Critical Cars, Traffic Research

Critical Cars: AC&F “Flexi-Flo” PD 3500

The American Car & Foundry’s 3500 cubic foot, pressure differential covered hopper (PD3500) built for the New York Central in the mid-1960s was one of the most distinctive covered hopper designs of all time. Only 220 were built, but their long service life, distinctive graphics and concentration in the populous Northeast have made them a must-have model for many. Those of us who need these cars are fortunate that Rapido has recently released versions of all three lots in HO scale.

The models are excellent, a quick tune up. For me modeling them only a few months old, a shot of Dullcote and some light weathering and they are ready for the road. While there isn’t much more to say about the models, how these cars came into existence and the role they played in helping railroads adapt to changing times is an interesting story.

Rapido’s models are a spot-on match. They just need a good weathering job to get on the layout.


In the 1960s, railroads were seeing their traffic erode on all fronts due to increased competition from alternate modes of transportation. This trend even began to attack bulk commodities that were once considered “safe”. One of these commodities was cement. In the Hudson Valley around Albany, there were nine cement mills that supplied much of New York and New England’s cement. New York Central served seven of these directly. After the opening of superhighways across this territory and the development of the pneumatic dry bulk trailer, these plants diverted significant tonnage to truck. The NYC was looking for a way to get this traffic back and the Flexi-Flo concept was the result. 

Central’s president, Al Perlman, summarized the Flexi-Flo development at an ICC hearing in October of 1965,

…a few years ago [cement] moved almost exclusively by rail in covered hoppers. The great convenience of jobsite delivery by truck, and the difficulty and expense of transfer from rail hopper to truck storage, thence to truck for jobsite delivery, led to widespread decentralization of the cement industry, despite the fact that centralized cement production offered great production cost advantages. If these production cost savings were to be passed along to the consumer, a new transportation tool had to be found.

The Central met that challenge by the development of the Flexi-Flo car, a covered hopper of 125-ton capacity with a pressure differential (PD) device. The car moves from production point to terminal where it is unloaded, as the cement is needed, into pressure differential-equipped trucks. Differences in pressure within the truck’s hopper and the rail car hopper permit loading the truck in a matter of minutes. Flexi-Flo reduces the cost of basic transportation, eliminates the need for storage in transit, and permits the ultimate consumer to share in the benefits of all these cost reductions, including that of centralized production of cement.

Excerpt from January 1966 Central Headlight. NYCSHS collection, used with permission.

While the concept of team tracks is as old as railroading itself, the NYC innovated with Flexi-Flo by creating a full service business model tailored to the specialized needs of dry and liquid bulk shippers, combining new concepts in cars, terminals and operations making it much more user-friendly and economical at the same time.

The Cars

New York Central specified a car with a 315,000 pound gross weight (315K) to take full advantage of the heavy-duty capability of its core mainlines. The cars had a load limit of 245,200 lbs., allowing them to hold six truckloads of product each – a critical factor when trying to win business back from the highway. The specific gravity of powdered cement dictated a 3500 cubic foot capacity. To emphasize how far ahead of the times NYC was consider that the standard railcar gross weight was 220K, there still isn’t a national 315K network in 2020 and some short lines and regional railroads are still struggling to get their bridges upgraded to 286K.

The cars were delivered to NYC in four batches as outlined in the roster below. They each differed slightly from each other. The most obvious spotting characteristic were the vertical side ribs on the first batch of 25 cars. One has to look closely to spot the differences between the next two lots. The final NYC group was made up of five 3600 cubic foot tank type covered hoppers built for BF Goodrich. They are included for reference but are a totally different car design.

NumbersQty.LotYearSide ReinforcementsHatch Dia.Wheel Dia.

With the exception of 7 cars built for AC&F’s Shippers Car Line lease fleet, these wound up being unique cars to the NYC. The 3500 cubic foot design had great economics, but the limited number of routes that could handle 315K cars probably led to Penn Central’s decision to specify a 3000 cubic foot, 263K limit design for the next batch of PD cars in 1974.

From left to right, cars from the first, third and fifth orders of Flexi-Flo covered hoppers at Bridge One in Cleveland, Ohio in the late 1970s. Note the vertical stiffeners on the first car. The fifth batch was PC’s 1974 order of North American Car PD3000s. PC would also add 2600 cubic foot Airslide covered hoppers to the Flexi-Flo fleet as well. George Elwood photo, used with permission


Flexi-Flo cars at Framingham, Mass. circa 1965. Note the cement streaks starting to show up, new cement cars get dirty fast. This was the photo I used as a reference for weathering my cars. Tad Arnold photo, Bob Arnold collection (used with permission)

Flexi-Flo terminals consisted of one or more tracks to hold cars while they were unloaded, a driveway parallel to the track wide enough for trucks to turn around, pneumatic equipment to pump the product, a truck scale and an office. The first Flexi-Flo terminal was opened at Big Four Yard in Avon, Ind. near Indianapolis in May of 1964.

Ceremonial opening of the Syracuse Flexi-Flo terminal. Central Headlight – courtesy of the New York Central Historical Society.

Through the Penn Central merger, NYC opened 10 additional terminals, in the following order (dates are approximate):

  • Rochester, N.Y, – 9/64
  • Buffalo, N.Y. – 1/65
  • Syracuse, N.Y. – 3/65
  • Framingham, Mass. – 9/65
  • Louisville, Ky.
  • North Bergen, N.J. – 4/66
  • Charleston, W.Va.
  • Boston, Mass.
  • Hammond, Ind. – 7/67
  • Cleveland/Collinwood, Ohio – 11/67

Generally speaking, the railroad opened the first terminals to create a distribution network for Hudson Valley cement. They then pivoted to handle general liquid and bulk commodities, starting with the Louisville terminal.

A Framingham switcher pulls empty autoracks from the auto distribution terminal back to the yard, June 1966. In the center of the photo is the Flexi-Flo cement terminal. Leroy Dozier photo, George Elwood collection, used with permission.

The Framingham terminal was located around the wye with the Milford Branch and on the site of the freight house, which was demolished to make way for this project. A 1966 USGS aerial photo shows 20 cars spotted there. If those are all Flexi-Flo cars, and based on period photos I believe they are, that is 1/5 of the fleet at that time. Obviously Framingham was one of the busiest terminals in the network and probably the top destination of the PD3500 fleet. The terminal continued to serve cement customers into the middle of the 1980s when bankruptcies and mergers in the cement industry led to major changes in the distribution network. Any remaining activity was consolidated with the Boston Flexi-Flo operation at that time.

Framingham Flexi-Flo terminal, March 9, 1966. USGS aerial photo.

