The New Haven RR in 1959                 
                                                   ...gone but not forgotten

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Head end and other equipment

Head end refers to postal, baggage and express cars typically used in passenger service.  On this page such equipment as well as a few "rare birds" will make up the content.


2790-2794 series 60’ Baggage and Mail Cars with 15’ mail compartment

These five cars were of the type also known as “M&E” (Mail and Express) or RPO (Railway Post Office) and consisted of one portion of the car designed for handling baggage or express items and one portion, or compartment, of the car designed as a working post office for sorting and processing mail while the train was traveling en route to its destination. In most cases the mail working compartment was 15-, 30-, 45- or 60-feet in length, and because it was staffed by U.S. Mail postal workers, it was fitted with heat, light, water cooler and a toilet. The compartment design and outfitting was specified by the U.S. Postal Service and cars provided by all railroads had to meet these mandatory requirements. Cars with small compartments included little more than a sorting table and a rack of letter separators for the sorted mail, a canceling pad to cancel stamps when the mail was sorted, and a pouch rack to secure sacks of mail and store sacks picked up en route. Also included in these small quarters was a rack for newspapers that were being delivered en route. Mail with postage cancellation was identified by the cancellation stamp which included the date and also identified the letter as cancelled in an RPO.


Cars 2790-2794 were built in 1930 by the Bethlehem Steel Company. The cars were equipped with 4-wheel General Steel Castings equalized trucks with 6”x11” ASF Roller bearing journal units. The trucks had a wheelbase of 8’with 36” diameter wheels. The underbody was equipped with a 3kW axle-driven generator that supplied a 396 ampere-hour battery to power the lighting in both mail and baggage compartments.

In late 1962 with declining mail service as transportation was taken over by planes and trucks, these cars were converted to Baggage-Messenger cars with no postal service and renumbered 3900-3904. At this time the single window in the 15’ compartment was sealed.


Car 2790 is scratch-built by Al Lawrence from Bristol board (cardstock) for the sides and wood underbody and clerestory roof with cast metal vent details added. I will keep this car bearing the same number, but I have yet to research what paint scheme it was painted in 1959. If it turns out car 2790 was repainted into the black and red-orange McGinnis New Image paint scheme then, like the prototype, this model will be sent to the “car shop” for repainting and lettering. To the best of my knowledge, no commercial model of this car has been produced.

3263-3284 series Class MA 60’ Mail Cars

This series of New Haven Mail Cars was constructed with the entire 60’ interior length dedicated to sorting mail en route. Notice these cars had no wide baggage doors at all. One end of these cars was equipped with radiators and stanchions to support the bags of mail. Inboard of this section was an areas about 20’ in length dedicated to sorting tables and paper racks. The next adjacent section was also about 20’ in length and fitted with mail bag storage racks, letter cases (separators) and canceling pads. On the outside of the car, mail slots were positioned in this section so that citizens could drop off letters directly into the car to be sorted en route for delivery. The opposite end of the car was fitted with more radiators and the toilet, wash basin and water cooler.


Cars 3263-3269 were built in 1913 and cars 3270-3284 were built in 1914 by the Laconia Car Company and equipped with 6-wheel Pressed Steel built-up trucks with 5”x9” journals and 36” diameter wheels. The cars were originally equipped with one 4kW axle-driven generators supplying an 800 ampere-hour battery. In 1942 a second 4kW axle-driven generator was added and the battery changed to 1000 ampere-hour at 80% efficiency.

With only a few exceptions, these cars were in service almost to the end of the New Haven Railroad. Car 3269 was condemned February 1964 at New Haven. Car 3270 was condemned March 1965 at New Haven. Car 3271 was condemned May 1967 at Cedar Hill. Car 3265 was converted to Baggage car 5630 September 1968 at Boston and car 3273 was converted to Baggage car 5631 November 1968 at Boston. All windows were blanked out when both cars were converted. All other cars in this number series were condemned September 30, 1968.


Car 3264 may be a JC company kit built by Al Lawrence. The model has metal sides and wood underbody and clerestory roof with cast metal vents and details added. This car is lettered with the much older “New York New Haven & Hartford” lettering long out of use by 1959 so this car will also be re-lettered and possibly repainted. Models of this car were made by Funaro and Camerlengo and sold through NHRHTA at one time but are no longer available.

Car 3287 is a model from fellow New Haven modeler Ted Jones and retired from his equipment collection.  This is an old metal-sided kit (Walthers?) that was assembled and painted to represent a Railway Post Office (RPO) car .  The car is equipped with Central Valley trucks.  With much gratitude to Ted, it is now part of my collection.

3600-series Storage Mail and 3700-series Baggage Cars

Originally built in 1945 by the Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Company as Troop Sleepers, the U.S. Government purchased 1,600 of these cars. In the post-war period, the New Haven Railroad purchased 150 of the now surplus cars for conversion to Storage Mail cars in 1948-9 (3600-3686 series) and Baggage cars in 1950 (3700-3762 series). In 1953 some cars in the 3600 and 3700 series went through a New Haven Railroad program that included replacement of Allied Full Cushion trucks with Symington-Gould XL type trucks and installation of replacement plywood doors. The main difference between these two types of cars is the Baggage cars (3700-3762) were equipped with lights and generators regulated to 2kW output as well as a switch locker in the baggage compartment. No matter if these cars were Storage Mail or Baggage types, they were all lettered “Railway Express Agency”. I have not seen a photo of these cars lettered “United States Mail Railway Post Office”.


New Haven sketch 25473 for the 3600-3686 series Storage Mail cars shows the installation of a reinforced plywood door of a different design that Sketch 25563 for the 3700-3762 series Baggage cars. My (limited) reference photos seem to show at least some cars in the 3600-series did not receive plywood doors as shown in the drawing and may indeed be equipped with a door that includes a horizontal riveted metal band. At least some 3700-series cars did receive plywood doors as shown in the corresponding sketch for these cars.


As the result of a sales-leaseback agreement with Hyman-Michaels about 1955-6, 125 cars were re-equipped with new General Steel Castings Type BX trucks to replace outlawed Allied Full Cushion trucks, general overhaul and painting. The rebuilt cars were renumbered into the 3000-3100 series. These cars were all repainted in the all-black McGinnis New Image scheme.


Some cars still remained in the 3600-3686 and 3700-3762 series after this date. My models are based on photographs of these cars from the 1960’s so I am reasonably sure these are the schemes they wore in 1959.


To my knowledge there is only one current offering in HO scale as a starting point for this car which is the Walthers car which at this time is listed as “Discontinued When Sold Out”. The Walthers car is ready-to run which means some disassembly is required in order to modify the door. The Roller Bearing Models kit is long out of production and I haven’t seen too many show up on internet auction sites. If I were to be starting out fresh to build these cars, I would probably go with the Red Ball kit, also out of production, now that I know how to manage fitting the inside parts that hold the underbody in place. Although the brass doors are very nice looking it’s tempting to scrap them and simply make correct doors from sheet styrene. The photo-etch detail is crisp, the sides are correct and knowing that I would not be dependent on detail parts like diaphragms or trucks in the kit would make it alright that they are not there or are of poor quality. It’s tedious to thin the roof vents but I’ve suffered worse to build a model.


NH 3605 Storage Mail Car

This car was built from a Red Ball resin and photo-etch kit sold by Model Railroad Warehouse. It this case the resin seems more like a styro-urethane type that is fairly soft and holds detail well. Despite inaccurate doors, the sides are accurate and very well detailed. The kit was specifically labeled as a “New Haven” version but includes solid photo-etch brass door needs that need to have windows cut into them. Cutting small window openings in sheet brass is not something I enjoy and I did a lot of muttering; “New Haven version my patoot!” under my breath as I used a steel scribe to mark the location and size of the windows and drilled out a series of small diameter holes on the inside of these marks and finally filed the openings to final size. The kit includes very poor assembly instructions and a couple of parts that stopped me from completing the kit for more than a year. I’ve shown the details on this on the “Work in Progress” page. Once I overcame the challenge presented by this unique assembly requirement the remainder of construction went smoothly. The kit includes pre-marked hole locations for handrails and grabs, and I used Tichy 0.0125” diameter phosphor bronze wire to make these parts. Plastic part are included to make part of the diaphragms, but I used Precision Scale part 33124 on this car as well. This kit comes with overly thick roof vents that require lots of sanding to thin them to an appropriate height before installation on the car roof. Because there were “sink holes” in both sides of the vents, sanding both surfaces when thinning the parts is required. As with car 3743 the sideframes of BCW #1219 Symington-Gould High speed trucks are modified to more closely resemble Symington-Gould XL type trucks. All lettering on this car is from Microscale set 87-844.

NH 3743 Baggage Car

This is a Roller Bearing Models resin kit dating from the late ‘60’s or early ‘70’s. It was originally offered in two variations as a standard troop sleeper or converted to a baggage car with the door cast into the car side. The major problem with the accuracy of this kit is that the door opening is incorrectly located one window to the right. Had I known better at the time I began assembly almost 30 years ago I might have cut the door openings and swapped them to the opposite sides in a manner similar to the door movements of the Athearn baggage car. One problem that may have occurred had I done that, and did interfere with smooth construction of the kit, is the old-technology epoxy type resin used to cast this kit is a very brittle material that easily cracks and splits. So, I just made a new door made from sheet styrene to represent plywood reinforced type door. Prototype photos of cars 3721 and 3752 seem to support cars with this type of door renumbered into this series. Because of the inaccurate door placement I researched for a McGinnis/New Image paint scheme car in this number series to help minimize visibility of the inaccuracies. Construction of the kit is pretty straightforward. The kit contains a wood underframe and I used the wire materials supplied in kit for air lines and grab irons as well as the cast metal brake gear for the underbody. Concord Junction cast resin roof vents were used since none were supplied with the kit. Paper diaphragms included in the kit were replaced with Precision Scale part 33124. The kit is less trucks and couplers so I used BCW #1219 Symington-Gould High speed trucks and modified the sideframes to more closely resemble the Symington-Gould XL type trucks. The car is painted flat black with a semi-gloss finish that I tend to use on passenger equipment. The decals are from a mixture of sources. The block NH is from Microscale set 87-937 (DL-109 lettering), “NEW HAVEN” lettering is from a Concord Junction custom decal sheet.“Railway Express Agency“ and car the number are from Microscale set 87-844. Eventually I need to add the underbody steps at the ends and under the doors to complete this car.

