Technically, this page should be entitled “composite box cars”, as the cars covered in this section are constructed of both steel and wood. All- wood car construction ended around the turn of the century. As trains got longer and heavier steel center sills became necessary, and cars with wood center sills were outlawed for interchange in the thirties. Steel ends were another early development, as slack action could cause the load to shift violently against the end walls. Construction of composite cars had largely ended by 1930, except for a brief return during World War II.
There are two types of composite cars single sheathed (also known as outside braced) and double sheathed. Double sheathed cars have a second layer of wood applied to the outside of the frame, giving it a smooth appearance, while single sheathed cars have only a single layer of wood inside of the frame. Single-sheathed cars can be further divided into sub-groups according to the type of truss and number of panels.
The AAR classification for the vast majority of composite boxcars was “XM”, which indicated a plain unequipped boxcar for general service. Double-door cars used to haul automobiles were classified “XAR”, while those equipped to haul auto parts were classified “XAP”. Finally, a boxcar with roof hatches was classified as type “LU”.
USRA DOUBLE-SHEATHED BOXCARS
ATLAS, MICRO-TRAINS and MINITRIX
During the First World War, the USRA produced a design for a double sheathed wood boxcar. Over 24,000 cars were delivered to two dozen railroads. In addition, several railroads built USRA copies into the twenties. Though many cars had been rebuilt with steel sides prior to World War II, quite a few lasted into the fifties and beyond.
Both Atlas and Micro-Trains offer models of this car. The Atlas and Micro-Trains 39000 series feature a vertical brake wheel, which is correct for the car. The Micro-Trains 42000 series car has a modern horizontal brake wheel. Most of the paint schemes in the 42000 series are from around the turn of the century, so are not discussed here. However, some of Great Northern’s USRA cars were modernized with horizontal brake wheels and side ladders, so I’ve included the Micro-Trains Great Northern cars (42080) in the chart. Minitrix produced a model of a USRA double-sheathed boxcar in the eary days of N-scale. Catalog numbers were 3180-3194, and sadly, three of the road names offered were too modern for the car, and one was a definite maybe.
The chart below lists those roads that owned double-sheathed boxcars in the postwar period, however, not all of them were USRA cars. The exceptions are noted below:
CHESAPEAKE & OHIO- The Micro-Trains C&O cars are numbered for a series of thirty-six foot cars.
DULUTH, MISSABE & NORTHERN- These were not USRA cars. The DM&N merged into the Duluth, Missabi and Iron Range in 1937; the totals in the chart includes cars re-lettered for DM&IR since that time.
DULUTH SOUTH SHORE & ATLANTIC- These were not USRA cars. The “Merchandise” scheme was for service on the home road and was likely applied to very few cars.
GREAT NORTHERN and NORTHERN PACIFIC- The GN and NP acquired larger double-sheathed cars with dreadnaught ends, steel doors and an inside height of 10 feet in 1937. The chart below does not include these cars; they are discussed separately in the next section.
NORTHWESTERN PACIFIC- This tiny fleet of USRA cars has four paint schemes available in N-scale. However, the “Merchandise” and “Overnight” schemes were for service on the home road only, and were likely applied to very few cars.
ST. LOUIS-SAN FRANCISCO- Minitrix 3193 is a definite maybe; it features the “Frisco Faster Freight” slogan, which was adopted at a time when Frisco’s double sheathed boxcars were being retired.
3M CORPORATION- These were not USRA cars, and were type “LU” boxcars with roof hatches.
DOUBLE-SHEATHED 1-1/2 DOOR BOXCAR
The 1-1/2 door boxcar was developed for the automobile trade in the early 1900’s. Though some survived into the postwar period, the “as delivered” paint schemes and “Automobile” markings makes them an anachronism in the postwar period. Although, Micro-Trains produced a few road names with schemes appropriate for the postwar era, each one has issues.
CHESAPEAKE & OHIO- Micro-Trains 43070 is decorated for series 12000-12068, which was one of two series listed as “Steel” cars with ten-foot doors. A third series of cars, 82000-83999, had ten-foot six-inch doors and was described as “steel frame”. I couldn’t find out what these cars looked like, so I’ll consider the C&O car a generic stand-in for now.
