The Boston & Maine Railroad Historical Society

I’ve been a member of the B&MRRHS for some years. Mostly lurking. Enjoying the B&M Bulletin and the Newsletter/Modelers Notes. My great friend, the late John Peterson, was a founding member of the society and a terrific B&M modeler in O scale. When I became interested in New England railroads while still living in Virginia, the B&M Bulletin and the long defunct New England States Limited were a welcome treat when they dropped through the mail slot.

Last year, I came out of hiding and volunteered to edit the Modelers Notes insert of the Boston & Maine Railroad Historical Society Newsletter. It shows up every other month tucked inside the society’s Newsletter. This has been a blast. There are many great modelers in the B&M community and some fantastic layouts nearby. Who knew? I have to admit I’m tickled when I see one of my writers show up in MR or RMC as they have recently.

I’ve finished three issues so far, #169-171. I’ve featured articles by Tom Oxnard (recently in MR) and George Dutka (recently in RMC). I reworked my blog posting on the B&M USRA composite gon into a feature. Later this summer, we’re dedicating an entire double length (8 page) issue to modeling the iconic B&M XM-1 boxcar. And you never know any given day what new material will drop over the transom.

If you have an interest in New England railroads, I highly recommend a membership in the B&MRRHS. In addition to the printed publications, they have a great web site ( with lots of information on the B&M and other New England railroads, past and present, available online.

Freight Car · Model Building · Proto48 · Roster

NYC Rebuilt USRA Gondola 672500

NYC 672500

New York Central 672500 is a class GA steel, drop-bottom gondola. Being class GA, the drop doors dump between the rails. It was originally built by IC&M as lot 529-G in 1926 as a USRA 1002-B 50 ton composite gondola but rebuilt extensively by the NYC shops as an all-steel car in 1936 utilizing the trucks, sills, and Murphy ends from the original. At one time, 10% of the NYC roster were drop-bottom gondolas.

NYC USRA Composite Gondola
NYC USRA composite drop bottom gondola as built. NYC Historical Society

Most of the cars had their drop doors welded shut before the war and became class GB. But not this particular car. My choice of number falls within a range of NYC class GA drop bottom gondolas in the 1953 ORER (Official Railroad Equipment Register). A plan for these rebuilt cars appeared in Mainline Modeler, Jul-Aug’81, on page 21.

I built my car from a West Shore Line resin kit sometime back in the 90s. It now rides on modified Atlas Andrews trucks. The older Kadees were replaced with new Kadee 745 AAR Type “E” couplers. The space between the center sills is stuffed with shredded lead bringing the car weight up to 11 oz. I’d like it heavier but there’s no place for more weight. On the other hand, it will be loaded much of the time.

I dusted off the old car and started to weather it with oils and Pan Pastels. I forgot a coat of Dullcote after the oils and the Pan Pastels lit up. Oh, well. That led to stripping the entire car. While I had the car in native resin I added brake release rod detail and replaced the “B” end brake details with better work.

Refinishing started with a bath in Dawn detergent and warm water. When dry, the car was sprayed with Tamiya Surface Primer. Then was left to sit for a few days.

The underbody was sprayed with a mottled mix of Vallejo 71.056 Panzer Dark Gray and 71.040 Raw Umber. This was also sprayed on the inside as a base for rusty weathering. The sides were sprayed freight car red made from a 1:1 mix of Vallejo 71.038 Camouflage Medium Brown and 71.105 Brown. When good and dry, the sides were sprayed with Testors GlossCote in preparation for decaling.

Tichy decal set #100380 had all the essentials for this car. A few applications of Microscale Setting Solution helped nestle the decals into place. The NYC logo with the black background is correct for gondolas in this era (1953). Reweight data is EB 3-50, for East Buffalo, NY. Some chalk markings were added with a white pencil and then everything sealed with Dullcote.

Next, artist oils thinned to a wash with Turpenoid were brushed downward to simulate rust and grime. I used mostly raw umber, burnt umber, and black. When dry, another spray of Dullcote sealed the oils. Then Pan Pastels, again mostly rusty, grimy colors, were applied. This was followed by a final spray of Dullcote.

