Freight Car Friday – Pullman Standard 86′ Boxcars

15 08 2014

We’ve covered auto parts boxcars on Freight Car Friday before, but with the new Pullman Standard 86′ cars coming later this year from Lionel, let’s take a closer look at their specific prototype.

Pullman Standard began production of its 86′ 6″ high cube boxcars in 1964 at its Bessemer, AL facility. They were not the first to release a car of this size, but with the efficiencies of the large boxcars proven and auto makers and railroads demanding cars to the new standard, Pullman Standard jumped on the idea.

Pullman Standard built 14 boxcars for the SLSF in 1967. 10 other railroads received similar cars at the time.

Pullman Standard built 14 boxcars for the SLSF in 1967. 10 other railroads received similar cars at the time.

Production of the large cars came in batches. Typically, one railroad would put in a large order. Additional orders from additional roads would then get tacked on to this production run, sometimes these orders could be even larger than the initial one. Doing this allowed Pullman Standard to save costs by ordering raw materials in larger quantity and reduced downtime in having to stage assembly lines for different products. It was not uncommon for five or more railroads to receive cars at the same time.

Conrail operated the largest fleet of autoparts boxcars with cars coming from its own predecessors and many purchased from other carriers. This is a former PRR car built by Pullman in 1966.

Conrail operated the largest fleet of auto parts boxcars with cars coming from its own predecessors and many purchased from other carriers. This X60G class is a former PRR car built by Pullman in 1966.

While there would be some small changes in the details of these cars over the length of their production, within the order blocks construction was very standard. So cars built at the same time for different railroads will share the same details. Interestingly, this often included the stenciling for data on the finished car. Comparing builders photos shows that once the stencils were cut, workers kept using them – even if it meant a different font or size from what the railroad normally specified.

Many of the cars chosen by Lionel for the first run came from the same production run. Our Frisco cars for example carry the Pennsylvania’s “X-60G” class and the “CUSHIONED CAR” graphics are clearly made from the stenciling used on the PRR cars. The Frisco cars were part of order 9275H, the PRR ordered 10 identical cars on order 9275B. Our Santa Fe and Milwaukee Road cars were also part of this big 1967 order.

The Milwaukee Road ordered 5 cars at the same time as the Frisco car seen above. This too was an "X60G."

The Milwaukee Road ordered 5 cars at the same time as the Frisco car seen above. This too was an “X60G.”

The first order of the cars went to the Pennsylvania, with 152 being assembled in November – December 1964. Add on orders quickly followed for the New York Central and N&W into January. These were all 4-door cars like the Lionel models. As soon as these orders were filled, production shifted to 8-door cars in January, 1965, with the PRR again showing the lead order (50 cars). Add on orders for identical cars came from the B&O, Milwaukee Road, Rock Island, Missouri Pacific, Texas and Pacific, New York Central, Rio Grande, Union Pacific and Southern. Look for Lionel models of these 8-door versions in the future! In total, Pullman put out 476 cars by the end February of 1965.

The Grand Trunk served many auto plants. In addition to cars purchased new, the GT also acquired cars from DT&I.

The Grand Trunk served many auto plants. In addition to cars purchased new, the GT also acquired cars from DT&I. The Lionel models represent prototypes built for DT&I in 1966.

By the time production ended in 1969, the Bessemer plant had turned out 2,689 total boxcars. 2,125 of these were the four-door model with just 564 of the eight-door cars built. The 8-door cars were preferred by General Motors for their Chevrolet and Oldsmobile lines. Ford and Chrysler both specified 4-door cars for their pools and the 4-door cars could be found at some GM plants as well.

The late 1960s were colorful years on American railroads and these boxcars fit right in with that craze. As these cars operated in regular pools between specific plants, it was not uncommon to see cars from several different railroads mixed together in the same train. And as the familiar names on the sides of the cars disappeared into mergers, new bold paint schemes came forward to take their place. The sales of these cars between companies have led to some interesting pedigrees – cars built for the New York Central now work for Union Pacific, while Norfolk Southern and CSX both roster cars originally from the Santa Fe.