GREAT NORTHERN- Micro Trains 41030 is decorated in the “as delivered/automobile’ scheme of series 38000-38499, which was delivered in 1923. Micro-Trains 43040 is decorated in the bright red scheme adopted in the fifties and is numbered for series 30000-30599. Though both series were originally delivered as 1-1/2 door cars, both series were listed as having six-foot doors in the October 1947 Equipment Register. It’s possible the cars were “converted” into single door cars by simply securing the second door, but I couldn’t find photos of either series to confirm this.
WESTERN PACIFIC- Micro-Trains 04100050 is a bit of a mystery. Though the historical blurb on the box said the series lasted into the sixties, I couldn’t find the road number or a similar car in any of my Equipment Registers. However, if you’re willing to overlook the extra door and “automobile” markings, it could be a stand-in for a series of single-door cars.
LARGE DOUBLE-SHEATHED BOXCAR
Years ago, Con-Cor offered a double-sheathed boxcar in N-scale. This model was somewhat oversized, and featured dreadnaught ends and a horizontal brake wheel. I don’t believe this car has an actual prototype as Con-Cor used the same end and roof tooling from their steel boxcar and stock car. The closest prototype would be double-sheathed cars purchased by the Great Northern and Northern Pacific in 1937, however, these cars had Youngstown doors and side ladders instead of grab irons. Great Northern (1021B) was one of the six road names offered by Con-Cor.
Some of the road names offered by Atlas and Micro-Trains are stand-ins for these larger cars and are included in the chart below. The red Atlas Great Northern car (50003189) even features a horizontal brake wheel and Youngstown door.
USRA SINGLE-SHEATHED BOXCAR
During the First World War, the USRA produced a design for a single-sheathed wood boxcar. Twenty-five thousand cars were delivered to twenty-one railroads. These cars featured a nine-panel Howe truss, a common design at the time, and several railroads built similar cars both before and after the USRA era. Both Atlas and Micro-Trains offer models of this car. The Atlas car features a vertical brake wheel and some have Youngstown steel doors, while the Micro-Trains model features a modern horizontal brake wheel.
The chart below includes those models that would be appropriate for the postwar era. With few exceptions, the models represent prototypes of nine-panel Howe truss cars with steel ends, though not necessarily USRA cars. The exceptions are noted below:
ALGOMA CENTRAL and CANADIAN NATIONAL- These cars were a Canadian variation with composite ends.
CENTRAL VERMONT and DENVER & RIO GRANDE- These roads owned seven-panel Howe truss cars with composite ends.
CHICAGO & NORTHWESTERN- The Micro-Trains car is decorated for C&NW’s war emergency cars, which had a Pratt truss. However its probable that their USRA cars were repainted in this scheme in the postwar years.
NASHVILLE, CHATTANOOGA & ST. LOUIS- The NC&StL cars were thirty-six foot cars with a seven-panel Howe truss.
ST. LOUIS-SAN FRANCISCO- The Atlas Frisco car is a bit of a mystery. While I was unable to dig up a photo of the car series, all of the other Frisco cars I could find were seven-panel cars. However, the series in question was originally built as double-door cars, which would explain the “Automobile” markings on a single-door car.
SOUTHERN PACIFIC and SUBSIDIARIES- The chart includes several classes of cars. Roughly half of the Southern Pacific and Texas and New Orleans cars had composite ends, while all of the Pacific Electric and Southern Pacific of Mexico had composite ends. The Blue “Shasta Water” cars were type “XT” box-tank cars. Built from USRA boxcars, they were equipped with tanks to carry spring water in the San Francisco area.
SINGLE-SHEATHED 1-1/2 DOOR BOXCARS
The 1-1/2 door boxcar was developed for the automobile trade in the early 1900’s. However, as automobiles rapidly grew larger, they were soon replaced by double door cars, so the “Automobile” markings on most of the models are inappropriate for the postwar era. Most of these cars had an inside height of ten feet, a foot higher than the USRA boxcar, but retained the nine-panel Howe truss.
CANADIAN NATIONAL- The car number on model wasn’t listed in any of my Equipment Registers. However, the Canadian National did list a series of cars with USRA interior height of nine feet. Some were type “XAP” cars for hauling auto parts, so the “automobile” marking may be appropriate.
