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Because the vast majority of tank cars are owned by the major leasing companies, researching them is difficult.  The Equipment Registers provide very little physical data; usually only the weight capacity and capacity in gallons.   In addition, information on tank car lessees is nearly nonexistent.


  Through study of old photographs and a 43-year railroad career I can provide the following tank car rules-of-thumb:

  1. The majority of tank cars were plain black affairs.

  2. Railroad- owned tank cars are almost invariably used for company service and rarely left the home road.

  3. Three-dome tank cars were not common.

Keep in mind that the 1966 legislation removing the running boards from house cars also eliminated the walkway around the frame of tank cars.



  For now, this page will feature information on the more unusual tank cars produced in N-scale.

Atlas vinegar tank car.jpg



   Atlas produced a wooden tank car in the early days of N-scale.  It was later re-issued by Atlas as well as by E-R Models.  There’s a photo of the prototype on page 31 of Freight Car Pictorial  by Robert  Wayner.  It is Milwaukee Vinegar car  #10, with a built date of June 1946.   This car differs from other wooden tank cars I’ve seen photos of; as it’s a bit longer and features a flat panel under the tank.  I don’t know if this was a one-of-a-kind car, but was almost certainly one of the last wooden tank cars built.

   First listed in the July 1957 Equipment Register, Richter Vinegar appears to have assumed ownership of the Milwaukee Vinegar cars, so the model should be accurate this road name also.  Home point was Cudahy, Wisconsin.  Hinckley & Schmitt was a bottled water company based in Chicago.  As you can see from the chart below, Standard Brands had the largest and longest-lived fleet of vinegar cars, retiring the last three cars in 1978.  Apparently the plain silver scheme was used throughout the period.  Home points for Standard Brands cars varied over the years and included; Cincinnati OH, Buffalo NY, Houston TX, and Sharon PA.    Based in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, Heinz still listed 12 vinegar cars in the April 1960 Equipment Register.  The October 1947 Equipment Register indicated that the Standard Brands listing included cars of the Fleischmann Transportation Company.   


Vinegar tanks.jpeg
Atlas helium tank car.jpg



   The Atlas helium tank car was another interesting offering from the early years of N-scale.  It was later re-issued by E-R Models/Roco.  The model represents a “standard” 30- tank helium car as constructed between 1942 and 1962.   The Amarillo Railroad Museum maintains an excellent website containing extensive information about helium cars.

   The Army’s two cars were constructed in 1927, and bore little resemblance to the model, consisting of three large horizontal tanks stacked on an open frame.  The Navy’s first car was built in 1926 and resembled the Army cars.  The first cars resembling the model appeared in 1942.  The Navy’s cars were transferred to the Bureau of Mines after they discontinued their blimp program in 1955.  The Bureau of Mines constructed additional cars through 1962.  The October, 1993 Equipment Register listed 124 cars, but all were gone by 1998.  The Atomic Energy Commission received their first cars in 1955.  All were re-assigned to the Bureau of Mines in the mid-sixties.  The October 1966 Equipment Register listed 7 cars.  Home point for these cars was Department of the Interior helium plants in Amarillo Texas and Keyes Oklahoma.

Chart Helium tank.jpeg


The prototype for the Atlas jumbo tank car was an experimental eight-axle tank car constructed for General American Transportation in 1965. Numbered GATX 96500, it was listed in January 1972 issue of the ORER, but was no longer listed in the October 1975 issue. A photo appears in Robert Wayner’s Freight Car Pictorial; it matches the Atlas 3114 car lettered for GATX.  Presumably, the other three roadnames were fictitious.

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