About The Steam Era Freightcars Blog

This blog discusses all aspects of North American freight cars of the steam era, from the dawn of railroading through 1960.
It is intended to support the efforts of model railroaders who wish to produce the most prototypically accurate freight cars possible.
Prototype modelers are encouraged to participate in this blog. Please consider sending photos of prototypes and your efforts to model them, reviews of kits, books and other products, “articles” about your modeling efforts – with or without photos. The nature of blogging means the material can be "real time," and in-process models can be shared. These are not only welcomed, but appreciated as we all love to see a model develop over time.
Also welcome is information about upcoming prototype meets, shows, and other events.
Information submitted for this blog is considered gratis. Also, all submissions must include your name and contact email.
For more information or to submit information email steamfreightcar@gmail.com.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Dating a Photo


I don't think I'll be able to get an actual model of the Enosburg Falls condensery before the MARPM Open House (before the end of the year is more likely!) but that doesn't mean I don't want to think through what the building might look like. 

Here's a couple of views of the same side of the building (obviously the trackside of the building) from two different eras. 

Obviously the building has seem some changes - I'd like to be able to determine the era these photos were taken - it may help refine what my model for the ~1941 era model should look like. 

The shot with the GTW reefer is the later image of these two. I think the car barely visible to the extreme left is a showing the large "wiggle worm" CV logo of the post-1963 era. 

The two freight cars in the earlier picture should be able to help set a baseline to come up with a range of years for that photo. 

I believe these are a PRR drop bottom gon, maybe one like THIS Westerfield model. The ATSF boxcar is a little harder to pin down, but someone who knows Santa Fe boxcars may be able to use it to narrow down the era. 

I suspect the photo dates from sometime in the first 10-15 years of the 20th century but would like to narrow down the date. 

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Pulpwood Delivery

The CN boxcar is just one of the many interesting details visible in this photo. Jack Delano photo, Library of Congress, Sheldon Springs, Vt., September 1941. 

In the steam era boxcars hauled virtually every commodity that didn't need to be temperature controlled. That included dimensional lumber and pulpwood. 

The reporting marks on the car end are CN 511534, marking this as one of a large class (~1,700 cars) of Canadian National single sheathed boxcars. 

Sylvan Scale Models and Steam Shack (F&C) both offered these cars as HO scale resin kits over the years. And Ted Culotta's Essential Freight Cars (Number 8, November 2003 RMC) gives additional details on these cars. 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

L&N Rebuilt Boxcar


Yet another half started freight car project that I've dug out of the box and completed. This is a Sunshine Models L&N rebuilt boxcar with Murphy ends, Sunshine Kit #64.11. I likely replaced the bracket grabs, ladder, and brake wheel that came in the kit with other after market parts. I did use some bits and pieces of Speedwitch's L&N boxcar decals (which are not specifically made for this car) to complement the kit decals. The carman's chalk marks are a combination of various Sunshine decals. It obviously still needs a little running weathering. That's the basic description of thing, but there's really a little more background to why I built this particular car. 

Back when Sunshine Models hosted the Naperville RPM meets, Martin Lofton, the owner of Sunshine Models, often asked me to do an ongoing hands-on display showing people how to build these resin cars.. One "perk" for doing this was I'd often get early access to the coveted Sunshine "sale room" before it opened for the other attendees. In this case he'd sent me the kit before the meet so I could get some of the basic assembly work done beforehand. I'm not sure I would have chosen this car on my own, since I haven't seen an L&N boxcar, let alone a pre war rebuild, in a photo on my prototype. 

What really pushed this one to the top of the "finish it" pile was the passing of my good friend Bill Welch. Bill's first modeling love was the railroads of the Southeastern U. S., which he often called "Y'All Railroads." I'd gotten to know him on the prototype modeling "circuit" - and always appreciated a chance to visit with him. When I moved to the DC area Bill still lived here, and he organized several informal prototype modeling "show and tell" get togethers. Very small, very informal, and great fun. 

Bill had sent me an email in late 2019 asking for my help in designing a small switching layout. We went back and forth on that a few times, and then several months passed. It was sometime last summer he wrote to tell me of his cancer diagnosis. By November he was gone. 

I realize it's been a few months since Bill passed away, but I figured what better tribute to a friend than to finally finish up this Y'all road boxcar. 

