Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Pennsylvania Railroad 'Calendar' Lettering


Note that even though this car was reweighed last in January, 1951, it was repainted in 1954, but not reweighed at that time. Tom Martorano Collection

Beginning in 1954, the Pennsylvania Railroad updated their lettering styles for freight equipment. Gone was the simple serif ("Roman") style lettering with ball Keystone interlocking "PRR" emblem. The new lettering was bold by Pennsy standards, featuring large road name (for example, 13" for 40-foot house cars and 16" for 50-foot house cars) and included a larger, "shadow" Keystone emblem. 

Sept. 5, 1954, Shenandoah, Virginia, Bob's Photo

One interesting and short-lived quirk was the script or "Calendar" style of numbers. As someone who really sweats the details of lettering and appreciates the nuances and beauty in such things, I have always been quite taken with these numbers, even though they are sadly out of my modeling era. They were drawn in January, 1954, issued in April, 1954, and seemed to have been phased out within a couple months. While it is entirely my conjecture, I am guessing that it was quickly discovered that the portions of the lettering that extended above and below the lines were a headache to align, adding time and cost to the stenciling process.

Paul Dunn photo, R. J. Burg Collection

There were also two other nuances during the same few month period. The "inside" of the "P" was a more square shape at the right portion of the "bulge" in the "P." Also, the lower upward diagonal in the "N" extended to terminate aligned with the horizontal line of the serif at upper left of the "N." These two nuances were also changed when the Calendar numbers were eliminated circa June, 1954.

Sept. 18, 1955, Brooklyn, NY

On a smaller route, such a stenciling oddity might have gone relatively unnoticed by researchers. However, given that the Pennsy likely repainted more cars in a couple months than many roads might in a couple years, there exist numerous photos of the Calendar scheme. It's cool enough to this student of type and typography that I might just model a car for the display case that features this beautiful example of railroad type.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

New York Central USRA Design Automobile Cars


Fayetteville, NC, Oct 12, 1952, Col. Chet McCoid photo, Bob's Photo

In 1922-1923, the Michigan Central added 4,000 automobile cars based heavily upon the USRA-design steel box cars that were the de facto standard box car of the NYC System from the 20s into the 50s. They had the same rather diminutive inside height (for an auto car) of 8'7". They were delivered in three groups: NYC Lots 440-B from Standard Steel (Hammond, IN, car nos. 96000-97999,) 464-B from American Car & Foundry (St. Louis, car nos. 98000-99499,) and 465-B from Standard Steel (Hammond, IN, car nos. 95000-95499.) They had auxiliary doors with a door opening of 10 feet. They were eventually renumbered into NYC reporting marks, series 189300-190999, 145400-146999, and 194000-195498.) Most (if not all) of the cars were built with Camel-Gilroy doors, like those shown on NYC 189735, above, and some cars, like NYC 189735, shown above, had their auxiliary doors sealed, making them into box cars. NYC 146479, shown below, had Youngstown doors and also received a replacement Murphy rectangular panel roof.

Fayetteville, NC, Oct 22, 1951, Col. Chet McCoid photo, Bob's Photo

Between 1930 and 1932, The NYC increased the height of many of these cars by adding plate steel sections at the top of the sides and raising the roof. An indeterminate number also received replacement Murphy rectangular panel roofs, as well, although photos show that many continued on with the Solidsteel roofs (lacking raised panels.) The raised roof cars were eventually assigned to series 194000-195498.

Charles Winters Collection

Paul Dunn photo, R. J. Burg

These three prototype images (above and below) illustrate how the cars appeared after the modifications. Note the Solidsteel roof and two extra Murphy end corrugations on the car shown below. 

crop of "Milwaukee Road, general view of part of Galewood Yard, Chicago," Jack Delano photo, FSA-OWI Collection, Library of Congress, call number LC-USW36-619

Years ago, I built a Westerfield kit to replicate one of the cars that continued on with its original 8'7" inside height, as shown above. While Broadway Limited released a specific version of the NYC System's USRA design box cars, Westerfield is still the only way to model many variants (including the most numerous varieties.) 

Sunshine Models also produced a kit to replicate the raised roof variants. These went out of production with the death of Martin Lofton. However, Yarmouth Model Works has resuscitated this model, with one-piece body casting.

