Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

Even if you're not in the US and celebrating our holiday, we'd like to wish everybody a Happy Thanksgiving!

It is for us - we've received our quote from the factory and it's exactly what we were hoping for. We have more work to do, but we are on track for our January announcement.

We can tell you that the first project is in HO scale, will (obviously) be something we want for our layouts, and none of the prototypes have been released in plastic or even brass (to our knowledge). Some excellent resin kits have been available for several of them, but a number have never been released as far as we know.

There have been a few reports from others on our plans which we will neither confirm nor deny!

While you wait we hope you all get some modeling in during this busy time of the year. We can't quite believe it's already Thanksgiving ourselves, and almost 2020. 

We're kicking off a busy year as we plan to be at Prototype Rails in Cocoa Beach, and of course the Amherst Railway Society Railroad Hobby Show in Springfield. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Facebook Suggestions

So for those that have joined us on Facebook, we have a page specifically to focus on conversations around what models you'd like to see produced. This is not just for our benefit, the idea is that by creating a place for people to discuss the models they'd like to see, that any manufacturer can see what you (we) all want.

We'd like to see more, but even better, we'd love to see some discussions about the prototypes suggested. For any manufacturer to consider a given prototype, they like to see that there are a lot of people interested in it, not just a couple.

So what sort of models are people suggesting?

Car Types

Just about every type of car has been mentioned, here are a few highlights.

For ATSF, B&M, BAR, DRG&W, LV, MEC, MP,  NYC, PRR, and WP.

This is something that I hadn't really considered myself. Being a NH modeler, where we have the major post-war classes available in plastic (with some issues), and the remaining classes available in resin and brass, I think I assumed that larger roads were already well represented. I knew about the NYC/Rutland cabooses, although American Model Builders released a great looking wood kit for those a few years ago, but I guess I didn't really realize how many cabooses haven't been made readily available.

The second most requested type of car so far are hoppers. B&O, IC, LV, RDG, SP, and WP. I know that in my own research there are a lot of hoppers that need to be done, although in my era Funaro & Camerlengo are filling a lot of those gaps with fantastic one-piece-body resin kits. But the requests also mention more modern hoppers, such as the SP H-100 classes. And a very interesting hopper that I've never seen, IC 2-bay hoppers rebuilt from gondolas.

Tank Cars
There are also holes in the tank car rosters, with the UTLX X-3 and X-5 requested by a number of people. They are high on my list, and a persistent rumor for several years now is that somebody may be producing them in the future. But less common variations have been mentioned too - such as Helium Cars.

Box Cars
Box cars, of course, are well represented, with ATSF Bx-12 with the raised roof (available from Westerfield in resin), SP rebuilt box cars with a yellow stripe door, WP 50' Single Sheathed box cars (the MDC tooling is great for these cars, but they do have molded on parts).

FGEX and MDT reefers are wanted, along with later PFE mechanical reefers (50'). Intermountain has covered the steam era PFE reefers very well, along with some other kits from Tichy, Red Caboose, etc., but the later era still has some gaps.

Flats, gondolas, covered hoppers, and some passenger cars have also been mentioned.



The steam/transition era is still the most represented in the requests so far, and most of those cars were built pre-WWII. Cars built in the '50s and '60s are a smaller group, and a few built in the '70s and later. Personally, we think there are a lot more "modern" modelers out there. We'd like to see more suggestions for later eras too.


We were surprised by the number of SP and WP suggestions. The mix so far has been a lot of western roads, followed by northeastern roads, with some of the midwest mixed in. No requests for southeastern roads yet.


What Does it all Mean?

Well, nothing really. Yet.

The sample size is very small, so it's really just fun for us at this point to find prototypes that we aren't as familiar with. To make this useful we need a much larger number of participants and, more importantly, more conversation around the suggestions.

For example, one suggestion was a series of Pressed Steel Car 40' flat cars that were built in the early 20th century, but ran for decades. Examples that were provided were DRG&W, PE, OSL, SP, and UP. They are the type of car that stands out because the pressed steel sides are rounded along the bottom.

Here's an early ad from the Schoen Pressed Steel Co.:

Of course, the B&O N-8/9 classes and the Pennsy GL-class hoppers were nearly identical to the PB&LE car pictured. The flat car looks like a 36' far, maybe less, but the 40' cars had a similar look to them.

Josh Bernhard points out that the SP F-50-3 are an example, along with UP/OSL gondolas built on the same frames, and SP tank cars built on the flats.

Perhaps even the hopper underframes are similar enough to utilize parts from the flat cars, it wouldn't surprise me if they shared parts.