CENTRAL VERMONT- These cars had Youngstown steel doors and dreadnaught ends.
CHICAGO, BURLINGTON & QUINCY- The model represents two series of 1-1/2 door cars that had been converted to single door cars by simply securing the half-door. Roughly half were a close match to the model, but others had dreadnaught ends and Youngstown steel doors.
GRAND TRUNK WESTERN- The model is numbered for one of two series of cars with ten-foot, six inch side doors as well as end doors. I can’t find a picture, but I assume the doors are Youngstown and the ends are dreadnaught. The GTW also had a series of 1-1/2 door cars that were converted to single door cars by securing the half-door. These had the USRA inside height of nine feet, and except for composite ends, they were a close match for the model.
MILWAUKEE ROAD- These cars were similar overall, but had composite ends.
NORTHERN PACIFIC- These cars had twelve-foot double doors and an interior height of ten feet, six inches. I can’t find a picture, but they presumably had Youngstown steel doors and dreadnaught ends. And, yes, some were still hauling automobiles!
For those of you who don’t mind using these cars as generic stand-ins for double door cars, the chart below lists the amount of forty-foot single-sheathed
type “XAR” cars.
1924 ARA COMPOSITE BOXCAR
ATLAS, LIFE LIKE, and MODEL POWER
In the early twenties, the ARA produced a standard design for a composite boxcar. It featured a seven panel Pratt truss and flat plate steel ends. With an inside height of only eight feet, seven inches, the car had a low profile. Though a few roads bought the design, more went with a seven-panel Howe truss with dreadnaught ends.
Years ago, Atlas offered a model of this alternate ARA composite boxcar. Catalog numbers 2361-2364 were made by Rivarossi (Italy), while catalog numbers 2365-2368 were printed in Yugoslavia. Life-Like and Model Power also offered this model, however they feature a diagonal panel roof. This was a postwar development which is too modern for the car, so I’m limiting my discussion to the Atlas cars.
Of the 14 different road names produced by the three companies, the only close matches for the prototype were Burlington and Canadian National. Unfortunately, I can’t find an image for the Model Power Canadian National car, so I can’t review it. Though some of the schemes offered were too colorful for the car, a few could be used as generic-stands. They are discussed below.
CHICAGO & ILLINOIS MIDLAND- This road leased Mather box cars which featured a seven-panel Howe truss with an extra diagonal in the end panels, composite ends and wood doors. The diamond logo that should be on the door is on the right side of the car.
DENVER & RIO GRANDE- Though they were seven-panel Howe truss cars, D&RGW’s cars had composite ends and wood doors. Unfortunately, the model is painted in the black scheme used on stock cars and a four-digit road number that was used for narrow-gauge cars!
GREAT NORTHERN- GN’s sole series of single-sheathed cars had a seven-panel Pratt truss, so would be better represented by the Bachmann or Con-Cor car. This model, however, has the Youngstown steel doors of the prototype.
MUNCIE & WESTERN- This road leased Mather box cars which had a seven-panel Howe truss with an extra diagonal brace in the end panels, composite ends and wood doors. The “Ball Jars” logo that should be on the door is conspicuously missing from the Atlas model.
NORTHERN PACIFIC- One thousand cars were delivered to the NP in 1931. Though they shared the dreadnaught ends and Youngstown door of the model, they had a nine-panel Howe truss.
PENNSYLVANIA- Pennsy’s X26 boxcar is well represented by the USRA cars, but this car could be used as a very generic stand-in for Pennsy’s X23 boxcars. The X23 was a seven-panel car with unusual zig-zag diagonal braces as well horizontal braces.
SEABOARD AIR LINE- Seaboard’s cars were of the standard ARA design, with a seven-panel Pratt truss and flat plate ends.
As you can see from the photo above, I decided to paint and letter one of the Atlas models into a more appropriate scheme. For those who’d like to do the same, the chart below lists seven car series that were close to the model. I don’t know if the tooling for the Atlas car still exists, but an ARA composite boxcar might make a nice addition to the “Trainman” line!
