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Boxcar Unloading Downtown circa 1950

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Boxcar Unloading Downtown circa 1950
Posted by BigDaddy on Saturday, January 21, 2023 9:41 AM

Found this picture on Baltimore Old Photos on Facebook.  Too cool not to share.

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

Shenandoah Valley

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, January 21, 2023 9:45 AM

Very cool. Thanks, Henry.

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by crossthedog on Saturday, January 21, 2023 7:26 PM

I love this. Any excuse to justify weird operations! I wonder if there isn't a loading dock on the other side of the boxcar at the height of its doors. It would make sense, since that's where they put the track. Maybe there's a warehouse on that side of the alley, and the retail store is on the right side, fronting on a commercial street. Since the shipment was late (I'm spitballin' here now), the store ran out of 80-lb bags of this extra private reserve stone-ground wheat flour, and why not just take a few loads of them directly into the shop?

-Matt 

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

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Posted by BigDaddy on Sunday, January 22, 2023 10:47 AM

Here's a look at the same box car from further away.  I don't think they would have allowed the boxcar unloading to block the entire street.  It's 1952 BTW.

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

Shenandoah Valley

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Posted by dknelson on Sunday, January 22, 2023 11:53 AM

There is so much to see in those wonderful photos.  The mix in age of the cars parked.  the fact that the sidewalk is totally blocked to any random pedestrians by the ramp leading to the boxcar, and in the second photo it is blocked by a truck that has backed up at Baxter Paper. The mysterious size and shape of the bags being unloaded from the boxcar on the dolly.  The entire driving and parking situation looks chaotic.

Clearly this is a warehouse district of some sort, where random pedestrians would perhaps not be expected anyway.  There was a similar area south of Milwaukee'd downtown known informally as "Commission Row" where almost all the vegetable and fruit dealers were located and trucks were constantly being unloaded -- and in an earlier era there may have been tracks like this.  It was every man for himself in terms of parking driving and walking and I think that was just accepted as being part of the situation.  We can only speculate how long the railroad would leave that boxcar there after it was unloaded (and maybe it was LCL so they were not unloading the entire car?).  I have seen photos of LCL boxcars being unloaded at grade crossings -- who knows how long that crossing was blocked during the unloading but it was just accepted back then. 

A bit of internet searching found an address linked to Baxter Paper:  113 Cheapside, Baltimore.  That would seem to place in the wharf and warehouse district.  B&O's 0-4-0Ts and Pennsy 0-4-0s worked those areas as I recall

Dave Nelson

 

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Posted by Mark B on Tuesday, January 24, 2023 8:52 PM

I believe the B&O also used tractors to move cars around. Saw a picture of one and it had very large rubber tires.

 

Mark B.

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, January 25, 2023 8:58 AM

Power for that B&O street trackage could be interesting.  As I dimly recall the B&O tractors actually looked like 'tractors', with comparatively small wheels at the front and the engine hood ahead of the 'driver'.

More interestingly for prospective modelers, B&O also had at least one switcher that was modified with longer traction-motor cables so the trucks could swing to a much more acute angle.  This permitted the comparatively large switcher to negotiate the traction-size radii of most of the in-street trackage.  

PRR had decidedly more interesting power for their street trackage, starting about 1912 (with hard rubber tires and a vertical ship's wheel for steering!) with a later version in the mid-Fifties with Detroit Diesel power and large heavily-ribbed rubber 'offroad' tires.  (I actually saw one of these in the mid-Seventies, still with its cream-and-white New Jersey license plate.)

I was of the understanding that it was fairly common to have boxcars spotted as this one is, as a kind of temporary mobile warehouse in the street in front of a premise, and have freight rolled down a temporary ramp just like the one pictured if there were significant enough volume.  The car is plainly on a track running down the street with 'nothing but pavement' on its other side.  I'd expect it to be moved reasonably promptly once the crews are finished unloading (or loading) it.  What you could do for 'verisimilitude' in modeling would be to spot a car containing "LCL" at one end of the in-street track, and then arrange to push it 'door-to-door' until all the contents had been delivered and all the pickups made.  Then move it either to a yard for dispatch or some kind of cross-dock facility for sorting and 'expedited despatch'...

This shot is comparatively late for street running -- note the attractive Woody in the foreground.  The thing to consider here is that a truck for LCL in the same service likely wouldn't have had a side door, and it is likely not as practical to ramp up to an end door of a trailer, as appears to be what's going on farther down the street.

Before I was the 'second' picture I was going to ask if we knew what time of day and day of week this was.  That would likely make some difference about other use of the street while the car was being accessed...

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Posted by gmpullman on Wednesday, January 25, 2023 5:46 PM

I notice what looks to be a square, "cat's-eye" glass bead reflector hanging from the end-sill  grab iron. Yes, studying the details sometimes raises more questions than they answer. 

 

Some even made it into ConRail ownership:

 CR_mule by Edmund, on Flickr

B&O's version:

 BnO_Mule by Edmund, on Flickr

Lots of photos of the various Pennsy machines here:

http://prr.railfan.net/RubberTiredSwitchers.html

Page takes a while to load.

Good Luck, Ed

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Posted by BigDaddy on Wednesday, January 25, 2023 9:13 PM

What Ed sees as a reflector, I see as the window in the building. 

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

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Posted by gmpullman on Wednesday, January 25, 2023 10:00 PM

BigDaddy
What Ed sees as a reflector, I see as the window in the building. 

Maybe I didn't describe its location well enough. End-sill grab iron?

 Reflector by Edmund, on Flickr

OK, maybe it is a waffle iron?

