Freight Car Friday – Strange and Unusual Part 2

16 05 2014

Sure there are many freight cars that look alike and many versions of cars that only the “rivet counters” can tell apart. But every now and again something completely different passes by in a train to reward the watcher who doesn’t put their lens cap back on as soon as the locomotives go past. We featured four of these odd characters on a Freight Car Friday post in 2012. This week, let’s look at a few more specialty cars that have evolved to meet the unique needs of customers.

Calcium Carbide Car

calcium carbide

CCKX 720 carries an interesting load of calcium carbide casks through Nebraska.

The small casks on this car look similar to the coke casks available for Lionel’s scale gondola car. The load isn’t coke however,  but calcium carbide (CAC2).

Calcium carbide is primarily used in the making of acetylene. This is created when the calcium carbide is mixed with water – hence the dangerous when wet placards on the containers. Calcium carbide is also used in some steel making operations. Toy collectors may also know it from its use in some toy cannons.

Thirty small 5,000 pound casks are loaded on a flatcar and tied down with four large covers. Although hard to see, there are small bulkheads at the ends of the car to keep the loads from shifting. When they arrive at their destination, the casks can be placed on top of a small tower and emptied from the bottom hopper.

Notice that each container and the flat car carry warning placards. The flatcar is also labeled “DO NOT HUMP.” The reporting marks belong to Carbide Industries. This car was spotted heading east along the edge of Union Pacific’s massive yard in North Platte, Nebraska.

Can Stock Car

Canstock car

CSX 504123 shows its offset door.

All boxcars look alike? Not really. While it was traditionally the railroads’ catch-all car, boxcars have become increasingly specialized since the 1960s. Whether it’s a giant high-cube for auto parts, or a kaolin car with roof hatches, the demands of different loads can create many interesting construction variations. One of the more rare modifications to boxcars are a select few customized for can stock service.

Can stock is, as the name implies, thin steel or aluminum used primarily in making metal cans. Unlike other steel coils carried in coil cars or gondolas, these are best transported by boxcar. In order to maximize the payload in these cars, the B&O went to Pullman Standard with a request for new cars in 1972. Moving both doors closer to one end of the car better accommodated the lift trucks and pushed the capacity to 8 coils from 6.

With the doors both offset toward the “A” end of the car (without the brake wheel) a plexiglass panel was added to the roof near the “B” end to allow some light in to the far end of the car. These panels were later replaced as along with the light, they also let in water.

Only 75 of these offset door cars were built. Over the years they have worn B&O, Chessie and CSX emblems.

Vinegar Tank Car

Vinegar Tank

SBIX 1634 is preserved at the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis.

Looking like something from another era, wood-sided tank cars remained the best mode of transportation for vinegar well into the mid-1900s.

Vinegar is highly corrosive to metal and would have destroyed the early steel tank cars. Today, special liners can be applied to prevent this problem. Steel was used for the frame and bulkheads however which gave the car the structural integrity necessary to be handled in trains of all-steel cars. Although not all cars were painted this way, the silver paint seen on SBIX 1634 was a common way of keeping the contents cooler by reflecting the sun’s rays.

At least three vinegar tanks survive in museums in St. Louis, Toronto and North Freedom, Wisconsin.

Hot Ingot Car

hot ingot car

Looking like something out of a Sci-Fi movie, LHFX 25000 carries a steel ingot fresh from the furnace.

The steel industry is a haven for interesting railroad equipment. These hot ingot cars are no exception! Looking like something designed to haul top-secret military loads or nuclear material, it’s just hot steel now. But when Lehigh Heavy Forge is finished, that steel could easily be headed to a Navy yard or nuclear power plant.

Lehigh Heavy Forge operates out of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. They are the only open-die forging company in the Western Hemisphere and produce an amazing variety of heavy forged parts for power generation, the military and industrial applications. Formed in 1997, the company carries on the rich steel legacy in this historic steel town.

The special steel used in many of their applications is produced not far away in Steelton, PA. The ingots are shipped hot to Bethlehem for forging. These heavy cars, originally belonging to Bethlehem Steel, carry the ingots inside well insulated covers. The cars can also be used to ship product to other regional mills for finishing. Because of the time-sensitive nature of the loads, it was not uncommon for Conrail or Norfolk Southern to run a dedicated train or place the cars on the head-end of priority intermodal trains to get them to their destination quickly.

Lehigh Heavy Forge has a handful of cars like this, but in classic steel industry tradition, no two are exactly the same. They would certainly make an interesting, and challenging, modeling project.

Cars like those seen this week are a great example of what makes freight cars such a great learning tool. What starts off as a curious car in a passing train can open a window into the history and operations of a whole new industry. What will the next train teach you?


New Product Spotlight – 0-4-0 Switchers

27 08 2012

The Pennsylvania’s A5s switcher was a tremendous powerhouse for its size. Designed for switching around the tight curves and clearances of industrial districts in Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York, the A5s is the perfect prototype for layouts with sharp curves.

Prototype History

no. 112

6-11379 No. 112 features the Pennsy’s Futura lettering in vogue in tne 1930s

The Pennsylvania Railroad began building its A5s switchers in 1916. The locomotives featured superheaters, and larger cylinders and fireboxes than the A4 which preceded it. The locomotives actually produced more tractive effort than larger B class (0-6-0) locomotives on the rails at the time. The last was built in 1924. These would be the final Pennsy o-4-0s.

No. 94

6-11380 A5s No. 94 is the sole survivor of her class.

Some of the earliest diesel and diesel-electric locomotives offered a strong competition to these little steam locomotives. These diesels were not only much more efficient, they were also much more urban-friendly with their lack (at least relative to a steam locomotive) of smoke. Still, several A5s toiled on into the 1950s. One, No. 94, was selected for preservation in the railroad’s historic collection. The locomotive survives today and is on display at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg.

Lionel Models

Beth Steel

6-11383 The compact A5 design is well suited to the confines of a steel mill.

Based on K-Line tooling, this latest release of the A5s is in our Conventional line, offering an affordable and compact yet good-looking locomotive that can run on any layout. This latest release features Conventional Railsounds and a synchronized mechanically puffing smoke unit. With a powerful flywheel-equipped motor, metal body, frame and pilot and traction tires, this little champ will pull for you like it did for the Pennsy.

Additional features include:

  • Union Pacific

    6-11385 For those who like roads west of the Mississippi, we’re offering UP and ATSF versions also.

    Transformer controlled Forward / Neutral / Reverse operation

  • Front and rear magnetic couplers
  • Operating headlight
  • Engineer figure and other separately applied details
  • Die-cast metal tender body and trucks
  • Sound controls inside tender water hatch
  • Realistic coal load

6-11382 Spook up your switching with the Transylvania switcher this Halloween.

The switchers are available in two numbers for the Pennsy: No. 94 the survivor, and No. 112 in the 1930s Futura lettering. Additional roads include Bethlehem Steel (this compact brute is perfect as a mill shifter!), Santa Fe, Union Pacific and Transylvania (the perfect complement to your Halloween layout.)

A5 Pilot

Pilot Model A5

The locomotives will negotiate O-27 curves. MSRP is $449.99. Look for these to steam into dealers’ shelves this fall.

For an early look, here are a few views of the unpainted pilot model. Fans of later years on the Pennsy will no doubt notice we’ve updated the headlight to a more modern electric version over the catalog art.




Cab and backhead details