Re: Repack interval

Bob Chaparro

I also have an interest in journal repacking stencils. The recent discussion motivated me to look back over the many comments that have been posted on this subject.

Below are comments made on this list with their authors identified. In some cases, the comments were edited to focus on the topic rather than the larger discussion they were part of, and some were edited for clarity. I’m sure I have missed some comments.
My appreciation to everyone who contributed to the topic.

Bob Chaparro

Hemet, CA



1953 Rule 66, (a) Journal boxes on empty cars, not repacked within 15 months, as indicated by the stenciling on the car, regardless of the responsibility of the handling company for the change of wheels or other repairs, must be repacked.  After the expiration of fourteen months, if empty or loaded car is on repair track for other work, journal boxes must be repacked regardless of whether or not car requires other repairs.

Guy Wilber


The question of repack (not reweigh) interval has been addressed here on at least two occasions -- see threads beginning with #67797 and #106475.  These include weigh-ins from both Bob Karig and Guy Wilber.  The short answer is that that, starting in 1929, the interval seemingly went from 12 to 15 to 14 to 18 months.

Dave Parker


Would anyone on this site know just exactly what was entailed when a railroad serviced a car and stenciled on the REPKD plus date, location and road Most early steam era truck journals used oil for lube with some form of cotton waste material to transfer the oil and wipe it on the journals, so where does the" repacked "come into it. Were journals checked routinely on cars from foreign roads and how and when would this be done. Obviously, the early style brasses would have needed much more attention than todays fit it and forget it roller bearings. So how was this managed for a car that was 3000 miles from its home road?

Dan Gledhill


In the 1950s, various types of patented journal lubricating devices began to appear, and the use of these became widespread in the 1960s. Prior to that, however, journal lubrication was accomplished exactly as Dan describes.  Periodically (typically, about once a year) the cotton waste would pack down and deteriorate to the point where it needed to be replaced, and the carmen who inspected and lubricated journals would remove the old stuff, put in new stuff, and fill the lower part of the journal box with oil.  The old repacking data on the car would then be painted over and new data stenciled on.

Richard Hendrickson


When a car knocker thought they needed to be, so it varied.  But a useful rule of thumb is about once a year until the mid-to-late 1950s. By that time most railroads had adopted various kinds of patented 

journal lubricators, which then extended the time between repacking.

Richard Hendrickson


Before 1929 Rule 66 stated that journals should be repacked as necessary.  March 1, 1929 The ARA's Arbitration Committee revised Rule 66 and required cars in interchange be repacked every twelve months.

In 1933 the interval was increased to fifteen months.  In 1955 the interval was increased to eighteen months.  Beginning in 1958 if cars were equipped with specified journal lubricating devices the interval was twenty-four months, otherwise eighteen months through 1960.

Guy Wilber


From 1946 Interchange Rule 66, Paragraph (c):

The place, month, date and year of repacking and the railroad or private line reporting marks, must be stenciled on car body near the body bolster at diagonal corners with not less than 1-in. figures and letters, using the same station initial as is used for air-brake stencil.  This provision also applies to new cars.

Effective January 1, 1949, The Interchange Rules were modified to include Rule 66-A which added the roller bearing lubrication instructions.

Guy Wilber


I did a study of repack data on about 100 freight cars some years ago. In all cases the railroad initials were used as well as the railroad's location initials. In more modern repack stencils the type of waste material or oil, I'm not sure which was also designated.  There was no particular order for this information.

Mont Switzer


Brake inspection and servicing seems to have occurred about as often as journal box repacking (i.e., about once a year, more or less), though not necessarily at the same time or place.  As a rule, old stenciling was painted over and the new stenciling applied in the same place, but (as some photos attest) that wasn't always the case.  Where two sets of information were visible, obviously the most recent one was current.

Richard Hendrickson


Those Repack stencil rectangles are also discussed in the SPH&TS book on painting & lettering SP and PFE freight cars (page 127).

Dick Harley


Regular journal box repacking.  Every 12 months starting in 1920; I think this also increased in the mid-1930s as there was some movement towards standardizing intervals.  I should know how/when it changed, but can't put my hands on it right now.

The repack stencils can be harder to see on cars without stub-sills, as they were generally applied to the center sill.

Dave Parker


The COTS stencil did not come in to being until 1966.

Prior to that the car would be stenciled just above the truck with information about repacking the bearings, i.e. the RPKD stencil with date and location and/or railroad. Some shops painted a black patch over the old information before stenciling the new information, but a study of boxcars photos does not show a consistency in the lettering location or terminology used. Some used “Journal Pac” in their stencil.

Doug Harding


The "Journal Pac", or references to "lubricators" also came very late in the history of solid bearings, post 1960. Both are references to proprietary journal pads rather than loose waste.

Pre-1960 was just RPKD, date, and station symbol stenciled in contrasting color in the vicinity of the right-hand bolster. Roads could paint out the old data however they wanted; some roads tried to match the car color (red or black), some roads just used their standard FC color on everything, some roads used black on everything.

Dennis Storzek


If you look at freight car photos, especially boxcars, you will see the stencil somewhere above or near the right truck. It will be two or three lines, small letters, usually white in color with abbreviations for the shop that did the work.

