Prototype modelers love data. Sifting through the details of an Official Railway Equipment Register (ORER) can offer insight to many different in-service freight cars. A few months ago, I went through a 1926 ORER and tabulated data on car types for each railroad. It wasn’t as difficult as it sounds.

For almost every ORER railroad listing, there is a recapitulation of car equipment that summarizes the fleet. You can see the data presentation in the image above. I’m using a smaller railroad, the Peoria & Eastern, in this example so the details are easier to see. The top portion of this table offers the data on the car types in the P&E fleet. Note the breakout detail on the Automobile boxcars (XA) from the Plain boxcars (XM). I gathered these quantities on a spreadsheet to easily sort the car types of the 1926 railroad fleets; boxcars, hoppers, gondolas, etc.

Here’s a screenshot of the railroads with the most overall cars with the quantities in the grey column. Across the top are the various car types. At the far right are the various boxcar types that were noted separately in the ORER; automobile, ventilated, furniture, and insulated. Remember the earlier P&E example with the XA cars? This is where that data would fall.
The column on the far left column has been extremely helpful. I refer to this spreadsheet quite a bit and usually need to check the ORER data for a specific railroad. Documenting the page number at the beginning of the row has saved lots of time.

I only entered the data for railroads that listed 1000 or more in-service freight cars. There were 131 railroads that met this criteria in 1926. Check that recapitulation data for the P&E. It lists a total of 1049 cars, but that includes 118 non-revenue cars. The 931 P&E in-service cars did not make the list.

I’ve been a fan of ventilated boxcars for a long time. The 1926 data shows only 24 railroads had ventilated boxcars. The totals are in the blue column and the top four railroads are not a surprise. Southeastern railroads were known for their ventilated boxcar fleets. Many of the XV cars for the railroads with the fewest quantities would be out of service in the next fifteen years.

You might notice some railroads are listed more than once. The data was tabulated based on how it is found in the ORER. The New York Central listed several subsidiaries. I used a separate worksheet to bring that data together, as seen above. Their overall automobile boxcar fleet was larger than the fleets of 106 other railroads on the spreadsheet.

Similarly, the Southern Pacific listings are separated into east and west lines. The Missouri Pacific has three listings as two of them are called out for the Gulf Coast Lines and the International-Great Northern.

I’m sure a few readers want to know the railroads at the end of the list. Here are the last 34 lines. These overall quantities neatly fit in the 1000-2000 car range. Do you recognize all of the reporting marks? Many of these smaller railroads would disappear with merger and abandonment in the next fifteen years.

Data. It’s pretty neat stuff. I encourage you to dig up the ORER details for your focus year. Creating this spreadsheet has helped me understand the 1926 freight car fleet just a little bit more.

Thanks for visiting the blog. You can share a comment in the section below. Follow the instructions so your comment can be posted. All comments are reviewed and approved before they appear. Please share the blog link with other model railroaders. To subscribe to this blog, add your email address to the function at the bottom of the right column on the main page.

2 thoughts on “Data”

  1. I really like the simplicity of your database relative to its usefulness! For those without conductor wheel reports, your use of 1,000 total cars as a threshold makes sense. I am using wheel report from Jan-Sep 1934 to generate the universe of road names and the relative frequencies they appear in trains to determine my ideal freight car roster. I may have the same total number of rows in my database because some road names with less than 1,000 cars might show up and a few roads with 1000 total cars in the ’34 ORER might never appear in the wheel report. That may be a total luck of the draw for the wheel report, so I might still add a car from a road in the ORER list that wasn’t in the wheel report but I know it would be a choice I should make rarely.

    Data like this is so helpful in shopping or even in prioritizing which kits from my stash need to be built. Thanks as always for providing a thoughtful and helpful “chunk” of information that helps us pursue our scale railroad model interests.

  2. Great Northern included its iron ore cars under the heading “gondolas” and in its Annual Report for 1926, it listed 2,652 “coal cars” in its fleet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.