The Boston terminal was located off the Sears Lead on the north side of the MassPike and was built in concert with the total reconstruction of Beacon Park Yard brought on by the Turnpike’s construction. In later years, as carload freight in and out of Boston declined, the terminal was moved into the middle of Beacon Park Yard. With the closure of Beacon Park, CSX moved it again to Westborough, under their Transflo brand.

Beacon Park freight terminal April 9, 1969. The Flexi-Flo yard is filled with a mix of covered hoppers and tank cars. It looks so full that the circulatory truck access has been blocked. Notice that there are 49 boxcars spotted at the freight houses, an indication that the freight forwarder business was still brisk. USGS aerial photo.


The NYC needed the Flexi-Flo cement service to succeed so it could serve as a example of what the new concept could achieve. Given what was at stake, these cars received priority handing, both loaded and empty to ensure fast car cycles. Loads moved east on BA-6 from Selkirk, N.Y. to Framingham, arriving late afternoon/early evening. Most likely, cars were spotted overnight to not disrupt the unloading process during the day. Empties would move out the following morning on a westbound extra to Selkirk. Feeders from Selkirk to Kingston and Hudson connected the cement mills to Selkirk Yard.

NYC train BA-6 from Selkirk to Boston at Ashland, Mass. June, 1966 carrying a block of Flexi-Flo cement loads three cars from the headpin. All the cars visible here are to be set off at Framingham. Donald Haskel photo, used with permission.


The Flexi-Flo cars served a long life with PC, CR. Conrail transferred some cars to Merchants Despatch before selling off the fleet. Some users in later years included Pfizer/Specialty Minerals for limestone out of both Canaan, Conn. and Adams, Mass. as well as Dragon Products at Thomaston, Maine for cement. The last cars aged out of interchange service in 2016. Recently Conrail 80019 (built as NYC 885739) was donated by CSX to Conrail Historical Society for preservation at the Danbury Railroad Museum in Connecticut. This is thought to be the only surviving Flexi-Flo hopper – lasting because it was converted to a scale test car.

The Flexi-Flo brand was continued by Penn Central and Conrail and expanded to other locations in later years. Other railroads followed suit with branded, full-service bulk team track operations to the point where a network of such terminals is considered a necessary service for all the Class I railroads – underscored by CSX’s purchase of liquid bulk trucker Quality Carriers this week. This is the true legacy of Flexi-Flo and a lasting testament to the creativity of NYC under the Perlman administration.


Savage Services bulk rail transload, Hammond, Ind. – ex-NYC Flexi-Flo terminal present day. Google Earth image


The Story of Flexi-Flo, Central Headlight, January 1966

Flexi-Flo Sales Brochure (from mid-1966)

Critical Cars, Traffic Research

A C&O Insulated Boxcar Build

Completed model of C&O 5500, an insulated boxcar built in 1960 by the C&O shops. I modified the sill on a Branchline kit without having to do a full repaint.

Branchline Trains’ boxcar kits (not RTR) of the early 2000s remain one of the best values for models of rolling stock. I purchased this kit for maybe $10 at a train show. It was really intended to be a fleet filler, but I wound up doing a decent amount of work on it, resulting a nice car.

The prototype for this kit is an 8′ RBL with a Youngstown flush door based on a car built by General American in 1957. This basic design was purchased by many buyers, but by the early 1960s the 10′ door along with a cushioned underframe had become the preferred equipment, thus the 8′ plug door car may represent about a quarter of 50′ RBL equipment of the mid-1960s.

C&O 5613 at Lttle Rock, Ark. in the 1970s. George Elwood photo, used with permission.


In the back of my head I knew that C&O RBL and did show up fairly regularly in New England and that they had a decent sized roster of these cars but I wasn’t too sure it was a great addition. Research shows that the C&O did roster about 1100 RB, RBL and XMLI cars in 1966. Of these 248 were 50′ cars with 8′ doors, with 149 in the series 5500-5649. The most common car on the roster was a 50′ car with 10′ 6″ doors, there were close to 600. So the 5500s aren’t unusual cars, but certainly not the most common.

Insulated boxcars, like auto parts boxcars, were often part of pools of cars with other railroads for specific shippers. As a result a car from the C&O might be assigned to Miller Beer in Milwaukee and be shipped to Boston over a route of MILW-Chicago-NYC never touching the rails of its owner. Still, the origin road would have a disproportionate share of the cars in one of those pools and a large road like C&O would have most of its cars assigned to its own shippers, so let’s look at tonnage of commodities requiring insulation, but not refrigeration on the C&O to find a typical use.

By process of elimination, we can be sure that the second car of this Boston-Saxonville local turn at Natick, Mass. in the fall of 1966 is a C&O 5500 series RBL. The Saxonville Branch was home to many distribution related companies including the main Zayre distribution center – now the site of successor TJX’s headquarters. Donald Haskel photo, used with permission.

RBL Commodities on the C&O

Using the Freight Commodity Statistics we can get an idea of the top commodities originated, terminated, bridged or handled locally on many Class I railroads. Since the last year this data is available is 1963, I have to use that, but that should be close enough.

In a joint Dow, Pullman-Standard and C&O publicity photo showing a brand new PS-1 being loaded with palletized chemicals at the Dow plant in Midland, MI. Pullman-Standard Library/James Kinkaid collection, used under creative commons license.
CommodityTotal CarsTotal TonsTons FWDEst Fwd Cars
Food Products NOS in cans and packages33435104110734602311112
Soap and Cleaning Compounds321023986135891819
Malt Liquor (Beer)7162243811604571776
Beverages, NOS69343793102916
Estimated Forwarded Cars is the result of dividing forwarded tons by total tons per car (Total tons divided by total cars) – Source Freight Commodity Statistics of Class I Railroads – 1963.

This analysis clearly shows that canned and packaged food products are far and away the typical RBL type commodity originated on the C&O. Furthermore beer was not shipped to New England in volume from C&O’s territory. C&O would have had many cars in the Proctor & Gamble pool for soap shipments out of Ivorydale (Cincinnati), Ohio. According to the ICC Carload Waybill Statistics TC-3 report from 1965 though, the bulk of the soap shipments within the Official Territory were intermodal moves. This means that NYC’s Flexi-Van service from Cincinnati to Worcester and Boston would get the lion’s share of those moves. Still, I’ve found photos of P&G RBL loads at Framingham.