It seemed doubly appropriate since the very last email I received from Bill was a response to my question - "What color should I paint this thing?" 

He recommended Badger's Light Tuscan Oxide Red. I don't really like Badger's paints after some truly miserable experiences with them early on. But Bill seemed adamant about this brand and color so that's the paint I used. 

Perhaps they've improved the paint somehow? 

Or perhaps Bill was looking over my shoulder? 

In any event, if you don't like the model take it up with me. But if you don't like the color, you'll have to discuss that with Bill. 

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Shaking off the (figurative) Rust

It's been quite a while since I've worked on a freight car - any freight car. I mean several years since I touched a freight car model. 

So with the layout infrastructure (benchwork, track, and wiring) completed I decided to take a break from moving forward on scenery and structures (I am working on a large structure kit, some details of which you can see HERE) to shake the rust off my freight car modeling skills and maybe get a  couple more cars out of their boxes and onto the track. 

I started by digging these two resin cars (both of which had been assembled a while back - one of them more than 25 years ago!) into the spray booth for a coat of primer. 

Then I found these three True-Line CN boxcars that I had dullcoated before we moved from the old house and played around with weathering them. 

At this point I've added a basic streaking of Burnt Umber and Black oil paints. 

Just for fun, and to try something a little different, I tried to duplicate the look of failed paint on the roof of one car. 
I used an unscientific combination of Vallejo Silver and Gunmetal Gray. Was just a little vivid at first, but a wash of Vallejo Medium Gray wash helped blend everything. 

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Richford Branch Extra - Coming and Going - and notes on a side trip to Maine


This pair of Stan Bolton images, that I am sharing courtesy of Stan's good friend George Corey, show a pair of Central Vermont Consolidations (#s 465 and 466) working the daily local through Sheldon Junction, Vt., on an obviously "chilly" February 23, 1957. 

A few of the cars are fairly easy to identify (Click on the images to enlarge). 

I'll go first - the lead car in the second image is a Central Vermont 40,000-series boxcar. Typically one of these cars was used to handle LCL on the Richford job. 

A side note:

Almost exactly two years to the day before this image was taken, no. 466 and her sister no. 471 were both sent to the Grand Trunk (NEL). No. 466 made exactly one trip - actually less than one trip - when she experienced mechanical problems on an Island Pond to Portland, ME extra and was promptly returned to the CV.  

No 471 faired much better than her sister on her assignment to Maine. She remained on the GT (NEL) through the end of August 1955 where she made 24 mainline trips, primarily on wayfreights. She even made a half dozen or so trips hauling passenger train no. 16, and spent 36 days as the Lewiston branch engine. 

Obviously the St. Albans shop crew fixed whatever ailed no. 466 and she's steaming pretty well in these shots.  

Sunday, November 29, 2020

"You don't want to rush these things ...."

 It's been far too long since I've posted on this blog (although I do a better job keeping my Central Vermont blog up to date). 

I truly hope everyone has had a happy and healthy Thanksgiving. I also sincerely hope your personal situation has been such that you've been able to spend time on trivial items like model railroading!

After having my car living in the driveway for going on a year, I took advantage of the unseasonably warm waether this weekend to (finally) clear out the garage - at least the point where both cars would fit. 

Most of the stuff was, as I suspected, items we no longer need or simply junk. They have now all found their way to the appropriate places - which means they're no longer taking up space better suited for my car! 

I did come across one plastic tote that had, among other things, several brown Westerfield boxes. After we moved out of the old house and into the temporary apartment I'd ordered several Westerfield kits as part of the November sale. (As an aside, this years sale is going on until the end of November. You can find details on the Westerfield website <HERE>). Naturally, I figured these were those kits. 

But when I got these cars into the house I noticed one of the labels had a "BUILT" notation on them. 

Sharp-eyed readers will note this is the old school Westerfield resin. Back in my Navy shipboard days I'd pick up a few Westerfield (or very early F&C) kits and bring them to build on the ship. I got a fair number of them built - especially when I was assigned to a fleet oiler. The one thing I couldn't do is paint these on the ship - so I built them and painted them when I got home. 

I'm fairly certain this is one of those cars. That would mean I started it in 1990 or 91... and it's still not finished. Thirty years from start to completion of a model - a new personal best!

