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"Betterment Cars"

The "Super Battleships"

In the years just prior to WW 2, the new streamliners are all the rage. However, the carbuilding industry, which has long been dormant, is hard put to meet the demand. There are many roads which either can't get new streamliner cars or can't afford them. The result is a unique breed of rebuilt heavyweights that are more common and on more famous trains than most people realize.

Here is a bird of rare plumage, indeed. Betterment head end equipment number less than 2 dozen units total, and of this RPO- baggage, only 4 were made: 2 for the G,M&O and 2 for the Rock Island. This G, M & O car shows the 1940 "Rebel" paint scheme of silver and Chinese red developed by Otto Kuhler.

The Plan 3415 baggage-club cars are common in the East and South, and these Plan 3415 E are the most common cars of this type in Betterment rebuilds. This Pennsylvania RR car is painted in the "Fleet Of Modernism" colors created by Raymond Loewy (and featuring an abundance of gold pinstriping!)

This car has some interesting features: the tapered roof ends designed to match the contour of lightweight cars and the lack of a stairwell at the vestibule end: evidently this car has retractable steps. These are used in FOM service on the Pennsy and on the "National Limited" on the B&O.

This is typical of coach service in the lightweight era: maximum seating with minimum amenities. (Note the four tiny rest rooms. There are, however, "electric water coolers" at either end of the car!) As with most coaches, the seating arrangement does not correspond to the window arrangement: you may wind up staring at a window post all the way to Norfolk.

This car is what is politely referred to as a "partition coach" (note the center divider) common in Jim Crow states. (Some coaches are also partitioned to provide a smoking section). Some peculiarities of this car are the use of standard diaphragms and the wind spoilers on the roof ends which deflect cinders from the canvas diaphragms- an N&W practice.

Mount Clare Shops, Baltimore, has a formidable reputation in the carbuilding art. When the B&O created its premiere "Capitol Limited" and "National Limited", Mt. Clare rebuilt everything except the Pullmans. This diner reflects the tradition of fine dining on the B&O: tasteful decor, excellent food, attentive service- and a cocktail lounge. This car features the thermopane windows used on Lightweight cars (the use of thermopanes vs the traditional square windows runs about 50-50 in Betterment rebuilds).

Among Betterment sleepers, the 8-3-1 "Tower" series are the most common (followed by 12-1s and the 8-5 "Loch" series). This particular car uses the traditional square double hung windows, although about half of the 8-3-1s have the thermopane windows. Both squared roof ends and tapered ends are found.

This car also demonstrates a rare color scheme: shadow striping. A few of the Betterment cars (as well as some standard Heavyweights and even a few smoothside Lightweights) are painted silver with light gray shadow striping to resemble the fluted Budd cars. As the saying goes, "they were painted silver to make them go faster!"

And, of course, what is a passenger train without an observation car? The Plan 3975 sleeper-lounge-obs are among the most common heavyweight tail cars, and these Plan 3975 T rebuilds are used by the Pennsylvania RR (they served briefly on the "Broadway", and are now used on secondary trains and as protection cars) and on the Baltimore & Ohio. These B&O cars serve on the "Capitol Limited" and "National Limited", and have all the features one expects in a premiere train, including a buffet and a roomy solarium.


Refer to "Free Downloads" for a summary of Pullman car types.


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North East Rails  Clint Chamberlin.
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Current update: 8/12/99