Penn Central freight cars out of service

Discussion relating to the Penn Central, up until its 1976 inclusion in Conrail. Visit the Penn Central Railroad Historical Society for more information.

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deandremouse
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Penn Central freight cars out of service

Post by deandremouse » Wed Jun 03, 2009 7:45 pm

After Watching Penn Central the movie, I was shoked at all the freight cars needing repairs and being metal patched. Anyone know what the PCs oldest freight car was? and how many FRA violations they caused?
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Sir Ray
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Re: The Nations worst railroad in history.

Post by Sir Ray » Thu Jun 04, 2009 9:56 am

Not sure why you were shocked - the simple fact was PC had a lot of freight cars, so at any given time a lot were in fair-to-poor condition - this was mid-20th century railroading after all - I remember reading that the PC had a significant portion of the US fleet of gondolas & hoppers, inherited from PRR & NYC - I'd like to say a third of the fleet, but I can't be sure - and that made other railroads a bit nervous about the car supply.
I've read that the Central of NJ was even worse around this period (early '70s, before government grants for repair started coming in as a prelude to ConRail), but I can't say if their comparable cars (say mill-gondolas) were worse than PC's.

CarterB
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Re: The Nations worst railroad in history.

Post by CarterB » Thu Jun 04, 2009 3:34 pm

IMHO, the NYO@W tops them all, never shoulda been built in the first place, and 'limped" into bankruptcy and abandonment in the late 1950's with only 'borrowed' rolling stock, and a few of their woodsided boxcars from before WWI.
Bring back the Slumbercoaches!!

262
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Re: The Nations worst railroad in history.

Post by 262 » Sat Jun 06, 2009 10:26 am

Up until rule changes in the 1980s there was no limit on how old a rail car could be ,as long as it was sound and had all of the required equiptrment.Structial and saftey requirerment were stricter for interchange service.But if the car stayied on home rails it could remaim pretty much as built.I think the age limit now is 40 years for interchange.I can remember recieving cars of lumber in the early 1980s in Florida from Canada still with friction bearings.The crew that unloaded these 40 ft. box cars (built in the 1930s and 1940s)by hand would open the lids on the journal box covers and dip their raw hide gloves in the oil to make them last longer.The oldest car I seen while there was a CN flat car built in 1933.But then the rail on the siding was dated 1912.

Sir Ray
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Re: The Nations worst railroad in history.

Post by Sir Ray » Mon Jun 08, 2009 8:54 am

It seems the 40 year restriction was eliminated a decade ago, at least for cars built from 1974 onward (there are a few articles from Railway Age suggesting that cars built before that date, but meeting modern standards, can still be used in interchange service till they are 50) - the articles seem to indicate that the 40 year rule was instituted in 1982 to clear out a lot of the WWII & 50's era 'non-comforming' rolling stock, until the mid-90s when they realized a lot of modern, conforming rolling stock from the 1970s (and 1960s) would have to be prematurely retired, so the rule was changed in 1996 to match the FRA 50 year limit.

And since 2006 it's a 65 year interchange life for (US) rolling stock built after 2004 - Railway Age article.

(Hmm, this discussion is slipping into Locomotives & Rolling Stock forum terrority - and the original general question of worst railroad would be Operations maybe? - I'll let the moderators handle that decision)

deandremouse
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Re: The Nations worst railroad in history.

Post by deandremouse » Mon Jun 08, 2009 12:11 pm

I asked What the Penn Centrals oldest freight car was. They had alot of freight cars with roofwalks which were ruled out by the FRA in the 70s, while the PC still used them. Also PC had alot of patched equipment and equipment still having the PRR mark and NYC mark. So there must have been alot of violations the FRA musthave given.
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Sir Ray
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Re: The Nations worst railroad in history.

Post by Sir Ray » Mon Jun 08, 2009 3:22 pm

deandremouse wrote:I asked What the Penn Centrals oldest freight car was. They had alot of freight cars with roofwalks which were ruled out by the FRA in the 70s, while the PC still used them. Also PC had alot of patched equipment and equipment still having the PRR mark and NYC mark. So there must have been alot of violations the FRA musthave given.
Not necessarily, at least not for roofwalks on housecars (i.e. not covered hoppers or the like, which need roofwalks to reach the roof hatches), which were banned from interchange in 1982, well after PC was gone.
This site seems actually rather useful in that regard, as it lists some key compliance dates (alas, it ends in 1996, and I think it may be a bit off on the ConRail sale). Apparently even non-roller bearings lasted into the 1990s, well after PC was history.
I'm sure the PC had plenty of the 'minor' violations, such as a missing ladder or side step, and maybe plenty of major violations too (crappy brake shoes) - but was the percentage greater than it's contemporaries such as CNJ or Reading?
in 1968, PC would be subject to the FRA 50year interchange rule - meaning 1918 rolling stock would be prohibited from interchange, but 1919 would still be OK - so if the car had a steel underfame (wooden underframes prohibited in 1928), was refitted w/ AB airbrakes (1933), type E couplers (1933), no archbar trucks (1940), and no Cast Iron wheels (1958 - they get banned again in 1970, so this list needs some editing), then that car is good to go and knowing PC, if they had one it probably went...

lvrr325
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Re: The Nations worst railroad in history.

Post by lvrr325 » Wed Jun 10, 2009 5:47 am

On non-revenue cars a railroad is free to do just about anything it wants; in the 1990s I observed a Conrail rail train whos flatcars had build dates as early as the mid-teens. Some of the same flatcars were used for the camp car fleet as well.

