Topics

Tank car ratio?


Stanley Agar
 

Hi,

Can anyone help with a rough ratio of tank cars in plain black to those in other colors and also with large ‘Billboard’ lettering? I have been buying and building mostly plain-Jane black cars with just reporting marks and only a few brighter cars as that’s what seems to turn up in photos. I’m aware that location will be a factor and maybe the tendency of photographers to take pictures of colourful cars rather then the plainer ones (Been there, done that). My interest is the early 1950’s in the south east.

Stan Agar

In New Zealand, modelling the L&N and interchanges.

(So south of most of you).


Ian Cranstone
 

On 2015-06-30, at 4:10 AM, stanrail@... [STMFC] wrote:


 
Can anyone help with a rough ratio of tank cars in plain black to those in other colors and also with large ‘Billboard’ lettering? I have been buying and building mostly plain-Jane black cars with just reporting marks and only a few brighter cars as that’s what seems to turn up in photos. I’m aware that location will be a factor and maybe the tendency of photographers to take pictures of colourful cars rather then the plainer ones (Been there, done that). My interest is the early 1950’s in the south east.

I've just been compiling fleet numbers from the 1955 Tank Car Capacities volume.  Although this volume doesn't offer any information about colours, at that time there were about 185,000 tank cars in service.  Of that total, a little over 47,000 - or roughly 25% - were Union Tank Line cars, which as far as I know only appeared in black.  Add to that  the 52,000 cars reported by General American - about 30% of the total fleet - and although they did have some more colourful lessee schemes, I believe they were mostly black as well.  And in case you're wondering, Shippers Car Line came in a distant third with 12,000 cars.

So this suggests that for every four tank cars in service at that time, 1 was a UTLX car, and 1 was a GATX car, and that they were most likely black.

Ian Cranstone
Osgoode, Ontario, Canada


Alexander Schneider Jr
 


I spent the summer of 1965 working at a pharmaceutical plant that received raw materials by tank car, and almost all of them were black. Aluminum or silver cars were a distant second, and white somewhat less common. I doubt the mix was more colorful during the era covered by this list.

I would hazard a guess that the tank car owners realized that no one would notice their cars except in bad situations, such as derailments, and the less visible they were in the news photographs, the better.

Alex Schneider
 

From: "Ian Cranstone lamontc@... [STMFC]"
To: STMFC@...
Sent: Tuesday, June 30, 2015 10:25 AM
Subject: Re: [STMFC] Tank car ratio?



On 2015-06-30, at 4:10 AM, stanrail@... [STMFC] wrote:

 
Can anyone help with a rough ratio of tank cars in plain black to those in other colors and also with large ‘Billboard’ lettering? I have been buying and building mostly plain-Jane black cars with just reporting marks and only a few brighter cars as that’s what seems to turn up in photos. I’m aware that location will be a factor and maybe the tendency of photographers to take pictures of colourful cars rather then the plainer ones (Been there, done that). My interest is the early 1950’s in the south east.

I've just been compiling fleet numbers from the 1955 Tank Car Capacities volume.  Although this volume doesn't offer any information about colours, at that time there were about 185,000 tank cars in service.  Of that total, a little over 47,000 - or roughly 25% - were Union Tank Line cars, which as far as I know only appeared in black.  Add to that  the 52,000 cars reported by General American - about 30% of the total fleet - and although they did have some more colourful lessee schemes, I believe they were mostly black as well.  And in case you're wondering, Shippers Car Line came in a distant third with 12,000 cars.

So this suggests that for every four tank cars in service at that time, 1 was a UTLX car, and 1 was a GATX car, and that they were most likely black.

Ian Cranstone
Osgoode, Ontario, Canada






Tony Thompson
 

Stan Agar wrote:

 
Can anyone help with a rough ratio of tank cars in plain black to those in other colors and also with large ‘Billboard’ lettering? I have been buying and building mostly plain-Jane black cars with just reporting marks and only a few brighter cars as that’s what seems to turn up in photos. I’m aware that location will be a factor and maybe the tendency of photographers to take pictures of colourful cars rather then the plainer ones (Been there, done that). My interest is the early 1950’s in the south east.

