Sunday, December 25, 2022

Open Loads (Part 5) - Lumber Loads on Flats & Gondolas

A friend send me an email asking more about Lumber Loads, so I'm going to expand what I talked about in Open Loads (Part 1) - Building Steel Loads, and talk more about the lumber loads this time.  

Fair Notice: I work for OwlMtModels and designed the HO-scale F-50-5/8/9/10/12 kits and also the series of lumber load kits shown on many of the cars below.  
While I am using many of these kits, other modeling methods for creating additional variety in loads is certainly welcomed.  I've built many loads from scratch or kitbashed other commercial loads to create loads before the OwlMtModels kits were available.

Prototype Photo Analysis & History

Flats and gonds would often be loaded with rough-cut timber, sometimes dried, but often shipped fairly raw on open cars.  (Of course boxcar loads are a totally different topic and not really relevant as the cars are enclosed.)  The loads of Pacific Coast lumber were often shipped as "Rollers" which would leave the PNW areas and take the longest route time to a theoretical destination.  A carload of lumber probably shouldn't be on-car more than maybe a month tops.  My concept of "weathering" lumber, should be called more like, 'wood effects'.  

The railroads would have diversion points, set up in the tariff, at which the cars could be rerouted.  The lumber would be brokered in-route.  Once the load 'sold', the destination would be changed by contacting the railroad about to handle the car at the diversion point, between the car's location and the new destination.  This is mostly why the SP didn't want to be sending lumber trains over Donner, and much of the traffic came all the way from Portland down and east via the Sunset Route, taking the "long way" to get to the eastern states with the "rollers."

SP 4177 with First 671 East of Oakridge in 1947

In the Vanishing Vista (photo below) we see an AC leading a freight (Possibly PSS or OCM symbol) with a huge amount of lumber carried in a mix of flats, gondolas and auto-boxcars hauling any finished lumber.  Obviously, the blocks could have standard boxcars with paper or newsprint.

SP 4177 Lumber Drag 1-671 two miles east of Oakridge 1947 - Vanishing Vista postcard JT-63

In just this one photo, we have the following consist it appears:

1. L&N? double-door 50ft steel auto-boxcar, I'm not sure if this car is actually an autobox or if it is reloaded with lumber.
2. Fishbelly Flat (possibly SP F-70-2/5/6/7/10, etc)* - Random lumber ends towards middle
3. SP G-50-9/10/11/12 (Ulrich/brass) gondola - Some sort of darker (creosoted?) timbers
4. SP (or subsidiary) F-50-4/5/8/9/10/12 (probably) with large lumber stack
5. Fishbelly Flat (possibly SP F-70-2/5/6/7/10, etc)* - Shorter stack of lumber, probably a smaller order of lumber, not getting to cubic or tonnage rating of the car.  Possibly foreign 53ft 50-ton flatcar.
6. T&NO WWII Emergency Gondola (resin kit)
7. 40ft flatcar with full height 2-stack lumber
8. T&NO WWII Emergency Gondola (resin kit) - another of the same - lower lumber load, no side stakes? - Crates?
9. SP Steel GS gondola (probably) - RedCaboose - 2-stack lumber
10. SP G-50-9/10/11/12 (Ulrich/brass) gondola - 2-stack lumber
11. Fishbelly Flat (possibly SP F-70-2/5/6/7/10, etc)* or AAR 53ft 50-ton flat - 2-stack lumber
12. Fishbelly Flat (possibly SP F-70-2/5/6/7/10, etc)* or AAR 53ft 50-ton flat - 2-stack lumber
--- Rear portion of the train seems to be more medium height gondolas, various lengths, and similar flatcars with lumber stacks on them.

Note *: SP F-70-2/5/6 class would be possible, but were far fewer in numbers compared to the thousands of the later F-70-7 of 1949 and -10 class of 1953-54.  The -7 and -10 classes would be certainly be too new for a 1947 consist, suggesting foreign 53ft cars or the F-70-2/5 class which only numbered a few hundred cars.  NP also had 300 AAR 53ft flatcars which fit the physical description.

SP 1347 Switching Lumber Cars

SP 1347 switches a string of lumber cars - SP TIMR'46 film screen capture.

1. Probably SP F-70-6/7 class flatcar with fairly long 2-stack of lumber
2. Rio Grande GS gondola
3. Possibly another DRGW GS gondola
4. Flatcar with (5.) carrying over-length pole/pile load
5. Flatcar with (4.) carrying over-length pole/pile load - notice only two closely spaced vertical stake sets to pivot the long load around.
6. Flatcar with tall lumber load
7. Gondola with some form of load, possibly treated timbers or shaded load from boxcar on track to left.
8. Getting pretty hard to see past this point, but it appears a couple more lumber loads off into the distance.

