Critical Cars

Critical Cars: 40′ Boxcars with 9′ Doors

Rounding out a freight car fleet requires modeling some slightly out of the ordinary cars. Forty foot long boxcars with nine foot wide doors are one of these prototypes. After WWII, boxcar doors gradually grew from 6′. By 1960 9′ doors had become commonplace, but by that time, railroads had stopped buying 40′ cars, so the combination of a 40′ car with a 9′ door is somewhat unusual.

According to the Ed Hawkins’ data at Steam Era Freight Cars, only 12 railroads bought standard models with 9′ doors and of these, only 4 owned 500 or more. You can download a spreadsheet of this roster info below. The first 9’ers were built in 1947 for KCS and featured 4-4 dreadnaught ends. In the 1950s and ’60s Pullman built 3403 PS-1 cars while AC&F, General American and Magor combined to build 1915 to AAR specs. Door styles among all cars were split fairly evenly between Youngstown (2915) and Superior (2439) with a sprinkling of Pullman (64).

An eastbound freight pulls into Framingham in March, 1965 with a Lancaster & Chester 40′ PS-1 on the headpin. L&C had 20 of these cars identical to SOU’s. Leroy Dozier photo, George Elwood collection, used with permission.

The total of these builds was 5418 cars, or about 1% of the US boxcar fleet. I opted for two for my roster. Including a Southern car was a no-brainer. They had, by far, the largest fleet at 2015 cars. By the numbers, Milwaukee Road should have been the second, as they rostered 1250 cars including both AAR and PS-1 designs. Since I had photos of the Wabash car on the B&A and many were assigned to flour service – a move I wanted to capture – they got the nod (plus I have the decals on hand).

Milwaukee Road 30087 at Framingham, MA during 1966. Leroy Dozier photo, George Elwood collection, used with permission.

Up until this summer, modeling one of these cars has been a bit of a challenge. The best option was to cut down a 50′ boxcar with a 9′ door. Tangent’s recent release of three versions of the PS-1 has completely changed that. I added one of the Southern cars, which had long been on my planned roster to go with an already-in-progress kitbash of a Wabash car for my fleet.

Southern PS-1

SOU 30453 at Marshalltown, IA in 1969. Jim Sands photo, George Elwood collection, used with permission.

Finishing the Southern car was pretty much a weathering project. I started by painting the wheels and trucks with Grimy Black. I finished the roof by brush painting on BAR Gray and then stippling on undercoat light gray over that. The sides were given washes of dark umber and burnt sienna oil paint applied with Q-Tips. When that cured I patched out the repack and reweigh data to match a photo from the Fallen Flags website. This was followed with dabs of Future, decals and Dullcote. A dust up with Pan Pastels, colored pencil chalk marks and a dot of silver for the air hoses finished the process.

The completed model on my NMRA module.

Wabash AC&F 1961

Flour Loading Boxcar on the NYC at Silver Creek, NY west of Buffalo June, 1967. Jim Parker photo, collection of George Elwood.

The Wabash car is still an under-construction project. This is based on the kitbash described by Craig Wilson at Green Bay Route (link). I have performed the basic surgery and cut down an Intermountain PS-1 to 40′ and added Branchline late 1-3-4 dreadnaught ends. Now, I need to figure out the dimensions of the drop sill. So far I have used three different methods and come up with a different answer each time. If anybody has this info I would be very grateful if you could share. Tangent’s introduction of 50-ton roller bearing trucks and a new 9′ door will provide some of the parts needed to finish this build. I’ll provide a write up when I complete this project.

The basic body – an Intermountain 50′ PS-1 with Branchline 1-3-4 ID ends and a Tangent 9′ Youngstown door – ready for detailing.

These two cars will help cement my boxcar fleet in the 1960s with their distinctive looks. One car was worth the wait, the other will be worth the effort.


1 thought on “Critical Cars: 40′ Boxcars with 9′ Doors”

  1. You nailed the Southern car. Great job!
    Fantastic work on the Wabash. I am always in awe of people’s scratch building skills. Once again great job!


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