     RIchard Hendrickson used to say that there were at least 9 or 10 black cars for every "billboard" one, and he suspected the ratio was even higher. (Good luck finding layouts which reflect that.) But decisive evidence is hard to find.

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





Tony Thompson
 

Stan Agar wrote:

 
Can anyone help with a rough ratio of tank cars in plain black to those in other colors and also with large ‘Billboard’ lettering? I have been buying and building mostly plain-Jane black cars with just reporting marks and only a few brighter cars as that’s what seems to turn up in photos. I’m aware that location will be a factor and maybe the tendency of photographers to take pictures of colourful cars rather then the plainer ones (Been there, done that). My interest is the early 1950’s in the south east.

     RIchard Hendrickson used to say that there were at least 9 or 10 black cars for every "billboard" one, and he suspected the ratio was even higher. (Good luck finding layouts which reflect that.) But decisive evidence is hard to find.

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





Tangent Scale Models
 

---In STMFC@..., <tony@...> wrote :

Stan Agar wrote:

 
Can anyone help with a rough ratio of tank cars in plain black to those in other colors and also with large ‘Billboard’ lettering? I have been buying and building mostly plain-Jane black cars with just reporting marks and only a few brighter cars as that’s what seems to turn up in photos. I’m aware that location will be a factor and maybe the tendency of photographers to take pictures of colourful cars rather then the plainer ones (Been there, done that). My interest is the early 1950’s in the south east.
Tony Thompson said:
     "RIchard Hendrickson used to say that there were at least 9 or 10 black cars for every "billboard" one, and he suspected the ratio was even higher. (Good luck finding layouts which reflect that.) But decisive evidence is hard to find."

Tony, while I heard Richard say the same thing, I believe that the 1 billboard for every 10 black cars to be only somewhat true, and I think the answer is more complicated because we really should study what our prototypes hauled in the locales we model.  My thoughts.

1.  It depends on the LOCALE you are modeling.  A dusty branchline, such as what Jared Harper is modeling with his ATSF Alma Branch, may only see fuel oil deliveries.  These would be general service ICC-103 cars, which are typically generic black cars of 6-10K gallons (typically), although there were some colorful cars as well (Champlin Refining, Sinclair, etc).  However, a different dusty branchline may see those ICC-103s plus anhydrous ammonia deliveries, in season of course (do you model in season?).  MOST anhydrous ammonia tanks during the steam era had billboard schemes because they were leased to companies that wanted to advertise what they were selling.  At the other end of the spectrum would be southern CA mainlines in and out of the LA basin during the war, such as Cajon Pass, where dominant unit trains of fuel cars were the norm.  Many of these fuel type cars were indeed black lessee cars.  However, look closer at the other train photos - the manifest trains.  There are specialty tank cars in the mix, and many of the specialty tanks (ie not ICC-103) were painted in billboard colors.  Take the 6K chlorine tanks we've been discussing.  Like anhydrous ammonia, the owners such as hooker or diamond or Wyandotte or ? liked to advertise their "Chlorine Service" on the side.  These move the scale toward billboard cars for a mainline location away from 10 black to 1 billboard. 

2.  It depends on what ERA you are modeling.  If you are modeling the 30s/40s, I think the presence of black cars is higher simply because of the overall gross tank car fleet numbers.  I wish Tim Gilbert were still with us.  Fuel oil ICC-103 tanks were extremely common in the overall fleet percentages at this time.  GA, ACF, and a few of the smaller builders were just beginning to build specialized cars during the 30s/40s in greater numbers, such as the aforementioned 6K chlorine tanks, but once the postwar economy picked up steam, GA/ACF/NA began to produce specialized tank cars of many types in significant enough numbers for modelers to begin to pay attention.  The mid/late 40s was a tipping point toward COLORFUL schemes in my opinion.  Not 50:50 but certainly better than 10:1.  Many of the tank cars built in the later 40s and 50s seemed to have billboard schemes on them.  Additionally, all tank cars were seeing frequent repaints due to their harsh service lives.  Many of the older cars were repainted into colorful schemes as they were leased out.  I've found many examples of fresh paint on a 1940s/50s built car built 1-3 years earlier.  It has been noted on this list before that general service ICC-103 tanks became surplus after the war which probably meant the builders had to rely upon specialized tanks for revenue.  This is when you started to see more and more of these specialized tanks, such as bromine 2500 gallon tanks, heresite lined muriatic acid tanks, rubber lined acid tanks, hydrogen peroxide tanks, different flavors of insulated tanks with and without special linings, etc. 

