Challenging assumptions (or “What happened with the tractors?”)

In an earlier posting on the Wabash flat car, I wrote (in part):

While the diagram shows paired tractors loaded parallel to the flat car, I will have to secure my Ertl die cast models on a diagonal … The tractors are simply too wide to tie down as shown in the diagram: Their rear wheels would hang off the edge of the car.

Diagonal loading would have looked like this:
The tractors fit! photo WAB-Flat-01.jpg

But in the end, I was in fact able to load the tractors parallel to the car, as shown here:
A flash of red photo WAB-Flat-04.jpg

So what happened?

A couple of readers asked about why the tractors wouldn’t fit parallel. That forced me to revisit the problem. I realized that if I tucked together the pairs of tractors really tightly and made sure the rear wheels were tight against the body of each tractor, I could squeeze them onto the flat car as shown in this blocking and tie-down diagram:
Tractor blocking diagram photo tractorloading.jpg

(Note that the diagram describes proper loading “lengthwise or diagonally”, so I could have loaded them diagonally and been prototypical about it.)

The Ertl tractors are toys so they have rotating wheels and they’re kind of a loose fit on the axles. This means they tend to lean in or out when the tractor is resting on a surface. Since I would be tying down my tractors anyway – and actually gluing the wheels to the deck as part of that process – I added a drop of CA to the inside of each wheel hub, while holding the wheels tight to the body. This not only secured the wheels in place, but also ensured that the tractors were as narrow as possible. As a result, they fit on the flat car just fine.

That was a small step – easy to fix. The big step was challenging my assumption that they would not fit lengthwise in the first place. Having built such a load years ago for an HO scale flat car…
Farmall Flat in HO photo FarmallFlat-HO.jpg
… I was convinced lengthwise loading would not work on this car before I had adequately investigated all possibilities.

Thanks to those who asked about this.

Another question arose about what I’d do for an empty car.

For now, I simply won’t worry about one. Crews will deliver a load of tractors to Port Rowan and – between sessions – the flat car will disappear back into staging. As an unusual load, it will probably only run in every 10th session or so, so crews won’t notice this.

But I also have an identical, but undecorated, flat car. At some point, I can letter it, or trade it, for another flat car – either Wabash, Nickel Plate, or another midwestern road. (It does not need to be an identical car). I can add a bit of blocking waste to the empty and swap loaded car for empty between operating sessions.

4 thoughts on “Challenging assumptions (or “What happened with the tractors?”)

  1. Hi Trevor;
    Nice work on the tractor load and flat car. If my memory serves well, ( not always)
    I believe I read on the STMFC list that there was a “law” or rule put into effect that tractor loads had to be loaded parallel, in the event that if one or more tractors broke loose the load(s) would roll or shift to the ends of the car instead of rolling off the car, causing the load to hit surrounding objects. ie: other trains, people, etc.
    Just a thought…
    Jeff Sankus

  2. Trevor;

    The message below is the story that I had read on the Steam Era Freight Car Yahoo list.

    Jeff S.

    The discussion of tractor loading led a friend to ask me: Is there anything to the story that in 1947 a wreck in the Chicago area changed the loading from across the flat car to in line loading of tractors? He says a friend insists that a wreck in a west suburb (can’t remember the name) on the Burlington was the reason the government changed the loading style.

    I responded “that doesn’t make sense. The railroads handled high and wide loads all the time. The only situation I think of that being the reason, was if the load had an overhang that exceeded clearances. More likely a new rule was instated by the railroad, where the wreck occurred, restricting high and wide loads on that particular section of track. The AAR (not government) had rules for securing loads, but I don’t believe the government was ever involved with dictating loading restrictions, except perhaps for the military.”

    Does anyone know for sure? I believe the reason was the increased size in tractors. As they got longer, they no longer fit cross wise on a flatcar. One would need to study each tractor model, learn its length, to determine when the factory went from crosswise to angled loading styles.

    Of interesting note, while searching for photos of flatcar loads of tractors, I have seen several models of the Lifelike tractor, a Farmall MTA, with the wheels removed and stacked behind the tractor body which sits up on blocking. Total wrong. The only reason we see tractors transported this way is because with wheels they are too tall or too wide, ie very large tractors. But certainly not a Farmall M or MTA.

    My friend reports seeing tractors without rubber tires loaded in Wisc. The rims were on and had wood blocks wired in so as not to damage the rims. The reason was these were going to Europe and they were going to furnish the tires.

    Doug Harding

    • Hi Jeff:

      Interesting stuff – thanks!

      Doug Harding is a great researcher (and good friend). He and I worked together on the Cheltenham Grain Bin article published in Railroad Model Craftsman magazine in January, 2012. (My model of this structure ended up in St. Williams on my layout.)

      BTW, I’ve added a URL to the Steam Era Freight Car discussion group to your comment: Some readers may not know about this group and it’s always interesting reading. In a similar vein, I recommend the Railroad Prototype Modeler forum.


  3. Pingback: The start of a small project – a Nuisance load | Musings on my Model Railroading Addiction

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