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.

Critical Cars

Freight Car Progress

As I was waiting for my Flexi-Flo cars to arrive, I cleaned up my spray booth to get ready paint their trucks and add a layer of Dullcoat. With a clean booth, I kept on going and decided to paint, decal and weather a couple of cars this winter’s hit list.

Both of these cars wound up on my roster as a result of studying shipments on the Grafton & Upton in May of 1965. One observation I made about the gondolas in this study, was the variety of lengths in the mix. It is easy to fall into the trap of modeling mostly 52′ gons, but in the sample there were cars of 39′, 40′, 41′, 42′, 45′, 46′, 48′, 49′ and 50′ lengths and they made up nearly 2/3 of the shipments. Both of these cars were selected, not only because they showed up multiple times in the sample and are significant cars on their respective fleets, but also because they help create some variety in my fleet.

B&M Magor Drop Bottom Gondola

A New Haven high hood Alco switcher moves a B&M gondola in South Boston April, 1961. Note switch tender and the open-air armstrong interlocking plant. Don Haskel photo, used with permission.

This car is an old Funaro & Camerlengo kit that is based on B&M and MEC’s 40′ drop bottom gons. The B&M had 1250 cars (92000-93249 – with 25 assigned Mystic Terminal reporting marks) while the affiliated Maine Central received 250 (3200-3449). The B&M fleet saw varied use but were mostly intended for the Eastern Gas & Fuel coke works and pig iron furnace in Everett, Mass (served both by B&M and B&A). The pig iron plant closed in 1956 and the coke works closed in 1960, but these cars were still fairly common around New England for years afterwards. For my purpose, it will represent a car in a joint NYC-B&M pool of empties for scrap loading within the Boston Switching District (Prolerizer in Everett and Schiavone in Charlestown).

A New York Central local heads east to the Coke Works, with a B&M 40′ gondola six cars back. The time and place is Draw 7 over the Mystic River on the Grand Junction Branch at Everett, Mass. circa 1959. Photo by Alan Thomas, collection of Dave Hamilton, used with permission..

By October of 1966 there were only 446 cars left in interchange service, with 313 of these rebuilt with solid steel floors and renumbered into the 9200-9899 series. As of this writing Pan Am Railways still has 5 of these cars in their short welded rail train and a couple others converted to wheel cars assigned to Waterville, ME.

New Haven freight bill for a pig iron shipment from Hanna Furnace, Buffalo, NY to Draper Corp., Hopedale, MA via LV-Easton-L&HR-Maybrook-NH-Milford-G&U – 5/15/65 shipped in B&M 9822.

I opted to model a rebuilt car, as they were more numerous and doing so saved me from adding all the tiny Wine door latch hardware. I used Proto 2000 plankless trucks, A-Line stirrups, Kadee #158 couplers, Tangent uncoupling levers and Hi-Tech air hoses to finish the model.

The one complication I had was that most of these cars featured a small McGinnis logo with a white B and and blue M – a decal that is not readily available in HO scale. I contacted Highball Graphics to see if a logo from another set was the right size. They asked the size and printed a bunch for me special instead. You can’t beat that kind of customer service! I painted the car Model Master Flat Black and weathered it with a wash of raw sienna oil paint followed by an application of Pan Pastels.

My completed B&M kit, the McGinnis logo was worth the extra leg work as it looks more at home in a 1960’s setting and gives me a one-of-a-kind model. After taking the picture I realized I forgot to add chalk marks, this has since been corrected.

N&W G-5 Mill Gondola

N&W 90179 Worthington, OH 6/65. The car is carrying signal masts for installation on the Columbus-Sandusky line that the N&W had recently purchased from the Pennsylvania as part of the Nickel Plate-Wabash merger. Lynn Roberts photos, George Elwood collection, used with permission.