So if this car is going to represent a food shipment to the Boston area, what would be some typical shippers? We can make some educated guesses by first figuring out where a shipment most likely would come from. Looking at the 1965 reporting for STCCs 203 (Food) and 2099 (Food products NOS), the states served by C&O rank as follows in terms of carloads in the waybill sample:

  • Illinois (95/270 = 365)
  • Ohio (64/111 = 175)
  • Indiana (34/78 = 112)
  • Michigan (60/26 = 86)
  • Virginia (35/18 = 53)
  • West Virginia (-/7 = 7)

While Ill., Ohio and Ind. rank high, C&O’s market share in those states is small compared to other carriers. In Michigan though, the ex-Pere Marquette routes dominated the agricultural region of the state giving them a strong share. While Michigan did not show up in the 1965 State-To-State moves of 203 or 2099 products to Massachusetts, it did pop at 11 cars in the 1963 data of Food Products NOS. Some searching turned up a few large Michigan shippers on the C&O:

  • Gerber, Fremont, Mich.
  • Michigan Fruit Canners, St. Joseph, Mich
  • Dailey Pickle, Saginaw, Mich.
  • Heinz (pickles), Saginaw, Mich.
  • WR Roach, Croswell, Mich.

Additional smaller canneries operated in Western Michigan (especially the fruit growing region around Traverse City). Long story short, I can realistically operate this car on my layout.

Branchline C&O RBL Model

With the rationale behind the model established let’s look the build. I already had three Branchline RBL’s on my roster when I acquired this one. In order to differentiate this one and make it a more correct model, I modified the sill with a fishbelly profile using plans that appear to be from this car in the 1966 Car & Locomotive Cyclopedia. I spliced the new sill on and cut away part of the old sill. To blend the joint line away, I applied putty over the seam and sanded it flush. I added a few rivets where the underframe met the sill and airbrushed on a coat of Vallejo Model Golden Yellow.


While not one of the prototype cars I was modeling, I used this 1965 photo at Watertown, Mass. of a 40′ C&O PS-1 as a guide for the paint patches and weathering. Leroy Dozier photo, collection of George Elwood, used with permission.

Weathering was a bit more of a challenge on this car than my typical boxcar. Brightly painted cars are just harder for me to do a good job on, so I sought to alter my techniques on this one. To try and get something that resembled the prototype photo I tried fading the paint with a wash of pastel yellow oil paint first. I wasn’t convinced this was going to work, so I only did it on one side. This was followed by a wash of raw umber oil paint and an application of Dullcote.

I had to mask several areas before applying the Pan Pastels since the road grime tended to settle in some spots and avoid others. Rivets seemed to suck up the dust and keep it from settling on the car. Plug door cars typically accumulate road grime on the door surrounding the door posts, but not directly under them. To properly mask this area I left the door posts off the car until I was done with the Pan Pastels.

Here is the initial Pan Pastel application with the rivet strips masked.
Masking removed and Pan Pastels blended with a large soft brush.

When I removed the masking, I colored the rivets with a colored pencil and sealed all with another application of Dullcote. Final detailing and painting included patched repack, reweigh and brake test stencils, Tangent uncoupling levers, Hi-Tech air hoses and a Kadee running board. All the extra work with the weathering was worth it. As for the faded yellow effect, it worked great and I wished I had used it on both sides of the car, I will just be careful not to build the paint up on the rivets next time.

This is, by far, the nicest job I’ve done weathering a yellow or orange car to date, so I wound up building a nicely detailed and needed car, while learning some new techniques in the progress…all from a $10 purchase, you can’t ask for more out of a project than that.


Critical Cars

BECCO Tank Cars

I came across these photos today while I was browsing Lee Dozier’s photos on George Elwood’s Fallen Flags website. The bulk of Lee’s rolling stock photos are from Framingham, Lowell and Watertown, MA during 1965-68, so they are an excellent resource for me. I almost went right by these, but some prior research kicked in and I put the puzzle together. BECCO was short for Buffalo Electro-Chemical Corp. and was a division of FMC. The company is still in business as Peroxychem LLC. According to the 1963 NYC Freight delivery circular, they had production facilities in Buffalo/Tonawanda, NY served by NYC and EL. It also shows they had a facility in Framingham, Mass. on the NYC, which was a distribution/packaging operation. Loads would have come east in BA-2/BA-4 and empties would go west probably in BB-1.

Since these pictures were basically uncaptioned, it took a minute for me to realize what I was looking at but I did put 2 and 2 together. I did a check on Google Earth and found the building is still standing on the north side of the CSX Nevins Yard, although no longer a chemical plant. These three pictures now aren’t random tanks to me, but illustrate the fleet of one of the B&A’s mid-sized customers. Clearly, I need to add one of these cars to my roster at some point, the question will be how, models of welded 4000 and 6000 chemical tank cars are hard to come by. A tank built from Plastruct tube and domes on an underframe from another kit might be the way to go…something to think about.



Maps with Inkscape

I fell down another rabbit hole recently and finally figured out how to make nice maps. I’ve always loved studying and drawing maps. In the railroad business it is “no map, no meeting” according to the famed railroader Jim McClelland. I had, for years, done lousy work using Paint to illustrate concepts, while it gets the point across, the results are really unprofessional.

In my post on anthracite coal, I really wanted to include a map to illustrate the various tariff routes between the coal region and the B&A. I attempted a version in Paint and junked it because it was going to be too much work for a lousy result. A week later I needed to create some maps for work. Although the results would have been good enough, I was really sick of working with Paint. With that I went out looking for something better to use. George Sebastian-Coleman of Trains says they use Adobe Illustrator, which I’m sure is great but you need to pay a monthly subscription to use. I went looking for a freeware replacement for Adobe Illustrator and found Inkscape.

To quote Wikipedia,

Inkscape is a free and open source vector graphics editor used to create vector images, primarily in Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) format. Other formats can be imported and exported.

Inkscape can render primitive vector shapes (e.g. rectangles, ellipses, polygons, arcs, spirals, stars and 3D boxes) and text. These objects may be filled with solid colors, patterns, radial or linear color gradients and their borders may be stroked, both with adjustable transparency. Embedding and optional tracing of raster graphics is also supported, enabling the editor to create vector graphics from photos and other raster sources. Created shapes can be further manipulated with transformations, such as moving, rotating, scaling and skewing.

I read a little about the basics of Inkscape and then found a tutorial for hobby map making online at Deviant Art. I followed along and created a map of the Akron Canton & Ohio’s line across the Buckeye State. AC&Y is about as simple a railroad to map as can be imagined a good choice. Every step took some effort to work through, but I got it done. With that done, I had a much better idea on how to attack a more serious project.

First Real Result

With the basics under my belt I then put together a map for my blog post. On this one, I watched some YouTube tutorials as I went along and learned some short cuts. For base maps, I used a snip of Norfolk Southern’s 2016 system map as the primary map and also fitted an old map of the anthracite fields over it so I could outline those areas. Below you can see what I was able to come up with. I hit pretty close to the mark I was aiming for. That I was able to do something like this almost from jump street speaks to how easy the software was to learn to use (or at least learn to use when you really want to learn).

