more locomotives and freight cars and more men to france. how about this, the united states brought over 4,400 miles of standard gauge rail. over 10,000 switches, 25,000 tons of copper wire, and 425,000 acres that we used for our supplies. copper wire, we will build our own telephone network there. we completely revamped french operations, made them more efficient.
we would run through trains, the french never ran through trains, it was station to station, take off engine, put another engine on. but we would run through trains to are regulation stations. we actually built locomotive shops to repair and build our steam locomotives. we build our own storage facilities. and of course, the regulation stations. we operated troop trains, hospital trains and freight trains. the one thing, the one fly in the ointment -- as you know our stand guard gauge is 4 f foot a
five inches. the french standard gauge was four foot and 11/16 inches. we could use our standard gauge on the rails as long as we went slowly through switches. we ordered supplies from england. they want a smaller car trains, so we ordered from england and they were cheaper and they were made to the french standard, so that they for sure could get through these switches. also, there is a huge mark one, 14 inches, called the 14 caliber guns. these are from the battle class idaho mounted on a train. this thing had to be cemented in the ground and how they tried to turn it. what was great was it shot a 1,400 pound artillery shell 24 miles accurately. accurately. and general pershing wanted this gun, because what he did -- the general himself would say in a letter that this gun was instrumental in winning the war for the united states. he aimed this gun not at the trenches, he aimed this gun at
the supply storage areas of the germans. so they would be deprived of not just ammunition but water, food, everything going to the trenches. general pershing's whole tactic was to get them out of the trenches and in open warfare. this gun is what did it. it was specially designed on a special railroad carriage that could only go five miles an hour. that was the train you saw before that the united states navy because the navy operated that train. they used five of those guns. and just something funny really quickly, the french were skeptical. they said, we need to test this gun and fire this thing. they fired one shot into the french said, take it immediately to the front. right now. immediately to the front. it is interesting how they spotted these things. so, this was how the railroads
played a critical role, not just in the united states but also operating in france. i want to mention, i want to emphasize the 60 centimeter narrow gauge railroad was used by the austrians and germans. the reason being, the inventor of it so to speak, built this originally for farming. so you could lay down the tracks quickly, get your crops and take them to the nearest area. so it was really used in agriculture, but it was very easily used during world war i on both sides. they said you want to take up your trek quickly, because the other side can use it. that's what happened. in fact, after the armistice, our men marched into the rhi
rhineland area of france. we actually use the german narrow gauge to bring supplies to our men as they marched forward, as the germans retreated. to look at the final report in france, united states army built 1,300 root miles of track. 1,000 miles of railroad sidings. we brought over 1,500 standard gauge locomotives. 25,000 freight cars. we brought over 600 miles of narrow gauge track. the track they were using was too light, so we brought our own track and so forth. 347 narrow gauge locomotives. and that tilting or spilling, we were correcting and getting new locomotives just before the war ended.
125,000 miles of wire that we used for communication. the remaining time in russia, the whole point was to evacuate that czech legion, but the french and the english wanted to use our troops to destroy the bolshevik revolution which was occurring in russia at that time. president wilson did not want -- he gave strict orders that the united states army that he went to siberia was not to involve itself in politics or the civil war, the british and french wanted to use this to destroy the bolsheviks. we sent volunteers from the locomotive company. we set up 14 stations along that travel, 14 stations where our men acted as trainmasters,
yardmasters, they helped to repair the trains, get them on their way. we did what we could to modernize the trans-siberian railroad within the timeframe, and we sent our soldiers over there to make sure that the various revolutionaries, the various people did not destroy the train operation or interfere with the train operation in siberia. they did so very well. unfortunately, they got caught up in the civil war, particularly the bolsheviks and their supporters shooting at them, literally. also, the japanese had soldiers in that area and there was a lot of conflicts between the japanese and the united states, because the japanese wanted to colonize that area. the united states being there prevented that colonization from occurring. that is extremely important,
because if the japanese were successful in colonizing the area, can you imagine the mineral wealth and the food supplies they would have to engage upon their expansion during world war ii? that would have been an incredible source of food and supplies. our men got caught up in the civil war, and they did help evacuate. the idea of going through mansk and archangel was to evacuate the 60,000 or so troops and they thought it would be more quickly through mansk and later archangel, to bring them to france. the czech and slovak legion was becoming scattered along the railroad path. sometimes hundreds of miles.
