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As It Was: Newspaper Predicts Trucks to Replace Railroads

An article published 100 years ago in the Medford Mail-Tribune predicted motor trucks would replace railroads just as the automobile had pushed aside horses on city streets and country roads.

Under the headline “Will The Motor Truck Replace the Railroads(?)” the article noted that farmers followed city dwellers closely in discarding horse and buggy for a passenger car, and were proving no slower in switching to trucks for hauling freight.

The Mail-Tribune cited commercial reports that truck sales were setting records in the Northwest, indicating farmers were not waiting for hard-surfaced highways before buying.

The newspaper quoted the director of the Portland branch of the Firestone Ship-By-Truck bureau, K.A. Price, as saying, “… local freight for railroads may soon become a mere memory.  The farmer has become weary of the poor service … and the prodigious boosts in rates, and he is shipping his livestock and grain to market in his own trucks or in the carrier of a motor express company.”

One hundred years later, motorists need only count the number of freight trucks they pass on the highways to confirm  the Mail-Tribune had correctly identified a trend.


Source: Source: "Mail Tribune 100: Sept. 1, 1919 “WILL THE MOTOR TRUCK REPLACE THE RAILROADS.” Mail Tribune, 1 Sept. 2019 [Medford, Ore.], local ed., p. B1.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.