I think there is a problem with the debate about whether to call the cars Dominion or Fowler.
I guess because of Westerfield’s extensive line of kits and Swain & Clegg’s articles in Mainline Modeller in the 1980s, we tend to see a true category here – albeit with variants. And the quality and extent of the contributions to the hobby from both manufacturer and authors make it easy to be respectful of that. I admit that on account of my regard for these gentlemen I find it hard to choose between labels Fowler or Dominion and often use both, reversing the order I list the names . . . .
But . . . . for either of these suggested names the group of cars to which the name strictly applies does not encompass the whole fleet of cars we are trying to describe. Dominion Car & Foundry has a claim as being a first manufacturer of cars of the basic shape and size. But Nova Scotia Car, Eastern Car, CC&F, AC&F and probably others built cars we’d lump in this category.
Fowler has a claim because part of the original sales pitch/impetus to market the design focused on the (later demonstrated to be needless) attachment method. To me, even if it were a universal feature in the category of cars, the sheathing attachment design isn’t a particularly significant feature by which to identify the cars – any more than it would be to call a car type a Murphy or Youngstown or Minor or Atlas or Universal.
The more carefully we look at the lots of cars produced, the more one learns there were detail differences that changed how the cars lasted. I don’t have the details in front of me at the moment, but I recall talking to Swain about how some of the cars produced were to significantly lighter standards and didn’t last as well in service. Many were converted to stock cars or were early candidates for rebuilding. I’ve measured and photographed a lot of these cars – and the variations are amazing (without even touching the 37’ v 40’ length issue). How many bolster designs were used? Not sure, but a few (start by looking at how they attach to the side sills!).
Differences of these sorts are substantial, not just details (although the detail differences are more easily identified in photos). The designs went through evolutions in terms of weight and attachment of the steel components. The evolution significantly impacted wear and longevity. I think a lot is lost when we lump them all together.
As a result, I suggest that accurate description of all cars in the group is impractical unless you want to use something vague like “36’ and 40’ riveted steel frame composite boxcars from the early nineteen tens and twenties”. It leads me to doubt the appropriateness of treating them as a single type.
And so I think we should take a step back from the debate about what name to call them and ask whether it serves us well to treat all the cars in the category as a type. I don’t think it does.