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Usual Thirties passenger trains,how were they consisted?

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Usual Thirties passenger trains,how were they consisted?
Posted by Jacktal on Wednesday, July 22, 2009 9:20 PM

I'm actually trying to find all the cars I need to assemble a plausible 1935-40 era passenger train and would like to know how high end trains (Portland Rose,California Zephyr,etc) were generally consisted.My first question is about the positioning of every car types from the tender to the tail end.I know there were mail cars,baggage cars,coaches,lounges and also sleepers for those wich needed overnight accomodations,so I would like to know how most if not all railroads did arrange them.

Also,it is my thinking that there probably were some ratios that were respected like let's say one baggage car for every two coaches,or coach/sleeper ratio or even coach/lounge ratios.Some trains even featured observation/dome cars.Obviously,these choices were dictated by the number of passengers,the distance of travel and ultimately ticket pricing,but what I'd like to learn is how a "typical" train of this era would have been assembled.

My last question...when there were more than one of any car types,did the railroads tend to group them together,or alternate them,or not really bother as long as some specific types were positioned according to specific company ruling or other technical reasons like "breaking" the consist somewhere along the route?Thanks. 

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Posted by dehusman on Wednesday, July 22, 2009 10:18 PM

I would suggest looking at a particular train, since each railroad would tailor the consist of each train to the service required, there was no "industry standard" consist.

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Posted by markpierce on Wednesday, July 22, 2009 11:04 PM

Check this out for SP trains.

http://espee.railfan.net/passenger.html

Mark

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Posted by wjstix on Thursday, July 23, 2009 8:12 AM

It's hard to pin down, since many railroads were converting from standard heavyweight cars to streamliners for their premier trains.

Anyway, for a heavyweight train, the number of head-end cars (non-passenger carrying cars) would usually depend on whether that particular train carried mail or express on that line. Generally the railroad's top train didn't carry mail or express. The New York Central's heavyweight 20th Century Ltd. often ran 14-16 cars, but only needed a combine for baggage as it didn't carry mail or express packages. A secondary train that did carry the mail might have 4-5-6 head-end cars, including Railway Post Office cars, baggage cars carrying bagged mail, and even express boxcars. A coach or combine would often be set up near the front of the train as a smoking car.

Generally after the head end cars would come the coaches, unless a train was a 1st class only train (again like the 20th Century) so it would not carry coaches.

Next would be a dining car, if the trip was long enough to justify it. Diners were often cut in and out of a consist...a dining car might be taken out an overnight train in the evening after the final dinner service, to be cleaned and re-stocked to be put on a train needing a diner for breakfast.

After the diner would be the Pullman sleeping cars. On some overnight trains, 1st class (sleeping car) passengers and coach passengers were separated by the diner - coach passengers could go to the diner but not past it to the sleepers and the observation car. A daytime-only train might have parlor cars that would require a first-class ticket, that allowed the passenger to sit in a comfortable stuffed chair rather than a stiff coach chair.

Last of all would be the observation car, which could be a car with an open rear observation deck, or a Solarium car (large windows in the rear, but fully enclosed...Great Northern's heavyweight Empire Builder would be a good example). The observation car could be a Pullman car with sleeping accomodations (often compartments or rooms) or could include a "cafe" section for food/drink service.

So if doing an overnight train on a model railroad layout you might go for maybe 7 cars: baggage, coach, coach, diner, sleeper, sleeper, observation.

Daytime / local trains might just have a baggage car or combine and one or two coaches, although the larger railroads sometimes ran daytime trains that were near the status of their first class trains where the trip wasn't long enough to require sleepers, like the CNW 400 and others. These longer trains usually had parlor cars for first class customers.

Railroads back then also carried the bulk of the mail in the country, so mail trains with a number of baggage and RPO cars with one "rider" car (often a coach or combine) at the rear were common, usually running at night.

Stix
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Posted by Mr. SP on Thursday, July 23, 2009 8:54 AM

The reply by wjstyx is right on.

