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.

11 thoughts on “Freight Flows: Grafton & Upton Traffic May, 1965”

    1. Thanks Rich. The plan was just an exercise to see what a Free-mo/Mini-mo Branch would look like. I did an equally interesting one of the B&M Wheelwright Branch (west end of the Central Mass). If it was redone as a regular layout with some more curvature and flow it would be a real sharp plan.


  1. Great post! I’ll be digging deeper into the data you compiled.

    Craig Bisgeier recently made pig iron out of DeCecco square spaghetti. He cooked it. Cut it into pieces and let it dry before painting it. I would probably saturate the wet paint with Pan Pastels to finish them.


  2. Are you aware that G&U operated piggyback trailers? Their reporting mark was GFTZ. There’s a 1967 Jim Parker photo of Santa Fe caboose 999180 right behind GFTZ 201702 riding a TTX 85ft flat. Do you know if they had their own ramp or if they would have “rubber interchanged” the trailers with the B&A?


    1. Yes, you can still find the around MA. The Lucey family which bought the G&U in 1980 had interests in freight forwarding. In the 60s they owned TORCO which had 100 40’ Flexi-Vans based at Worcester and Boston. Later they struck a deal to use Wolfboro marks on their trailers (WFLZ) before buying the G&U and using their own marks (GURZ). GFTZ is not A G&U mark AFAIK.


      1. I’m familiar with the circa 1980 GRUZ 206000-series trailers. They were leased white 40-footers built by Budd and were later stretched to 45ft.
        The GFTZ van in the Parker photo is entirely different:
        It’s a deep yellow or orange 1960s exterior-post van with rub rails. You may be right that was not a G&U reporting mark, it is not listed in the trailer listings in the ORERs or in the OIERs to check for sure.

        I knew about the TORCO Flexi-Vans and the Wolfboro pig vans, but I didn’t know either was controlled by the Lucey family. Thanks for that.


      2. A pair of the Torco vans were across Franklin St. from the CSX intermodal ramp until quite recently – I just checked Google Earth and they are gone now. They looked just like NYC’s, with a yellow oval that said “TORCO” instead of “New York Central System” using the same Roman font.


  3. This is a really cool resource, thanks for posting!! Prototype wheel report / bill of lading information can be hard to come by, so the commodity and routing/consignee info shown here is quite valuable for those who model prototypical traffic flows.

    Liked by 1 person

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