Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Another signature freight car

I wrote a two-part series on “signature freight cars” in my “Getting Real” columns in Model Railroad Hobbyist, and these appeared in the issues for April, 2013 and March, 2015. As with all issues of MRH, you can download these for free from their website, .
     I’ll repeat my definition of a “signature” freight car from those articles. The term is sometimes used for unique cars of a particular railroad, such as the famous Milwaukee Road rib-side box cars that I described in the first column, but to me the meaning is broader than that. I use the term “signature” to mean a freight car which is characteristic of its owning railroad, meaning that it is reasonably distinctive, and also that it is a car of which the owner’s roster contained a relatively large number of cars. Unique cars can certainly qualify, but there are many cases where a “standard” car design also qualifies, just because its owner had so very many of them. There are examples in both of my articles, among the 19 railroads for which I designated “signature” cars.
     In those articles, I deliberately restricted myself to only three car classes for each of the five biggest railroads, to two cars each for the next twelve railroads, and just one each for the two smallest roads chosen. But for truly large railroads like the Pennsylvania and New York Central, this really is an underestimate of the impact of those large fleets. In my own layout freight car roster, I not only have four PRR X29 box cars, and four of the NYC USRA-derived steel box cars (only one of each of those types was shown in my second column), but I also need even more cars to represent these big roads.
     An important car I wanted to add for PRR was the G22 gondola. A relatively early steel gondola, its 46-foot inside length made it distinctive when the first 4000 cars of this class were built in 1915. Originally the cars had four drop doors, but these had been removed from all cars by about 1940. The original cars had fixed ends, though many cars received drop ends instead, making them Class G22a. Some cars were converted for container service, usually making them Class G22b. Original brakes were Pennsy’s preferred “divided K” system, called KD, but these brakes were replaced on many cars with AB brakes in the 1940s.
     Below is a comparison of PRR gondola classes in 1939 and in 1955, using data taken from the Official Railway Equipment Register or ORER. Helpfully, PRR included car class designations in its ORER entries, valuable because many car classes were slotted into a bunch of different number groups, scattered through the roster. The G22 was no exception, with many cars in both the 300,000 and 800,000 series.  Here are a couple of the larger G22 number groups:

315101–315866, 352001–352831, 360501–362383, and 382002–383091 (from the 1953 ORER)

All number groups within the 800,000 series are smaller than these.

You can see above that the GR and GS classes were dominant in 1939, though they were already beginning to be scrapped in large numbers. By 1955, G22 had become a relatively large part of the PRR gondola fleet (second only to Class G31 in all its subclasses, which was the class chosen in my second MRH column). Below is a prototype G22 photo. It was taken by Paul Dunn at Zanesville, Ohio, and is from the Richard Hendrickson collection.

     There are fine Westerfield kits for G22 and both subclasses, G22a and G22b.I decided to do a G22 car, as they were very numerous, and had Dennis Williams assemble my kit as part of a batch of other work he was doing for me. As always, I prefer to do my own decal lettering and then weathering. Here is the model in fresh paint and lettering, and with interim trucks (I will apply 70-ton Crown trucks later). Weathering will of course be added, and then fresh paint patches for reweigh and repack stencils.

The car is also very light, and weight needs to be added if the car is to be operated empty. There are a couple of ways to do so, and I will cover that in a future post.
     These cars were used for the usual wide variety of loads carried in gondolas. Back in January 2012 I showed a nice B&O photo of a PRR G22 loaded with pipe, at the Locust Point yard [Baltimore] — see it at: . Here is a repeat of that photo.

Pipe loads like this are easy to make with coffee stirrers, as I showed in the same earlier post, at the link shown just above the photo. One way to add weight is to build the coffee-stirrer load on top of a piece of lead or sheet steel, but that begs the question of running empty.
     I am glad to be adding this car, representing a significant gondola among the largest freight car fleet in North America, the Pennsylvania Railroad, to my operating fleet.
Tony Thompson

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