Running Boarrds

John Sykes III

This has probably been covered here at one time or another, but . . .

I was wondering whether metal running boards (a/k/a roofwalks) on freight cars (mainly boxcars) should be painted or left in plain galvanized steel.  I think I finally came up with a solution to this question that works for my model railroad.  It seems that, when new, running boards were installed after the car was painted, so would be unpainted galvanized steel.  This would figure since new galvanized steel does not take paint well unless specially treated and/or a specialized paint is used.  After weathering, galvanized steel holds paint better (but not perfectly).

So, in most cases, a new car will have unpainted galvanized steel running boards (unless the RR specified that they wanted them painted).  Then, when the car was repainted, the railroad would not remove or mask the running boards so they would end up painted the same color as the car’s roof.  Now, as the cars weathered, the paint would not adhere well to the running boards, so would wear off in random splotches, especially on the top.  If the running board was damaged, it would be replaced by a new unpainted galvanized running board and the cycle would start all over again.

Speaking of roofs and running boards, some diagonal panel and all X-panel roofs were galvanized and not painted.  Eventually, these galvanized roofs would rust, making for some interesting patterns on them.  On the other hand, all wood running boards were painted when new, but the paint would wear off the tops and replacement boards were generally not painted, so you can have some interesting combinations on the roofs of boxcars equipped with wood running boards as well.

-- John

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