You are asking about detail lettering that was of little or no concern for many years to modelers and manufacturers. And most decal printers probably copied the same info in each new decal set as well. To my knowledge such detail has only become available since folks like Richard Hendrickson and Ted Culotta began pointing it out in their freight car articles. And the manufactures like Lifelike PK2000 began including such lettering on their models. And the decal producers realized there was a market for such detail.

As far as era goes, photos will be your guide. As for locations, any location where railroads had a RIP track might qualify. You will have to hunt down the proper lettering for you specific railroad or location.

Doug Harding


I just spent almost 2 hours looking at as many photos as I could find for the era this list is dedicated to - and solidified my thinking about "the general look and placement of the lube/repack data".

As more than one of you pointed out there are variations but, in general:

1) The prior data was painted over ... often in a color that makes them even hard to find - but just as often in a non-similar color with either black or tuscan being the most common choice for the "patch".

2) Then the new data was stenciled into that patch.

3) The patch is usually - but not always - above the right truck. If the car has one of those "tabs" sticking down from the general line of the sill it is often placed in that tab. I found several cars where it was placed to the left of the door about half way between the left edge of the door and the end of the car (mostly when done by/for UP - what's that about?).

4) As you go backward in time it gets harder and harder to find this detail. Perhaps they were placed somewhere else before about 1940?  If the photo is dated earlier than about 1935 or so there does not seem to be any such detail on the side of the car anywhere. Did I miss it?

Tom Birkett sent me a copy of a document detailing what was included in this info:

If you are doing this detail - whose decals are you using and what are you doing about the -need- for a variety of 'shops' to use?  And do you have some feeling for how many different 'shops' would be needed in order to have an acceptable feel for "these cars have been serviced away from their home roads fairly frequently"?

Jim Betz


The many Sunshine decal sets for reweigh symbols also included repack data, as do most Speedwitch sets and newer Microscale sets. Richard Hendrickson was of the opinion, after studying a heck of a lot of prototype photos, that at least of 80 percent of the repacks were from the owning road. But of course, the characters are so tiny as to be awfully difficult to read, so I have chosen not to worry about exactly what they say or what date they bear, for most models. And BTW, Richard also believed that repack frequency was approximately annually with solid-bearing trucks.

Then there are the brake service rules, and the lettering to go with it. That, and repack data, were the subjects of two posts on my blog. If you're interested, here are the links:

The second link shows the recommended lettering content and arrangement, though many photos contradict it.

Tony Thompson


AAR approved lubricating devices for plain bearings were required on all new and rebuilt cars as of January 1, 1957.  Cars which received heavy repairs (over 100 hours of labor) were subject to the same rule.

Cars so equipped were required to receive a 1-1/2" stenciled block of contrasting color near the original packing or repack stencil.  If the trade name of the device was applied to the car it was a requirement to maintain it as well.

Guy Wilber


A variety of patented lubricators were introduced in the 1950s which, in some form, secured the packing in place so that it remained constantly in contact with the journals. These were widely adopted by the major railroads. Apparently, they really reduced the frequency of hot boxes, especially as freight train speeds were steadily increasing.  Cars equipped with these lubricators were always stenciled, in the location where journal repacking was recorded, with the identity of its patent lubricators.  

Unfortunately, for modelers of the mid-1950s through the 1960s, no lettering manufacturer has offered suitable decals or dry transfers to replicate this stenciling AFAIK.

Richard Hendrickson


Journal bearings were a critical maintenance item on railroads.  Hot boxes resulting from poorly maintained journal bearings caused delays and derailments.  To prevent these problems, journal boxes

were routinely opened, inspected, and refilled with oil during each interchange. In addition, strict guidelines for their repacking were established by the A.R.A. under Rule 66 of the Code of Rules.

Repacking journal bearings was a labor intensive process.  The rules required that the journal boxes be jacked, that all journal wedges be removed, inspected, and replaced as necessary, and that the journal boxes be cleaned and repacked in accordance with association guidelines.  Only after all journal boxes on the car had been repacked could the stencil be applied indicating that they had been repacked. The rules required that the place, month, day and year, and the reporting marks of the repacking railroad be stenciled on the car body near the bolster at diagonal corners with not less than one-inch figures and letters.

 Over time, the rules regarding the interval between repacking of the journals changed. Prior to March 1, 1929, the rule stated that journals "should be repacked when necessary, using properly prepared

packing (new or renovated) in accordance with Recommended Practice, at which time all packing should be removed from the boxes and boxes cleaned; dust guards to be renewed (if necessary) or replaced when wheels are changed.

From March 1, 1929 through 1932, Rule 66 stated journal boxes should be repacked "after the expiration of twelve months," and from 1933 through 1955, the interval was fifteen months. In 1956, the interval was extended to eighteen months,32 and in 1958, the interval for cars equipped with journal lubricating devices was extended to twenty-four months. When a journal lubricating device was used, it would be indicated near the repacking stencil.

In 1950, the A.A.R. inserted Rule 66a governing the maintenance of roller bearings into its Rules of Interchange. Under this rule, railroads were required to lubricate the roller bearings every twelve months.  The place, month, day, and year of lubrication and the reporting marks of the railroad doing the lubrication along with the symbol "LUB" were to be stenciled near the body bolster at diagonal corners with not less than one-inch figures and letters. 

In 1958, this interval was modified slightly.  The interval for roller bearings lubricated with oil remained at twelve months, but the interval for those lubricated with grease was extended to eighteen months.

Bob Karig

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