When I think of the Nickel Plate Road, I really don't think of the modern era of railroading. "Back then," there were no Hi-cubes, no double-stacked container cars and really, not much in the way of unit trains unless you were in a certain geographic area like the coalfields of Eastern Ohio. But when I saw this photo, I thought the the NKP almost made it into railroading of today.
Pictured here is one of three tri-level auto racks that the Nickel Plate owned. They were of the modern variety, 89 feet in length. While I use the term ownership to describe the cars, that is not totally correct. Trailer Train actually owned the "cars," while the NKP owned the auto racks which were dedicated to the cars.
The story goes that the Nickel Plate was part of a pool of railroads that provided transportation services to one of the major auto makers. To fulfill their very small obligation to the poolk the Nickel Plate had three auto racks. I'm guessing that this assignemnt was based on the percentage of business provided by the individual railroad to the auto maker in proportion to that of the pool. I really don't know for sure.
But the prototype picture provides another modeling opportunity for me. Accurail already makes a tri-level auto rack car in the Trailer Train markings. this car has individual sign boards for the racks themselves. It "should" be a simple task to assemble the car as per the manufacture's instructions then paint the sign boards blue as per the picture. Finally, I'll need to add some Nickel Plate Road decals on the sign boards and I should be done.
Right now, I don't know what I'm going to use for the autos themselves. While there are some companies like Matchbox that make vintage Mustangs, they ask a very modern price... I've seen them in the $12-$15 range. But since I need 15 of them to fill the car, that is cost prohibitive. Right now, I'm thinking in terms of using something like foil to shape a covering for each car then paint them all either tan or green. The idea here would be that the cars were covered for shipping. We will see how that goes as time goes by.