Looking at it in the light of day, I see a bunch of stuff I’d do differently now that I know more about the tools and how it looks when posted through WordPress. First off, saving the SVG as a PNG file reduces the size and pixilates the image, then posting to WordPress further reduces the size.

Opening these in a new window, by right clicking on it it and selecting the first option in the drop down menu, produces an image only abut 5% larger, but with much better appearance. If I were to redo this one I would use slightly larger and more readable fonts, improve the contrast for the state labels and turn the basemap onto the north-south access. I will also be able to do a better job with the coast line next time too.

Another One

With that under my belt, I went out and tried to duplicate the style that Trains used in the early 1990s. I charted out the surviving routes of Erie Lackawanna, just to have something to do (also in honor of Conrail Day 4/1/76!). I quit before I was finished, mainly because I proved to myself that this was a workable program and I wasn’t all that interested in the final result….you can check out how far I got below (again, this wasn’t designed to have the file compressed to post on WordPress – the printed version on 11 x 17″ paper looks perfect).

Open in a new tab for a better view. This map needed a legend, revisions to show New Jersey Transit ownership with freight trackage rights around New Jersey and a listing of abbreviations, but continued to prove the concept.

All that said, for a first try, I am really happy with the way this came out and will be able to do the next ones much faster. I might try and duplicate the style Trains used in the 1960’s to illustrate topics on this site (lots of Futura and bold Century Gothic) or try to match their current style which usually features a highly transparent satellite image below. Another skill added to the toolbox.



Freight Car Additions

After making some progress on benchwork, I took a bit of a break. To get back into the swing of things I finished a bunch of freight cars that had been on my workbench. Here are the first three to be completed:

The finished P&LE Lot 801-G car, ready for a load of steel products.

P&LE Greenville Gondola

The NYC and P&LE combined to own 12,600 52′ 6″ long gondolas built to the so-called “Greenville Design” (counting the last 1000 P&LE cars which are all welded and excluded from other rosters). I believe this is the second largest group of mill gons operating in the US during the 1950s and 60s (the largest being the PRR G31/G35 cars). Proto 2000 and now Walthers has had a well-detailed model of this car available for quite some time now. The early kits can still be found a train shows for bargain prices.

NYC switched from reddish brown red to black for the body color of gondolas during June of 1956. For whatever reason the black paint scheme has never been run by Life-Like or Walthers. While NYC and P&LE had a huge fleet of these cars, only about 2000 of them are an exact match for the Proto 2000 model (wood floors and interior folding stake pocket/lading band anchors). As such only these numbers have been run in factory paint. Since I needed to custom paint a car to get this scheme, I opted to also make some additional changes to differentiate this car from others on the roster.

I found plans of a steel floor car on George Elwood’s Fallen Flags web site (link). I used Micro Mark rivets laid out on .020″ styrene sheet cut to match the original floor dimensions. Additional relief for the splice plates and bolster covers were cut from 005″ styrene. Additional plate and rivet detail was added to the car sides. NYC’s Greenville gons all had ladders on the sides instead of grab irons. I used spare parts already on hand for those. I also added continuous lading band anchors from Tangent. Not many NYCS cars had these, but they are much easier to do than the exterior tie down loops that most cars had. Since I was modeling a car with lading band anchors I carved off the cast on interior tie downs/folding stake pockets.

The rest of the car was built per kit instructions with the exception of A-Line sill steps, Hi-Tech Air hoses and Tangent uncoupling levers. I painted the car Model Master black and lettered it using at least five different decal sets. Mask Island sells a P&LE gondola set now that would work for this car, but I had enough marks on hand to do this without a dedicated set. Weathering was done with a wash of raw umber oil paint, followed by Dullcote and a dusting of pan pastels. I used Raw Umber for the exterior and trucks, Burnt Sienna for the interior and Burnt Sienna Shade for the couplers.

The car prior to weathering. Decals from Highball, Rail Yard Models (logo, paint triangles), Mark Vaughn (data), Microscale (data, “McKR”, end lettering) and Champ (repack, reweigh) were used to decal the car.

NYC 40′ PS-1

The finished car – a wreck rebuilt into a solid model of one of railroading’s most typical cars.

NYC owned the fifth largest fleet of 40′ PS-1 boxcars at 5000 standard copies (plus 25 Pacemaker cars with an experimental cushion underframe), so this is another must-have car for really anyone modeling the ’50s or ’60s regardless of their prototype. This car has been on my roster for a long time and was beat up from traveling to train shows. To fix it, I pretty much had to strip all the details off and replace them. I didn’t go to great lengths on this car, NYC’s PS-1s had poling pockets (resulting in tabs where the sill steps attach) and towing staples, since this car had been assembled already I opted to ignore those details and stick to the basics. I replaced the following:

  • Running board – Kadee
  • Broken Stirrups – Kadee
  • Broken Ladders – from another Intermountain kit on hand
  • Trucks – Kato ASF A-3
  • Uncoupling Levers – Tangent
  • Air Hoses – Hi Tech
  • Brake Wheel – Kadee Miner
NYC PS-1 from Lot 798-B (built, Michigan City, IN 1950). Jim Sands photo, George Elwood collection, used with permission.

I weathered the car with a wash of oil pants. I then added the repack/reweigh paint patches and decals based on the Jim Sands photo above. After airbrushing on Dullcote I gave it a light dusting of Pan Pastels. Chalk marks were drawn on with a white colored pencil using period prototype photos as a guide.

The roof got major attention, my current “weathered galvanized roof” technique is a multi-layer one. I brush on a coat of Polly Scale BAR Gray to start. When that dries after a few minutes I dab on SP Lettering Gray with a stiff bristle brush followed by a dusting of Neutral Gray Pan Pastels to blend it all together. Lastly I go back and hand paint the ribs between the panels the appropriate color.

Another car halfway through the roof treatment. Make sure to mask the car, I didn’t on the next car and wound up with gray spots all over it that I had to remove or cover up!

NYC AAR Postwar Boxcar

Completed Lot 773-B boxcar, still advertising NYCs discontinued LCL service. This was an inexpensive train show purchase.

Another common boxcar on the NYCS roster was the postwar AAR boxcar with typical 1949-54 combination of early R-3-4 improved dreadnaught ends and diagonal panel roof (I just use “1949 AAR” in my notes, even if that isn’t the most accurate description). The 1949 AAR design numbered 3000 on the NYC and 4000 on the P&LE. Branchline had produced kits with several correct schemes. This one came lettered with the Pacemaker slogan, correct for lot 773-B (these cars weren’t intended for Pacemaker service, they just advertised it). The 1960s boxcar fleet was relatively young, so there aren’t many chances to model a rustbucket but a photo in the NYC Color Guide to Freight and Passenger Equipment Volume 2 gave me the inspiration to do just that with this car.

Closeup of photo from NYC Color Guide to Freight and Passenger Equipment Volume 2 by Morning Sun Books. This car was not the subject of the photo, only the left side of the car is in the frame. I had to use this to imagine the other half of the car.

For this car I did the heavily rusted sections after the initial oil wash dried. I masked off along the straight lines along the panel seams and dabbed on burnt umber oil paint with a deerfoot brush. I then added the paint patches and used Microscale roman stencil alphabets to try and match the prototype lettering (not great but close enough). The roof and details were more or less the same as the Intermountain PS-1 above.


With detailed freight cars selling in the $50 range it is nice to bang out a handful of projects in the $20 range (including details). Weathering cars is also a great way to get back in the groove of things after taking a break from modeling for a bit. It also feels good to get these done as they’ve been on my workbench for some time now. I’ve got a pair more cars that should be finished shortly. I’ll post photos when they are done.

Traffic Research

Freight Flows: Anthracite Coal

A quartet of U25Bs make a move in the Nevins Yard in Framingham during June of 1966. In the background is the shed of Framingham Coal, a one-time Hudson Coal dealer and affiliate to Claflin-Sumner. Don Haskel photo, used with permission.

In the first half of the 20th Century, anthracite coal was a major commodity of Northeastern railroads. It seems like every station on every railroad had at least one coal retailer. After World War II, the nation accelerated its transition to other fuels and these facilities vanished from the landscape. As I sketched out plans for the Claflin-Sumner Ludlow Street coal yard I wanted to get a better sense of what the volumes and traffic patterns would look like in a mid-1960s setting to better model these shipments. To figure that out, I dug into the Carload Waybill and Freight Commodity Statistics for Class I railroads. Here is what I found.


While the B&A isn’t a railroad usually associated with anthracite, the numbers show it had a significant share of the area’s hard coal – about 20%.

Anthracite volumes 1930-1965. B&A data after 1948 is estimated from MA data based on B&A’s 1948 market share. B&A 1930 and 1933 carloads estimated by using B&M tons per car for those years.
When coal was king the B&A handled over a million tons a year. Major terminals like this 5,000 ton bunker on the corner of Grafton and Franklin St. in Worcester were common. As the industry retrenched, it reverted back to small, simple sheds.

The data showed that tonnage declined dramatically with the onset of the Great Depression and then stabilized with a little bump from WWII. After the war there was a major conversion to home heating oil and natural gas. Over 80% of the tonnage was lost between 1948 and 1958. By 1963, the B&A was down to less than 2 cars per day – about 4% of the tonnage from 1930 when they were handling 48 cars per day.

Still, a couple cars a day isn’t zero. Maybe half of that volume terminated east of Springfield, so a car in a through freight every other session works out about right. What about the coal yard at Jamesville though? It appears that it closed not long after 1960, it’s sister yard on Webster Street stayed open past 1966 though and a dozen other yards were open in the city during 1963. With that in mind, it isn’t a stretch to use a little modeler’s license to extend its life.

Origins and Routes

All anthracite was mined in Northeastern PA in four fields. The northern field around Scranton-Wilkes Barre declined dramatically after the mines flooded in a tragic accident in 1955. The other three fields to the south fared a little better. The Anthracite Coal Division 1965 Annual Report published by the Department of Mines and Mineral Industries of Pennsylvania (link) showed hundreds of mine sites still in operation with 140 preparation plants processing coal (breakers, washeries etc…). The top coal producing companies were the following [company, tons produced, breakers used (location – if different, serving RR)]:

  • Glen Alden Corp. (Blue Coal) 2,111,988 Huber (Ashley, CNJ), Loree (Larksville ex-Hudson Coal, D&H )
  • Lehigh Valley Anthracite 1,461,675 Hazleton Shaft (LV), Morea (PRR), Dorrance (Wilkes-Barre, EL ex-L&WV), Loomis (Hanover Township, EL ex-DL&W – closed 6/65), Mammoth (Raven Run, LV)
  • Reading Anthracite 1,287,293 St. Nicholas (RDG), New St. Nicholas (Duncott, RDG), Trevorton (RDG)
  • Greenwood Mining (ex-Lehigh Coal & Navigation) 762,861 Greenwood (Coaldale, RDG ex L&NE)
  • Glen Nan Coal Co. 649,618 Glen Lyon (PRR), Bel Air (Old Forge, LV)
  • Jeddo-Highland Coal Co. 643,678 Jeddo #7 (Harleigh, LV), Highland #5, Lion (Cunningham Coal, Hazleton, LV), Midvalley Fine Coal Plant (Wilburton, LV)

By 1963 the Class I railroads originating this traffic had contracted to the six carriers listed below:

RailroadLocalForwardedTotal Originated
Anthracite tonnage volume from the 1963 Freight Commodity Statistics for Class I Railroads publication – this is the last year that individual railroad statistics were listed

The category we are most interested here are the tons forwarded, since all the traffic to Massachusetts would fall into this category. Lehigh Valley and Reading led the pack by a wide margin. Although Reading’s totals include the Jersey Central, CNJ’s tonnage was always smaller and was hit badly by the collapse of the northern field. It is interesting to see that the Pennsy was the third overall in anthracite tonnage originated, but 2/3 of it stayed local to the PRR.

A Lehigh Valley hopper at Framinginam in January 1966. The LV was the leading anthracite carrier in 1965. The car is a variation of the offset design featuring ribs. Don Haskel photo, used with permission.

Routes to the Boston & Albany from these origins include the following based on a 1947 New York Central routing guide:

  • E-L (D)-Utica-NYC (E/WS)-Selkirk-NYC (B)
  • E-L (E)-Binghamton-D&H-Albany-NYC (B)
  • D&H-Albany-NYC (B)
  • PRR-Wilkes-Barre-D&H-Albany-NYC (B)
  • CNJ-Wilkes-Barre-D&H-Albany-NYC (B)
  • LV-Wilkes-Barre-D&H-Albany-NYC (B) or LV-National Jct.-NYC (WS)-Selkirk-NYC (B)
  • RDG-Haucks-CNJ-Wilkes-Barre-D&H-Albany-NYC (B) or RDG-Allentown/Quakeake-LV-Wilkes-Barre-D&H-Albany-NYC (B)
This map was a test image, right click on it to open in a new tab for a clearer version.

This shows the the D&H, which had the most direct route from the B&A to the anthracite region, enjoyed the lion’s share of the traffic to the B&A. As the B&A’s only direct connection to the anthracite region, it should not come as a surprise that several of the large dealers on the line, incluing Claflin-Sumner, sold Hudson Coal – a D&H affiliate. Hudson Coal was acquired by Glen Alden in 1963. So while LV and RDG led carriers handling hard coal, the B&A’s long term ties with the D&H may have given them a larger market share on this line. Regardless of routing, all cars from all these routes would come east in BA-6 and return west on a BV extra.

