Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Operating loader-equipped box cars

 In a previous pair of posts, I described the prototype cars operated by General American-Evans under the GAEX reporting mark, primarily significant because they were equipped with the Evans Products Company’s “DF” loader equipment. These cars were leased, not sold, to railroads, in part to promote use and acceptance of the DF equipment by shippers and railroads. The second of those posts, describing a model GAEX car, is here:

Many modelers may regard DF-equipped cars as something typical of the late 1950s and beyond, and certainly it’s true that such equipment greatly proliferated then. But the pioneering cars with such equipment were already in use by 1950, including the first GAEX cars built that year. And that wasn’t all.

There is information of interest on this topic in the Boston University MBA thesis by Burnis J. Sharp I cited in the first of these posts (see it at: ); it includes data about the Western Pacific “Compartmentizer” cars (a Pullman-Standard loader design), which were the famous silver WP box cars with the giant orange feather. More on those in a moment.

Also noted in the thesis was the use by the Frank M. Wilson Company (a canning company in Stockton, California) of certain Southern Pacific box cars from Class B-50-22. All were equipped with the same DF equipment as the GAEX cars. Here are the four car numbers: 81516, 81683, 81716, 81894. Consulting an Official Railway Equipment Register (ORER) for 1953, all were classed as AAR XME, meaning loader equipment.

Here’s a view of some Evans DF equipment in use; the cargo is “Sacramento Brand” canned mixed fruit (SP photo). Canned goods were a large proportion of early cargoes in DF cars. The bulkhead visible above the cartons is a lattice style.

If one consults an ORER for 1953 — since I model 1953 — one finds that out of SP’s 500 original cars of Class B-50-22 built in 1941, 496 were still in service, and 151 of them were XME cars. (This was years before SP started identifying DF cars with those letters in a large yellow circle.)

Here is my Proto2000 model of an SP Class B-50-22, SP 81721, spotted for loading at the fish cannery in my layout town of Santa Rosalia. This would have been a prominent use of these cars in my modeling era, and of course readily supplied by Southern Pacific. The model is stock except for A-Line sill steps and an etched Morton running board.

I wrote an article for Railroad Model Craftsman, published in the issue for September 1994 (pages 56–59), about modeling the Western Pacific PS-1 box cars. Included in the three models I built was one of the silver cars with full-length orange feather. The model started out as an undecorated McKean kit with a 7-foot door added, along with new grab irons, hand brake, and running board.

The second car models the 1952–53 scheme applied to WP’s second batch of Compartmentizer cars, with a smaller orange feather. (Prototype paint and lettering information for these cars is contained in the article by John J. Ryczkowski, in Prototype Modeler, the March-April 1984 issue, pages 35–38.) Later in the 1950s, this paint scheme became standard for other WP box cars. 

The two cars shown above are much as they were in my 1994 magazine article. Since both are AAR class XME cars, they can logically be used for canned goods loading, more likely as inbound loads than as empties to be loaded. You can be sure that with only a handful of these cars in 1953, the WP made efforts to get empties home to reloaded by WP shippers.  Here is an example, spotted at Peerless Foods, the wholesale grocery warehouse in my layout town of Ballard.

I enjoy having specific cars like these for specific kinds of loading. In 1953, this kind of specialized equipment for general-service freight cars was in its infancy, but it’s interesting to be able to model it on my layout.

Tony Thompson

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