As many readers know, I am one of a rotating group of monthly columnists in the Model Railroad Hobbyist on-line magazine. The columns are all called “Getting Real,” and are intended to present prototype-oriented modeling ideas and projects. My latest contribution, which happens to be the 25th one I’ve published in the series, is in the May issue (you can visit www.mrhmag.com ), in “Running Extra.”
My topic this time, and the title of the column, is “Tank Cars and the Wine Business,” and the title was chosen to show that I wasn’t just going to write about wine tank cars, but about how the wine business worked (and still works), in connection with wine transportation. As a transition-era modeler, my emphasis is naturally in that era, but I provided history back into the pre-Prohibition era too.
To some extent, this article is an outgrowth and expansion of a blog post from some time ago, entitled “Wine as an Industrial Commodity,” which can be found at: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2012/02/wine-as-industrial-commodity.html , with a considerable addition of information about the tank cars that carried wine, much of it courtesy of my late friend Richard Hendrickson.
An important point I tried to make is that the wine business is complex, in that there has for years been a lively traffic in blending wines, and also in wine grapes, moving from place to place. As I stated it, there are vineyards that make no wine, but simply sell their grapes; there are wineries that make wine but grow no grapes; and there are bottlers that have no winery.
I took some pains in the article to clarify that although the common perception is that a wine tank car had six compartments, like the one below, there were also many four-compartment and three-compartment cars, and many of the three-compartment tanks had been converted from single-compartment cars.
The car shown above is a very typical wine car, in that it is insulated (jacketed, if you will), has frangible-disk safety equipment instead of spring-loaded safety valves, is lined with glass (in the form of porcelain enamel), and is an AAR Class 203 car, not an ICC class. The article goes into some detail on these features.
The numerous three-compartment cars that had been converted by adding end compartments are distinctive and important to model if you have any amount of wine traffic. I have modeled such a car by the very prototypical approach of adding domes to an existing car model. The modeling needed to do so is described in the article, but here’s my model (starting from an Proto2000 insulated tank car):
The modeling the resulted in this car was described in an earlier blog post (you can see it at: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2017/05/creating-wine-tank-car-part-2.html ). The model is shown above at the loading rack of my winery in the town of Ballard.
At the same winery loading spot is shown an excellent HO scale version of the iconic 6-compartment wine tank car, from Precision Scale. It’s correctly sized and has been decal lettered as GATX 972.
Of course for most modelers wine tank cars would simply move in mainline freight trains, but since I have both a winery and a wine-shipper’s warehouse on my layout, I can show car loading. That’s true for the photo above, and also at my warehouse, where in this case barrels of blending wine are being readied for loading:
So spotting a car for loading is part of my layout’s wine traffic, and for me, an interesting addition to the totality of what gets switched in an operating session. Here the Santa Rosalia Local’s power is spotting a Tangent 8000-gallon car, lettered for Roma Wine Co., for loading at my winery.
The article was fun to research and write (only occasionally aided by consumption of the subject beverage), and I hope it give more modelers some ideas about the varieties of wine-business traffic they can add to their operating sessions.