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Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Another Maintenance of Way model

I find most Maintenance of Way (MOW) cars interesting, and they offer some distinctive modeling opportunities and challenges. The Southern Pacific was certainly no exception to this. One way I incorporate them into my layout is that I have provided what SP called an “outfit track,” a spur set aside for MOW use in certain locations. This is a natural place both to place static displays of MOW models, and also to switch, in that equipment may come and go from such a track. 

Recently I was reviewing some of the MOW photos I received from Arnold Menke. and below is an image taken by L..L. Bonney at West Oakland on November 22, 1938, of a boarding bunk car, SPMW 4622. It’s evidently based on an old box car, with light-duty trucks. Note that window screens are outside of the sliding windows, and that there is no end door (though such doors were common on boarding box cars).

Why did I focus on this image? Because it suddenly registered with me that I have a model of this exact car, built I believe by Al Massi (or from his collection), a scratch-built car which is hand-lettered in white ink.

What’s the background to this car? One naturally turns (if so equipped) to Ken Harrison’s magnificent book, Southern Pacific Maintenance of Way Equipment (SPH&TS, 2022), which I reviewed when it came out (see: ). The book pages are amazing enough, but still more amazing is the enormous collection of roster data, supplied on a disk inside the back cover of the book. 

This information reveals that SPMW 4622 was converted from a 30-ton box car owned by El Paso & Southwestern, one of a group of American Car & Foundry-built EP&SW box cars from 1902. The EP&SW had already converted the car to MOW use, numbered 1163, by the time of the SP takeover in late 1924 (it is listed in EP&SW entries in Official Railway Equipment Registers prior to that date), though the official date of SP’s MOW conversion at El Paso was in October of 1925. Of course. the El Paso shops may well have modified the car to suit SP needs at that time.

The car design seen in SPMW 4622, with “over-and-under” windows, was widely used by SP for boarding bunk cars. Here is another example, from the John Signor collection (date and location unknown), a Class B-50-6 box car converted to MOW in 1942. It was the third SPMW car to carry the number 80. Again, there is no end door; but note the shadow of a tank car on the end, probably a domestic water car for the outfit. Stoves in this era on the SP burned coal.

Another interesting example, with slightly different window pattern, is SPMW 1728. It’s another L.L. Bonney photo, taken at Truckee in 1960 (Arnold Menke collection). It was originally Class B-50-2 box car 86529, and was converted to MW in 1939. The tall chimney is noteworthy.

I have long thought about making up styrene sides for such cars, not too difficult a job but fiddly work with all the window framing to place. But the cars I already have may well meet my MOW needs. The scratchbuilding possibility is going to stay on my “long-range” project list.

Tony Thompson

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