Sunday, February 18, 2018

Auto industry traffic, Part 8

In previous posts in this series, I have discussed prototype auto traffic; prototype equipment that was inside automobile cars; sources and destinations of auto parts traffic; and routing issues. I have also shown a number of the model cars in my own fleet, aimed at representing auto industry traffic on my segment of the Southern Pacific Coast Route. All can readily be found by using the search term “auto industry” in the search box at right.  The present post pretty much wraps up this topic, with a few additional model cars to show, and some further information about uses of automobile cars.
     First, some models. I have a fair fraction of 40-foot automobile cars in my fleet, though I realize many modelers think only of 50-foot double-door cars as automobile cars. But of course that is not really true; data such as shown in Part 5 of this series amply demonstrates the point (that post can be seen at: ). For some of the roads shown in the Part 5 chart, the 40-foot car was more numerous than the 50-foot car.
     Shown below is an example of such a 40-foot car, a Santa Fe Class FE-19 rebuild, modeled originally by Richard Hendrickson, starting from an Athearn Blue Box car but of course with numerous changes and upgrades. The white door stripe shows that it is AAR Class XMR.

Next is a Cotton Belt car, also 40 feet long. This is the kind of car that would have showed up in Cotton Belt’s hot freight train, the “Motor Special,” though this train primarily served the Southwest, not California. This particular model was built from a Sunshine kit for the SSW 46000-series cars, rebuilt in 1937 from USRA-clone box cars originally built in 1924.

     In the previous post, I showed a photo of a Greyhound bus being unloaded from an automobile car with end doors, showing how big a load could be included in such cars. There are other examples of vehicles larger than automobiles in these cars. Shown below is an Army truck being loaded into an automobile car during World War II production in 1942, at the GM assembly plant in Oakland, California. The Santa Fe car is part of Class FE-20 with auto racks, which have been folded up against the ceiling and secured, just visible above the truck (photo from the John Signor collection). Note the white door stripe.

     As I have indicated elsewhere, automobile cars were used for other bulky loads, especially when they could be loaded through side doors. One example, shown below from a prior post, is an Aeronca airplane, with wings and tail planes removed, being loaded into a PRR auto car, and you can vividly see the width of the door opening (that post is at this link: ). The truck is lettered for the Aeronca Corporation, located in Middletown, Ohio. Though Aeronca ceased airplane production in 1951 (I model 1953), it continued to produce aircraft parts for others, and also continued to repair, refurbish and resell older Aeronca airplanes. This plane being loaded may be one of the latter.

     Automobile cars were also commonly used for lumber traffic, again on account of the wide side door openings that made loading and unloading somewhat easier. A good photo of that, showing typical board-by-board unloading, is shown below, from the excellent Million and Paton book about the Pere Marquette (more about the book, and a full citation, is in a previous post: ). The photo, circa 1940, is from the C&O Historical Society collection.

     This largely wraps up the topic of not only automobile industry traffic, but also the breadth of uses of prototype automobile cars. They were not just for set-up automobiles, nor even auto parts traffic, but had many other uses. On my layout, I attempt with waybills to reflect the breadth of those uses.
Tony Thompson


  1. Thanks for the series. Not my industries or era, but as usual always interesting and informative.

  2. Really enjoyed this series, Tony - thank you. Lots to guide me in my own Guadalupe Subdivision plans.