Higher Cube? CSX has rebuilt some former Conrail cars to make them even taller! This rebuilt car serving its fourth owner and wearing NYC reporting marks for the second time

Higher Cube? CSX has rebuilt some former Conrail cars to make them even taller! Don’t be fooled by the NYC reporting marks; Pullman Standard built this car for the Pennsylvania.

Today, these cars continue to show up on freight trains in auto parts and other service roles. Some have been repainted four or more times through mergers and sale. Others continue to display their heritage to this day, albeit in well-weathered form. No longer the biggest things on rails, these High-Cube boxcars are still as impressive as they were when they hit the scene nearly 50 years ago.


Freight Car Friday – Auto Parts Cars

29 03 2013

Lionel’s new scale autoracks will make it possible to model the transportation of finished automobiles like never before. But this is only one side of the story. Railroads also form an integral part of the automotive assembly process. Moving auto parts is an important business for the railroads, not only in quantity but with premium prices paid for just-in-time delivery.

Parts and Assembly

Lordstown Assembly Plant

Assembly plants, like this one in Lordstown, OH, can stretch for miles. But you don’t have to model all of this to add the auto industry to your layout.

The vast majority of vehicles assembled in North America are not built in a single integrated facility. Engines, body panels, interiors, tires, electronics – all are built in separate facilities and then brought together in large assembly plants. This is good news for railroads who are needed to bring in raw materials for components, carry the parts to the assembly plants and then take the finished vehicles to market. The automotive industry made the assembly line famous, and railroads are a critical part of that line.

For modelers, this opens lots of opportunities to model an industry that, taken as a whole, can be far more complicated and sizeable to fit on most model railroads. You can model one part of the process, or just model the transportation between hubs and run an amazing variety of equipment.


86' hi cube

The 86′ boxcars were rolling billboards for the railroads. Today, the paint schemes are more simple and many have become a canvas for grafitti.

Although many cars are used in the entire process, the one car most associated with auto parts is the boxcar. These cars come in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on the specific loads they carry.

The most obvious auto parts boxcars are the enormous 86 foot high cube cars which began rolling in the 1960s. These cars broke all sorts of records for boxcars when new, and they are still among the largest cars on the rails.

Conrail box

8-door cars like this were prefered by GM. This car was originally owned by the New York Central.

What is less obvious from looking at these huge vehicles is their relatively light capacity (in weight.) The load limits on these cars is not much different from a typical 50 foot boxcar. The loads they carry, usually body panels, are large and bulky but relatively light. So it takes a lot of cubic capacity before the weight limits of the trucks are reached.

There are many subtle variations in these cars’ designs, coming from different builders and changing over time. The most noticeable difference however is the number of doors. Some cars a single pair of doors per side, others two pair. Different car companies prefer one or the other. GM prefers the 8-door cars while Ford, Chrysler, Honda and others prefer only 4-doors.

60' Grand Trunk

Cars were assigned in pools by the railroads that served the plants. Railroads in the midwest and northeast had some of the larger fleets.

With the doors closed, the cars become great rolling billboards for the railroads. Many applied colorful paint schemes with bold graphics in the 1970s. Today’s paint schemes are a little more subdued, but the cars still grab your attention.

The slightly smaller cousins to these 86′ monsters are the 60′ cars. These cars carry somewhat heavier parts and subassemblies. Like the larger cars, these loads are carried in special racks. These racks provide a secure ride while making loading and unloading of the car much faster.

CN box

Canadian National inherited many cars from the DT&I and GT. 60′ cars like this were common for 40 years.

There is a lot of variety in the 60′ parts car fleet. Lionel’s model represents one of the most common, built by Pullman Standard. Cars of this design first appeared in the 1970s and were common into the early years of this century.

These cars typically operated in a dedicated pool between a specific part manufacturing and assembly plant. Often the code for the pool was printed on the side of the car. If more than one railroad was involved in the movement between those two points, each would contribute cars equally based on the amount of miles they contributed. For modelers, this means that seeing the same car in the same train and siding over and over again is quite prototypical!

storage lines

Economic downturn and age brought long lines of auto parts cars to Altoona. Many of these cars traced to the PRR and NYC – most had carried their last load.

