Question About 40 ft. Boxcars

Discussion in 'Freight Equipment' started by wpmoreland719, Apr 15, 2010.

  1. wpmoreland719

    wpmoreland719 Member Supporter

    This will probably be an easy one for most of you, but could someone tell me when 40 ft. boxcars generally disappeared from revenue service? I have a small fleet of about 32 freight cars, plus three cabooses. My number of 40 ft. boxcars is more than double the number of 50 ft. boxcars that I have, yet my main motive power is post 1965 O/W(I do have one B/Y F3). I'm trying to operate trains in a more prototypical manner, and I'm wondering if any of the transition era cars lasted into the late 70's.
  2. bob_wintle

    bob_wintle Member Supporter

    Yes many 40 footers lasted until the late 70's early 80's. There are several examples in Nick Molo's book "Frisco/Katy Color Guide to Freight Equipment" and on George Elwoods' "Fallen Flags" website.
    Bob Wintle
    Parsons, Ks.
  3. tmfrisco

    tmfrisco Member Supporter

    I know they may not be Frisco cars, but the QLA was loaded with Southern 40' and 50' boxcars along with tofcs. It was actually a very nice looking train.
  4. nickmolo

    nickmolo Member

    Frisco went on a rebuilding/refurbishing mode in the mid to late seventies of most of there forty-footer fleet. So they had a lot of them in the latter years, more than most roads.

  5. Rick McClellan

    Rick McClellan 2009 Engineer of the Year

    I agree with Nick, Terry and Bob on the 40 footers being in service in the late 1970s and into the early 1980s.

    Growing up in Springfield, I distinctly remember lots of 40 SLSF box cars all over town. I worked at Meek Lumber Co. from 1975-1979 (while I was in college) and unloaded several 40 foot box cars of loose dimensional lumber by hand. The cars we unloaded by hand were mostly CN bringing bargain lumber down from Canada.

    After moving to KC in 1979, I shot several photos of 40 box cars including Southern, MP, BN, KCS, etc.

    If you check the ORER, you will find hundreds of 40 footer still in service with most railroads in the late 1970s. The 50 foot boxes were taking over most shipments but the 40's were still there.
  6. mark

    mark Member


    Almost every railroad had many 40' boxcars into the 1980s.

    Most railroads still had a large percentage of the 40' cars in their fleets. There are several key reasons they lasted. Among these are:

    a) Financial investment - use the asset to maximize the amortization.

    b) Generally lower weight 50-70 tons - ideal for light weight rail on deferred maintenance track, especially on branch lines (remember at one time when class 1's had miles of branch lines with rail weights below 90 pounds?).

    c) Customer fixed assets for loading - Many shippers facilities were built for 40' cars (door, dump and loader spacing). Remember this was a time when railroads were only common carriers and had to service all who came.

    d) Cost of new equipment - Many roads were under severe financial stress (CRIP, Conrail, MILW, etc.).

    The outlook for the 40' car changed quickly in the mid 1980s. Almost overnight they disappeared. Key factors influencing the change included:

    1) Changing regulatory environment or "Re-regulation" - Laws were changing (Railroad Revitalization and Rehabilitation Act (a/k/a the 4R Act), Staggers Rail Act, etc.) that presented new more profitable avenues for the industry including better asset utilization, easier mergers, improved rate setting, contract carrier, line abandonment or sale, etc.

    2) Changing shipping methods - Demanded new types of equipment competing for asset dollars in a rapidly changing world. This resulted in a general shift away from traditional boxcar or "house car" types. New car types with higher returns were needed including auto racks, TOFC / COFC, unit train open and covered hoppers, newer types of tank cars, etc.

    3) General economic down turn - recession (remember lines of stored cars for miles?) and a large shift to a "global economy" (ie less made here, more imported).

    4) Age of equipment - The 40' cars started to reach the end of their economic use. The cost of repair and rebuild, in an environment with declining demand, was becoming to great.

    Hope this helps.


    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 15, 2010
  7. mark

    mark Member


    As Risk suggested, a good source for the make up of any railroad's roster is the Official Railroad Equipment Register (ORER). The ORER was published quarterly and listed by railroad the equipment including key dimensions.

    By looking at any given road at any point in time you can easily determine the percentage of car types and sizes. You can then take this information and adopt it to your local setting or model railroad.

    For example, in a steel production area, shift the mix to increase the number (percentage) of hoppers (in bound materials) and gondolas (out bound shipments) verses a more agricultural area of a given railroad.

    Hope this helps.


  8. wpmoreland719

    wpmoreland719 Member Supporter

    Thanks for your help, guys. That pretty much settles it then, as I was considering selling some of my 40 ft. equipment if it was determined that they were no longer being used by the time of the merger. I was going to keep a few of them for use behind the F3, plus all of the outside braced cars to occasionally run behind my little 4-4-0 (I sometimes change the automobiles and other scenery on my layout to reflect the depression era), but this means I'll hang on to them. They look better operating on my layout anyway, since I have two tight sections of 18" curves (yikes).

    That brings me to another question. What about the outside braced wooden cars? I have a few O/B wooden boxcars, plus one GM&O wartime emergency hopper. Just taking a guess here, but I figure they at least made it into the early 60's. And where does one locate one of the equipment registers?

    Thanks again,

    William "Pat" Moreland
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 15, 2010
  9. SteveM

    SteveM Member Supporter

    On eBay you can do a search. If you know the era/year you want, there is usually one close. But you can also get them on a CD, so the folks that have those keep an inventory of all the years they have scanned.
    Or go to lots of shows that include paper/memorabilia vendors.

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