In operation, this gon will typically bring in bituminous coal to the public delivery track for unloading by shovel. Other inbound loads could be lumber, pipes or sand. Outbound, maybe scrap metal or rough sawn lumber.

This is one of my earliest efforts at “finescale prototype modeling” back in the 1990s. With a little work it’s been brought up to date and looks better than ever!

Freight Car · Model Building · Research · Roster

Park & Pollard Insulated Box Car 620

He said, “I ain’t no chicken and I don’t need your feed”

from “Your Cash Ain’t Nuthin’ But Trash”, lyrics by Charles E. Calhoun.
Park & Pollard

In his article, “Where Did the Freight Go?”, way back in the B&M Bulletin Vol 15, No. 2, Dwight Smith said that it was a rare north country freight that didn’t have a carload of animal feed. Park & Pollard was one such supplier of chicken feed in New England. They shipped their product from Black Rock (Buffalo), NY in a menagerie of old class RB wood-sheathed insulated boxcars lettered for PRKX (P. & P. Car Lines). These were re-purposed wood-sided reefers with their ice bunkers removed. The cars were numbered in the 400, 600, 700 and 800 series. In 1953, there were a total of 101 cars. They were frequent visitors to the north country.

End on view of PRKX 708 in Derry, NH. From an Albert Hale photo.

Well, I had to have a PRKX box car on my railway but there is little photo evidence of these cars. I had an end-on image of  PRKX 708 at Derry, NH from an Albert Hale photo on the cover of New England States Limited Vol 1, No. 4. Recently, my friend, Jack Keene, spotted a pair of photos of PRKX 829 in the October 2019 BLHS Bulletin and those were helpful too.

PRKX 829 in the Saratoga & Schuylerville RR yard at Saratoga Springs, NY in the late 1940s. Peter Jansky photo.
A side view of PRKX 829 at Saratoga Springs. Notice the straps added to the corners. Peter Jansky photo.

An email to Dwight Smith brought the following information and a photo of PRKX 620:


Here is my best close up of a Park & Pollard insulated boxcar.  They were converted from refrigerator cars with ice bunkers removed. They were painted yellow with black lettering.  Nothing fancy, no fancy lettering or logos.  Note the two steel straps at the corners of the car to strengthen the car at the location of the removed ice bunkers.  Park & Pollard shipped bagged animal feed in these cars from Buffalo, NY to “feed stores” at rural locations in New Hampshire and Vermont. The attached photo was taken in 1942 at the “Groton Grain Co.” store in Groton, VT on the Montpelier & Wells River RR. I also have some photos that include PRKX cars at Pittsfield, NH on the Suncook Valley RR in 1952, but they are not very clear. I hope this is helpful.

Dwight Smith.

M&WR Groton 1942 E
Photo by Dwight Smith

So, armed with Dwight’s notes and the photos, I was off and running. This model was destined to be a stand-in as no plans or clear photos have surfaced. Dwight’s notes and photo contain most of the important spotting details (the braces), the lettering style and the colors. The Hale photo verifies that the ends are wood and likely oxide red. I’ll assume the roof is oxide red too. Other than that, they are just run-of-the-mill wood-sided reefers without the bunkers and roof hatches.


I chose an O scale Red Caboose reefer kit as my starting point. These are models of Pacific Fruit Express 30-12-9 reefers built in the early ‘20s. Oh, it’s a few inches off from the Park & Pollard cars based on data in the 1953 Official Railway Equipment Register. A stand-in for sure but certainly close enough. If you model in another scale you’ll need to scout up a wood reefer that would be a good starting point.

Starting Construction

The first step is to strip the factory paint and lettering from all the parts (except the roof hatches which are destined for the scrap box). A good stripper for plastic is “Simple Green” which can be found at Wal-Mart. 91% alcohol from the drug store works too. Leave the parts in the stripper a few days then clean them up with warm running water and a stiff toothbrush. Rinse and repeat until the factory paint is totally gone. It may take a little light scrapping to get it all. A fiberglass or brass brush helps to remove the pad printing.

