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.
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.
The last couple of posts have focused on resources available here on the blog to assist modelers with a focus on 1920s and 1930s freight car fleets. While enjoying my morning coffee, I was reviewing images on a photo archive and realized how much I’ve learned from this resource and realized it hasn’t been promoted as much as other sites. There are great photo archives available on line with thousands of images that date to the first four decades of the Twentieth Century. The Library of Congress has a Mother Lode of images, many of which have been enhanced and posted at the Shorpy site. Several cities and libraries have extensive online digital archives; the Denver Public Library, Historic Pittsburgh, Cleveland Memory Project, West Virginia History on View, and the Vancouver Public Library, to name a few.
The Erie Lackawanna Railroad Historical Society has been posting several images a day from an extensive negative collection for the last few years. The images were taken in the Teens by a company photographer to document accident scenes and places along the right-of-way. Many images capture the railroad traversing a rural scene, while others show the hum and bustle of a small town or larger city. Vintage freight cars can be seen in many of these photos, along with vintage signs, homes, commercial structures, and industries. For a modeler of the Teens through the 1940s, the images are pure gold as they are filled with details that can be implemented along our model right-of-ways and towns. The images are like a window back in time that offer a glimpse of homes and small industries before they were leveled as towns grew with population increases. It was a time when the railroads were moving goods to serve communities and transport people to places near and far. Anytime I view images like these, an old indie rock tune, “Places That Are Gone,” by Tommy Keene starts playing in my head.
The details seen on many of these images inspire our hobby efforts no matter the scale, era, or gauge of our model railroads. I encourage you to visit the Erie Lackawanna Photo Archive regularly and make new discoveries among these century old photos.
What is one of your favorite digital image archives? Share your comment and a link in the section below. Please follow the instructions so your comment can be posted. All comments are reviewed and approved before they appear.
I started this blog in May 2009 after moving to a new home and city, and starting a new layout. I had been focused on modeling 1926 since 2005 and met a few other railroad modelers with interests pre-dating World War Two and the Depression. At some point in 2012, a discussion about HO scale freight cars led to creating a guide to plastic freight car models appropriate for a 1920s layout. These discussions ended up as a separate page here which has become a resource for many people who model the 1920s and 1930s. Over time, this resource page has become one of the most visited pages and posts on this blog. Each week when I check the blog statistics, the guide to 1920s era freight cars is among the top five.
As it has been a few years since the page was launched, it was ripe for an update. There have been some new models from Broadway Limited, MTH, and Tangent, as well as a sweet announcement from Rapido. There have also been changes as Red Caboose was bought by Intermountain, so a few notes have been added. The updated page remains at the same location. You can also find the link in the menu along the right side of the main blog page. I think we are set for another couple of years.
Post a comment below and let me know what you think. What is missing?
A recent summer weekday was spent in a library, specifically, the special collections room of the Cleveland State University Library. Upon entering, my eyes were drawn to several large images of Cleveland’s past and a large collection of O scale model trolleys positioned atop a long shelving unit. This is really one cool joint. Among the railroad archives collected here are documents from the Nickel Plate, Erie-Lackawanna, Wheeling & Lake Erie, and the Newburgh & South Shore. I went in search of W&LE maps and N&SS images. I did not find those specific items, but I did find and review W&LE images and N&SS maps. Reviewing these items were well worth the time.