Monday, March 2, 2015

My column in the March MRH

The new issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist, for March 2015 (you can download it for free at: ), contains my latest column in the magazine’s “Getting Real” series. It is essentially a second and completing segment of my discussion of “signature” freight cars for a variety of railroads. That discussion began with an MRH “Getting Real” column, published in the issue for April 2013, and like all issues of MRH, downloadable for free at the link shown above.
     As I stated in both columns, I define a signature freight car as one which is highly representative and characteristic of its owning railroad. This can be a unique freight car design, such as the famous Milwaukee rib-side cars, or it can be something as mundane as the 1937 AAR 40-foot box car, if the owning railroad had enough of them to make them a major part of its car fleet. In my two columns, there are indeed some cars of both kinds, and I have tried to indicate the reasons, for each railroad, for choosing the particular cars that I did.
     But as for choosing the railroads discussed, that was on the basis of size. This in turn implies an acceptance of the Gilbert-Nelson idea, that the visibility of any railroad’s car fleet in other parts of the country can be approximated by the proportions of its fleet size, to the entire national fleet of the United States.
     In that first column, in April 2013, I introduced models of signature cars for nine railroads, which were the Milwaukee, Baltimore & Ohio, Missouri Pacific, Northern Pacific, Illinois Central, Seaboard, Great Northern, Boston & Maine, and Denver & Rio Grande Western. The new column fills out the selection by including all the largest railroads, and adding a couple more small ones. The basis for these selections is the graph below. These car fleet numbers are for 1950, include all subsidiaries (such as T&NO for SP, and Pere Marquette for C&O), and have subtracted all hopper, ballast and ore cars, since those interchange far less, in general, than other car types (thinking, of course, in terms of Gilbert-Nelson).

Note the break after GN: the four railroads to the right are considerably smaller. In this graph, you can see all the roads listed above, as having been covered in my first column, and all remaining railroads in the graph, ten in all, are the ones covered in the second column, for March 2015.
     I will give some examples. In particular, I was pleased here to include representatives of giant car fleets such as Pennsylvania and New York Central. The signature box cars for each road are iconic American freight cars. Here are photos, which are different from those in the column, of my models, beginning with PRR.

The X29, built in immense numbers of more than 29,000 cars, represents more cars in this single class than many railroads had in their entire car fleet. This is the Red Caboose styrene kit, weathered to a suitable degree for the 1950s and given to me by Richard Hendrickson.
     New York Central likewise had a huge group of signature box cars, built in the 1920s and based on a modification of the proposed (but not built) USRA steel box car. In the year I model, 1953, there were still more than 17,000 of these cars in service. Broadway Limited brought these in as ready-to-run cars.

     Finally, among larger roads, I will mention Southern Pacific, which I model. The immediate pre-World War II cars SP purchased, with W-corner-post ends, numbered 5244 cars in several classes. One of them was Class B-50-23, as modeled here with an Innovative Model Works kit which shows a post-1946 repainting.

     Much more discussion and analysis is presented in the column, which I would commend to you if you are interested in understanding the signature cars of railroads other than the one you primarily model. Doubtless on that railroad, you know far more than I do.
Tony Thompson

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