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 sometimes painted the doors when the car was repainted. The four-door cars fell out of favor due to their extra complexity, and none were built after 1970. Some railroads began to phase their four-door cars out, while Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific rebuilt some into two-door cars.
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!
The three major builders of 86-foot boxcars were Thrall, Pullman Standard and Greenville Steel Car. Because they are nearly identical dimensionally, it is difficult to determine the builder using Official Equipment Registers. However, the car builder is easy to determine in photographs. Thrall cars have recessed panels at the ends of the car as well as on either side of the doors. Greenville cars have recessed panels at the ends of the car only, while Pullman Standard cars have recessed end ladders only. Presumably, the purpose of the recessed ends was to reduce overhang when going through curves.
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.
I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.
THRALL 86’ FOUR DOOR BOXCARS
ATLAS, CON-COR and TRAINWORX
Atlas offered an N-scale model of a Thrall quad door boxcar in the seventies which was made in Austria by Roco. It was available in four roadnames, three of which represented Thrall cars. The model was later released by Con-Cor in a variety of roadnames representing cars from Thrall, Greenville and Pullman Standard. Finally, Trainworx introduced their state-of-the-art model of a Thrall four door boxcar in 2009. All but three of the roadnames offered by Trainworx are accurate for Thrall cars, with the exceptions noted below.
The chart below includes all of the Thrall four-door cars I was able to identify, even those not yet offered in N-scale (Hint, hint, Trainworx!) An asterisk next to the catalog number indicates that the model is not numbered for the correct series. Catalog numbers in parentheses indicate a Bluford Shops Pullman Standard model that can represent a Thrall car. Those models not representing Thrall cars include the car builder in parentheses in the ROAD column.
ST. LOUIS SOUTHWESTERN- Trainworx 2829-06 is numbered for a series of rib-side Pacific Car & Foundry boxcars as rebuilt in 1979. They were the only four-door cars rostered by the Cotton Belt.
SOUTHERN PACIFIC- Trainworx 2829-03 is numbered for a series of rib-side Pacific Car & Foundry boxcars as rebuilt in 1979. Trainworx 2807-05 is numbered for a series of Greenville Steel Car boxcars, as it is likely that Espee’s three Thrall cars were gone by 2005. Con-Cor 555702 is numbered for a series of two door Thrall Boxcars. As Espee’s Thrall and Greenville four-door cars had not been rebuilt by 1999, most kept their attractive red and grey “as delivered” scheme into the 2000’s.
PULLMAN STANDARD 86’ FOUR DOOR BOXCARS
Bluford Shops offers a model of Pullman Standard’s 86’ four door boxcar. This nicely detailed model features etched metal end platforms and body mounted couplers that swivel to allow it to negotiate curves as small as 11 inch radius. Most of the road names offered represent Pullman Standard cars, but a few represent cars from other builders. The chart below lists all the Pullman Standard series I could identify. It includes the catalog numbers of Con-Cor and Atlas models that represent Pullman Standard cars. Notes on individual railroads are listed below.
MISSOURI PACIFIC- Mopac’s forty five Pullman Standard boxcars were divided among their subsidiaries as follows: 272000-272020 carried MP reporting marks, 272021-272024) carried TP (Texas & Pacific) reporting marks and 272025-272044 carried KOG (Kansas, Oklahoma & Gulf) reporting marks. The KO&G was merged into the T&P in 1970, and the reporting marks on their cars had been changed to TP by 1971. The T&P was merged into the MP in 1976, and all cars carried MP reporting marks by the mid-eighties.
ROCK ISLAND / THE ROCK- The January 1979 ORER indicates that none of Rock Island’s cars carried the ROCK reporting marks. “The Rock” scheme was short lived as the company was dissolved in 1980 and the cars sold to other railroads.
GREENVILLE 86’ FOUR DOOR BOXCARS
The third major builder of 86’ boxcars was Greenville Steel Car (GSC). While an N-scale model of Greenville’s four door boxcar does not yet exist, a few models represent Greenville cars. Including this chart also provides a more complete picture of 86’ four-door boxcars. The chart below lists all the Greenville car series I was able to identify, and includes the catalog numbers of models that represent them. Catalog numbers with an asterisk indicate models that can represent Greenville cars but are not numbered for the correct series.