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   While the fifty-foot boxcar dates back to the turn of the last century, it wasn’t built in great numbers until the 1960’s.  Until then, its primary purpose had been for hauling automobiles.   Like their forty-foot counterparts, fifty-foot boxcars were designated according to the equipment it carried.  


XAP (Later XP)- A boxcar equipped with permanent racks for stowing automobile parts.


XAR (Later XR)- A boxcar with side doors at least ten feet wide, and equpipped with permanent automobile stowing equipment.  It may be with or without end doors, and is usually marked “Automobile”.   A car that can also be used for general service is designated as type “XMR”.


XF- A boxcar with an interior coating to prevent contamination of processed foods.


XML (Later XL)-  A boxcar equipped with loader devices, consisting of perforated side rails, crossbars or bulkheads.


XM-  A boxcar suitable for general service.


XMP (Later XP)- A boxcar specially equipped for a specific commodity, and not suitable for general service.  The commodity is usually noted in the Equipment Register


XI- A boxcar that is wholly or partially insulated, but not equipped with ventilation or refrigeration equipment.   This designation was later retired by simply adding an “I” to the other designations.  In addition many cars of this type were re-classed as type “RB” refrigerator cars.



   The chart below details the growth of fifty-foot boxcars on the New York Central Railroad between 1947 and 1966.

Chart NYC 50' boxcars by type.jpg

   It is interesting to note how many cars were dedicated to the automotive industry, both for the transport of parts and whole automobiles.  The shipment of automobiles in boxcars ended with the adoption of the auto rack.  Auto parts continue to be an important source of revenue, but are mostly transported by longer  and higher boxcars.


  The rise of the fifty-foot boxcar coincided with the dieselization of America’s railroads, which made it possible to run much longer trains.  While this saved the railroads money, it also increased freight damage due to slack action.  Because of this, many of the new boxcars of the time were equipped with various loading devices designed to secure loads from moving.  When these devices were new, they were often advertised on the car sides, which can be found on many of our models.  These devices were expensive and complicated, and have been largely replaced by inflatable cushions.

B5 PRR roundroof DD.jpg




   The standard inside height for boxcars was nine feet, four inches in the early thirties. The Pennsylvania Railroad felt a need for higher capacity boxcars, particularly for automobile service.  They developed the X32 boxcars with an interior height of ten feet and rounded edges at the roof to reduce clearance problems.   The X32 cars were constructed with both 12’ doors and 14’6” doors.  In addition, some round-roof boxcars were built with end doors and designated X33. 


   The Micro-Trains model features 14’6” doors, while Fine N-scale offers a cast resin kit of a car with 12’ doors.  The Tennessee, Alabama & Georgia model (Micro-Trains 79060) represents a car with 12’5” doors; they were presumably acquired from the Seaboard, whose cars had 12’6” doors. The chart below lists the roads that originally owned X32 boxcars, as well as the short lines that picked them up second hand in later years.  An asterisk next to a number indicates that some of the cars were equipped for hauling automobiles.

Chart PRR X32 boxcar.jpg




  The Milwaukee Road constructed a vast fleet of boxcars in their own shops. These unique cars were of all-welded construction with horizontal ribs welded to the sides. In addition to thousands of forty-foot cars, they constructed 975 fifty-foot single-door cars.  In 1964, the Milwaukee began rebuilding nearly half of the cars with ten-foot doors and loading devices.  Other cars were rebuilt with nine-foot doors. 


   The Fox Valley model represents the cars as originally built with six-foot doors.  The door width is indicated in the charts where it differs from the model.  A few cars were used in passenger service; the Official Passenger Equipment Registers don’t indicate door width, however.

Chart MILW ribbed 50'.jpg
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