Boxcar capacity reached its peak in the mid-sixties with the introduction of eighty-six foot “Hi-cube” boxcars. Their 10,000 cubic foot capacity allowed them to efficiently carry low density products. They were used primarily by the automotive industry for hauling auto body parts to assembly plants. There were two basic types; two-door and four-door. The less common four-door cars were used by General Motors, while the two-door cars were used by Ford and Chrysler. The large plug doors were made of aluminum to save weight, and were often left unpainted by the carbuilder; hence, the silver doors on many of our models. However, railroad shop forces usually painted the doors when the car came in for servicing.
Like the auto racks that hauled the finished products, auto parts boxcars ran in assigned pools so boxcars from all over country could be seen. They were usually operated in blocks along with sixty-foot cars carrying heavier engine or transmission parts. The automotive industry was an important customer for railroads; trains hauling auto parts were usually “hot”. On Conrail, automobiles comprised one of four core business groups, the others being freight, Intermodal, and unit trains. To keep an assembly plant supplied with parts, it was occasionally necessary to run “Shutdown specials” consisting of one or two cars!
86’ RIBBED HI-CUBE BOXCARS
In 1964, Pacific Car and Foundry built a batch of eighty-six foot hi-cube boxcars for Southern Pacific and St. Louis Southwestern. Designated B-70-19, these pioneering cars were among the first of their kind and featured ribbed sides and four plug doors. They were delivered in a striking red scheme with grey arrows pointing to the railroad name inside a large white oval. Southern Pacific disposed of about a third of their cars in the mid-eighties; though the January 1987 Equipment Register offers no clues as to their whereabouts. However, Conrail and Washington Central ended up with at least one car in the nineties. The St. Louis Southwestern refurbished and renumbered twenty-four cars in 1979, giving them a more conventional brown scheme. Twenty cars were later leased to the Galveston Railroad, where they were painted in the blue “Golden West” scheme.
Minitrix produced an N-scale model of these interesting cars in the early days of N-scale. The four road names offered included Southern Pacific but not St. Louis Southwestern. The remaining three road names offered were stand-ins for smooth-side four-door high cubes from other carbuilders. The chart below includes a comprehensive list of B-70-19 boxcars, as well as the three stand-ins.