LARGE HOWE TRUSS SINGLE-SHEATHED BOXCARS
MINITRIX and ROCO
Back in the seventies, Minitrix offered a single-sheathed boxcar in three road names. Unfortunately, the three road names were identical to those offered on their all-steel cars, and won’t be discussed here. The model was later sold by Roco in six more reasonable road names. Like many of the models from the seventies, I don’t think this car has an actual prototype. The model features a seven-panel Howe truss, dreadnaught ends, a diagonal panel roof and Youngstown steel doors. In addition, its large size would be appropriate only for later cars with an interior height of ten feet.
The only road name that came close was the Northern Pacific.
The Chicago & Northwestern, St. Louis-San Francisco and Soo Line cars are representations of the “Fowler Patent” boxcar from 1912-1914. While they were seven-panel Howe truss cars, their similarity to the model ends there. These early cars had composite ends, wood doors, flat panel roofs and a inside height of only eight feet.
CHICAGO & NORTHWESTERN- The C&NW received 7,000 Fowler Patent boxcars in 1914.
NORTHERN PACIFIC- NP’s “war emergency” boxcars differed from the standard design offered by Intermountain. The primary differences between them and the Roco model were the raised panel roof and seven-panel superior doors. In addition, these cars were delivered with the “Northern Pacific Railway” logo, while the model features the “Northern Pacific” logo adopted in 1946. These cars lasted a long time; some were modernized in the sixties by removing the running boards and shortening the ladders. The January 1987 Equipment Register listed six cars!
ST. LOUIS-SAN FRANCISCO- The Frisco’s 1,000 Fowler cars were delivered in 1912 with a large block “FRISCO” on the left side of the car. This scheme was discontinued in the twenties, and the last cars were retired in 1953.
SEABOARD AIR LINE- Seaboard’s cars were of the standard ARA design, with a seven-panel Pratt truss and flat plate steel ends. Unlike the Atlas car, this one includes the round Seaboard logo.
SOO LINE- At least 400 of Soo Line’s Fowler cars were rebuilt with dreadnaught ends and Youngstown doors making them look a bit more like the model. The chart below lists all Fowler boxcars, except those rebuilt after 1950, when the black and white logo was discontinued.
WELLSVILLE, ADDISON & GALETON- This northern Pennsylvania short line operated from 1956 to 1979 with a fleet of second-hand boxcars for on-line traffic and leasing. Most were former Seaboard Air Line cars, which featured a seven-panel Pratt truss, Youngstown doors and flat steel plate ends.
7-PANEL PRATT TRUSS SINGLE SHEATHED BOXCAR
BACHMANN and CON-COR
Bachman’s and Con-Cor ‘s single-sheathed boxcar models were essentially identical. Both models featured a seven-panel Pratt truss, dreadnaught ends, raised panel roof and wood doors. Except for the wood doors, these models are similar to cars delivered to the Santa Fe in 1929 and Great Northern in 1926, which were delivered with Youngstown steel doors. Modifying one of these models with the proper door is on my list of “someday” projects. As for the rest of the road names they are definitely generic stand-ins.
BALTIMORE & OHIO and WABASH- The Atlas and Micro-Trains USRA cars are more accurate versions for these roads.
CENTRAL VERMONT- CV’s cars had a seven-panel Howe truss with composite ends. I’ve never seen the Bachmann model, but if it has the CN-style noodle initials, it is a sixties era model.
CHICAGO & ILLINOIS MIDLAND and MUNCIE AND WESTERN- These roads leased “Mathers Patent” boxcars, which, except for the steel doors, were a closer match to the Atlas ARA boxcar structurally. However, the Bachmann and Con-Cor versions include the logos printed on the doors which more closely match photos of the prototypes.
MILWAUKEE ROAD- The MILW had a large number of seven-panel cars, however they had Howe trusses. The early cars had composite ends and wood doors while later cars had dreadnaught ends and Youngstown doors. Both groups are included in the chart below.
NASHVILLE, CHATTANOOGA & ST. LOUIS- These were thirty-six foot cars with a seven-panel Howe truss, so like the Micro-Trains USRA model, it’s a generic stand-in. However, the Micro-Trains model looks nicer and will probably be easier to find.
WAR EMERGENCY BOXCARS
Steel shortages during World War II prompted the final round of composite freight car construction. A standard car with a nine-panel Pratt truss was designed and acquired by a dozen railroads. These cars were designed so that steel sheathing could be readily applied after the war.