one course claims 1,000 miles. so we were not able to evacuate them successfully. by that time, bolsheviks started shooting at our troops. this puzzled us at first. here we are trying to help evacuate, help russia win the war and here they are shooting at us. they never got from mansk to st. petersburg, and they never got from archangel to make contact with the trans-siberian railroad. they were never able to get through all the way, so the on way they could evacuate was along that long route of the trans-siberian railroad. we were successful in doing so. many of the legion, almost all of the legion was evacuated. we kept troops there until the final evacuation.
the sad part is that it took until the 1960's, and due to court order, that our soldiers serving in our united states army in russia got veteran status. it took them that long and by court order. the united states government was unwilling to recognize them as veterans. the last part of this is, with the war over, what to do with the railroads. change had been made, and everyone recognized we couldn't go back to the old ways. there was literally a free-form discussion. many groups from the labor unions to the chamber of
commerce to the stockbrokers, everyone including the head of the united states railroad administration all had suggestions what to do, what not to do. congress held hearings on this. finally in the end what they did was put together what is called the transportation act of 1920. president wilson made it known of two things on several occasions. one, he did not want the government to take over the railroads. that was one plan, but he did not want that. he was very clear, the government was not to take over the railroads or continue to take over the railroads. the second thing he made very clear was that the railroads were to be given back to their owners, and he wanted this to be done by the end of his administration. therefore, one of the final acts of the wilson administration was the return of the railroads to their owners.
this begins an incredible political fiasco, because the united states railroad administration ran the railroads without much regard to maintenance and without much regard to improvements, unless it was pinpointed directly for a military reason. therefore, the railroads were handed back to their owners in quite a bit of disrepair and the owners had to, if you will, bring the railroads back into some kind of better working condition. to the expectations of the civilian population. what they did in the transportation act was incredible. this is popular at the time. they made the railroads a national public utility. they were privately owned, but heavily regulated. if you look at the history of the time, this was a time when
privately owned electrical companies, privately owned gasworks, all your public utilities were coming under other city or state scrutiny, or regulatory legislation. that is what congress did. through the interstate commerce commission, they regulated the railroads and tried to get them functioning as a national system. which they just about did. given the private ownership, but they created an idea of competition. they wanted the competition to remain alive, even though they were public utilities. they wanted competition to remain alive for improvements and there were many improvements made in the railroad industry. changes made in the 1930's. this is the age of the great
streamliners. the age of the broadway limited. the age of the famous city trains of the union pacific, the southern bell, since we have some kansas city southern here. southern bell. so we have great trains that boast luxury, service and speed throughout the nation. this came out of the government leasing of the railroads. this was during world war i and would lead to world war ii. and that is what occurred in world war i was the meeting of each problem, meeting of each crisis, just about on a trial and error basis. never had the world seen a conflict so immense, so greedy for material and men. you know this in world war i. nothing comes close to it. think about the united states
having to move men and material across the atlantic. hannibal didn't have to do that with his soldiers. neither did alexander the great when he went to india. his men could live off the land. our men could not live off the land. it was the most incredible logistical effort up to its time in history. but it did something else, the trial and error, this building of the railroads, gave the united states a blueprint when world war ii occurred so that we didn't have to take over the railroads. the railroads knew how to take the supplies. we learned to coordinate. world war i prepared us for world war ii, even though it was the war to end all wars.
but i would like to conclude this portion with this thought, indeed the men and supplies go by train from home to camp, from one camp to another camp, to their embarkation overseas. when they got to france, they rowed by train. from their narrow gauge to the trenches. they were supplied by a tramway that went through the third trench area. indeed, in world war i for the united states, victory road the rails. thank you.