Generally long distance trains were quite long. There would be a baggage or two and if the mail was handled there would be a RPO. The head end cars were followed by several coaches unless the train was ALL Pullman. Then there would be a diner followed by a lounge car. The Pullmans were next. There was usually several cars with different floor plans. the 12-1 was the most common heavyweight car but there was 6-3, 8-1-2 and others. A lounge observation usually ended the train

The "California Zephyr" was never a heavyweight train. The train was streamlined from the beginning in 1949 to the end in 1970. The "CZ" had a fixed consist. There was six trainsets identical in make up as follows:

Baggage

Dome Coach(3)

Dome Lounge/Dormatory

Diner

5 compartment-6 Bedroom Pullman

10 Roomette-6 Bedroom Pullman(2)

14 Section Pullman

10 Roomette-6 Bedroom Pullman

Dome Lounge Observation

The 14 section Pullman was converted to a coach about 1960 or so and then ran only as needed just behind the baggage.

Other trains like the GN Empire Builder had a consist that varied by season.

If you can find them there are two books by Arthur Dubin. Some Classic Trains and More Classic Trains that give consists for several trains on a spacific date. 

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Posted by Sperandeo on Thursday, July 23, 2009 8:57 AM

Hello "Jacktal,"

The suggestion of finding specific train consists to follow is a good one, and for the Portland Rose there's a very good source of information that I mentioned here not long ago. The Union Pacific Historical Society magazine, the Streamliner, published a detailed article on this trainin its Vol. 15, No. 3. The article, by  Larry Hochhalter, included consists and photos of typical cars. Back issues are available  at the society's Web site, www.uphs.org, and you don't have to be a member to buy them.

You'll be looking a long time for a 1935-1940 Califrornia Zephyr consist, however, as this train wasn't inaugurated until 1949, and then with all-new streamlined lightweight equipment. Its predecessor on the joint CB&Q/D&RGW/WP route between chicago and Oakland, Calif., was the Scenic Limited. I don't know of a good single source for information on that train, but all three of the railroads involved have active historical societies, and they may have published something about it.

For general information on passenger train consists and modeling ideas, allow me to suggest my book, the Model Railroader's Guide to Passenger Equipment & Operations, from Kalmbach Books. Its chapters three and four go into the subject of passenger train consists in some detail, with several prototype examples.

So long,

Andy 

Andy Sperandeo MODEL RAILROADER Magazine

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Posted by wjstix on Thursday, July 23, 2009 1:22 PM

Going back to the original post, keep in mind dome cars didn't come along until after WW2, although streamlined stainless-steel trains were around before the war.

One thing too, if you go for a heavyweight train, almost all railroads painted their cars to match Pullman's "Pullman Green". That way, the train would look like one unified train rather than a mish-mash of colors. Pullman cars at that time said "PULLMAN" on the letterboard, not a railroad name, and could go anywhere in the country.

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Posted by Jacktal on Thursday, July 23, 2009 4:29 PM

I have ordered and received UPHS's Vol 15 no 3 along with a few other mags.It is indeed a great source of information on the Portland Rose train (thanks Andy for the tip) full of unique photos.I've read through it with great interest and paid a special attention to the consist flow chart in the center pages.

On the photos,as in the text,one can see that this train was by no mean a permanent consist.While it usually sarted out with around 17 cars,it would often terminate it's run with the same number or close but with only 7 of the original cars.I haven't yet made up my mind on wich phase of it's run I'd like to model,but I guess any would be representative just as well.

However,different car types and makes have been used on this train over the years.My problem is that I don't yet have the expert's eye to recognize and identify most of the cars we can see on these photos,so I'm trying to complement my infos through other sources.

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Posted by wjstix on Thursday, July 23, 2009 4:33 PM

One factor that could affect train length is the time of year. Some trains were much longer in summer than winter, because of tourists (like GN trains taking people to Glacier National Park for example). Of course as with airline travel now, passengers would often travel during the holidays too, so trains that normally would be short in the winter might get bigger for a few weeks around Christmas time.

Stix
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Posted by JimValle on Friday, July 24, 2009 4:20 PM

I'll add just one caviat to what the other guys have said about passenger consists.  When the train carried a railway post office ( RPO ) car it was customary to put a baggage car between it and the other cars carrying passengers. This was a security measure that made it harder to access the RPO from the train in order to foil would-be mail robbers.

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Posted by markpierce on Friday, July 24, 2009 5:08 PM

Hey Styx!  That pictured Pullman car looks brown to me, not green.

Mark

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Posted by wjstix on Friday, July 24, 2009 5:12 PM

markpierce

Hey Styx!  That pictured Pullman car looks brown to me, not green.

Mark

Yup, Pullman green often looks that way, especially when it's been weathered a bit.

BTW, not to open a whole 'nother kettle of fish, but if your train runs in the southern states during that time, it would normally include one or more "Jim Crow" cars, to separate black passengers from the whites. 