I think a lot depends on the wood and any treatments that it's had already.  Very dark loads are probably pressure-treated in modern day.  In older days, I would expect the darker loads to be creosoted, like I talked about in Part 4 - Bridge Timber Load.  "Dark" Lumber loads (without seeing them) could also be redwood... so there's also that, but often the redwood was worth shipping in boxcars.

Humping Lumber Loads at Taylor Yard

SP Los Angeles Yard (Taylor) with wrecker and F-70 lumber cars - May 4, 1952 David L Abbott photo - PRMA collection

Pretty amazing view from the top of the Hump Yard at Taylor (Los Angeles Yard) sending three lumber loads down the hump into the bowl.  The lighter orange-yellow lumber loads with iron wire or steel bands across the top of the two closest loads are a great help for modeling.  I think the second to the farthest top-tie on the closest car is a 'choker' wire which is tightening the top unit of lumber together, while the other ties are connecting the stakes at each side together, squeezing the load in place.

Modeling Cars & Lumber Loads

Flat Cars

I've already made an extensive SP Flatcar Modeling Index Page which covers all the classes I know that can be modeled or kitbashed in HO outside of brass. - Follow the link above for more information on the cars.  I'm only going to list a couple of classes below, but point out the ones that were often found in lumber loading.

SP 43745 with OwlMtModels 3004 Lumber Load demo.

In the pre-WWII years the SP flat car fleet was dominated by the 3000+ cars of the 50-ton, F-50-4/5/8/9/10/12 series 40ft 10in class.  They were owned by SP, PE, NWP, & T&NO.  The cars also covered the Blackburn Sugar Beet Rack service, drawing cars from T&NO as needed to cover loading on the Pacific Lines.  Over the years the PE cars were absorbed back into the parent SP roster as PE's freight loading dried up.  OwlMtModels also produces and sells kits for these flatcars.

NWP 4474 with 5/6 of a OwlMtModels 3004 Lumber Load kit.

The OwlMtModels 3004 kit is designed for narrow flatcars, specifically the earlier (pre-1918/USRA) cars like SP's F-50-series cars and gondolas.  The kit can be built in many configurations with hundreds of options for the pieces to avoid repeating loads appearing in your trains.  The NWP 4474's load here shows options to reduce the top stack to a single 'unit' of lumber, which greatly changes the look of the load and is prototypically shown in some photos.

SP F-70-7 flatcar (SPH&TS/RedCaboose) with kitbashed OwlMtModels 3001 Lumber Load

It is impossible to be sure, but I'm guessing these cars in the photo on the hump are examples of the 2050 new 1949-built F-70-7 class cars, which started to dominate the SP lumber loading of the 1950s. 


I've already made an extensive SP Gondola Modeling Index Page which covers all the classes I know that can be modeled or kitbashed in HO outside of brass. - Follow the link above for more information on the cars.

SP 151382 with creosoted Bridge Timber load.

Based on a photo in Anthony Thompson's SP Freight Cars, Vol 1 I scratch built this bridge timber load and showed it was constructed in the previous post of Open Loads (Part 4) - Bridge Timber Load.

SP 150143, a composite GS gondola from RedCaboose with OwlMtModels 3004 lumber load.

The OwlMtModels 3004 load also works well in the RedCaboose/IMRC GS gondolas, both composite and steel versions.  The composite cars were generally assigned to sugarbeet and wood chip services, but if the lumber mills needed to move lumber and the chip loading was down, a composite car could be grabbed to move the timber.

Mill Gondolas

The Southern Pacific branched out into 48ft and 50ft mill-type gondolas with G-50-13 and G-50-14 classes.  This was really the only longer gondolas that were owned until the first 70-ton gondolas were built just before WWII and into the post-war years.

SP 94248, kitbashed shortened P2K gondola, before repairs and upgrades in 2022.

The SP 94248 is a shortened Proto2000 gondola.  I built this car in the late 1990s, making it one of my early cars put into service at LMRC.  I also have Speedwitch's SP G-50-13 under construction, so at some point it will have some articles on it and some form of load for it.

Empty SP 94296, part of pilot class G-70-4 of 65ft gondola, I usually load this car with over-length wood or steel loads.

The next classes of SP mill gondolas built were these big 65ft cars.  These cars were primarily used in steel and lumber services.  The 65ft cars really are narrower than more conventional length gondolas, so stacking cut lumber wasn't really suitable.  Instead long narrow timbers, poles/piles, and very long timbers were loaded in these cars, often with idler cars.

