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  • Lettering a Fleet of Chicago & North Western Boxcars

    Chicago & North Western owned a large group of both 40- and 50-foot boxcars with several lettering styles. In this article, the author shows how he prepared a small fleet of C&NW boxcars for his layout. Most of his cars are seen in the view above, a North Western scene right out of the 1960's.
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       My Sunset Illinois Railroad needed more of those old-fashioned brown boxcars, so being a Chicago & North Western fan, and knowing what a wide variety of paint schemes they had on their older steel boxcars, it was time to do some research.

       For many years, the different types of older C&NW wood boxcars and some of the earlier steel cars were lettered with the roadname spelled out to the left of the door and a small black and white herald on the right side. Reporting marks were also on the left side. In 1944, the word LINE in the trademark was officially changed to SYSTEM to more aptly describe the affiliation of the Chicago & North Western and the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha railways. The emblem was changed once again in January of 1957 when the word SYSTEM was changed to RAILWAY.

       As postwar passenger traffic began to decline, the railroads, North Western included, became more aware of the competition in the passenger market. One form of advertising for their upgraded passenger fleet was to put train names and slogans on the sides of boxcars. Shortly after World War II, the North Western began replacing the small herald with slogans such as ROUTE OF THE 400 STREAMLINERS, THE OVERLAND ROUTE, ROUTE OF THE 400 FLEET and ROUTE OF THE STREAMLINERS. The slogans appeared in various combinations on new steel 40- and 50-foot cars. Older steel cars received the slogans as they went through the shops and were repainted.

    Above: One of the more common C&NW "slogan" boxcars was one featuring ROUTE OF THE 400 STREAMLINERS on one side of the car.

    Below: The opposite side had THE OVERLAND ROUTE displayed. This lettering style was used on both 40- and 50-foot cars. These sides give an exact guide as to the position of the lettering.

    This is how the slogan was positioned on a 50-foot boxcar. The 50-foot series of boxcars with this slogan was numbered 3011-3236, and their lettering was essentially identical to the 40-footers, centered on the car side to the right of the sliding car door.
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       In 1956, when the Heineman era was just beginning on the North Western, the emphasis on the passenger fleet diminished and so did the slogans on the boxcars. That year the large C&NW initials began appearing on new box cars and some repainted ones. Within a year or so, the large initials were replaced with a black and white herald which was larger than the one that had been used prior to the slogan schemes. At this time the spelled-out CHICAGO AND NORTH WESTERN was dropped from the lettering scheme and only the reporting marks and weight data appeared to the left of the car door. This lettering scheme was used until the mid-1960's.

       Needing the numbers of cars I was going to decal, I enlisted the help of fellow modeler Bill Wernick. I would photograph freight cars in trains from the inside of the curve at Dixon, Ill., and Bill would take down car numbers from the other side. Upon comparing notes, we discovered the boxcars did not have the same slogan on both sides of the car. It was this fact that sent us to Clinton, Iowa, where the C&NW has their main car shops. In the graveyard there we had a chance to study the cars while they were standing still, and we even found some paint schemes we did not know existed. We have collected some 350 numbers for the different lettered cars. A lot of help came from the October 1955 Railway Equipment Register. Mike McBride, an operator for the North Western and a C&NW modeler as well, gets credit for sighting some of the rarer boxcars.

       I will describe how to decal a fleet of older Chicago & North Western steel boxcars and one Omaha road boxcar with the correct lettering and numbers in HO scale. To do all ten boxcars, you will need the following Champ decals: three sets HN-49, C&NW white lettering; three sets HB-15; one set HB-22; one set HB-154, all C&NW boxcars; and five sets HD-2, boxcar data. For most of the cars I used the Athearn 1200-series 40-foot boxcar kit; I also used one Roundhouse and one Con-Cor boxcar.

       With one exception, the C&NW reporting marks, number and car data are located the same on all cars. The C&NW reporting marks, number and weight data are centered on the car side to the left of the door, five inches above the bottom rivet line. The dimensional data is on the right side of the door, along the second vertical rivet line from the end of the car and five inches above the bottom horizontal rivet line.

