A regular question among a Pre-Depression Era railroad modelers centers around what freight cars should be a part of the model fleet. The home road always gets first consideration, but what other railroads and car types should be among the freight car fleet? Most of the modelers in the discussions are in HO scale. We are lucky to have an extensive line of HO scale resin kit freight cars made by Westerfield Models. This line was originally developed by Al Westerfield and sold to Andrew Dahm, who continues to offer nearly all of the original line. Let’s take a look at some Westerfield models that fit into a mid-1920s era model railroad.
This overview was originally published in December 2010. I created this as a handy modeling guide. I thank Al Westerfield and Andrew Dahm for allowing use of the prototype information noted with the suggestions. If you plan to order some of the fine Westerfield products, please use the current business website. Of course, some would argue that each of the Westerfield models are pertinent. With only so many hobby dollars to spend, each model railroad will have different needs.
These are suggestions for go-to models, that fit my late 1926 era in an urban, industrial setting. I was originally modeling a part of Cleveland, Ohio, then shifted to Wheeling, W. Va., and will shift again to Pittsburgh.
Freight car designs with a minimum of 7000 cars produced were highly considered, or if it was a distinctive car with fewer in-service, like the PRR X23. Refrigerator cars, tank cars, or stock cars were not covered. I don’t know enough about them. I’ve included prototype images from early Car Builders Cyclopedias, Car Builders Dictionaries, and other sources. All the model photos feature my own work. Personal comments are included under several entries. I hope you find these suggestions pertinent. – – Eric Hansmann, August 2023
G22 46-foot all-steel mill gondola – Pennsylvania Railroad Lines
6,150 cars delivered beginning in 1915. This car design influenced the USRA mill gondola design.
XL class, 36-foot box car – PRR and related lines
The XL class car design is an iconic box car of the Pennsylvania Railroad and subsidiaries. Over 37,000 cars were installed between 1902 and 1916, with over 20 heralds and roadnames applied for the PRR and its subsidiaries.
>> If you are modeling a year before 1930, then this box car is a must-have for your fleet. As the 1920s rolled along, the PRR began moving much of this fleet to storage tracks and yards across the system. Mass scrapping of these cars began in the early 1930s with many reassigned to maintenance service.
BX-W/X/Y/Z 36-foot, double-sheathed box car – AT&SF
These Santa Fe cars represent a steady progression of car building based on the standard 36-foot, double-sheathed truss rod box car. The 5,000 Bx.W cars of 1910 were the first to have steel under frame members to strengthen the wood floor. The lower third of the end was also steel. 2,250 Bx.X class cars were received in 1912, closely following the earlier design. In 1914, 500 Bx.Y`s arrived with strengthened doors. 1915 saw the last of these cars added to the AT&SF fleet with 700 Bx.Z cars installed. These had wrap-around steel ends.
>>> 8,499 cars following a similar overall design makes this a serious consideration for anyone modeling the 1920s.
Between 1910-15 the Canadian Pacific Railroad installed over 33,000 cars of the basic design.
>> Nuff said.
B-50-1-4 class, 40-foot, double-sheathed box car – SP, UP, IC
The Harriman standard 40-foot box car was designed for all the roads Harriman controlled in the early 1900`s. One of the first steel under frame design house cars, almost 19,000 were built between 1904 and 1909. Union Pacific and Illinois Central cars were rebuilt in the 1920`s with steel ends.
>>>>> I picked up a great book on Southern Pacific box cars and was utterly shocked as to how many of these were in-service. I need to learn more about the western freight car fleets.
GL-GLCA 33-foot hopper – PRR lines
The GL class was a 33-foot version of the Pressed Steel Car Company hopper first built for PB&LE in 1897. This first all-steel design was delivered to the Pennsylvania Railroad, its subsidiaries and mines PRR serviced between 1898 and 1904, totaling over 20,000 cars.
PSC 30-foot hopper – NYC
So successful were the Pennsylvania GL hoppers that the Pressed Steel Car Company offered a generic version to the trade in 1899. It was 18″ shorter than the GL and used different door lock mechanism. Thousands of these cars were sold through 1904 and ran for 40 to 50 years. The New York Central ordered 2,600 cars for subsidiaries in between 1899 and 1904.
>>>> Face it, you WILL need hoppers. A mix of six of these GL/PSC cars will cover several bases.
40-foot composite gondola – CMStP&P CM&StP MILW
Over 7,600 cars based upon, but not identical to, the USRA composite gondola design were delivered from four car builders in 1922-23, becoming the workhorse of the Milwaukee open car fleet.
USRA 40-foot, steel box car – NYC Lines: M.C., CCC&StL, B&A, P&E, NOR
A USRA steel box car design was never built by the USRA, but the New York Central lines used the design throughout the 1920`s as their basic design. 21,000 cars were built for NYC and subsidiaries in the years of 1922-28, with evolving design changes.
SU 36-foot, double-sheathed box car – SR, M&O
After WW1, the Southern Railway began a program of installing as many inexpensive cars as possible. Between 1922 and 1928 it purchased 17,171 cars for itself and Mobile & Ohio which it controlled at the time.
