Friday 31 October 2014


In considering the movement of coal on the Kettle Valley, an aerial photograph of Penticton yard in 1948 presents useful evidence for a modeler of the Southern Mainline in steam days.  The website is Vintage Air Photos and if the specific item does not immediately come up, try keying in "Penticton Saw Mill" in the Search box.  The photo is a fantastic source of information for us modelers as we can zoom in for close examination of the detail as well as get a big picture of the railway in the late steam era. 
On one of the Penticton yard tracks we see a string of six coal cars and two more on the service track of the coaling plant.  These latter two are definitely hopper cars - most likely they are Twin Hoppers.  There appears to be one Triple Hopper car and a Twin on the yard track and 4 low gondolas.  In addition, there are several other coal cars in the tracks beside the string which on close examination, also seem to be Twin Hoppers.  By the heights of the loads, it could only be coal as no other mineral is piled so high in an open top car.  It is also very neatly trimmed, which suggests a major coal shipper.  It is doubtful that the coal is going East, so we can speculate with some degree of certainty that it is going West, having  originated at a large mine in the Crowsnest area.  Whereto is an open question.

In the 1949 CPR equipment register, the M P - 14, there is a classification called "Gondolas - Coal" or in earlier M P 14's a variant: "Gondolas  (Coal Sides)".  These are the other cars in the string already referred to in the aerial photo.  There were several types used over the years and for our modeling era we present 3 models of the 4 most common prototypes.

The oldest car in the late steam era was probably what some modelers call the "Low Otis" which hauled many, many tons of coal into the early 40's. Built in 1906-12, only a few survived to 1950 and many of those only in cinder service. Railroad Model Craftsman carried a thorough set of articles on the prototype and the model in the Dec 1987, Jan '88 & Mar '88 issues. Ken Goslet wrote the prototype articles and Eric Clegg built the model and wrote about it. Clegg extracts statistics on the "Low Otis", stating that there were 500 in service in 1945; 174 in 1948; 43 in 1958; with 19 hanging on till 1964. Number series can be perused in the article. In the 1953 ORER page reproduced above, only one can be positively identified and matched with the roster list in the RMC article: CP 345685. But from the teens to the early 40’s these cars were abundant; over 2500 being built. For our layout, we have two intended for OCS but as yet only one finished. The bodies were cast in resin under the brand, Scale-Craft Models, 20 years ago or so by Mr. Don Hough, a local model-maker. Here is one of them:

 Here is a fine model representative of the "Big Otis" drop-bottom, composite cars with 8 doors each side.  This model was produced by Overland Models and is of brass construction.  The brass trucks were not functional and have been replaced with Bowser plastic trucks: PRR 70 ton Crown.  A wonderful model of an important car.  There should be more of these models in our roster and we may add a few using the resin kit by Funero And Camerlango: built in the 1920's with wooden sides, there were still 1199 of these cars in service in 1949; with 697 functioning as late as 1965.  The listing for these 350,000 series cars will be found underneath the red line in the ORER page reproduced below.  see Riddell p. 80.  see CFRG
In 1937, another composite car was produced and it is pictured here in a poor photocopy reproduction of a prototype photo in my collection.  I cannot remember where it was taken - possibly Brookmere - and how I got it.  Not much doubt about the cargo being coal as the trainmen are helping themselves to a bucketful for their stove.  Probably better coal than what the CPR supplied.  Going by the built date appearing on the car side, I suspect the photo was taken between 1937 and '39.  It is listed below on the ORER page.  Another series is listed on the page: 352000-352169.  This seems to be identical and Riddell supplies colour photos of them on pages 82 & 83.  Total numbers then are 370 built.  These lasted a long time, the Riddel photos being taken in 70's.  No model produced, but it is tempting...
Next is the 348,000 series of drop bottom gondolas which fast became useful in Western service.  They were used for coal but more-so for transporting copper concentrate to the smelter in Tacoma.  For our era, the concentrate came from the mill at Allenby on the Copper Mountain Sub.  As noted in a chart below, our scale reports show that in the 60's, concentrate was shipped out of Greenwood to Tacoma.  Before these cars came on line in 1948, it would seem from photos of Allenby concentrator, that the concentrate was moved in box cars.
This model is really a stand-in as there is no commercial version that is even close to the prototype.  Perhaps a rendition could be manufactured with the new technology known as 3-D Printing.  This stand-in is made of two MDC gondolas cut and spliced to give the high sides it needs although the vertical ribs are lacking in detail and placement.  The horizontal joint is somewhat visible.  A set of 7 was built from 14 body shells cut up on a table saw.  Basic dimensions are given in the M P 14 but the ORER has more detail which is advantageous for duplicating or approximating in scale.  The overall dimensions of this model are close so that the original ribs could be removed and more accurate ribs fabricated and rivet decals applied.  One of these days...  see Riddell p. 81,82. see CFRG
Here is the upper part of the relevant page from the ORER for CPR Gondolas with the 348,000 series underlined in red.  Looking up to the column headings one can obtain critical dimensions.

