Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Open Loads (Part 1) - Building a Steel Load & Lumber Load

One of the processes that I've enjoyed in model railroading is building custom loads from scratch.  Then it's fun seeing the loads being used in operating sessions where the loads will be removable and transferable between cars between trips.  Let's see where this story starts...

Unloaded Both Ways?

Unfortunately most R-T-R cars don't have loads, and the ones that do have 'cookie cutter' loads which are easily recognized as a pre-built load.  Running empty foreign railroad cars from the other side of the country both ways over your modeled railroad is (generally) not very prototypical, but sometimes having fixed loads which get repetitive becomes equally annoying....

A long string of empty gonds and flatcars running both ways without loads - How sad. (Photos by J.Hill at LMRC, San Diego)

How to break out of the dull black and white world of bi-direction empties or stale loads?

Many open loads shown in this view of Bakersfield Yard.

One of the easiest ways to break up the 'sea-of-RTR-loads', is to build the loads from scratch.  Thanks to Evergreen and Plastruct, steel loads are some of the easiest to fabricate.

A 46ft Lehigh Valley "Mill Gon" nicely finished, but without a load.  Walthers 46ft USRA gondola

Steel Loads

For the particular load I'll be showing in this post, I wanted something looking a bit more complicated than just a plain stack of steel beams.  The load shown below was painted with Red Oxide primber (FCR) before the wooden dunnage was applied.

Steel Beams, loaded 4-wide in the bottom and a narrower 2-wide stack on top.

I went for a stack of steel I-beams from Evergreen.  I worked out the size of the beams to be able to fit 4 laying down on their sides across the width of the car with room for the flanges on the layer above to interlace and still leave room for stakes to keep the loads from striking the interior sides of the car.

Here's what the inside and bottom of the load looks like.  Cutting down on weight is important and also on material costs.

I reduced the weight and material costs for this load by making the load mostly hollow.  Small blocks to keep the proper width were used in the middle of the load so it wouldn't warp or collapse.

Generally the AAR Rules for securing the load should be followed.  Photos are helpful and sometimes harmful in determining this.  Some loads certainly didn't follow the 'Rules' and therefore were subject to rejection at the points of interchange.  Stakes would be used to keep the loads from hitting the sides of the car.  Separators would be used to space the load vertically and secure sections of it, clamping the load down against the car to prevent shifting (if possible) with additional metal tie-rods.  Additional wedge blocks and cleats were used to help contain the load.

Small blocks were cut for the second level to block the upper load from sliding side-to-side.  These were placed on the separators made from scale 4x6 lumber, cut to be about 0.015" shorter than the width of the car.

Narrower loads higher creating a 'wedding cake' look for variety.  I don't do this for every load of course.

I modeled the upper layer of steel beams narrower than the lower, and made the triangular blocks to hold it in place.  These blocks would be nailed in place with "D" nails on the prototype car.   This was to keep the load visually interesting from higher viewing angles.

Flooring Considerations

Freight cars in the steam era used wooden decking, steel plates, or 'nailable steel flooring' to form the deck of the car.  Checking your ORER roster for the era will usually show what type of deck the cars have.

Interior of Tangent G31B ACF 52'6" 70-Ton gondola, probably with 'nailable steel' floor panels. Unfortunately too new for my 1950 ORER copy!

Often the 'nailable steel' material was in strips that resembled boards, so check this before you just weather the floor of your car as wood... maybe it is a steel floor!  On cars with  'nailable flooring' cars, normal nails would puncture and hold, but for tie-rods drilling and more permanent securing methods were needed.

Wood Deck or 'Nailable Steel', turns out this one was wood.  Walthers 46ft USRA gondola.

The wooden floors could have holes bored in them to fit metal tie-rods through with anchor plates below the decking to hold the loads in place.  On top, these rods would pass through the wooden dunnage blocks and have similar anchor plates and nuts on top (not modeled in my rough first pass at these loads).

PRR 'GS-class' 38ft gondola from Bowser with steel plate floor.

Cars with metal plate floors, such as the photo above, the floor would be drilled through or anchor lugs could be welded to the decking.   Many metal-decked cars had multiple scars and ground-down debris from old load securing fixtures which interfered with later loads.   I'll probably do a blog in the future on loading an empty car with old dunnage and debris at some point.

Triangular 'block cleats' and timbers over the load mounted on threaded tie-rods secure the load to the car's deck.

The tie rods were made from 0.02" phosphor-bronze wire.  Larger 4x8 stakes were used to 'wedge' the load in place against the interiors of the car-sides, again leaving about 0.01-0.015" clearance for the load to be easily removed!

Weathered and chalk marked B&O 259798, a Tangent Bethlehem 70-Ton gondola, fitted with the new scratch-built load.

Returning Loads and SCOs?

It's nice to be able to mix up the loads between cars in your trains between trips.  So just because the same railroad cars are showing up, doesn't mean that the same exact load has to be in the same cars.  Many of the eastern US 'Rust Belt' railroads which sent cars west with steel loads didn't want to have them waste a trip back east empty, so some railroads authorized the western railroads to reload them.

Here's the same Tangent Bethlehem 52'6" gondola with one of the new OwlMtModels 3005 Lumber Loads, also removable.

Some 'long east' cars on the West Coast could be seen moving 'laterally' or in some cases 'away from home' empty to find new loads.  This officially took the form of SCOs (Service Car Order) from the early 1950s shows certain east coast railroads allowing their cars to be moved north or south to find loads west of the Rockies.  These loads would then be sent anywhere east of the Mississippi River.  From there the cars could be sent home with another 'lateral load' if it could be found destined even closer to home or at least a shorter empty route home.  Following the SCO would result in empty east coast cars becoming empty in Southern California after an east coast steel load, then finding their way north to Northern California or Oregon and then returning east or south again with a load of west coast lumber.
If the SCOs were not used, conceivably a very large number of east coast cars would be making only 50% loaded trip across the whole country and then back.  The SCOs should allow more like 75% or better loaded mileage for these 'long haul' cars.

I'll probably do a future blog on these SCO operations which create some interesting movements and are prototypical for some railroads that wanted the extra loaded movements, and didn't need their cars back immediately.

ATSF 176695 with the same OMM 3005 kit in a Tichy ATSF WWII Composite Gondola.

The Santa Fe moved a sizable amount of lumber off the NWP (which for a long period of time they owned 50% of the stock for) and also from the western side of the Sierras above the San Joaquin Valley.

Proto2000 (P2k) 'Greenville' or "AAR" type gondola from WWII era loaded to the gills with OMM 3005 lumber load.

The Western Pacific also moved some lumber, which could connect to the UP or Santa Fe for movement east and south or GN for movement north.

Walthers 46ft USRA PRR G25 with Tyco concrete pipe sections.

The Walthers 46ft USRA mill gondola is a nice model and rather inexpensive.  Here are two loads that I made many years ago that work well in them.

Another Walthers 46ft USRA PRR G25 with a Walthers industrial tank turned freight car load.

In Closing

The length and width chosen for many of my loads will allow it to fit into other 52'6" gondolas and the 46ft Walthers mill gondolas.  Some even work in anything from the 38ft Bowser PRR "GS" cars all the way up to the 52'6" standard WWII era gondolas!

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

Athearn 65ft Mill Gondolas

Mantua 40ft Gondola - as EPSW Gondola

Modeling an MOW Supply Train

Modeling SPMW cars with 'Musical Parts'

OwlMtModels F-50-Series (Part 1 &2)

1 comment:

  1. That girder load gives one food for thought. Nice.

    John Huey
    Simi Valley, CA


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