General Tank Car Discussion Pt 8 Paint & Lettering, Regional Issues, Era, and Weathering (UNCLASSIFIED)

Gatwood, Elden J SAD

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE


I decided to add a bit on Paint & Lettering, Regional Issues, Era, and Weathering.

This is where the rubber meets the road; the place you model, and your timeframe, mean EVERYTHING. If you model a grainger out in the mid-west, your fleet would be almost completely different from my place and time (Mon Valley in Pgh and environs, 1962-65). Southern California looks completely different from Georgia. Let place and time guide your fleet construction.

The pre- and post-war period was replete with colorful schemes and big advertising logos and company names; by the late fifties and early sixties, it was getting duller and more dominated by black, although many company names still adorned the sides of the tank. The sixties began a trend back toward colorful, although big lessors tended to stay black. New tank car classes also tended to be colorful, and advertised their product. I'd also add that cars that carried less common products, like acid, chlorine, anhydrous, LPG, versus fuel oil or kerosene, had much more color and fancy lettering. They were advertising. Let your fleet replicate this look. And pay attention to the dates of photos to frame what your cars could look like.

So each one of us can do the homework. Know your industries, know your on-line customers; do the research to figure out how many you need and when. What classes, what sub-classes...

There are plenty of photos of tank cars out there, and many photo books of many locales. Look long and hard at those photos!

That segues to a final modeling point: weathering. Tank cars also weather according to era and locale. Tank cars carrying fuel oil around the sunny (and sometimes dusty) southwest look different from those in the acid-rain-era of the northeast. I looked at a lot of photos, and also remember how the tank cars looked in my area. The effects of acid rain commonly attacked the tank bands in particular. Cars in my era and locale visually had rusty streaking alongside and on the tank bands. Ditto for the top of the dome. Rust also accumulated around rivets/weld lines. Over time, paint was bleached off of top surfaces, and they also acquired a rusty patina. Undersides often had staining, and sometimes lines from rain wash. Domes sometimes, but not always, showed the effects of spilled commodity, especially on coal tar cars like Koppers. Top fillers/unloaders like the simple 103 exhibited much more commodity spillage than pressure tanks, which seem to only occasionally have any kind of drip markings. Cars hauling industrial resins often had brown to tan spillage around the hatch. Asphalt cars could be absolutely filthy with spillage.

The next question some might want to ask, I can't completely answer. So, where do we get accurate decals for tank cars? A long time ago, it was primarily Champ, and maybe some Walthers sets. Then we got some from Microscale, including a beautiful placard set championed by Richard Hendrickson, and also some fine sets by Black Cat. Folks on both lists can probably add numerous other sets.

That's all for now,

Elden Gatwood

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE


This has all been great stuff, Elden. Thanks!

I have actually been researching tank cars for my layout, and it seems my mix is going to be quite different. I'm modeling New Britain, CT, home to Stanley Works, American Hardware, PF Corbin, Fafnir Bearing, and a number of other large manufacturers of hardware, etc.

So among the activities that I can confirm are galvanization (caustic acid, sulphuric acid and ammonium chloride), Japanning (had never heard of it before but it's a lacquer) and other painting, varnishing and lacquering, and plating which generally required various sulfates and phosphates. And this is all just Stanley Works. The Fafnir plant notes butane tanks, although I suspect that by my era (1946-54, initial focus on '47) this was LP gas instead.

Perhaps commodities like the paints, varnishes and lacquers would be more likely delivered via box car in 55-gallon drums? I'm also trying to figure out how something like zinc (for galvanizing) or silver, gold, brass, tin, etc. would be delivered for plating. 

I desperately want to order some of Frank Hodina's cars, but can't fit them in the budget right now. Hoping they'll still be available when I can.

I asked a few questions on my blog, but might be more quickly answered here:

Does a company like Hardware Fuel Co. (advertises Gulf) also receive other brands of gas and/or oil to sell to other service stations? Naturally I'll need a number of cars that aren't represented yet in the Standard Steel GRCX cars.

If there are no rail-served dealers receiving Tide Water or Amoco gas/oil (I have service stations in town) in town is it trucked from other towns?

How far of a radius would a dealer like Hardware City Fuel Co have in selling Gulf oil to other dealers? The tank trucks are much smaller, so probably don't travel as far as they might today.

Would gas or oil, fuel oil, etc. be received at the bulk tracks to be unloaded directly from tank cars to trucks?

Thanks again!

Modeling the New Haven Railroad 1946-1954 |