I wouldn’t classify myself as a “rolling stock guy”, at least not to the extent of my friends. It’s interesting to me, I know the difference between an X29 and PS-1, but I view the fleet essentially as rolling scenery. My focus is on plausibility not rivet by rivet accuracy. When I look at a photo of my layout I want to make sure the car types and colors, on a percentage basis, look believable.
To hit that target of plausibility I spend a lot of time studying the work of Jack Delano such as the shot shown above. You can see his full collection at the library of congress HERE. You’ll notice a sea of oxide red hues, along with highlights of yellow reefers and charcoal black tank cars. In the 1940’s outside braced cars were common.
N scale rolling stock generally comes from the manufacturer with truck mounted couplers. In order for the couplers to clear the bottom of the car, the entire car rides way too high. It’s a look that really grates on me as do the oversize couplers. I perform three mods to all cars 1) Body mount Z scale couplers (Micro Engineering #905, 2) Swap in Atlas (former BLMA) trucks #BLMA9045. These are specifically designed to “drop” the car back to its correct height (the wheels are also closer to the prototype width), and 3) add extra weight to the cars that need it. The 14 cars shown in the lead photo constitute the entire fleet for the Brooklyn layout but that’s more than enough to spin out a fairly long operating session.