USRA freight car data


In 1917, the US government formed the United States Railway Administration to control the nations railroads during World War One. In that process, several freight car designs were approved and 100,000 cars were built and assigned to many US railroads. These five USRA freight car designs ushered in standardized freight car design for many railroads and made up about four to five percent of the overall national freight car fleet in the 1920s and 1930s.

Models of these prototypes have been available in several scales for model railroaders. The USRA freight cars have been frequently noted in the hobby press and several articles have been published over the years. Many of these articles reference a 1973 historical summary published by James E. Lane. This has been out of print for years and many of the magazine articles that referenced Lane’s work are also out of print.

As a resource for all model railroaders, I have transcribed the data from Lane’s work into tables for easy reference. This is available as the USRA Freight Car Assignments page of this blog for easy access. The information presented on that page reflects the USRA assignments which differed from the original USRA allotments. Read through the opening paragraphs to gain an understanding of these terms.

I hope readers will enjoy these details and use the USRA Freight Car Assignments page to further their prototype modeling efforts.

4 thoughts on “USRA freight car data”

    1. Thank you, Claus! I am not as familiar with models in other scales and your links are very helpful. – Eric

  1. Eric,

    Thank you again for yet another terrific contribution to the community of modelers who are interested in the 1920’s.

    Question – did you follow a diagram or general practice arrangement when lettering the Wabash car? I don’t want to re-letter the car I’m working on unless it is way outside the period.



    1. Thanks for your comments, Galen. The Wabash car was decaled using images in Railroad Prototype Cyclopedia, Vol 16. A Westerfield decal set was used. The USRA cars were lettering following MCB/ARA guidelines for the 1919-26 era and were different from what is commonly seen in the hobby press. The ARA updated these guidelines and approved a versions that took effect on January 1, 1927. Some railroads were already using these updated practices on new cars produced in 1925 and 1926, and I’ve recently stumbled across a car rebuilt in 1928 and the lettering follows the pre-1926 style, except for one aspect on the Weight line. This is one of the challenges off modeling the earlier 1920s. – Eric

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