Fowler 36-foot, 6-foot door, single-sheathed box car – CNR, ERIE, GTW, GTR, NYS&W, NC&StL
The first true single sheathed box car design, between 1903 and 1923 over 75,000 cars were built.
Fowler 40-foot, single-sheathed box car – C&NW, CMO, M&StL Chicago & North Western
These four lines ordered 5,000 cars from AC&F and Pullman in 1914. These were true Fowlers, not clones. The Omaha subsidiary received 1,500 cars in 1915.
>>>> 7500 of one car. Significant numbers to warrant one on your layout? I’d say so.
GRa 40-foot, 6-inch, fish belly side sill, composite gondola – PRR and subsidiaries
Over 14,000 GRa gondolas were built between 1907 and 1916. Many were updated through the the 1940`s with AB brake systems and end-of-side steel plate stiffeners. Many were reassigned to maintenance service and lasted to the PC era.
>> Another iconic Pennsylvania Railroad car design that was long lasting. It is another must have freight car for any pre-WW2 fleet.
M-15 40-foot, double-sheathed box car – B&O
Baltimore & Ohio settled on a standard design for automobile and box cars in 1910. From then until 1924 nearly all their box cars were built to this design.
>>>> While there were several sub-classes that each featured different end hardware, the total numbers of these cars exceeded 10000.
X25/A 40-foot, steel box car/steel automobile box car – PRR Lines
Between 1915 and 1919, 9,620 of the design were produced.
Fowler 40-foot, clone, single-sheathed box car – CRI&P, D&RGW
Between 1913-1916, 7,000 Fowler clones were built for Rock Island and Denver & Rio Grande by four car builders.
B50-6/9 40-foot, double-sheathed box car – S.P and subsidiaries., U.P. and subsidiaries, C&A
>>> No in-service numbers noted on the website, but this was another standard Harriman car.
Standard Steel Car Company channel hoppers – CNJ, ERIE, J&CCO, LV, NYS&W, PRR, P&R, RDG, W&LE, DL&W, B&O
In 1903, the Standard Steel Car Co. designed what was to become the second standard all-steel hopper car used by the railroads. The first was the PSC fishbelly hopper of 1899. Over 13,000 of this SSCo design were installed by 1911.
BX-O/5/14 double-sheathed box cars – AT&SF
The Santa Fe installed 7,000 Bx-O 35-ton box cars in 1905-07, as the first steel under frame house cars on the railroad.
1916 design, steel-sheathed automobile box car – MC and NYC
These automobile box cars were the first steel-sheathed, 40-foot house cars on the New York Central Lines. A total of 6,500 were built in 1916 with 4,500 going to the Michigan Central and the remaining 2,000 for the NYC. The first 500 cars for the MC had end doors with vertical corrugations. The combination of the quantity and the first steel-sheathed house cars on the NYC Lines pushes these into consideration for a late Teens and 1920s freight car fleet.
40-foot, truss rod, double-sheathed box car – CB&Q
The Chicago Burlington & Quincy installed 11,500 cars, the largest classes ever on the railroad, in 1910-14. Although the cars had eight truss rods, they also had a steel center sill consisting of two channels running the length of the car.
X23 single-sheathed box car – PRR Lines
The first Pennsylvania Railroad 40-foot box car design. 7,000-plus were built in 1912-13 for PRR Lines East and West, Vandalia Line and Cumberland Valley.
1916 design, double-sheathed, automobile box car – NYC Lines
NYC produced 9,500 of these cars.
40-foot, truss rod, double-sheathed box cars – G.N.
Between 1901 and 1917, Great Northern built over 20,000 40-foot, double-sheathed, truss rod box cars. During their lives the cars were upgraded, rebuilt, renumbered and repainted numerous times. Beginning in 1925 all cars, except one series, were rebuilt with add-on steel center sills and steel needle beams.
Bettendorf steel underframe, double-sheathed box cars – MILW
Built in 1907-1916, there were 16,000 cars built to the same double-sheathed design with Bettendorf steel underframes.
B50-15 class box car – ML&T, SP, and T&NO after 1929
The B50-15 car design is a great example of freight car design changes in the early 1920s. While a it is a small car class on the Southern Pacific with a quantity of 3,900, it represents the introduction of the Pratt truss design to their single-sheathed box cars. Outside of the USRA design box cars, this is one of the only currently available HO scale kits representing an early 1920s SP 40-foot, single-sheathed box car design.
1921 ARA design box car – C&NW, CStPM&O
From 1923 through 1927, the Chicago & Northwestern added 6,630 of these single-sheathed box cars to their fleet. While similar to the USRA single-sheathed box car, there were several design improvements and a shorter interior height. There were hardware variations in the cars built in 1927. Subsidiary road CStPM&O RR (CMO) received 500 of the total.
I encourage you to visit the Westerfield site to determine what best fits your freight car fleet . I’m certain Andrew Dahm will appreciate your order.
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