So if you model the late 40s and early 1950s and think you only need black tanks, you may want to reconsider and do some more digging.  One great thing about tank cars is oftentimes they are in mini-"blocks" of their own of a few cars.  When I look to either side of billboard cars, usually half the time there is another billboard car next to it - not black cars on both sides.  Also, reporting marks do matter.  If it is a UTLX car, it is almost always black.  I think we all know that.  But if it is a GA-BUILT car with GATX marks, oftentimes it is billboard.    
Please speak up if you disagree with me; I have spent the better part of 5 years obsessing over tank car photos and I am amazed at the sheer number of billboard cars in service, even when I go back and look at the cars behind steam in Locomotive Quarterly for example.  And I could be wrong about the era thing.  There were many fleets of billboard cars from the teens and 20s.  Said another way, if you look at the Sinclair fleet during the 20s-30s for example, seemingly every car was painted "Sinclair" in huge, bold lettering.  If they aren't look closely at the photo.  Is the lettering there but really weathered out?  The fleet was incredibly statistically relevant, equaling 6580 cars according to the 1936 ORER.

I think billboard schemes are more common than a 10-1 ratio, especially during the 40s/50s, but I haven't been able to prove it yet.

David Lehlbach
Tangent Scale Models 
(Who loves all-black steam era tank cars, by the way) 




Tim O'Connor
 

David Lehlbach wrote

> I believe that the 1 billboard for every 10 black cars to be only somewhat true
> ... It depends on the LOCALE you are modeling.

Yes. I'm reminded of that Robert Morris photo of the SP Fresno CA yard that shows two
strings of WINE tank cars (about 40 cars are visible) in a huge variety of shapes and
sizes and (very likely) paint and lettering schemes.

But then I've also seen yard photos showing dozens of black tank cars (some cars with
bold lettering like DX or SINCLAIR etc) generally in the vicinity of oil refineries,
mixed with occasional strings of silver or white MAGNOLIA or TEXACO or other such cars.

I think the trend in the postwar era was for bolder paint schemes for NEW cars built
for private leases but wherever the older cars predominated, you would mostly still see
plain black tank cars.

Tim O'Connor


Jim Betz
 

Hi,

Let's not forget that you also need to consider the on layout
industries ...

If your layout has an oil field that is still shipping crude by rail -
that location is going to receive/ship differently marked tank
cars and tank car types than if all of the layout industries are
"oil dealers" or "Hercules Powder".
The number of cars moved on the layout to/from those
industries should "reflect" believable traffic demands/levels -
including cars that are coming in from/going out to staging.

Thru train tank car traffic is "specific to the region and era"
you are trying to represent and will be seen coming from and
going to staging without making a trip to an on layout industry.

Unless, of course, you are modeling a branchline in which
case there wouldn't be any "thru traffic" (not only for tank
cars but for all car types) ... and the car types for a branchline
would correlate very closely with the "demands" (needs) of
the industries served "on layout". But even then there
would/could be the occasional "substitution" of one car
type for another. Or the "experimental" car type that is
just being introduced to the industry for the era your
layout represents ... such as a mix of both box cars (grain
doors and markings) and early covered hoppers to an on
layout grain mill.
But it is unlikely that an "auto box" would be used in
grain service ... or a "general service tank" in corn syrup
service. *G*.

Finally - it only takes a little bit of research to establish
which service type cars (tanks and others) would have
been "likely" in the ERA you are modeling. For example,
in the paragraph above I mentioned corn syrup tanks ...
which have a very specific "era" component to their
existence.
- Jim B.


