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August 2006 - Page 23


Grandt Line wagon with Pennsylvania Railroad express car. handed over to passengers, while mail always had to be picked up directly by U.S. postal employees.

Grandt Line wagon on platform ready to have its load moved into the express car of an arriving train. In the background an REA truck with driver awaits loads from the express car for local distribution. tip over when turned, especially when trying to make a tight 180 turn to move the wagon to the station area for unloading. The wagons weighed several hundred pounds even when empty.

Four-Wheel Baggage Express Wagons
After the formation of Railway Express in 1929 the most typical platform wagons had a metal frame, wooden deck and four spoked wheels with metal treads (see Photo 1). Photos in various books show that some of these wagons were later modernized with solid rubber tires or automobile-type wheels with pneumatic tires. Near the back end of the wagon there was a fixed axle hold ing the wheels with a rigid suspension. At the front end there was a more elaborate metal support for the front wheels with a flat circular bearing plate that rotated with the axle and mated with a fixed metal circular bearing plate to permit the wagon to be steered by means of a long tongue with a handle at the outboard end. Above the deck the equipment varied from a couple of wooden posts to keep packages from falling off the ends, to wood or stamped-steel corrugated slats with metal stakes open only near the middle of their sides to permit access to parcels being moved. Some of these wagons had rounded ends and were built in a streamlined-deco style. These wagons had a brake that was actuated by raising or dropping the drawbar out of the hauling position (see Photos 2-4)

Platform Wagon Wheels
There were several types of wheels used on REA wagons. The earliest were ordinary wooden spoked wheels with thin metal rims as in the Jordan kit, while later ones had heavier wheels with more spokes as in Grandt Lines HO and O scale models. Eventually, solid rubber wheels with wire spokes running at angles were used; some wagon designs called for pneumatic tires of about the size and configuration of small automobile tires.

Platform Tractors
These small tractors were found in stations that had a great deal of head end business. The tractors were either battery or gasoline p owered and were about the size of a large riding lawnmower. Improved concrete, wood or macadam platforms were common where tractors were used. These tractors range from 7' to 12' long, and up to 57" wide. They can haul about 4,000 lbs. at the drawbar according to the manufacturers, and have governed top speeds of about 15 mph. Clark, Harlan, Northwestern Baggage Tractor and United are some of the brand names of small tractors available today, although some of these makers once manufactured them for the railroads and Railway Express. The design of the tractors has not changed much externally, although with the advances made in engine design the new tractors are more fuel or current efficient. In enclosed areas, such as underground or interior spaces of passenger terminals, the electric versions of these tractors were commonly seen hauling long strings of wagons. Lowboys or dollies and similar conveyances were used in some terminals, especially where there were high platforms. While practicality of design dictated which types of wagons and tractors were used, in some cases the choices were a matter of someones preference so there was no real standardization of manufacturer or type of equipment employed. Gasoline-powered tractors were intended for use out of doors hauling wagons on open platforms, but I can attest to the fact that these were used inside too, for I have been on the work floor of some

Covered Wagons
Some wagons had four metal rods or posts mounted to the deck which rose several feet and to which a roof was fastened. This accessory does not seem to make a lot of sense as rain or snow could blow in from the sides and ends, but like an umbrella, they would provide some protection; old photographs show that a number of large stations had these covered wagons.

Double-Ended Platform Wagons
There was a variation of the four-wheeled platform wagon having a drawbar at each end (see Photo 5). A look at the undercarriage showed that the axle bogies at both ends could turn. Only one drawbar would be extended at a time for hauling, and unfolding it released a lock for the steering and the brake. This clever variation on the basic platform wagon made it unnecessary to turn the wagon to move it in the opposite direction. This was a great convenience to the operator when trying to move one of these wagons on a narrow platform. As platforms are not always very level, a loaded wagon could

AUGUST 2006

MODEL RAILROADING 23

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