US Boxcar Fleet, 1950

Discussion in 'Boxcars' started by meteor910, Nov 23, 2011.

  1. meteor910

    meteor910 2009 Engineer of the Year Staff Member Supporter

    I'm way behind in my reading, and have been trying to catch up. I came across an interesting article today in the PRR Historical Society's The Keystone Modeler, issue #30, January, 2006, page 22.

    It's a compilation of the number of general service boxcars rostered by the top twenty railroads in the US (in terms of the number of boxcars in service) in the year 1950.

    For those of you who are modeling around the 1950 era, plus or minus about 5-10 years, the following data will give you some idea of the mix of foreign-road boxcars you should have running around on your layouts in addition to those good looking Frisco cars. Most of your boxcars in a given train would likely be SLSF as the home road, but the data gives a hint of what other roads should also be in the consist. Obviously, there should be more PRR or NYC cars than, for example, C&O or Erie cars, based on the numbers.

    Here's the data, rounded to the nearest thousand boxcars:

    PRR - 61,000 general service boxcars in 1950
    NYC- 53,000
    ATSF - 30,000
    MILW - 29,000
    B&O - 27,000
    SP - 24,000
    SOU - 24,000
    GN - 22,000
    C&NW - 21,000
    UP - 20,000
    IC - 19,000
    CB&Q - 19,000
    NP - 19,000
    RI - 17,000
    MP - 16,000
    C&O - 13,000
    SLSF - 12,000
    ACL - 11,000
    L&N - 11,000
    Erie - 10,000

    The data were read off of a graph, and only roads with 10,000 or more boxcars were included.


  2. WindsorSpring

    WindsorSpring Member

    The mix got skewed a little bit during operations. Eastern railroads tended to hang on to boxcars that arrived on their lines, especially those in very good condition. At least that is what I remember from an article I read in the '60's or '70's (?).

    This means those modelling eastern roads can surely add lots of Frisco and ATSF cars, even moving those around a lot. Eastern shippers certainly sent cars west to the Frisco (and other roads), but retention would likely result in a train having a lower proportion of eastern roads than shown by the figures on the table.

    George Nelson
  3. pbender

    pbender Member Supporter

    The other thing to think about is that the mix is skewed a bit by whether or not there was a direct connection to the road.

    As an example, I would expect there to be more UP cars on the Frisco than GN cars on the Frisco, despite the fact that GN owned more cars than UP did, according to the list above.

    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 24, 2011
  4. Friscotony

    Friscotony Member

    I would have to think that one must do some studing of what was shipped from say the Seattle area that would have traveled on the Frisco. Could be N.W. wood products, fruits, produce, Large port connections., etc. GN, NP could very well have made the connection to the Frisco via the CB&Q. Also, where were the final destinations. This would be true of any other railroad, not just by the sheer number of cars they owned.

  5. pbender

    pbender Member Supporter

    True, but you also need to know a bit about the rules in place for selecting cars to be loaded. It amounts to if a foreign road car was available, and moving the car to the consignee gets the car closer to home rails, you use that car before using a home road car.

    These rules were in place to help reduce costs associated with moving the car empty to home rails..... Remembering that railroads charged for both demurrage and mileage, whether the car is loaded or empty.

    One of the side effects of all this is that more cars stayed on home rails and direct connections than more distant roads. This is why I made the statement I made earlier about UP vs GN cars. UP had direct connections with the Frisco, while GN did not.

  6. meteor910

    meteor910 2009 Engineer of the Year Staff Member Supporter

    All you fellows are making good points for consideration when making up your foreign boxcar fleet on your layouts. I was not trying to suggest that the mix should be in direct proportion to the number of cars in each railroad's fleet, but that the higher the number of boxcars in an individual fleet, the higher the odds one or more of them could be seen in a Frisco train. Clearly the other points you are making will also impact the mix.

    One of the favorite cars in my very first Lionel set as a kid was a neat PRR double door boxcar, circle keystone logo. As a result, I always had an eye for, and became a fan of, the PRR. I recall seeing many PRR boxcars roll by while Frisco-watching. Less so NYC.

  7. gna

    gna Member Supporter

    I seem to recall reading in Bruce Chubb's How to Operate Your Model Railroad that half one's cars should be home road cars; a quarter from roads in the same geographic area that interchanged with the home road, and the rest made up of other railroads. So if one had 200 boxcars, 100 should be Frisco; 50 should be from MP, UP, ATSF, RI, CB&Q, SSW and others; and the remainder made up of oddballs. No doubt I've got some of the details wrong, but it's a good general guide.

