Thursday, May 29, 2014

Building a WWII Santa Fe Fleet IV – Equipment Survey

Much has been written by many about free rolling box cars, freight car distributions and the proportion of home road to “foreign” cars.  Based on a multitude of sources the literature suggests a ratio of more foreign than home cars.  Thanks to a fortuitous discovery at the California State Railroad Museum Library last week I can report some actual numbers month by month from January 1934 to December 1943.  The end date of the available data 12 months before my chosen modeling datum of the January 1945 ORER. 

            What led to this discovery?  The search for the original numbers of the Bx-11 and 12 cars rebuilt with extended height roofs.  I was trying to find the records of equipment changes of when the cars were renumbered into the higher number series that had the correct, rebuilt dimensional data in the ORER.  I did not find that, yet, but have a better idea of what to look for.  Craig Ordner at Temple, I have an inquiry in preparation.  Katherine Sanchez of the CSRM Library, located a possible source and pulled it for me last week.  When I visited last Friday, I was initially disappointed as the desired information wasn’t included in the volume that I had time to view.  What I did find, though, was fascinating and way too much to digest in a few hours. 

            The CSRM holds two volumes of a Santa Fe Equipment Survey, May 1, 1939 and revised to July 1, 1944.  Fits my era to a Tee!  A brief summary of their contents include listings of freight, passenger, and locomotive equipment: descriptions of freight cars, passenger cars & locomotive classes; assignment of switching locomotives to locations by class; projected equipment retirements and purchases; charts showing line profiles & helper districts, and the subject of this post, tables of system & foreign cars on line and system cars off line. 

The summary page of freight car descriptions is shown here;

As mentioned above, the two page data table covers 1934-43, month-by-month broken down for Automobile, Box and Refrigerator Cars as shown here. I've transcribed the numbers as I found them except for the one highlighted in yellow.  The original reads 8291, an apparent typo, since the totals of Feb and Apr of that year are the same and consistent with an on line total of 3291.  No record exists of procuring 5000 Auto cars in one month and disposing of them by the next. 

A second table shows the total of the three types and the number of foreign cars borrowed each year for peak loading.  A summary chart of the ATSF cars off line and Foreign cars on line is here.

More analysis to follow, but a first look says that the number of foreign cars on the Santa Fe was much lower than previous assumptions in the model press, at least for the years 1934-39.  The numbers increased significantly as the country came out of the depression and entered WWII.

More in future posts.

John Barry,

Cameron Park, CA


  1. Hi John,
    Thanks for this! My modeling interest is also the WWII era of the SF and this information is very nice to have.
    Thanks for sharing.
    All the best,
    Mike DeSensi
    Pittsburgh, PA

  2. Mike,

    You are welcome. More is coming.


  3. A great blog, wealth of info. I see you're a pro researcher by trade and the quality is obvious, but when do you have time to model? Thanks for the great stuff keep it up, Bill Woelfel