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Plug doors began appearing in the mid-fifties.  Though heavier and more complex than sliding doors, they provided better insulating qualities and a smooth interior surface for fragile lading.  They first appeared on refrigerator cars, but were soon appearing on boxcars as well.  The plug door spurred the development of the bunkerless refrigerator car.  Designated class RB (or RBL if equipped with loading devices), they were simply insulated boxcars with no means of cooling.  They were used to protect lading such as canned or bottled goods from temperature extremes.


   Non-insulated plug door boxcars were commonly used for hauling easily damaged loads such as newsprint and provided a tight seal for hauling granular loads such as grain.  Some boxcars even had small doors in the plug door for loading grain.    In the charts on this page, boxcars and refrigerator cars are listed separately to help you utilize them properly on your railroad.   




   The Pennsylvania Railroad’s X58 boxcar was one of the earliest exterior post boxcars, with 2,565 cars constructed between 1964 and 1966.  They were unique in having nine-panel sides, high handbrakes and roofwalks. All X58’s had end of car cushioning and featured “cushioned car” in yellow and a simplified PRR keystone on the right side of the car.  Most were equipped with various loading devices which were indicated on the left side of the car in yellow.  There were four subgroups of X58’s; 1,078 were insulated and classified as class RBL (Refrigerator, Bunkerless with Loading devices) with “Insulated” painted on their doors in yellow.  The remaining 1,487 X58’s were boxcars of  class XM (unequipped), XL (loader equipped), or XP (specific commodities).  Because of these variations, there were six different “as built” paint schemes.  Pennsy also built 100 X58’s for the Lehigh Valley, while the Burlington Route and Milwaukee Road owned similar nine-panel plug door boxcars. The X58 remained a common sight on both Penn Central and Conrail, with over seven hundred going into Norfolk Southern and CSX in 1999.


   In the early days of N-scale, a model of the X58 was produced in Japan by a predecessor of Kato, and sold first by MRC and later by Con-Cor.  The apparent goal of the model was providing modelers with colorful paint schemes rather than prototypical models.  While three of the road names (BN, CB&Q CR) could represent an X58 or similar nine-panel boxcar, most of the others represent very different prototypes as noted below.  All of the private owner schemes represent seven-panel type RBL refrigerator cars leased from North American Car.  In addition to the difference in panels, they had smooth-side plug doors, and cars built after 1966 had low brake wheels and no roofwalks.


   Lima also produced what I suspect was supposed to be an N-scale model of the X-58 which was also sold by AHM.  A Chinese-Made copy is currently being offered by Model Power.  Unfortunately the model was shortened by about five feet, and lowered by a proportional amount, making it rather toy-like.  In addition, a majority of the paint schemes produced were pretty rough, so this model will not be included here.


   Eastern Seaboard Models introduced an N-scale model of the X58 in 2012.  This state-of-the-art model is available with or without roofwalks and is offered in a large variety of road names covering a wide time span.  Some of the schemes offered represent what are likely one-of-a-kind paint schemes, and are indicated by a single road number in the “Numbers” column. Eastern Seaboard Models offers their X58 decorated for a few western roads; while not true X58’s, they do represent similar nine-panel plug-door boxcars.

   The chart below lists non-insulated and insulated boxcars separately, notes on stand-in models are as follows:

ATCHISON, TOPEKA & SANTA FE- Though the road number on Con Cor 1471A doesn’t correspond with any actual series, it could stand in for Santa Fe’s Bx-94 and Bx-97 boxcars.  These insulated cars had seven panel sides with a diagonal rib on either side of the plug door.


ATLANTIC COAST LINE- ConCor 1471B represents ACL’s fleet of fifty-foot boxcars equipped with end-of-car cushioning devices.  However, these were smooth side cars with sliding doors.  Quantities marked with an asterisk include cars with both ACL and SCL reporting marks, as Seaboard Coast Line did not provide individual quantities in the Equipment Registers.


BALTIMORE & OHIO- The road number on ConCor 1471E doesn’t correspond with any actual series, but the B&O owned a series of similar eight panel boxcars.