The other car I finished was a Norfolk & Western G-5 class 46′ mill gondola. Three showed up in Hopedale, MA during 5/65, so I had highlighted it as a potential car to model. That small sample aside, the numbers make this a statistically significant car by themselves. The N&W’s fleet of gondolas was the 5th largest in the US in 1966 at 12,047 cars (including ex-NKP, P&WV, WAB and VGN cars) and G-5 was their biggest class. Originally numbering 2,500 cars (88000-90499), they were built in five separate orders between 1952 and 1956 by various builders.

Freight bill pig iron shipped from Republic Steel in Troy, NY to Draper Corp. at Hopedale, MA 5/18/65 via NYC (B)-North Grafton-G&U shipped in N&W 88301.

This was a resin kit from Pocahontas Models, it was later offered by Speedwitch Media. Although it is still cataloged, it has been out of production for quite a while. I failed to acquire one when it was available, but managed to score an unopened secondhand kit at the Springfield Show a few years ago. It was another simple kit to build with a one-piece body. The one part that I did different than the instructions was the installation of the lading band anchors. The instructions called for them to be mounted on top of the top chord, when in fact they need to be mounted on the side. A detail shot of a car on the RR-Fallen Flags made this clear. I was expecting the assembly process on this part to be very difficult, but I figured a way to cut them from the fret leaving a mounting pin and a Glue Looper made the application of CA a simple, mess-free process.

Note the placement of the lading band anchor and tie down loops. Lynn Roberts photos, George Elwood collection, used with permission.

I used Kato 70-Ton ASF Ride Control trucks, A-Line stirrups, Kadee #22 couplers, Tangent uncoupling levers and Hi-Tech air hoses to finish the model. The choice of #22 couplers was because the car body would have had to sit too high with #158s. I also attempted to model the tie down loops on the top chord, they came out bad and I removed them. I skipped redoing them in the interest of actually finishing the model. I may fix this when I add a load to the car.

I painted the model with Model Master Flat Black and lettered it with the supplied decals. In retrospect the big “N&W” looks undersize, but I’m not aware of a source for correct size lettering. It looks OK as long as you aren’t directly comparing it to a prototype photo. The car was weathered with oil paints and Pan Pastels after sealing with Dullcoat. I masked off some lettering to simulate repack and reweigh stencils. Some chalk marks drawn with a white colored pencil completed the job.

The finished car, I tried to copy the weathering from the Roberts photo, but I may need to tone the light gray streaks down a bit.

While these probably took longer than they should have to finish, I’m happy to have two more check marks on my list of this winter’s projects. On to the next one.



The Third Level

While I was searching the web for an update on the new passenger station being built below Grand Central Terminal for trains from Long Island, I was reminded of a short science fiction story by Jack Finney titled The Third Level”. My father, an English teacher, introduced me to the story growing up.

The plot revolves around an everyman named Charlie who is nostalgic for the past. His life changes when he gets lost in the maze of tunnels in Grand Central Terminal. Since the part of the Venn diagram where science fiction and the New York Central overlap is pretty small, I thought I’d share it in the spirit of the season, read it here.

Those of us with model railroads set in the past all can relate to Charlie in some way I guess. Happy Halloween New York Central style.



Setting Goals for this Season

Since mid-June I’ve hardly even thought about model railroads, let alone do anything worth writing about. I noticed a couple weeks ago that I hadn’t even checked my railroad RSS feed for an entire month. I’ve been enjoying the summer, surviving the heat and getting deep into prototype railroad research. This has taken me on many tangents including the economics of short-haul intermodal, regional railroads of the Midwest and railway engineering. In the interest of having something to post I might try tying some of what I’ve been working on in with the B&A.

For now though, I’m going to get back on track and set my goals for the 2020-21 season. I’m listing four achievable goals:

  1. Finish the benchwork
  2. Rebuild my Thompson Wire module
  3. Finish the rural scenery from staging to the edge of Jamesville.
  4. Complete 10 resin kits/kitbashes


I’ve not been doing things in order. I got the yard up and running to start basic operations and after that I’ve done whatever I was in the mood for at that time. At this point it is time to finish up the basics starting with the other half of the benchwork. I bought the balance of the lumber yesterday, it would be nice to get the open grid framing done over the next couple of weeks.