>> head to either microphone and ask your question. if you are unable, i am happy to head to you. >> by the way, this is my favorite part of the program. i enjoy this. i hope i can answer your questions. >> thank you. i was working on a thesis on 19th century rail subjects, and i noticed you mentioned at the beginning of world war i, the united states had a backup of freight. and at one point, they seize control of the railroads and had to work out the problems they had. they had a trial and error basis for their experience in world war i. i'm wondering, and this is my question to you, was it the lessons from the civil war and what mcallen and the united states military railroad, all of that knowledge and experience they documented at that point,
was that forgotten by the u.s. government at the time of world war i? >> it's a good question. actually, it was not forgotten. obviously, at west point, the civil war was a major area study. by the way, world war i as it was raging was not. but the idea of the military rail of world war i was a train, it was not a railroad. they used other railroads, they simply rain other railroads. they were not a railroad company in itself, they were a train. specifically, almost none of those ideas were applicable during world war i. first of all, you had your volume, just incredible volume. and moving to one place on the east coast, really two places, newport news and new york. so, other than the idea of rapid movement of troops by train that
the lessons learned during the civil war were really not applicable in this situation. that statement was actually made by the railroad companies in the army when they worked on this. if you know about the bottlenecks, since you mentioned that, one of the problems was that in the late -- you say you interested in the 19th century? >> 19th century, yes. >> okay. in the 19th century, the government had placed a number of regulations on the railroad, including the creation of the interstate commerce commission, you had a whole series of acts. during world war i, the railroad war board went to the attorney general, his name was thomas gregory, and said to him release us from these regulations and we can move our trains more efficiently. we can pool. a lot of cases were against
pooling from the wabash case of the 19th century. the attorney general said no. i am not going to release you. we're going to enforce these laws. it is kind of a misnomer. the railroad board itself went to the government for the government to take over the railroads. it just so happened that the secretary of the treasury, he was a railroad person to begin with, but with the hudson railroad. he said some of us in the government were already talking about this. it was sort of like a marriage. the idea was circulating for a couple of weeks, a month, before they finally got it together. and the railroads found it when the government was leasing the trunk lines, they were relieved.
they were actually relieved. the lessons of the civil war were not applicable here, other than the efficiency of moving a large number of troops by train. good question. >> thank you. >> good question. >> hi. over here. >> i'm sorry. >> that's okay. i noticed you mentioned a couple of different gauges that different countries used. >> yes. >> and some compatibility issues, maybe? were there any other compatibility issues with gauge sizes? i was mainly thinking of -- you said the russians had five foot, but you didn't mention what the germans used. >> the germans had the same narrow gauge as -- the 60 centimeter. they use the same 60 centimeter at the front. they had we called standard age otherwise. understand that there were narrow gauges in all countries.
the russian five foot gauge was the building of these railroads. it was at a five foot gauge. they had other narrow gauge railroads in the donesk basin, where they had the mining operations. they use the narrow gauge in the mining operations. i believe that railroad was a narrow gauge, okay? i believe it was in 1910 or 1911 that it was brought to the five-foot gauge. their standard gauge. narrow gauges of various gauges existed in all the countries, okay? in germany also. england had narrow gauge railroads in some agricultural areas and whatnot.
the standard gauge in western europe was 4'8", and the french 1'1 1/6". by the way, i did everything possible to find out why and the only answer is because they were french. [ laughter ] i really tried reading through these french secondary sources and never got a good answer. i hope that answers your question. standard gauge, but at the front, you used narrow gauge. within the interior of the countries, they had different gauges. including the russians. >> question on the right. >> yes, ma'am. >> i have a question about taking horses on the railroads. my stepfather was connected with the railroad in france. he stayed after to help with the switches. that was his specialty and you
mentioned that. he used to talk about 40 and 8. a car could hold 40 men and eight horses. i know because of war horses in some of those stories that they used horses in world war i and even tried to use them in world war ii. when my brother was in the cavalry, they gave him a horse. but by the time he went to europe, it changed to a tank. could you speak about moving horses by rail? that always interested me how they would pack a car with men and horses. >> okay. let's go back. 40 and 8. >> yeah. that was just something i heard him talk about. >> yeah. it was -- their cars, the way they were built, the french railway cars, they could contain 40 people or 8 horses.
