Friday, January 4, 2019

Lumber on flat cars

A very common load for flat cars in the transition era was lumber. Usually, lumber so loaded was rough lumber, while finished lumber was shipped in box or automobile cars. Of course there were exceptions, when shippers used whatever car they could get to move their lumber to market. Thus gondolas were used when there were not enough flat cars, though gondolas are less convenient to load and to unload. I have described the loading of lumber in gondolas (see it at: ).
     I have also commented on the wide range of forest product loads seen on flat cars (that post can be found at: ). One particular excellent lumber load is the Owl Mountain kit, that was reviewed earlier (find it at: ). My late friend Richard Hendrickson built a variety of lumber loads for flat cars, and I showed those models in a previous post (you can find it here; ).
     Although I continue to advocate for the Owl Mountain kit as the best lumber load out there, it is only fair to mention a couple of others that exist. One is the set of cast resin lumber stacks from Fine N Scale Products (yes, they make this load in HO scale as well as in N scale). The “Loads” page on their website shows the HO kit (no. FNL-1008) if you scroll down to lumber loads (see the page at: ). The kit package is shown below.

These are nice castings and look realistic, but they have one feature that can be a drawback: the stacks are a little narrow for flat cars. They do happen to be just right for gondola loads, and as I mentioned in the previous post on lumber in gondolas (link provided in the top paragraph above), this was fairly common in the transition era.
     The fundamentals of lumber loading, whether using flat cars or gondolas, were the same. Shown below is a 1926 ARA Loading Rules diagram for such loading, repeated from the gondola post cited in the top paragraph. You can click to enlarge if you wish.

     So how about if you want to use these FNSP loads on flat cars anyway? The simplest answer is to use a wider center spacing than was usual on prototype loads, wide enough to bring the outer edge of the stacks to the inside of the stake pockets. This is about a scale 10-inch or 12-inch timber. How does it lookk that way? Shown below are a set of these stacks, double high, with a 10-inch vertical spacer.

This really looks okay on a passing flat car, even if the spacer is actually too big for typical practice. Then of course you need to add stakes and cross-ties. You can use scale 2 x 4-inch lumber for this, though stakes were often 4 x 4 and cross-ties sometimes 1 x 4 instead of 2 x 4. For my first set of stacks, I used 3 x 4-inch stakes and 1 x 4-inch cross-ties. Note that the Loading Rules diagram calls for three sets of side stakes per lumber stack.

The spacing of the stakes is matched to the stake pocket spacing on the Red Caboose (now SPH&S) 53'6" flat cars that I use for lumber loads, most of them decorated for SP.
     Thus the use of these “too narrow” FNSP load stacks can be practical, if a little compromise on the center stickers is accepted. As you can see with the stack above, this is not terribly evident. I will return to other uses for these FNSP resin lumber stacks in a future post, along with additional comments on these stacks for flat cars.
Tony Thompson


  1. Hi Tony, I notice your stakes do not pass into the stake pockets. Do you find this noticeable in practice? Is this a concession to being able to remove the loads?
    Cheers, Rene

  2. No and yes. I have a couple of loads that do have to be gently, carefully inserted into all six pockets for each stack. Do-able but not especially easy. My newer lumber loads do not have stakes going into pockets.
    Tony Thompson

  3. Small quibble in the back of my mind, one I have noticed in many model lumber loads over the years. The stacked lumber looks a bit weathered, while it should actually be fresh - even if it has been sitting around for a few weeks before shipping. The few color photos I have seen of stacked and braced lumber in gons or on flat cars show the load to be the same basic color as the braces - which make sense since they probably came for the same source.

  4. Dan, I take your point, but would offer a couple of comments. First, not every length of lumber is the same as every other. Even when you buy stripwood, there is often color difference among the pieces. Color difference need not imply weathering. Second, there most certainly ARE color photos of lumber on flat cars that sure do look weathered. Driving by any lumber mill will reveal a drying yard with a large range in colors of the wood, some of which is visibly weathered. Personally, I would not weather a lumber load very much, but I think that a load of uniform and perfectly fresh color looks wrong, too.
    Tony Thompson