Re: rough sawn versus finished lumber

Greg Martin

Being in the lumber industry as long as I have been le me try to wader through this in context
Ed Mines writes:


"Were roof walk boards rough sawn? They would be cheaper and the rough surface would provide greater traction. Could those roof walks boards be second grade lumber with knots?"


Rough sawn? You must mean FULL SAWN vs. ROUGH SAWN because the answer is yes if the supplier specification was "nominal to 23/32" rough or surfaced. Full sawn would have been 1-inch plus or minus and no regard as to all boards being exactly the same, just roughly... My guess would be that there was a spec for "rough sawn to nominal" if the end user would allow it. The other option could have been S1S2E or surfaced one side and two edges which would have allowed for a rough face. But all this is unlikely as most spec's would have read S4S ~ surfaced four sides to keep the boards when applied uniform.  The quality would have been very specific with reference to grade as well. Likely mostly some form of "clears" or "uppers" i.e. "D&btr ~ no hole" a very common industrial grade. Look at the photo that Tim O'Connor posted of the inside view of the Southern stock car and look at the sides. To me that represents Kiln Dried Southern Yellow pine D&btr no hole S4S EE.

"How about boards used for siding on open top cars? No need for a tight seal on these. I recall a photo of a  CNJ wood side gondola with light peeking out between 2 side boards."


That is a photo I would like to see, because that was not what was intended in my thoughts. Mother Nature will takes her toll though.

"Looking at an erection drawing of a single sheathed box car, I was surprised to find the horizontal side boards were tongue and groove.  Was this common?"


Yes absolutely, in order to keep the house car "tight" you would need that or at least ship lapped. Tongues up and Grooves down if the sheathing was horizontal. Tongue and Groove (T&G) for horizontal siding as well of the best quality.

"Some builders photos of single sheathed box cars show the horizontal boards so tight that you can barely tell one board from the next. No room for expansion on these."

You must mean no visible room for expansion. The patterns allowed for expansion but once primed and painted the expansion may have been noticed at close proximity by a small crack in the paint. Most photos I have seen of single sheathed car appear to but T&G Butt Joint and have no "VEE" to the pattern. But again Mother Nature does take it's toll. From my observation most cars in lengthy service show the lower board to remain tight verses the upper boards showing more signs of expansion and one can only speculate as to why. But even a car that was shopped after many years of service seem to bring it right back to where it was as build. Shops crew in the mid point of our era covered were done by "crafts" thus meaning to me craftsmen, so obviously things were done right. Post war labor became the evil villains and "crafts" were less necessary to the railroads, but that is a personal opinion.  

"Finally, I assume most vertical boards on the outside of  double sheathed house cars were tongue and groove, right?"

Yes absolutely, and double pattern "car siding" in the rule books and in most cases in our era, no sense in trying to cover 40-feet of car with 1"x 3' boards when you could do it with 1"x 6" boards with the same effect as individual boards.

The VEE grooves used were very slight ~ unless they were replaced at a later date from another manufacturer (read as mill) that's knives were cut slightly different than that of the original (but remember there we national rules for this as well, reference the ALS). I have seen replacement boards where the pattern were either completely different from the original (in an effort of economizing, 1"x 6" VEE groove) or single pattern replacement (1"x 3" VEE Groove) vs. double pattern replacement (i.e. 1"x 6" C&CV ~~ VEE and Center VEE) . That doesn't seem to be all that uncommon. And there are different patterns spec's for VEE and Center VEE with regards to the size of the VEE. But car siding was specific just as was water tank stock and casket stock.

There is an ex-GN (I believe it is) cabin car in Medford, OR that exhibits all three example and it is old enough that I believe it was done by the GN shops, again in an effort to economize. The same it true with the PRR NX23 in Urbana, Ohio. Worst yet is the ex-D&H single sheathed are at the Orange Empire Railway Museum and I am sure there are other examples. I am not sure why a better restoration efforts were not made during the rehab of these types equipment before hand.   

Ed Mines

Greg Martin
Eventually all things merge into one and a river runs through it.
Norman Maclean

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