Thompson Wire

When I built my Thompson Wire module close to 20 years ago, all I had was a railroad valuation map and photos I made from a couple field surveys. The complex has since been torn down, replaced by a CVS. Since then, I’ve obtained Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, period aerial photos and trackside photographs from the 1960s and 1980s that will allow me to build a much more realistic rendition. I started by tearing out one of the structures and am ready to scratchbuild a replacement. I have a plan to renovate the module and then transfer the scene to the layout.

Thompson Wire as it stands today. Project #1 of the rebuild is to build a new structure to go where the white wall is standing in. I may replace the DPM module structure in the background with something scratchbuilt with Tichy industrial window castings that weren’t available when I first built this scene.

Rural Scenery

I was working my way through this into the spring when I started working on car projects and then stopped modeling altogether for the summer. I should be able to pick this right back up by finishing the abutment castings and then getting right into gloop, ground cover, static grass, trees etc…

Looking down the narrow hall, the track is down and wired, after the fascia is in I will continue with scenery.

Freight Cars

I always need a few car projects to work on. Finishing this list is a stretch, but many of these just need paint and decals and many can be painted together since there are only a few colors involved. This list may change over time.

  1. LV 52′ gondola – Sunshine kit, built
  2. P&LE 50′ boxcar – scratchbash, built
  3. B&M 40′ gondola – F&C kit, built
  4. N&W 46′ gondola – Pocahontas Model Works, built
  5. P&LE 52′ gondola – Proto 2000 kitbash, needs final details
  6. NYC bay window caboose, WrightTrak, needs final details
  7. NYC 19000 plywood side caboose, American Model Builders, needs final details
  8. WAB 40′ AC&F Boxcar w/9′ Door – Branchline kitbash, just started, all parts in box
  9. T&P 50′ AC&F cushioned boxcar with double door – all parts in box
  10. CNJ 40′ AC&F welded boxcar with 7′ door – all parts in box
I’m a master at bringing freight car projects right up to the point they need paint and decals and then forgetting about them. I’m starting to gain some momentum in finishing projects, I need to build on that this year.
Three of the selected projects – WAB and MEC boxcars and P&LE gondola, I scratchbuilt the steel floor with styrene and Micro Mark rivets using plans on RR Fallen Flags website.

That should be plenty of work to keep my busy this year. Rapido’s Flexi-Flo hoppers are due soon and that is another basic weathering project to add to the list. Let Model Railroad Season begin…happy modeling!

Critical Cars

Now or Never

I’m sure most of us have one of those projects that never seems to get done (OK, maybe more than one in my case). Sitting on my shelf of started, but never finished freight car projects, has been a New York Central Lot 747-H Enterprise covered hopper. This was my first craftsman car kit, a West Shore Line model that I bought at Central Hobby Supply’s booth at the Springfield show back in the early ’90s.

The Enterprise cars were the largest group of covered hoppers on the NYC. As of October 1966 there were 1431 on the rosters of NYC, CASO, IHB, MDT and P&LE, this comprised about 1/3 of the  NYCS covered hopper roster. Lot 747-H itself contained 693 cars. The prototype Lot 747-H cars could be found hauling cement, feed, industrial sand, limestone and road salt on the B&A in the 1960s. Given the total numbers and wide usage, they are a necessary car for my fleet. At the time I was very excited to buy the car and start construction.

Alco RS3 5530 pulls the Framingham-Worcester local westbound at Cordaville, Mass. in April, 1966. It looks like a pair of Enterprise covered hoppers are in the consist, most likely for the cement distribution terminal in Westboro. Donald Haskel photo, used with permission.

Things started out well enough, but a covered hopper is a poor choice for a first resin kit. As work on the car progressed, problems started to pile up and mistakes compounded on themselves, eventually I became frustrated enough that the car was pushed to the side. A couple times over the years I’d gone back and tried to finish the project, solving some problems and discovering new ones. Each time it went back in the box and on the shelf. Over the years I’ve gotten much better with craftsman kits, but I never did finish this one. This Spring, trapped in the house with Coronavirus restrictions, I figured it was now or never to get this one done for good.