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Posted by wjstix on Friday, July 24, 2009 5:21 PM

JimValle

I'll add just one caviat to what the other guys have said about passenger consists.  When the train carried a railway post office ( RPO ) car it was customary to put a baggage car between it and the other cars carrying passengers. This was a security measure that made it harder to access the RPO from the train in order to foil would-be mail robbers.

I don't think they'd add a baggage car just for security. In some cars there was a wall across the car dividing the RPO section from the rest of the car, you had to crawl thru a little hatch under the desk that was against that wall to get to the RPO section. Plus of course all the clerks were armed!!

Generally a baggage car was next to an RPO (or two baggage cars with an RPO in the middle) because the baggage cars carried sacks of mail that the RPO clerks would case while the train was en route. A "full" RPO didn't have all that much storage room in it and a car full of clerks could go thru a lot of mail fast.

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Posted by Robt. Livingston on Saturday, July 25, 2009 5:52 PM

Lots of good info in this thread. 

Among the head-end cars, you would likely find an express reefer, or several, depending on the express traffic.  This could be carrying food to a city, or other clean lading such as magazines. Also, many roads used their passenger trains to move milk.  You would have to research which milk cars were correct for your railroad; most types were location-specific.  There are several milk car types available today.  

Good point on the Pullman paint.  Many of the Walthers Pullmans are lettered for individual roads, which would not be correct for pre-1948 sleepers.  Some railroads operated their own diners, and some leased them from Pullman, and so could be found either way, but sleepers would nearly always have the name Pullman on the letterboard.  Same for the 28-1 parlor which I believe Walthers sells now (Pullman lettering only, pre-'48).

The actual hue of Pullman paint was a mix of brown and green; many older color photos show it shifted to brown.  Supposedly this color was selected by the Pullman Co. because it hid road dirt better than other colors. Pullmans were repainted every two years, so the rust which we saw on them in the late 1950's (after the breakup of '48) and into "the end" would not be there prior to WWII.  They might be dirty, but not rusty. 

 

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Posted by 7j43k on Sunday, July 26, 2009 2:56 PM
wjstix

...so trains that normally would be short in the winter might get bigger for a few weeks around Christmas time.

Christmas season of '64 or '65, leaving Berkeley, CA going eastbound: four (maybe 5?) PA's and a PB pulling 26 cars

Ed
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Posted by markpierce on Sunday, July 26, 2009 9:30 PM

Jacktal

Also,it is my thinking that there probably were some ratios that were respected like let's say one baggage car for every two coaches,or coach/sleeper ratio or even coach/lounge ratios.Some trains even featured observation/dome cars.Obviously,these choices were dictated by the number of passengers,the distance of travel and ultimately ticket pricing,but what I'd like to learn is how a "typical" train of this era would have been assembled.

No, there was no ratio of baggage to passenger-carrying cars.  Typically, passenger baggage wouldn't even fill the baggage portion of a combination coach/combine.

Baggage cars primarily carried bagged mail or express.  Express consisted of packaged goods, valuables, human remains, milk, animals (from baby chicks to race horse), and so on.  Thus, the number of baggage cars was dependent upon the level of mail and express traffic, not the numbers of passengers carried.  Since mail and express traffic was often collected/delivered along the line, such trains had a slower schedule than limited-stop trains.  Thus, railroads' premier trains typically had very little "baggage" capacity.  Some trains consisted entirely of baggage cars, express box cars, and expressed reefers, and probably a coach to serve railroad employees.

Passenger trains varied all over the lot.  There was no single "typical."

Mark

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Posted by wjstix on Monday, July 27, 2009 8:09 AM

Keep in mind too that the top trains often ran in "sections", which were basically several extra trains running on close to the same schedule as the first, usually about 10 minutes apart. A train like New York Central's Twentieth Century Ltd. Sometimes had 5-6 sections of the train each day. With the NYC it became such a regular occurance that eventually an "Advance 20th Century" and I beleive "Advance Commodore Vanderbilt" became regular trains on the schedule, running an hour or two ahead of the regular train every day.

Plus, the sections might not have the same mix of cars. On the Great Northern Empire Builder during WW2, I know sometimes they broke it up so one section had the head-end and coaches, and another section had just the Pullman cars.

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Posted by St Francis Consolidated RR on Saturday, December 31, 2011 7:12 PM

   Fantastic source of information; just what I was looking for as I am putting together heavyweight passenger service.

