Little details

ACF Industries, Westerfield Models collection

Several tasks have been keeping me away from regular blog posts but I am progressing with the two Westerfield Models B&O M-15 boxcar kits. After installing most of the brake components, I noticed something on the bottom of the side sill. Naturally, I became curious.

Here’s a closer look at that spot on the prototype. I had a hunch it had something to do with the brake system. I asked a few B&O freight car modelers and they were uncertain what it could be. Shortly after discussing the detail with B&O modeler and historian Ed Kirstatter, he found a diagram for the brake system and sent it along.

The diagram is drawn from the perspective of looking down through the floor. An arrow near the bottom of the diagram points to detail on the side sill, which is a fulcrum point for another brake lever. The hand brake rod components are attached to this lever to manually set the brakes. In many applications, the rod from the hand brake attaches directly to the lever at the brake cylinder, sometimes via a short length of chain. The B&O often did things differently and this is one of those cases.

Some styrene, wire, and a length of chain were installed to reflect the installation diagram. Now I can move forward to install the roof components so these boxcars can roll to the paint shop.

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12 thoughts on “Little details”

  1. Hi Eric,
    Clearly you are an early riser like me as it is only 6:00 AM on Easter morning and posted just over two hours ago, or are you an insomniac? No need to publish tis question but it boggles my mind.

    If I’m reading your brake diagram correctly there are a total of seven (7) brake levers in what seem to be a ridiculously unnecessary arrangement. Why???? Uncle Dan Willard was a thrifty Vermonter raised only an hour down the Connecticut River Valley from where I lived for the majority of my life and I can’t believe he would have allowed such a seemingly wasteful system to have been used on the B&O during his tenure as its president. What’s the real story here? Am I missing something or are we both missing something in an attempt to faithfully model the prototype?

    My best, Don Valentine

    1. Thanks for your comments, Don. First off, I schedule these posts to publish in the wee hours so there’s something new to read with the morning coffee. I am not awake at that time. It’s a nice software feature.

      As for the brake levers in the diagram, I think two are missing. So there would be a total of nine (9). But four of them are on the trucks and two more are located near the trucks. In the upper right corner of the diagram you can see the three levers for controlling the brakes on the truck. Only one lever is seen on the other end of the diagram. We typically don’t model these. The modeling focus is on the three levers directly associated with the K brake hardware. I hope that clears things up. – Eric

  2. Very interesting–and very helpful for an on-going project. (I’m making masters for M-15F sides and ends–that’s the car Westerfield never got around to making–will use Westerfield underframe and roof parts.) I have a couple of questions: (1) The B&O diagram is for M-15F cars, and I assume your photo shows a car (M-15E?) with the same set-up–any reason to think all M-15 cars originally had this? (2) This diagram shows not only an “extra” lever near the brake cylinder, but also two more “extra” levers near the trucks–not the only B&O brake system with “extra” levers, on cars of other roads as well: any idea what was the engineering reason for this? (3) Lastly: any idea whether this system remained basically intact if car changed to AB brakes? Thanks for any further insight. And thanks again for this info.

    1. John, I noticed a similar sill detail on a couple other M-15 subclass car photos but the image quality was not as good as the prototype image used here. I admit I am generalizing this application, but I suspect this would be similar for all the M-15 subclasses in the 1920s.

      As for your second question, check my answer to Don Valentine’s post just above yours. I think those extra levers are on the trucks but not repeated on the other end of the drawing. The diagram illustrates the near-complete brake rod and lever installation. The left truck detail is missing as it is the same as that illustrated for the right truck.

      I’ve noticed the upgrade to AB systems on many older cars do not usually alter the brake rods and levers. The K brake hardware was replaced with the AB hardware and piping. There may have been some roads that made changes to the rods and levers, but that is extra work and money going into every car upgrade. I would welcome any details otherwise, but my focus pre-dates the AB system use. – Eric

  3. Eric,
    The extra lever associated with the handbrake provides additional leverage to set the brake. Sort of a “poor man’s power handbrake” if you will.
    Bruce Smith

  4. Would these be the same brake arrangement used on the M-15L wagontop since they were rebuilt from these?

    1. That’s a good question, Scott. I can only answer with possibly. Check the prototype photos and look for a small detail along the left side sill in the same place as we see it on the prototype photo here. If you see something there, then the brake lever and rods are probably in the same arrangement. Review the prototype photos carefully. This detail is only on the left side of the car as you are looking at the brake staff end. – Eric

  5. Many Pacific Electric boxcars and flatcars had a similar set of extra brake linkage levers to allow the trucks to turn more sharply in downtown street trackage and a separate link that went to the handbrake so the wheels would not contact the linkage in a sharp turn (but it west outside under the sill). Were these B&Os used in a similar sharp turn situation?

    1. Thanks for your comment, RJ. I’m familiar with the PE brake rod along the side sill connecting with the handbrake wheel. I’ve seen this application on some gondolas, too. But that isn’t how the rods and levers are installed on these B&O M-15 boxcars. As Bruce Smith pointed out in a previous comment, the extra lever was associated with the handbrake connection and provided additional leverage to manually set the brakes. – Eric

  6. Although we model different eras in different scales, I appreciate your hobby focus as it is where my interests are gravitating. I’ve bookmarked the blog and look forward to catching up on the archives.


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