To paraphrase Vane Jones, "Knowledge is of little value until shared with others."

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Comparison of NSL Merchandise Dispatch Paint Schemes

Part of this post was an email I sent to some of my friends. One of them commented the info should be posted in my blog. This gives me a chance to get into a favorite idea of mine - comparing models of the the same prototype car or series of cars.

Looking at someones model gives you a chance to look deeper into the interest and interpretation of the prototype by the modeler. After all, the finished model is the representation of what the prototype looked like to the individual who made the model.

Maybe it's time to get out of the esoteric and back to real life. This is a comparison of the North Shore Lines (NSL) 203 to 214 series of express cars. Just so there is no confusion these cars were also called Merchandise Dispatch (MD) or merchandise cars.   

Everyone has looked at both black & white and color photos of NSL cars. After a while some of the paint schemes become blurred in our minds. We can all recall the paint scheme of the cars we have seen running or in which we rode many years ago.

The NSL's MD cars present an interesting study. Many years ago O scale kits were available to build the 203 to 214 series - the 4-baggage (1 at each corner of the body) door style or the 215 to 239 - the 2-baggage (center) door version. I obtained 2 of the 4-baggage door kits with the idea of running them in a train. Why I didn't get 1 kit of each version is lost to the past!

Two events happened within the past week which caused me to get into the topic of comparing the paint schemes of similar models. These were the 2012 TrainFest in Milwaukee and a "Trolley Nite" held by one of the local fellas, Terrell Colson. As we go along you will see how these 2 events came into "play".
Starting with the "Trolley Nite", one of the attendees, Ralph Nelson, brought his NSL MD cars. This models were 1 MD car pulling 3 refrigerator trailers.
Ralph's models were painted in dark green with gold lettering. In the early 1900's before Insull's take-over of the NSL, when the North Shore set its goals on being a major intercity railway all of its equipment was painted in a dark green with gold lettering. Both the passenger and MD cars were paint this way. The 1st 2 photos were taken on Terrell's layout.
This is the complete train of Ralph's models. Of interest to note, early NSL trains ran without headlights.

Sometime in the 1920's after Insull took over, passenger and MD cars were painted orange with maroon trim. The lettering on the cars was the same. The next 2 photos are my models taken on my layout.

After the depression set in, all service (passenger and freight) was hit hard. As revenues dropped, the NSL looked for ways to reduce cost. One way was to cut the cost of repainting equipment. Since the MD service had been reduced to almost nothing, the paint scheme of the MD cars was reduced to all orange with black lettering. This is the paint scheme which lasted until the end of the NSL in early 1963.
Don't ask why I painted one model in the orange and maroon and the other in the all orange. I've forgotten! The other question I ask myself is why didn't I get one of the 2-baggage door kits back then. 
There are both of the O scale kits available on EBay. I have enough other models to complete so I will not be increasing my roster of NSL MD cars.
The other variation on the MD paint schemes is the WW II red, white, and blue "Buy U.S.War Bonds" scheme. The preprinted sides were available in an O scale kit form, I think.  Some how this paint scheme didn't appeal to me back then. However, it does look good to me now! Times have changed!
To complete the paint schemes, here is Eric Bronsky's HO model as it appeared at the 2012 TrainFest.  The photo was taken as the model sat in a siding on one of the many modules of the Northwest Traction Group.  Someone I know has one of the O scale models of the "Buy U.S. War Bonds" car but I don't know who it is. I've searched my photo files without any luck.
Thanks to color photography, or today it should be called electronic photography,  the various NSL paint schemes used on the MD cars can be seen. I hope you have enjoyed the comparisons of the color schemes as well as the models.
As you look at the models think of them as the representation of what the prototype looked like through the eyes of the individual who made the model.


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