Boston & Maine Railroad
Wheel Reports & Freight Conductor Books

Wheel reports and freight conductor books represent a valuable repository of information for historians and modelers. While Freight Train Symbol Books demonstrated the operating plan of the railroad, these other working documents showed the precise makeup of particular trains that actually ran on a given day.  While alone, the books are but an interesting snapshot, taken together, these documents can begin to shed light on freight service and freight car utilization patterns.  The data in the books included locomotive and crew information and a list of cars in each train with: roadname, number, where taken and left, net and gross weight, contents, and eventual destination.

1927, 1929-30 Wheel Report Book

Al Campbell shared an entire Wheel Report Book with me that a B&M freight train conductor had filled out; two trains in 1927 were entered, and the remainder of the entries documented his service from the summer of 1929 into 1930.  The bulk of his assignments involved local freights in the Lowell, MA, area, frequently running on the Stony Brook Branch, the Southern Division (soon to be renamed NH Division,) main line up to Merrimack, NH, and the WN&P Division between Nashua and Ayer.  At other times, trips were made to Bedford, MA, via the Billerica & Bedford Branch, Billerica shop employee trains were run, and occasionally, the conductor worked on some thru symbol freight trains.

My first effort to present this data involved a limited amount of analysis of each train and providing an Excel transcription of the data.  However, with 47 separate trains, it was shaping up to be a look at the trees, while it was the forest I wanted to see.  The extensive work of Tim Gilbert and Dave Nelson documented and explained much about freight car utilization in the post-war period, but their studies did not extend into the pre-Depression period.  The U.S. economy had not yet undergone the crisis of early 40's, and was still of a more regional nature in many respects.  At the outset of studying Mr. Campbell's wheel reports, I had hoped that the work would better define how freight cars were used, particularly on the B&M, in this earlier time period.

B-J 3   12/31/1927

B-J 3 was a evening symbol freight train, departing Boston for White River Junction   It was described as a "straight train for Central Vermont Rwy," in FTSB Number 16 from 10/31/1927 (see page 10.)  R.S.Morgan, accompanied by pilot, W.Abbott, made the run from Boston to Concord in K-7 #2660 with 43 cars and a caboose.  The train was primarily fuel products, with all 20 carloads of bituminous coal transported in B&M gondolas, 5 cars of petroleum products in UTLX tank cars, and a NYC hopper of "ovoids," an anthracite product.   Filling out were 10 assorted carloads of freight.  Twelve of the loads were dropped at Nashua.  Only 7 MT's were in the train, all of which were home road cars.   Besides the tank cars, only 4 other foreign road cars were in the consist.   Dropping the entire train in Concord, engine #2341 took 69 cars northwards, however the consist was quite different in nature with 42 MT's: 19 to the CV at White River Jct, 22 destined for the CP at Wells River, and 1 car for Woodsville.  Only one load was passed on to the CV; the remaining cars were to be forwarded on from WRJ, with some going to the CP and others to online destinations.   LCL and coal predominated among the loaded cars (12 and 7 cars respectively,) with the latter traveling, once again, entirely in B&M gondolas.  The merchandise moved in 7 B&M, 1 CP, and 4 NH box cars.  The remaining 8 carloads traveled in 5 foreign cars and 3 home road cars.  The data was transcribed from the original sheets into an MS Excel file.   This file has a few minor corrections, official reporting marks added, and a brief description of the type of car.  Collection of Al Campbell.

1927 Wheel Report - MS Excel transcription

J-B 2   1/1/1928

J-B 2 was another evening symbol freight train, handling cars from White River Junction to points along the NH Division main to Boston.   FTSB Number 16 from 10/31/1927 (see page 11,) shows the cities at which it stopped to do work.   R.S.Morgan made this return trip, leaving WRJ with 48 cars and a caboose.  Blocks included 10 loads for Concord, 18 loads and 3 MT's for Boston, 9 loads for Lowell, 7 loads for Nashua, and one load for Manchester.  Upon dropping cars at Concord, 3 MT's and 10 more loads were picked up, all destined for the Lowell yard.  More work at Manchester added another 19 loaded cars for Lowell to the train.  29 out of the 80 freight cars handled in this train were B&M.   The remaining cars were a wide variety of foreign roads, 21 being from Canada, as well as 7 private owned refrigerator and tank cars.  The data was transcribed from the original sheets into an MS Excel file.  This file has a few minor corrections, official reporting marks added, and a brief description of the type of car.  Collection of Al Campbell.

1928 Wheel Report - MS Excel transcription

Other Wheel Reports

M-L 2   10/21/1936

M-L 2 was a evening symbol freight train, departing Mechanicville for Lawrence, with intermediate stops to work at East Deerfield, East Fitchburg, and Lowell, and with a crew change at East Deerfield.   The Freight Train Symbol Book that I have online which is the closest to the timeframe is the FTSB Number 27 from 4/28/35 (see page 42.)  This report has 5 pages completed by conductors Davis and Goodal documenting B&M 2-10-2 3026 and its consist of 130 loads, 8 empties, two cabooses, and one "trailer," apparently hauled in support of a steam shovel.  Forty one of the cars were home road, while all but one of the empty cars were MDT reefers destined for points in Maine.   Fifty one cars were carrying LCL (with half of those being B&M box cars,) and the most common carload freight was coal, with 22 hopper and gondola cars carrying the fuel.  The data was transcribed from the original sheets into an MS Excel file.  This file has a few minor corrections, official reporting marks added, and a brief description of the type of car.   Collection of Earl Tuson.

1936 Wheel Report - original sheet images

1936 Wheel Report - MS Excel transcription

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Posted 12/9/12.  Updated 5/2/17.   Copyright retained by Earl Tuson.