Slide Show Sunday: SV-4 at Worcester

New York Central bay window caboose 21630 brings up the rear of Flexi-Van hotshot SV-4 at Worcester, MA on 4/30/67. NYC 21630 was from Lot 827, built by St. Louis Car Co. in 1952 and rebuilt and renumbered from series NYC 20298-20497 during 1963-65. Tangent has just completed a second run of this car in HO scale, with a revised shade of Century Green.

SV-4 was the Selkirk-Boston section and carried trailers in addition to Flexi-Van containers. While NYC was widely known for its innovative container system, it began TOFC service in 1962 and joined Trailer Train in 1964 with TOFC spreading across the system. Clearance issues close to the city prevented piggyback service into Boston until 1966. Scanned from the original Tom Murray Kodachrome slide, my collection.


Photo File Friday: 405 entering Worcester from Boston

New York Central Alco RS3 #5527 passes through the former Interlocking #26 at the east end of the Worcester Yard on November 5, 1967 (unknown photographer, author’s collection, scan of Agfachrome transparency. Worcester Stamped Metal never had a sidetrack – the Worcester Consolidated Street Railway used to run between the B&A and the building. The real hidden story here revolves around NYC simplifying infrastructure to cut costs.

In the mid-1950s, facing rising costs and declining traffic, NYC announced a plan to single-track much of the system and install Centralized Traffic Control (CTC), this included the Boston & Albany. The railroad postponed that project while traffic projections were reassessed as the traffic decline showed signs of stopping, possibly due to the growth in automotive and intermodal traffic. In the meantime, NYC took other methods to reduce their plant. Here at milepost 43.2, Tower 26 has been demolished and the interlocking reduced from five crossovers to just one plus a spring switch at the entrance to the yard, protected by a single aspect dwarf signal. The spring switch let eastbound freights exit the yard without having to stop and reset the switch once clear. It was one of only two places on the mainline that had them at this time, the other being both ends of the single-track crossing of the NY State Thruway in East Chatham, NY. Westbounds meeting a stop signal at the home signal (seen just past the end of the train) had instructions to call Tower 28 for instructions immediately. Eventually, NYC and Penn Central would reduce the main to a series of CTC islands like this, controlled remotely from just a few towers.

In the mid-1980s Conrail finally single-tracked the B&A. Since then, double track has been going back in and may stretch continuously for 150 miles from Boston to Pittsfield in a few years if the plan to increase passenger service beyond Worcester comes to pass.


Photo File Friday: SV-3 leaving Worcester

Tom Murray photo, author’s collection

Boston to Selkirk Flexi-Van hotshot SV-3 accelerates west out of Worcester, MA behind four General Electric U-Boats led by #2555 on August 27, 1966. Crompton & Knowles’ loom works are to the left. Weedgrown sidetracks to traditional industries standing empty while intermodal traffic surged were a sign of the times. SV-3 was carded for a night-time departure from Boston for most of the 1960s, so daylight photos of this job are hard to come by.


Photo File Friday: #405 at Jamesville, MA

Penn Central train 405 westbound at Jamesville, MA 7/27/69. Tom Murray photo, author’s collection.

One thing I do a couple times a week is to search E-Bay for 1960s Boston & Albany images. Often times I’ll just grab a screen shot of the picture, but if it something I think I may want for a future publication or this blog I’ll throw a bid in. Persistence pays off and a few times a year I’ll find something really useful. This is one of those finds and is a good example of how a below-average photo can be priceless to prototype research.

This is a picture of train #405, the westbound Boston to Albany run. This was a train that was heavily photographed due to its predictable daytime schedule. The photo is a little fuzzy and weather dreary; a magazine editor would throw it in the trash. The vantage point though is the James Street bridge – a place I’ve never found another photo taken from and it gives us a look at a whole bunch of details that are front and center on my layout. It is also the first period color photo I’ve found of the area.

