Freight Car Friday – Pacific Car and Foundry

11 07 2014

Pacific Car and Foundry, best known in its later years for its mechanical refrigerators and insulated boxcars, had its roots in the logging industry. The small company has had ties to major carbuilders and projects but for most of its history was a family business.

log car

It should come as no surprise that PC&F’s first freight cars would serve the logging industry.

The Pacific Car and Foundry name first appeared in 1917 as a result of a merger between the Seattle Car and Foundry Company and its top regional competitor, Twohy Brothers Company. The corporate history however dates back to as early as 1901 when William Pigott first established the Railway Steel & Supply Company.

This firms first railcars were logging disconnects. These cars were not much more than trucks which were placed beneath either end of a large log. The first skeleton log cars came in about 1908 under the Hercules trade name. These cars were much safer than the disconnects yet still had a much lower tare weight than conventional flat cars.

SP 691752

PC&F’s “Beer Cars” are one of their more common designs. For a view of the opposite side of this car, see last month’s blog on the subject.

Logging cars would continue to make up the majority of sales for the then Seattle Car and Foundry Company from 1911 through the merger in 1917. Total production had averaged less than 800 cars per year. Shortly after the merger however, the new United States Railway Administration delivered the company an order for 2000 boxcars.

In the 1920s, the company began to develop two different but successful product lines. Its Renton plant continued to turn out quality products in large quantities for the logging industry. Increasingly however, the trucks were of the rubber-tired variety. Meanwhile its Portland plant had developed a successful line of refrigerator rail cars.


Lionel reefer

A PC&F car originally built for Pacific Fruit Express served as the prototype for Lionel’s O and S scale models.

American Car and Foundry acquired PC&F in 1924 but the company continued to operate and market its cars under its own name. Pigott’s sons, William J. and Paul, bought the company back from ACF in 1934. That decade would challenge every car builder of course, but PC&F remained intact. Declining car sales were offset by ventures into other manufacturing and corporate diversification from the 1930s through the 1960s. Following ACF control, the primary railcar product remained reefers. Notable among the other operations was the structural steel division which produced steel for Seattle’s Space Needle and New York’s World Trade Center.


Although best known for insulated boxcars and reefers, PC&F also built cars for other service. This auto parts car is one example.

The third generation of the Pigott family, Paul’s son Charles, assumed control of the company upon his father’s death in 1961. In 1972, PC&F was reorganized as PACCAR, and Pacific Car and Foundry became a division within the company and continued to build freight cars until 1984. Although the company is no longer serving the rail industry, PACCAR remains a major supplier for its trucking competition.

Although they have been out of production for thirty years or more, many of PC&F’s boxcars and reefers can still be found roaming the rails. A few earlier examples of their craftsmanship have found their way into museums.

Freight Car Friday – Magor Car

20 06 2014

The Magor Car Corporation may not be the best known of America’s car builders, but it had many important achievements to its credit in its sixty-five year history. Located in Clifton, New Jersey, the builder produced everything from diminutive narrow gauge cars for export to record-breaking covered hoppers.

dump car

Still hard at work in 2013, Magor built 50 of these side dump cars for the Chicago & Northwestern in 1965. Dump cars were a major part of Magor’s business.

Early History

What would become Magor Car began as an 1899 partnership between Basil Magor and Robert Wonham. In 1902 the two men incorporated as the Wonham-Magor Engineering Works. That company would become Magor Car Company in 1910 and Magor Car Corporation in 1917. Incidentally, it’s properly pronounced “May-gor.”

The new company emerged at a pivotal time in the history of car builders. 1899 saw the consolidation of thirteen smaller builders into American Car and Foundry. It was just the first and largest of a growing trend. Over the next two decades, a handful of large companies like AC&F, Pullman Standard, North American Car and General American would come to dominate the marketplace.

composite gon

The USRA composite gondola had unloading doors in the floor making it suitable for a variety of loads including coal. It fit well with Magor’s product line and the company built 1000 under USRA contract.

The consolidation came with good reason. The first decades of the 20th Century also marked the beginning of the switch from wood to steel in car construction. Even composite cars with steel frames would require larger facilities to produce and greater production runs to secure economies of scale than the early family run shops could support.