Besides the M P 14 and the ORER mentioned in this and the previous post, we have in our possession a copy of the daily scale reports of the Penticton track scale for the entire year of 1961.  This "book" provides some helpful insight into the on-line origins and far-flung destinations of freight cars and their respective loads.
In 1961, 150 carloads were shipped in the Big Otis and the High Steel Gondolas Westward.

No. Carloads
Car Type
Car Series
Big Otis
350000 -
Oliver, BC
Seattle WA [2], Chehalis WA
rock, quartz, silica
High Coal Gon
348000 -
Greenwood, BC
Tacoma WA [139], Seattle WA [6]
concentrate [132], rock[13], quartz [2]

There were no Eastbound carloads weighed and no coal loads at all weighed in Penticton.
Some car numbers repeat as many as 5 times appearing in near consecutive months such as Car CP 348922 being weighed once each in June, July, August, October, November.  Most cars appear only once.

In conclusion, it seems safe to say that:
  • Coal was shipped in Hopper Cars and Coal Gondolas in the 40's and '50's across the Kettle Valley railway.
  • After the opening of the coal port in Port Moody in 1960, Hopper Cars prevailed but...
  • The Coquihalla sub closed to traffic in October 1959.
  • The coal trains bound for the coast probably did not transit the KV for anything but the briefest time in 1960 if at all.  This was due to the CPR, sometime in 1961, rerouting all Westbound through traffic by way of the Kootenay Central to the mainline.

Due to my personal schedule, posts will normally be done on Fridays as with this post.  Next Friday is the beginning of our annual Trains convention at Cameron Recreation Centre. The week after that we will treat of Mill Gondolas.   The Kettle Valley Model Railway is a participant in the show.  Might see you there.

Coquihalla Man

Wednesday 22 October 2014


Analysis of the CPR's national roster for 1949 reveals that hopper cars comprised a mere 4% of the fleet and gondolas a little more at 7%.  However, we suggest that their representation on the Kettle Valley was significantly more due to British Columbia being rich in mineral resources.  According to a current B C provincial website, "The province is Canada's largest exporter of coal, largest producer of copper and only producer of molybdenum. B.C. also produces significant amounts of gold, silver, lead, zinc and construction aggregates, and a variety of industrial minerals."

B C coal and minerals were also significant in the twentieth century and in addition, there were many mines in Southwestern Alberta which, we hypothesize, shipped a portion of their output Westward along the southern route.  In 1960 Port Moody became the terminal for Crowsnest coal but before that we have not determined a destination on the west coast.  Despite this historical uncertainty, we are sure that modelers of the KV need a goodly supply of Hoppers and Coal Gondolas to transport this cargo across our layouts.  For our layout, we also have need for a few coal cars for the smaller mines of the Tulameen valley.  By the time of our modeling era, the mines of the Merritt region had played out or were considered low value coal and not worth the investment of extracting.  Coalmont had been a significant shipper of high grade coal from Blakeburn Mine until its closure in 1940.  A few years later coal mining did resume on a smaller scale and by 1947 Coalmont was shipping "15 to 18 cars of coal per week from" to Princeton for the Granby power plant.  15 to 18 carloads is a fairly significant output for a modeled industry and we can only aspire to match that in our operating sessions.  Various other mines operated in the Princeton area intermittently over the years of interest to us.

