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.

– MBC