SP 160588, G-70-6 with a scratch-built load of pole/piles of debarked trunks.

I used tooth-picks to fashion the round stakes on this load.  The pole/piles really should be tappered.  Now that I have a good lathe, I could dismantle this load, chuck them up, and profile these to look like a proper debarked tree trunk.

Idler Flatcars for Over-length Loads

SP G-70-4/6/9 class gondola and F-50-16 at Walong in 1971 - Charles R Lange

Here's a prototype photo from Charles Lange with a 65ft gondola and two 40ft idler flatcars about 20 years after my modeling era, but the load is timeless, some 90ft approximately telephone poles or piles.

SP 140195, converted Athearn 40ft steel flatcar. Notice the overhanging piles from the adjacent mill gondola.

Many years ago, I put a wood deck on an old Athearn 40ft flatcar to stand-in for SP's 1949 built F-50-16 class of 500 cars.

SP 140234, kitbashed RedCaboose F-70-6/7 into a 40ft F-50-16 class car.

More recently I kitbashed a SPH&TS/RC F-70-6/7 into the shorter flatcar.  I like using these or the OMM F-50-5/8/9/10/12 class as idlers when they're not loaded with lumber.  Foreign cars could also be used as idlers.  I covered this model in a previous blog post - SP 140234 Kitbashed F-50-16 from RC F-70-6/7.

Post-1950 SP Gondolas

Starting in 1951 SP ordered pairs of 52ft 6in mill-type gondolas, the first pair G-70-7 & -8 were built with all-welded construction.  The -7s came with fixed ends and 5ft IH sides, while the -8s came with drop-ends and 3ft IH sides.

SP 160522, kitbashed stand-in SP fixed-end gondola of G-70-7 from MDC/Roundhouse Thrall 52ft gondola.

A number of years ago I kitbashed an MDC/Roundhouse Thrall 50ft gondola.  The ends were replaced, small fish-belly sides were added.  Unfortunately, I didn't have a spare body at the time to increase the height to the proper 5ft, so for this model the stock MDC 4ft IH had to do.  I used spare RC G-50-22/23 ends to replace the much more modern Thrall ends.  Proto2000 trucks were used on this stand-in model.

Tangent SP 160132 with 5/6 of OwlMtModels 3005 kit load

Then a couple years later, Tangent produced a great model, which is correct for SP's G-70-8 of 1951-built 52ft 6in gondolas.  Both G-70-7 and -8 were delivered in an experimental all-black scheme.

Tangent SP 160172 with 5/6 of OwlMtModels 3005 kit load.

By 1953, the next classes of SP 70-ton gondola, the SP returned to FCR for the G-70-12 (3ft IH sides with drop-ends) for their gondolas.  The herald background however also lost the black circle, receiving only the stencil for the herald.  Gondolas like this show up in many of the SP freight train photos.  A similar class (G-70-11, iirc) was built following the G-70-7 standards of fixed ends and 5ft IH sides.

Reloading Foreign Cars with Lumber?!

PRR 373417 with 5/6 of OwlMtModels 3005 kit load - in natural sunlight

Why and how would a Pennsy gondola be reloaded on the west coast with lumber on the SP?  Reloading of  under Service Car Orders on West Coast.  Service Car Orders were issued up to about every two weeks with special instructions on which railroads wanted their cars back ASAP, specific instructions to allow or not allow reloading and directions for such.  In this case, let's look at C507 from 1950.  I don't know for how long this order was in effect, but it shows that it was allowed and at least the following railroads authorized reloading on the west coast.

"Specifically C507, effective May 6, 1950 to Northwestern, Centeral-Western and Southwestern regions, terminal switch lines and GM&O, IC, and Wabash covering gondolas of B&O, BLE, CNJ-CRP, DL&W, Erie, NYC-PLE, NKP-WLE, LV, PWV, PRR, RDG, Union and WM, directing cars of this type of ownership to be sent home empty except cars located west of Continental Divide may be loaded to any destination east and those east of Continental Divide may be loaded to Chicago, Peoria, St. Louis or east."

Specifically interesting to read is the list of railroad owners allowing this action.  Also that this applies (for our purposes here) to the cars that have already reached points west of the Continental Divide, aka, San Diego, Los Angeles, Bay Area, Portland, Seattle, etc.  Most of the traffic from these roads would have been shipping steel materials for the post-war building up of the west-coast cities and even the early Interstate Highway system bridges, etc.  Therefore large numbers of these cars were making empty and were heading back to the eastern US empty, thus a great pressure was applied to find suitable west-coast loads going east to reload them with.