Thus, there were local requirements for coal cars as well as greater numbers of them to cope with the shipments from the mines of Coleman, Canmore, Natal/Michel, and Fernie.   It seems from photograph evidence that both Hopper Cars and Coal Gondolas were in abundance in the yard at Michel and so might they be in our Westward trains over the KV.  (see photos in J.F. Garden:  The Crow and the Kettle, p. 92ff and Adolf Hungry Wolf: Rails in the Canadian Rockies, p. 131.)  On the other hand, it must be admitted that photographs of trains in the transition era show Coal Gons frequently and Hopper Cars not so much.  But we have the latter on hand and a only few Coal Gons which are a little more expensive or challenging to produce.
An interesting website on the economic history of the Crowsnest can be found at:  Regarding coal and coke shipments, this site reports that "in 1922, after the closure of the smelters at Grand Forks and Greenwood only 61,497 tons of coal or 11 percent of production was made into coke."  Thus, coal dominated the carloads shipped out of the Crowsnest area.

In our comments about the various coal cars we will regularly refer to a valuable resource book for the modeler: Canadian Pacific Color Guide To Freight and Passenger Equipment by John Riddell.  Published by Morning Sun Books in 1998.  The prototype photos are invaluable for modelers.  An on-line reference is the Canadian Freight Railcar Gallery (hereinafter CFRG) at:  Direct links to on-line photos for specific cars will be given as well.  Another site of interest to Canadian modelers:

But first a page from the 1950 M P 14 showing the Hopper Cars of the CPR:
In the case of Hopper Cars, there are two major types: the Twin Hopper (HM) and the Triple Hopper (HT).  Two other hopper car types were present in much smaller quantities: the Covered Hopper (LO) and the Longitudinal Hopper (HK), the latter being mostly used On Company Service for gravel and ballast.

The Twins were older being built between 1936 and 1941 as can be seen from the page reproduced here.  These are noted under the "construction" column as having two doors each side. In all there were 1150 of them delivered to CP in series 354,000 and 357,000. 

A little later, Triple hoppers came on line with 1600 of them being built from 1941 to 1949 and an  additional 1924 Triples delivered between '54 and '58.
In the case of Longitudinal Hoppers and Covered Hoppers their numbers slowly but steadily increased over the years garnering a larger share of the roster as the Twins and Triples held steady and the Box Car numbers declined.  See the graph in the previous post.

Here is a photo of two of our Twins.  On the left is a modified Athearn car with wire grab irons, brake detail and the trainline.  The car is a good starting point.  On the right is the amazing Kadee product.  We marvel at their engineering to produce this car with fine detail.  Both are fitted with our layout's standard Accurail trucks, Intermountain semi-scale wheelsets and Kadee "scale" couplers (#158).  Both are painted Warm Black and lettered with CDS dry transfers.  see Riddell pp. 65,66. see CFRG
Both of these models are somewhat light in weight when run as empties and thus more prone to derailments.  We have added weight in several ways to improve their tracking.  In the case of the Kadee car, we have applied a weight made by Juneco Scale Models specifically for the Athearn Twin Hopper which are sometimes available at hobby shops and through web-sites.  It is triangular in shape and fits perfectly into the space between the hoppers.  The Athearn car has a simple fishing line lead weight squeezed to shape and added to the same space between hoppers.  This car has also had the slope sheet weights replaced with sheet lead cut to size and shape.  Note the brass or stainless steel screws used for truck and coupler box securement.   These and all other steel components are replaced with non-magnetic items to avoid unintended movement over magnetic uncoupling "ramps" which are employed widely on the layout.  Sometimes styrene/plastic bolsters are stripped of their thread and will not hold a machine screw tightly.  A simple but effective solution is to insert a dab of Walthers Goo or Pliobond glue into the bolster hole being careful to not get any glue on the outside to contaminate the bolster pin and truck.  The Goo holds it from loosening well enough but still allows it to be purposely unscrewed for maintenance purposes.