       The first boxcar we'll letter is the easiest one to do. The car has a black and white herald on the right side of the door and the reporting marks and number are on the left side. Using Champ set HN-49, the car takes the larger of the two heralds that come with the set. The herald is centered on the side to the right of the door and the bottom of the herald is five feet from the bottom of the car side. The left side has CNW reporting marks and number and capacity placed as described earlier (see the photo). There were three types of cars delivered with this herald. The 23000-24099 series had six-foot-wide doors, 24100-24199 had nine-foot doors, 24200-24210 had six foot doors and the 24300-25377 series had eight-foot doors. The Athearn model has six-foot doors and the ConCor model has eight-foot doors. Most C&NW boxcars rebuilt from 1958 until the mid-1960's got the same general paint scheme, so just about any boxcar can have this style of lettering.

    This is the opposite side of the same type of car as shown at the bottom of the previous page. Both 40- and 50-foot cars of this type had the road name spelled out in the area to the left of the car side door.
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       The next type of car has the large C&NW initials. There were three different arrangements of this lettering. First we'll do the car with the most common style, the one where the large C&NW is on the right side of the door and the spelled-out CHICAGO AND NORTH WESTERN is to the left of the door. The reporting marks, car number and capacity are applied in the same manner previously described. The decals for this car are in set HN-49, and use the larger CHICAGO AND NORTH WESTERN at the top of the sheet. The large C&NW initials should be centered on the upper half of the right car side. Numbers for this car run from 6501 to 9649, odd numbers only. There were also 50-foot single-door boxcars with the same lettering. These are numbered 4142-4891, both even and odd digits. There is another car with the same style of lettering, but the reporting marks, number and capacity are offset to the left (see the photo). This car is the only exception to the guidelines given earlier. There have been only two numbers recorded for this type, 4358 and 4577, both 50-foot cars. We have seen 40-foot cars like this, but no numbers were recorded. A third type having the large C&NW initials exists, but I did not include decal set numbers for it in the list of Champ sets given before. The problem is the ampersand, which is smaller than the nearby letters and quite noticeable. Also, the car has its lettering "reversed" - the large C&NW is on the left side of the door and the spelled-out CHICAGO AND NORTH WESTERN is to the right. The errant ampersand can be taken from a Champ 3/8" alphabet set. It's not exactly right, but it's close. We've recorded three numbers for cars of this type; 9654, 86442 and 87530. A few others have been seen but not recorded.

    T he photos on this page illustrate four different C&NW boxcars as lettered by the author. All were done with Champ decals, and are virtually exact replicas of the prototype lettering styles. See the text for detailed information about car number series and lettering data.
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       The C&NW slogan cars come next and the first one was the most common back in the mid-1970's. It has THE OVERLAND ROUTE on one side of the car and ROUTE OF THE 400 STREAMLINERS on the other. Use Champ sets HN-49 and HB15 for this car. Refer to the photos, and note that all slogan cars have the slogan on the right side of the door and the spelled-out CHICAGO AND NORTH WESTERN to the left. Use set HB-15 for the OVERLAND side of the car and letter according to the diagram sheet enclosed with the set. The other side of the car displays the slogan ROUTE OF THE 400 STREAMLINERS. This can be tricky to letter, since the decal in set HN-49 has to be cut to read correctly. Cut out in one piece the ROUTE OF and THE 400 parts. Position the decals as shown in the photo of the finished car. The 400 emblem is centered between and above the "T" and "L" of the word STREAMLINERS. These cars were numbered 1-1657, and 1855-2260, even and odd, and 6200-10098, even only. There were also 50-foot single-door boxcars with the same lettering. These were numbered 3011-3236, even and odd digits. For the 40-foot cars, we have 51 road numbers where both sides of the car were checked and 115 cars have been recorded where only one side was checked.

       The next five types of lettering on C&NW boxcars were very scarce when this project was started, and were hard to document. The first of these has THE higher type. The next style has ROUTE OF THE 400 FLEET and ROUTE OF THE OVERLAND ROUTE on one side and ROUTE OF THE 400 FLEET on the other. Again, the OVERLAND comes from set HB-15, and is the same as the previous car with OVERLAND on its flank. The other side of the car is lettered with set HB-22. Each side of the car is lettered per the diagram that comes with the decal set. Some of the numbers we recorded for this style of car are: 86306, 86566, 86654, 86742, 86760, 86980, 87000, 87040, 87110 and 87234. These would tend to indicate the cars were in the 86300-88298 series, with even numbers only. We also recorded the number 107352.