Tangent Scale Models
 

---In STMFC@..., <timboconnor@...> wrote :

David Lehlbach wrote

> I believe that the 1 billboard for every 10 black cars to be only somewhat true
> ... It depends on the LOCALE you are modeling.

Tim O'Connor wrote:

"I think the trend in the postwar era was for bolder paint schemes for NEW cars built
for private leases but wherever the older cars predominated, you would mostly still see
plain black tank cars."

I agree somewhat.  The older cars were still REPAINTED regularly and were probably never in original paint by 1950.  In my collection of photos I don't think I have a single photo of a 20s-30s tank in original paint by 1955.  They may still be wearing a very very similar scheme by 1955, but if you carefully read the lettering it is clear it was repainted.  This is true for basic black cars as well as billboard cars - billboard cars are easy to spot since the logo and/or lettering standards of many of the brands, take Diamond Chemical for example, changed regularly, which makes dating photos of those cars a relatively simple proposition. 

The 20s-30s older cars that were already in the lease fleets were typically repainted into basic lease black schemes because they weren't desired for captive service lease service like the new cars were.  However, the 20s-30s older cars that were in an existing private fleet, such as SPX fleet cars belonging to Solvay, were repainted into Solvay's newest image assuming they weren't sold or scrapped.  So it is not entirely about the age of the car, but the service it was in. 

David Lehlbach


Cyril Durrenberger
 

A few comments on this issue:

1. It is important to determine what railroad and the location you are modeling. There was a large difference in the number and owners of tank cars that traveled over the Houston East & West Texas (HE&WT) from Houston to Shreveport and the Galveston Harrisburg and San Antonio (GH&SA) west of San Antonio. Both were part of the T&NO. A number of tank cars have historically traveled on the HE&WT to connect the oil and chemical industries with the lines that went north and east of Shreveport. Not many tank cars were sent west of San Antonio on the GH&SA line. Lists of private owner roads on these two lines show this clearly.

2. The industries located on the model railroad will make a difference in what tank cars are needed to service them. The best example is the companies that owned bulk oil plants on the line. Cars for these industries would be expected, but cars for companies not on the line would not be expected, unless they were in the bridge traffic. There may be industries on the line being modeled, but that are not included on the model railroad for which tank cars would be expected on the line. For example there may be a cottonseed oil plant on the line, but not on the model railroad, but its cars would expected to be in trains along the line. There are too many cases to articulate here and they are site specific. These are listed as examples of the sort of thing that happened.

3. I do not know about all oil companies, but a reference in a 1929 article in the Texaco Star indicated that The Texas Oil Company (aka Texaco) was repainting all of their cars hauling gasoline with the silver tank and large black lettering. Tank cars hauling heavy oil were painted black, but with the large white letters. So they repainted and relettered their old cars. So the date being modeled in important.

4. Besides the paint and lettering schemes, the date being modeled is important for other reasons. The tank car fleets were moved sometimes from owner to leaser and this could impact the paint and lettering schemes applied to the cars. Texaco is an example. There was a lot of movement in the names of the companies that owned the oil production and refining facilities. Some names disappeared and some new ones were formed, so the date is important.

5; Crude oil was shipped to refineries in some locations, but not all locations. For example crude oil was shipped from the Humble, Texas oil field for about a year after the field was discovered until pipelines were built, then shipment of crude oil from this field all but disappeared. However, there was one company that shipped by rail rather than pipeline after given special rates on the railroad by the Texas Railroad Commission. The shipping of crude oil was very dependent on the site and time period.

6. Result: It is not possible to give an overall ratio of billboard to black tank cars that will be accurate, unless one is given a specific location or locations, railroad of interest, route of interest and time period. The data on the HE&WT show that the owners of private owner tank cars over the line varied greatly from year to year, with few constant patterns This holds for all periods when tank cars were used on railroads, even today.


Cyril Durrenberger
--------------------------------------------

On Wed, 7/1/15, tangentscalemodels@yahoo.com [STMFC] <STMFC@yahoogroups.com> wrote:

Subject: Re: [STMFC] Tank car ratio?
To: STMFC@yahoogroups.com
Date: Wednesday, July 1, 2015, 10:03 AM


 









---In STMFC@yahoogroups.com,
<timboconnor@...> wrote :

David Lehlbach
wrote


> I
believe that the 1 billboard for every 10 black cars to be
only somewhat true

> ... It depends on the LOCALE you are modeling.



