Intro to US freight car fleets, or: what should be modelled?

Re: Intro to US freight car fleets, or: what should be model

Postby ConducTTor » Sat Feb 12, 2011 4:32 am

Dude, some of us have zero cabooses. Relax :wink:
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Re: Intro to US freight car fleets, or: what should be model

Postby Arseny » Sat Feb 12, 2011 5:38 am

Really? :eh:
I was sure every US railway modeller have as minimum dozen cabooses... :smile:
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Re: Intro to US freight car fleets, or: what should be model

Postby Marquette » Sat Feb 12, 2011 6:53 am

I have none yet either! And I need some pretty unique ones...

Arseny, you do have a couple of options, depending what time period you want to model! If you want to do around 1968-1972 or so, you can use the NYC caboose along with other cabooses and locomotives marked Pennsylvania, New Haven and Penn Central: the NYC, Pennsy and NH merged in 1968 to form the Penn Central, and of course it took some time for all the equipment to get repainted. If you want to use the CB&Q caboose instead, then if you want to do around 1970-1975, you can use that and other cabooses (and locomotives) of Great Northern, Northern Pacific, Spokane Portland & Seattle and Burlington Northern: the CB&Q, NP, GN and SP&S merged in 1970 to form the BN.

But, if you want to do an earlier time correctly, you still have some options - the NYC and CB&Q did connect in several places in the state of Illinois. Either you can pick one of those real places, or you can "freelance" and invent a new place in Illinois where the two railways also connect. This way you can use both cabooses, and use NYC and CB&Q locomotives as well. Though of course each would stay on their own railway's tracks if the two roads have their own yards, and use only an interchange track to make the connection; but in a smaller town it's possible that the two roads share a yard (though they'd still have their own separate lines, usually, unless one railway has "trackage rights", that is, permission to run their equipment over another railway's tracks).

Further on the subject of the thread:

I've discussed boxcars, over the next little while I'll do the same for flat cars, gondolas, hoppers (including covered hoppers), refrigerator cars and tank cars, in varying levels of detail. Further, for these cars I'll also get a bit more specific by road (e.g. to answer the question: "if I need eight NYC boxcars, /which/ boxcars should those be?". And if I think of anything else relevant, I'll add those, too.

For the moment, though, I'd like to say a word on a broader subject: How many of each /type/ of car should I have?

The answer to this is very variable. Regardless of whether you've invented your own fictitious railroad, or your own fictitious location on a real railroad, or if you want to represent real locations on a real railway, the main answer is: it depends on the industries in the area!

Why do railways exist? To serve customers - either passengers, or shippers.

For passenger trains, the answer is somewhat simpler. Even a train like the Southern's "Crescent" that ran from New York to New Orleans (via Washington DC, Charlotte, Atlanta and Meridian), the passenger cars in the train all belonged to the Southern, usually. The variation came in the "head-end equipment" - cars like baggage cars, mail cars and express package cars, that were placed right behind the locomotives, before the passenger cars. The express cars could come from railroads all over, within limits. These limits aren't something I can discuss deeply, though, since the subject of passenger trains is one I haven't researched: all the areas that I've looked at as possible modelling subjects either had no passenger service, or only local services. But I /can/ say, that you can use foreign road equipment in certain cases involving long-distance trains. Let's take the example of the Crescent again: From New Orleans to Washington DC, the Crescent ran on Southern's track, being pulled by Southern locomotives; from DC to New York, where the Southern had no track, the Crescent was pulled along Pennsylvania track by Pennsy locomotives (as far as I know; I may well be wrong there, BUT for the sake of the example, it doesn't matter). There /were/ long-distance trains that travelled over the track of several railways, so it is possible to use non-home-road passenger cars... but for the most part, passenger trains used home-road equipment only.

Moving on to the really fun and interesting stuff, freight cars! Since the railways exist to serve the shippers, the type of freight cars you'd see in an area depends on what industries exist in the area that ship or receive product by rail. I'll cite several examples that I've researched.