Sides and Ends

Reinforcing straps and lateral running boards are spotting details for this model.

The corner braces are cut from 1/2” by 3” styrene. Referring to the photo, it appears that the top strap is about one-third of the way down and the bottom strap is about one-third of the way up the side. Carefully mark the locations with a scale rule and dividers. Apply the long ones on the ends first. Cut them over-sized and then trim them flush with the sides. The side pieces are 4’ long. Make sure you have a nice clean joint at the corner. I used Tichy 0.030″ rivets for the carriage bolts holding the straps. As an added detail, scribe a horizontal line centered on the braces up to the doors [see photos above]. This might have been damage left from dismantling inside racks or whatever.

Finally, the ladders and door latches are added as per the kit instructions. I replaced the oversize sill steps with Grandt Line delrin versions with a much lighter profile. Tichy drop grabs were substituted for the heavy plastic ones in the kit. The “B” end brake detail came mostly from the scrap box.


Build the underframe as described in the kit instructions. I used the supplied brake appliances but replaced most of the rodding with phospour-bronze wire, Tichy turnbuckles cut in half for clevises and Clover House 386 chain. In the end I didn’t bother adding the piping. The kit didn’t include it anyway.

Mount couplers of your choice. I used Kadee 745 O scale AAR “E” Type. The Red Caboose Bettendorf trucks are correct for this car but I used a pair of San Juan Bettendorf trucks with Northwest Shortline wheelsets instead.


Gather all of the parts and pieces and weigh them on a postage scale. My O scale model was a little over 8 oz. without any additional weight. I set the kit supplied weight aside and used self-adhesive auto wheel balancing weights. These come in ½ oz. segments. It took fourteen to get the total car weight up to about 16 oz. — on par with my roster.


This car has no ice bunkers so fill in the hatch openings with styrene about the same thickness as the roof. Next, build the lateral running boards. Make the supports from styrene tapered from the bottom of the running boards to the edge of the roof. Cut seven boards 2’ in length from 2” by 6” styrene for each lateral. Bond them to the straps evenly spaced with a small gap between each board. The grab irons are ¾” (0.015” in O scale, 0.008” in HO). Use a tiny eyebolt (mine are HO CalScale diesel lift rings) for the corners. Archer decal rivets work for the tiny carriage bolt detail.

PRKX 602 ready for the paint shop.


I started with a coat of Tamiya Surface Primer for a nice, neutral gray base. Also, on a light colored car such as this it’s a good idea to spray the inside of the body with primer to cut down the translucency of the yellow plastic. When the primer was good and dry, I looked for any scratches, holidays or other defects and repaired them.

The underbody was painted with Vallejo 71-056 Panzer Gray and 71-941 Burnt Umber. For the sides, I used Vallejo 71-948 Golden Yellow with a few drops of 70-814 Burnt Red to punch it up. A drop or two of Future (now rebranded “Pledge revive it floor gloss”, found at Wal-Mart) helps with flow through the airbrush. Yellow colors being what they are, I needed a couple of thin coats for good coverage.

After a day or so of dry time, I attached the roof and running board braces then masked off the sides using Tamiya Masking Tape for the edges and Frog tape for the large areas. The edges of the tape were sealed with a spray of the yellow. (This trick gives a sharp line as the following color cannot leak under the tape.) Next, the roof and ends were sprayed with Vallejo 70-814 Burnt Red, a bright oxide red, thinned for air brushing.


As you might expect, there are no PRKX decals to be found. But no worries. For the reporting marks I choose the number 620 from Dwight’s photo. A black 3/16″ Railroad Roman alphabet set by K4 Supply Co. supplied what was needed for the sides. A white 1/8″ Railroad Roman alphabet set was used for the ends. A set of Microscale PFE decals for ice reefers supplied most of what was needed for the rest. The reweigh data is “BR 9-52″ for Black Rock, NY where PRKX cars were shopped. Other dimensional data is based on information in the 1953 Official Railway Equipment Register and cobbled together from the PFE decal set.