Cheers, Ed

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, January 26, 2023 1:18 AM

Those sawhorses do not look sturdy enough to support that ramp, let alone the worker and the load!

YIKES!

Henry: Thank you for sharing this photo.

-Kevin

Living the dream and happily modeling my STRATTON AND GILLETTE Railroad in HO scale. The SGRR is a freelanced Class A railroad as it would have appeared on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954, in my personal fantasy world of plausible nonsense.

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Posted by "JaBear" on Thursday, January 26, 2023 3:09 AM

SeeYou190
YIKES!

YIKES!?????   
I must admit to taking a contrary view. It is as Overmod describes it, a “temporary ramp,” but IMO, temporary as in not a permanent fixture.
 
The actual ramp is purpose built, note the raised sides, and while the two “saw horses” (I prefer “trestle”) closest to the boxcar look a bit lightweight, there are two, though I suspect one of those was an addition to the original “plan”.
 
I have to think that this ramp was designed to be erected, then taken down with the minimum fuss, time and manpower. Manpower being the operative word, so weight or lack of, was a driving factor in the ramp and trestles design. I have to think that there was no forklift to move ramps components, otherwise it would have done away with the ramp all together.
 
So what I’m seeing is a “Good Enough” arrangement, adequate for what it was intended for.
 
My 2 Cents Cheers, the Bear.Smile
 
BTW, thanks Henry.

"One difference between pessimists and optimists is that while pessimists are more often right, optimists have far more fun."

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Posted by Track fiddler on Thursday, January 26, 2023 5:05 AM

Good morning

Neat photo HenryYes

Makes sense what Overmod and Bear pointed out.  And people seemed to be more self-sufficient problem solvers, making their own tasks at hand easier back in the day.  Rather curious, deliveries through a standard door not able to accommodate a forklift, but they more than likely didn't build that ramp for a once in a blue moon thing.

I'm sure the merchant's scheduled deliveries were frequent throughout the year.  They probably came up with that Back Saving ramp before or not long after, the business opened its doors with a designated place to store it.  I'd bet the farm, the workers handled the ramp delivery system of set up and tear down like clockwork.

I'm guessing some type of baking goods, maybe for bread.  Perhaps a wholesale merchant.  Baking out of a two-story or more building, with the added expense of make-up air doesn't make a lot of sense, unless it took place on the top floor which is doubtful.

If those large sacks were anything else heavier than some type of flour product, as Matt pointed out, (for instance a Portland product) that worker carting six bags would be taking a really fast ride down that ramp rather quickly.

"Ye Olde" wooden saw horse concept is more sturdy than people give credit and more than adequate.  Perhaps a few duplex nails here and there gave one a little more assurance.

That was like playing guessing games on the Red Green Show.  Thanks, it was fun.

 

TF

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Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, January 26, 2023 5:58 AM

SeeYou190

Those sawhorses do not look sturdy enough to support that ramp, let alone the worker and the load!

My guess is that the ends of the ramp bear the weight. The saw horses are probably there to prevent sagging and bouncing.

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by Track fiddler on Thursday, January 26, 2023 6:21 AM

Hi Rich.  I'm not quite sure about that?  Agreeable that the ramp looks sturdy and well built, but respectfully stating, take in a closer zoom.  

It appears there is a joint with an upward crook and misalignment of the ramp sides, on the second sawhorse, ("trestle") from the building.  It also appears that trestle has an added board on either side, for more surface bearing of the ramp joint.

Judging by the workers height at about 6 ft tall.  It makes sense the ramp section he's on is about 16 ft, which would be a more typically available, max length of standard retail lumber.

That single section alone would probably support the weight of the worker and cart with plenty of bounce,....for a while like playing JengaLaugh...Smile

 

TF

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, January 26, 2023 9:16 AM

I am going to stick by YIKES!

Geeked

I have seen a lot of trailers unloaded at jobsites, and if a ramp was used, it was a RAMP! Usually alluminum with non-skid treads and very sturdy supports.

If that ramp was pulled out, someone would destoy it on sight.

I could never have been a laborer back in the day.

-Kevin

Living the dream and happily modeling my STRATTON AND GILLETTE Railroad in HO scale. The SGRR is a freelanced Class A railroad as it would have appeared on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954, in my personal fantasy world of plausible nonsense.

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Posted by DSO17 on Thursday, January 26, 2023 5:53 PM

gmpullman
Maybe I didn't describe its location well enough. End-sill grab iron? Reflector by Edmund, on Flickr OK, maybe it is a waffle iron?

It's a reflector. If you look carefully you can see the switch lock used to secure it to the car. It was common for the B&O to place reflectors on cars left on the street overnight in Baltimore. Later on they were sheet metal covered with a red reflective decal (Scotchbrite?) The reflectors I remember were always locked on the car. 

I don't recall seeing reflectors on cars PC or Conrail left on Baltimore streets, but have been told that at one time, PRR had an employee that rode a bicycle around the street trackage area of Baltimore and hung lighted oil lanterns on cars left on the street overnight. I'm guessing they were locked on too.

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Posted by crossthedog on Thursday, January 26, 2023 7:50 PM

DSO17
have been told that at one time, PRR had an employee that rode a bicycle around the street trackage area of Baltimore and hung lighted oil lanterns on cars left on the street overnight.

Oh my! What a great modeling opportunity! I would love to see this on a layout. So much so that I'll pledge one of my world famous personalized limericks to the first person who posts a photo that includes the employee, the bicycle and the lit lantern hanging on the car. Does not have to be PRR, but must be your own work. To this pledge I set my seal.

-Matt

World class limericist.

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

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