A regular question among a pre-Depression railroad modelers centers around what freight cars should be a part of the model fleet. The home road always gets first consideration, but what else should be among the texture of the freight car fleet? Most of those in the discussion are in HO scale and 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 but content was lost when my blog host suffered a digital belch. I thought since the company is back in business that this overview would come in handy for many modelers. I thank Al Westerfield for allowing use of the prototype information noted under each of the suggestions. I copied most of those details from the original website before it disappeared. If you plan to order some of the fine Westerfield products, please use the current business website. Of course, some say that each of the Westerfield models are pertinent, but there are only so many hobby dollars to spend, but each model railroad will have different needs.
These are suggestions for go-to models, especially if modeling a part of Cleveland, Ohio, along the Wheeling & Lake Erie in late 1926, which is a time and place I hope to use again on a future layout. Many of these suggestions have merit for my current 1926 B&O Wheeling Freight Terminal. YMMV. Freight car designs with a minimum of 8000 cars produced were highly considered, or if it was a distinctive car of a few thousand produced, like the PRR X23. Refrigerator cars, tank cars, or stock cars were not covered. I just don’t know enough about them. If a freight car model is available as an injection molded plastic kit, then a Westerfield model would be dropped off of this list. See the 1920s plastic freight car model guide for those details. I’ve included prototype images from early Car Builders Cyclopedias, Car Builders Dictionaries, and links to on-line images. Personal comments are included under several entries. I hope you find these suggestions pertinent.
G22 46-foot gondola – Pennsylvania Railroad Lines
6,150 cars delivered beginning in 1915.
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.
Fowler 36-foot, 5-foot door, single-sheathed box car – CPR
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.
>>> I suspect the Canadian Pacific numbers are included in that figure. Get three or four.
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 house car in 1910. From then until 1924 all 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., U.P., 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.
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 40′ box car on the railroad, Pennsy built over 6,900 in 1912-13 for 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 1912-13, there were 5,000 of 16,000 cars built to the same basic Bettendorf design.
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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5 thoughts on “A quick guide to Westerfield Models for a 1920s model railroad”
Great stuff. I appreciate all the research it must’ve taken to compile this list. I especially like the profusion of PRR cars.
Thanks for visiting, John. As you know, research happens. I wondered which of these kits would be best to get and decided to do some checking to see what would fit my 1926 eastern urban setting. When others would ask why I purchased a certain kit, it was easy to share the info. Posting here on the blog helps others with similar questions. – Eric
Eric, I am glad I found your site. I am a rivet counter who plans to model the east coast specifically CNJ (gateway of freight to New York City) and NY&LB (CNJ and Pennsylvania equipment). I have a lot of options for freight cars and your site has added to them. I’ve found that scanning photos of freight yards from time period photos really helps, if just for road names alone. I’m wondering if you have come to any conclusions concerning reefers, stock or tank cars? Any plans to include Funaro & Camerlengo or other prototype kit manufacturers? I enjoyed your site very much.
Wouldn’t it be nice if Bowser decided to make a GL fishbelly hooper in plastic to go along with their GLa, or even an XL boxcar? The Westerfield kits build into beautiful models, yet a 20 car train in the teens is a major undertaking.
Thanks for your comment, John! It would be great to see Bowser release the GL as an injection-molded plastic mode. I don’t think that will happen at this point. Model manufacturers are focused more on producing plastic models of prototypes that were still holding quantities in the 1945-1960 freight car fleets. I don’t think the car class held significant numbers after WW2. What remained had also been rebuilt a few times, moving the appearance away from the original. We can’t really say it will never happen, but I think the possibilities are very low. It was great to see you at Indy Junction! I hope the event recharged your modeling efforts. – – Eric H.