Friday, September 9, 2022

Operating stock cars

 Years ago, I gave a brief summary of what I expected when operating stock cars on my layout, as part of a post describing the choices I had made for my stock car fleet (see that post at: ). But with the passage of time, additional considerations have arisen, thus this post.

As a Southern Pacific modeler, naturally I mostly need stock cars of that railroad, and awhile back I wrote a post just about SP stock car modeling (it’s here: ). Many readers will also know that I wrote a full account of the prototype cars, Volume 1 in the series, Southern Pacific Freight Cars (Signature Press, 2002).

One interesting example among my “home road” cars are Texas & New Orleans cars, especially the post-WW II conversions done by T&NO to use old Class B-50-13 and -14 box cars for conversion into stock cars. The example below, T&NO 15259, is an example, having steel ends that survived from the predecessor box car. The model was built from a Sunshine kit.

As the photo above shows, on my layout I do have a small stock pen, used of course for loading or unloading stock cars. A post about the background of that facility is here: . The construction of that pen was also described in a post: .

An important source for understanding stock car operation is the recent excellent book, Live Stock Operations, by Stephen Sandifer (Santa Fe Society), which I reviewed when it came out (see the review at this link: ). Very many important features and details of operations are included, though many are specific to the Santa Fe.

An important point has to do with resting animals. Federal law prescribed that animals could not be confined in stock car for more than 28 hours (which a shipper could request to extend to 36 hours). When that time expired, animals had to be let out of the cars and allowed to rest for 5 hours before reloading (in practice, rest periods were often longer, at railroad convenience). In addition animals would be fed, and after a suitable interval of time, also allowed to have water.

These regulations meant that stock traffic was handled as expeditiously as possible, usually in the fastest manifest trains or in dedicated stock trains. But when animals were unloaded for rest, it was common to send any empty foreign cars homeward and reload into the home road’s cars (provided, of course, that home road cars were available). But for just that reason, it is not unusual to see foreign-road stock cars in prototype photos.

I show one such photo below, taken at Kino, Arizona in 1953 by Bob Knoll. The lead stock car, behind the cab-forward, is an SP Class S-40-11 car (rebuilt from a “Harriman” Class B-50-5 box car), and behind it are two Texas & Pacific stock cars. One has a yellow door to identify it as a double-deck car, something many roads did. I took this as inspiration to add a T&P stock car to my fleet.

My model, built from a Sunshine kit, does show up from time to time in operating sessions. You see it below being switched by SP Ten-Wheeler 2344 in my layout town of Shumala.

After a rest period, it was permissible to reload animals into the same cars, but bedding had to be inspected, and additional bedding added if needed. Any fresh cars had to have fresh bedding, as did the cars spotted for initial loading. Cars were normally cleaned between runs, some railroads using steam cleaning, and shippers had the right to reject for loading any car which in their judgement was not clean.

A bedding example is this one, a Santa Fe photo from the Kansas State Historical Society collection, taken from Sandifer’s book. The men are shoveling sand into the stock car to serve as bedding; the recommended depth was two inches throughout the car.

Last, I want to show a favorite model, even though it turns out to be a stand-in only. Many years ago, before the availability of the Internet resources we enjoy today, I had only a poor photo of the rebuilt stock cars the Denver & Rio Grande Western had created. It looked like the steel ends were Dreadnaught ends, and the cars had a steel panel roof. Since the Athearn “Blue Box” box car of the day had those features, I cut the sides out of such a model, and spliced in the sides of the Athearn stock car. The result is shown below. 

Unfortunately, as I now know, the actual D&RGW cars had corrugated ends, not Dreadnaught, and were not as tall as this model. But it was an interesting project (including the broken board that you can see above), and I do still operate the car. Nostalgia definitely has its place in my world of model railroading.

Tony Thompson

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