Prototype Data Files – pt 1

One of many prototypes for the new Accurail models.
One of many prototypes for the new Accurail models.

As announced here a couple of months ago, Accurail is working on an HO scale 36-foot box car model. They are planning four variations and have announced the initial paint and lettering schemes. Ray Breyer has pulled together prototype photos and details for each of the introductory models that will have fishbelly center sills and steel ends. He has created a very nice resource that can help modelers understand the similarities between the model and prototype. The initial PDF data sheet is posted on a special blog page, Accurail Prototype Data.

Ray is working on three additional data files that will cover the prototypes Accurail has announced for the other 36-foot box car versions. These will appear over the next few months in anticipation of the release date for these new models.

There is a community of Pre-Depression Era railroad modelers who are very thankful Accurail is developing these exciting models. We hope modelers of the 1930-1953 years realize the importance of these shorter box car prototypes for their freight car fleets.

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37 thoughts on “Prototype Data Files – pt 1”

    1. Joel, the NC&StL had single and double-sheathed 36-foot box cars. Some where even rebuilt with steel sheathing. I am not certain which car series was sold off after WW2. – Eric

      1. I believe it will be found that many, if not most, of the NC&StL single
        sheathed box cars were constructed to the Dominion (often mistakenly called “Fowler”) car style just as a number of cars for the Erie were. If I am correct it was some of the NC&StL double sheathed cars that were
        rebuilt as 36 ft. steel sheathed cars. Didn’t Sunshine offer a kit for these at some point?

        1. Don, I would agree with you. There were a series of double-sheathed ventilated box cars installed in 1923 that had inward rib Hutchins ends. I don’t know if there was a sister series of non-ventilated box cars or if the ventilated features were removed when rebuilt. – Eric

        2. Hi Don,
          In general, Dominion cars are Dominion car, and Fowlers are Fowlers. They’re both very similar, but not exactly alike. One basic spotting feature of “Fowler” single sheathed boxcars are the first and last “panels” on each side, which have a horizontal supporting bar halfway up the side. There were LOTS of American railroads with Fowler-patent or Fowler clone 36-foot cars, including the NC&StL, TStL&W, and Erie. These are all true Fowlers, as are some of the originally-built 1909 era Canadian cars.

    2. Hi Joel,
      That was the NYC&StL; the Nickel Plate Road. In the mid-1930s the NKP purged about half of their freight car fleet, including a large number of 36-foot cars that had been rebuilt within the past eight years. Most of those cars went to Hyman-Michaels, which re-sold them to several smaller railroads. One of those was the M&StL, which bought just shy of 400 ex-NKP cars. Those cars were sold off right after WWII, with something like 200 heading to the NdeM. I’ll be discussing those cars when I get to the 1800-series kits.

  1. Already on your e-mail distribution. So, in case you might want to purge your list, I’m still here, enjoying your posts.
    Frank G

  2. Wow! What a wonderful resource for modelers. Thanks Ray for providing this information. I’m looking forward to the other installments in this series as well.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jim! Ray is busy on the next data file, which we hope to post in April. I miss visiting your great N&W layout. – Eric

    2. Hi Jim,
      Me too! πŸ™‚ Although I have all four of these mini-articles roughed out I’m still finding new information to flesh them all out, so I’m learning new things as I go. It’s kind of fun, actually.

  3. There are actually a couple of cars that were in revenue service into the late 50s. I will be able to use a couple of them in my era as well. They look like a real plus for the post world war II modeler as well.

    1. Hey Rob! The latest B&O freight car data I have is from a 1954 Summary of Equipment. There are a few car series for 36-foot box cars, but I don’t have quantities listed in the summary. The car series are listed but I doubt they are completely full of cars. B&O data will be appearing in an upcoming file, although the models won’t be an exact match for B&O car classes. – Eric

      1. Looking forward to it Eric, seems a lot of them got replaced just before my era like 1955 and 1957 but a few made it to 1959 so I will need to find a way to have just a couple on the roster. Do you recall if any of these cars would have been modernized with horizontal brake gear before their time period ended?

      2. Be careful about exactly when in the “late 1950s” you focus on. in 1955 the B&O still had six short boxcars on their roster, but by 1957 they were down to exactly one, in the 183700-183703 number series.

    2. Hi Rob,
      By the mid-1950s the short boxcar fleet was well on its way to being fully purged. In 1955 the 38,000 or so short boxcars in the ORER were mostly Canadian Dominion single sheathed cars and deep South ventilated cars, and only made up 4% of all boxcars in the USA and Canada. By 1959 their numbers were down to around 15,000 cars, or 2% of all boxcars. There were a few stragglers here and there (mostly on the MP and D&H), but in general, these new Accurail models will be best on layouts set before 1954.

      Now, if we can convince Accurail to use their new short, straight center sill underframes as the starting point for a short Fowler/Dominion boxcar, we’ll have a shorty that’s useful into the early 1980s! πŸ™‚

      1. Hi Ray, thanks for your reply and it is fitting. The thing I was looking to represent with these models would be less than 2% of the box car fleet in my possession. I have a bit over 400 cars now so adding say 4 of these cars that would have still been in service in 1959 would keep me with in the ratio of freight cars. Also at that time in the area I am modeling it would not have been out of the question to have cars from New Haven, D & H, New York Central, Pennsy, B&O, etc show up rather frequently.
        I think we are on the same page here these will be the unusual cars in a sea of the usual.

  4. Another great post! Very interesting.
    For many modellers, me included, finding specific prototype information is difficult. RP Cyc can only cover so much.
    Thanks Eric and Ray for putting this summary together.