About 15-20% of the business on the B&A was overhead. New Haven and B&M didn’t participate in any through routes with the NYC to the origin carriers over the B&A. That may mean that the bridge traffic went to the CV at Palmer, G&U at North Grafton plus the NYC Harlem Division and Rutland at Chatham, NY.


Rochdale Fuel in Rochdale, MA typical of larger northeast retailers. A trestle ran through the middle of the building, locomotives were not permitted to run on it per the rules in the employee timetable. Jack Leonard Photo, Barb Hudson collection, used with permission.

In 1963 there were still over a dozen retail dealers on the B&A proper from Worcester to Boston that were listed in the Freight Delivery Circular as receiving coal. These are only customers served at common points with outer lines. Perhaps there were two dozen firms still using B&A routings. That gives an average of one car every 12 days on average. Since I model winter, and Claflin-Sumner was a bigger firm, maybe a single car every 8-10 sessions is appropriate.

Barney Coal in Milford in 1975. While this industry was on the New Haven, it was open to reciprocal switching from the B&A. The main building survives in 2021 as does their sidetrack, but the sheds are gone. Although they haven’t received a hopper in many years, Barney may be the last coal dealer with a serviceable rail siding in all of New England. DigitalCommonwealth photo, used under Creative Commons license.


The retail coal business was on its last legs in 1965. The infrastructure to support the massive volumes of years past was already disappearing, although much was still in place. What was left was closed or vastly underutilized. The Claflin-Sumner yard should reflect this decline and look run-down and only receive limited shipments.

Layout Construction

One Bite at a Time

Redesigning on the fly. The XtrackCAD drawing has been revised, printed and laid out to satisfaction. Now to figure out the particulars with the benchwork modifications.

I’ve been making some progress on a bunch of small construction projects. Hopefully I can keep the momentum going. Here is what I’ve been up to:


I have banged out most of the open grid work I need to do to finish things. The entire staging yard is ready for subroadbed now and I did the sections around the back door including a lift out section. I also cut a notch in a partition wall so the yard could cut the corner.

The 45 degree corner of the benchwork. Cutting the ends to 22.5 degree angles was actually a fun learning project.

I’m not happy with the lift out, though, it is too big and I am feeling less confident of all the tracks crossing gaps at skewed angles. I’m rebuilding it ASAP with a simpler design based on Lance Mindheim’s blog post (link), albeit on a curve. It will be sceniced but with next to no relief. This is going to sacrifice some realism, but will be easier to store, less likely to warp and should operate more reliably.

The rebuilt corner will feature a joint roughly where the ruler is vs. the skewed one that was built to accommodate a rectangular lift out section. A low backdrop is planned to partially conceal the spray booth vent and window.


I built Jamesville Yard on a pair of hollow core doors capped with a layer of foam and a ceiling tile. Others have had success with this, but my yard bows up like a “U” in the spring from the humidity. This is very noticeable even from the side, if I were modeling a branchline it would not be a big deal, but it doesn’t look right on a main.

I have been meaning to strengthen this when it dries out in cold, dry weather but I missed my chance last year. Not taking any chances this year I added the fascia and some extra support as soon as the bow disappeared completely this year. What a huge difference a little thing like that makes visually. I also was able to fix the lighting on my workbench which is on a desk below, and that is a huge improvement too. Let’s hope the yard stays straight when the humidity comes back.

Claflin-Sumner Coal

The photo from Jack Leonard from my last post gave me just enough of a glimpse of the coal yard that I could finally do a decent mockup of it. I used the dimensions from the 1950 Sanborn map and estimated the height above the rail from the picture. I used a 12:1 pitch on the roof, which is about as low as anyone goes in New England. With that drawn out I figured out the depth below the rail using a 10′ height on the low side. This meant I needed another half inch below grade for the building to sit properly. So I ripped out 1″ of foam and replaced it with a 5/8″ thick ceiling tile. I may steal a half an inch for the foreground by switching to prototypical 13′ track centers (1.8″) from the HO scale standard of 14.5′ (2″) when I relay this section with Micro Engineering track.

I realized I had to lower the grade when I built this mockup. Of course that was right after I cut and installed the fascia. In later years hoppers were unloaded in a pit where the D&H car sits, rather than through the doors in the back of the building. If anyone has or knows of good detail photos of the open side of this type of shed, I’d love to see them.

So lots of little projects are getting done and moving the layout forward. Those who are prolific layout builders say the best way to make progress is to do something every day, even if you only work for 15 minutes. It all adds up. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.



Finding Photos

Rare photos of your subject, like this picture showing the back side of the former freight house with a glimpse of the coal sheds and wire factory in the background are a key to good historical modeling. Jack Leonard photo, Barb Hudson collection, used with permission.

Historical modeling hinges very much having and being able to find good photos of your subject. As such, I’ve been trying to be a little more aggressive in expanding my photo resources. When I started I could only document what the industrial landscape looked like along the line in the late 1990s, since then I’ve found some great period pictures and photographers have been very cooperative in allowing me to share their work here. I’ll describe some recent developments on this front below.

Jack Leonard Collection

Barb Hudson has posted about 150 photos from the collection of her father, Jack Leonard, on the Boston and Albany Railroad and New York Central Railroad Fangroup Facebook pages. I was finally able to catch up with Barb and get the permission to use those on this site from time-to-time. I didn’t realize I was already using one, the photo of the New England States at Jamesville, when I first became aware of this collection. It mainly the B&A east of Springfield covers the 1948-56 timeframe. Jack worked for the B&A and this is an insiders look at the property.

Something about this undated shot of East Brookfield from the 1950s really appeals to me, there is no action, but you can sense the next train arriving any second. Brookfield had a similar configuration to Jamesville. Jack Leonard photo, Barb Hudson collection, used with permission.

1955 Hurricane Diane

One of the first “eureka” moments I had in researching the Worcester area was finding a special edition of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette at my grandparents’ house that covered the damage caused by Hurricane Diane in 1955. This edition included several aerial photos of the Webster Square area. I recently reminded myself of this yesterday. I searched to see if I could find more pictures online and came up with a nice sequence of a washout repair in the vicinity of Heard Street and Thompson Wire.

I had thought the riprap embankment east of Heard Street was a remnant of this great flood and I turned out to be right. What was extra nice was all the photos of the Heard Street bridge. Since all the photos I had from this site were FROM the bridge, it never showed up in any pictures. I had figured out after years of research that this was a truss bridge of unknown design from shadows in aerial photos, but I didn’t know there was a parallel pedestrian bridge as well. Besides the bridge, a couple of exposures with Lombard Machine in the background will be of use. You can view the whole series here: T&G 1955 Flood Photos. Many of the photos are of factories and city-scapes and should be of interest to anyone modeling the industrial Northeast.