The two biggest issues I had were with the ladders and the channel ribs over the bolsters. The car sides were designed so that strip styrene was to be cemented to them to acheive the thin cross section of the channel flanges. Long story short – this didn’t work at all. Eventually I gave up, carved off what was on the car and replaced the entire channel with an Evergreen styrene channel. The single piece would be much more durable even if it was a hair too wide. In the process though, the surround rivets were filed off so they had to be replaced with resin surface decals.

The ladders were also designed to be fabricated, from strip styrene and .020″ wire. I tried to build these a couple different ways over the years and again traded off realism for durability in the end. I cut one of the stiles off of a Tichy ladder and used that instead. They angle in a bit to the center of the car but I got them together without going insane and they are solid.

I tried to upgrade the rest of the detailing on the car as I went along, but some problems couldn’t be fixed without causing irreparable damage. This included:

  • piping and detailing to the B-end
  • hatches – they should be much taller
  • .020 wire for end grab irons and hatch handles

The unpainted car showing the details I upgraded from the kit parts. This included the a Plano US Gypsum running board, hatch latch bars, channels, rivets, dust guards, towing staples and ladders.

With construction finally done, I painted the car Model Master Light Gray and decorated it using Wabash Custom Decal’s set #105. This set does one Airslide and one Lot 747-H car lettered for either P&E or NYC. Mark Vaughn has sold this decal firm, but is back in business under new ownership. As of mid-2020 these are still available.

NYC 881200 747-H 11-71

A good weathering job can hide a multitude of sins, so I put some extra effort here. Using 1970 photo of a prototype car for a guide (shown above), I started with a wash of burnt umber oil paint over most of the car. After this cured I streaked a very light gray mix down the car sides. Titanium white oil paint takes forever to dry, so this was set aside to cure for about two weeks. I came back and added the paint patches and decals for the repack, reweigh and brake test stencils. I then sealed everything with Dullcote and gave a light dusting with Pan Pastels to blend everything together.


While the craftsmanship no longer represents my best work, I am really happy with the results. The gray for the paint patches is too dark, but that was intentional to make it stand out. The Pan Pastels give it a chalky look that looks better in person than in the photo of the finished car. Time to check this one off and move on to the next project.



Operations Planning: Mid-day through trains

Preface: I have been busy working on some models and had hoped to have had photos of the finished results by now, but I greatly underestimated how long it takes titanium white oil paint to dry! So to fill the void, here is some info on train operations on the 1960’s B&A. This post is illustrated by the photography of Tad Arnold. A thank you goes out to Bob and Tad Arnold for sharing these images. Check out Bob’s website which covers over 80 years of his family’s railroad pictures. – MBC

As I move closer to being able to run full operating sessions, I need to prioritize rolling stock projects and acquisitions to round out the roster. In order to do that, I needed to nail down my operating plan. To run a full schedule of B&A trains would require about 50 locomotives and at least 250 cars. Putting together that large a fleet is a long term goal, but will take some time to accomplish. Since the focus of this layout is really about the switch job that served Jamesville, I’m going to start by just operating that train, along with the daytime through trains that it had to dodge while doing its work.

BB-1 passing Jamesville Switcher
A through freight powered by a quartet of GE U25Bs keeps the local switcher in the hole on the lead to Crompton & Knowles Loom Works in Worcester, MA.  Tad Arnold photo, courtesy of Bob Arnold, used with permission

The Lineup

I assembled a schedule from old NYC documents, mainly their Through Freight Schedules revised May 1, 1964 and Employee Timetable #18 effective October 31, 1965. A session will start with the Jamesville Switcher working industries on the #1 westbound main. While it works, the following activity will occur on the mainline. Times listed are either arrival (for eastbounds) or departure (for westbounds) from Worcester:

  • 11:11 #28 The New England States – The ‘States was a Chicago to Boston overnight passenger train and the flagship train on the B&A. As it approaches the city, it will pass the switcher working west. The westbound counterpart #27 didn’t depart Worcester until 16:24. That is after the local work should have been wrapped up, so I don’t need a second trainset or have to turn the train in the middle of the session.

