Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The 36-foot box car

As early as the turn of the 20th century, there were some railroads that began building 40-foot box cars and never looked back. These included the Harriman roads, Southern Pacific and Union Pacific. But other major railroads, such as the New York Central, built many thousands of 36-foot box cars in the early 20th century, and some roads continued to build them into the 1920s.
     But most of these cars had wood superstructure frames and many had wood ends, which would shorten their lives. Already by the beginning of World War II, much of the 36-foot fleet nationwide had been scrapped or rebuilt into other forms, and by 1950, few were still in service.
     Still, there were cars like this in service in my modeling year of 1953. Why am I mentioning this? Because my car fleet should contain at least a couple of these cars. Rarities by 1953 they might well be, but certainly not all vanished. Thus my interest in the Accurail offering of a variety of 36-foot box car models in HO scale.
     These models were first announced at Trainfest in Milwaukee in the fall of 2015. At first, only a limited number of paint schemes were made available, but gradually there have been more and more of them introduced. Within the Accurail 36-foot car offering are four body types: the 1300 series, with steel outside metal roof, steel ends, and an underframe with a fishbelly center sill; the 1400 series, the same as the 1300s but with a straight steel center sill; the 1700 series, with the steel outside metal roof, wood ends, and a fishbelly center sill; and the 1800 series, the same as the 1700s but with a straight center sill. You can see current paint scheme offerings at the Accurail website, at: http://www.accurail.com/accurail/ .
     Ray Breyer has done a superb job of summarizing each of the Accurail series, in terms of the prototypes that used the cars, and their lifetimes. These reviews are available as PDF documents at Eric Hansmann’s site, which is located here: http://designbuildop.hansmanns.org/accurail-prototype-data/ . You will see separate PDFs for each of the Accurail number series just listed. These are great sources of information, and I recommend them highly. And thank you, Ray, for the help!
     I approached the potential acquisition of one of these Accurail cars in just the way I described in an earlier post about choosing new cars for the fleet (you can read that post at: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2019/06/choosing-new-cars-for-your-fleet.html ). But the number of useful cars for modelers of 1950 or later comprise a rather short list. Moreover, perusal of Ray’s document shows that very few Western railroads were indulging in 36-foot cars of this kind.
     Anyway, I went ahead and studied Ray’s information, and then I could list the following prospects for my 1953 modeling year: 1300 series, Missouri Pacific (photo below); 1400 series, L&N and maybe D&RGW (the latter requiring a bit of a time warp); 1800 series, D&H. But as it happens, Accurail to this day has only listed the L&N and D&H paint schemes as future releases; neither has actually appeared. So that leaves me with this prototype (photo from Ted Culotta collection):

A distinctive feature here is the reverse corrugated end, nicely modeled in the Accurail kit.
     The Accurail kit for this car is no. 1303, and as Ray Breyer points out, it is a fairly close match except for the fascia board on the MP car. I acquired one and assembled it, a simple process with Accurail kits (aided by the Ray Breyer “tutorial” on the underframe, on the same Hansmann-site page as the car summaries). I installed Kadee no. 158 “whisker” couplers to avoid the reported size problems with the Accurail coupler box.
     I then proceeded to weather the car in three stages. First, a light weathering with acrylic washes, and a coat of flat. Then, some very slight emphasis of individual boards, suing Prismacolor art pencils, followed by another grayish wash.

Completing the car included reweigh and repack data patches and a few chalk marks. The route cards remain to be added in the photo above.
     I also have one other 36-foot box car in my fleet, an L&N model inherited from Richard Hendrickson. I don’t know how he modeled it except that I remember he had mentioned once that he had kitbashed it. It’s from a group of L&N cars that was rapidly shrinking in Richard’s model year of 1947, and in fact gone by 1953, the year that I model. But I’m keeping it anyway, at least for now (there’s that time warp again).

     So what’s next? I may choose to build the Accurail 1800-series car lettered for D&H, whenever it’s released, or I may decide that two 36-foot cars is about the limit for 1953. But in either case, I have a very small representation in my fleet of the disappearing 36-foot box car in 1953, and that was my goal.
Tony Thompson


  1. Accurail has already done a car in L&N as 1305. It needs ladders instead of the molded on grabs though.


    1. True. But as pointed out by the Ray Breyer summary, the cars that were like the Accurail 1300-series models disappeared rapidly at about the time I model. Note above that the L&N car I could use is the one announced in the 1400 series, but not yet released.
      Tony Thompson

    2. And by the way, the 1400-series model would also need ladders to replace the grab iron rows.
      Tony Thompson

  2. I looked at this car, and wanted it, but K brakes were banned from interchange service in 1954. Do you know the exact date, as I am working in the July of 1954? UP in Eastern Kansas.

  3. I model 1953, so could think of it as just under the wire. But in fact, it is very easy on these cars to omit the K brake of the kit, and substitute any of the many AB brake sets that are available. With a deep center sill like this one, though, I don't always bother.
    Tony Thompson