This car is old and weary. I used artist oil washes to spread road grime down the sides. Turpenoid mixed with a little Japan drier works well as thinner for oils. When the oil washes were dry I gave the car a spray of Testors Dullcote before applying Pan Pastels to take down the colors a bit and give the finish a dusty somewhat grimy look. A little rust should be streaking down from the door hardware and some dirt splashed up on the ends.


Every week or so the local freight ambles into St. George with a PRKX car in its consist. It has come over the New York Central to the B&M west end then up the Conn. River line to be handed over to the CV at White River Jct. for delivery to the D&NE interchange near Montpelier, Vermont. You’ll find it later spotted on the public delivery track in St. George where some poor farmhand has been tasked with unloading bag after bag of Lay or Bust chicken feed. Who says, “I don’t need your feed“.

Thanks for the help, Dwight”!

Freight Car · Model Building · Research · Roster

B&M Rebuilt USRA Gondola

90374 Complete In 1919, Pressed Steel built 1500 USRA 1002-B 50-ton composite drop bottom gondolas for the B&M. The B&M designated them as class G-4 with nos. 90000 through 91499. These AAR Class GS gondolas had drop doors opening toward the outside of the car and, hence, you’ll sometimes see them referred to as side dumps. They rode on Andrews trucks and spent much of their lives hauling “tide coal” from New England tidewater ports to inland locations over the B&M. They were rebuilt in 1933 at the B&M Concord, New Hampshire shops with 4-rib dreadnaught ends replacing the original 6-rib Murphy ends. The cars were painted black and the reporting marks changed to “BM” with the simple rectangular herald centered on the side. Fully half the cars were gone after the war and only four appear on the 1950 roster. The 1953 ORER (Official Railroad Equipment Register) shows only two (90374 and 90724) still around, probably hauling cinders in their last days. It appears these last two were retired sometime in 1953 as their K brakes were outlawed. B&M GS GondolaB&M gon 91439 loaded with scrap at the Billerica shops in 1942 has been rebuilt with dreadnaught ends. The diagonals are also gone from the end panels. It looks like the Perfection handbrake has been replaced by a power handbrake. Note the newer “BM” reporting marks and the newer rectangular herald. (Library of Congress photo.) I wanted one of these cars on my circa 1953 Vermont shortline. Given the period, it would have to be a rebuilt car and it would be near to its last days. Kitbashing a rebuilt B&M USRA gondola from an O scale Intermountain kit turned out to be feasible. Construction followed the kit instructions except for a few alterations (well, actually, quite a few). First, I got out the hacksaw and cut a steel plate to hide under the laser cut floor bringing the car up to 16oz total weight. As an afterthought, a notch was cut into the weight directly under two of the drop doors so they could be left partially open as in the NYC photo seen below. NYC USRA Gon Top ViewSimilar NYC gondola with original Murphy ends and Perfection handbrake. Notice a couple of drop doors cracked open. (NYC Historical Society) An Intermountain steel reefer body from the scrap box (it had taken the fatal plunge years ago) donated a pair of 4-4 dreadnaught ends. The bottom half of each end became a 4 rib dreadnaught end to substitute for the 6 rib Murphy ends found on the rebuilt gondolas. (I wish they had corrugations on the inside face. Oh, well…) Photos show that the diagonals went missing on the end panels after the rebuild so those were also removed on the model. A pair of modified Atlas Andrews trucks were substituted for the Bettendorf trucks included with the kit. The couplers are Kadee 745 AAR Type “E”.
Split-K brake installation.
