IntroductionAtlas Model Railroad Company, Inc.
has offered their N Master GSI Pulpwood Flat Car
since 2004. These popular freight cars are re-issued every few years with new road names or numbers. This sample is ICG (Illinois Central Gulf Railroad) No. 101361, Item# 50003713
created this model as a General Steel Industries (GSI) prototype and explains;
Pulpwood is not a specific type of wood, but actually tree limbs that are cut to a specified length, then turned into wood pulp and used in the paper industry. Early paper making had the trees near the paper plant. As timber resources were diminished, the need for transporting pulpwood began to rise. Railroads were seen as an efficient method of transporting pulpwood. Pulpwood in the Southeast and Northeast is generally cut into four-foot or less lengths and loaded onto "V-deck" bulkhead flat cars. The Atlas pulpwood flat is a reproduction of an early 1950s General Steel Castings "V-deck" design.
(GSI was also known as "Commonwealth" - see General Steel Industries
ICG Pulpwood Flats
Illinois Central Railroad (I.C.R.R. or "IC", and subsequent incarnation Illinois Central Gulf, "ICG") rostered several pulpwood car designs. Many were built by IC either from scratch or using complete components from suppliers, although IC may have bought some "ready-to-run" cars, too. Using IC's 1972 freight car diagram, it appears that this Atlas model most closely represents an I.C.R.R. series 7800-7837 car (built in 1963) or a 7450-7499 series car (built in 1951). Both used cast steel underframes and ends, which were products that GSI produced, and both have bulkheads of the unique GSI design.
These pulpwood flat cars were classified by IC as:
38'-0" (inside the bulkheads)
Average Lt. Weight 44,100lbs (7800-class) or 43,600lbs (7450-class)
23 cord capacity (approx.)
Concerning this model, according to the erudite NEB&W Railroad Heritage Website
There is an early '50's photo of home-built IC 50-ton pulpwood car with "open" ends, no. 7487, which was 38 feet long inside. The bulkhead was similar to the Commonwealth 50 foot design, but only three "holes" high, all without diagonals, and the bulkhead had no facing. The deck was V-shaped. There is also a sketchy plan of the L&N car. In '58, there were 50 cars in the 7450-7499 series. There was also the 7500-7799 series, 300 cars, with similar dimensions, a likely candidate for further research.†
IC & ICG also rostered 70-ton 50-foot pulpwood cars. Atlas also sent sister ICG 101366, Item 50 003 714
; check back as I will weather it and post it in this review.
N Master Commonwealth Pulpwood Flat Car
My first impression of this car was positive. It features crisp molding and exceptional sharp printing. Molding and surface quality is high and the acetal trucks look good, too. Packed in a jewel box for safe display or storage, this flat car is nestled in a clear form-fitted cradle with a lid. A thin plastic sheet protects it from scuffing. No parts diagram is provided.
Per Atlas this model features:
Rugged die-cast chassis
Plastic deck & bulkheads
Separate air reservoir
Open or closed bulkheads to match the prototype
Simulated detailed pulpwood load included
Atlas equips it with AccuMate® knuckle couplers (made under license from AccuRail, Inc.).
For N this Commonwealth car features good detail. The bulkhead structural members are oversize for the scale but I really didn't notice that. Make them to-scale and both price and fragility would skyrocket.
Flip the car over and you can see all the basic underframe and brake detail. Stake pockets are cast onto the frame under the deck. Those stirrups are individual parts attached at the factory.
Even though all of the bulkhead grab handles are cast on, by the "3-foot rule" of model railroading they do not look clunky.
The car rides on Barber S-2 trucks holding plastic wheels.
Those cords of logs look good, too. The ends even have tree rings and other wood detail molded on, and bark texture on the rest of the log. While trees come in a lot of colors, I am glad that Atlas made the bark a medium gray and not a cliché brown.
I tried to remove the log load and it barely budged. Certainly it will come out if forced but I don't know if it would take the bulkheads with it, so I chickened out and left it in - at least until I complete the photography of the model.
This model is 42 ¾ feet from end sill with a 37-foot span between bulkhead faces, and reaches 11 feet from rail head to the top of the bulkheads. It weighs 1.1 ounces, a tad over the NMRA RP-20.1 Car Weight recommendation of .98oz.
I scooted it over Atlas Code 55 track. It rolled smooth and tracked true over turnouts. The AccuMate® couplers mated well with other N cars.
Paint and Lettering
Atlas' paint and lettering is, as expected, excellent. Smooth opaque paint covers the car and does not obscure the low detail. Printing of the lettering is crisp and legible, except for the consolidated stencil.
In this fourth release of these cars that came out in 2004 (maybe even before) we have these railroads:
Atlantic Coast Line
Delaware & Hudson
Each road name includes two road numbers.
The road numbers of ICG cars in the 101300-range brings up MOW rolling stock. I do not know when ICG transferred these cars to non-revenue service, or if it would continue hauling cords of wood in that service. You can see a photo of the real 101366 via Click here for additional images for this review
Modelers should enjoy this bright N ICG car brightening their layout.
This Atlas N Master GSI Pulpwood Flat Car
is a sharp car of a ubiquitous flat car in woody regions. Modelers will appreciate the high level of detail and fidelity to the prototype. ICG modelers should appreciate the high quality paint and excellent lettering on this Main Line of Mid-America
pulpwood flat. The model operation is excellent.
Perhaps the only concern for an ICG modeler might be the road number and the load of wood.
Regardless, this is a beautiful N Commonwealth pulpwood flat car and I consider it a good value for your modeling dollar. Recommended.
Thanks to Atlas for sending two of these excellent cars for review. Please mention to them that you saw these models here - on
General Steel Industries
General Steel Industries, Inc. (GSI) had several businesses and one manufacturing railroad components was Commonwealth (General Steel Castings Corp.)
General Steel Industries, Inc. (GSI) was an American steel company founded as General Steel Castings Corporation in 1928. The company's first headquarters were in Eddystone, Pennsylvania and, prior to completing its own modern steel foundry in 1930, acquired the operations of the Commonwealth Steel Company, a critical supplier to the rail industry.
An acquisition program to diversify from its core steel castings business of manufacturing large steel castings was initiated in the late 1950s and resulted in six divisions and one subsidiary by 1971. The broader business portfolio allowed GSI to close the Castings Division, the company's only business prior to diversification, in 1973.
In 1974, GSI was operating 19 plants across the United States and internationally and continued operating as an independent company until it was acquired by Lukens Steel in 1981.*
GSI Pulpwood Cars
This article has been edited for relevance.
...Commonwealth flat, the bulkhead is appropriate for many of the Commonwealth flats built in the mid-'50's and later. However, I think the bulkhead can be used for a few shorter cars built in the early '50's. I had thought that the Commonwealth end was used on other random flats. In the '57 Cyc., the Commonwealth ad showed that they produced two versions of their bulkhead flat. The 50-ton car was the same length, but only had a three "porthole" high bulkhead. They also made a 50-ton car that was 42 ft. 6 ins. long over the end sills. The ad showed how the bulkhead was designed to interlock into the underframe, which was specially strengthened to resist the twisting forces. This means that while the underframe could be used minus the bulkheads, the Commonwealth bulkhead would seem to have required a Commonwealth underframe.
Commonwealth (General Steel Castings Corp.) actually was not a car builder as such, but supplied the castings to other builders or directly to the railroads. Thus we can talk about a Commonwealth flat which was built by Thrall or some other builder.
The Commonwealth bulkhead was about 8-1/2 feet high, with four squarish "portholes" on each buttress. The top hole was clear but the other three had a diagonal in a Howe configuration. There were four uprights across the end. The uprights were not tapered.
In the 1949 Cyc., no cars were shown with this type of bulkhead, so I presume it doesn't date back this far.
As I started adding cars under the general Commonwealth heading, it began to dawn on me that here was a standard design. This section was written in the "dawn breaks over Commonwealth-head" fashion. Since I originally wrote this, Atlas has produced a ready-to-run model of this exact class of cars. See the pulpwood car section of the Atlas Kit Guide. †
Pulpwood CarsPulpwood was often shipped in box cars or gons, but those regions of the country, particularly the Southeast, which served timber regions, generally had a sizeable fleet of bulkhead and pulpwood flats. (The difference was if the car had a flat deck, it was a bulkhead flat, but if the car had a "V"-shaped deck, it was only suitable for pulpwood.) If the car is loaded, particularly with pulpwood, one can't tell if the deck is flat or V-shaped, so it seems to make sense to group these two types of cars together.
On the other hand, the design of the bulkhead is so distinctive that I would plan my attack on modeling the car by concentrating on these. Many times the roads used cut-down box car ends, but many other versions were built new. I am finding it difficult to categorize the different forms of bulkheads, so I have been neglecting these cars.
There are several sources of bulkheads that I know of that could be cannibalized from other kits if need be.
It should be recognized that bulkhead and pulpwood cars were late-steam developments. Prior to 1930, mechanized loading was still in the development stage. During the Depression, unemployment was high so labor was cheap. On the other hand, capital was all but non-existent due to the stock market crash and the many bank failures. This prolonged the use of manual loading and unloading of all types of cargo, including pulpwood. It made more sense to use ratty old box cars or stock cars for this service than buy new specialized cars.
In the 1931 Cyc., for example, there were no bulkhead flats shown. An "LP" type car was described as "an open top car having solid bottom and fixed sides and ends (either slatted or solid) and provided with
side door openings. With or without running boards having guard rails. Suitable for
handling pulpwood" (emphasis theirs). In other words, basically these were for roofless box or stock cars.
A "FP" (flat rack) car was "an ordinary flat car provided with
side and end racks, with door openings in sides. Suitable for
handling pulpwood" (emphasis theirs). Again, they were thinking of a car with sides.
Regular flats were often converted into bulkhead cars, retaining all but the first and last stake pockets. Thus a 15-pocket car, if converted to a bulkhead type, would likely have 13 pockets. In some cases I will discuss the bulkhead versions in the same section as their regular flat siblings, if it seems appropriate.
In Varney's ad in the August 1955 Model Railroader, they introduced a bulkhead flat model. The caption said "More and more, railroads are adding these cars as the 'tree farms' come in bearing." Notice the mid-'50's date of this announcement.
† NEB&W Railroad Heritage Website. NEB&W Guide to 40-Foot Commonwealth Bulkhead Flat Cars. Illinois Central.
[Web.] 25 August 2011, at 08:47.
* Wikipedia. General Steel Industries.
[Web.] 26 July 2017, at 02:37.
** NEB&W Railroad Heritage Website. NEB&W Guide to Bulkhead & Pulpwood Flat Cars - Introduction
[Web.] 25 September 2011, at 18:32.