REPOSTED: from June 2010
I have a big interest in freight cars and marvel over the advances made in freight car construction between 1919 and the end of the steam era in the late 1950s. The late 1926 period I am concentrating on for this layout is fascinating as steel-sheathed box cars are just gaining a foothold on the US freight car fleet. The Wheeling & Lake Erie fleet is also quite interesting and a number of freight cars will be challenging to build and produce. A review of a 1925 and 1926 Official Railway Equipment Registers offer a good picture of the W&LE fleet. These ORER volumes are available on disc from two vendors; Donald R.Hensley, Jr., offers the October 1926 ORER, and Westerfield Models offers a 1925 ORER.
Several W&LE Official Railway Equipment Register entries can be reviewed at the Alphabet Route website.
Here is the W&LE freight car data for the late 1926 period. Images or links to images are included to illustrate the prototypes. References to the two John Corns books on the railroad, W&LE V1 and V2, are also noted.
Hopper Cars: all steel
55001-55500 : 497 cars known as Standard Steel Car Company channel rib cars.
Westerfield has produced HO scale models similar to these hopper cars. A prototype image can be found in Corns’ W&LE V2 p119.
FL5001-FL5400 : 301 cars originally from DL&W and very similar to the above series of hoppers.
Westerfield has produced HO scale models similar to these hopper cars. Prototype images can be found in Corns’ W&LE V2 p119.
59000-59999 : 992 car similar to the PRR GLa style, but with longitudinal hoppers. Prototype images can be found in Corns’ W&LE V1 p58 and V2 p119. The image above is from an Enterprise Manufacturing ad in the 1916 Car Builders Cyclopedia. Enterprise manufactured the interesting longitudinal hopper door hardware.
60000-60499 : 494 cars with ORER specifications similar to the previous series of hoppers. No image known.
77000-77999 : 1000 cars similar to PRR H21 and B&O W-1 class 70 -ton hoppers, but originally built with longitudinal hoppers. These were rebuilt in the early 1930s with a more traditional sawtooth hopper configuration. Image can be found in Corns’ W&LE V1 p58. An image from the 1919 Car Builders Cyclopedia can be seen above..
Total hoppers: 3284
18000-18305 : 1 car of 34-foot length. Double-sheathed wood construction with truss rods is suspected. No image known.
20000-20251 : 2 cars of 36-foot length. Double-sheathed wood construction with truss rods is suspected. No image known.
21000-21499 : 1 car of 36-foot length. Double-sheathed wood construction with truss rods is suspected. No image known.
21500-21599 : 16 cars of 36-foot length. Noted with steel centersill. Possibly a double-sheathed wood car.
22000-22399 : 287 cars of 35-foot, 8-inch length. A steel centersill and double-sheathed wood car. Images can be found in Corns’ W&LE V2 p114 and 115.
25000-25999 : 1000 cars of the 1923 ARA standard box car design. Images can be found in Corns’ W&LE V1 p59 and V2 p115.
Extensive detail on this box car design can be found in Railway Prototype Cyclopedia Volume 18. The above image illustates this box car design using HO scale models. The W&LE car is on the left while a Pennsylvania Railroad X29 box car is on the right. While similar, there were slight differences between the two box car designs.
27000-27999 : 1000 cars built by Western Car & Foundry. Single-sheathed wood construction with staggered doors and Vulcan vertical corrugated metal ends. The above image was taken in the 1920s and is from the W&LE archives in the special collection room of the Michael Schwartz Library at Cleveland State University. Additional prototype images can be found in Corns’ W&LE V1 p58 and 59. A similar box car is featured in the lead image taken by W&LE modeler Dean Payne in Warren, Ohio in 2005.
28000-28034 : 35 cars of 36-foot length. No image known.
29000-29199 : 198 automobile box cars. Single-sheathed wood construction with staggered doors. Uncertain if these cars also sported Vulcan vertical corrugated metal ends. Prototype images can be found in Corns’ W&LE V2 p115 and on the Fallen Flags website.
Total box cars: 2540
40000-40500 : 1 car of 35-foot 7-inch length. Wood construction.
43000-43999 : 5 cars of 36-foot length. Wood construction. Remainder of original AC&F cars built in 1905. A prototype image can be found in Corns’ W&LE V2 p116.
R6000-R6099 : 100 cars of 41-foot length. All steel construction.
52000-53899 : 1900 cars of 41-foot length. All steel construction with ORER specifications similar to the previous series of gondolas. A prototype image can be found in Corns’ W&LE V2 p117.
51000-51999 : 1000 cars of USRA composite gondola design. Drop bottom doors. A prototype image can be found in Corns’ W&LE V2 p117. The above image is an HO scale model of a very similar Hocking Valley gondola.
70000-70599 : 597 cars of 46-foot length. 70-ton capacity, all-steel construction and 3-foot interior height. Allegedly influenced the prototype design of the USRA mill gondola. A prototype image can be found in Corns’ W&LE V2 p111. The above image is an HO scale model of a very similar New York Central USRA mill gondola.
72000-72999 : 1000 cars of 46-foot length. 70-ton capacity, all-steel construction and 4-foot 4-inch interior height built by Standard Steel Car Company. I’ve seen only a couple images of these gondolas, one can be seen above. I believe these were built for the double duties of hauling coal and finished steel shapes. The above image is from the W&LE archives in the special collection room of the Michael Schwartz Library at Cleveland State University.
Total gondolas: 4603
2001-2100 : 1 car of 37-foot length and 40-ton capacity.
2200-2699 : 112 cars of 36-foot 5-inch length and 40-ton capacity. These were possibly converted from the 43000 series gondolas. Or possibly converted from 54000 series stock cars?
Total flat cars: 113
54000-54099 : 18 cars of 36-foot 5-inch length.
104 on roster with no details offered in ORER. Here’s a W&LE caboose preserved at the Mad River Railroad Museum in Bellevue, Ohio.
These details help me as a modeler to understand what will need to be built to best reflect the 1926 W&LE fleet. Take note that the totals of W&LE hoppers, box cars, and gondolas comes to 10427 freight cars. A small fleet of cars can be built as a representative proportion of the three main W&LE freight car types. For instance, if my fleet needs 20 W&LE cars it should include nine gondolas, six hoppers, and five box cars. These 20 cars may only represent a third or a fourth of the full fleet of freight cars on the model railroad. The remaining portions will be filled with common cars of other railroads, many of which were some of the larger of the eastern railroads; NYC, PRR, B&O, ERIE, NKP and more.
Understanding the home freight car fleet is a good first step. Along the way I’ve also taken note of many other common freight cars of the mid-1920s. More detail will be shared here soon.