Starting with color, we can confirm what the three-deckers to the upper left looked like. Some are still in the same shingles today. Further down is the Graham Street bridge. Black was the standard color of the overhead truss bridges on the B&A, but this one appears to be dull silver. Silver was certainly used on other bridges on the B&A and I have seen other trusses in this color during this period. This saves a mistake and will help set the layout in the 1960s. We also get a glimpse of G.F. Wright’s factory complex in the distance, while the brick colors were obvious, the photo confirms the gray color of the window panels. The different shades of gray on the ballast of the different tracks are even informative.

A close up reveals more details.

For details, we get a great look at the hardware that controls the switches including a pipe-connected hand throw crossover – standard engineering on the NYC for double track lines with Automatic Block Signals. Up on the hillside just before the bridge, it looks like the garage is filling in the land behind their building, implying that it was graded differently in 1965. Other details like the flanger sign, signals, and speed board are useful as well.

The lessons here are to really dig into you photo material and don’t stop looking for new material – you never know when you may come across an imperfect image that only you will appreciate.

Traffic Research

Freight Flows: Appliances

For this Thanksgiving edition of Central Artery, here is an overview of the logistics of the machines that helped deliver and clean up today’s meal – ovens, refrigerators, and dishwashers along with their cousins – washers and dryers. This post will provide some background on the build of the NYC 858-B boxcar I’m working on.

1940s Westinghouse Ad

In the 1960s there were many finished products still moving in carload freight service. Most of these used plain boxcars but for some, a little more attention is required. Household appliances are one of these commodities.

1965 Massachusetts Data

There were 57 shipments of STCC # 363 – Household Appliances in the sample. This was comprised of 9 cars of household cooking equipment, 28 cars of refrigerators, and 20 of washers/dryers. That equates to about 6000 shipments per year to Massachusetts, about 16 per day, which was about 1.5% of inbound shipments. That doesn’t make appliances a top 20 commodity, but it clearly is significant.

Most of the inbound cars came from the Great Lakes region, with about half from Ohio (28), followed by Kentucky (12), Michigan (6), and Illinois (5). Indiana likely just missed the cut, as they had shown up in the 1963 survey and shipped plenty of cars to N.Y. and N.J. in 1965.

Carloads of Appliances to Massachusetts by origin state in 1965 1% Waybill Sample

Shippers and Origins

Westinghouse’s plant with truck and rail shipping docks in Mansfield, Ohio on the PRR Fort Wayne Route. Courtesy of automaticwasher.com

In investigating potential shippers, I could have tried to do a deep dive and find some statistics on the top-selling brands of appliances in 1965….instead I looked at where NYC assigned its lot 858-B boxcars. There were 1500 cars in lot 858-B #42000-43499 when new, but since this was the railroad’s only large class of 40’ers with 8′ doors, they equipped 915 with interior load restraint systems and assigned most to specific shippers. All but one of these special assignments was in the appliance industry. Below is a summary of their appliance assignments, along with potential loading points (not inclusive) and serving rail carriers:

  • 560 cars for Whirlpool – Marion, O. (EL north side, NYC south side); Clyde, O. (NYC-N&W); Evansville, Ind. – 3 plants (Refrigerator plant #2 NYC and 2 plants C&EI – open to NYC); St. Joseph, Mich. (NYC/C&O); St. Paul, Minn. (NP); Fort Smith, Ark. (SLSF); Rock Island, Ill.
  • 89 – Westinghouse – Columbus, O. (PRR-NYC); Mansfield, O. (PRR); Newark, O. (B&O-PRR); Edison, N.J. (PRR); Athens, Tenn.
  • 68 – General Electric – Appliance Park, Louisville, Ky. (L&N, open to NYC)
  • 62 – Philco – Philadelphia, Penn. (PRR); Connersville, Ind. (NYC)
  • 40 – Carrier – Syracuse, N.Y. (NYC)
  • 10 – Frigidaire – Dayton, O. (B&O, open to NYC)
  • 10 – Kelvinator – Detroit, Mich. (GTW and WAB/C&O both open to NYC)
  • 5 – Admiral – Chicago, Ill. (MILW, open to NYC); Galesburg, Ill. (AT&SF); Harvard, Ill. (C&NW)
  • 5 – Maytag – Newton, Iowa (RI)
  • 3 – Hotpoint – W. Milwaukee, Wis. (MILW)
  • 3 – Amana – Amana, Iowa (MILW)
  • 0 – Norge – Herrin, Ill. (IC)
A Whirlpool plant in Evansville, IN on the C&EI. Note the string of boxcars behind the fence staged for loading. Photo courtesy of Willard Library, Evansville Historic Photo Collection, used under creative commons license.

