Freight Car Friday – Pacific Car and Foundry

11 07 2014

Pacific Car and Foundry, best known in its later years for its mechanical refrigerators and insulated boxcars, had its roots in the logging industry. The small company has had ties to major carbuilders and projects but for most of its history was a family business.

log car

It should come as no surprise that PC&F’s first freight cars would serve the logging industry.

The Pacific Car and Foundry name first appeared in 1917 as a result of a merger between the Seattle Car and Foundry Company and its top regional competitor, Twohy Brothers Company. The corporate history however dates back to as early as 1901 when William Pigott first established the Railway Steel & Supply Company.

This firms first railcars were logging disconnects. These cars were not much more than trucks which were placed beneath either end of a large log. The first skeleton log cars came in about 1908 under the Hercules trade name. These cars were much safer than the disconnects yet still had a much lower tare weight than conventional flat cars.

SP 691752

PC&F’s “Beer Cars” are one of their more common designs. For a view of the opposite side of this car, see last month’s blog on the subject.

Logging cars would continue to make up the majority of sales for the then Seattle Car and Foundry Company from 1911 through the merger in 1917. Total production had averaged less than 800 cars per year. Shortly after the merger however, the new United States Railway Administration delivered the company an order for 2000 boxcars.

In the 1920s, the company began to develop two different but successful product lines. Its Renton plant continued to turn out quality products in large quantities for the logging industry. Increasingly however, the trucks were of the rubber-tired variety. Meanwhile its Portland plant had developed a successful line of refrigerator rail cars.


Lionel reefer

A PC&F car originally built for Pacific Fruit Express served as the prototype for Lionel’s O and S scale models.

American Car and Foundry acquired PC&F in 1924 but the company continued to operate and market its cars under its own name. Pigott’s sons, William J. and Paul, bought the company back from ACF in 1934. That decade would challenge every car builder of course, but PC&F remained intact. Declining car sales were offset by ventures into other manufacturing and corporate diversification from the 1930s through the 1960s. Following ACF control, the primary railcar product remained reefers. Notable among the other operations was the structural steel division which produced steel for Seattle’s Space Needle and New York’s World Trade Center.


Although best known for insulated boxcars and reefers, PC&F also built cars for other service. This auto parts car is one example.

The third generation of the Pigott family, Paul’s son Charles, assumed control of the company upon his father’s death in 1961. In 1972, PC&F was reorganized as PACCAR, and Pacific Car and Foundry became a division within the company and continued to build freight cars until 1984. Although the company is no longer serving the rail industry, PACCAR remains a major supplier for its trucking competition.

Although they have been out of production for thirty years or more, many of PC&F’s boxcars and reefers can still be found roaming the rails. A few earlier examples of their craftsmanship have found their way into museums.

New Product Spotlight – 2 Truck Shays

14 05 2012

The Shay is one of those locomotives that’s just impossible not to like. They are as impressive as they are intriguing. Even compared to other geared steam locomotives, they are in a class by themselves.


6-11368 Western Maryland

Although most Shays were owned by private companies, a few were rostered by common carrier railroads, most notably the Western Maryland.

First designed by Ephraim Shay in 1877, the Lima Locomotive Works would go on to build 2,770 of the unique “stemwinders” between 1880 and 1945. Although the company is probably best remembered for its Super Power Berkshires and other modern locomotives, the importance of the Shay for Lima and railroading in general can not be overstated.

The Shay came in many sizes. Usually custom-built for each customer, their overall size, weight, gauge and power depended on the unique situations they were built to handle. The locomotives normally enjoyed very long and productive careers, and over time the owners were known to make many modifications and by any means available. If there was such a thing as a “typical” Shay, it would look a lot like Lionel’s two-truck model.

6-11365 Weyerhauser

Large lumber companies like Weyerhaeuser rostered many Shays for work from the mountain to the mill.

