Freight cars are the meat and
potatoes of any train. More than 90% of the train is made up
of freight cars, yet they are usually the least targeted part of
model railroading. Locomotives and cabooses are very
popular, but the freight cars that are stuck right in the middle
deserve some attention too.
Chessie owned just
about every type of freight car imaginable. In an undated
roster I have, Chessie lists 115,701 freight cars owned system
wide. They were broken down into the following:
69,227 Hoppers, 17,642 Boxcars, 10,581 Gondolas, 8,027 Covered
Hoppers, 3,136 Coil Cars (includes gondolas converted for coil
service), 1,986 Autoracks and 977 Flat Cars. This is good
reference point for the proportions of cars your railroad should
To see pictures of real
Chessie cars look under the "prototype pics" link at the bottom of
By far the most common type of
car on the Chessie System. About half of all freight cars
were open hoppers. Realize that Chessie was a coal hauling
road. Chessie painted them black with yellow
markings. Predecessor paint jobs for B&O and C&O
were black with white markings. The WM predecessor paint
scheme was oxide red with white markings (though they did have
some that were light grey with black markings). Coal cars
never get washed so model yours with plenty of coal dust
(oversprayed dark grey and black). Bowser makes a
great 100Ton Hopper and Stewart makes a great 70Ton
Hopper. Chessie also had a neat way of turning a coal
hopper into a covered hopper. Yellow plastic lids called
"hopper toppers" were put on them to provide a surge capability
for the fall harvests and lulls in coal traffic. Chessie
only used its newest hoppers for this service. I have
never seen a hopper in a predecessor paint job with a top on
it. McKean offers the "hopper toppers". They are out
of business now, but you can still find them occassionally on
eBay. Click here
to see the model hoppers
All three Chessie roads had them,
and they were all seen system wide. Normal Chessie boxcars
were blue with yellow markings. 40 foot box cars were rarely
seen in Chessie blue, mostly they were too old to worry about and
stayed in thier predecessor scheme. 50 foot and larger
boxcars were free game for the painting crews. Chessie had
all types, smooth, ribbed, waffle, etc. Like all modeling,
the best thing to do is find a photo of the real thing.
Chessie painted their insulated boxcars with blue
ends and the sides yellow. The sides had blue markings, the
ends yellow. The roof was either blue or silver. The
predecessor roads also had yellow sided insulated boxcar paint
schemes. It was normal to see some Chessie and some
predecessor paint jobs on cars side by side in the same train.
These hard working cars hauled
anything that could fit in them. Like dump trucks they got
pretty beat up. Chessie painted theirs black with yellow
markings. Predecessor paint schemes for the B&O and
C&O were black with white markings. The predecessor WM
paint scheme is oxide red with white markings. Most
gondolas were plain (with nothing inside of them for hauling
loads like scrap metal). They also can have special
interior fixtures to haul less than car load containers, spent
carbon, bar steel, pipe, mounted wheel axles, tin plate, loose
wheels, plate glass and copper billets. Most gondolas come
with fixed ends, but Chessie rostered some with drop ends for
easier loading. Additionally, some Chessie gondolas came
with covers to protect their loads from the
All three roads had them.
The predecessor schemes were all light grey with black
markings. The Chessie scheme was all yellow with blue
markings. They came in two main sizes, large (3 and 4 bays)
and small (1 or 2 bays). Large covered hoppers carried low
density material like grain. Small covered hoppers carried
high density material like sand or cement. Both large and
small types came ribbed sided (Pullman-Standard or PS) and
smooth sided (American Car Foundry or ACF). The small 2-bay
ACFs are really characteristic of Chessie and any Chessie model
railroad needs some. Covered hoppers are some of the most
frequent cars you see on the rails today.
These cars are technically
specially equipped gondolas for coil service, but are commonly
referred to as coil cars. The coil car for the purposes of
this website were cars designated "CS". This included both converted gondolas and
ones built from the ground up to transport coiled steel.
This purpose designed type of car was invented with C&O
help. The C&O had the largest fleet in America.
B&O had the #2 fleet. WM didn't have any. The WM
transported coiled steel in regular gondolas. Coil cars are
very characteristic of Chessie. Model quite a few.