The brakes on this car are the split-K type. As far as I know, none of this class were converted to AB brakes. The plumbing and rodding are brass wire with Tichy turnbuckles cut in half for clevises. Also, from the photo above, it looks like the Perfection handbrake was replaced by a more modern power handbrake when the car was rebuilt (I couldn’t tell which from the photo). 3D printed parts for an Ajax handbrake came from Eastern Road Models (Shapeways). Other parts came from the scrap box. Tichy grabs were substituted for the fragile plastic ones in the kit. The brake step was scratch built from brass strip and styrene as were the end ladders and cut levers. Included with the kit were nice laser cut wood panels representing the floor and sides. I removed the paint on the laser cut sides as I wanted to do a weathered finish. The inside facing surfaces were stained with artist oil washes to represent well-worn wood. Rather than paint the outer wooden sides with the car’s framing, I stained them separately with washes of Vallejo Black, Sea Gray and Burnt Umber emphasizing the individual boards. All but the wood parts of the model were cleaned in a bath of Dawn detergent and warm water. The inside of the side framing and the floor were masked as the wood parts would be glued in later. The model was then sprayed with a coat of Tamiya Surface Primer. Boston & Maine gondolas in this era were black. These cars would have some rust showing through so an undercoat of Vallejo Burnt Umber was applied first followed by Vallejo Black Gray. The underbody and trucks were sprayed with a mix of burnt umber and dark gray. Lettering came from a Protocraft B&M boxcar set and a Microscale Freight Car Data set. B&M reporting marks became “BM” as of 1938. I numbered the car 90374, one of two still in the ORER in 1953. The simple rectangular herald applied to the center of the car is correct for the rebuilt gondolas. These cars never received the “Minuteman” herald. Reweigh data is “CS 7-51”, denoting Concord, NH, July 1951. Other data includes: CAPY     100000                              IL    4-6 LDLMT 125200                              IW   9-1 LTWT      44500    BLT 12-19    CUFT 1770     GS Before installing the floor, the two drop doors over the cut out in the weight were backed with paper and then cut free on three sides. After the floor was glued to the weight, the moving doors were pressed down and glued to the subfloor showing them cracked open. Then the finished sides were glued to the side framing. Further weathering steps included artist oils and Pan Pastels to give the model a worn, rusty look as time was running out for these cars in 1953. The floor was littered with bits of dusty coal and dunnage. I’ll make three loads for this car: coal, gravel, and rip-rap. For the most part, it will bring steam coal to the Idlenot Farms Dairy creamery in St. George and haul out stone products from the nearby Trap Rock Quarry. Other inbound loads could be lumber, sand or a load of fresh railroad ties from the Koppers Tie Plant in Nashua, NH. Outbound, perhaps scrap metal or pulpwood billets stacked on end. So there are more loads to build. A signature Boston & Maine car soldiering on in its last days as it might have been seen on a northern Vermont short line, circa 1953. ——- The Jul-Aug81 issue of Mainline Modeler has an article on USRA composite gondolas with plans and photos. Ted Culotta describes an RPM project, Kitbashing USRA-Design Gondolas, on his Speedwitch website. James B. Van Bokkelen’s website, Boston and Maine Freight Equipment after 1920, has much useful information on the B&M gondolas. Tim Gilbert’s notes in the B&MRRHS Modelers Notes #72 (May-June 2001) helped with the placement of B&M freight car heralds. And Earl Tuson’s web page, Boston & Maine Railroad Coal Cars 1900-1930, describes the tidewater coal traffic on the B&M and includes some photos of the USRA gons. Tim Gilberts B&M Freight Car Roster 1915-1955 in the B&MRRHS online archives provided important data for lettering the car. [An early version of this article appeared in the B&M Railroad Historical Society Modelers Notes in issues 169 and 170.]
Proto48 · Ruminations · Trackwork

Retreat from P48

I started the Dominion & New England layout in P48 as a personal challenge to raise my level of craftsmanship and the prototype fidelity of my models. As I write this, I’m looking at four locomotives, none of which are running on the layout. The steamers are just beyond my ability to convert to P48. Enlisting help with the basic P48 conversion runs about double what I paid for the locomotives. The diesels I can handle but I’ve allowed myself to be sidetracked into building better drives. I’ll continue with that effort. Upgraded motors, DCC and sound are well within my ability. Turning new driver tires, narrowing frames, etc…, maybe not.

