Rolling stock & a Big Boy

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by onceler, Aug 23, 2005.

  1. onceler

    onceler Member

    Forgive me if this has been answered already, I tried to search but couldn't come up with anything.

    I am getting back into the hobby after a 10 year hiatus and building my first major layout. I currently have a Riverossi Big Boy (bought around '92) as well as a Athearn Genesis Challenger (#3985). I would like to assemble a decent collection of rolling stock that these two beasts might have pulled. I have tried looking at pictures, but most pictures focus on the locomotive only. From my research, the Big Boys started service in 1941 and the last one was retired in '62. The last freight was pulled in '59. My questions are..

    - What type of freight did these pull?
    - What road names were around in this era?
    - How can I tell if say a UP boxcar fits in with this era?
    - What color passenger cars did the Challengers pull back in the day? (Overland grey or UP yellow)?
    - Is the current challenger pulling heavyweight or streamlined cars? (I believe it is streamlined, but I'm sure there are some people on here that know for sure).

    I should also say I am not a true stickler for proper modeling. I love UP steam, but I also like what I grew up with.. BN and the CB&Q (thanks to my uncle on that one). The model I am building is a building is a ficticious layout where I can run these types of trains. I would, however, like to eventually piece together a more "authentic" freight for the big steam to pull.


  2. 2slim

    2slim Member

    Welcome back to the hobby, and to the Gauge! I'll give you some feedback, however mine is certainly not the last word on the subject. First I'd like to suggest a book which will do a lot for your research it's called 'Modelling Railroads of the 1950's' it's just out and if you go to Model Railroader magazines website you can see what it looks like and order it if you want. With the exception of Autoracks, Centerbeam lumber cars, Spine cars and Intermodal stack trains the types of freight carried hasn't changed too drastically. The size of the freight cars has!! Typical freight cars of the 50's were 40' to 50' with some exceptions being piggyback flat cars which were as long as 75'. Covered grain hoppers were fairly new as most grain was loaded into boxcars with temporary half walls inside the doors. A invaluable aid to my reasearch was a bound volume of Trains magazine from 1959. The price of it was far outweighed by the information gathered in it. I will let others comment about your other questions, so as not to hog the thread.

  3. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    A string of PFE (Pacific Fruit Expess) 40' wood sheathed reefers would fill the bill nicely on either locomotive. Gotta get them California strawberries to the folks back east... :thumb:
  4. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    coal was another hot commodity then as now.
  5. GeorgeHO

    GeorgeHO Member

    I just read a train magazine (don't know which one MR,RMC,Trains,Railfan,etc) don't know which year (60's thru present), but I do know it mentioned that up until 1960, approximately 1/2 the passanger cars on the rosters of U.S. railroads were heavyweight. By 1970 only a small percentage (10 or 20%) were still heavyweights.

    I don't know if UP was typical, but you probably wouldn't go wrong with either.

    If I find out in any of the mags I have, I will let you know.
  6. GeorgeHO

    GeorgeHO Member

    Hi, just leafed thru back issues of Mags looking for 4-6+6-4's or 4-6-6-4's as they were then known.

    Trains Mag Nov 1992 shows 3985 flanked by smooth side excursion/business car fleet at the Cheyenne Wyoming train shops. So that's what it's pulling now.

    Trains Mag Oct 1982 shows overhead of 3985 pullinexcursion train for NRHS Promontory Chapter, caption says loco caused a rash of brushfires trackside. I guess in the old days with many steamers the ashes burned off the weeds so that fires were not a problem.

    Trains Mag Jul 1989 "Put your hand on UP 3985's Throttle" shows many great photos of the loco, including the golden sided passenger cars.

    Trains Mag Nov 1982 tells the story of the restoration of 3985, lots of photos.

    You would probably want to get these magazines. I don't know if they are still available from the publisher, I got mine used.

    Also (not steam related per-se?) but Trains Mag May 1977 has UP passenger centerfold with caption "Still in yellow after 33 years, "City of Denver" ...on may 10, 1969.. UP continues the yellow of the longest-running color schemes."
  7. onceler

    onceler Member

    Thanks for all the replies, this is exactly what I was looking for. And GeorgeHO, thanks for the magazine info, I will check those out and see if I can get copies of some of those, they sound very interresting to me.

    shaygetz - do you know any other road names of reefers that might have been carried?
  8. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    You probably cannot go wrong with a (very long) string of boxcars behind the Big Boy. Many of the goods shipped in specialized or intermodal containers today would have been shipped in boxcars back then (with obvious exceptions like liquids that required a tanker). Cars, lumber, grain, manufactured goods, etc, etc. Double shealthed and or steel cars would be suitable, although you might even see outside braced (i.e. single sheath) boxcars if they had modern (AB) brakes and trucks/wheels. Box car lengths still commonly 40 or 50 feet.

  9. onceler

    onceler Member

    Did the roadnames share (for lack of a better word) the cars back then as much as they do now? I am assuming that the majority of rolling stock behind the big boys & challengers were UP owned. If there was "sharing" going on, was there any geographic location this was more predominant? For example, would you be more likely to see a B&O freight car in the train rather than a Southern Pacific?

    I think I am going to take 2slim's suggestion and get that MRR book he mentioned.

  10. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    In the 1950s in Southern Ontario, Canadian National's freights were made up of about 75% home road rolling stock, with a mix of north eastern US roads making up the rest. Interestingly, there was not a lot of interchange with their main Canadian rival, Canadian Pacific... ;)

    Hope that helps. Don't have much knowledge of the UP - I am sure the book will help.

  11. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    For road names: the parallel railroads would probably keep their cars on the home road as long as possible before interchanging them to the competitor. End on connections would put them on the one that went to the destination.
    There were always salesmen who would try to have shippers specify their road.
    PFE would have had solid trains of their reefers. Usually, railroad owned reefers would be scattered on all trains.
  12. Dick Elmore

    Dick Elmore Member

    :wave: Mike; Welcome back. Athearn released a 6 pack of steel reefers a couple
    of years ago in "PFE", and also about a month ago they released another 6 pack
    in "PFE" with different numbers. These cars would be ideal to pull with either engine. Both 6 pack are ready to run. You can also find some single kits of this car
    with yet more numbers. Just make sure that you put a caboose on the end of them. When these cars were running, they didn't use "Fred" yet. Accurail and
    Branchline "Yardmaster" series make some excellent box cars in UP. If you can't find any by either of those two co's., Athearn made a ton of them also.

    Texas Chief
  13. onceler

    onceler Member

    Thanks for all your replies, I think I am going to stop by my LHS one of these days to see if they have any of these in stock. Thanks again for all your help

  14. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Most of the Athearn line of "blue box" kits would be from the right era. 2 tricks you can use is if it is a box car,reefer, or cattle car, does it have a roof walk? Second, look on the printing on the side of any freight car. You may need a magnifying glass to read it, but they should have the letters "blt" followed by a date. That tells you when the prototype was originally built. The Challenger and Big Boy would have been at their peak use in the late 30s to 40s. By the mid 50s, they would most likely have been used exclusively in helper service on mountain grades unless there was a power shortage. Of course, the restored Challenger that is in U. P.s historical fleet will be found pulling a modern train from time to time. If the railroad wants to move the engine from one place to another, or if they have just brought it out of the shop, they will put a train behind it to have it do useful work while being run.

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