As one can see, locations, where NYC was the serving carrier naturally, had more of their equipment assigned, locations, where NYC had only reciprocal switch access, appear to be in the middle, followed by strictly offline points. Whirlpool was the top appliance manufacturer in the US and NYC served multiple plants directly, with over 500 cars assigned it is obvious that Whirlpool was the railroad’s most important appliance customer.

Receivers and Destinations on the B&A

The art deco Sears warehouse on Brookline Avenue, near Fenway Park was a major receiver of appliance carloads. The Sears private Kenmore label line of appliances was manufactured under contract by the major producers. This location was off the Highland Branch and continued to receive service after the line was converted to light rail service. Today it is known as The Landmark Center. Photo courtesy of Digital Commonwealth, used under a creative commons license.

I scanned through the Massachusetts listings in the NYC Freight Delivery Circular and uncovered several receivers of appliances. Receivers could be broken down into three groups: manufacturer-operated distribution centers, retailer warehouses with sidings, and small retailers via public delivery.

A New York Central Alco switcher works the Grand Jct. Branch at Mass. Ave. in Cambridge adjacent to the Metropolitan Storage Warehouse. Three major appliance manufacturers used this facility as their Boston area distribution center. In the foreground is MIT’s nuclear reactor – the adjacent building was once Whiting Milk – the destination for the B&A’s milk train from Barre Plains, Mass. on the Ware River Branch. Photo courtesy of Digital Commonwealth, used under a creative commons license.

With NYC having the best route from the Midwest to Boston and NYC directly serving several plants they logically had the lion’s share of the business to Boston. The locations I was able to pick out are as follows:

  • Metropolitan Storage Warehouse – used by Frigidaire, General Electric and Maytag – Cambridge (NYC)
  • Hotpoint – Brighton (NYC)
  • Westinghouse – Boston (NH, open to NYC)
  • Admiral – Boston (B&M, open to NYC)
  • Sears, Roebuck & Co. – Boston and Allston (both NYC)
  • Team Tracks
1950s Maytag Employee Magazine touting the virtues of a carload purchasing via team track delivery.


Great Northern 39739 was built by PC&F in September, 1961 with a 9′ door, cushioned underframe, roller bearings and a Car-Pac loader. It was specially equipped for the appliance trade….in this case an assignment to Maytag at Newton, IA. I missed these late model cars on my roster of 9′ door 40′ boxes. Jeff Lemke photo, used with permission.

By 1965 intermodal was an option for Midwest-Northeast shipments and had carved out about 8% of the shipments within the Official Territory. That means the other 92% was moving by boxcar, with some spot substitutions of refrigerator equipment, most likely RBLs made surplus by seasonality (refrigerators shipped in refrigerators!). By the mid-60s, the most common equipment for shipments in the East was a 40′ boxcar with 8′ or larger doors, equipped with a load restraint system. Common systems were Evans Damage Free (DF/DF-2), Transco Stage Loader (SL/SL-2) Spartan Easy Loader (SEL) and Spartan Tri Belt (STB) [corrected 11/25/21]. 19 belt DFs appear to have been preferred in appliance service. It wasn’t until the very end of the decade that the mini hi-cube 40’ers were built for this industry, and even those were for service to the West.