>> not in the same car. >> not in the same car, no, no, no. they would carry 40 people or it would carry eight horses. that is the origin. the horse was really made obsolete by world war i. they used them particularly as draft animals to pull artillery and so forth, or to move objects. that is because the machines and the modern weapons of war used during world war i, the horse became basically useless as a war animal. in fact, in one of my books, i put down that during the civil war, i actually end that chapter by saying the iron horse has replaced horse of flesh.
meaning that the train, the locomotive was moving soldiers in large numbers. the horse had been a war animal since ancient times. it was a weapon. you go all the way back to the egyptians, horse was a weapon of war. in world war i, given trench warfare, given the machine gun, given the artillery that the horse really was made obsolete other than a draft animal. yeah. by the way, after the war, the french government made one of those 40 and 8 cars a gift to all the 48 states at that time and to be displayed in a park or a place in memory of the great war. sometimes if you look at 40 and 8 french railroad car, you can probably find it in some state park in the various states. i happened to come upon it by
accident when i was in arizona. i was walking in a park and said, wow, 40 and 8 was a gift from france. >> thank you. >> thank you very much. >> this will be our last question. >> okay. yes, sir? >> by the end of the war, you mentioned that our rails were in a state of disrepair. so i'm curious, how was the state of u.s. rails compared to the state of european and eastern russian rails that the u.s. had overhauled? >> okay. the russians had greater difficulty. let's start there. we did a lot to keep their trains moving, so we brought over 1,000 locomotives, 50,000 freight cars and whatnot to the
russians. modern, baldwin made, top of the line. but they would have to -- their country was riddled with civil war. great destruction until 1921, when the civil war was ended by the treaty of riga and the russian federated socialist republic was created, okay? officially in 1921. so the civil war wrecked everything and they had to rebuild things. in germany, their internal standard gauge railroad network was pretty much intact. it is not like it was bombed out like in world war ii. their network was intact. and believe it or not, the french network benefited greatly from our rebuilding the entire rail system or the major lines that led to the northeast. we rebuilt them and we left the equipment there.
we left locomotives, we left the rail for their use. every time -- in the united states, they had competition with the motorcar. by the 1930's, with the creation of the dc 3 airplane, which was a popular airplane, in spite of these competitions, the industry was able to get on its feet. as everything did in the 1920s. you had a great rise in the economy. to quote an economist, a rising tide lifts all boats. so the railroad industry was able to replace its equipment and rebuild new equipment and so on. the only thing is it did not expand miles of trackage because cars and buses were taking over, so you had a decline in the
miles of trackage in the united states. otherwise, you had improvements in locomotives, diesel, electric comes on in the 1930s. more efficient locomotives in every way possible. i love steam locomotives. you did have improvements, so one last story. to answer your question about the french, in world war ii, this stock in my mind when i was starting on world war i. world war ii, a train of freight was going to the front in france. it derailed and its truck, that is what holds the four wheels, were damaged. it was an american-style freight train. the officer in charge was upset, because they had to wait days to get the crane, the replacement
truck and all that kind of thing and where were they going to find a replacement truck? he was complaining and a frenchman said, this is not a problem. you have american freight trucks from the last war behind our depot. just get your men and get one of those and jack up the cars and put it under. that is what got me thinking, how did those trucks get there? and that was a whole story that really opened up the incredible achievement of the united states during world war i and transportation and the railroads. that is why i say victory arrived by train. thank you. [ applause ] >> as a reminder, rudy's book is on sale in our store. if you have interest, please head on down. if you have additional questions, rudy will be available in our lobby. thank you for coming.
tonight the american story with a look at the great depression era. hear stories and visit places around the nation related to this historic economic downturn followed by the city of chapel hill, north carolina, san antonio, texas and bryan college station texas. >> having lived through a loss of confidence, a wave of cynicism that left us unable to trust what we are told by anyone who calls themselves an expert, it becomes very difficult for us to rise to a challenge like this.
our first reaction is to say no, they're lying to us. the institutions have to persuade to people again that they exist for us. >> sunday, june 7th at noon eastern on in depth, a live conversation with american enterprise institute schooler yuval levin. his most recent book is "a time to build." other titles include "the great debate" and "the fractured republic." join with your phone calls, tweets, texts and facebook messages. watch "in depth" with yuval levin on c-span2. c-span has unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events from the presidential primaries through the impeachment process. and now the federal response to the coronavirus.
you can watch all of c-span's public affairs programming on television, online, or listen on our free radio app. and be part of the national conversation through c-span's daily "washington journal" program or through our social media feeds. c-span, created by america's cable television companies as a public service and brought to you today by your television provider. 14,246 americans are buried outside a quiet village in northeastern france at the meuse-argonne american cemetery. american history tv visited there with french battlefield gui guides to learn about the 47-day world war i battle that ended with the armistice on november