Basil Magor himself would leave the company in 1911 and go on to found the National Steel Car Corporation of Canada. NSC would go on to become one of Canada’s largest car builders and is still in business today. Basil’s brother Robert Magor would take over the reigns in New Jersey and not-surprisingly, a good cooperation existed between the two companies through Magor’s inclusion in Fruehauff in 1964.


The Big John would thrust Magor into the spotlight in the 1960s. Car 7966 still carries its original paint with few modifications in 2008 – a testament to Magor’s quality.

Yet in the midst of this change, there was still room for a smaller builder like Magor to make a name for itself. Most of its orders would come from the jobs too small for the large shops to want. These “cast offs” included industrial, mining and export cars but also orders which were simply beyond the capacity of larger builders in peak times.

For the first fifty years, Magor Car’s primary business was export cars. Proximity to New York harbors and a willingness to take on small orders and innovate helped the company. Unable to go head-to-head with an ACF or Pullman on large orders for big American customers, it hunted out other “niche” products for which it could compete. These included sugar-cane cars for Cuba, steel cabooses, car repair / rebuilding services, pneumatic side dump cars and later, aluminum-bodied covered hoppers.

The company also handled many government and military contracts including USRA drop-bottom gondola cars and a 250 ton-capacity car for carrying Naval guns during World War I. Between the wars, Magor became the largest builder of export freight cars in the country, capturing better than 40% of that market. Following the war, Magor’s car orders are a window into our foreign policy; 1,000 cars for Russia under Lend-Lease, 3,000 for France as part of the Marshal Plan, then 5,000 for the US Government for shipment to Korea in the 1950s.

Post War Years

DEEX gondola

Fruehauf built 150 of these immense coal gondolas for Detroit Edison unit trains in 1971. Some can still be seen in trash service today.

In addition to government contracts and exports, Magor saw increases in its domestic production following WWII. And by 1959 its innovative thinking would open up a new line of production.

Partnering with Reynolds Metals and the Southern, Magor completed the first mass-produced composite aluminum – steel cars in the U.S. This was an order for 455 covered hoppers in 1959. Over the coming years, Magor would emerge as a leader in this construction method with more than 5000 aluminum cars built by 1971. Most notable of the cars were the subsequent “Big John” covered hoppers for the Southern. (Read about these history-making cars in this past blog!)

G47 gondola

Built for Penn Central in 1971, this G47 gondola was one of the last projects completed by Fruehauf. Aside from rebuilt ends and new paint, it looks much as it did forty years and two owners earlier.

These new lines offset declining export sales, which were discontinued entirely in 1963. In 1964, Magor was sold to Fruehauf Corporation. Fruehauf expanded and standardized the product line and in 1968 the new owners enlarged the plant, planning for additional capacity.

Things looked bright through the first years of the 1970s with major gondola and boxcar orders to fill for Penn Central. But these would end up being the last new cars built at Magor. With the freight car market entering a downturn, Fruehauf pulled out in 1973. Some assets were sold to other builders, but aside from rail cars which still ply the rails in the USA and around the globe, little remains of Magor’s corporate legacy. Ever the underdog, Magor proved that with innovation and resourcefulness, even a small company could have a big impact on railroad history.

Freight Car Friday – Reporting Marks Quiz

6 06 2014

The school year is winding down, so let’s get in one more quiz before summer vacation arrives! Nothing too complicated here, just your ABC’s. Let’s see how well you recognize your favorite railroads by their reporting marks.

weight data

Reporting marks are a subtle but essential part of railroad operations.

Reporting marks are the unique set of initials assigned to every company that owns a railroad car. Containers and trailers which ride the rails get them too. Along with the road number, these marks identify the car and provide the railroads’ operating departments a way to route and track it correctly.

Usually the reporting marks are related to the railroad or company name or initials. In some cases the marks seem strange, particularly where the initials are based off of the official roadname and not necessarily the one with which we’re most familiar, like Cotton Belt’s “SSW” for example.

Here is a list of 26 historic and contemporary reporting marks. In addition to well-known railroads, there are some smaller companies, private car owners, intermodal shippers and leasers included to make it a little more challenging. How many do you know?