To confirm these conclusions, I dug into a sample of appliance shipments from Louisville, KY to Baltimore, Md., and Washington, DC from a consist of PRR train WPB-4 on 9-16-66. The consist shows 12 identifiable cars (a 13th, the SOO car, wasn’t in the ORER), all rigid underframe 40′ boxcars with 8′-14′ door openings. Of these, 10 were equipped with DF or STB loaders and two were unequipped. Only two were home-road L&N cars, none PRR. The balance were quite random cars assigned to the Appliance Park pool. Additionally, it should be noted that 12 of the cars were billed to GE’s own distribution centers and the 13th was consigned to Sears. I found it interesting that although Appliance Park was open to reciprocal switch according to the NYC Freight Delivery Circular, the PRR got these in linehaul services from the L&N at Cincinnati. Also interesting was that the following day’s WPB-4 had no appliance cars. It begs the question, did GE send shipments out in large blocks to reduce switching and thereby service and damage issues?

ATSF and L&N equipped (XML) 40′ boxcars on Horse Shoe Curve at Altoona, Penn. in 1967. I can’t say for sure these were appliance cars, but it is certainly a possibility that this is another GE block on an eastbound PRR freight. Jim Parker photo, collection of George Elwood, used with permission.


After studying the information at hand I came up with the following five origin/destination pairs for my waybills:

  • Whirlpool, Marion, O. to Sears, Roebuck & Co. Boston, Mass. via NYC direct
  • Whirlpool, St. Joseph, Mich. to Sears, Roebuck & Co. Boston, Mass. via NYC direct
  • General Electric, Louisville, Ky. to GE c/o Metro. Storage Whse., Cambridge, Mass. via LN-Cincinnati-NYC.
  • Frigidaire, Dayton, O. to Frigidaire c/o Cambridge, Mass. via NYC direct [B&O origin switch]
  • Maytag, Newton, Iowa to Maytag c/o Metro. Storage Whse., Cambridge, Mass. via RI-Chicago-NYC

This gives a couple cars to Whirlpool, 2 shipments from Ohio, plus coverage of Mich., Ky., and Iowa. I already have a RI 19-belt DF boxcar so this car now has a home. The 858-B car will do double duty for a couple of the other origins, leaving one more…perhaps a MILW or L&N box. Appliance traffic was a case where the railroads worked hard with their customers to offer tailor-maid equipment to reduce damages and keep traffic from trucks. The result is some unique equipment that helps tell the story of what the railroads were doing in the 1960s.

RI 5809 had a 17-belt Evans DF-2 loader system installed. While it is a PS-1, it is similar to the Red Caboose model I have. Jim Sands photo, collection of George Elwood, used with permission.

Happy Thanksgiving!!



Fenway Finale

In honor of the American League Championship Series moving to Boston for Games 3-5…and more importantly me being in the middle of a half dozen projects with nothing ready to share, here is a Jack Leonard shot from Brookline Junction in Boston. This is April 1958, the outbound suburban train has come off of mainline track 3 and is heading west on the Highland Branch for Riverside. Service on the Highland Branch would cease at the end of the following month. It would reopen in 1959 as a light rail branch of the MTA.

Jack Leonard photo, Barb Hudson collection (used with permission).

Looming in the background is Fenway Park. The Red Sox were opening a season where although Jackie Jenson would be named MVP and Ted Williams hit a league best .328 at age 40, they would finish in 3rd place, 13 games behind the Yankees. It would be the last time the team would finish with a winning record until 1967.

Today this scene is much changed, but still recognizable. The MassPike was built over tracks 1 and 2 in the 1960s. The connection to the Highland Branch was ripped out in the 1970s after the last freight customers along Brookline Avenue stopped getting cars. A short portion of the old right-of-way makes up David Ortiz Drive right here. The Lansdown commuter rail station occupies much of area in the center of the photo. Fenway, of course, survives as do most of the industrial buildings along the railroad – although they are now occupied mostly by bars and nightclubs.

Go Sox!!

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)

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.

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 Bethlehem 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.