Re: Photo: Milwaukee Road Silk Train

Denny Anspach <danspachmd@...>

Don Valentine inquires whether or not HO brass importer Beaver Creek produced a silk car.  Yes, they produced a very nice model of a quite distinct and handsome SP car, a boxed one of which resides on my off-stage “For Sale” shelf as we speak.  The California State Railroad museum has the  body of one (the only?) stored at the SRR historic site in Jamestown, CA  (it played a completely unheralded part and a turning point in the successful across-the-table negotiations with the SP that underpinned the founding of the CSRM- a story for another time). If my memory is correct, these cars were also used for high value tea shipments.  

The Milwaukee photo -I believe- is probably another of several Milwaukee silk trains recorded on photographs by Asahel Curtis, a Seattle photographer who was often engaged by the Milwaukee at the time.   The photo currently depicted looks to me like it has been altered  for effect, showing an endless length of identical baggage cars longer than what other Bipolar-led silk train photos show might be more likely.

Other of Curtis’s photos show that the more common Milwaukee silk cars (added to the baggage cars were drawn from two series of low slung wood ice express reefers from the Milwaukee Shops in 1912 (and 13?), specifically built and so lettered for “Fish Service” These very possibly were among the very first true “express reefers” , and they constituted and remained the Milwaukee’s only  express reefers -aside from a few rib sided one-offs in later years- until their final demise as milk cars post WWII. I do not believe that they ever went off line, and they were rarely photographed.  Al Kalmbach loved these cars, Walthers made decals, and elevation plans were published in the earliest of MRs (1934?), and then subsequently in serial volumes of the MR Cyclopedia. They never made it to a kit, or to brass (in the pipeline at Shoreham Shops when they closed down). 

It would be a matter of semantics to argue one way or another whether silk trains were freight or passenger. The cars used  were built and designed to be used in passenger-like service, and the trains operated on passenger train schedules.  Of course, the lading was…freight!


Denny S. Anspach, MD
Sacramento, CA 95864

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