Workers survey the scene as they prepare to repair the westbound main underneath the Heard Street Bridge. This single-connected truss is one of many on the B&A. Worcester Telegram & Gazette photo, used under creative commons license.

Bob’s Photos

It appears that Bob’s Photos is thinning down their vast library of black & white negatives. These have been popping up on Ebay on a regular basis since October. Included appears to their collection of 400 B&A negatives taken by Carlton Parker during the 1930s and 40s. I don’t know if Robert Liljestrand is retaining the ability to reproduce these photos by digital means, but for those interested in the B&A please be aware this is happening. They are being listed under this account



Freight Flows: Grafton & Upton Traffic May, 1965

Recently there was a short discussion on the Proto Layouts Group on IO about freight car fleet research and if would you change prototype if you had perfect information for a particular time and place of another line. I had an opportunity to do that with the carrier I grew up next to, the Grafton & Upton RR. While I eventually stuck with the NYC, I used this information to improve my modeling the the NYC.

The Grafton & Upton is a 15-mile carrier running between the Boston & Albany at North Grafton and the New Haven at Milford, Mass. It was incorporated in 1873 as the 3′ gauge Grafton Centre Railroad to connect the B&A with Grafton Center. It 1887 they were reorganized as the G&U, converted to standard gauge and extended to Upton, Hopedale and Milford. The line electrified passenger operations in 1901 and freight motors replaced steam in 1918. Trolley service stopped in 1928 and electric freight operations converted to diesel in 1946.

Two-thirds of G&U’s 1960s locomotive roster, 44 Tonners 9 and 10, pull the daily freight from North Grafton back to Hopedale at Snow Road in North Grafton in December 1966. Al Arnold photo, collection of Bob Arnold, used with permission.

During this early years of the 20th Century the G&U was acquired by it’s largest shipper, the Draper Corp. of Hopedale, one of the largest textile machinery manufactures in the world. After Draper closed in 1980 the G&U spent about 30 years in a state of near suspended animation before being brought back to prosperity recently by a local business mogul.

When I had a chance to acquire a book of freight bills and waybills from their prosperous postwar years, I jumped on it. Freight bills include almost all the same info as waybills but are for calculating freight charges to be paid by the shipper and divisions of revenue to be paid out to each carrier.

Aerial view of the Draper Corp. plant in Hopedale, MA circa 1930. The G&U ran along the south side, the “hot” side of the plant, with outdoor pig iron storage is in the lower left corner. Finished looms were shipped from the multi-story buildings on the north side of the plant. Courtesy of Digital Commonwealth.

I transcribed the information from this book into a spreadsheet in order to analyze it. You can download this spreadsheet along with my planned model roster here:

Forwarded loads consisted of 181 shipments of looms destined for the Southeast and Mexico. Loom shipments to the south were obvious, but what I was not expecting was that inbound shipments were made of 21 commodities to support Draper’s foundry and manufacturing as well as some local firms using the team track. The variety of commodities and car types illustrates what a great prototype an integrated machinery plant, or at least a foundry can make for a model. A summary of the received cars is as follows:

CommodityActual CarsCar TypeOrigin
Bentonite1RBLBelle Fource, SD
Box & Crate Material2XMWinchendon, MA
Limestone3GBFarnums, MA
Canoes5XMLMinneapolis, MN
Motor Boats6XMLManitowoc, WI
Coke27GB/GSNew Haven, CT
Foundry Compound1XMPittwonin, PA
Ground Clay1XMSmithville, MS
Ground Coal1XMW Elizabeth, PA
LPG4TPIReybold, DE and Kankakee, IL
Overhead Travelling Crane4FMWhiting, IL
Pig Iron28GBKY, NY
Road Salt1LORetsof, NY
Roofing Material3XMEdgewater, NJ and Philadelphia, PA
Sand19XM, LONJ, MA, IL, NY
Silica Sand4XMLeesburg, NJ
Steel Angles2GBBethlehem, PA
Steel Bars16GB, GBSRCT, NH, OH, PA
Steel Tube4GBRMorado, PA
Wallboard3XMSunbury, PA
Wrot Pipe2GB
Summary of received carloads at Hopedale, MA for the month of May, 1965.

Planning a Roster

The G&U averaged 14.5 loads to or from Hopedale per business day during the month. That seemed small enough to model trains on a 1:1 basis. Using a 4 cycle waybill, I would need a minimum of 60 cars to fill the cycle. With 318 total shipments in the month, I would be modeling 1 out of every 5.5 shipments.


Originating at Draper, there were 181 shipments of looms. Most of these cars were ordered by Draper or G&U and arrived empty, but there were some cars that arrived with loads that were reloaded. All cars delivered empty were 50’ers. The 181 cars belonged to a total of 34 different railroads. Designs ranged from a pair of wood cars nearing their expiration date to the latest exterior post boxcars.

G&U S4 1001 approaching the NYC interchange at the corner of East and Waterville Streets in North Grafton in 1967; a pair of NYC 50′ boxcars are in the train. Tad Arnold photo, Bob Arnold collection, used with permission.

It was interesting that the NYC and NH filled their car orders differently. New York Central handled 65 of the shipments, 42 of these were loaded in NYC marked boxcars and none in XML equipment. The New Haven handled 116 cars, that they had a larger share was logical since they had the better route to the Southeast. Of these shipments, none were in home road equipment and 34 were cushioned XML cars heading back home. ACL provided most of these, with some SAL and SOU cars as well. Their use was apparently predicated on these roads getting a share of the linehaul, as all the routings included the car owner. Again NH’s superior route to the south resulted in them having ample supply of empty ACL equipment that possibly came north with furniture or paper. The balance of New Haven’s cars were in random XM equipment, this included nine NYC boxcars that were routed adverse to their owner.

The model fleet would consist of 33 boxcars from 16 different railroads: 10 NYC, 5 ACL, 2 PRR, 2 IC and single car from SP, SOU, SSW, UP, GMO, MP, NP, SAL, B&O, CB&Q, NW (WAB), AC&Y and C&O. Some of these would cover double duty with inbound shipments.

At the other end of the line the 1001 arrives at Hopedale from the New Haven connection at Milford in 1967 with a pair of ACL 50′ cars. These are plain XM cars, not the cushioned O-34/35 classes that dominated the May 1965 shipments. Tad Arnold photo, used with permission.