The SCOs often stated things like; "Car may be routed anywhere west of Continental Divide for destinations East of the Mississippi River."  For railroads along the East Coast, hopefully the car is going to find a load somewhere in the western states and loading for going across the country.  This would allow a suitable car to move laterally several hundred miles north or south to find a load, instead of just the division looking around and kicking the car towards home empty on record rights.  I want to do a blog post on freight car forwarding soon too, so I'm not going to go too deep here on that, so we'll come back to SCOs and record rights then.

B&O 259798 Tangent gondola with reloaded OMM 3005 south and eastward load to the Mississippi River and beyond.

Following C507, this B&O gondola could be reloaded with lumber.  So building steel and lumber loads to fit foreign cars like this is a great way to keep them earning money on your model railroad.  

Likewise NKP 66031 with slider available for reloading according to C507.

Proto2000/Walthers makes these great Greenville WWII all-steel mill gondolas for many railroads that bought them.  This is an example of an NKP car with track cleaner that I modified in my previous blog post about Camouflaging Track Cleaning Pads.  I'll probably be using this one on the Jawbone to help keep it clean with various eastern machinery loads to Owenyo.

C507 will also allow me to assign LV 27202 to lumber loading.

There were also smaller mill-type gondolas also fall into this category, such as this USRA 46ft mill gondola, by Walthers Proto-series, as I recall.  I'll probably take each of these cars aside and show examples of loads I have built for their car type, like I did with the SP 151382 with the Open Loads (Part 4) - Bridge Timber Load a couple months ago.

Lumber from Weird Places!

B&O P-11

A Bob's Photos shows a B&O P-11 flat, like 106682 loaded with lumber at San Diego, CA around 1955, I think the photo was in the Railway Cyclopedia issue on open loads.

San Diego received huge lashed log rafts which were sailed down from the Washington and Oregon coast by ocean tugs.  These rafts would be broken up and cut locally at the mills in coastal cities like San Diego.  I assume that the B&O flat made empty locally after dropping off a load of steel or marine machinery at NASCO shipyards, then was quickly grabbed with a load of lumber to send east.  It would be interesting to know if the car was sent east on the Santa Fe via Barstow or on the SD&AE, via Mexico and Campo to El Centro and the Southern Pacific.

I've not built the lumber load for the 106682 yet, but at some point I'll do a separate blog on it when the car is done.


PRR 475260, a Bowser F30A flatcar with OwlMtModels 3001 Lumber Load kit.

I'll also do a follow-up post specifically for the Bowser F30A flatcar with the OwlMtModels 3001 Lumber Load, which would also fall into a C507-type SCO.  While the C507 doesn't call out flatcars, I have seen photos of lumber loads on foreign flatcars in odd places around the west coast, so I believe that there were also similar orders issued for flatcars, like the C507 does for gondolas.

PRR 475260 with OwlMtModels 3001 Lumber Load

This load was fun to build, I went for the shallower sub-stickered load with additional seperating stickers within the lumber units.  I believe I heard somewhere, this was to try to help dry (or keep dry) the lumber load.  This load was a blast to build and also again adds more variety to a train of lumber loads. 

In Closing

Welded SP F-70-10 (SPH&TS/RC) with kitbashed OwlMtModels 3001 to fill length. - Still need to install all the bracing to finish this load and finish up the flatcar too.

Often a lumber mill in the PNW would stack and brace their lumber loads in the same way, but another mill a few miles away might do it differently under a different foreman.  So if you want to simulate loads coming from multiple mills, go ahead and try some new ways to rig the loads... Have some loads with all the stakes, while others are set up with only the minimal AAR required bracing for meeting interchange rules.

I look forward to doing some more single-car/load blog posts to expand this topic, but there's far too many to put all the loads in one post.  I'll probably cover some other types of loads in the future as well.

Jason Hill

Related Articles & Links:

OwlMtModels - 3001 "Wide" Lumber Loads - for post-1918 USRA "Wide" flatcars

OwlMtModels - 3004/3005 "Narrow" Lumber Loads - For gondolas and F-50-series "Narrow" flatcars

Open Loads (Part 4) - Bridge Timber Load - SP 151382 with removable load

SP 140234 Kitbashed F-50-16 from RC F-70-6/7

Freight Car Modeling Index Page - Overview of my modeling posts on freight cars and related topics


  1. An excellent article on lumber loads thank you

  2. Impressive models and weathering, Jason. Thanks for all the great info and keep up the good work.


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