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Merchants Despatch,

Its History and Equipment

by Roger C. Hinman

MDT jacket

Merchants Despatch traced its origins to a railroad express service begun in 1855, with a connection to the American Express Company. From its earliest years it operated over the lines of the New York Central, and by 1871 its stock was owned by Vanderbilt Lines railroads. However, it was an independent part of the New York Central family. As such, it outlived the Central, and this book carries its history to the year 2000.

Initially the rolling stock of Merchants Despatch was box cars to carry railroad "fast freight," but by 1878 refrigerator cars were included. With the passage of years, the MDT fleet would become almost entirely refrigerator cars, maintained and many first built at the sprawling Despatch Shops in East Rochester, New York.

Through much of its history, MDT leased cars to railroads other than New York Central, and to a variety of private shippers, as well as managing its own fleet of thousands of cars. By the 1950s the fleet included bunkerless cars (insulated box cars) and would subsequently include auto-rack cars, a category of rolling stock which enabled MDT to survive the Penn Central and Conrail mergers. But once Conrail went to CSX and Norfolk Southern in 1998, MDT reached the end of its line in 2000.

Some 298 photographs, most previously unpublished, enrich this book, in addition to 44 drawings. More than 50 period documents and graphics enliven the text, accompanied by extensive rosters and tables of both car data and company information. Thoroughly researched in company records, this is an authoritative, well illustrated and complete history of Merchants Despatch. It presents both the long and complex corporate history, and also much information and many details about the design, construction, maintenance and operation of the vast car fleet.

Author Roger Hinman has published over 20 articles in model railroad and historical society publications, and is a railfan of many years standing. This is his first book.

The book will appeal to those interested in the New York Central and in freight cars, as well as to enthusiasts of railroad history. Anyone interested in North American freight railroading from 1870 to 2000 will find it a valuable addition to their library.

Also available: the Table of Contents of the book.

Particulars: Merchants Despatch, Its History and Equipment, by Roger C. Hinman
List price: $65     Size: 296 pages, 8.5" x 11", hard covers; 298 photos, 90 graphics and drawings, bibliography, index
ISBN: 978-1-930013-29-2      Publication date: November 1, 2011
Distribution: direct from publisher.