Freight Car Friday – Erie Cars

26 10 2012

This is the time of year when all of our thoughts turn to things spooky. So for this week’s feature let’s look at some Erie freight cars – the Erie Railroad that is!


The Erie’s paint scheme was simple but classy. The railroad heavily favored Pullman Standard for its freight car orders.

The railroad was chartered in 1832 and the line reached the shores of its namesake lake at Dunkirk, NY in 1851. The decision to build the line to a very broad six-foot gauge had both good and bad consequences for the future of the railroad. In the long run, even though the railroad would eventually be narrowed to standard gauge, the extra clearances afforded by the broad construction gave the Erie and its successors the best clearances in the East.

This engineering also greatly increased construction costs however. The Erie was the first major trunk line to declare bankruptcy in 1859, and the company always seemed to be playing catch-up to its many large rivals in the region. An old Vaudeville joke even went, “I have to get to Chicago in the worst way!” “Take the Erie.”


The Erie handled coal too, but nearly on the volume of its competitors in the region.

There were of course some good years through the history of the railroad, and many of its great engineering achievements are still marvels of railroading today. The Erie officially disappeared in 1960 when it merged with neighbor and partner, Delaware Lackawanna and Western to form the Erie Lackawanna. The combined systems were a much leaner and more efficient operation that managed to hold on until Hurricane Agnes wiped out large portions of the line in 1973.

The property became part of Conrail in 1976 and significant portions of the old Erie are now owned by roads including Norfolk Southern and many regional carriers.


The railroad used its well-graded mainline and friendly western connections to expedite produce shipments to New York markets in solid trains of refrigerated cars.

With its good clearances and access to many manufacturing centers, the Erie had a wide range of rolling stock. From boxcars of all sizes, to heavy-duty flatcars for large loads, the Erie’s roster was filled with the sublime and the incredible.


The Erie had a large roster of both conventional and specialized flatcars to serve the heavy industries located along its lines.

The railroad’s specialized flatcar fleet was among the most long-lived. Many of the cars lasted well into Conrail years before retirement.

In other areas, the Erie had little money or reason to invest in modern equipment. Its hoppers were all of the smaller 55 ton variety. Its boxcar fleet was also dominated be shorter 40′ designs. Many of these cars were replaced or retired during the Erie Lackawanna years.

While the Erie railroad’s history was rocky and at times a bit scary if you were an investor, there was nothing haunting about their equipment. From its simple but classy paint scheme, to strings of produce cars rushing east behind a Mikado, to a towering transformer on a heavy-duty flatcar, Erie trains were a class act. And although often overshadowed by its larger competitors, the Erie was a proud line that deserves a little more credit than it usually receives for its role in railroading history.



3 responses

27 10 2012
john Tingle

Lionel. Re. CC yelow passanger cars. Will they have vestibules as the originals? Tks. J tingle

30 10 2012

Yes, the cars are vestibule equipped.

30 10 2012
john Tingle

Good new! Just like the originals. Thanks for replying. Jt

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: