Among the most prolific freight cars during the transition era – as railroads converted from steam to diesel – was the 4o’ boxcar. And among these cars there were several “standards.” One design which could be found on railroads all across North America was the Pullman Standard PS-1.
So just what is a PS-1? Well the simple answer is it is any boxcar built by Pullman Standard from 1947 on. The design changed over the years – sometimes subtly, sometimes for customer request, and sometimes in a larger way. In general, most PS-1’s built from 1947 to 1961 share the same dimensions and basic construction techniques. These cars all had a length of 40′, a height of 10’5″ or 10’6″, welded sides and ends and roof of Pullman’s own design. The greatest variation was in the size and style of doors used. Pullman Standard also offered 50′ and later 60′ boxcars – also with the PS-1 designation.
So while there were variations between orders, to the casual observer of a passing train, the PS-1 was ubiquitous. The cars had been based on the latest AAR standard design for 40′ cars. Their height helped set them apart from earlier common designs of the 1920s and 1930s.
Rather than list the railroads that used PS-1’s, a shorter list might be companies that didn’t. Most were painted in a shade of “boxcar red” which could be anything from a burgundy to brown. Some wore more colorful schemes however, like the famous “State of Maine” cars and bright “LCL” service cars on roads like the New York Central and B&O. Even the Pennsylvania, with tens of thousands of cars built to its own designs owned a few (but just a very very limited few.)
The first major changes in the cars’ design and appearance started around 1961. By then, very few 40′ cars were being built at all. Older cars also saw modifications like shorter ladders, lower handbrakes and roofwalk-removal later that decade. A combination of age and lack of market for the shorter cars brought large retirements during the 1970s.
A PS-1, like the scale model made by Lionel, will be right at home on any railroad from 1947 to the early 1980s. Many can still be found today on shortlines, in work trains, or converted to storage sheds. The railroads couldn’t seem to get enough of them, so go ahead and indulge in a few more for your layout!