Re: GN 31000-31300 series: Double- or single-sheathed?

Richard Hendrickson

On May 2, 2007, at 10:34 PM, scott1gn wrote:

Wow do we have a different opinion!
The difference between us is not one of opinion, it is a difference of
fact. vs. fallacy.

Obviously I have a different perspective on Richard's critique of the
caption(s) in my book. If it is not obvioius, the caption information
was not intended to call out every detail nauance of the car series -
nor do most freight pictorial books of a similar format for that
Authors do, however, have an obligation to cite the facts they put in
captions correctly, and your caption for this photo was full of errors.

Actually based on information listed in more than one GN Freight Car
Diagram book the doors are described as 'Camel' and the roof is
described as 'Murphy ...' so I would count these as two more items
that are basically correct in the caption (that would make four?).
Also the draft gear is described as Miner - air brake is AB
(information in 1951 digram books forward). Westinghouse KC was
removed way before the time period focus of the book (late 60s)-
there is only so much room on a page ... (that one does not count as
a negative strike against me).
As has been pointed out by others, diagram books are useful but not
entirely trustworthy, and the often-cryptic information they contain
must be correctly interpreted in the light of other information. I
have a large collection of diagram books from many railroads and
private car owners, and I have learned never to trust them as a sole
source of information. Some are highly detailed and, for the most
part, accurate. Others are sketchy at best. The GN diagram books (I
have three separate issues from different years) fall somewhere in the

Fact 1: Though Camel made doors, they did not make corrugated steel
doors, only the hardware for them. GN (and other) diagram books refer
to "Camel" doors because they had Camel hardware, and that was what
most often needed repair or replacement. (Incidentally, I'm sure
Staffan's recollection of having seen a photo somewhere of a 31000
series car with a wood door is mistaken; it defies credulity that the
GN would have had these cars built with wood doors and then replaced
them with corrugated steel doors within just a few years, and at the
time these cars were built the application of steel doors had become
almost universal car building practice.)

Fact 2: Murphy was a tradename of the Standard Railway Equipment Co.
and was applied over the years to a number of different roof designs
manufactured by that company. The diagram reference to "Murphy Piv."
was obviously to the Murphy Pivoted Flexible Outside Metal roof, which
photos confirm is what these cars had, not to the Murphy rectangular
panel roof, which was entirely different, was not even manufactured at
the time the cars were built, and - as photos show - was never applied
to these cars as a replacement.

Fact 3: Miner did not make air brake equipment. They made draft gear.
The two manufacturers of both K and AB air brake equipment were
Westinghouse and New York. Your caption confuses the two. The need
for brevity in captions is not an excuse for getting the facts wrong.

Also, Richard's critique reference to the USRA design is taken out of
context from the caption. I did not write that the 31000 series was a
standard USRA design - the line is; 'After World War I the company
opted to build doubled sheathed wood/steel composite box cars similar
to the standard USRA design (reference to car 25947; which is on page
17) which is a double sheathed USRA 'type' - that line does not say
the 31000 series was a standrd USRA design.
No, it doesn't. But it DOES say that the 31000 series cars were
"similar" to the USRA design, a statement with which I don't think any
qualified freight car historian would agree. As I have already pointed
out, the 31000s were "similar" to the USRA cars only in being 40'
single sheathed box cars. Roofs, ends, underframes, doors, and side
framing were all different. We might quibble about what "similar"
means, but to say that they were "similar" is, at best, misleading and
not at all useful.

Obviously I do not believe the caption is 'full of errors' and I
would not classify my self as ignorant about the subject matter. I
guess those pesky GN documents that I used for researching the book
might be incorrect?
Yes, they might be incorrect, and you may (and obviously did)
misinterpret the information you found there.

Bottom line: the caption is, indeed, full of errors. Whether those
errors are a consequence of haste and carelessness or of ignorance,
they're still errors.

Richard Hendrickson

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