What would an average cross-country freight train look like in various eras? - Model Train Forum - the complete model train resource
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Old 01-07-2017, 02:33 AM   #1
Octothorpe
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Question What would an average cross-country freight train look like in various eras?

Hi all,
I've tried searching for an answer to this, but apparently I just don't have the right search terms- I've found all kinds of answers as to exactly what rolling stock looked like in terms of actual cars, even the ways car types have changed over time (such as the removal of full ladders on boxcars), or what percentage of which car types are in a given railroad's roster.

However, what I'm looking for is more of "car types and proportions" in the average cross-country freight run. I live on the Colorado joint line, so there's all kinds of traffic passing through from every direction, and I've pretty well got a handle on what the freight looks like since around 1995.

But what, for example, would a through-freight look like on an average day in 1955, 1965, 1975, or 1985? The first layout I'm planning is focusing on steel mill industry based on the Pueblo, CO mill, but I'd like to have some trains that "pass through" on occasion. I'd like to set the "year" of the layout back when the mill was in heavier operation (definitely when the blast furnaces were running), but I haven't been able to find any general guidelines on what an average train might look like.

Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 01-07-2017, 02:58 AM   #2
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I am going to suggest YouTube. I just found plenty of videos by searching "freight trains
in the 60s" "freight trains in the 70s" and so on. Have fun.
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Old 01-10-2017, 07:31 AM   #3
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That's probably your best bet bro.

TONS of rail fanning videos out there.

here's some 1954 operations

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Old 01-10-2017, 08:00 AM   #4
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Nice video! Yards are pretty amazing. I like the way the reefers were getting ice. Same ice different equipment from the early 20th century but not yet refrigerator cars as we know them now.
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Old 01-16-2017, 09:01 PM   #5
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Don't know why I didn't think of youtube for this- it's the obvious choice for visual examples of just about everything else >.> Thanks for the suggestions.
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Old 01-17-2017, 11:02 AM   #6
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Also keep in mind that a "cross country freight train" likely didn't stay intact all the way across the country......cars would be dropped off, picked by, interchanged to another railroad, etc. In the U.S., there's wasn't an intercontinental line that was owned by one company either, as far as I know.....Canada had/has the CPR, which goes virtually from sea to sea....but even they likely never had a particular freight train that ran intact right across the continent...

So the "same" freight train wouldn't go all the way across the continent.....
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Old 01-17-2017, 11:34 AM   #7
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I worked for IBM in the 60's and one of my major accounts was Reading RR in Phila in the computer center. It was amazing the gymnastics of handling cars that passed through the Reading empire. We were working on one of the early automated scanning applications to track where the cars were whenever they passed specific points on the Reading tracks. The goal was to get non-Reading cars off the Reading by midnight as that's when the car was accounted for, and the road they were on at midnight was the road that leased that car for the day. Interesting problem at the time.
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Old 01-17-2017, 03:07 PM   #8
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A good friend was the CEO at Pacer Global Logistics back in the '90's. He shared some amazing stories about how railroads were able to keep track of EVERY piece of inventory 24/7. And, as grjohn stated, midnight was the magic "bewitching hour" that tripped the cash register.
Virtually EVERYTHING to do with running a railroad is computerized to the hilt.
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Old 01-17-2017, 08:25 PM   #9
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In the 90's it was pretty polished, in the 60's when I was working on it, the Reading was cutting edge with their stuff to track cars.
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