About my freight car fleet

Freight cars ready for the next operating session.

I received an email from a regular blog visitor at the end of 2015 that posed some very interesting questions. Here’s the message.

“Many of your recent posts describe prototypes built no more than fifteen years prior to your 1926 modeling period.

Do you know of – or have a feel for – the average age of the freight car fleet at that time? It seems to me that the great majority of the prototypes you have modeled so far represent relatively new cars. I know there was a lot of rolling stock construction going on around the end of the First World War and through the nineteen-twenties, but how much of this replaced older cars, rather than augmenting them and growing the overall fleet size?

I also am aware that car (and train) weights were increasing at that time so the very oldest cars may no longer have been man enough to run with the new construction, but presumably you need some cars built prior to 1910 or so to maintain a representative total fleet?”

There are some good questions here for anyone modeling the 1920s or a specific era. Let’s take a look at each question and some data and opinion.

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Other cities

Photo from the John W. Barriger III National Railroad Library.

The Wheeling Freight Terminal is set in Wheeling, WV, but there were similar facilities in other cities across the country. The above photo arrived via email this week from another modeler who is looking for layout inspiration. The photo is from the extensive John W. Barriger III National Railroad Library Flickr site, which is another amazing web resource.

A couple elements in this aerial image jump right out so let’s take a closer look.

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Holiday Lull

The quiet view across the street from my house after a snowfall in the desert.
The quiet view across the street from my house after a snowfall in the desert.

I returned to my workbench the other day and unearthed a project I started over a month ago. I seem to experience a holiday lull in hobby activity each year as outside activities increase and a family member or two travels to this tip of far west Texas for a visit. Old Man Winter played a trick and dumped eight inches of snow on the region to shut things down for a couple of days. I also dealt with a wonderful blog software update here that had gone awry. It was very good to sit at the workbench again and make progress.

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What’s in the yard?

Hackensack, NJ, Spring 1920 Photo X1628, DL&W Company Photo Collection, Steamtown NPS.

Ray Breyer submitted a neat blog post based upon the freight cars and details in a single image. Read further for a look into the past. Click on any image here to review a larger size. Model references are for HO scale products.

The above photo is a great snapshot of 1920s “real world” railroading, and offers a great peek into the fabric of railroading from almost 100 years ago. Between all of the juicy freight car detailing ideas and the general clutter around the yard shanty, there should be more than enough to keep any early prototype railroad modeler happy.

Context is always important when viewing photographs. The old adage that “a photo is worth 1000 words” is nice enough, but doesn’t say whether those words are truthful or lies. Knowing WHY is as important as knowing what. Let’s see if this photo is really telling us anything useful or not from a variety of perspectives.

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