Here is one of our Triples, a Bowser (originally Stewart?) product that has received the detail of Tichy stirrups, wire grabs, trainline, cut levers, brake detail and removable coal load.  Weights were added between the hoppers and to the slope sheets to bring the empty car closer to NMRA recommended weighting.  The lettering is Bowser's with one digit of the number changed to represent a car of the 1940's.  Bragdon Powders for weathering.   Car kits available at Central Hobbies in Vancouver.  see Riddell pp. 66,67.  see CFRG:

Besides the M P 14 and the ORER mentioned in this and the previous post, we have in our possession a copy of the daily scale reports of the Penticton track scale for the entire year of 1961.  This "book" provides some helpful insight into the on-line origins and far-flung destinations of freight cars and their respective loads. While we are very glad to have acquired this document, we would have preferred a slightly earlier version to better dovetail with the era we model.  Another limitation of the document is that it records only those cars weighed at Penticton.  Cars originating from the Kootenays would have been weighed at Nelson or Cranbrook or perhaps at a track scale closer to the mine itself.  Cars originating west of Penticton and heading westward would be weighed elsewhere.  Yet, what it does give us is, for example, a record of 108 carloads of silica, quartz and rock shipped out of Oliver in the year 1961 to Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon.  Not sure of the receivers and no record of coal movements.  The cars used were 1 Twin Hopper and 107 Triples.  No hopper cars shipped Eastward.
In summary, the following cars in 1961 were used in Westbound service:

No. Carloads Car Type Car Series Origin Destination Load
1 Twin Hopper 354790 Oliver, BC Vancouver WA rock
107 Triple Hopper 357450 - Oliver, BC Vancouver WA [91], Portland OR [16] rock[40], quartz[55], silica[12]

For period modelers like myself, it becomes important to observe which cars were in service for the chosen era.  In fact, the choice of era to model can be influenced by the rolling stock we prefer to model.  Here is a small table of Hopper cars and their build dates.

Car type AAR Code Car Nos. No. of Cars Build Date Lading
Twin Hopper HM 354000 - 354899 900 1936-41 Coal; Rock; Quartz; Silica 
Twin Hopper HM 357000 - 357249 250 1941 Coal; Rock; Quartz; Silica 
Triple Hopper HT 358000 - 358599 600 1947-49 Coal; Rock; Quartz; Silica 
Triple Hopper HT 359000 - 359999 1000 1941-47 Coal; Rock; Quartz; Silica 
Triple Hopper HT 358600 - 358999 400 1954 Coal; Rock; Quartz; Silica 
Triple Hopper HT 357450 - 357799 550 1955-56 Coal; Rock; Quartz; Silica 
Triple Hopper HT 364000 - 464499 500 1957 Coal; Rock; Quartz; Silica 
Triple Hopper HT 364500 - 364974 474 1958 Coal; Rock; Quartz; Silica 

A final comment on the prevalence of home road hoppers and coal gons on the Southern mainline, is that it was likely over 99% CPR in the 1940's and '50's.  I only know of one foreign hopper appearing in one of the many photos I have seen - published and unpublished.  It is a Northern Pacific hopper on a yard track in Nelson BC, in the '50's: page  251 of Riegger's, The Kettle Valley and its Railways.  The car was not carrying coal.

To be continued next week with a look at the drop-bottom Gondolas used in coal and ore service...

Coquihalla Man