Stock Car Cyclopedia Volume 1 By Robert Hundman

Stock Car Cyclopedia Volume 1 By Robert Hundman

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Stock Car Cyclopedia Volume 1 By Robert Hundman
Stock Car Cyclopedia Volume 1 By Robert Hundman  96 pages Soft Cover  2007 FIRST EDITION, first printing.  
There were roughly 100,000 stock cars out of 2,000,000 freight cars in the United States. That's about 5%, or five out of every one hundred cars seen. Clearly that number varies according to the railroad and type of service it provided, or the type of service required in the railroad's region. By comparison, cabooses accounted for a bit over 1% of the freight car fleet.
By the WWII era, while cabooses remained at their previous percentage, stock cars had dropped to about 2-1/2% of the freight car fleet, but annual construction data does not account for all of the stock cars in use. A large number of stock cars were rebuilds, generally from single-sheathed box cars, and these would not appear on the builder's construction lists. When you look at the drawings, glance at the Wabash stock car (Volume 2), which is a rebuild of their outside-braced automobile car, and typical of what railroads did to keep their costs down, utilizing material to its best advantage. This was a process they could use easily since the loading of stock cars was light, with the average stock car load being no more than 12- or 13-tons, while the capacity of the former car was usually 40- to 50-tons. This of course led to another situation that exercised a lot of control over the size of stock cars. Stock moved by the railroad was charged by the 100 weight, not by the car load. As a result, there was little pressure for bigger cars where you could jam more cattle, sheep or hogs into a larger car. Instead, the 40-foot car remained the standard, with cars as short as 36 feet and as long as 43 feet. On rare occasions, 50-foot cars were used.
Many of us have worked with the mistaken impression that cars were either a standard 36- or 40-foot so they could be parked alongside stock pens, and with one door aligned the others would be aligned as well. Not so. The variation in stock car length was random between 36 and 43 feet. Proper spotting of cars would be with them uncoupled, each car placed with its door adjacent to the ramp or ramps for that stock pen.
In 1950 the Interstate Commerce Commission lists 48,018 stock cars in the national fleet - roughly double the number of cabooses, but prominent because they were almost always used right behind the locomotive. It was rare to see a loaded stock car anywhere else in the consists. The ICC provided that stock be unloaded every 28 to 36 hours for feeding and watering. Thus stock cars at on-route pens could be not only the stock cars of the home road, but of distant roads as well. The variation of length of cars could also be significant.
It's also a mistake to assume that the use of stock cars is geographically significant. Certainly there was a lot of stock raised in the west, where land lent itself to grazing and not crops, but they were almost as common in the east where it may be dairy cattle moved from location to location, or beef cattle raised, anywhere from New England to Florida.
This two-volume set on stock cars contains drawings of roughly twenty five stock cars from all areas of the country. Construction dates are generally in the 20s, 30s and 40s, but samples of all of these cars would have remained in service until the effective close of universal stock car operations on the railroads.
For construction of new cars, the ARA developed standard designs, but they were of recommended practice. The railroads modified those designs as they felt necessary. Before and after WWI, the ARA practice was to recommend the use of box car designs and parts. No stock car design was created for the USRA. Railroads would usually modify outside-braced box cars if stock cars were needed. One of the features that was debated was the use of Howe or Pratt truss, that's with the diagonals either ending at the top of the door, or ending at the bottom.
In engineering classes, its clear that a triangle is a rigid structure, and whether the diagonal support ended at the top of the door or the bottom of the door is relatively inconsequential. That fact is proven by the number of cars of each design that operated successfully.
Five new unpublished sets of stock car drawings will be included in Volume 2 to give readers a chance to see more clearly how much variation there is in the fleet of the stock car era.
Perhaps these books will put to sleep the thought that 36- and 40-foot cars were the standards for stock cars. In fact the dimensions from coupler striking surface to striking surface varied indiscriminately from 36 feet to 43 feet. Certainly some railroads would have standards, but each railroad serviced cars from other railroads as well, and the 36- or 40-foot myth is no longer in place.
Here we've presented a number of car drawings, all carefully done from railroad data. Once again, be aware that the stock cars on your favorite road don't have to be from the road. Stock cars, like other freight equipment, roamed, and the destination could be a far distance from home rails.

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