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Lumber Loads in 1947, 1952, and 1957 - Changes in Types of Cars


Jim Betz
 

Hi,

Greg's post is interesting - who is the cart and who is the horse. Did the
construction industry change from needing/wanting dry lumber to green
or did they accept undried lumber because it was being shipped that
way? Or simply because it was cheaper? I do know that people comment
on the changes in the 'quality' of the wood used in home construction
over the years ...

This also explains why so many of the pics I saw (later on) were clearly
lumber that was not "rough cut" ... just because it has been thru the
planer doesn't mean it has also been kiln-dried.

A how to question - I've often been less than satisfied with the texture
of strip wood ... it just seems 'too rough'. Do you think that using strip
wood for lumber loads in gons and on flat cars "works"?
- Jim

P.S. Clearly the siding at the mill has to have more box cars than flats.


Greg Martin
 

Hi Jim,
 
Let me answer this in context so we all can get a clearer understanding as you have addresses several subjects that seem to blend but might not:
 
Eventually all things merge into one and a river runs through it.
Norman Maclean
 
Jim Betz writes:

Hi,

Greg's post is interesting - who is the cart and who is the horse.
The cart is the dollar and the horse is the industry.

Did the construction industry change from needing/wanting dry lumber to green or did they accept undried lumber because it was being shipped that way? Or simply because it was cheaper?
 
First I am glad you called it "dried" lumber as the industry during our modeling period cared little if it was kiln dried or air dried, it was the moisture content the consumer was searching for, typically for framing 19% or less. However; most framing lumber was not dried at all as it wasn't necessary and lumber would dry in place and most contractors knew this. Timbers (members 6"x 6" and larger) were seldom if ever dried to 19%. post and beams (4"x 4" and larger) were seldom dried with regards to west coast species, souther species were different most all southern species were dried.
 
Shipping cost were less for dry lumber as the board footage went up on the same car.
 
The market determined the price of lumber so on any given day green was generally cheaper than dry but that could quickly change, need was need and you are pricing your product based on demand and need to move product to generate cash.
 
 I do know that people comment on the changes in the 'quality' of the wood used in home construction over the years ...
 
Well, there were standards set for lumber and panel by both the American and Canadian grading agencies to meet a set of engineering specs for all lumber and panel with many design factors we won't go into. Just know that the old growth timber wasn't going to last forever and so might go some of the aesthetic quality of lumber. No need for full sawn clear Douglas Fir floor joist you will never see. You didn't build with rough cut lumber unless it was sized to a common dimension.   

This also explains why so many of the pics I saw (later on) were clearly lumber that was not "rough cut" ... just because it has been thru the planer doesn't mean it has also been kiln-dried.
 
This is true green lumber was easier on a planner than dried lumber. Also when you see a "donkey mill" in the forest this was to create blanks not consumer lumber, it still went through a saw mill and a planner mill. 
 
A how to question - I've often been less than satisfied with the texture of strip wood ... it just seems 'too rough'. Do you think that using strip wood for lumber loads in gons and on flat cars "works"?
- Jim
Yes, I do as long as you treat it like you would any other model and sand the texture down a bit. I like balsa better than basswood, I don't like either for color except in some cases of white woods such as western hemlock and eastern and western white pine. Southern Yellow Pine has a yellow cast and Douglas Fir a red cast. 
 
Jim Singer has a photo from the WCLIB brochure of a PRR G25 gondola being loaded at what I believe to be Shelton, WA with s load of timber from a jib with three men. 
 
Greg Martin


mwbauers
 

For this…..

I would consider using a solid color wood-tone card-stock sourced from the craft world. 

Print a wood grain on the top boards leaving the basic color alone, and stack the card stock as a hollow cored block with some randomness to the ‘board’ ends to be the stack[s] of lumber.
 
Best to ya,
Mike Bauers
Milwaukee, Wi

On Dec 22, 2015, at 10:12 AM, jimbetz wrote:


A how to question - I've often been less than satisfied with the texture
of strip wood ... it just seems 'too rough'. Do you think that using strip
wood for lumber loads in gons and on flat cars "works"?
- Jim


Dennis Storzek
 




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

Hi,

Greg's post is interesting - who is the cart and who is the horse.
Did the
construction industry change from needing/wanting dry lumber to green
or did they accept undried lumber because it was being shipped that
way? Or simply because it was cheaper?

