Monday, December 19, 2011

Route cards — 6

In prior posts on this topic, I have given dimensions of placard boards and route card boards as I have found them on drawings, in the Car Builders Cyclopedia and other sources, but as I mentioned, these parts are often not dimensioned, suggesting that there was a standard size. I inquired of Guy Wilber, who has access to documents like the AAR Manual (a loose-leaf book issued by the AAR Mechanical Division, containing current standard and recommended practices), whether there was in fact a standard for these boards.
      Guy was kind enough to look this up and send me a series of extracts from documents of various ages. For the situation before 1937, in the early days of all-steel cars, an AAR Manual comment states that “Apparently about half the roads are using the board shown on Plate 250 and others are using boards with clear space smaller than 5" x 8", but which probably serve the purpose for most cards.” Plate 250 initially had shown a route card board of 5" x 8" but in the 1937 AAR boxcar design, this was increased to 5-1/2" x 9" for the boards on boxcar doors.
     A 1948 Car Construction Committee report addressed the continuing irregularities of the routing card boards (as is visible in many photographs). The 1948 revisions to the Manual clarified size (5-1/2" x 9") and changed thickness from 1-1/4 inches to, “not less than 25/32 inch.” Wording of Interchange Rule 49(c) was also changed at this time. It is important to realize this was all “Recommended Practice” and was neither mandatory nor universally followed.
     In 1952 came further revisions for routing card boards to, “Card board to be located on house cars on one door on each side directly under placard board and as near the bottom of door as lifting handle will permit.” This followed a circular letter in 1950 to car owners pointing out difficulties utilizing card boards on steel house cars which were located higher than 72" above ground level. Only card boards were lowered. The Car Construction Committee attempted lowering the placard boards as well, but needed approval from the Bureau of Explosives, which would not be granted until 1953. This was also agreed by union carmen and others affected.
     In 1953 agreement was reached to lower placard boards also, to go into effect in 1954. Here is an extract from the 1954 edition of the AAR Manual:

“Recommended Practice, adopted in 1914; Revised, 1948, 1952 and 1953.
     “The space available for placards should not be less than 16 by 24 inches on each end and each side of car. Steel house cars should be provided with placard boards made of soft wood not less than 16 by 24 inches and not less than 25/32 inches thick. The vertical edges should be reinforced with metal protection pieces fastened to the board with not less than six bolts, three through each, and at least four of these bolts should be used to fasten the placard board to the door, car end, or placard bracket when used. The boards may be made of more than one piece, and should be tongued and grooved, shiplap, or notched edge. The distance from the floor line of car to the bottom of board should not exceed 2 ft. 6 in. for end board and 22 in. for side boards.  These will be located on each end and on one door on each side.
      “On steel house cars routing boards with space not less than 5-1/2 by 9 in. available for tacking cards will be placed on one door on each side to left of placard board with lower edge in line with lower edge of placard board and so as not to interfere with lifting handle of door.  On steel refrigerator cars, routing card boards shall be located on each side directly under placard boards.
     “On other than house cars, card board must be located on each side of car near bottom at left end, facing side of car, or on outer end of end sill.  On cars equipped with center sills only, card boards must be located near center of car attached to outer end of running board support, or attached to outer end of body bolster.”

     Illustration plates in the Manual were changed, as was wording of Interchange Rule 49(c). Again, remember that this was recommended practice, not mandatory.
     It is also worthwhile 
to note that receptacles for defect cards were required for all cars built new or rebuilt on or after January 1, 1937.  This was to separate defect cards from route cards, which had apparently caused some confusion. I will illustrate this with a repeat photo, PFE class R-40-14 built in 1941, shown before (see:

The route card board here is on the side sill tab located at the bolster. The small, slanted-top appliance directly above it on the car side is the defect card holder. This car does not have car fans.
     Thanks to Guy Wilber for the background on this. The main point here is that there was a recommended minimum size for placard boards and for route card boards; the former appears to have almost always been applied in that size, but the route card boards continued to vary somewhat in size and certainly in placement. And here again, as in so many modeling issues, a prototype photo is essential for accurate modeling of these details.
Tony Thompson

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