I’m also staring at a dozen freight cars that could be running on the layout but are waiting for P48 wheelsets or complete trucks. And they’re not cheap either.

I started the conversion to the Protocraft Symington-Gould AAR Type “E” operating couplers. They are beautiful! But my layout is a shortline with lots of switching and I’m finding they are just too finicky for me. As it happens, Kadee is selling a more prototypical “E” coupler now — no, they’re not as nice looking as the Protocraft but they’re not bad. And they operate much better. The spring is hidden so there is no obvious give away.

There is simply not enough done on the layout to prevent me from starting over in Ow5 (1.25″ O gauge). I can relay track a lot faster than all of these other chores and it’s a whole lot less expensive. I’ll continue to lay the track to a high standard even if it is a slightly wider gauge.

Please don’t let me discourage you from trying P48. Others have successfully built large P48 layouts. In my case, my machining skills and my pocketbook just aren’t deep enough. I’m not getting enough done to really enjoy my efforts.

Model Building · Narrow Gauge · Nostalgia

Crowsnest Tramway Redux

Roger Marler from Calgary, Alberta, contacted me recently with more information on the The Crowsnest Tramway Co. Rather than adding it as a comment I thought it made more sense to put it up front. BTW for some fine model building, be sure to check out his blog — see his link at the end. Here’s Roger…

This diorama was built by Roy Link in Norfolk, England in the early 1980s and sold to Mike South a few years later. At that time it had just 1 loco, 3 tipper wagons, and a flat wagon. The loco was based on Bagnall’s 0-4-0 IST works number 300 built in 1880 and was scratch built by Roy, as were the other items of rolling stock. Mike had it all shipped to his home in Calgary, Alberta, Canada where it stayed until Mike’s death in August 2009, when it became mine. And it immediately disappeared for a few months until I discovered it in someone’s garage in rural southern Alberta. Coincidentally, Craig Parry had posted a request for information about this diorama in the ezine of the Calgary Model Railway Society. A few emails back and forth and, after help in crating it all up again by some other friends of Mike South, it made its way to Craig in Belleville, Ontario, where it now resides. However, in the meantime, Craig has been successful in obtaining some of the other 20 or so locomotives, and other wagons that had been built by various artisans around the world, on commission for Mike South, but which had somehow been divorced from the layout. Craig has also taken the diorama on the road to a number of shows on both sides of the 49 parallel to much deserved acclaim.

I am so glad it is now in the right hands and is promised a safe and enjoyable future.
Roger Marler, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Freight Car · Proto48 · Roster

C&EI 1937 AAR Box car 64471

C&EI 64471 spotted at the St. George freight house door #3.

Chicago & Eastern Illinois 64471 is a class XM steel box car. It’s an AAR 1937 design built in 1949 with an inside height of 10′-0″. It’s in the 1953 ORER (Official Railroad Equipment Register).

I built this car from an Intermountain 1937 AAR box car kit back in the 90s. Being only four years old, the prototype would be in pretty good shape in 1953. I doubt the details are spot on so it’s likely a stand-in —  but no worries. The ends are dreadnaught 4-5, the roof is Viking and the roof walk is wood. Based on info compiled by Ed Hawkins and Ted Culotta the doors should be CRECO 3 panel, not Youngstown, and be painted black; the ladders should be 8 rung, not 7. The build date is conflicted: one table says built 1949, the other 1937. The car is lettered 1949 so that’s what I’ll believe.

Weighing 13 oz. it’s a little light in the journals. It has a light filter spray to tone the lettering down (typical technique in the 90s) but needed a little more weathering. I decided not to replace the doors but I thought they should at least be painted black.

Here’s what was done to bring it up to snuff:

  • Replaced the wheel sets with NWSL P48s.
  • Replaced the couplers with Kadee 745 AAR “E” Type.
  • Painted the doors black.
  • Added light weathering with Pan Pastels and artist oils.
  • Sealed it with Testors Dullcote.

