Re: Burning Box Car also burnt flat also burnt gons

Richard Townsend

For the Stauffer tank car a place to start might be one of the old metal tank cars from Globe or Athearn.

On Feb 25, 2021, at 9:58 AM, Gatwood, Elden J SAD <elden.j.gatwood@...> wrote:

Any pics of that?  Newspaper pics?


This is the one I want….


Elden Gatwood


From: <> On Behalf Of Bruce Smith
Sent: Thursday, February 25, 2021 12:14 PM
Subject: [Non-DoD Source] Re: [RealSTMFC] Burning Box Car also burnt flat also burnt gons




The PRR F28 is, as you know, an all steel car, so other than the paint and a few rubber parts, there isn’t anything to burn. Best I can think is that the load burnt, or at least the cribbing on the load, or the car was in a derailment, essentially not damaged, but burnt by cars nearby.


My favorite accounts of burning railroad cars comes from the PRR’s Octoraro branch. Located between Wawa and the Susquehanna River at Rock (in Maryland) and serving the booming city of Kennett Square, Pa, self proclaimed “Mushroom Capital of the World”, the Octoraro was ideally situated to receive the byproducts of the horse training and racing industry, concentrated near the nearby cities and burbs of NJ, PA, DE, and MD.  Manure intermixed with straw, was shipped in composite gondolas (typically classes GR and GRA). Said mixture, in the process of decomposing or composting, has a habit of getting hot, and so these loads had an unpleasant habit of spontaneously combusting. The train crew would pull the car to the nearest grade crossing where the local fire department was summoned to extinguish the blaze. The PRR ultimately was forced to embargo that cargo, as local fire departments started to refuse to respond to the calls. 


Still working on a burnt out tank car model…



Bruce Smith

Auburn, AL

On Feb 25, 2021, at 10:12 AM, Gatwood, Elden J SAD <Elden.J.Gatwood@...> wrote:




I wish I still had my copy, but it never got back to me after I loaned it.  That is a FABULOUS photo.  I looked at it often.  I wish I had that one in my digital files.


There is a lot of correspondence on car fires in the files of the PRRT&HS, which shipped a surprising amount of coke in box cars, and can attest to the practice of loading coke still hot from the ovens, thinking it was cooled.  The coke burned its way thru the pile, igniting cooled coke, until it reached the car side or floor, then torching the car.


Local fire departments HATED the RRs, since the loads, or hot boxes, sometimes ignited dry vegetation next to the ROW, then attacked neighboring structures.  RRs had to create their own fire-fighting cars, but they never arrived on-scene in time.  LOTS of hate mail on that.


Train crew had to act quickly to deal with a car on fire, and break the train to get the car off the main to a suitable siding.  Sometimes this didn’t work.  Plus, a burning car load of coke out in the boonies did not have access to city water, so they sometimes just let it burn out….like that car in the photo.


The gon I mentioned was burnt out, I think, by a hot steel load, which burned one end of the car.  The practice of putting hot coil or slabs over the trucks resulted in that strange outcome.


There was also a composite gon I remember that was burnt to the framing, with literally NO remaining lettering.  The heat of the fire even burned the lettering off the frame.  It was around for years, and years later I was told no one could ID whose car it was.  They eventually broke it up for scrap.  I did a model in HO of that car, for parking on a siding, to see what the operators did with it.  It was ALWAYS ignored.


So, what do you all make of this?  This is a PRR F28 built to haul turbines out of the East Pittsburgh Westinghouse plant.  I cannot find the correspondence.  Attached….


Elden Gatwood

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