Friday, March 5, 2021

Milk Car Quandry

 One of the dogs has been a little under the weather this week, and she's really not supposed to go up and down stairs - and if I go downstairs and she doesn't, well, let's just say I hear all about it - the constant baying of an angry basset hound is not conducive to getting work done on the layout. 

So I've been spending my hobby time this week upstairs working on a couple of article drafts and finalizing a clinic I'd started putting together back in the pre-Covid days. 

One of the things I've been researching are the creameries, and associated milk cars, along the Richford branch. 

To start with every town along the branch had at least one active creamery. 

Most milk cars were either railroad owned (CV, B&M, etc...) or were private owner cars (GPEX perhaps the most numerous but there were others) leased to various dairy companies (Borden's, Hood, Whiting, etc ...). The leasee names were stenciled on the sides of the car, and, for obvious reasons, you wouldn't find a Hood car spotted at a Whiting creamery (or vice versa). Complicating matters, the specific car number may have been lettered for Whiting one year and Borden's the next! 

My research, using a variety of sources, has led me to:

1. The Richford creamery was an H. P. Hood Creamery at the time I'm modeling. 

2. Enosburg Falls had a creamery (Paul Dolkos has built the model of it for me), New England Dairies that shipped cans of milk in a CV car, so that's covered. 

4. There was also a condensary in Enosburg Falls, but frankly that deserves its own blog post. 

5. Which leads to East Berkshire. I know there was a creamery in East Berkshire, and I know it was a United Farmers Co-Op, since it said so on the side in huge lettering, and it's listed in the CV list of customers for East Berkshire. (Just beneath another creamery!).  

Which leads to the question - what kind of milk cars would be delivered to this creamery? 
And what how would they be lettered? 

I know United Farmers had a couple of cars lettered for them - the 53-foot wood cars that are identical to express reefers without ice bunkers and roof hatches. 
But all the references I can find inidcate these United Farmers cars were in dedicated service on the B&M between Boston and Morrisville, Vt. Walthers even made a two-pack of them - 

Any help/thoughts/references, etc... would be appreciated. At this point I'd settle for a couple of prototype photos showing the United Farmers cars in something other than the round logo scheme on the Walthers models. Tichy makes decals for United Farmers that are more typical of the later era plain green cars with Deluxe lettering - but I can't find a picture of a United Farmers car painted in that scheme!


Stanley Clinard said...

I have a friend who used to work for a creamery years ago. He told me that a creamery took in milk, pasturized the milk, separated the cream and butterfat from the milk, and then cooled the milk, cream and butterfat for further processing. The milk was remixed for the varying products: skim, 1%, 2%, buttermilk, cottage cheese, etc., and then either recanned (in the old days) or put into cartons or jugs. Same with the cream and butterfat, which could be further cooled and processed locally as sour cream or butter, or transported to other processing locations.

His creamery was entirely supplied by local farmers, first in cans, then by milk trailers provided by the creamery on a regular route of dairies. The size of the creamery determined the mode of transport for incoming product.

We know that the United Farmers creamery was supplied to some degree by cans (see picture), and I'm sure by your time frame truck delivery was probably a reality too. I'm inclined to believe that dedicated milk train cars were probably not used, those cars being used to move milk to big cities processing centers. I base that gut-feeling on the probability that milk trains wouldnt do one or two car set offs for local creameries, and noticing that that New England Dairy was listed as a Dairy Products storage facility.

Operationally you could create a scenario where New England Dairy could sell raw milk to United Farmers on the spot market with local delivery by truck, or CV owned milk car (think LCL movement between the two locations). United Farmers could use CV owned milk cars to transport product to Morrisville for transfer to the Morris-Boston connection. That would give you a location with milk cans, a milk tanker and a CV milk car (with multiple waybill posibilities).

Anonymous said...

Many years ago, New England Rail Service (Don Valentine) produced a set of milk tank car decals for the likes of the Intermountain steel car. The notes state: "The only steel GPEX cars it is known to have leased were three 6,000 gallon cars numbered #1040-1042." I would guess that these replaced the 53ft wood cars (such as the Walthers ones) if the Morrisville VT creamery went from cans to bulk shipments.

I also infer from some other sources that United Farmers sold its milk to Hoods, but I could be wrong about this. If so, a Hoods car would be appropriate.

Charles said...

I researching a line in WNY state, I found that some of creameries never had any milk cars or milk-related cars as traffic (during the same periods you are researching). After all my research, it turns out the customer only received incoming coal from the railroad as boiler fuel. Nothing else in or out. Just a thought.

Glenn Annis said...

There's a photo in the Library of Congress of and earlier United Farmers wooden car in the old style lettering @ Morrisville in 1936. Unfortunately it's only the left half but it's a start.
Glenn Annis

Rob said...

Following up on my (Anonymous) comment above. Several years ago, Dwight Smith published a summary of milk shipments that traveled via the B&M in 1948, including those originating on other roads. His information showed two shippers in East Berkshire: HP Hood (48 tank cars) and Whiting (42 tank cars). In comments regarding the Smith research, Don Valentine noted that Whitings bought milk from several dairies on the CV, so depending on era, one could use the 40 foot post-WWII steel cars that Whitings leased from GPEX or one of the 50 foot wood (former can) cars that had been converted to carry two 3000 gallon tanks. (#698 shows in a 1955 consist headed ultimately for Randolph.)

Lance Burton said...

The definitive work so far is Robert Mohowski's "Milk Cans, Mixed Trains and Motor Cars." Looks like copies aren't too hard to find online. While it focuses in the NYO&W, he also covers production facilities and both can and tank cars in depth.

Typically, small town creameries were only local collection points, receiving milk in cans brought in by farmers themselves, early morning all-stops locals and later from bulk tank trucks serving multiple contracted farms. Milk was tested and graded here, A for drinking, or B for any off color or flavor that could be sold for baking, candy, cheese, ice cream and similar product. These facilities would steam clean the farmer's cans and return them. Milk was then cooled and transferred to the dairy's own cans or pumped into tank cars picked up by a faster passenger train and moved to a bigger city where processing and bottling was done. In general terms this required a minimum of three cars; one loading locally, one unloading in the bigger market city and one returning empty.

A condensary was a separate operation, located where a surplus of milk was readily available. These facilities boiled off some of the water, producing "canned" or "condensed milk."

Roundhouse also produced HO models of the MDT milk tank cars around 2005.