In operation, this box car might bring in bricks, tires and other goods from the upper Midwest. Outbound it might be loaded with chairs, piano stools or maybe a load of famous Green Mountain Baskets destined for a Chicagoland distributor.

It’s a nice model. Not exact in every detail but a great example of a typical 40′ box car of the era.

Freight Car · Proto48 · Roster

D&H 5794 Twin Hopper


D&H 5794 is a class HM fishbelly style twin hopper built in 1942. The D&NE roster needs a few twin hoppers to haul anthracite coal to various fuel dealers along the line. The coal comes from Eastern Pennsylvania and typically arrives in hoppers lettered for one of the anthracite roads (LNE, D&H, CNJ, Reading and PRR are examples).

I like the Atlas diecast 50 Ton fishbelly hoppers. They’re perfect for the transition era I model and they are heavy! I try to weight all of my cars up to a pound or so. Marshalling heavy cars is very railroady. These bad boys go two pounds! Being RTR, they’re a relatively easy addition to the roster.

Here’s what was done to D&H 5794:

  • Replaced the Atlas couplers with Kadee 745 AAR “E” Type.
  • Retained the Atlas trucks but replaced the truck bolsters with the Shapeways DIR OAtOP48 Andrews Conversion Bolster designed by Jim Lincoln and the wheel sets with NWSL 33″ P48s.
  • Updated the reweigh data to “O 8-52” (Oneanta, Aug 1952).
  • Painted the trucks and couplers a grungy color.
  • Weathered with Pan Pastels and artist oils.
  • Sealed it all with Testors Dullcoat.
  • Added a coal load from DC Rail and Hobby Depot.

This is not intended to be a finescale model but just a good looking runner to fill out the roster. I didn’t want to make a career out of getting it on the layout. The brake detail is not complete but good enough. The details are a little heavy, I guess, but I can live with that.

BTW the weathering is inspired by Mike Confalone’s excellent video, “Weathering Freight Cars and Locomotives”. This video is available as a series now from

D&H 5794 will usually be seen bringing in a load of anthracite coal for home heating to the King Coal Co. coal shed in St. George. It might be confiscated from time to time to haul out a load of gravel from Trap Rock Quarry.

Freight Car · Roster · Ruminations

Transition Era Roster

From time to time as I build the D&NE I think about where I’m headed with the equipment roster. The D&NE is set in August, 1953, the late transition era. Much of the wood sheathed and composite equipment, worn out during the war, is gone by now. K brakes are a thing of the past in interchange. You won’t see any arch bar trucks. 40′ box cars still dominate the rails.

The D&NE is situated in north central Vermont. It is no longer a bridge route to the Canadian transcons but a rural shortline. St. George, now the end of track, is just a few scant miles short of the Canadian border. The southern end of the line is a nondescript interchange with the Central Vermont near Montpelier, the state capital.

There is no large industry in the area. Primarily, the D&NE serves agricultural and rural customers. Inbound is coal for steam and home heating, animal feed, petroleum products, tires, hardware, machinery, building supplies and some food stuffs. Outbound you see products from light industry, furniture, lumber, pulpwood, stone products and fresh milk. Trap Rock Quarry, just south of St. George, is the largest shipper.

Much of the freight traffic is regional so it stands to reason that most cars you see on the line are from northeast roads. Everything travels via the CV, now the D&NE’s only connection to the outside world. Traffic to southern New England goes by B&M. Mid-Atlantic traffic goes by NYC then maybe PRR or B&O. Traffic to and from the upper midwest and beyond might be routed via NYC but also CN or CP.

The most frequent roads that appear on the D&NE would be NYC, CP, CN, CV, PRR, B&O and B&M. Of course, a car from any road might appear from time to time. I have my favorites. A few cars from the sunny southland (SAL, C&O). A western box car or two (UP, SP, AT&SF, MILW). A Park & Pollard (PRKX) insulated box car is on the list. A pair of Swift reefers, one red and one yellow for a weekly delivery to the Swift house in St. George. Twin hoppers from the anthracite roads (D&H, CNJ, RDG) deliver fuel for home heating.

