Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Wordy Wednesday - Northern Pacific Double Sheathed Box Car NP 12315

West Jackson, Mississippi, March, 1947, Harold Vollrath Collection
Between 1923 and 1932 the Northern Pacific Railway added 4,500 double sheathed box cars to its roster. The cars came from a variety of builders, including five hundred from the NP’s own Brainerd, Minnesota shops. They were the largest single block of cars on the road from the late 1920s through the early 1940s, when the NP’s ambitious program to acquire and build AAR steel box cars gained momentum.

The NP’s 10000-series box cars were reminiscent of the USRA double sheathed box car design. They had double sheathed tongue-and-groove wood sides and the fishbelly center sill underframes that were characteristic of many car designs of the period. That the NP chose this design is interesting since they received no copies of the USRA forty-ton design.  However, the NP did have a history of ordering forty foot double sheathed cars, albeit of truss rod underframe design. The 10000-series cars were slightly different dimensionally from the USRA design. The inside length was a non-standard 40’9”, versus 40’6” for the USRA design and the inside height, at 8’8”, was several inches shorter than the USRA cars.  All cars were delivered with the NP’s trademark radial roof and the road’s preferred hand brake, the Miner Ideal lever-style brake. The first 4,000 cars received the Murphy corrugated end, with seven corrugations in the top panel and eight in the lower panel. The last 500 cars received Dreadnaught ends, with three main corrugations in the top end panel over five in the bottom. The last 500 cars also came with several other less noticeable modifications. They were equipped with different doors, one additional grab iron on both the sides and ends, an altered brake lever arrangement, diagonal straps on the lower car sides and secondhand Andrews trucks of a design common (and perhaps unique) to the NP. Many of these trucks were replaced in the postwar era.  All cars had lumber doors in the A-end.

The cars were not modified significantly over their service lives. The major modification consisted of replacement of the ‘KC’ brakes with ‘AB’ brakes during the 1940s. The other modification was the replacement of the trapezoidal brackets that connected the sides to the ends with longer straps. This change occurred in the 1950s. The cars were initially delivered with the arched ‘Northern Pacific’ lettering and white stenciling. During repaintings in the late 1930s and into the early 1940s, this was augmented with the small Northern Pacific black, red and white Monad herald. In the late 1940s, the slogan ‘Main Street of the Northwest’ was added below the Monad. Finally, in the early 1950s the Monad size was increased to 48”. For more information about the prototype, refer to John Barry’s article, “Post WWI Forty-Ton Box Cars” in the Summer 1994 issue of The Mainstreeter, the publication of the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Society.

The reason for highlighting this photo and these cars at this moment? The release of the Rapido HO scale versions of these cars. My thoughts on these cars coming within the next day or two…

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