When cars are sold, often the reporting marks are changed without completely repainting the car.

  1. AA
  2. BN
  3. CSX
  4. DTI
  5. ETTX
  6. FW&D
  7. GM&O
  8. HLCX
  9. ITC
  10. JBHU
  11. KCS
  12. LBR
  13. M
  14. NOPB
  15. ONT
  16. P&WV

    X31 boxcar

    Some roads, like the Pennsylvania and Southern, spelled out their entire name on cars into the 1960s. Automated car tracking systems and computers would make such a practice impractical and reporting marks are now limited to 4 letters.

  17. QC
  18. RDG
  19. SFRD
  20. TRRA
  21. UTCX
  22. VC
  23. WC
  24. XOMX
  25. YV
  26. ZCAX

How did you do? Check out the answer key to check your work and learn a little more. If you want some more chances to test your knowledge, look for the next issue of the LRRC’s Inside Track – coming to members later this month!

Freight Car Friday – Trinity Rail

30 05 2014

Trinity is one of today’s leading freight car builders. Despite not building their own equipment until the late 1960s, the company has been on an amazing path of growth over the past fifty years and through its acquisitions has one of the most experienced pedigrees in the business.

TILX 566304

Part of Trinity’s lease fleet, TILX 56304 traces its design back to earlier Pullman Standard designs.

Trinity didn’t start with railcars. The modern Trinity Industries formed in 1958 from a merger of the Dallas Tank Company and Trinity Steel. The company’s major focus was on tanks for the petroleum and natural gas industry as well as supporting equipment. This included building tanks for rail car use.

After supplying components, Trinity went all-in for their first complete tank car in 1977. Building the complete car offered better profit margins and the company expanded its construction aggressively. By 1980 they were among the top five builders in the US. While building their own line, the company expanded through the acquisition of other car builders through the highly turbulent markets of the 1980s.

Trincool Reefer

Reefers may not be as common as tank cars, but Trinity’s TRINCool reefers are certainly among the most recognizable modern freight cars.

This impressive list includes:

  • Pullman Standard – 1983
  • Greenville – 1986
  • Standard Forgings of Chicago - 1986
  • Ortner – 1987
  • Transcisco Industries – 1996
  • McConway and Torley – 1998
  • Thrall – 2001
Tank Car

Tank cars remain an important part of Trinity’s business and should be for years to come.

In addition to building rail cars, Trinity has been a leasing cars to the railroads and private companies since 1979. Rail car construction tends to run in hot / cold cycles. Having the lease operation provides a financial buffer for the lean years. Their lease cars, with TILX reporting marks, are a common sight on trains all across North America today.

bulkhead flatcar

Many of Trinity’s products retain a strong resemblance to their predecessors like this bulkhead flat inherited from Thrall.

As you would expect, many of Trinity’s cars look very similar to the designs previously built by the companies they have absorbed. This includes iconic designs like Pullman Standard’s boxcars, Ortner’s rapid-discharge hoppers and Thrall’s well cars. The contemporary Trinity product line includes autoracks, hoppers, boxcars, flatcars, tank cars, gondolas, covered hoppers, coil cars, and well cars. You would be hard pressed to find a freight train on a mainline in North America today that doesn’t include some of their products.

rapid discharge car

Trinity’s acquisition of Ortner gave them access to a proven rapid-discharge car design for aggregate service.

With the growth in crude oil and ethanol shipments in the past decade, Trinity’s roots in tank manufacturing are proving to be a great asset. Tank cars make up more than half of all new car orders today. With new regulations for cars due later this year however, expect to see some changes to the designs. You can also expect Trinity to adapt quickly to meet what might amount to unprecedented demand for the new cars. Earlier this month the company announced plans to reopen a plant in Cartersville, Georgia to build new tank cars.

While the tank car boom should prove lucrative for the company over the next several years, Trinity has hedged its bets for the long term with their other product lines and the leasing operations. In addition to their railcar operations, Trinity Industries still maintains its other industrial operations including tanks and piping, structural and marine products. By all forecasts, we should be seeing Trinity’s cars on the rails for decades to come.


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