   All my questions are answered, except I have one other question not covered:

   I will pull my heavyweights with the Alco PA and PB; my question is, would there have been access between the PB and the first car, by way of the membrane, for the train crew? (Obviously, I guess, in the A-B-A configuration access would be impossible.)

   Thanks.

 

 

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Posted by dehusman on Saturday, December 31, 2011 11:49 PM

There might have been, but why?  There really isn't a reason for the engine crew to be in the passenger train or the train crew in the engine.

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Posted by dehusman on Sunday, January 1, 2012 12:03 AM

One thing that modelers often forget (or ignore) is that the "typical" passenger train was an engine and 3 or 4 coaches.  There were probably 100 of those trains for every name train operated.

One other note on "advance sections".  They were actually their own schedule and were just called 'advance' trains.  Under the rules there is no way to operate a train in advance of their schedule.  So the railroads would just create a new schedule and call it an advance section.  Following sections, on the other hand are operating on the schedule of the first train.

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Posted by Texas Zepher on Sunday, January 1, 2012 1:25 AM

One sort of general rule was that the trains often attempted to keep the classes of passengers separate.   Often a dining car and/or lounge in the middle of the train would separate the first class passengers (sleeper cars) with budget class passengers who just had coach seats.  Some trains had three classes of passengers.

Some railroads had "horse" cars used as head end cars with the baggage, express, and RPOs.

But as the others have said the only way to know for certain is to research the specific railroad and specific train.    On that note, one thing I will say is that I often seeing people modeling the interesting exceptions rather than the more common "normal" configuration of a train.   Don't let your railroad fall into "exception world".

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Posted by rrboomer on Sunday, January 1, 2012 2:11 AM

There was a reason for the train crew to get up to the engines.  If the passenger train had to take siding at a meeting point the head brakeman would some times make his way up thru the units to the cab so as to reduce delay at the switch waiting for him to walk up.  On some crews the firemen would get the switch.  Some engineers however,  would not let the fireman touch the switch.

I used to fire for an engineer that would wander back to the diner to get coffee.

Dick

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Posted by St Francis Consolidated RR on Sunday, January 1, 2012 12:32 PM

rrboomer

There was a reason for the train crew to get up to the engines.  If the passenger train had to take siding at a meeting point the head brakeman would some times make his way up thru the units to the cab so as to reduce delay at the switch waiting for him to walk up.  On some crews the firemen would get the switch.  Some engineers however,  would not let the fireman touch the switch.

I used to fire for an engineer that would wander back to the diner to get coffee.

Dick

     Thanks, Dick, it's always good to hear the voice of experience......I'm going to make sure my engineer can get his fresh premium coffee: we don't want him falling to sleep!

 

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Posted by wjstix on Sunday, January 1, 2012 3:53 PM

St Francis Consolidated RR

     I will pull my heavyweights with the Alco PA and PB; my question is, would there have been access between the PB and the first car, by way of the membrane, for the train crew? (Obviously, I guess, in the A-B-A configuration access would be impossible.)

  

By "membrane" I think you mean the connection between cars or between the cars and the diesels?? Yes there would be a connection by a walkway enclosed by diaphragms.

However you started out saying you wanted a typical train of the 1935-40 period. The ALCO PA wouldn't be introduced until 1946. You could use an A-B set of GM FT diesels, or if you can track down a GM E-6 (Life-Like / Proto used to make one) you could use that...or of course, use steam. In that time, you might see a railroad run heavyweight passenger cars on a top train with diesels because they were awaiting delivery of new streamlined cars, but generally in 1935-40 a heavyweight train would be powered by conventional steam.

Stix
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Posted by St Francis Consolidated RR on Sunday, January 1, 2012 11:37 PM

wjstix

 

 St Francis Consolidated RR:

 

     I will pull my heavyweights with the Alco PA and PB; my question is, would there have been access between the PB and the first car, by way of the membrane, for the train crew? (Obviously, I guess, in the A-B-A configuration access would be impossible.)

  

 

By "membrane" I think you mean the connection between cars or between the cars and the diesels?? Yes there would be a connection by a walkway enclosed by diaphragms.

However you started out saying you wanted a typical train of the 1935-40 period.

    Yes, I mean diaphragms, I couldn't find the right word....Actually I tacked this question on to a nearly two-year-old thread and whoever started the discussion was modelling 1930s. The train I am building is theoretically from the 1950s when it might have been plausible to see Alcos pulling old heavyweights, especially on lines that could not afford the fancy new streamliners.