    Left: One of the scarce C&NW slogan boxcars is No. 142948, of which only one car was ever "officially" documented by the author. One side of the prototype car featured the ROUTE OF THE 400 FLEET slogan, lettered here with Champ decals.

    Right: The opposite side of No. 142948 has the ROUTE OF THE STREAMLINERS slogan. The unique car probably was the result of a semi-rebuild or semi-repaint occurring after a major shopping or wreck repair It was unlikely the car was delivered with the unusual combination of slogans.

    All it takes is some practice and time to have a "complete" fleet of boxcars - or any other type of rolling stock - for your favorite road. With the wide variety of decals available, you can usually create most if not of all the paint and lettering schemes used by a particular road. Even without superdetailing, the models stand out on the layout because of their lettering-prototypical schemes not available commercially.
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       Another car has THE OVERLAND ROUTE on one side and ROUTE OF THE STREAMLINERS on the other. For this car, use sets HB-15 and HN-49. The one side is the same as for the other OVERLAND types. The opposite side will use the decal ROUTE OF THE 400 AND THE STREAMLINERS. Cut out the block letters ROUTE OF and the script letters THE STREAMLINERS. Letter the car as shown in the photo. We have recorded six numbers for this car: 87338, 87496, 87558, 87690, 87918 and 88172, and these cars are also in the 86300-88298 series, even numbers only, but have higher numbers than the previous type.

       The next style has ROUTE OF THE 400 FLEET and ROUTE OF THE STREAMLINERS slogans. This car is lettered the same as the other cars with like wording see the instructions for each side as described above. We have documented only one road number for a car of this type: 142948.

       Another car in this general group is labeled ROUTE OF THE STREAMLINERS and ROUTE OF THE 400 STREAMLINERS. Refer to the photos and above instructions for each side of the car. Again, we have recorded only one road number for this type: 88120. The above two C&NW box cars and their lettering could have resulted from rebuilding and/or repainting, and they may not have been delivered with the lettering described here.

       The last car of this scarce group was painted with THE OVERLAND ROUTE on one side and ROUTE OF THE CHALLENGERS on the other. For this car, use Champ sets HB-15, HB-154 and HN-49. The side with OVERLAND is the same as other OVERLAND lettering. For the CHALLENGER side, I used the ROUTE OF from decal set HN-49 and the script letters THE CHALLENGERS from set HB-154. I put the lettering in the same position as that on the boxcar with ROUTE OF THE STREAMLINERS. We have only one number for this car; 142116. We did see another car with the same lettering, 105984, where we read through a new paint job, but could not get the lettering on the other side.

       While we're at it, how about adding an Omaha Road (Chicago St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha) boxcar to the layout? This can be done with the 40-foot Roundhouse model having the panel door. The Omaha Road car has the same lettering as a typical C&NW car, including the spelled-out road name. One side of the car displays THE OVERLAND ROUTE slogan, and the opposite side has ROUTE OF THE 400 FLEET. The only difference between the Omaha Road car and the C&NW car with the same slogan lettering are the CMO reporting marks in place of the CNW. The CMO reporting marks can be found on decal set HN-49. We've seen two cars with this lettering and the two different slogans through a new paint job. The old slogans showed clearly. The new paint was the reversed large C&NW initials scheme described in the section on large C&NW lettering. The Omaha Road had box cars numbered 37100-39498, and the two we recorded fell in the 39100-39498 series, even numbers only. Now you have enough information to build a fleet of Chicago & North Western boxcars which will add un common and correctly numbered and lettered models to your layout. Of course, do not hesitate to decal the cars according to the directions with the decal sets for an even greater variety. It is my hope that other railroad modelers will do research on their favorite road and preserve the old paint schemes on the boxcars. By doing that, we all share the information and can have correctly lettered and numbered cars.

    EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was prepared with the "good enough" theory of railroad modeling in mind. It was written before many of the numerous detail parts now on the market were available, and it reflects the efforts of a modeler faced with operating a 300-car fleet. Information in the North Western Lines magazine of the C&NW Historical Society (April 1976) notes the OVERLAND ROUTE lettering always appeared on the side of the car facing the viewer, if the brake-wheel end was to the right. As always, photos of specific prototype cars should be consulted when lettering a certain car.

    Article Details

    • Original Author LLOYD RINEHART
    • Source Prototype Modeler
    • Publication Date December 1986

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