Monday, February 18, 2013

Keeping a model car fleet under control

Control? No, I don’t mean that my freight cars act up and require discipline. I just mean that I strive to maintain a rational freight car roster over time. That means taking into account changes in my goals, either on account of new knowledge which modifies my goals, or the discarding of old goals no longer as attractive. It also means keeping up to date with identification of surplus freight cars, which can be sold or given away, and occasionally the need for new ones.
     One way I have approached this over the years has been to start with my best knowledge about traffic which my layout will represent. This can be done by car type: gondolas, hopper cars, tank cars, box cars. These roster plans by car type can be and are reviewed from time to time, and modified if necessary. Those rosters, based on traffic and current at the time, were posted two years ago. The links to those are shown at the end of this post, for those who would like a full set of them.
     Beyond this traffic approach, one can also “cross-cut” the car-type rosters by railroad. I have not gone into great detail, but there have been several posts on that basis also. To date, the only ones posted were about home-road cars, Southern Pacific and PFE cars, and those links are also shown at the end of this post.
     But these home-road analyses, valuable as they are in controlling a car fleet, do not deal with “foreign” or off-home-road cars. I have written one simple introductory post on this topic, which can be viewed at this link: . And here is an additional post for further analysis of fleet size: .
     To go further, I want to construct rosters of the cars I have for the major railroads, to make sure those are reasonably balanced. Of course one pays attention also to lesser-size railroads, but in most cases I will have only one or two cars from such roads, so would not need to create a roster. I will just show a single example to illustrate my point, drawn from the New York Central.
    The Central was one of the very largest railroads in the U.S. and accordingly I need to represent a selection of its car fleet on my layout. In 1953, the Official Railway Equipment Register (ORER) shows that the Central had about 58,700 box cars of AAR class XM, and about 21,700 gondolas. These are part of a fleet size which in total numbered 137,400 cars, but almost 43,000 of those cars were hoppers, which as I have stated elsewhere (see: ), are much less likely to be interchanged. Thus the XM box cars represent 62 percent of the non-hopper fleet, and the gondolas represent 23 percent. This combined 85 percent of the non-hopper fleet means I prefer to model only gondolas and XM box cars for the New York Central.
     Here are the cars I now have on the roster. First, I needed some of the virtually standard steel box car of the NYC, the design derived from the USRA all-steel box car design; the Central eventually had some 21,000 box and auto cars of this design. Richard Hendrickson wrote an article about these cars for Railmodel Journal (March 2007, pp. 43–50); there is also a longer, more detailed and more profusely illustrated article by Patrick C. Wider in Railway Prototype Cyclopedia (issue 21, 2010, pp. 1–93).
     Very helpfully for modelers, Broadway Limited has imported nice models of these cars, with both corrugated and Dreadnaught ends. I have both types, in the form of cars NYC 103247, 103943, 118728, and 122766. Here is my BLI model of car 103943, one of the cars with corrugated ends.

Second, I wanted to have one of the Central’s many rebuilt cars, NYC 154679. This is a Sunshine kit (no. 64.1), representing the steel-sided rebuilds of 1916–1918 double-sheathed box cars, eventually more than 6000 cars. My model was built by Dennis Williams and lettered and finished by me.

I also have a Kadee PS-1 box car, NYC 169004. To these I want to add one car of either 1937 or immediate post-war AAR design. I have a postwar kit from C&BT Shops, for which all detail parts have to be replaced, but the body is well done, and it is a candidate for this additional car.
     Turning to gondolas, I have chosen three to represent a large fleet. First, one of the USRA gondolas in later years, NYC 707698, from a Walthers ready-to-run car; a Proto2000 kit of a Greenville 52-ft., 6-inch drop-end car, NYC 712612; and a West Shore Line kit, as yet unbuilt, to model a steel-side rebuild of a USRA 40-foot car, which is their kit 9104. The Greenville design is of special importance, as the NYC eventually owned 6600 cars like this (and another 4000 went to subsidiary Pittsburgh & Lake Erie). You can read about them in Richard Hendrickson’s article in Railmodel Journal (November 1996, pp. 24–30). Here is mine:

     These examples for a single road, New York Central, are meant only to illustrate the approach I take, both to assess whether I need the cars I currently have, and also to assess whether I need to add cars to my roster.
Tony Thompson

Here are the links to posts from that series on “Choosing a model car fleet” in 2011:

stock cars:
automobile cars:
flat cars:
covered hoppers:
open hoppers:
tank cars:
ore cars:
refrigerator cars:
box cars:

     Here are links to the SP and PFE specific fleet discussions of those posts:
PFE cars:
and also:
SP box cars:
and also:
SP 50-foot box cars:
SP automobile cars:

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