Tim O'Connor wrote:

"I think the trend in the
postwar era was for bolder paint schemes for NEW cars
built

for private leases but wherever the older cars predominated,
you would mostly still see

plain black tank cars."

I agree somewhat.  The older cars were still
REPAINTED regularly and were probably never in original
paint by 1950.  In my collection of photos I don't
think I have a single photo of a 20s-30s tank in original
paint by 1955.  They may still be wearing a very very
similar scheme by 1955, but if you carefully read the
lettering it is clear it was repainted.  This is true for
basic black cars as well as billboard cars - billboard cars
are easy to spot since the logo and/or lettering standards
of many of the brands, take Diamond Chemical for example,
changed regularly, which makes dating photos of those cars a
relatively simple proposition. 

The 20s-30s older cars that were already in the
lease fleets were typically repainted into basic lease black
schemes because they weren't desired for captive service
lease service like the new cars were.  However, the 20s-30s
older cars that were in an existing private fleet, such as
SPX fleet cars belonging to Solvay, were repainted into
Solvay's newest image assuming they weren't sold or
scrapped.  So it is not entirely about the age of the car,
but the service it was in. 



David Lehlbach










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Garth Groff <sarahsan@...>
 

Tim,

Didn't the silver Texaco billboard lettering disappear when UTLX took over their fleet?

Yours Aye,


Garth Groff

On 7/1/15 7:06 AM, Tim O'Connor timboconnor@... [STMFC] wrote:
 

David Lehlbach wrote

> I believe that the 1 billboard for every 10 black cars to be only somewhat true
> ... It depends on the LOCALE you are modeling.

Yes. I'm reminded of that Robert Morris photo of the SP Fresno CA yard that shows two
strings of WINE tank cars (about 40 cars are visible) in a huge variety of shapes and
sizes and (very likely) paint and lettering schemes.

But then I've also seen yard photos showing dozens of black tank cars (some cars with
bold lettering like DX or SINCLAIR etc) generally in the vicinity of oil refineries,
mixed with occasional strings of silver or white MAGNOLIA or TEXACO or other such cars.

I think the trend in the postwar era was for bolder paint schemes for NEW cars built
for private leases but wherever the older cars predominated, you would mostly still see
plain black tank cars.

Tim O'Connor



Brian Termunde
 

On my Willapa Harbor branch, I will following the 'Henry Ford' model, any color of tank cars will be allowed as long as it's plain black. I do own a couple of colorful tanks, but they are not intended to be 'runners'.

I just need to find out what if any tank cars would have shown up in Raymond, Wash circa 1953!

Take Care,
 
Brian R. Termunde
Midvale, UT
 
"My Train of Thought left the station without me!"

4a. Re: Tank car ratio?
    Posted by: "Tony Thompson" tony@... sigpress
    Date: Tue Jun 30, 2015 11:57 am ((PDT))

<>

Richard Hendrickson used to say that there were at least 9 or 10 black cars for every "billboard" one, and he suspected the ratio was even higher. (Good luck finding layouts which reflect that.) But decisive evidence is hard to find.

Tony Thompson







Tim O'Connor
 

no idea -- but all of my photos of silver or billboard Texaco cars are
from the 1930's or earlier -- the TCX reporting marks continued to be used
on tank cars into the 1970's at least but they are all plain black cars

Tim,

Didn't the silver Texaco billboard lettering disappear when UTLX took over their fleet?

Yours Aye,


Garth Groff


Tony Thompson
 

Garth Groff wrote:

 

Didn't the silver Texaco billboard lettering disappear when UTLX took over their fleet?


     No, on two counts. First, the fleet was sold about 1935 to GATX, not UTLX. Second, both the TCX reporting marks and the billboard TEXACO lettering continued to be applied (mostly to black cars) for at least 10 years afterward. If you look in a 1950s ORER, you will see the TCX cars separately listed within the GATX entry.

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