    It's still a good idea to consider both Ken's points and Paul's points above, though. I imagine the Frisco had more PRR traffic than NYC that it picked up in St. Louis, not to mention the sheer number of boxcars the PRR owned, so at least a few PRR cars should be on my layout.

    I have to admit, though, that I'm very weak on what railroads the Frisco interchanged with in the Southeast, so I couldn't tell how many Southern, NC&StL, or ACL cars one would see on the Frisco.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 26, 2011
  8. TAG1014 (Tom Galbraith RIP 7/15/2020)

    TAG1014 (Tom Galbraith RIP 7/15/2020) Passed Away July 15, 2020 Supporter

    Half and half is a good rule of thumb Gary--I know a woman who worked in the Frisco Car Accounting Dept. at the Springfield General Office Building in the 1960's. She presided over the funds that the Frisco owed to other railroads for car "rental." Another woman sat across from her and dealt with the funds owed TO the Frisco and their jobs were about equal. This of course, is a great simplification of the system, but illustrates the general idea. A little aside: My friend was off work for six months to have a baby and when she came back, her job was six months behind!!!

    Tom G.
  9. john

    john Supporter

  10. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Ken, that's very interesting data. Thanks for sharing.

    To me, this indeed makes it plausible to represent all of the aforementioned roads on one's layout, if desired, AAR Car Forwarding rules notwithstanding.

    It recalls to mind the first "Essential Steam Era Freight Cars" series from RMC, where Ted Culotta noted that the Frisco's Howe Truss boxcars were of sufficient numbers that a modeler could justify having at least one of them, regardless of locale.

    With the smaller quantities, I do think that location matters. Accordingly, I probably won't sweat trying to rationalize including SP&S or Reading reporting marks, but it's worthwhile to include roads like MKT, WAB and CGW.

    Best Regards,
  11. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Terry, regardless of era, that's the sort of operational tidbits I enjoy hearing from former Frisco employees. That's interesting that nearly all were SOU boxcars. I assume they were handed over to the Frisco at Birmingham?

    Best Regards,
  12. gna

    gna Member Supporter

  13. meteor910

    meteor910 2009 Engineer of the Year Staff Member Supporter

    A New Year's Day box car question ..... How many of you who model a Frisco era between the years 1930 and the early 1960's have at least one Pennsylvania X29 box car in your model fleet?

    You should. The PRR built 29,000 of them and they were always seen on railroads nation-wide, including on the Frisco. In 1950, for example, the PRR still had 25,324 X29's in service. That is more box cars that any other railroad's entire box car fleet, except for CN, NYC, CP, ATSF, MILW and B&O. Even the B&O rostered X29 copies.

    Red Caboose made a great X29 kit a few years ago, which still can be found here and there. Earlier, Walthers/Train Miniature made an acceptable kit, also still seen on eBay, swap meets, etc.

    I had a couple of TM's, but sold them years ago when the RC kit came out. I have two RC X29's now - very nice looking cars.


    ps - Can you tell I've been reading the PRR T&HS publication "The Keystone" again?
  14. Brad Slone

    Brad Slone Member Supporter


    Yes I have examples of the Penny's X29.

  15. meteor910

    meteor910 2009 Engineer of the Year Staff Member Supporter

    In between the rapid Rose Bowl touchdowns(!), I set out one of my PRR X29 box cars and snapped a pic. This is from the Red Caboose kit.


    These guys were seen everywhere 1930 through 1960, including on the Frisco. As I noted before, the PRR had 29,000 of them.


    Attached Files:

  16. dricketts

    dricketts Member Supporter

    In regards to the original post. What would be the ratio of 40 ft / 50 ft boxcars around 1950? Give or take a couple of years.
  17. I can't answer the question of the ratio between 40' and 50' cars, but some enterprising statistican with more time than I have could perhaps sample some ORER data for the period? Simliarly there should be some sort of balance between steel cars dounble shetaher and singles sheathed cars on a model - photos of steam era feight trains show a wonderful variety of cars and car types.

