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Book Review
Freight Cars of the 40s & 50s
Freight Cars of the '40s & '50s
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:
RailRoad Modeling

Freight Cars of the '40s & '50s by Kalmbach Publishing demonstrates and explains in concise detail the historical freight fleet of the popular railroad Transition Era. Modelers can use it to create a more authentic roster for their layout.

Authored by Jeff Wilson, Freight Cars of the '40s & '50s is 96 pages long. The softcover format is 8 1/4" x 10 3/4" and contains an impressive 200 color photographs. It is item #12489 in Kalmbach's catalog and has the ISBN 9781627001441.
    Jeff Wilson's latest release is a guide to railroad cars operated during one of the most popular eras to model. You can use the book's highly detailed historical information as inspiration for your layout. You'll find background on loads carried by freight cars, information on putting together a realistic freight car fleet, as well as prototype paint schemes and detailing. _ Kalmbach

Ten chapters cover the seven main types of freight cars, plus focused information about equipment and livery:
    Modeling a freight car fleet
    Paint and lettering
    Refrigerator cars
    Hoppers and gondolas
    Tank cars
    Covered hoppers
    Stock cars
    Trucks and brake gear
    About the author

Mr. Wilson and Kalmbach fashioned an easily read and attention holding text. Several sidebars and text boxes emphasize particular subjects in a topic, i.e., the components of an underframe and apparatus found there. This text does not pretend to be comprehensive, thus the large bibliography at the end. The text is written to get you started in understanding the industry of the era. In Modeling a freight car fleet we learn about many topics such as USRA, ARA, and AAR standard cars, per diem rules, among other factors of consideration. Included is a table showing the life of a box car for the entire year of 1954.

Paint and lettering is short yet informative, explaining the components of markings and data used at the time, as well as the railroad names and slogans, and more. It also explains the paint colors used and why.

The seven types of cars are explored over through the bulk of the pages, starting with Boxcars. Explained are the different construction materials and reasons for them, designs, variants and developments, appliances, doors sizes, and other structural components. This information is extremely useful for anyone who seeks to accurately understand freight cars to the greatest extent possible, whether one is a modeler, an artist, or a historian. That information carries on into the other car types chapters, including Refrigerator cars, Hoppers and gondolas, Tank cars, Covered hoppers, Flatcars, and Stock cars. The cars known as War-emergency cars are explained, as is their longevity.

Riveting construction evolution is explained including the transition form wooden to metal cars, turn buckles to underframes (cushioned and rigid), safety components, and car manufacturer characteristics. Mention is made of particular laws and regulations that instituted changes. Now I know what to do with all of those detail parts in my parts bins!

Probably able to support a specific book (or at least a booklet) alone is the chapter Trucks and brake gear. It is amazing just how much detail one can find or model on truck sideframes and wheels! Mr. Wilson even identifies what common jargon is incorrect for descriptions and identification. Brake gear, like all of the subjects in the book, is further refined by topics like Brake equipment: hand brake wheels and levers; AB brake system compared to K brakes; operation of the system. The presentations and descriptions of trucks and wheels and the braking systems are very useful and interesting. Just like the entire book!

Photographs, graphics, artwork
Kalmbach is fairly lavish in illustrating their subject matter. I did not count how many photographs there are yet every page has at least one photo. I did not count how many are color photos or how many are black-and-white. Suffice it to say that every topic is represented. There is not a one that I consider merely of 'fair' quality.

Artwork consists of line art:

1. Cross section of a box car steel corner post.

2. Cutaway: ice-bunker refrigerator car circulation.

3. Cutaway: two-bay Airslide hopper.

4. Spring-plankless, double-truss truck (Buckeye) diagram.

5. AB brake system typical installation.

6. K brake system typical installation.

7. Anatomy of a freight car.

8. Cutaway: roller-bearing.

Further data is provided via informational tables and sidebars:

a. Railroad cars in service 1941-1955 by car types, numbers, and private-owner quantity.

b. Annual travels of a boxcar (Lehigh valley 62000 in 1954, January 1-December 23.

c. Aluminum experimental cars.

d. Tank boxcar.

e. Ventilated boxcars.

f. AAR car codes for boxcars.

g. Refrigerator car ownership, 1940 and 1954.

h. AAR car codes for reefers.

i. AAR car codes for hoppers.

j. AAR car codes for gondolas.

k. AAR car codes for tank cars.

l. Tank car fleets in 1947.

m. World War II: railroad oil pipeline trains.

n. Helium cars.

o. Flexivan cars.

p. AAR car codes for flatcars.

q. Major stock car owners, 1943.

r. AAR car codes for stock cars.

Those photos, illustrations and tables provide excellent support for the text. (RailRoad Modeling thanks Kalmbach Publishing for permission to use their images.)

With such a wide variety of prototype and model railroad subjects to write about, there are bound to be favorite books. This scholarly title is definitely a new favorite of mine. It is full of information that I did not expect, yet frequently seek. Freight Cars of the '40s & '50s is an excellent resource for modelers, artists, and historians seeking to understand freight cars in great accuracy. The concise text is very well researched and written. The selection of photographs, artwork and graphics enhances the text. I have nothing of concern to criticize.

Freight Cars of the '40s & '50s should be a welcome and indispensable title for those interested in freight cars. Absolutely recommended!

Please remember to tell manufacturers and retailers that you saw this book here - on RailRoad Modeling.
Highs: The concise text is very well researched and written. Exceptional photos, illustrations and tables provide excellent support for the text.
Lows: De minimis.
Verdict: This book should be a welcome and indispensable title for those interested in freight cars. It is full of information that I did not expect, yet frequently seek.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 9781627001441
  Suggested Retail:  $21.99
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Oct 15, 2015
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Kalmbach Publishing Co.!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright 2020 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. All rights reserved.



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