New England States Worcester Tad Arnold
Train #28, the New England States, departs Worcester for Boston behind three E8A units. Tad Arnold photo, courtesy of Bob Arnold, used with permission.

  • 12:10 #405 Beeliner – This was a Boston to Albany RDC run. NYC cancelled the remaining Beeliners with the 10/31/65 timetable, but I’m extending these through 12/31. NYC was forced to put the train back on in 1967, but with conventional equipment.

Beeliner at Stone & Berg Tad Arnold
Westbound Beeliner train #405 accelerates away from Worcester, past Stone & Berg lumber. Tad Arnold photo, courtesy of Bob Arnold, used with permission.

  • 12:50 #148 Mail & Express – 148 was one of six mail trains on the B&A in 1965, but it was the only one that ran in daylight. The consist seems to have varied depending on the year, season and day of week.

#148 North Grafton Tad Arnold
Mail and express train #148 eastbound at North Grafton, MA behind an E8A-E7B duo. Tad Arnold photo, courtesy of Bob Arnold, used with permission.

Midday SW-2/WS-1 – This was the West Springfield-Worcester local turn. According to a first hand account in Robert W. Jones’ volumes on the B&A, most days SW-2 turned at East Brookfield, but when there was work at Spencer, Charlton, Rochdale and/or Webster Jct., it would run through to Worcester. None of these were busy stations, so it would run this leg perhaps a couple days a week at the most.

North Brookfield Local Tad Arnold
The W. Springfield-Worcester local shoving a boxcar to Quaboag Rubber at North Brookfield, MA. Tad Arnold photo, courtesy of Bob Arnold, used with permission.

13:30 BB-1 – This was the remnant of the New England Pacemaker, the great less-than-carload express that NYC ran in the ’40s and ’50s. It no longer bore any resemblance to those flashy trains. By 1964 BB-1 was a Boston to Buffalo through freight consisting mostly of multi-levels and auto parts empties, plus loads for Buffalo and points short of Elkhart and Indianapolis, IN.

BB-1 at Stone & Berg Tad Arnold
The empty multi-levels on the headpin help identify this train as Boston-Buffalo BB-1. Five FA-2s in an A-B-B-B-A set power this train at Heard Street in Worcester. When B&A trains drew first generation power, five units were the standard consist. Tad Arnold photo, courtesy of Bob Arnold, used with permission.

Unscheduled BV-1/BV-3 – Loads and certain empties to Elkhart, Indianapolis, Buffalo and Syracuse moved west in trains BB-1 and LS-3. The balance of the westbound cars moved on extras from Boston to Selkirk that carried the BV alpha prefix (B for Boston, V for Selkirk). These trains were dead freights of mostly free running empties, as well as all loads and empties to the D&H, Albany area and points south. These trains ran as car counts demanded, returning west with the power and crews from the previous day’s eastbounds. Since 80% of the traffic to Massachusetts was eastbound, there were plenty of empty cars to move with these jobs.

Westbound Worcester Tad Arnold
GP30 6115 heads a westbound freight making a pick up at Worcester. The balance of the train is on the main line to the left. The cement covered hoppers suggest that this train is bound for Selkirk, NY. Tad Arnold photo, courtesy of Bob Arnold, used with permission.

Lastly is BA-4, the earlier of two Dewitt-Boston train. It could make it into Worcester ahead of it’s carded 17:30 arrival time. It was scheduled for four and a half hours of work atSpringfield, a work event that could be completed much faster depending on traffic. The next issue of the freight timetable had eliminated this lengthy stop. These trains were heavy in refrigerated traffic from the west and would add a splash of color.