On the Quebec Central around Sherbrooke, Quebec, between Quebec City and the Quebec-US border, the major industries shipped or received boxcars (e.g. the asbestos mines around Thetford Mines - the region supplied something around 80% of the world's asbestos, furniture manufacturers, etc), tank cars (oil dealers), and there were a good number of shippers who shipped pulpwood - one of the interesting things on the QC was that they used their large (about 200 cars) fleet of stock cars to ship pulpwood; more commonly, pulpwood was shipped in specialised pulpwood racks or in gondolas.

Alma, Michigan on the Pere Marquette had several industries that shipped and received in boxcars, as well as a large sugar refinery, which shipped finished sugar in boxcars, and received sugar beets in gondolas.

Sarnia, Ontario on the Pere Marquette and Canadian National saw a LOT of tank cars. Imperial Oil's refinery received and shipped in tank cars (and a much smaller number of boxcars); Polymer Corporation's synthetic-rubber plant received coal in gondolas, various chemicals in tank cars, and packaging materials in boxcars, while shipping out finished product in boxcars and semifinished products in liquid state in tank cars. In Canada's "Chemical Valley", as this area is known, the general rule-of-thumb that says you should have mostly boxcars doesn't apply - tank cars are the most common, followed by boxcars and a few gondolas and/or coal hoppers; now and again you may see a flat car as well. But other types of cars you'd never see except emerging from the tunnel under the river from Michigan, into the CN yard in Sarnia, and moving immediately away to other places.

Lynden, Washington is a primarily agricultural area on the Milwaukee Road; there, you see/saw primarily covered hoppers for the feed mill and other agricultural industries (before the large-scale use of covered hoppers from the 1960s on, grains etc were shipped in boxcars), and boxcars shipping out finished product (mostly powdered milk) from the Darigold dairy plant.

Honea Path, South Carolina was a small town with several rail-served industries; a lumber yard that received lumber in boxcars; an ice dealer that received ice in refrigerator cars, another merchant who received boxcars, and the town's major industries: the Chiquola cotton mill, who shipped baled cotton in boxcars, and the Southern Cotton Oil plant, who received cotton seed from the mill (I never did learn whether the seed was moved by truck or train) and made oil from it, which was shipped out in tank cars and boxcars; the oil mill also received hoppers of coal (the plant was large and had its own coal trestle).

So the key thing to consider in determining what freight cars you need is to determine what industries are in your area, and going from there. It's also important to know what product was shipped in what kind of car. In the 1960s and earlier, boxcars carried almost anything that was solid and didn't need refrigeration. Everything from boxes of products, to automobiles, to grain, to barrels of liquids, to lumber, all of these and more were moved in boxcars. It was only in the middle 1960s that specialised grain cars (covered hoppers) and auto racks started to appear on the railways, so if you're modelling the 1960s or earlier, and you're not sure what something was shipped in and you can't find the answer anywhere, it's pretty safe to assume it moved in boxcars! Open hoppers carried coal, crushed stone, anthracite and other similar products that don't care about getting wet. Gondolas were also very commonly used for carrying coal, but they also carried a lot of other things - coils and slugs and ingots of metal, scrap, car frames, etc. To move cargo that couldn't be loaded into a boxcar - for one example, prefabricated bridge components - flat cars of various sorts and gondolas were used. Anything that needed to be kept cold was moved in refrigerator cars; in the South, various fruits and vegetables were shipped in ventilated boxcars.

Hopefully this little summary is useful as an introductory guide...
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Re: Intro to US freight car fleets, or: what should be model

Postby Arseny » Sat Feb 12, 2011 7:12 am

Marquette wrote:Arseny, you do have a couple of options, depending what time period you want to model!


Thank you for the information!

I prefer steam era so I want model the middle of 1950s...