What sort of interest is there for 40' Pressed Steel flat cars? What about the other cars mentioned? Join the conversation and jump in on the threads for any cars you're interested in.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Postwar Freight Car Fleet

In this post we'll dig further into Larry's research, and also grab some information from a book by Larry Kline and Ted Culotta, The Post War Freight Car Fleet. This is an indispensable resource with lots of good information along with the core of the book, a series of photographs of freight cars all taken at the same time and place. Even better, it's still available from the NMRA.

There are far too many prototypes to list from the book. But there is a lot of interesting information presented that will help identify the projects that have priority.

For example, more than 3/4 of box cars are owned by the top twenty Class I owners in 1950. Of those roads (note that it doesn't include Canadian roads), let's look at the percentage of those cars that are single sheathed cars:
  1. NYC - <1% 
  2. PRR - 10%
  3. ATSF - 22%
  4. SP/T&NO - 26% / 39%
  5. MILW - 54%
  6. B&O - 2%
  7. C&NW - 52%
  8. UP - <1%
  9. SOU - 0%
  10. MP/I-GN - 66% / 68%
  11. CB&Q - 51%
  12. GN - 16%
  13. C&O, PM - 3% / 28%
  14. IC - 40%
  15. NP - 22%
  16. RI - 49%
  17. ACL - <1%
  18. SL-SF - 71%
  19. SAL - 27%
  20. L&N - 51%
How well are these rosters of box cars represented in plastic models?

Let's look at the USRA Single Sheathed Boxcar:

These are the cars still on the road in 1949, according to John Nehrich on the NEB&W Railroad Heritage site.

ACL - 22
AA - 192
B&O - 480
C&O - 3
CNW - 863
CRR - 276
D&H - 459
MEC - 259
MILW - 2,442
NYC - 6
N&W - 691
PRR - 5,721
RDG - 76
RF&P - 284
SP - 656

12,430, or less than 8% of the total of 162,817 single sheathed box cars in 1950 (not including Canadian cars) according to Larry Ostrech's research.

Furthermore, of the 13 top 20 box car owning railroads in 1950 whose roster included 20% or more single sheathed cars, only MILW, and SP are represented by the USRA cars. The Mather single sheathed car doesn't include any of these roads either, and is accurate for a portion of the 10,000 or so Mather box cars. The Intermountain "War Emergency" car is accurate for ATSF and CNW, but it represents a small portion of their single sheathed roster.

So, considering just 40' single sheathed box cars, the existing models for US roads are good for 15-20% of all single sheathed cars in 1950. And of the roads that had the most single sheathed box cars, the models represent less than 5% of the most common single sheathed cars.

Clearly its impossible to get a representative mix of cars c1950 using only plastic models.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Larry Ostrech's Research

Larry posted an amazing spreadsheet on the Steam Era Freight Car list documenting the ratios of double sheathed, single sheathed, and steel box cars on what seems like every road from 1938, '42, '45, '49 and '50!

Looking at the big picture, in 1938 the percentages of cars in the US fleet are 40% double sheathed, 30% single sheathed, and 27% steel with the remainder of other or unknown construction.

In 1950, this has changed significantly, with only 9% double sheathed, 22% single sheathed, and 67% steel.

This reflects a number of different trends at this time. In the late '30s railroads were both beginning to purchase new steel cars in large amounts (the 1937 AAR Standard boxcar, along with numerous railroad specific cars), and they started rebuilding older cars into steel cars. In particular, old double sheathed cars were rebuilt or replaced in large quantities.

This is reflected in a steep drop from 40.3% to 26.7% between 1938 and 1942. Single sheathed cars declined much less in the same period, dropping from 30% to 28.8%.

After WWII there were a large number of new cars built, more cars rebuilt, and a lot of cars simply retired. But while double sheathed cars comprised of less than 10% of the fleet in 1950, single sheathed cars still accounted for more than 20% of the cars in the national fleet.

There are several single sheathed cars that have been released in plastic, although unfortunately many of them have suffered from unprototypical variations of side bracing, ends, and roofs. Reasonably accurate models include:

Fowler - Accurail, Life Like of Canada/True Line Trains Proto 1000
Mather - Life Like Proto 2000/Walthers
T&P/WP 50' Auto car - Roundhouse
USRA - Tichy (RTR available from Intermountain)
"War Emergency" - Intermountain

Compared to the standard box car releases, these don't cover too many prototypes.

CN/CP had a huge number of Fowler cars, but these models only match a portion of those cars. 

The Mather cars are very accurate for a portion of the Mather cars, although they are lettered for a number of cars that were taller than the model. But this is a small prototype (about 10,000 built, less that match the model's height). 

The Roundhouse car is very well done, and can be kitbashed into a number of other cars.

The Tichy USRA cars are good models of a fairly numerous prototype. There were 25,000 built. 

The Intermountain "War Emergency" car is a very good match for three prototypes. We'll be using Larry's spreadsheet to dig a little deeper in the next post.