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40 Boxcars and Their Different Types


Modelers of HO trains model after specific railroad periods of the United States and Canada. From almost the onset of American railroads the 40 foot boxcar has been in existence. It began to disappear from the railroads in the 1960s.

Refrigeration was changing from the old ice method to the modern thermal air-condition cars that were self cooling. Also, the 40 footer was beginning to be too small. The larger 50 & 60 footers were taking over and they even experimented with 86 foot boxcars. The big railroads wanted to haul more goods and reduce the tonnage they had to haul. It took 125 40 foot boxcars to equal 100 50 foot boxcars. The reduction would be 25 less 40 foot boxcars times their empty gross wait.

This was certainly an advantage for the railroads let alone the maintenance of the smaller boxcar. With this in mind the majority of the model railroaders I know still prefer the 40 foot boxcar. They like the era from the late 1920s though the early 1960s. They are also very colorful and interesting. Many of these nostalgic colorfully designed boxcars are gone unless they might be in a railroad museum. There were so many different designs and logos to see.

The hobbyist still has the opportunity to find many of these colorful boxcars that are manufactured by several model railroad producers of freight cars. Some examples are Kadee, Intermountain, Athearn/Athearn Genesis, Accurail, Bachmann, Walthers, Red Caboose, Bowser, Roundhouse (Roundhouse is now makes only the pre twentieth century cars), Branchline, Life-Like, etc. There are several more that sell kit form freight cars as do some of the aforementioned companies. You can even get wood kits but they are not common.

Now for the types of 40 foot boxcars there are more than you may possibly think. The types of construction and usage varied. It all depended where the railroad was mainly located and types of products, food and perishables that were being shipped. From perishables, staples (wheat, Corn, Barley, Soy, etc.), equipment that needed to be enclosed, parts, manufacturing equipment that was relative small and the manufacturer did not want the tools and or equipment dinged by flying debris, ice, snow and heavy rain, and typical Midwestern hail storms.

Typically soft goods like flour, sugar, fruit, dairy products, and processed meats were hauled in 40 foot reefers. These boxcars are smaller in size than the standard 40 footer. The majority of these reefers were wood as were most of the other types of 40 foot boxcars. This changed however, as time went on to metal reefers.

There are multiple types of 40 foot steel boxcars. There are the following types:

40 Superior Door Boxcar; 40 Double Door Boxcar; 40 Ribbed Boxcar; 40 Modern Boxcar; 40 Express Boxcar; 1937 AAR 40 Boxcar; 40 12 Panel Boxcar; 40 AAR Modified Boxcar; 40 PS-1 Boxcar; 40 Boxcar w/Youngstown Doors; 40 Double-Door Boxcar; 40 High-Cube Boxcar; 40 Ribbed Boxcar; 40 Steel Boxcar w/6 Panel Doors; 40 Steel & Wood Ice Bunker Reefers; 40 Steel & Wood Boxcar. This includes several types of 40 stock cars.

In all they all had a specific purpose for the railroad as well as the user. Many of the reefers were labeled with the name of the product and producer of the goods being carried. There was Rath Black Hawk Meats, Swift, Carnation Dairy Products, Needham Meats, and major carriers such as Pacific Fruit Express. The Pacific Fruit Express Company (PFE) owned the largest number of reefer cars of any of the different reefer users. Union Pacific owned the second largest number of PFE reefers and pulled more reefers than any other railroad during that period of the 40 Boxcar/Reefer era.

As time has gone on the boxcar has almost disappeared from the railroads. However, the need for boxcars has now become critical. The Piggy Back and Double Stack Containers is not necessarily the means needed for some goods. The boxcar may indeed have a come back on the railroads of today.

Submitted by:

Michael W. P. Ball

Michael & Joy Ball have been involved in the restoration and maintenance of a variety of Brass Model Locomotives. Through their years of expertise, Michael & Joy have perfected the art of train restoration often spending countless hours preserving vintage Brass Locomotives to running condition of even the newest Brass Model Replicas. Receive their free newsletter at http://www.brasslocomotiveworks.com.





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