==============
My Dad was a carpenter during the years immediately after WWII, and I worked in the trade myself for a number of years...

Through the years covered by this list, most wood structures had plaster interior finish. It's true that drywall (called "plaster board" at the time) was introduced sometime in the WWI era, but its initial use was to replace the wood lath behind the plaster, and most buildings still had a two coat plaster finish about 1/2" thick applied to the gypsum board "rock lath". When this much plaster was used in a building, it introduced one heck of a lot of water, and it took weeks for the buildings to dry out so they could be trimmed. I still remember how cold and damp a building was when the plasterers were working, and it's a wonder those guys didn't all wind up with rheumatism and arthritis; many of them probably did. "Fine" homes were still being plastered in the Chicago area into the early seventies, well past the period of our interest.

With that much moisture in the building for several weeks, the wood structure took up water and reached an equilibrium moisture content not much different from common air dried lumber, so there was not much sense in specifying kiln dried, after all running a  dry kiln was expensive, compared to the sun and wind, which were free. Back in those years kiln drying was reserved for lumber that would become high value products; furniture, cabinets, and doors and sash, where the mill wanted to ensure that the parts they cut would remain about the size they cut them, and not shrink further after assembly.

Dennis Storzek


Mark Hemphill
 

Jim:

To answer your questions about changes in the lumber industry, I suggest reading Nelson Courtland Brown, Lumber: Manufacturing, Conditioning, Grading, Distribution, and Use, John Wiley & Sons, 1947.  It's available free on-line to read at http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001508348  

In particular, chapters 8, Merchandising, Distribution, and Use, and 9, Shipping and Traffic, have a wealth of information that will help inform the use of rolling stock, origin-destination pairs, traffic and rates, and ladings.  

I should note as a caveat that every time I've referred to Brown in various model railroad and railroad historical forums over the years, it's been strongly disputed.  So, perhaps Brown was completely out to lunch.  But, I like Brown because his information, conclusions, and observations correlates well with my own experience with traffic in my own railroad career, and with my received knowledge of lumber buying practices and use for large-scale commercial construction from working for a father during my teens who built between 200 and 1000 housing units a year.  

One particular thing I pay attention to in Brown, buried in the details, is his observations of the substantial regional variations in the way lumber was manufactured, distributed, purchased, and used in 1947.  Some of that variation has gone away today, but having lived in 14 states now thanks to railroads, and having purchased houses in six of them, I am still amazed how builders in one state do things as a common, best practice that in another state would be considered dead wrong and uninformed.

Mark Hemphill  
 


Dennis Storzek
 

I missed this point in my previous answer...

"Did the construction industry change from needing/wanting dry lumber to green
or did they accept undried lumber because it was being shipped that
way?"

Lumber being shipped to market is by no means "green" lumber. Green lumber can have anywhere from 30% to 200% moisture content... 100% being when all the water chemically bound in the cell walls is present, when first felled, timber will also have additional free water in the cells.

Air drying, by stacking under cover with "stickers" (thin strips of wood to keep the layers separated) will typically take that down to 20%, possibly as low as 12%. This is adequate for lumber to be used for structural purposes.

Kiln drying typically takes this down to the 8-10% range, which is preferred for trim, flooring and millwork. Rule of thumb is wood for these uses should be dried slightly dryer than the environment it will be used in, so it swells slightly and tightens joints, etc. as it comes into equilibrium with its surroundings. Laying flooring, for instance,  that is too dry runs the risk of having it swell and buckle.

There is an interesting chart in the US Forest Service Wood Handbook:
http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/fplgtr/fplgtr190/chapter_04.pdf
That shows the equilibrium moisture content wood will attain when exposed to environments having different relative humidity: at 40% RH at 70 deg.F wood will eventually go to about 6%, while at 70% RH and 70 deg. F wood will eventually come into equilibrium at 12%. which is why doors, drawers, and windows tend to stick and change with the seasons. At 90% RH at 90 deg. F wood will go to 20%, and any effect of kiln drying to a lower moisture content will be lost.

More than you wanted to know, I'm sure.

Dennis Storzek