Eastbound at Worcester Tad Arnold
An eastbound freight led by four ALCO RS32s waits to depart the Worcester yard at Putnam Street. This is possibly the DeWitt, NY to Boston train BA-4. RS-32s were common power on the Boston-Elkhart leg of train LS-3 and cycled back to Boston on BA-2/4. Tad Arnold photo, courtesy of Bob Arnold, used with permission.


Totaling up the moves shows there are about eight trains for my eight staging tracks, a perfect fit. If more space is needed the single car Beeliner can easily be doubled up with other trains. The four scheduled trains fit into a 2:30 period. If I ran the extras in the gaps in between I could run a session in real time without a fast clock.

A summary of the equipment I need to fill out those eight trains is as follows:

  • 5 E-units
  • 3 sets of road freight power (12-13 units, mostly second generation)
  • 1 RS2/3
  • 1 Alco S unit
  • 1 RDC
  • 5 cabooses
  • 10 passenger cars
  • 10 mail & express cars
  • At least 100 freight cars

This is an achievable roster for the most part. I’ve already put together a fleet of about 40 detailed cars to service modeled industries. I’ve got most of the remaining equipment, but much of it needs detailing, sound and weathering. Digging into the specifics of the trains shows some holes that will require scratchbuilding and kitbashing projects to fill. So even building this limited fleet will keep me busy. I’ll break down the individual trains and equipment in future posts.


Traffic Research

NYC Freight Delivery Circular

I received my copy of New York Central System’s Freight Delivery Circular from Rails Unlimited this week. The circular is a directory of industries located at junction points with other railroads so agents and customers could know how to properly route cars. The directory covers all of the NYC system including the P&LE. Industries listed are those with private sidetracks who were open to reciprocal switching and the carrier that served the concern. All cities served by the NYC are included except Chicago – it was covered by a separate tariff shared by all roads entering the city. Rails Unlimited sells a 1967 copy of that one as well.


I was looking for some help to document industries along the B&A and elsewhere along the NYC to aid in studying traffic flows and creation of realistic waybills. This version is dated February 1, 1963 – about 3 years earlier than the date range I model, but definitely close enough to help.With major locations like St. Louis, Detroit, Montreal, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh covered, this guide is of use to modelers of other roads as well.

As for the B&A, 24 stations were covered, these naturally included all the busiest stations. The Boston Switching District takes up 20 pages and lists maybe 1500 industries. The biggest location not covered is probably Ludlow/Indian Orchard which is just outside the Springfield terminal area. The switching district in Worcester appears to only stretch from MP 47.7 (James Street) to MP 43.0. I would guess that 90% of the customers on the railroad are covered.

As I reviewed the document I did find some errors. Misspellings, duplicate entries and industries that had closed. I was able to find every industry along the line if it was within the switching limits. For the towns that I know best, I was able to fill in all the sidetracks and was left with some firms that had no place….invisible customers using leased space in a warehouse, freight house or team track.

To illustrate what is in the document, let’s look at my hometown of North Grafton as an example. The guide lists the following:

N Grafton Listing

  • Bathage (sp) Foundry: I had never heard of Bathage Foundry before, a web search showed that it should be Bathgate. I was able to track down a location for them at 109 Creeper Hill Road. A recent real estate transaction included plans that showed a 1952 date for construction here. This explains why it wasn’t on the 1950 track chart.
  • Grafton State Hospital had a spur to a coal trestle, the remains of which are still there (as an aside, institutions like colleges, hospitals and prisons that got coal by rail were found all over the Northeast, but I can’t recall ever seeing one of these industries modeled – MBC).
  • Gordon Coal & Oil Co.: I knew of a coal shed located on the interchange track to the Grafton & Upton on Westboro Road, its foundation is still there. I’m going to assume this was Gordon Coal & Oil.
  • Pratt Bros. had a small grain business on Waterville Street that was not rail served. It would make sense that they took deliveries through the freight house, but that wouldn’t have gotten them a listing unless they leased the building. Someone was certainly in there though, it got a fresh coat of paint in the late 1960s.
  • Washington Mills Abrasive & Co. was, and still is, served the G&U at their lower mill location. The Washington Mills listing for NYC (B) may be a typo or they may have also leased space in the freight house. Shipments to the upper mill would have required transshipment as that facility was off rail.
  • Wyman-Gordon Products Corp. built a sprawling plant on the B&A just after WWII to make non-ferrous forgings for aircraft. At least 8 spurs wound their way into the plant switched by a small Plymouth. They continue in business and remain connected to the main, but it would appear that they rarely, if ever, use rail service. The engine is still there.

