Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Boxcar Percentages through White River Jct.

A few years back several members of the Central Vermont Railway Historical Society tabulated the total number of boxcars (and only boxcars) going through White River Jct, VT over a several day period in 1954. (The period and locale were chosen because there were relatively complete train lists for that period of time).
I thought this might help guide the creation of an accurate freight car fleet for the layout (by percentage of road name) so I was very interested in the results. After looking the resulting data I'm not convinced it's helpful for modeling purposes.
The sample total was 3,605 cars. There were about 60 or different reporting marks represented (basically, name a North American railroad of the time and it appeared at least once ...)
By far the most common roadname, with more than 50% of the total, was Canadian National. Since the CV was a subsidiary of the CN, that was not really all that much of a surprise. 
I prepared the somewhat useless pie chart above to have an image with the blog posting - I'm afraid there's little useful data to be gleaned from it - except that if you go with a statisical approach to a modeled fleet 3/4 or so of the fleet should be made up of boxcars from the 10 railroads listed.

The table below shows the breakdown by roadname of most of the remaining 55+ reporting marks.

Each accounted for far fewer cars - or for a total so small it was insignificant.
I noted the percentage of the total by roadname didn't come even remotely close to reflecting the national fleet, although the totals seem to reflect some regional "bias" (greater percentages of New England/Northeastern region road names, but not by much). I was especially shocked at how few NYC and PRR cars (based on the % of these roads rosters compared with the national fleet at the time) appeared in our sample data.
Not sure what I learned from this exercise, except that out of a fleet of 100 boxcars fully half should be CN, with almost any other road name represented as long as you don't include too many of any one road name. The thing is, if one were to model a roster to these percentages and then compare the resulting trains to prototype photos, the result may be defendable as somewhat "authentic," but I don't think they'd look right!


Pierre Oliver said...

I think you've encountered a clash between personal bias and reality. I don't find any of those numbers surprising, not that I'm a traffic expert. And you may also be experiencing a skewing of the data due to the season.

CVSNE said...

A seasonal fluctuation wouldn't surprise me.
I'm not surprised at all by the overwhelming majority of CN cars - I am a little surprised by the relatively small percentage of PRR and NYC when you consider these two roads (and ATSF, SP, MILW) accounted for a third of the North American boxcar fleet. No personal bias on my part - Just reporting the figures and making some off the cuff observations about the results! - Marty

Pierre Oliver said...

This is going to come out as clunky phrasing, but bear with me.
Based upon wheel reports I have seen from Canadian roads your lack of NYC and PRR is not surprising to me. CNR and CPR, who had huge fleets of boxcars, 3rd and 4th or 4th and 5th depending on how you read the data, had far different percentages in their trains than you would see on US roads. Generally you would see 90% CNR and 10% all other North American roads in a normal CNR manifest. That number of course can vary greatly, but it's a good starting point.
Traffic patterns in and out of Canada just didn't follow the same patterns we've come to know in the US. Customs regulations play a part, along with the reality that CNR and CPR were the only true transcontinental roads in North America.
And my choice of words, "personal bias" may have been poor. There's the "what I hoped to see" vs what the hard numbers say issue that I believe you're contending with.
At this point I think defining what "looking right" would really be is at the crux of the conversation.
Or you could use this as an opportunity to modify a slew of Red caboose boxcars into Canadian prototypes. Des PLaines has the ladders, Black Cat has awesome decals and Sylvan still casts the correct roofs and ends. Have at her! :-)

Ryan Mendell said...

The number that sticks out to me is the MEC totals. While not a big road it is a NE rail road. I would have it thought that its totals would have been similar to the B& M.

CVSNE said...

Just for fun I totaled up my inventory of cars - currently CN boxcars account for 20% of my total higher than I thought it was going to be but I clearly need to add some more to the fleet.
I have the parts and decals to do a slew of Red Caboose 1937 boxcar conversions/details. I've also got more than one or two of the True Line Trains cars -the ladders aren't quite as fine as the Des Plaines parts, but they're not overly objectionable and they have the unique "Canadian" ends.
I do need to increase the total of Single sheathed cars from the present total of two!
I have a few Sylvan kits, as well as Speedwitch and Westerfield Fowlers on the "to build" stack. They will move up in the priority list.
One problem - I had a five pack of Sylvan CN cars take the brunt of the water when we had the leaky pipe back in March. The cars themselves are okay, but the instructions, box, and worse of all, decals were completely destroyed.
What is a good source for ordering Black Cat decals? Which set would you recommend for those cars?

CVSNE said...

Two things might be affecting the apparent lower percentage of MEC cars. First, is the location - White River was the CV's division point and the site of a lot of interchange with the B&M. Second would be the flow of traffic in and out of New England - the MEC had connections with CP in St Johnsbury and could access Canadian markets without touching the CV's rails.
Thanks for writing, appreciate the comment!

Bernie said...

Good analysis. It is always fun to find unexpected results.

Pierre Oliver said...

Best way to order Black cat is direct.
There's an address and a phone number there.
I believe the set you're looking for is, CNR505978
Your ratio of 36' SS to steel cars should be about 50%, BTW. CNR had a HUGE fleet of "Fowlers"