The first steel boxcars had an interior sheathing of wood, which provided a soft surface which could be nailed into to secure the load.  By the late fifties, loading devices were becoming commonplace, replacing the inside wood sheathing with steel walls.  This made the outside steel wall superfluous, and car builders began producing boxcars with exterior ribs.  Though Pullman Standard was building exterior post boxcars as early as 1961, production didn’t take off in earnest until the seventies.


   However, money was tight in the railroad industry at this time.  What little capital that was available for rolling stock was spent primarily on specialized cars such as intermodal flats and covered hoppers.  This resulted in a boxcar shortage that was relieved by Railbox and incentive per diem (IPD) boxcars.  Railbox was a subsidiary of Trailer Train and provided a pool of free-running boxcars for member railroads.  The first Railbox car appeared in October, 1974 and by 1981, the fleet had grown to over 24,000 cars.  In the mid-seventies, the per diem charge was increased on new boxcars.  This created an opportunity for investing in boxcars.  Companies like National Railway Utilization and SSI created fleets of free-running boxcars that were leased to short line railroads.  By 1980, approximately 30,000 IPD boxcars had been built for dozens of railroads in a riot of colors.


  Between the IPD boxcars and new covered hoppers, the late seventies were the most colorful period for freight trains in railroad history.  However, this golden age did not last long.  In 1980, the country went into recession and the Staggers act deregulating railroad car-hire rules was passed.  The major railroads had always chafed at paying the per diem on IPD boxcars, and sent them back to their short lines.  Few of the short lines had sufficient business for all their cars, or even space to store them, so the majority of the IPD boxcars were sold and hastily patched for their new owners.  In addition, Railbox sold off all of their smaller “Plate B” boxcars in 1983, creating even more patched boxcars.


   N-scale models of exterior post boxcars have been available for a long time.  Roundhouse introduced a line of FMC and Pullman Standard boxcars in the seventies, while Micro-Trains brought out their line of FMC models in the eighties.  Many of the paint schemes on these early cars are stand-ins for cars from other builders.  However, most of the cars were similar to FMC’s with seven-panel sides, ten-foot doors and box-corrugated ends.  More recently, N-scale models of cars from ACF, SEICO, Evans and Gunderson have appeared from several manufacturers.  For those who’d like to learn more, Railmodel Journal ran a long series of articles on IPD boxcars containing many color photos of the cars in their prime. The first installment appeared in the December 1999 issue and ran through September 2002.

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   In 1971, American Car and Foundry introduced an outside-post version of their Precision Design boxcar.  Like many other outside post cars, they had seven panel sides and ten-foot doors, but retained the dreadnaught ends of earlier cars.  By offering a standardized car with few variations, ACF was able to offer an inexpensive boxcar at a time when many railroads were strapped for cash.  Production was limited, however, as ACF once again changed their boxcar design in 1974.


  Atlas produced an N-scale model of the rib-side Precision Design boxcar in 2003. Made in China, the model features etched metal end platforms and truck-mounted couplers.  With seven subsequent production runs, it has been offered in nearly every road that owned them (except Union Pacific).  Most of the road names offered are accurate models, with the few exceptions noted below.  A few of the Micro-Trains and Roundhouse FMC models are standing-in for this body style and have been included in the chart below.


ATLANTIC & WESTERN (ATW)- Atlas 50001285 is numbered for a series of similar Pullman Standard cars acquired from the Chicago & North Western.


GRAND TRUNK WESTERN (GTW)-  The Grand Trunk’s cars were former Rock Island cars which had gone to the Union Pacific before being sold to Canadian National.  They had been modified by adding vents to the sides and strengthening the ends for paper pulp service.


ILLINOIS TERMINAL (ITC)- Illinois Terminal’s Precision Design boxcars had non-standard nine-foot doors.

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   ACF changed their design in 1974, the primary differences being box corrugated ends and slightly wider end panels.  The first cars constructed for Railbox and Texas and Pacific were smaller plate B cars with a capacity of 5,090 cubic feet. Subsequent cars were plate C” cars having a capacity of 5,290 cubic feet.  The design changed again around 1979; the long fishbelly side sill was eliminated in favor of a small straight sill underneath the door. 


   N-scale models of ACF boxcars are available from Atlas and Bachmann.  Both are models of an early plate C car with a fishbelly side sill.  The Atlas model is a part of their “Trainman” series, and features truck mounted couplers and molded-on doors and end platforms.  The Bachman model features body mounted couplers and operating doors.  While most of the road names offered by Atlas are accurate, some of the road names represent similar cars from other car builders. To their credit, Atlas does mention this in their ads.  Bachmann was less diligent in choosing road names, but most at least do represent similar cars with seven panel sides and box-corrugated ends.  The sole exception is Bachmann 19660, which represents a series of FMC McCloud River double-door boxcars!


   In the chart below, those ACF cars that differ from the model are indicated as follows: an “S” indicates cars with Superior doors, an “E” indicates a precision design car, and an “L” indicates cars with a late side sill.  Those models representing cars from other builders are listed separately at the bottom as stand-ins.  Other exceptions are as noted below:


MIDDLETOWN & NEW JERSEY (MNJ)- Bachmann 19653 carries an ACF stencil, however I havcn’t been able to confirm the builder for this series.  The NRU logo is printed directly on the door instead of on a placard, and NRU cars were typically equipped with door assists.   

MINNEAPOLIS, NORTHFIELD & SOUTHERN (MNS)- Atlas 39953A is numbered for series 49800-49899; delivered in January 1979, which had the late side sill.  An earlier series numbered 49700-49724 delivered in April 1978 had the early side sill, but came with Superior doors.  Both series are included in the chart.

MISSOURI PACIFIC (MP)- Though these plate B cars were initially delivered to the T&P with Youngstown doors, photos of cars in the Union Pacific era show them with Superior doors.

NEW YORK SUSQUHANNA & WESTERN (NYSW)- I couldn’t find any reference to this series, but the Atlas model carries a “Made in Mexico” stencil.

ONTARIO NORTHLAND (ONT)- This model represents a series of boxcars acquired second-hand from the St. Lawrence Railroad.  Built by Evans, they had Superior doors with a square placard for the NRU logo.


SOUTHERN/NORFOLK SOUTHERN (SOU/NS)- The Atlas models represent three series of early Pullman Standard cars delivered to Southern in 1970-1971.  They had similar seven-panel sides and fishbelly side sills, but had corrugated ends and a different roof.

VERMONT NORTHERN (VNO)- Atlas 50000695 carries VNO reporting marks, but the January, 1978 Equipment Register listed Vermont Northern reporting marks as VNOR.  Built by FMC, series 7700-7740 had the same built date and paint scheme as the model, and were presumably the same cars.  The Vermont Northern was no longer listed in the January, 1979 issue, and the cars went to the Wabash Valley.


RAILBOX (RBOX)- ACF delivered the first of 3,400 plate B cars to Railbox in October 1974.  The first 500 plate C cars, numbered were delivered in February 1978 with Superior doors, while the first of 1,600 plate C cars with Youngstown doors were delivered in January of 1979.  In 1983, Railbox sold all but one of their plate B cars to member railroads.


UNITED STATES ARMY (USAX)- Atlas 50001546 is numbered for a small series of early Pullman Standard boxcars, possibly ex-Southern. Cars with USAX reporting marks are not listed in the Equipment Registers.  The index indicates that such cars were for “intra-plant service” which means they would ordinarily not be seen on freight trains.

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