The problem is that my locomotive is not NYC nor CB&Q - it is DSS&A... :crazy:
Maybe I can say it is "leased" ?..
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Re: Intro to US freight car fleets, or: what should be model

Postby Marquette » Sat Feb 12, 2011 8:07 am

Oooooh! I'm off to bed shortly, but DSS&A is a cool subject, I'll write later about it,it's near to my Michigan area of interest...

... but my suggestion? Your "home road" should be the DSS&A (don't you have some passenger cars, too?). With the cabooses you can get a bit creative. In reality if the DSS&A needed cabooses they'd probably borrow some from the Soo Line (IIRC the Soo owned the DSS&A), but you can explain it away: in your world, they needed some, and bought some second-hand. Later on, maybe you can repaint them and have some decals made. But such an arrangement is much more likely with cabeese than locomotives - especially since NYC and CB&Q were big railways - can you imagine RZhD borrowing some locomotives from Estonia, because there aren't enough in Russia? Similar sort of thing.

Good night for now! :)
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Re: Intro to US freight car fleets, or: what should be model

Postby jmass » Sat Feb 12, 2011 8:58 am

Dude,! you should be writing a book! this is great info. by the way when im driving along the new jersey turnpike around elizabeth and newark where csx and norfolk southern have staging yards, i see a large amount of canadian pacific and canadian national boxcars,both 50 and 60 footers. also when did the railbox and ttx cars start arriving on the seen?
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Re: Intro to US freight car fleets, or: what should be model

Postby Marquette » Sat Feb 12, 2011 1:24 pm

TTX cars (along with other variants of the reporting mark - ATTX, QTTX etc) started showing up in the mid 1960s, when TOFC service started to really take off.

The present day differs significantly with regards to the movement of freight cars across the border - NAFTA made for a lot of changes. But also don't forget all the mergers since the 1990s - Canadian Pacific less so, but CN has significantly expanded its presence around North America. When CN was (IMNSHO stupidly) sold off by the Canadian government, Illinois Central picked it up, but part of the deal was that the CN name has to be kept. So nowadays you see a lot of cars in CN livery, but the reporting marks tell the story: only the CN cars with the reporting marks CN, DWC and BCOL are Canadian cars. BCIT, CNAA are Canadian cars for international service, and then there's the multitude of CN cars lettered with IC and other reporting marks, that are actually American cars. There are far fewer roadnames around now, but things actually are rather more complicated nowadays! I can't say too much more, as I could care less about anything past the early 1970s. ;P

A "new CN" anecdote: as I mentioned, part of the deal under which the IC took over the CN was that the CN name has to be kept in use. I was speaking with some CN workers (former BC Rail workersl; that's another railway privatisation that ticks me right off, so I won't get into it) up at Squamish, and I asked them to confirm a rumour I'd heard, and indeed, it proved to be true: employees of CN are officially forbidden to refer to the railway as "Canadian National" - they are to refer to it as "CN Rail" (even though, as I understand, the official name of the railway is still Canadian National Railway...).
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Re: Intro to US freight car fleets, or: what should be model

Postby Marquette » Sat Feb 12, 2011 1:36 pm

Oops, forgot to mention: Railbox started showing up in the first half of the 1980s, sorry I can't be more specific!
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Re: Intro to US freight car fleets, or: what should be model

Postby ConducTTor » Sat Feb 12, 2011 1:57 pm

I'm on the verge of changing your username to "encyclopedia".....

Man, what a wealth of knowledge!
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Re: Intro to US freight car fleets, or: what should be model

Postby Arseny » Sat Feb 12, 2011 2:59 pm

Marquette wrote:... but my suggestion? Your "home road" should be the DSS&A (don't you have some passenger cars, too?).


Thank you for the idea!

Unfortunately I have not american passenger cars - not DSS&A, nor any other railways...
I have some freight cars, but as for DSS&A - I have nothing (only 1 locomotive)...
Former owner sold on Ebay also the 0-6-0 steam locomotive painted as DSS&A, but I was afraid to buy 2 at once... :wall:

...BTW I have Maisto passenger cars, but I am not sure they are prototypical...
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