Re: General guidelines about steam era tank car practices?

Bruce Smith


A few "rules" for steam era tank cars
1) Most tank cars were privately owned, not railroad owned. The numbers are in the archives
2) Almost all tank cars built prior to the end of WWII were riveted and very few had capacities above 10,000 gallons
3) Multidome tanks were a small minority and were either used to haul multiple products to one distributor or to simplify deliveries to multiple small distributors.
4) UTLX introduced the "frameless" tank car around 1900. It was not well accepted and so most of these "Van Dyke" (search the archives) were out of service by WWII. Modern frameless tank cars are a post steam era phenomenon.
5) Prior to WWII, many tank cars were in serviuce between the oil fields and refineries (although a fair number were also used to deliver refined products. Following WWII, when the major pipelines were built, the vast majority of tank cars were in service between the refineries and their customers.
6) Most of us modelers who are a little crazy about tank cars usually don't think about their exact length (40" is getting long actually) but by the specific model or type that they represent as there was a signifcant diversity in the tank car fleet. One great exapmle of length vs volume is the AC&F type 21 (1921 design) tank car compared to its successor, the type 27 (1927 design). The type 21 frame was shorter, resulting in a larger diameter tank for the same capacity as a type 27 (the type 27 was therefore longer)
7) When you start modeling tank cars (in HO) be aware that the Tichy tank car, while a gorgeous model, is not really a model of a prototype that was built (It can be used to kitbash other cars though). There are a number of very nice models of tank cars, and if you do nothing else, you want to have a fleet that shows off the diversity of cars in use. Just like boxcars, there should be a stair-step effect.

Bruce Smith
Auburn, AL

From: [] on behalf of Jim []
Sent: Saturday, February 11, 2012 12:49 PM
To: Bruce F. Smith;
Subject: [STMFC] General guidelines about steam era tank car practices?


So I want to focus on tank cars - but realize that I don't
have a lot of knowledge about them.

Is there a 'reference' that I can read/study/find online?

I'm interested in answering questions such as:

How common are the 2 and 3 dome cars? Weren't these cars
'obsoleted' fairly early compared to the single domes that
were built in the same era? How late would they have run?

How early did the companies such as GATX, URTX, etc. come
into the picture and how long after they showed up on the
scene would you still expect to see considerable numbers of
cars lettered for the oil companies?

When did frameless cars start to be seen? (I think these
cars are primarily "post the STMFC era".)

It is quite common to see earlier style cars (with frame)
lettered for a specific RR ... such as ATSF or GN or whatever.
I follow the GN closely and as far as I know the tank cars
that were lettered for the GN were in captive service and
used for hauling products that were used by/consumed by the
GN itself (as in fuel, etc.). Is that a 'standard practice'
or did some roads use tank cars for "general service" (as
opposed to home road only service)?

Is there any guideline in terms of size that can be used to
easily differentiate steam era -vs- later cars? As in "most
of the tank cars in the steam era were 10k or less"? And is
there any kind of 'start date' for larger cars such as the
16k and 20k tanks.
How about in terms of car length? I don't remember seeing
pics of tank cars longer than 40ft in steam era pics.
- Jim

P.S. I -do- intend to "go to my books" and scan the pics for
examples of tank cars. What I'm looking for are a few
'rules' (albeit "fuzzy rules").


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