Re: Freight car distribution

Cyril Durrenberger

The mix of freight cars to use on a model railroad is indeed a complex topic. I have a few comments.

1. The mix can be expected to vary significantly from year to year and from railroad to railroad, so general statistics may not provide a good answer for the specific railroad and year or era that one is modeling.

2. The mix of cars on a model railroad is going to be greatly influenced by the industries the model railroad "serves", that is the industries that have placed on the model railroad. If the model railroad has through freights then the mixture of cars on these freights can be more like what was found on the railroad at that time and place. Industry and railroad wide data can portray a very different picture than the cars that were used at a specific location or segment of the line.

For example the GN and NP had fleets of ore cars used in Minnesota, but it is not likely that these ore cars showed up in the states to the west of Minnesota. Also during the time period of interest to this list, the ore traffic was very seasonal. In most years they did not have much ore traffic when the ports where not open due to ice. In some cases they did have a few all rail trains.

3. The annual reports that each railroad sent to the state railroad commission contain data that should be considered. I am familiar with the reports sent to Texas and Minnesota during the time period of most interest to me -1900 to 1920. The exact data varied from year to year, but they had statistics on the tonnage or car loads of a number of different commodities carried on the railroad. For many years this was divided into classes - loaded on road and unloaded on road, loaded off road and unloaded on road, loaded on road and sent off road. Loaded off road and unloaded off road (sometimes called bridge traffic).

4. Prior to 1920 there was a list of mileage (or fees paid related to mileage) for private owned cars. Since in many cases the refrigerator and tank cars were privately owned, this can provide information on these cars that would be seen on the railroad. In general there are patterns, but these vary from year to year. For example there were no PFE cars prior to 1906, since that is when they began business, and the number of miles increased as their fleet became larger. The mileage for tank cars grew greatly in the teens and the number of companies shipping became much larger each year. Many times there would be a car from a private owner that would show up for one trip for one year, and never again.

5. I used the ORER data for the year of concern to me, 1910 to develop the fleet of SP Atlantic Lines box cars and SP Pacific Lines box cars to use on my railroad. Basically these were based on the percentage of ownership for this year, assuming that the cars used would likely reflect these data. The Atlantic Lines owned a large fleet of flat cars to serve the wood products industries so this was taken into account.

6. I have also used a process to determine the cars to use from other railroads, but will not go into that here.

I can provide more information if desired, but remember we are talking about 1910. The process would be applicable to almost any era. I had written a detailed article on this process for the tank car fleet I am using and sent it to Scale Rails. They wanted to publish it, but lost all of the photos. I was not included to go through all of that work again.

Cyril Durrenberger

Bruce Smith <> wrote:
On Aug 12, 2008, at 8:13 AM, devansprr wrote:
For me (WWII PRR main in central PA) the challenge for a boxcar fleet
is how many NYC cars would there be? Should they be weighted heavier
than the Reading (interchange at Harrisburg)? I would expect the PRR
agents might quickly send empty NYC cars back to interchange points
empty and load New England bound freight into PRR cars.

During WWII the PRR had 9.2% of the North American boxcar fleet, the
NYC 6.1% (1st and 4th, with CP and CN 2nd and 3rd). Pictures suggest
PRR boxcars vastly outnumber NYC box cars on PRR rails, and in fact
some of the midwestern roads, with boxcars fleets significantly less
than half the size of NYC's, are much more prevelant. So how many NYC
box cars should I have? I think I have to have... one? ;-)

If you've read my article in TKM on the PRR fleet ;^) you know that
the PRR averaged around 50% home road, but that includes about 75%
home road hoppers, 50% home road gons and 25% (estimated) home road
boxcars. Those numbers also reflect cars stored or awaiting repairs,
so the actual number in trains is slightly less.

For the rest of your boxcar fleet, the NYC cars should be roughly 6%
of your total fleet. Thus if you have 100 non-PRR boxcars, six
should be NYC. Of those cars, a substantial portion should be the
USRA steel boxcar (Westerfield, and styrene?(someday).


Bruce F. Smith
Auburn, AL

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