  5. Good stuff here. Interesting article. On a related note, Steve Funaro commented at one of his presentations that 36 foot cars remained in service into the 50s due to customer demand. Customers who owned facilities (warehouses or loading docks) that were sized for 36 foot cars could not easily or cheaply be converted to 40 foot door spacing. Makes sense to me and explains the persistence of these cars well past the point that they were supposedly “obsolete.”

    1. Thanks for the comment, Joe! I think I attended that clinic. I thought Steve was referring to the New Haven fleet as they kept their shortys for a long time. I think Steve may have mentioned the New Haven asked Pullman-Standard for a 36-foot version of their PS-1. A look through a post-1954 ORER will show who kept the shorter cars the longest. – Eric

      1. Now that you mention it, I think I agree — he was referring to NH, their customers being particularly resistant to changing brick warehouses. Otoh, I would assume much the same was driving other customers in other areas.

        On a related note, looking forward to your comments on backdating car details at Valley Forge!

    2. Hi Joe,
      In general, the idea that railroads kept short boxcars around because of door spacing is an old model railroader’s myth, and has been debunked in several ways. In general, freight doors NEVER lined up with anything in particular, mostly because they didn’t have to; they also had loading dock platforms which made car alignment irrelevant. And many factories were built well before the MCBA settled on a 2448 cubic foot capacity, 36-foot interior length house car as standard. That means that pre-1905 (or thereabouts) factories would have been built to a 32′ or 34′ car standard.

      The real reason why railroads kept to a short boxcar standard is more basic: they were cheap. Railroad management, and their robber baron overlords, didn’t want to buy new equipment because that meant less profit. By the very early 1900s the industry knew that longer freight cars were more efficient, and that all-steel freight cars of all kinds were more durable and had far longer life expectancies than all-wood cars. It took Federal mandates, the expansion of the steel industry, trucking competition, and the Great Depression to finally change industry mindset once and for all in favor of large steel cars over small wood ones.

  6. What a terrific article/data file to pore over again and again, as there is such useful information beyond just the basic “here’s a list of cars that work” concept. Having just done some research on Single Sheathed USRA cars, having to sift through pages of almost-right and not-quite-right-but-maybe-this-will-work photos and drawings, I really appreciate having such a thorough and comprehensive resource available in one place. Ray is to be commended for this effort and the photo credits in the article read like a who’s who of prototype modelers. Great work, Ray, and thanks for making it available, Eric!! Can’t wait to get my hands on a few of these cars.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Galen! We will have three more installments coming along in the upcoming months. – Eric

    2. Thanks Galen! Mini-articles like this take a surprisingly large amount of work to put together in any sort of useful way, but I do try my best. I’m glad to see that more than a few people are getting something out of them.

  7. Eric, I am looking forward to the rest of the installments in this series and like always you are doing a great job. Have you made any more progress on the Spidel building? I am really admiring your work and appreciate your sharing it with the rest of us.

    1. Hey Rob! I have not made progress on the Speidel block. I’ve had a few projects rolling in addition to assembling a presentation for the upcoming RPM Valley Forge event. Eventually I’ll be able to work on that again. – Eric

  8. Did any of the western railroads use this particular model of 36 foot box cars? It would be really useful for me if there was a Santa fe or UP version. Although I’ve got photos of eastern cars making it to Goldfield so I’ll have to get some no matter what.

    1. Hi Nevin,

      The 1800-series kits (straight underframe, wood ends) may be useful in a ‘fleet context’, to model some of the earlier Santa Fe cars, especially those in the BxW, BxX and BxY classes, and their rebuilds into Bx-16 and Bx-18 cars. It’ll take a bit of work to get them anywhere close to the far more accurate Westerfield kits of these same prototypes, but if you’re looking for lots of them in a runner fleet, rather than one or two showcase models, the new Accurail cars will get you there far faster, and for far less money.

      The UP didn’t have anything like these cars. They went straight from small cars to larger Harriman designs without much of any intermediate stops in between. The SP did the same thing. But there were a large number of western roads that did have similar cars: D&RG/D&RGW, D&SL, I-GN, MP, MKT, SSW and SLSF.

  9. Thanks. The roads I model in Nevada, while having some of their own boxcars were very dependent on their larger connection for most of them. For the Tonopah and Tidewater that means lots of Santa Fe cars. Certainly some D&SL cars will have to be acquired. I have some Westerfield cars but still need the time to compete them. When you say the UP went straight to the larger Harriman cars, does that include the LA&SL? Best regards, Nevin

  10. Hi Ray – thanks for doing this great project.

    FYI, in your 1300 series notes on the CPR 215000-216299 series cars, you indicate they were built sometime in the 1924-25 period.

    In fact, the Nehrich collection photo of 215001 shown in your summary appears on page 257 of the 1919 Railway Age (I have a Google copy). According to the 1938 CPR Summary of Equipment, the cars were built to Equipment Order 1524 in 1918 and 1919. They have interior dimensions IL 36′, IH 8′ and IW 8’6″. Two roof designs were used – an outside metal roof and an inside metal roof – the article doesn’t get more specific. Trucks were arch bar design with Symplex bolsters.
    There were a bunch of other cars in many series that have similar design elements though with significant detail differences. I’m reviewing my files for kitbash opportunities.


    1. Thanks for that Rob! That’s the fun thing with prototype research: there’s always something that you’ve missed!

      And I don’t remember where I got my date from, but it was most likely a SWAG. I have some maddening holes in my ORER database after 1917, and that includes a long patch of nothing until 1926. That ten year span saw a lot of changes in the North American car roster, and I really need to find a few digital issues to cover that gap soon!

      1. I’m in the same boat with crucial missing ORERs. A quick scan of Ebay revealed none for that time period. looking for other options now . . . .

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