    However as far as owning roads and car distributions some of the guys on the STMFC list on yahoo spent a lot of time discussing ratios and analysing conductors wheel reports and ORERs; since the number of surviving and fully analysed wheel reports is not great the samples are rather limited. However what is interesting is that there are indications that at times when business was good the ratios of house cars tended to follow national averages, meaning that PRR and NYC cars would tend to be predominant regardless of the location. (This doesn't suggest the same would apply to tank cars hoppers and gons as these can be expected to show different traffic patterns.)

    At times of economic downturns, more home road cars could be expected as cars were quickly returned to the owning road to avoid per diem charges; on the other hand these excess home road cars were probably sitting idle in yards and storage tracks rather than running round the home system, so perhaps the overall proportions of cars in trains didn't vary much from the good times.

    Group link ----


    Wellington, NZ
  18. meteor910

    meteor910 2009 Engineer of the Year Staff Member Supporter

    I have some data as of November 1, 1960, that gives some insight into the answer to your question, if not a specific answer.

    On 11/1/60, the Frisco had 20,554 freight cars in revenue service. Of that total, there were three listed classes of boxcars, as follows:

    o Boxcars, general ............................... 10,468 cars
    o Boxcars, DF loader equipped ............... 226 cars
    o Boxcars, automobile .......................... 295 cars
    Total boxcars .................................. 10,989 cars

    One could assume, in 1960, that many, but not all, of the auto boxcars were new 50 ft cars. Some of the DF loader cars were likely also 50 ft cars. And, of course, some of the general boxcars were 50 ft also, but I would guess not many on the Frisco.

    Thus, probably in 1960, and certainly in 1950, there were not a whole lot of 50 ft boxcars in service on the Frisco relative to a probable large number of 40 ft cars in service.

    As the late 1950's and the 1960's and 1970's played out, the vast majority of new boxcars were almost certainly of 50 ft, and longer, length.

    Anyone else have any different thoughts?

  19. john

    john Supporter

    I got out an April 1960 Official Railway Equipment Register and attempted to check out the St. Louis-San Francisco. The numbers are too small for these tired eye, so the total count is probably not exact - but here's what I got for the Frisco.

    1032 of 11,406 class X box cars were 50 foot
    158 of 297 autoloader cars were 50 foot
    none of the 218 stock cars were 50 foot

    total 1190 50' cars and the balance, 10,731 were 40' or smaller

    Of the total box cars, 10,897 were XM, 212 were XML (100,000 lb cap) and 297 were Automobile (XMR).

    This is from a total of 23,780 Frisco freight cars.

  20. Joseph Toth

    Joseph Toth Member

    Neat "Stuff" Ken!

    My Christmas 1951 Lionel 027 set had a Lionel Lines 2-4-2 steam loco and tender (behind), orange PRR double-door boxcar, black NYC gondola, silver Sunoco two dome tank car and the ever present Lionel Lines "SP" caboose. Item: When I first saw the Pennsy O gauge GG1 in a Lionel catalog I became a fan at once! There probably wasn't a freight train in the US and perhaps Canada too, that didn't have at least one PRR X-29 boxcar in its consist in the 40s/50s!

    Looking at period photographs of freight trains and yards gives me a pretty good idea of what type of cars and railroads to follow a pattern of when building up a correct fleet of equipment. I seem to see an ever present M-K-T boxcar in many photos despite the fact the Katy probably didn't have a large boxcar fleet in interchange service. This includes period photos of trains in Canada as well!

    I have noticed many featured layout visits in the model magazines where I see improper models in the trains. This includes boxcars without catwalks despite the fact the period modeled is 1955 as an example! We were still switching the small Frisco outside braced boxcars that had had their wood sides replaced with steel in the early 70s in Dallas on the Santa Fe! Some still had staff K-brake wheels too! They were a bummer to tie down since brake clubs were no longer used! Needless to say, we shoved and rode them to rest instead of kicking them into a clear yard track!

    Despite the mandate to remove the catwalks from boxcars I missed riding the car tops passing hand signals when interchanging with other railroads in Dallas down around the Trinity River Bottoms! Shoving a cut of cars after a fog had settled along the river bank with lit fusees at night was not the safest way of railroading but it made me feel as if my great grand-father was riding with me. He broke on the old South Park in Colorado and retired off the Katy as a freight conductor in Denison. Sadly, he passed away in 1944, two years before I was "dropped", but my great grandmother and my grandmother spun yarns to a young railroader knee high to a Texas grasshopper in the early 50s. It made me determinded to grow up and get a job on the railroad!

    Joe Toth
    The Trinity River Bottoms Boomer

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