So how does this lead to planning a roster for the D&NE? First, how many cars will I have, eventually? My guess is two dozen or so. Well, maybe three dozen for some variety. How many will be on the line at any given time? Two or three in St. George, two or three at Trap Rock Quarry, another five or so in transit. When the line is extended to Morristown one day, another two or three there. By then maybe I’ll want four dozen cars. But that’s a ways off.

National freight car distribution lists don’t help very much for a local shortline. I don’t care what percentage of railroad cars are stock cars or TOFC flat cars. Or cars that carry industrial chemicals or bananas. Solid reefer blocks won’t be seen on the D&NE.

Looking at photos of northern New England consists in the 1950s, the most prevalent car is, by far, the 40′ box car. There are still a lot of coal hoppers and more and more petroleum tank cars. Gondolas are often seen too. On the D&NE, steam coal comes in by gondola from the New England coast and there is a large quarry operation shipping stone products so there’ll be more of these than average on the line. You’ll also see the odd flat car and an occasional reefer or insulated box car. And of course, milk cars. That’s about it.

With a budget of three dozen cars, what might a potential roster look like?

                       US  RTR or                               
Car type      Target  1946 Built  Unbuilt 
------------- ------- ---- ------ ------- 
Box           16 45%   36%     5       10
Hopper         6 17%   27%     4        1 
Gondola        6 17%   16%     2        2
Flat           2  5%    4%     0        2
Reefer         2  5%    7%     0        0
Tank           2  5%    7%     2        0
Stock          0  0%    3%     0        0
Milk           2  5%  <<1%     1        1
------------- ------- ---- ------ -------
Total         36               2       28

So I guess I’m off to a pretty good start. There are about a dozen cars from my Ow5 days that need conversion to P48. There are a few RTR cars (Atlas) that need little work. And, no surprise, a shelf full of kits, largely resin type. I have culled what isn’t appropriate so whatever I have is useful. I plan to scratchbuild a caboose, a triple combine, two Swift reefers and a Park & Pollard (PRKX) insulated box car.

There’s plenty to do.

Freight Car · Model Building · Proto48 · Roster

Report From the Car Shops

Car Shops
l. to r., West Shore Line NYC gondola, Lee Turner 1932 ARA SAL box car, IM USRA composite B&M gon, IM 1937 AAR C&EI box car, Atlas twin hoppers

Since finishing up the St. George freight house, I’ve been busy at the workbench getting a few cars on the track. Putting the finishing touches on a NYC class GA gondola. This car was built from a West Shore Lines kit and has been around for 20 years but needed a little sprucing up and conversion to P48. Also nearly done is a USRA composite gondola I’m building from an old Intermountain kit. I’ve taken a few liberties with the kit replacing much of the fragile polystyrene detail with brass and styrene fabrications. It’s in the home stretch and will be lettered for B&M.

Two Lee Turner 1932 ARA box cars are under construction. The Seaboard  car is on the rails but not finished. The C&O car is barely started. These kits have been haunting the shelves for 20 years. Before I start on some new models, I thought I should get them on the track.

A C&EI box car that has been appearing in photos lately has been converted to P48 but needs Protocraft couplers and some more weathering. It’s an Intermountain kit I built 20 or so years ago and has held up well. In a similar state are a couple of Atlas fishbelly twin hoppers that are on the rails but need Protocraft couplers and weathering. Most of my existing rolling stock needs P48 truck conversion or replacement, Protocraft couplers and reweigh data appropriate for Sept. 1953 along with minor repairs.

With these cars running it will be time to get back to the 44-tonner. I’m not happy with the original drive and hope to come up with something a lot better involving a couple of Faulhaber micromotors.

Several USRA box car kits, a couple of flat cars and a CP minibox all are waiting to be built. And that’s not to mention a dozen or so cars still on Ow5 trucks that need to be dusted off and converted to P48.

Plenty to do for years to come!