CHICAGO & NORTH WESTERN- ConCor 1471Q represents a series of seven panel boxcars acquired secondhand from North American Car.


MISSOURI PACIFIC- ConCor 1471J wins the prize for biggest anachronism; it is numbered for a series of thirty-six-foot boxcars rebuilt for MP’s less-than-carload merchandise service in the fifties.


UNION PACIFIC- The road number on Con Cor 1471C doesn’t correspond with any actual series, however, the scheme is similar to three series of sixty-foot insulated boxcars with eight-panel sides, low brake wheels and no roofwalk.  These cars differed from the model by having yellow doors and small shield logos on either end of the car.

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    After building cars for the New York Central for decades, the Despatch shops finally closed in 1970 as a consequence of the Penn Central merger.    One of their final designs was the X65 boxcar, which featured 10’6”plug doors, eight panel sides, cushion underframes and loading devices.  Based on earlier designs built for the New York Central and Pittsburg & Lake Erie, Penn Central acquired a total of 380 X65’s while Lehigh Valley got 150.


   Fox Valley models introduced an N scale model of the X65 in 2017.  It is a nicely detailed model with body mounted couplers and metal wheels.  The chart below is a comprehensive list of X65 boxcars.  The New York Central cars are listed separately as they differed a bit from the model as noted below.


NEW YORK CENTRAL- The NYC model represents lot 976-B insulated boxcars built in 1966.  They were similar to the X65 but the doors were offset 21”to the right with only seven panels to the right of the door.  Two additional series followed in 1967: lot 112-B (78550-78699), which were insulated cars equipped with a different type of plug door and lot 115-B (48260-48323) which were non-insulated.


PITTSBURG & LAKE ERIE- The P&LE models represent lot 975-B insulated boxcars.  As they were built just prior to the new freight car standards, they had high handbrakes and a roofwalk but were otherwise identical to the X65.  The roofwalks were likely removed the first time the cars went into the shops for service.   



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   In 1964, Soo Line’s Fond du Lac shops began building plug door boxcars to service Wisconsin paper mills.  Nineteen different series totaling 2,342 cars were constructed through 1979.  Though they all featured eight-panel sides with ten-foot plug doors, early series varied.  The first three were series were equipped with roof walks and grain hatches in the doors.  Though, not insulated, the first series was grouped with Soo Line’s insulated boxcars and numbered 177858-178256.  Subsequent series were numbered 15600-19374.  Initially, Soo Line’s number series included even numbers only, a practice that was discontinued in 1973 with series 18839-18938.


   By 1970, the design had been standardized and the cars began appearing in a number of colorful schemes.  In the late eighties, many of these cars were transferred to the Wisconsin Central.  At first, the cars were simply patched with new reporting marks retaining their original SOO Line number.  They were later refurbished at the Fond du Lac shops with a full Wisconsin Central paint scheme and given new road numbers in the 20300 to 28576 range.


   In addition to the Soo Line cars, Pacific Car and Foundry built 1,200 eight-panel plug door cars for the Great Northern.  The first two series of 400 cars arrived in 1965/1966 in the glacier green scheme and were equipped with roof walks and placards for the logos.  The final four series of 800 cars arrived in 1968-1970 in the sky blue scheme.  While the first three series were numbered 137000-137099 and 138700-138799, the final series was numbered 319100-319499 in anticipation of the Burlington Northern merger.   


   Fox Valley Models introduced a nicely detailed N-scale model of the Soo Line “seven post” boxcar in 2010.  It features an X-panel roof that began appearing on Soo Line cars after 1969.  Many of the roadnames offered by Fox Valley represent the Great Northern PC&F cars, which were very similar to the Soo Line cars.  Visually, the primary difference is the diagonal panel roof used by Pacific Car & Foundry.  Although the glacier green Great Northern model includes the placards, it doesn’t have roof walks or a high handbrake.  Photos show cars with roofwalks well into the early eighties, however, modernized cars would have certainly begun appearing by the seventies.


    Since “as delivered” photos are hard to come by, there was a bit of guesswork involved in compiling the chart below.  The catalog numbers of Micro-Trains, Roundhouse and Athearn FMC boxcars that have served over the years as stand-ins for eight-panel cars are included.

