History is the search for information that was once readily available.

It is interesting that when that historical moment was the present, all of the information we, as modelers could want, was readily available. Now, more than 100 years later, we scour photos, drawings, books and any other resource we can find to understand even the basics of what was.

How did the railroad manage trains in 1907? What color were the stations painted in 1898? What were the boxcar roofs made of?

This latter question has recently been debated, again, on the Maine On2 Yahoo! group. The group is a great asset, as it prompts me to consider and question my direction on designing and building. When the construction of the boxcar roofs surfaced again, I turned to Google, the library and other information outlets. There are great pictures on the On2 group that show metal sheathing on the top of 1898 Sandy River boxcars, and comments that the B&SR cars were sheathed as well.

Was this the way it was at the beginning, when the first cars were built, or sometime later on, as in the sheathing was added as a maintenance effort? A great publication I found is “Boxcars-The Roof Problem,” by Randy Hess, which indicates that metal sheathed roofs did not become commonplace until the 1890s. The comment is that they were not commonplace until the ’90s, which means the application was started sometime earlier.

Were the Maine narrow gauge builders, such as Laconia, at the forefront of this movement, the forefront of this new technology? That appears to be the opinion of some on the group, and there is material to substantiate this within a certain timeframe. For myself, it is a matter of time. Did the first boxcar out of Laconia have a double wooden roof, which was commonplace in 1883, or a single wood with metal sheathing, the abnorm?

I don’t have the final answer, as I only have a photo of the interior of a B&SR boxcar (below) which shows it had the typical board roof, but it doesn’t tell me whether or not there was another layer of wood planking on top of it, or metal sheet. There are photos within Jones’ book, on pages 208, 209 and 218 which show wooden roofs on the boxcars. Based upon the end view of one of the boxcars, I would surmise the cars were built with double sheathed wood plank roofs.

Maybe, at sometime in the future, a piece of history will materialize that shows all of the construction details of the B&SR boxcars. Until then, with regards to my modeling, I am going to build at least some of my B&SR boxcars with double plank wooden roofs and consider others with metal roofs, as it does add additional detail and character to the cars and I like that. I will mull it over.