    It does rather bring up the question, though, of what a railroad that apparently couldn't afford streamliners and smoothsides be doing pulling six or seven nice old heavyweights with two Alcos. If they had that many customers they would have the money to buy nicer stuff, wouldn't they?

    But, what the heck, I like long trains sometimes; maybe the boys who were running my railroad were pocketing profits?!

 

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Posted by ndbprr on Monday, January 2, 2012 7:34 AM

There may be a lot of good information but it appears some of it is opinion rather than fact.  The make up of trains was not a random occurence.  Most large railroads had a publication entitled "make up of trains" or something similar that gave the number, order and type of cars to be included.  Most trains were consists and the only time they were changed is when a car needed shopping.  So if there were the equivalent of 500 seats available number 501 was out of luck and had to take a different train.  some days called for more mail cars to be dropped off in route or placed on the rear so they could be uncoupled and switched to location without distrubiung the passengers in the middle of the night.  Look at Keystone Crossings web site under passenger operations for what the Make Up of Trains looked like for the PRR.

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Posted by dehusman on Monday, January 2, 2012 8:33 AM

St Francis Consolidated RR
        It does rather bring up the question, though, of what a railroad that apparently couldn't afford streamliners and smoothsides be doing pulling six or seven nice old heavyweights with two Alcos. If they had that many customers they would have the money to buy nicer stuff, wouldn't they?

The LV ran lots of refurbish heavyweights behind PA's.  People assume that all of the trains that were operated were streamliners.  They were relatively few, but since they were sexy, they got all the pictures.  The PRR owned more heavyweight P70 coaches than the ATSF owned passenger cars of all types.

There is also an assumption that passenger service was profitable.  If the passenger service was profitable it would maybe just cover the operating costs, it certainly wouldn't cover the costs of replacing the equipment.  Most of the benefit of the streamliner stuff was lower cost to operate and it was probably cheaper to replace than rebuild the old stuff (which many roads did, LV, RDG, PRR, etc) plus the passenger service was more of an advertising gimmick.  It was a prestige thing, a loss leader. 

    But, what the heck, I like long trains sometimes; maybe the boys who were running my railroad were pocketing profits?!

Not on passenger service.  Railway Age magazine had articles as far back as the 1900's looking at when all the variable and replacement costs were added up, that passenger service wasn't profitable.

That's why during the depression the secondary routes started to get whacked and after WW2 railroads were abandoning passenger service as quickly as the government would allow them.

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Posted by jmbjmb on Monday, January 2, 2012 1:55 PM

dehusman

Not on passenger service.  Railway Age magazine had articles as far back as the 1900's looking at when all the variable and replacement costs were added up, that passenger service wasn't profitable.

That's why during the depression the secondary routes started to get whacked and after WW2 railroads were abandoning passenger service as quickly as the government would allow them.

Kind of makes you wonder if there weren't government subsidies (mostly hidden in a round about way) if the airlines could be profitable?  Or more likely, air travel would be about half what it is, and coach ticket prices up around $1000.

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Posted by dehusman on Monday, January 2, 2012 2:42 PM

US Mail shipments kept passenger routes alive.  When the mail shifted to airlines, the passenger trains died.

I'm sure you can find lots of threads on costs of air vs. rail traffic.

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Posted by wjstix on Monday, January 2, 2012 3:05 PM

St Francis Consolidated RR

 

    It does rather bring up the question, though, of what a railroad that apparently couldn't afford streamliners and smoothsides be doing pulling six or seven nice old heavyweights with two Alcos. If they had that many customers they would have the money to buy nicer stuff, wouldn't they?

    But, what the heck, I like long trains sometimes; maybe the boys who were running my railroad were pocketing profits?!

A good model to follow might be the Soo Line. The Soo did early-on buy some passenger F units and FP's for dual freight-passenger service. However they realized pretty soon that passenger service didn't have much of a future, and so buying new passenger equipment wasn't going to be a good investment They never bought streamlined cars and kept using maroon heavyweight cars until passenger service was discontinued in the mid-sixties. They also quit buying F-type engines; when they needed more passenger diesels they bought high-nose GPs with steam generators. After passenger service ended, these continued in service pulling freight and iron ore trains. I used to see some with the "torpedo tubes" on top after the Soo bought the MN&S in the early eighties.

Stix

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