Walthers offers them. Remember that those hoods come off and
get swapped around. It is rare to see a car with two
matching hoods. Usually one Chessie and one from another
road is accurate. They rust like crazy too, so weather them
lots. You can buy spare hoods and change them around to
create lots of new looks. Hoods come beveled or rounded on
top. Chessie had both. They painted their hoods yellow
with blue markings and blue with yellow markings. You need
some of both color schemes to be accurate. Chessie even had
a few yellow fiberglass hoods.
The C&O was all
over Michigan and with that comes automobile traffic.
Auto racks came initally in unenclosed or open carriers.
Eventually in the Chessie Era, sides were added, and finally
the all enclosed auto rack came about. These cars are
pooled through a jointly owned company called Trailer
Train. This means which ever railroad needs cars, (UP,
Santa Fe, etc) they take them from a pool. So, a C&O
auto train may only have a few C&O labeled racks on
it. Mostly it is an even distribution of road
names. Additionally, this means that B&O and C&O
auto racks do not come with B&O or C&O road letters,
but rather ETTX or BTTX letters for Trailer Train. Just
the upper rack is painted for the B&O or C&O.
These cars are very long, so if you have tight corners in your
layout, stay away from these. Accurail offers good two
and three level open auto racks and enclosed auto racks.
Walthers offers enclosed auto racks too.
A good for everything car.
These usually hauled strange loads that didn't fit in boxcars or
gondolas. Chessie painted them black with yellow
lettering. Predecessor C&O and B&O paint schemes
were black with white markings. The WM predecessor scheme
was oxide red with white markings. Flat cars come in either
general or specialized service. Specialized flat cars are
for pulpwood, lumber, auto frames, wallboard, aluminum sheet,
castings or trailers. Concentrate on the top of the flat
car, the sides are too small to get much attention.
MofW cars are usually the oldest
cars on the railway. They are used to haul stuff for work
crews to repair track, ballast, and everything else of the
physical plant. Gondolas, flat cars, coal hoppers, and
passenger cars were used for MofW. Very few of these pieces
of equipment got painted into Chessie paint. But those that
did were either green or red. The red was a B&O specific
color that was a hold over from pre-Chessie days. Most MofW
equipment was restricted to their home rails and not allowed to
switch or interchange to another railroad. Most MofW
equipment in the Chessie Era dated from the 40s and 50s. If
you model a specific piece of Chessie line, stick with that line's
The Chessie System was big into safety. They painted
several passenger cars and boxcars in a special safety green
scheme. These are really unique cars, and finding decals
for them will be nearly impossible. The best bet is to
make your own decals. I haven't modeled any of these
since they are so unique.
Click here to see the model safety cars (No link,
none modeled to date)
The Chessie System ran a few special trains behind steam
engines. The cars for the "Chessie Steam Special" are
very colorful. They would make great models in their
yellow with orange and silver trim. Also, Chessie had
track geometry trains that ran passenger cars in a black with
orange and yellow stripe scheme. The B&O also had
some dark blue Chessie passenger cars for special
trains. Again, these are very unique, these aren't
everyday sort of trains.
Click here to see the model passenger cars (No link,
none modeled to date)
TRAILERS on FLAT CARS:
Trailers on flat cars (TOFC)
was the first way intermodal transportation was done.
Today there are specific rail cars designed to handle
semi-trailers and containers. But in the Chessie Era it
was still TOFC. Some TOFCs carried just one semi-trailer,
but most carried two. These cars were also owned by
Trailer Train and did not have B&O, C&O, or WM reporting
marks, but are included here because it is a
freight car you would see with a Chessie System logo on the
load. Chessie ran unit trains of TOFC. That
means the whole train was just one type of car. These
"Trailer Jets" as they were called ran a very high priority
route across the system. Nothing on these cars shows
B&O or C&O ownership, but the trailers sure did.
You would see B&O, C&O, WM predecessor
paint schemes as well as
Chessie System marked trailers.
As my modeling skills improved
and my standards evolved, certain cars were no longer
needed. Listed here are the cars that I have retired from
service, with a quick bullet why these cars are not used any more.