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   Pacific Car & Foundry began producing insulated boxcars with seven panels and ten-foot six-inch doors in the late sixties.  They featured straight side sills and flat roofs which gave them a boxy appearance.  Missouri Pacific owned the largest fleet of PC&F cars, with a total of 1,050.  However, the first 500 cars had a peaked roof, and are listed separately in the chart below.   

    Wheels of Time introduced their N-scale model of the PC&F insulated boxcar in 2018.  It is a state-of the art model with body mounted couplers, etched metal end platforms and metal wheel sets.  The Santa Fe model features different doors, as used on the prototype.

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  National Steel Car (NSC) was a Canadian car builder that constructed a number of seven-panel plug door boxcars in the seventies.  Their cars featured triangular gussets on either side of the doors and small square ribs on the car ends.  They were non-insulated boxcars which were used primarily for hauling paper.


  Atlas introduced their N-scale model of the NSC boxcar in 2015.  There are actually two different body styles; a 5,111 cubic foot car with nine-foot doors and a 5,277 cubic foot car with ten-foot doors.  They feature metal wheelsets, etched metal end platforms and body mounted couplers.  Atlas recommends operating these cars curves of at least twenty-two inches radius, however I’ve run mine on 13-3/4 inch radius curves with no problems.


The chart below is likely a comprehensive list of NSC boxcars, as the Atlas mentions that about 1,000 cars were produced.  Later seriesof NSC cars lacked the triangular gussets on either side of the doors. The chart includes catalog numbers of Athearn, Micro-Trains, and Roundhouse stand-ins for NSC cars.  Notes on individual railroads are listed below.


CANADIAN NATIONAL- Canadian National’s NSC boxcars carried CNIS reporting marks, indicating their use in international service.


CP RAIL- Canadian Pacific’s first series of NSC boxcars (85500-85634) had ten-foot doors with the Multimark logo on the left side of the car.  Their second series (85635-85734) had nine-foot doors with the Multimark logo on the right side of the car.  Though both series were delivered with CPI reporting marks indicating their use in international service, the reporting marks had been changed to CP by 1979.


GRAND TRUNK WESTERN- Grand Trunk’s boxcars had ten-foot doors and were classified as type XF boxcars, which indicated their use for processed foods, most likely Kellogg’s cereal.


NORFOLK SOUTHERN-  Norfolk Southern unveiled their first responders train in April of 2016.  Along with two boxcars built by Fruit Grower’s Express, the train includes four tank cars, an 89-foot flatcar and an SD-60 locomotive.  The boxcars contain classrooms for training first responders, and the train travels to various cities throughout the NS system. 


PROCOR (UNPX)-  British Columbia’s NSC boxcars briefly went to leasing company Procor Limited sometime after 1999, but had ended up on the Youngstown & Austintown (YARR) by 2005.

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   The North American Car Company began building ribbed plug door boxcars for their lease fleet in the mid-sixties.  These car featured seven-panel sides with shallow ribs, dreadnaught ends, straight side sills, and 10’6” doors with either four vertical bars or two widely spaced vertical bars.  All were insulated, and carried a mechanical designation of RB (bunkerless refrigerator) or RBL (bunkerless refrigerator equipped with loading devices). 


   Both Walthers and Athearn have produced N scale models of North American ribbed plug door boxcars.   The Walthers model was introduced in the mid-nineties, while the Athearn model first appeared in the late 2000’s.  The Athearn models are the better choice, as they feature two different doors and separate placards where appropriate.  Though both models have low ladders and no roof walks, a few of the schemes offered represent early car series that had high ladders and roof walks.  Those models representing early car series are indicated in the “ROAD” column of the chart with a hashtag.


   The chart below includes information on the car series on the models.  While the Equipment Registers provide information on railroad-leased cars, they provide no information on cars leased to other companies.    It is difficult to determine how long a leased car would have been painted in any particular scheme.  What’s more, North American’s smooth side cars and ribbed cars had identical dimensions with some companies leasing more than one car series.

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