Saturday, April 9, 2016

Accurail’s new 36’ box car

Eric Hansmann has posted another installment of prototype information for Accurail’s forthcoming 36 foot box car kits on his Design, Build, Op blog. (
 Ray Breyer has done a great job again with a summary of prototypes for the 1400 series straight sill version with metal ends.  Ray gives some information as to how many cars of a given prototype survived at certain dates.  That is very helpful for determining how many of a given road name existed at that point in time.  But it doesn’t tell you about the rest of the fleet and how likely it would be to see any short box cars at that point.  My recent work on the January 1945 Official Railway Equipment Register (you can read about it here: gives a ready reference to how common the less than 40 foot car was.

Source: Jan 45 ORER

US XM less than 40':   57,917
NA XM less than 40': 119,727

Total US cars all types: 2,049,963          2.8%
Total North America:     2,236,560          5.4%

Total US Box, Auto & Vent:  742,117     7.8%
Total NA Box, Auto & Vent:  867,504   13.8%

Total US Box & Auto: 729,388                7.9%  
Total US Box & Auto: 845,775              14.0%

Total US Box: 614,603                            9.4%
Total NA Box: 735,724                          16.3%

The US fleet at the beginning of the last year of WWII was nearly 10% of the XM box cars registered in the ORER. 

The number of short auto cars was much lower, 1642 of 113,11 US auto cars, or 1.5%.

The total short XM and XA percentage was 8.2% of the US and 14.2% of the North American the Box and Auto fleet.  The percentage of short house cars should be larger also, but I don’t have a summary of ventilator car lengths, only the VA totals.  A significant portion was less than 40 feet though.

The pending K brake interchange ban, availability of steel for post war car construction, and the condition of a lot of these older, smaller capacity cars led to the rapid retirement of most of them in the period after WWII.  That said, a number of them soldiered on into the 60’s, so this is a very useful series of models to bring needed diversity to your transition era and earlier model fleets.

Washington DC

9 April 2016

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Follow the Money

That old saw for finding out what really goes on applies to the railroad you are modeling too!

Santa Fe gross earnings for 1943

1        $94,493,000      Los Angeles Area
2        $81,550,000      San Francisco Bay Area
5        $22,231,665      McCune NM (Fort Wingate Ammunition Depot)
10      $17,738,121      Bellemont AZ (Ammunition Depot)

Two of the top ten revenue producers for 43 were isolated stations in the middle of no where on the Albuquerque Division.  Both stations moved up in the 44 rankings: McCune to 3rd with $29,561,035 and Bellemont to 9th with $23,414,024.  I don’t have the corresponding numbers for the metropolitan areas though.  The tariff for explosives and charges for dedicated trains must have been quite lucrative to boost these two locations into the top tier.

This partial information only whets my appetite to dig deeper into how the RR made its money and could afford all the cool locomotives and cars that we love to model.  Santa Fe, like its competitors, was in business to make money. You can see evidence of that in their internal histories with lots of ink devoted to revenue sources, traffic density, infrastructure improvements and growth potential. 

We have wonderful modeling resources in the form of conductor trip books, dispatcher train sheets and station records of trains.  But those are very hard to find because they only indirectly affected the revenue of the RR.  Those operations oriented documents may have provided source data for the accounting department, but the bean counters didn’t care that the NEX arrived in Stockton with 67 cars and departed with 59.  They cared that in 1943 at Stockton, ATSF originated 4616 carloads; terminated 9888; received 30,471 from WP, 19,514 from SP, and 1934 from CCT; forwarded 22,685 to WP, 14,799 to SP, and 362 to CCT along with how much revenue those cars made.

Perhaps a different line of inquiry to the various archives is in order.  One that pursues the financials and how the traffic paid off for the share holders and charged the public.  The good news is that some of this information was mandated by government to assist in setting rates and shows up in annual reports to the ICC and state regulators.  The railroads had to aggregate the data to compile the information in the reports.  The ICC reports had required information about commodities handled, the states got similar reports that included only data for their state.  That data had to be sortable to provide those state reports.  RR internal histories showed selected data by station.  What if we could find the accounting documents that were the basis for these summaries? 

Time for me to figure out which forms to look for.  Fortunately for me and my fellow Santa Fe modelers, ATSF was a very organized bureaucracy that wanted its employees to use the right paperwork and get the right form.  Two years ago I reached out to the Santa Fe community to find the form index.  Every bureaucratic organization needs one if they use forms.  And before computers and spreadsheets, paper forms were the way things got done.  Thanks to John Moore of Albuquerque who loaned me his 1947 and 1948 editions, I was able to scan them and provide them to the Santa Fe Historical and Modeling Society for the use of modelers and rail historians.  You can find the 1947 edition at
Someone else provided a 1927 edition.
And I recently found a 1975 edition that I purchased from eBay for our more modern modelers

These indices tell you the title and number of the form.  They are arranged by department, so you can find the report of locomotives assigned and cars repaired in the Mechanical Department section and the waybill and report of cars interchanged forms in the Accounting Department section.  Knowing what forms to look for helps your archivist or reference librarian find them by number or title.  Having the correct title helps, a lot.  Ask me how I know.

Other roads almost certainly have equivalent information.  If you model another road, work with your historical society to find and share this kind of information.  We all benefit from better access to information.

The bottom line is that what affected the RR’s bottom line is what got managed, recorded, and saved.  When you find your golden nuggets, please share them!

John Barry,
Washington DC

2 April 2016