Hercules Powder Co. wood refrigerator car

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by Fluesheet, Jun 14, 2007.

  1. Fluesheet

    Fluesheet Member

    I spotted this item in the announcements section of Model Railroader a couple issues back. I sometimes use the company's product, and plus I have a penchant for 40' wood box cars, so I picked one up. The car is offered by Philadelphia Division and is based on an Accurail kit. More info can be found here: Model Railroader Magazine - Model Railroading, Trains, Track Plans - News and products for the week of February 22, 2007

    One thing that caught me somewhat off guard after receiving it was it's build date - 1949. Because of the wood construction, I expected it to have an earlier build date than it does. I've narrowed my interest down to cars you might see on the railroads in the late thirties, so I'll have to ignore this "anomaly" (obviously, I didn't do any research before buying! :mrgreen: )

    In hindsight, my guess is that wood was used for safety - when storing gun powders, you want to use a vessel that will come apart prior to too much pressure building up inside (the latter is often referred to as a "bomb").

    Attached Files:

  2. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I can't see the roof, is it an ice bunker reefer? They were built out of wood for quite a few years after the rest of the rolling stock was converted to steel because it took a while to figure out how to insulate steel boxes. The other reason to use a wood or composite car for gun powder is that at temps above 90 degrees, it can get very unstable, and the temp inside a steel boxcar sitting in the sun on a hot day can easily exceed 140 degree f!

    I once went on a service call for a refrigerated trailer loaded with blank 50 caliber amunition used for stunts in the movie industry. I was advised that 85 degrees was critical temp for stability. Above 85 degrees could tend to produce a BIG BOOM! Old tanker probably knows a lot more about this subject than I do.
  3. Bones

    Bones Member

    Beautiful car, beautiful product, beautiful company. I grew up reloading with Hercules, and own 5-6 of these cars.

    As for stability issues... You don't really have any possibility of spontaneous combustion until you reach temps of 350 degress+ (depending on powder). It's a matter of the power being sensitive to temperature; chemically. Low temperature and high temp swings tend to brake down nitrocelulose based gun powders. Thus altering their reliablility, burn rate, density, and flash point.
  4. GN.2-6-8-0

    GN.2-6-8-0 Member

    Seem's to me way back in the day Train Miniatures released one of these cars but with fancier graphics.
    Really loved TM cuz they had a large selection of wood Beer cars that i enjoyed collecting
    Once ran a 25 car beer/wine consist through a town on a friends layout and the population on either side of the track for two blocks got a bit tipsy....sign1
  5. Bones

    Bones Member

    Wow... how could I miss that....
    "For Nitrate of Ammonia and Nitrate of Soda Loading Only"

    I have powder cars, this particular car was used for explosives. Totally different beast, and a perfect explanation of why it was kept cool.
  6. Fluesheet

    Fluesheet Member

    I had to go down and get the car - I also bought another refrigerator car at the same time that had it's ice doors blanked off, I could recall which was which. Pictures below...

    The graphics seem a little dull to me, but I'm not certain what the real thing looked like (except on powder cannisters), so I can't really pass judgement on it.

    Bones, I too really like the Accurail models. They offer a good selection of older cars and they are a good value (in spite of being made in the states!)

    Attached Files:

  7. ed acosta

    ed acosta Member

    Hercules Powder Company

    I would like to know more about the Hercules Powder Company. A few years ago I bought this tank car at a swap meet. It didn't come with the box and I could not find any manufacturer's identification. I did modify it slightly by including KD couplers and sprung trucks. Can anyone identify the manufacturer of this model? What sort of chemicals were transported in the prototype?

    -Ed Acosta


    Attached Files:

  8. GN.2-6-8-0

    GN.2-6-8-0 Member

    Huh! I've been in this hobby for 30 years and never came across a Hercules Powder co. tank car.
    Is it possibly a custom decal job? pretty sure Champ Decals had a set available.
  9. Bones

    Bones Member

    Ed, here's your prototype, now in Walter Haffner Company paint. (The car's original paint)

    I can't read anything on the car itself to identify what the contents would be. Due to a wide variety of products coming out of the Hercules plant, there were also a wide variety of ingredients. So, 'hazarding' a guess is a little difficult.