Intermountain produced an N-scale version of this car. There are two roof variations and three different doors, so the cars should be accurate representations. The chart below is a comprehensive list of war emergency cars.
FIFTY–FOOT 1-1/2 DOOR SINGLE SHEATHED BOXCAR
The advent of the automobile spurred the growth of the fifty-foot boxcar. Automobiles were bulky but relatively light loads, and two automobiles did not approach the load limit of a forty-foot boxcar. The earliest cars appeared before the First World War, and were 1-1/2 door cars with an opening of ten feet.
Con-Cor produced a model of one of these early cars. It features a 4/5-panel Howe truss with wood doors. Sadly, it also features the “standard” Con-Cor dreadnaught ends and raised-panel roof, which are too modern for this car. This makes it a “generic stand-in” for the four road names described below. The model was available in six road names, but the Pennsylvania and Santa Fe had nothing even close.
CHICAGO, BURLINGTON & QUINCY- The “Q” listed two series of cars, the larger had a 4/5 Howe truss and wood doors like the model.
GREAT NORTHERN- GN listed two series of cars with ten-foot doors, one of which also had end doors. Though I haven’t found pictures of either, every series of Great Northern car I’ve come across so far has had a Pratt truss.
SOUTHERN PACIFIC- The doors on Espee’s cars were staggered to the right, forming a 5/4 Howe truss. In addition, they had wood doors and composite ends.
UNION PACIFIC- In 1922, the UP built a group of all-steel, single-sheathed boxcars for automobile service. Numbered 150001-152000, these cars resembled the model with a 4/5 Howe truss and wooden doors. By the 1930’s, they were no longer in automobile service, and some cars had been rebuilt to single-door cars and renumbered into the 350000-350886 series. Since some of the renumbered cars were converted by simply securing the half-door, the totals in the chart include both series.
FIFTY-FOOT DOUBLE-DOOR SINGLE SHEATHED BOXCAR
WALTHERS (and hopefully someday ATLAS)
The final development of single-sheathed car construction occurred in the late twenties with large fifty-foot automobile boxcars. These cars featured side door openings of twelve feet or more as well as end doors. The depression greatly curtailed freight car construction, and by the time it resumed, all-steel cars had become the norm.
Walthers produced a model of one such car a few years back. It featured a 4/5 Howe truss with twelve-foot Youngstown double doors, dreadnaught ends and end doors on the “A” end of the car. (That’s the end opposite the handbrake) It’s a nice model, but the doors on most are warped from the glue used to attach them. Of the six road names offered, only the Northern Pacific car was a close match. The Union Pacific road name is not listed in the chart, as the Con-Cor car is a closer match. Though some of the road names include “automobile” markings, these cars had been removed from automobile service by the postwar era.
Apparently, Atlas was going to produce this model in April 2019, but cancelled the project. The Atlas model looked to be identical to the Walthers car (same tooling perhaps?), except it would have included a version without end doors. The chart includes roads that had cars that were a close match to the model. You can letter them yourself, or wait for Atlas to change their mind.
ATCHISON, TOPEKA & SANTA FE- Built in1930, the Santa Fe cars differed from the model in having a 3/4-panel Pratt truss and no end doors. In 1940, the cars were converted to single door cars by securing the second door and renumbered 150001-150482. They were rebuilt to all steel cars in the mid-fifties.
GREAT NORTHERN- The model is numbered for a series of cars rebuilt from single-door cars in 1954 and 1955; it had a 4/5 Pratt truss. Other series had a ¾ Pratt truss. The model features the logo first used in 1948, however, it should read “Great Northern Railway”.
MILWAUKEE ROAD- The Milwaukee road’s 1,000 cars had a 3/4-panel Howe truss. Half of the cars were equipped with end doors.
NORTHERN PACIFIC- NP series 4700-4999 cars come the closest to matching the model. They featured a 4/5 Howe truss, Youngstown side doors and end doors.
SOUTHERN PACIFIC- Espee’s cars were all-steel single-sheathed cars with a 3/4 Howe truss, Youngstown steel doors and dreadnaught ends. The October 1947 Equipment Register noted that fifteen cars were type "XAR", for hauling automobiles.