Re: Freight Car Roofs!

Jim Betz

Bruce and Schuyler (and any one else that wants to join in),

I also have been studying the roof walks in that photo. The
first thing that jumps out at me is that almost every single car
has "variations in the colors of its roof walk sections" - and
not just the wood walks. In fact, the variations in the roof
walks makes them sort of stand out as the part of the roof
that has the most variation (when compared to the panels
And let's not forget to look at the number of different
types of roof walks/types of materials used on the cars
in this SP Ogden yard in the 50's! How many times have
you seen a layout yard with anything that even approaches
that much variety in the roof walks? For me the answer is
Never. Just as a simple detail supporting this is the fact
that essentially all of the wood walks have variations
from board to board - however I notice that each board
is pretty much "one homogeneous color/shade" ... and
that there isn't very much "wood" color other that the
weathered/aged grey of unpainted wood.
It's almost as though every wood roof walk in that yard
has had about 1/4th of its planks replaced at some time
or other.
I have to admit that I have never done this - even when
I'm weathering the roof walks separately from the roof
itself I have always gone for making them look like wood
and not gone for doing the individual planks with
variations from plank to plank.
I also don't remember seeing how the metal walks have
panels that are clearly different from those on either side
of them. Or how the car that is on the same track as that
partial car on the right has linear lines in its metal walk.

In order to get the lack of straight boards in the wood
walks we are going to have to go to using individual
board material. And also figure out how to get it to
bend/warp like real wood planks do. This is also going
to take some "working out" because some of the boards
are clearly warped (curved is a better word?) in their
'strongest' cross section dimension. And its not just a
few that are that way ... it's not the majority.

Find the car with the grey foo foo on it. Now look at the
car on the track just to the right of it. Do you see what I
see? I think the ends of the boards have that slight
widening that is the result of the wood getting more water
into it on the end and swelling out of dimension.

I think I can predict some basswood soaking in water for
a few hours/days to get some of the effects we are seeing
in this picture!
Roof walks look to me to be 2x6s (confirmed by measuring
just one car with a scale rule). Anybody have an actual

Has anyone built their own wood roof walks? Please
share your techniques. I'm thinking that even using
wood for the cross pieces under the long boards makes
sense. And soaking the lot in a 'wash' of something to
get the overall grey color - and then adding more color
to some of the boards to get the variations. All before
assembly? Or after? Some of both probably.
Yes, I know about the after market options - none of
them approach what I'm seeing in this picture. *Sigh*

I know a guy who cuts strip wood out of very fine
grain pine to be used for making flat car loads. I'm
gonna see if he can do some for roof walks. Any one
interested in sharing a large order?

I don't see the colors on that roof of the partial car on the
right as paint failure - I see it as soot/other staining. I'm
working on a method for doing that. I don't have a lot of
hope for using chalks for that - simply because it doesn't
look like it has any 'vertical component' and is "surface
only" stuff. So I'm looking for methods that will recreate
that ...
I'm not saying that I don't also see paint failures in any
of the roofs ... just not on that particular car.


I'm now more in the camp of thinking that those grey
spots on the car on the left are not from seagulls. It
seems more likely that it is from a roof over hanging
the freight dock. Perhaps the car was at a cement plant
where they were loading bagged cement? When the
cement plant here at Davenport the entire town was
light grey colored ... roofs, trees, sidewalks, cars parked
more than a few hours - you could tell how far from the
plant the item was by the depth of the layer of light
grey dust. Dust that was precisely the color of the
spots on that car ...
- Jim B.

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