In addition to these specialty cars, it is not uncommon to find more typical 50′ boxcars serving the manufacturing plants. Having a few of these mixed in with a cut of high-cubes would look perfectly normal. And of course prior to the arrival of the larger cars, these 50′ cars were the standard.

New Product Spotlight – Motor City Express

10 09 2012

One of the biggest announcements from this year’s Signature Catalog was the new Motor City Express set and the scale 89′ auto racks. We’ve heard lots of great buzz about these new cars, and we think you’ll be impressed.

89′ Auto Racks

CR Autorack

6-27473 Conrail

Lionel is very pleased to be releasing a car that modern-era fans have been wanting for a long time. The 89′ enclosed autorack has been a fixture on North American rails for thirty years. We’ll go into more detail about the prototypes for these cars and their operations in this week’s Freight Car Friday blog.  Their enormous size however has posed a challenge for our tight radius curves. At nearly two feet in length, these scale cars are almost as long as some curves are wide. Thanks to an innovative coupler drawbar, we can make these behemoths practical for a modest sized layout.

These self-adjusting couplers work like some of the drawbars on our recent steam locomotives, extending from the pocket to help get around curves as tight as O-54, then automatically retracting again to keep the cars looking right on straight track. The couplers also feature hidden uncoupling tabs. Beneath these cars, a pair of metal trucks with rotating roller bearing caps will keep these lengthy haulers rolling smoothly.

CN rack

6-27492 Canadian National

Of course not only do these cars have to run well, they have to look good too. Don’t let the size fool you, there will be lots of little details in these cars. Modern auto racks come in two basic configurations for hauling standard height cars and higher trucks, vans and SUVs. The latter can be stacked only two-high in a 19′ tall autorack, whereas three tiers of cars can be squeezed in. Lionel’s model will be of the bi-level or two-tier variety. Racks of this type can be found lettered for and operating on railroads all across the continent.

Lionel’s models will feature working doors on both ends, and see-through side panels so you’ll be able to appreciate the loads inside. We’ll be announcing loads for the cars in the very near future.

Perhaps the best news of all is that we have already dropped the price on these cars from $149.99 as shown in the catalog to $109.99! Individual cars are available decorated for Canadian National and Conrail.

Motor City Express Set

Stretching out to over nine feet in length, the Motor City Express is a whopper of a train even with just four cars. The four autoracks (CSX, Grand Trunk, Union Pacific and BNSF) all include each of the features described above. Plus, the BNSF rack features a working FRED on the rear.

Motor City Set

6-11180 Motor City Express

To pull this monster consist, you need a big locomotive. And they don’t get much bigger than the SD80MAC. Now offered in CSX’s “YN-3” scheme, the LEGACY equipped locomotive has Odyssey II speed control and LEGACY sounds including crew talk, 8 diesel notches, the quillable horn, mechanical bell, 6 railroad speeds and the new Sequence Control for an interactive trip along with current speed and fuel dialog and refueling sounds.

We’ve refined the conventional transformer control to allow for lower starting speeds. The locomotive is powered by two maintenance-free motors and has traction tires and plenty of weight to keep these long trains rolling. The trucks, frame, pilot and fuel tank are all metal.


SD80MAC Locomotive

Lighting features include directional LED headlights and back-up lights, oscillating ditch lights, and illuminated marker lights, number boards and cab interior. There are numerous separate metal detail parts applied to this model, and working front and rear couplers. And of course a fan-driven smoke unit with adjustable output completes the operating experience.

The CSX SD80MAC is available in the Motor City Express set (Road No. 809), or as a seperate model 6-38582 (Road No. 812) for $529.99. For really big consists, you could also add in a non-powered “dummy” unit, 6-38583 (Road No. 804) for $259.99. Although the auto racks are limited to O-54, the 80MAC will negotiate an O-36 curve.

Along with the price reduction on the individual auto racks, we’re very happy to announce that we’ve been able to lower the price on the set overall as well. The set has been reduced from $1,149.99 as cataloged to $969.99. That’s enough to get one of the add-on cars and still have some change left over!

Get ready, these sets are rolling to a dealer near you soon!