In a comment to my first article today, reader J. K. Brown referred us to this article at Captain Capitalism, published this morning. The Captain observes:
... rail road car traffic is a statistical measure than can't be fabricated or manipulated by BEA economists. It's a concrete measure that (like the railroad tie replacement Alan Greenspan would measure) can be used to measure true economic production and growth in an economy no matter how violently Washington DC economists rape GDP figures.
There's more at the link, including a very illuminating chart showing how rail car shipments are down this year. Go read it, then re-read this morning's article. They reinforce each other.