Rolling Stock

Railroads need a variety of freight cars to serve a large number of customers along the right-of-way. Box cars and coal hoppers are among the most numerous, but there are many other types needed in th efleet. A model railroad begins to look more like a railroad model once a quantity of cars are painted and lettered in a similar style. Incorporating a number of different freight car types can enhance this appearance.

The large layout of the Mon Valley Railroad Historical Society needs a large fleet of freight cars to capture the feel and look of a real railroad. Over time, group members have been building up a fleet of box cars, hopper cars, pulpwood flat cars and cabooses that are painted and lettered for the Cumberland, Blackwater & Ohio (CB&O). Scroll through the details below to understand the prototype influences and methodology used in building an ever expanding freight car fleet.


Thee official name of the West Virginian Railway Company


Pullman-Standard PS-1 box car

Prototype: In 1935, the Pullman-Standard Company built a test box car of Cor-Ten steel and welded construction. In tests, it matched the performance of the then standard 1932 design ARA car but had the advantage of being of lighter weight. In 1938, Pullman, encouraged by the success of this test car, introduced a lightweight car utilizing in-house designs based on the 1937 AAR box car design. This car was to be built in assembly line fashion, offering faster delivery times and cost saving advantages to the railroads. The first group went to the Bessemer & Lake Erie, Chicago Great Western and Union Pacific. In 1940, additional orders came from the Nickel Plate, Wheeling & Lake Erie and Pere Marquette. Some developmental changes were made on the latter orders and such changes continued to be made until 1947, although production was seriously diminished by the war effort. These early Pullman-Standard steel-sheathed box cars are often called PS-0’s by students of the freight car.

By 1947, the configuration emerged as the familiar PS-1 design with only minor design changes made by the end of production in 1963. Pullman allowed options in door selection and a number of cars were built with riveted sides, alternate roof, underframe and/or end designs upon the insistence of the purchasing roads, but the thousands of standard PS-1’s, built for more than 78 different railroads, large and small, were essentially identical in design. The first true PS-1’s went to the Lehigh Valley in 1947; the final order went to the Reading in 1963. The PS-1 had a tremendous impact on future box car design and construction.

CB&O 16035, the model: In 1950, the CB&O took delivery of its 16000-series boxcars. These were of the classic standard PS-1 design incorporating all Pullman components, including standard Pullman 7’ doors. These cars were initially restricted to clean-loading service, as indicated by the stenciling to the left of the door. However, they were still given the AAR classification “XM” (X=Box Car, M=General Service). Gradually they were transferred into the general service box car pool as prewar cars were phased out of service. By 1954 only a few remained in restricted service. Most likely, this would be service to wholesale grocers, paper or LCL freight.

Pullman-Standard PS-1 box car

It seems as though every model manufacturer offered a PS-1 at one time or another and, although Accurail offers a data-only version, none were available when we started this box car project. This model is an old Kurtz-Kraft flat kit purchased many years ago at Bill & Walt’s Hobby Shop in Pittsburgh for the grand sum of 69 ¢. Amazingly, this kit is still available from Cannonball Shops, but at a considerably higher price. It remains a very nice HO scale model of a PS-1, having free standing ladders and grabs and accurate detailing. Being a flat kit, this model also makes good kitbash fodder. When Accurail cars become available, they will be given higher numbers in the 16000-series to represent purchase of a different lot. It would seem likely that the CB&O would roster a fair sized fleet of PS-1 box cars.

CB&O 45230

Accurail steel-sheathed box car

The CB&O 45200 series box cars represent a post-WWII purchase of modern boxcars intended to replace aging and war weary cars that hung on into the late forties and early fifties. It is of the classic AAR 1940’s North American, steel-sheathed box car design. The 45230 incorporates the most common components used in the construction of the 1947 AAR design and, as such, can be considered to be one of the most typical box cars of the transition era.

Cars of similar designs were built from the early ‘30s through the mid-‘50s. Freight cars were ever evolving through the first havlf of the 20th Century. Many consider the modern steel-sheathed box car design appeared as the ARA 1932 Standard Design and evolved into the AAR Standard Design as time passed. This design is characterized by all-steel construction, tabbed side sills and flat steel sides formed by riveting individual steel sheets together. Hundreds of thousands of box cars were built to these standards, but many differed from the ARA and AAR Standards to some extent as each railroad applied their preferred hardware variations. Railroads objected to a forced universal design. To preserve its Standard, the ARA/AAR allowed railroads to substitute various hardware components from favored railroad equipment suppliers. Railroads often substituted different roofs, ends, doors, side panel configurations, hand brakes, car height, corner posts or any combination thereof and their box cars still fell within the ARA/AAR Standard. Thus, you could theoretically see an entire train of “standard” box cars with very few alike! Add to this wide mix a raft of earlier box cars ranging across USRA and individual railroad and supplier designed box cars, and you can see why this late steam period is the one of the most popular eras to model.

