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Author Topic: Side Ladders On Monson Boxcars: Labor Saving Device?  (Read 2588 times)
Roger Whitney
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« on: February 16, 2012, 05:05:44 PM »


   The Monson is known for doing things a little different.  Take their boxcars for instance.  The Monson boxcars are distinctive in that they have ladders mounted to the left of their sliding doors as well as the usual grab irons on the ends of the boxcars. The side ladders on Monson boxcars seem to be fairly unique in the Maine two-foot gauge practice. There are numerous photos of these on pages 119-123 in the Jones book.
   The original Boxcars No’s 1 and 2 were built by Laconia.  Fairly early on, No’s 3 and 4 were converted from flatcars and eventually No’s 5,6,7 and 8 were converted from flatcars to boxcars by the Monson Shops. Boxcar 2 was unique in that it had a ladder on the “A” end.  My Monson book published in 1988 has quite a bit of boxcar detail data.
   The earliest boxcar photos show the side ladder on at least one of them.  Maybe they were original to the first two built by Laconia, and the Monson Shops followed suit with their rebuilds.  But there had to be a practical reason.  Looking carefully at the photos, curiously, there are no stirrups under each ladder. Some of the first rungs are about a foot above the deck, others are even with the deck. That would be way too high for a trainman to mount from the ground.   
        So this begs the question….why were ladders bolted on the side of the cars?
        A theory….when Monson rolling stock were switched to the transfer track at Monson Junction, they were on a slight grade.  The incline was so the Monson car doors would come up to the level of the standard gauge car doors, making it easier to transfer freight.  The Monson car brakes were set and the cars were left for the transfer crews.                 After one car’s contents were transferred to a standard gauge car, was it more convienient for a transfer crew member to swing out the door, grab the ladder and climb up the ladder to the roof? He could then release the brakes and let the cars roll down so the next car could transfer to a standard gauge boxcar.  No need for motive power.  It would eliminate having to get down on the ground (in deep snow), go around to the end of the car and climb up on the roof using the conventional grab irons, then down the same way.
       Maybe….. maybe not……lets hear from you folks!
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James Patten
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« Reply #1 on: February 16, 2012, 07:21:10 PM »

An incline would work fine without snow, but if there's any amount of snow or cold at all I don't think that would have worked.  Brakes can freeze and any amount of snow or ice covering the rail means you don't move.
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Cliff Olson
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« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2012, 07:37:30 PM »

The transfer track at Monson Jct. was definitely raised to bring Monson RR cars up to the level of standard gauge cars, but I have never had the impression that the transfer track itself had a downhill slope at the transfer site - - especially enough to cause a car to roll simply by releasing the hand brake. Also, since the Monson crew apparently did all the transferring, there was probably no need to move cars at the Junction without the engine being present.  However, I have no alternative theory for explaining the location of the boxcar ladders.
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Allan Fisher
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« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2012, 10:07:43 PM »

Another possibility for location of side ladders could be the distance between two cars when coupled together by link and pin couplers when links got compressed sideways. Janney couplers kept the cars apart the same distance whether stretched or "run-in".
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Allan Fisher
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