Re: Freight car distribution

gn3397 <heninger@...>

--- In STMFC@..., John Stokes <ggstokes@...> wrote:

Again, the best and perhaps only lesson is to try to avoid the "iconic" cars when they were
actually few in number, and balance your cars, with a good dose of home road cars,
depending on what the history of your prototype was at any given time, when they had or
didn't have a large fleet or kept it close to home, as in grain shipment time or on
dedicated mineral runs.

Reality is not the same as a computer simulation under the rather limited and primitive
conditions we are working in here.

It doesn't take a long time looking at photos, for example, of Northern Pacific or Great
Northern freight trains and yards to see that at least on the days the pictures were taken,
home road equipment often dominated, but the stats say otherwise. Go figure. Glad you
are having fun with all this, Mike.

John Stokes
Bellevue, WA
Mr. Stokes,
Actually, if you are modeling GN or NP immediately postwar, you will only want about
15-20% home road boxcars if you are modeling the grain rush in the fall. One of the more
fascinating ads that I found in my local paper's archive back in ND (which I stupidly didn't
copy) was a half page ad the GN placed in September 1946 explaining the lack of cars. If I
recall, the GN stated it only had about 3000 of its own boxcars online, of a fleet of approx
22,000 at the time. GN (and I am sure Soo and NP) were routinely excoriated by local
farmers and elevator operators because of a shortage of suitable boxcars for transporting
wheat to market.

I have corresponded with a couple of GN employees from this time period, one a
trainmaster, and one a rural station agent, and they both stated that car supply was a
constant headache. GN couldn't get its cars back online fast enough, despite putting out
warrants a few months ahead of time. The Eastern roads would also usually send their
worn out cars to the GN, which often were unsuitable for grain loading. Usually the linings
weren't grain tight, so loss in transit was an issue. GN maintained the linings of its cars
pretty well, because grain was the most important single commodity it carried. The
trainmaster I spoke to related the time he sent a solid 100 car train of mostly eastern
boxcars up a branch in eastern Montana, with rolls of heavy paper and coopering
materials supplied by the GN, and the next day 97 came back empty because they had
been refused by the local elevators!

I think another important point, which Mr. Gilbert repeatedly emphasized, was the state
of the US economy. All the 1930s era photos I have seen of GN stations and branches
show a preponderance (100% in some instances) of GN boxcars, no doubt because of the
poor economy lowering demand for cars, thereby allowing GN to keep its cars online.
Obviously, the situation was different postwar.

Anyway, this is an interesting discussion. I wish I had some conductors books or wheel
reports from some of the GN branches I am interested in to get a better feel for the car
distribution, but I have never come across any. I don't know that my layout will ever
accurately represent the actual percentages of boxcars that operated on the particular GN
branchline I am modeling, but I am shooting for 20% home road boxcars, and the other
80% will be distributed among the national percentages. If anyone ever finds data to
refute that, I would love to see it.

Robert D. Heninger
Iowa City, IA

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