The Shay’s two powered trucks provided both great traction from the geared driveshaft connection to three vertical pistons and a flexible foundation that helped the locomotive negotiate sharp curves and rough track. Their fireboxes were not picky eaters and most could burn oil, coal or wood. A siphon pump was a common add-on to refill the tender from mountain streams. The locomotives were well adapted to life in the wilderness or hostile industrial environments.

LEGACY and Conventional Shays

Lionel is pleased to offer a model of this fascinating locomotive in a size that will fit any layout. Like the prototype, this locomotive is built to handle tight curves – O-31 curves to be exact! This little logger will look awesome climbing the grades and tight “S” curves through your mountains, whether it’s hauling a load of big timber or tourists.

log car

Logging railroads’ freight cars were often as unique as their locomotives! Lionel’s “skeleton” log cars are the perfect complement to the Shay.

The Shay is being offered in two versions and 9 roadnames. LEGACY models include Bethlehem Steel, Canadian Pacific, Meadow River Lumber, Pickering Lumber, Weyerhaeuser, Western Maryland and Shay-haven Cass Scenic. Conventional models are available in Elk River and Sugar Pine Lumber Companies.

Both versions feature a powerful motor with flywheel, traction tires, metal body, frame and pilot, operating front and rear couplers, removable coal bunkers (for access to sound controls), opening cab roof vent, engineer figure and numerous other seperate details. The Conventional locomotive also features transformer controlled forward / neutral / reverse operation, conventional Railsounds, a fan driven smoke unit, and operating headlight. The Conventional locomotives retail for $749.99.

6-11363 Cass

Cass Scenic Railway has introduced the Shay to new generations of enthusiasts. No. 3 would look great pulling a few gondolas filled with passengers!

LEGACY versions feature the LEGACY control system and can run on LEGACY, TMCC or Conventional control, Odyssey II speed control, LEGACY Railsounds with Crew Talk, dyna-chuff with 32 speed levels, bell, quillable whistle, interactive trip Sequence control and fuel and speed dialog. The locomotives also feature directional headlight and back-up light, lighted classification lights, cab interior and flickering firebox. The fan-driven smoke unit has adjustable output. And there are loads of separately applied details. LEGACY units retail for $899.99.

All of these locomotives should be rolling out to your dealers later this month. Don’t forget to pick up a few of our logging buggies and cabooses to complete the train!

Freight Car Friday – Logging Cars

16 12 2011

The logging industry depended on railroads for much of the 19th and 20th Centuries – not only to get products to the markets but to get the timber off the mountain. These lines were among the steepest, twisted and roughest rails in the country, and they required special equipment to do the job.


The flatcar, car of choice for moving logs over regular rails, was often more car than necessary in the backwoods.

Mention logging railroads and the first thing that comes to mind is probably the unique and odd geared steam locomotives that trod the forests. But trailing those engines were trains of equipment just as distinctive and unique to the industry. The obvious car of choice for hauling logs was the basic flatcar. The open platform was a versatile vehicle for loading rough logs, or finished lumber.

skeleton car

The skeleton log car was more efficient in mountain operations.

For the backwoods however, even the simple flatcar was more car than necessary. Many companies eliminated the deck all-together. With nothing more than a frame, these skeleton cars were much lighter – allowing heavier loads – and easy to unload. Some roads went even further and eliminated all but the trucks! These little buggies, called disconnects, were placed under the ends of the logs, allowing the tree itself to be the car.

AF log car

Some logging cars were specially equipped to help with unloading.

When trains reached the mill, logs were usually unloaded into a log pond where they could be sorted before cutting. Some cars were equipped with moveable decks to assist in the process. Smaller cars simply required removal of the chains and a push from machinery on the ground.

In the rough and isolated environment of the timber lands, rail cars were often home-built and modified as necessary to keep them running on a dime. They make great modeling opportunities for those who like to add a little extra detail or weathering to their cars. Just because the engine is the star of the show, the train isn’t over when it passes by!