I was fortunate to have one of the Sunshine kits in my stash and decided to start building it. As it's a flat kit, one has to assemble the sides and ends and then add the roof and floor to complete the basic assembly. I did all that, following my usual process, the most important part of which is to true up the sides first (equal length and square edges... it's been awhile since I have detailed that process, so I will post about that in the next couple weeks, with commensurate detail.) The biggest hurdle, as shown in the photos above, was that the lines of the peaks of the ends did not match that of the roof. To overcome that, I finessed things into place. My approach was to glue [ACC] the roof to one half of the top of the ends and also one side. You can see in the photo of the end of the car, how the roof is attached at the left, but the right portion is raised (not yet glued.) I let the half that was glued dry thoroughly and also augmented the joint with some 0.125" square styrene on the interior of the body where the side and roof abut. I then repeated this process for the other side. This resulted in a clean and strong assembly with the underside of the roof matching the peaks of the ends. I will continue this build in a future installment.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Rock Island USRA 40-ton Box Cars and Rebuilds


As-built, but upgraded with AB-schedule brakes, ca. 1947-1948

The Rock Island received a rather large allocation of 2,500 USRA Specification 1003-B forty-ton, double sheathed box cars. They came from several builders and were assigned to the series 155000-157499. The Rock Island rebuilt two blocks of 400 of these cars in their Armourdale (1936) and Blue Island (1940) shops, creating all-steel cars assigned to the 134000-134799 series. The underframes, ends, and Andrews trucks were retained, although the ends were augmented with small 'blank" sections to increase the height, resulting in a 5/5/blank/5 Murphy configuration (from bottom to top.) New sides from Youngstown Steel and Murphy rectangular panel roofs were applied. They also received Youngstown doors with early Camel Roller Lift fixtures, AB schedule air brakes and power hand brakes. Interestingly, the Rock Island actually continued to operate a greater number of "un-rebuilt" cars than were rebuilt. 

Note that the Rock Island also received some secondhand rebuilt CNW USRA box cars, but those are not the subject of this post.

ca. 1949, courtesy of the late Bill Welch; other info not known by me

This photo illustrates some of the features, including steel sides of eight, irregularly spaced panels, Youngstown doors, AB brakes (with all three main components on the same side of the center sills,) and Andrews trucks. Note the retention of grab irons instead of ladders. These Rock Island cars had the recessed side sills typical of steel-sided cars rebuilt from wood or composite cars.

Ogden, Utah, May 30, 1959, Will Whittaker photo

In the 1950s, the Rock Island sold cars to the Ft. Dodge, Des Moines and Southern, with very little change in appearance, except the diamond emblem and reporting marks.

Why am I posting about this? Well, over the past several weeks I have been working on one of the Sunshine Models kits for these prototypes. There are a few details that I am opting to change as part of my build. They include:

  • add rivets to exposed angle at end of car sides (more on this in subsequent posts; see photo below)
  • the kit's doors have later-style Camel Roller Lift fixtures. I am going to replace this detail with an early-style hardware
  • Grabs will be created by bending 0.008" wire
  • Running boards will be scratchbuilt from strip styrene to achieve a gap between the boards
  • I will use a Universal power hand brake and wheel to more closely match the prototype
  • Decals to be printed from my own artwork (the Sunshine lettering used a generic sans serif font for the majority of the stenciled data that is a poor match for the Rock Island's lettering)
Progress to this point has involved assembly of the major body parts and little else. I can report one issue that I encountered: the rectangular-shaped underside of the kit's resin roof casting was too long to easily fit into the car body. Instead of what would have been a fairly tedious process of removing resin material from the underside of the roof casting, I put the resin roof casting aside to use on a project where it fits into a car body and instead used a far more easily modified styrene part. The photos below illustrate the removal of material to facilitate a good fit, showing both modified and unmodified IMWX/Red Caboose parts. More details to follow in subsequent posts...

The visible "end" of the side that is nested in the angle formed by the side and end had rivets on the prototype. These will be simulated with decal rivets on the model. Also, note the "blank" end panel added to the rebuilds, as noted in the text above