Union Pacific Common Standard

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This page was last updated on December 26, 2015.

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In resonse to a question about Common Standards used by Union Pacific and Southern Pacific, Tony Thompson replied:

There were Common Standards for everything from stationery and furniture to track spacings and ballast angles, as well as the rolling stock we are all familiar with. And even there, there were CS designs for working tools and for paint colors (buildings and machinery as well as cars and locomotives).

I don't believe any railroads outside the Associated Lines (SP and UP) used Common Standards except piecemeal as something appealed to them. A few of the "Harriman" roads like IC and Erie did acquire small amounts of CS rolling stock, but evidently by choice, not by dictum from Harriman. I commented on this in Appendix 3 of Volume 4 about Box Cars in my Southern Pacific Freight Cars book series.

Both SP and UP promptly diverged in their designs after 1913, with SP almost immediately building single-sheathed box cars which were NOT CS designs. But both railroads continued with some things they evidently liked, such as the CS passenger car color, and the basic stock car. The SP had developed and used Common Standards since 1895, and when Kruttschnitt applied them to the entire Associated Lines in 1904, it was natural that many UP people found things they didn't like. After 1913, both roads were free to move away from the Harriman-era standards, and both did.

But to say they stopped using CS is misleading. The entire idea was to provide standards for anything on the railroad which was bought in quantity. That idea certainly continued long after the Harriman era, even if not officially called "CS." And obviously there were certain aspects, such as freight car classification, in which UP TODAY uses a slightly modified Harriman Common Standard, as did SP up to 1996. (Tony Thompson, email to Espee Yahoo group, dated December 2, 2009)

Source Material

Jeff Cauthen shared some possible source material for Common Standards: