Archives for January 2010

Wood Box Car

M&H Railroad Boxcar 2009

Photo by Jeb Boyd, Whiskey Spring Studios

Built prior to 1890, this car has a wood frame, link and pin couplers and hand brakes.

George Westinghouse’s air brake invention was first used on passenger trains in 1868; freight cars came much later. On a signal from the engineer, the brakeman jumped from car to car setting the hand brakes.

To couple the cars, the brakeman had to slip a pin down through the hole in the coupler and through the link as the cars slammed together. All this was done, night and day, in all kinds of weather. Railroading in the “good old days” was an extremely hazardous occupation. Many men were seriously injured or killed.

Truss rods under the car were periodically tightened to keep the car from sagging in the middle.

The box car in the picture is owned by Middletown & Hummelstown Railroad, and has been moved to the car barn for – hopefully – a restoration. Having cast wheels, the old couplers, and no air brakes, it can never be put back onto an actual train. It will make an interesting display piece, however. We would be interested in talking to any volunteer organization or wood-working craftsmen who would like to bring the car back to it’s original appearance. Videos of the movement of the car are posted on our Facebook page.