The model survived its long slumber remarkably intact. One of the running board supports is gone, and the brake wheel is lost to the ages. Otherwise, it looks pretty good. It has trucks which means I must have done something with it off the ship at some point - I learned the hard way not to put trucks on the models I built on the ship - after finding a Westerfield H21 "rekitted" on the deck of the stateroom after a bouncy night of Cape Hatteras! 

I'd made note of which Floquil paint I was going to use on this model, but that doesn't do me much good. Anyone have a suggestion for a currently available paint (preferably Vallejo) that would work for this car? 

Of course, if pressed I can claim I was waiting for a better decal set to come along.

After all, you don't want to rush these things!

Monday, January 27, 2020

Crowd Funding HO scale models

The traditional method of producing an injection-molded model of a typical freight car goes something like this - 
1. A prototype is identified (usually through suggestions from dealers and/or hobbyists) as a likely "good" project by a manufacturer.
2. Inquiries are made, usually to unpaid "consultants" - most often hobbyists themselves - to obtain the information, drawings, and photos needed to develop a list of components such as doors, ends, roofs and the like, as well as paint schemes. 
3. At some point the economic reality of producing the model rears its ugly head, and it becomes obvious it's impractical to produce each possible version of the "basic" car - especially in an initial run. Most often, the goal is to recoup the R&D costs with the first run - perhaps with a small amount of profit, with the real money to follow with subsequent runs.
The cost, and time, to develop the tooling is the Achilles heal in the process. Of course, unique and low production models have been, and are continuing to be made in resin. But in the case of a factory assembled, decorated injection molded car the tooling cost can easily reach $250,000.00. Some cost even more. And on top of the tooling cost you still have a per unit manufacturing costs. For the manufacturer the risk for many otherwise appealing prototypes is too great to justify the expense. So choices are made. Often those choices mean we as modelers don't get all the models we want. 
Some manufacturers get around these limitations by producing generic cars, others use a business model that limits the model to only those details and paint schemes that are accurate. The vast majority seem to fall somewhere between the two extremes. They'll produce an accurate model for one railroad, for example, but paint and letter that same model for other railroads. Each of these "others" reflect varying degrees of accuracy. 

Crowd-sourcing a boxcar?
The folks at Prototype Junction are attempting an approach that has worked in other hobbies, primarily gaming, with some success. They are starting a crowd-funded approach to produce a model of an AT&SF Bx-11 & 12 series boxcar. It turns out other roads, including the C&O, CGW, L&N and Pere Marquette, had similar cars (with different details or components). I won't dwell on the specifics, since you can find a rather detailed set of parameters for this project HERE. 

How this works
If you're unfamiliar with crowd-funding - here's how it works. Someone establishes a project with a funding goal and time limit to achieve that goal. Each contribution (called a pledge) is a small percentage of the total dollar value of the goal (in this case the money needed to get the tooling cut, the parts molded, assembled, decorated, and packaged). 
The link above for outlines the various pledge (funding) levels. Your card is charged at that moment you make the reservation. The money goes to no further than indiegogo, into what amounts to an escrow account. In the event the total project funding isn't reached, the project is canceled and you get your money refunded.  
If the funding goal is reached (in this case $250,000.00) then the money will go to Prototype Junction and they will proceed to produce the model. Ideally, in about a year you'll get your finished model(s). 

Some thoughts
I think this is an interesting approach to getting models produced. I think where it would work the best would be with higher dollar value, truly esoteric and unusual prototypes (MofW equipment leaps to mind, or the ever popular "battleship gun flats." Truly odd things like that. Frankly, I'm not certain a boxcar, of any flavor, is truly esoteric enough to garner enough pledges to push a project like this over the finish line. 
And for any project, this really represents a considerable change in the way model railroad production has always worked. The manufacturers have taken all the risk to this point. I don't know of any who require prepayment for something like a boxcar model. This approach is asking the modeler to take on the (admittedly relatively small dollar amount) risk - and wait for the model to be produced. 
I will say this - I have no doubt about Randy's integrity and desire to get this project off the ground and deliver a nicely detailed model to the folks who step up and sponsor this project. 
If you've ever wanted to get a somewhat unusual model produced in injection molded plastic, factory assembled and decorated (although kits, and parts are also options here) this is an interesting approach. I wish Prototype Junction the best of luck!