    As for the manufacturer, the prototype was built in 1920 by the American Car & Foundry Company. (8179 gallons)
    The model looks like a Roundhouse design to me. I'm not positive, but it looks just like the kits they used to sell in fairly good quantities.
  10. Fluesheet

    Fluesheet Member

    Interesting. Before buying this car, I wouldn't have thought such a "niche" manufacturer (Hercules) would have generated this many models - not common by any means, but more numerous than I expected.
  11. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    That tankcar looks very much like a few that I have from Pemco, although it appears to have been upgraded with an Athearn brake wheel stand, and more finely detailed ladders. I believe Tyco and possibly LifeLike (Proto-no-thousand) also marketed the same car. The give-away is the AB valve moulded into the underside of the walkway. The brake cylinder and air reservoir are also moulded as part of the tank.

  12. DeckRoid

    DeckRoid Member

    Hey Ed, I found this online.

    The Alliant Powder Story

    Transporting gunpowder in a tanker car. Do you give your crew 'danger pay'?
  13. wjstix

    wjstix Member

    I assume it's the chemicals used to make the gunpowder being shipped in tank cars (like the ammonia shipped in the reefer) not the finished product, which was shipped in crates in boxcars I believe. (I remember an old serial movie from the 30's-40's where the bad guys are being chased in a car and have a case of Hercules Powder Co. dynamite, they take one stick out at a time and light them and throw them back at the good guys chasing them!!)

    Champ and/or Walthers made Hercules tank car decals for many years, hard to tell if this one is done with decals or came decorated that way. If you look around you can find more modern Hercules tank cars and covered hoppers available in HO.

    BTW I suspect many model cars available (the old MDC boxcars for example) are "foobie" cars using tank car lettering to approximate what a Hercules boxcar or reefer or whatever might have / could have looked like. I could be wrong, but I don't remember ever seeing a pic of a real Hercules car except tank cars and covered hoppers??
  14. Bones

    Bones Member

    I avoided posting this until now, to avoid hijacking this thread. It looks like quite a few people are interested in Hercules Powder Comanpy, though.

    One sad, but true fact about this company is the claim to one of the most horrific explosions ever seen in North America.
    Hercules Factory Explosion, Kenvil, New Jersey 1940

    Well, I had hoped to get some more information here. It's proving more difficult than I thought...
  15. Uintah Dave

    Uintah Dave Member

    When I saw that ad in MR I said to my wife, I have to have one of those!!!! Being a miner I use explosives all the time. Coincidentally last week I was in an old part of the mine and found a Hercules powder box lid, a really rare find! If you go to the Pennsylvania Division website they have a short history of the wood reefer.
    Rail Links

  16. wjstix

    wjstix Member

    Blasting and mining do go together, I have a DM&IR timetable from the 70's that lists a Hercules Powder Co. warehouse as an iron range customer served by the Missabe.

    BTW one interesting thing I remember seeing in a mining museum was a big metal box hanging from the mineshaft ceiling with numerous round holes in it. This was for thawing out dynamite sticks, you stuck the sticks of dynamite into the box and then placed a lit candle inside the box!!
  17. GN.2-6-8-0

    GN.2-6-8-0 Member

    Using candles to thaw out Dynamite?.....Holy Nitro batman :eek:
  18. Uintah Dave

    Uintah Dave Member

    I've heard several stories of dynamite warmers going off. Not in the last 80 years or so.
  19. toptrain1

    toptrain1 Member

    Hercules Tank Car

    The tank car photo in reply 8 is made by Mantua Metal Products. Here is a photo of one I have. Also MDC (Roundhouse) made old time box cars for Hercules powder Co.

    Attached Files:

  20. ed acosta

    ed acosta Member

    Thank you, TopTrain1!
    The Hercules tank car I have is obviously a Mantua shell on an Athearn frame and that is what made identification so difficult. Much obliged for the photo.

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