N Grafton Industries
1958 USGS Topo Map of North Grafton, MA showing the locations of rail-served industries.

The fact check shows some minor errors, but all the leads turned out. All sidetracks were identified and the listing provided greater insight into who the shippers were than I had been able to get based on years of my own research. While I’ve only skimmed through this book so far, I can tell it will be a valuable addition to my research collection.


Layout Construction

Laying Track

Since our weekends are bound to the house right now, I have gotten back to work on the track. Technique-wise, I’m not breaking any new ground here, but thought I would share some of my standards and experiences.


While elevating curves on a model railroad does nothing for performance I feel it is necessary to capture the look and feel of a major main line railroad. From what I can deduce from speed tables, NYC used a maximum of 6″ elevation on the B&A. Penn Central and Conrail later reduced this the modern freight standard of 4″.

NYC 3023 Ashland MA 7 66 Haskel
A westbound NYC freight, led by GP40 3023 and 3 U25Bs at Ashland, MA in July 1966. This is a good illustration of the roadbed profile and super elevated track that I was looking to capture.

For years I had been using Campbell profile ties, but my stock ran out and I switched to 1/16″ square basswood which I like better since you can curve a single strip instead of having to use many short sections.

Super elevating with Campbell profile ties – the 1/16″ square stripwood I switched to is in the background.


Taller cars really show off the super elevated curves.

Other Prototype Engineering Standards

To represent the engineering standards of the NYC, I used N-scale cork on top of Homasote subroadbed. Again, this is a choice made to capture the look of a well engineered multi-track mainline. N-scale cork is about a scale foot tall and pretty much equals the height of prototype roadbed, plus you get the added bonus of a lower per-foot cost. The Homasote helps kill the sound of the trains on the foam scenery base and replicates the wider subroadbed when used with the correctly shaped shoulders. I’m also using a prototypical 13′ track center standard on tangent sections opposed to the traditional HO standard of 2″ (14′ 6″). Two inches is prototypical for modern railroad construction, but older eastern lines are usually narrower.


The biggest gripe people have with Micro Engineering flextrack is how hard it is to curve without getting kinks. There are a bunch of different techniques out there to deal with this issue. The most popular solution seems to involve using a template, but I have many different radii and some cosmetic spirals so I needed something else. I had seen someone suggest using an MLR track tool, but since those aren’t available any more, I decided to try a Kadee coupler height gauge. Placing this on the rails and using a little twisting force while running it back and forth over the tracks actually worked very well with a little practice.

Making adjustments prior to final installation. The ruler is held up against the track and roadbed with nails.

I made a couple of passes with the Kadee tool and then smoothed out any imperfections by laying out a steel ruler up against the ties. I then squeezed the track up against the ruler. The result was nicely flowing, kink-free trackwork.


You need a way to straighten out ME flex as well, whether you make a mistake or are looking to fine tune a tangent section. Fine tuning obviously requires a long straightedge. The easiest way to straighten out an already curved section is to whack the edge of the ties against a flat surface, like a table, a couple of times.

Here the caulk is down and the track is tacked down. The track can then be pushed up against the ruler to get it perfectly straight. The caulk and pins keep it from moving back.

Securing the Track

I secured the track using clear acrylic adhesive sealant caulk. This seems like the new standard for tracklaying, but was the first time I had used this technique. It worked perfectly. The adhesive set up quickly, but slow enough that I could go back and straighten things out first. I tacked it in place with push pins and let it dry for a few hours.

The track through this section is done now and I’ve moved on to soldering feeder wires. Next work will move to bridge abutments and scenic contours.