5500-5569 series Steel Baggage Cars

The New Haven had several groups of heavyweight steel baggage cars. Seventy of these cars with clerestory roof design built in 1914 and 1916-7 by the Osgood Bradley Car Corporation, were equipped with pressed steel 4-wheel trucks manufactured by the Standard Motor Truck Company. In the early 1940’s the cars were equipped with Miner Power Wheel-type Hand Brakes. In 1952, several of the cars were converted at the New Haven’s Readville Shops for messenger service. The typical raised-panel baggage doors with long, narrow window panes were replaced with featureless plywood panel doors with a single 19” square wire-reinforced window and the clerestory was equipped with Ward ventilators. Cars converted to messenger service were also equipped with a toilet. Many of these cars lasted in service into the late ‘60’s if not through to the end of the New Haven.


Car 5507 is based on an Athearn kit and the kitbash is described on the "Works in Progress" page.  This results in a reasonably accurate model with the major discrepancy being the length of the battery box under the carbody which has to accomodate the body attachment slot and tab mechanism.  The other major visible discrepancy is the rivet and batten detail which is incorrect compared to the prototype.  A highly accurate craftsman kit for this series car as well as the 5570-5589 "Turtle Roof" baggage cars was produced by Funaro & Camerlengo and used to be available from NHRHTA.  The Athearn car is no longer available and it appears the Funaro & Camerlengo car may no longer be available due to mold wear.  Both Athearn and Funaro & Camerlengo kits may be available through internet auction sites. 

5239-5246 series 42-Seat Steel Diners

These cars were built in 1930 by Pullman Standard at the Chicago, IL plant. Several improvements were made to the cars over their years in service. In 1940, several cars had interior improvements and were fitted with continuous light troughs and flat ceilings, and in 1943 other cars were fitted with box type lamp fixtures and valance boards. Some of the cars were named in 1942 and others in 1944. By the early 1950’s, the names appear to have been removed and replace by the car numbers. Six-wheel General Steel Castings coil spring, outside swing hanger, trucks with 5½”x10” journals, Fafnir roller bearings and Monroe shock absorbers were installed in 1953. Throughout the years, the New Haven Railroad always tried to provide patrons the very best dining experience possible.


The diners wore several paint schemes over the years. Originally green, in the early 1950’s, some cars were painted gray with a green window band to match the new Pullman-Standard stainless steel delivered in 1949. Later still, some cars in this series were painted in the “Black Knight” McGinnis New Image scheme. By the late 1950’s with the decline of passenger revenue, many of these cars were in spare service since ample coverage was available from the 1949 “Lightweight” diners.


Diner Faneuil Hall was car number 5243. This is a model built by Al Lawrence using a JC company kit. There is no current commercially manufactured model or kit of a New Haven diner available although it may be possible to kitbash a model using New England Rail Supply parts. The October 1955 Passenger Consist lists 5243 as the Faneuil Hall and in service on Trains 66 and 85. Diners in this number series are no longer listed in the October 1962 Passenger Consist. I will try to research the last paint scheme applied to this car in the sprit of giving new life to one of Al’s old models.

6010-6019 Combination Baggage-Smoker

In 1915 the Osgood Bradley Car Company built 10 52-seat Baggage-Smoker cars for the New Haven Railroad. The cars were furbished with a 28’ 11½” long baggage section and a 40’ 9 3/8” long smoker section with a single saloon located near the vestibule end. The Smoker section was equipped with Heywood-Wakefield walkover seats with Pantasote covering and the cars rode on 4-wheel Standard Motor Company pressed steel equalized trucks. Cars 6010, 6011 and 6016-6018 were sold in August 1951.


Car 6012 is a brass model made many years ago by Nickel Plate Products and is part of a two-car set. The models are accurate for New York, Ontario & Western (NYO&W) or New Haven cars by installation of the correct Ward vents on the sides of the clerestory. The vents come loose in the box with the cars to allow the owner to install them accurately. The vents are installed correctly on this model for a New Haven prototype.  Fellow New Haven modeler Jim Fellows detailed, painted and lettered this car. Until November 2008 this car was part of Jim's collection.

Business Car #2 is also a model retired from Ted Jones' collection.  This was a Bachmann Spectrum observation that Ted painted and detailed to represent New Englander, which served as a New Haven Official car for many years