SN Boxcar 2150

Garth Groff and Sally Sanford

Good Friends,

Happy holidays to you all! Today I have a gift for you all, a pair steam-era survivor photos from which we hopefully can all learn something, or at least have some fun. Both photos are of the same boxcar at different stages of its life. 

The first photo shows Sacramento Northern 2150 in a close-up of its lettering. The photo was taken by Kenneth C. Jenkins, likely at Yuba City, California, early in 1947. (I own a large block of his SN negatives). I am reasonably certain Jenkins also shot the car in its entirety, but only this partial view was among the photos that came to me. (GRRR!)

In 1919 and stretching into 1920, the Sacramento Northern Railroad received 25 boxcars from Mt. Vernon as SNRR 2129-2153. These 40' cars had steel underframes, 2723 cubic-foot wooden superstructures with an 8' IH, and a capacity of 80,000 pounds. A vertical sliding lumber/grain door was built into the A end. 

These cars served in original condition on the reorganized Sacramento Northern Railway until circa 1948 when the surviving 22 were retired. They still rolled on arch bar trucks and had K-brakes. They were replaced by 28 similar boxcars with steel ends from the WP, renumbered SN 2301-2328 (see below). The ex-WP cars were rebuilt with AB brakes and Andrews trucks for general service (they were apparently all still on arch bar trucks and in restricted-service series 316001-318500). For some reason unknown to me, the 22 wood-bodied cars were returned to service in 1948 and renumbered 2329-2350. In 1954 there was a general housecleaning of these cars. Some were given Andrews trucks and probably AB brakes at this time, suggested by 1954 reweigh dates in photos. Others went into MW service on archbar trucks and survived into the 1970s. Apparently the last on the SN was a stationary tool car MW02335 at Yuba City. This car became a gift shop in Yountville, California (and may still be there for all I know).

As for our friend, SN 2150, it was renumbered 2349 (the renumbering was at random). In 1954, it was one of the cars which went into MW service as MW 92, one of the last SN cars to get new MW numbers. (Conversions after MW 94 just had "MW 0" added to their original numbers). MW 92 was one of several SN boxcars which surfaced in the mid-1970s at a shopping plaza in Alameda, California, known as "The Factory". The venture failed, and some of the cars were scrapped, including MW 92, though its arch bar trucks are now under sister SN 2350 at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento.

The SNRR cars were identical to Western Pacific's series 16001-18300, delivered in two batches in 1917 and 1918, and similar to WP ventilators 30001-30200 (later rebuilt as plain boxcars and filling the original series out to 18500). The WP cars were all rebuilt around 1929-1931 with steel ends, and many soldiered on into the 1950s in revenue service. A few lasted in various forms as maintenance cars until the UP take-over in the 1980s. WP sold 28 (mostly former ventilators) to subsidiary SNRY in 1948 which became 2301-2328, and at least two of these survive in museums.

There has been some speculation that the SNRR cars were an add-on to the WP order. At this time the SNRR was still independent of the WP. The SNRR might have gotten a price break on their cars since the assembly line at Mt. Vernon was probably still "hot", so to speak, but the additional order was not directly connected to the WP.

Mt. Vernon also built identical cars in 1915 for the QA&P as 500-524. There were more cars built for the U.S. Army and for the Compania de Real del Monte Y Pachuca, presumably a line in Mexico. I have seen builder's photos of the later two examples, but don't know how many cars were built, or when they were delivered. Some of the WP cars were sold off in later years to shortline operators. Known second-hand owners were the Stockton Terminal & Eastern, Pickering Lumber Company, and Tucson, Cornelia & Gila Bend. The lone ST&E car is preserved at the California State Railroad Museum, and a Pickering car is at Railtown 1897.

Martin Loftin/Sunshine offered several variants of the SN and WP cars, and QA&P examples as well.

Now back to our photo. There are some interesting things to learn here. Though it is hard to read, the car was repacked at Yuba City, apparently on 1-3-47. For some reason, the car does not have a light weight or a reweigh date, just the YC station code. AFAIK, Yuba City had the SN's only car scale, at least in later years (there should have been another serving the line between Sacramento and Oakland, but I have found no references to it). Repacking should not have been enough to change the weight, so some other modification might have been performed, or the car's weight time might just have run out. So apparently the car is awaiting a reweigh and remarking, which is why I am reasonably certain it was photographed at Yuba City. The original starred load limit data seems to be fading out to the right. The lettering at lower left says "ARCH BAR TRUCK, DO NOT LOAD, BEYOND RAIL OF, WPRR-SNRY-TSRY."  TSRY is the Tidewater Southern, another WP-owned shortline. On other cars this warning is painted on a light-colored panel, presumably yellow. Here it is painted directly onto the mineral red car side. Also note the metal patch just below the second "A" in Sacramento.

The second photo, my own, shows the car in Alameda shortly before its inglorious end. The brake staff and wheel are missing. There appears to have been some sort of equipment added to the end below the running board, possibly a post-retirement light fixture. "MW 92" on the side is faded, but can still be read. Note the lack of a brake platform; there were no brake platforms on either the wooden or steel-end cars.

I hope this exercise has been of interest to you all.

Yours Aye,

Mungo Napier, Laird of Mallard Lodge  🦆

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