However most of the PC work fleet saw roller bearing conversions done on the original trucks, certainly most of the ballast cars got this upgrade at some point. I think that might be what was banned from interchange at the later date, as even those are no longer able to be interchanged without getting an exemption from the FRA.

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Otto Vondrak
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Re: Penn Central freight cars out of service

Post by Otto Vondrak » Thu Jun 11, 2009 12:48 pm

Mouse, you might want to take a step back and put things in perspective.
deandremouse wrote:After Watching Penn Central the movie, I was shoked at all the freight cars needing repairs and being metal patched.
Ever been to a railroad shop? At any given time, there's hundreds of cars waiting to be repaired. Second, the Penn Central was the combination of three of the largest eastern railroads... think they might have a very large freight car roster to start with? If your fleet numbers in the tens of thousands, having a couple hundred cars out of service is not too unusual. Of course, the problem was aggrivated at PC, where many repairs were put off until the last possible moment, it seemed. Also, Penn Central was running out of money, and could not make repairs- which is why cars started to pile up in the yards.
Anyone know what the PCs oldest freight car was?
Kinda misleading, since there were plenty of old cars in "company" or "work" service. I assume you're talking about revenue freight cars? Couldn't be that old since there were rules regarding steel frames, the type of trucks and couplers, etc. Maybe the oldest car on the road was 30 years old? There's a certain limit before you have to retire a car from revenue service, I dont have those numbers in front of me.
and how many FRA violations they caused?
The FRA didn't exist yet. And why do you think car inspectors were allowing "illegal" equipment out on the road? If it didnt pass inspection, it wouldn't go out on a train.

Look, we know Penn Central was "bad," but let's not blow things out of proportion. You had many hard working people who cared about their jobs who didn't have the funds and resources to fix the problems at hand. Also, the scenes in "Penn Central - 1974" was over-dramatized for the benefit of the Congressional committee deciding the fate of the railroad. These men most likely did not have a grasp on how bad the situation was, and this movie was created to highlight "the worst of the worst" but also show what Penn Central can be like at its best (ie, fully-funded).

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Sir Ray
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Re: Penn Central freight cars out of service

Post by Sir Ray » Thu Jun 11, 2009 4:45 pm

Otto Vondrak wrote:
Anyone know what the PCs oldest freight car was?
Kinda misleading, since there were plenty of old cars in "company" or "work" service. I assume you're talking about revenue freight cars? Couldn't be that old since there were rules regarding steel frames, the type of trucks and couplers, etc. Maybe the oldest car on the road was 30 years old? There's a certain limit before you have to retire a car from revenue service, I dont have those numbers in front of me.
Check my post above - looks like a post WWI car could have legally been in interchange at the time (meaning 1968), although more realistically I'd say the PC probably had rolling stock from the mid-1920s in service (I'm thinking mill gondolas, real beat up ones, and probably special duty flat-cars like depressed center - probably no wooden sided boxcars in interchange duty - although I could be wrong - but maybe steel sided 'Horse' Cars or End 'Auto' door boxcars; and with so many hoppers owned by the PRR over the years...)
and how many FRA violations they caused?
The FRA didn't exist yet. And why do you think car inspectors were allowing "illegal" equipment out on the road? If it didnt pass inspection, it wouldn't go out on a train.
<James May Top Gear Voice>You're Wrong.</jmtgv>
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) was created by the Department of Transportation Act of 1966 (49 U.S.C. 103, Section 3(e)(1)).
fra.dot.gov
Yeah, I know it's splitting hairs, and the FRA more or less just formed, but still...

lvrr325
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Re: Penn Central freight cars out of service

Post by lvrr325 » Fri Jun 12, 2009 8:58 am

The only wood freight cars I know of that lasted into the '70s were the ex-B&M cars run by the Wellsville, Addison & Galeton (in part supposedly because they'd clear a tunnel on the EL in Oswego NY).

For a long time in Savannah NY some former PC company service cars sat that included two heavyweight pullmans and two 40' boxcars, one of which was a pre-WWII lower height car, possibly a PRR X-23 or similar car. So some 30s era cars lasted into the PC era, if not in revenue service. I'm sure other nonrevenue cars, like scale test cars, line cars and the like were quite old.

PC had a couple of steel 4-axle heavyweight baggage cars dating to the early to mid-teens which lasted in revenue service into Conrail used to haul jet motors for GE; the cars were specially modified internally for the service and were hauled in freight trains. Both went to the CNY NRHS, one was burned by vandals a couple of years ago (a former New Haven car). The other car, a former NYC baggage, is in fair shape but no longer interchangable due to having friction bearings. They may well have been the oldest revenue cars on PC.


PC and CR had a deal where when they abandoned lines or abandoned service to customers they would sell the customer a surplus boxcar and place it on their siding before the line was removed - every one I've seen has been a 50-foot car. I suspect that most surplus/obsolete older cars were sold for scrap as soon as possible after they went bankrupt simply to produce more cash. You get more storage out of a 50-foot car than a 40-foot car, so I think most who bought a surplus car got the biggest one they could.

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Otto Vondrak
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Re: Penn Central freight cars out of service

Post by Otto Vondrak » Fri Jun 12, 2009 2:18 pm

Sir Ray wrote:The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) was created by the Department of Transportation Act of 1966 (49 U.S.C. 103, Section 3(e)(1)).fra.dot.gov
Yeah, I know it's splitting hairs, and the FRA more or less just formed, but still...
Thanks for the 1966 date. For some reason, I thought it was later.

-otto-
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