The Model

Accurail steel-sheathed box car

CB&O 45230 is an Accurail kit of a late ‘40s Standard AAR box car. It has standard 10-panel riveted sides, late dreadnaught ends, diagonal panel roof, steel tread running board, Youngstown doors and 10’6” interior height – probably the most common combination of components of the era. It was lettered with alphabet decals from several sources (some no longer available) plus a Rail Graphics CB&O herald to compliment the lettering on the current fleet of CB&O hoppers on the club layout. The car was reviewed by members in late 2011 and accepted as the standard lettering for CB&O freight cars. Since then, a set of Rail Graphics decals were made to match this scheme and several more data-only Accurail cars of various types have been entering service on the CB&O.

The Accurail cars are a logical choice for our use as they are shake-the-box kits available with data-only lettering. They come in a wide variety of well-proportioned, reasonably accurate body styles that fit the era we are representing and are of robust construction, so they will not succumb to rough handling. Additionally, they are reasonably priced at $12-$15 per model.


CB&O Pulpwood Cars

Pulpwood car in service

Prototype: It is well known by students of the freight car that the Tichy 40’ flat car is an accurate model of a rather obscure Nashville Chattanooga & St. Louis flatcar built in 1923 and 1926. The NC&StL owned 200 of these cars. Only the Atlantic Coast Line, Spokane Portland & Seattle and Canadian National railroads rostered similar cars, however, the Spokane Portland & Seattle, Great Northern, Cotton Belt and Northern Pacific had 52’ cars of this design, while the Texas & Pacific had a 41’ version.

As the ACL found a growing market for forest products during the 40’s and 50’s, the railroad needed specialized cars for pulpwood service. Their solution was to turn to its now obsolete 40’ flatcars to satisfy this demand. It did so by rebuilding at least some of these cars with bulkheads, stripping off the stake pockets and installing new V-slanted steel floors and side sheets. I have no information indicating that any of the NC&StL cars ever were also converted but, if so, they may have looked very much like the ACL cars

Pulpwood was generally a short haul commodity and it can be speculated that pulpwood cars were not used extensively in interchange service during the late steam era. Pulpwood cars of this era were often converted from tired old gondolas and flat cars that otherwise would have been scrapped as being unfit for interchange and these often retained their original K-brake system even beyond the 1953 outlaw date. Research does not show many pulpwood cars built new during this period. However, by the mid-1950’s the pulpwood car population on Northeastern and Southern railroads grew sufficiently that the AAR issued a new class designation : LP (L=special service P=pulpwood) for these cars. This was to eliminate paperwork confusion with logging flats cars (FW, FL, et al). By this time, too, the railroads began ordering new LP’s from the carbuilders.

Tichy pulpwood flat car

The Model: Tichy’s model replicates the ACL conversion quite accurately as Tichy so indicates in their catalogue. It was selected as the basis for a fleet of CB&O pulpwood cars after some membership discussion and the finding, by Mike Hohn, that they would also be the most economical of available HO pulpwood cars. The membership contributed enough to order 24 of the kits. Several members built the fleet after a couple of kit-building clinics at the club. Two different pulpwood load molds were made and the resulting castings were painted by Bill Hudak to complete the project.

“CB&O History”: With the building of the EllaMae paper mill, the CB&O found itself in a similar predicament to that of the ACL. Management was anxious to generate new revenues that were not coal-related and was dedicated to providing a high level of service to the new mill. In 1948, CB&O, aware of the ACL’s conversion program, purchased 25 of the “obsolete” flat cars from the ACL, along with the conversion components. These cars were converted at the Ravenswood CB&O car shops and numbered in the 1000 series. Some of the cars retain their original K-brakes and stem-winder brake wheels as there was no attempt made to modernize the cars other than the conversion to LP’s. These cars normally do not wander off line; however the Western Maryland is willing to accept them when the big paper mill at Luke is running short of pulpwood.

As of the mid-fifties, the small fleet remains intact and continues to soldier in their intended role. The presence of a fleet of era-correct pulpwood car fleet working alongside a fleet of era-correct hoppers adds a considerable amount of credibility to the appearance and operations of the CB&O.

Coal Hoppers

The variety of hoppers the prototype used to move coal from mine to market is astounding. Here's a version of an upgraded car that was rebuilt with new side panels to increase capacity.

panel hopper

The original hopper cars were assigned by the United States Railroad Administration (USRA) in 1919. the CB&O was fortunate to receive nearly 1000 at that time. Here's one that has been rebuilt and repainted in the mid-1930s.

USRA hopper

More to come!

Check out the Locomotives page, or go back to the Layout page