Re: Sherman Oil & Cotton Co. Tank Cars

Richard Hendrickson

From Shawn Beckert:

While surfing the net for images of Texas railroads, I came
across this photo of Sherman Oil & Cotton Company tank cars:

The location is around Sherman or Plano, Texas. The photo isn't
dated, but from the general theme of this web site I'll guess
it's about WW-I or just after. There is a link near the bottom
of the page that lets you blow the image up quite a bit more.
Note the little "steps" that go up the side of the tank on #170
instead of a ladder or platform. It also has steam pipes, which
suggests cotton oil must have been pretty thick stuff.
Shawn, the construction of these cars is typical turn-of-the-century with
wood underframes, end blocks to hold the tanks in position, and a center
tank band that splits at the dome to go around the dome (also a means,
though not very effective, of preventing the tank from shifting). The
steps attached to the tank band were also common in this period, and
doubtless gave many a trainman who was walking the running boards bloody
shins. The builder's logo at the right end of the tank on car #170, though
not entirely legible even in the hi-res image, is almost certainly that of
American Car & Foundry. Cars very similar to this, though somewhat larger,
were built by AC&F ca. 1901-1904 for the Santa Fe; a decade later, steel
underframes replaced the wood underframes on the Santa Fe cars. (For the
whole story, see my forthcoming Santa Fe Historical Society Rolling Stock
Reference Series book on Santa Fe tank cars).

I could find no listing for the Sherman Oil & Cotton Co. in the 10/1919
ORER, so the photo was probably taken earlier than that. Also, the cars
appear to be fairly new in the photo, and it's unlikely that wood
underframe cars like these would have been built later than about 1905, as
the shortcomings of wood underframes on tank cars became obvious very
quickly after the universal application of air brakes and knuckle couplers
around the turn of the century led to rapid increases in the size and power
of locomotives, the length of trains, and the severity of pulling and
buffing forces.

Richard H. Hendrickson
Ashland, Oregon 97520

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