Re: Modelling aluminum sheathing on boxcars

Anthony Thompson <thompson@...>

Steve Lucas wrote:
I would have to wonder if the aluminum sheathing would have been somewhat dulled, and perhaps even showing the effects of galvanic action where steel fasteners were attached to the aluminum sheathing.
Not likely. Alcoa had built aluminum hoppers in the 1930s and knew well what was needed. Most roads which tried aluminum cars did NOT have trouble with galvanic corrosion, because the separation of aluminum and steel was carefully and correctly done.

I know that the GM&O had some aluminum-sheathed cars built around the same time, 1945/46. Perhaps a few other roads as well. This seems to have been an industry experiment post-WWII. Can anyone relate what the cars looked like after ten years' service?
It was the aluminum industry, looking for uses for the material after they stopped building thousands and thousands of airplanes in WW II, who were encouraging the experiments, and in most cases, provided the aluminum at markedly discounted price so the cars would be built. PFE's two aluminum reefers were quite successful in service (the aluminum was painted with a clear coat), though they became a bit whitish as the aluminum oxidized under the paint (paint, as most people know, is far from air tight.) Built in 1946 and 1947, one was destroyed in a wreck on the Burlington in 1962, the other was scrapped along with most of its classmates after 1965.
In a letter at the time, PFE's Chief Mechanical OFficer stated that although the aluminum cars were satisfactory in service, the cost of the material was prohibitive without subsidy. This is borne out by the failure of roads which tried aluminum cars, to duplicate them in the following years. (I don't refer, of course, to the much more recent aluminum gondolas and hoppers.)

Tony Thompson Editor, Signature Press, Berkeley, CA
2906 Forest Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705
(510) 540-6538; fax, (510) 540-1937; e-mail, thompson@...
Publishers of books on railroad history

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