Inbound – Assigned Equipment

Modeling assigned cars is much more straightforward. I wanted to model at least one car of every commodity, so I would wind up with more model cars than the 5.5:1 ratio would have given. The model fleet would consist of the following:

  • Bentonite Clay – 1 insulated boxcar. North American (NIRX) was the car owner, hard to say whether this would have been painted in a special scheme for International Minerals & Chemicals or a plain lease fleet car.
  • Canoes – 1 DF boxcar. Alumacraft in Minneapolis on the NP shipped 5 loads to Jessie White in Mendon, MA via the team track. Alumacraft was open to reciprocal switching and sent loads out on multiple routes, possibly based on who could get them empties. SOO handled the most cars and would get the nod here…none moved in NP cars.
  • Propane – 1 insulated pressure tank car. Phillips Petroleum shipped 4 cars to Draper from Kankakee, IL and Reybold, DE. A single 11,000 gallon TPI from Atlas would represent these moves.
  • Motor Boats – 1 DF boxcar. Mirro Aluminum in Manitowoc, WI shipped 5 cars to Jessie White. All were in C&O DF equipped boxcars. These were ex-PM cars with 14′ double doors and 4-4 Improved Dreadnaught ends and will take some work to model. Ironically the first trip these boats made on the water was on one of C&O’s ferries from Manitowoc to Ludington, MI across Lake Michigan.
  • Road Salt – 1 covered hopper. Road salt shipments are boom or bust, in May they are usually pretty slow, so only one car was needed to replenish the shed in West Upton. LV supplied the empty and handled this move, International Salt could route cars multiple ways so the B&O, EL, NYC, PRR or GNWR could supply equipment as well.
  • Sand – 3 covered hoppers. Sand for the foundry came from many sources. 1 car from each of the NH (Tremont, MA), PRR (Weldron, IL or Milville, NJ) and CNJ/L&NE (Dividing Creek, NJ).
  • Steel Bars – 1 covered gondola. New Haven had a 15 car order of covered gondolas acquired to handle brass from the Waterbury, CT area. Not long after receiving them, the brass industry collapsed. At least a portion of their fleet was relegated to hauling steel from service centers in CT to end customers like Draper. These are 14-panel cars, that would need to be scratchbuilt (or live with the Athearn covered gon which is based on a similar prototype but scaled down 10% to fit their flatcar underframe – thanks Irv).
  • Steel Tube – 1 covered gondola. All four shipments from Morado, PA came in PRR G36C covered gondolas. Modeling the gondola itself isn’t a bad scratch building project – these are all welded cars – but the cover doesn’t look like fun. It looked like Modeler’s Choice was going to offer this as a laser cut styrene kit several years back, but it never made it out of pre-production….maybe Cannon & Co can add it to their catalog?

Inbound – General Service Boxcars

Of the inbound shipments, 19 were made in general service boxcars (XM). These were made up of 11 50′ and 8 40′ cars and covered nine different commodities. Four of the 50’ers were reloaded with looms while the rest were apparently returned empty to their respective connections. This is odd, as some other cars of the same classes were simultaneously being supplied as empties for loom loads. Regardless, I sought to gain efficiencies of modeling fewer cars by having the 50’ers perform two way duty, choosing to use only the loom cars to represent these cars.

The 40′ fleet would only need two cars, B&M and CB&Q being the most numerous names. I reality I already had more than enough cars on my roster to cover these moves.

G&U 1001 en route to Hopedale from the NYC interchange January, 1965. There are two 40’ers in the consist today. Ken Patton photo, used with permission

Inbound – General Service Gondolas

There were 72 shipments made in mill (GB) and drop bottom (GS) gons. These cars were lettered for 27 different railroads, about 70% of the moves violated all of the car service rules. This is in stark contrast to the boxcars which mostly followed the rules. As I mentioned in a previous post, the mix of lengths was an eye opener: 34 were 39′-42′ 19 45′-50′; 18 52′-53′ and 1 65′ (the crane) – this is roughly a 2:1:1 ratio.

G&U S4 1001 switches a couple cars of coke at Hopedale in 1972. Ron DeFilippo photo, used with permission.

The model fleet would be made up of 13 cars from 11 roads (2 NYC and C&O and a single car from B&M, B&O, C&NW, IC, LT, L&N, URR, N&W/NKP/WAB, P&LE, PRR and URR. Loads would be broken down as follows:

  • Bulk Limestone – 1 NYC 41′ gondola from US Gypsum at Farnham’s, Mass. on the North Adams Branch. This car would have a removable load so it could do double duty with a pig iron load.
  • Coke – 5 various cars. Coke was supplied by Connecticut Coke of New Haven primarily using 40-46′ gondolas. While the NH itself had a fleet of these cars, none was used during this month, instead they had a motley collection of foreign road cars, some of which showed up more than one time during the month indicating they were stuck in captive service away from home.
  • Pig Iron – 5 various cars. There were multiple suppliers of pig iron from New York State. Iron pigs came in different shapes, but these appear to be the longer skinny kind, kind of like a stretched out Chunky bar (see piles in photo below). This would make for an interesting model, from what I’ve been able to find out piles of pig iron were loaded over each bolster. John Nehrich has suggested using triangular styrene from Plastruct with one side sanded down as a basis for these shapes.
  • Steel Bars, Steel Angles, Wrot Pipe – 1 of each. Again, all random cars.
The 1001 switching a carload of coke at Draper Corp. in 1972, note the piles of pig iron and pipe that also arrived in gondolas. Bruce S. Nelson photo, used with permission.

Other Freight

While the book provided the bulk of the railroad’s movements for the month, it did exclude some freight to other stations. Interchange reports from 1960 at North Grafton show abrasives to Washington Mills in North Grafton, feed to various concerns in Grafton and Upton, anthracite coal to West Upton would also have moved, although the anthracite, like the road salt, would be slow at this time of year. The interchange reports do show that these moves would have been less than 10% of the total.


When we moved into our current house I looked at the space in the unfinished side of our basement as more than adequate to model a portion of the B&A mainline and never gave serious consideration to modeling the G&U. I did build quite a few of the cars necessary to fill the roster. It formed the backbone of my 50′ boxcar fleet and provided a great guide in developing my gondola roster as well as provide some needed insight into how empty cars were distributed. Years later, I did draw up a rough plan for a modular G&U layout for my space using Freemo branchline and mini-mo specs.

G&U track plan, this was a rough draft, so it needs some work, but includes almost every siding on the railroad. Hopedale requires a surprisingly large space.

You could argue that a short line or branchline prototype like this would have been a better fit for my space and time. You might be right, but I like mainline railroading too much. Still, I continue to check cars off my planned G&U roster, as long as they are plausible on the B&A…maybe I’ll go in this direction on my next layout.

NYC RS3 8324 on the Worcester-Framingham local in the North Grafton interchange yard with the G&U 1001 in June 1965. NYC or G&U? – I stuck with the mainline…for now. Al Arnold photo, Bob Arnold collection, used with permission.