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 – Pullman Standard

25 04 2014

Perhaps the most famous name in freight cars, Pullman Standard’s history of freight car design and construction is one of the oldest and richest in the industry. While the Pullman name will forever be associated with passenger trains, Pullman Standard also built many of the most common freight cars found on North American rails.

Corporate Background

Million boxcar

PS-1,000,000! Showcasing the production capabilities of Pullman Standard, this nondescript car is the one millionth to roll off the line – or at least one of the contenders for the title. This car is preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum.

Pullman Standard was formed through the consolidation of two of the largest car builders of their day. Pullman purchased a controlling interest in the Standard Steel Car Company in 1929. Pullman subsequently organized its own manufacturing divisions into one subsidiary and then merged the two assets together in 1934.

In addition to these two big names, there were many smaller companies which had already been incorporated into both Pullman and Standard Steel. Pullman had acquired Haskell & Barker in 1922 and Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad in 1928.

On the Standard Steel side of the family tree were the Middletown Car Works (acquired in 1909), South Baltimore Car & Foundry (c. 1910), Keith Car and Manufacturing (c. 1912), Osgood Bradley (c. 1913), Richmond Car Works (c. 1928), Siems-Stembel (c. 1928) and Canton Car Co (c. 1934 – after Pullman ownership but before consolidation.) This gave Standard Steel Car manufacturing facilities in seven states.


When introduced in 1947, the covered hopper was still a relatively rare design. Pullman Standard’s PS-2 became the first widely adopted standard.

For most of the years between the company’s consolidation in 1934 and the sale of its assets in 1982, Pullman Standard would build more freight cars than anyone else in North America. Operations from its predecessors were gradually consolidated and some new plants were built.

Pullman Standard’s production officially came to an end in 1982. The parent Pullman, Inc sold Pullman Standard’s car building assets to Trinity Industries. Pullman Standard also had a large freight car leasing subsidiary. This was sold to ITEL rail car, which is today a part of General Electric.

Freight Car Design and Production


The PS-1 was one of the most prolific freight cars of the 1950s.

In its early history, Pullman was slow to adopt to new steel car construction and was building the majority of its cars from wood as late as 1907. Haskell and Barker too was predominantly a wood car builder with its steel car shop not built until 1910. It is interesting to note that at the time Haskell was acquired, they were building more freight cars than Pullman itself. Standard Steel Car on the other hand was an early pioneer of the all-steel freight car since its incorporation in 1902.

There was nothing sluggish about Pullman Standard’s engineering and construction following the consolidation however. Among modelers, the company is certainly best known for its standard car designs which originated in the late 1940s. While there had been earlier examples of common designs proposed by railroad associations, the USRA and others, Pullman Standard’s standards quickly became the most widespread in use and represented a complete product line few other builders could match.

WP gon

The PS-5 was a versatile gondola and set the standard for “Mill Gons.”

The Pullman Standard designs included the PS-1 boxcar, PS-2 covered hopper, PS-3 hopper, PS-4 flatcar, and PS-5 gondola. While there were standards for each car type, there were still plenty of options for customers to choose from. For example, boxcars came in 40 and 50 foot lengths, there were different sizes of doors, and interiors could be fitted with a variety of load restraints, moveable bulkheads, floors, etc. But the cars all shared a familial look thanks to common parts and design features.

Production of Pullman Standard’s cars took place at record paces. In fact, production was so chaotic among the various plants that three “1,000,000th” commemorative boxcars were produced!

MILW Flatcar

The PS-4 flatcars hauled everything from timber to trailers.

As time progressed, more and more options were introduced and the PS- designations became just a part of the overall product name. Thanks to the limits of patentable parts of most freight car designs, the designs of these cars were also adopted by other car builders with very little change.

In 1951, Pullman Standard acquired the Trailmobile Company and operated it as a subsidiary which would become a leading builder of truck trailers. Many of these trailers would regularly ride on Pullman Standard flatcars in the growing intermodal markets in decades to follow.

60' Grand Trunk

Lionel’s 60′ boxcar represents typical Pullman Standard construction techniques of the late 1960s and 1970s.

Pullman Standard didn’t stop building passenger equipment either. The company continued to supply railroads with passenger equipment up until 1982. Its last passenger car was an Amtrak Superliner sleeper. The cars significance was honored by naming it the George Mortimer Pullman.

Milwaukee Road

The PS-2CD covered hoppers’ design allowed easier unloading by eliminating the center sill through the hoppers.

Although even the youngest Pullman Standard cars are now into their third decade of service, many can still be seen in today’s freight trains. Additional historic examples can be found preserved in railroad museums all across the country.

As common as they have been in the real world, so too have Pullman Standard’s products been a large part of the Lionel line. Scale versions of the PS-1 boxcar, 60′ boxcar, PS-2 2003 and PS-2CD covered hoppers, the PS-4 flatcar, PS-5 gondola and most recently the 86′ boxcar are all modeled directly from Pullman Standard plans. Don’t forget the waffle-side boxcar and of course all of those passenger cars in your fleet as well! The Pullman Standard legacy is sure to live on for a long time to come.

Freight Car Friday – PS-2 2003 Covered Hoppers

18 05 2012

Like their PS-1 boxcars, PS-5 gondolas and other car designs, Pullman Standard applied the PS-2 classification to all of its covered hoppers. Pullman Standard built covered hoppers in many sizes and configurations. But say “PS-2” to most modelers and it is this particular car that usually first comes to mind. The 2003 cubic foot car was one of the first, smallest and prolific of the PS-2 cars.


The PS-2 is one of the most familiar covered hoppers in railroading, This former Pennsy car was placed in company service by Penn Central and continued in this role well into the Conrail era before being preserved at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. Although used to haul sand, the yellow “S” actually stands for “Stores” a holdover from PRR practice.

Pullman began building its standardized freight car designs with the PS-1 boxcar in 1947. Next up would be a standard covered hopper – hence PS-2 – shortly thereafter. Although covered hoppers are among the most common cars on the rails today, in 1947 they were a rarity. The PS-2’s primary competition wasn’t other covered hopper designs but boxcars. Grain, cement, sand and dried chemicals were carried mostly in boxcars prior to the 1950s either in sacks and bags or poured in bulk through hatches in the roof. The theory here was that it made more sense to utilize a single car for a variety of products. The car could carry bags of cement one way and then cut lumber the other. Of course a car that could do many things often couldn’t do many of them well.

Burlington Northern

The PS-2 enjoyed a long life, with many outliving the companies for which they were built. Burlington Northern’s cars could be found in green and gray like our forthcoming 6-27081, with an amazing variety of lettering and logo styles.

The PS-2 offered railroads and private companies alike a car that could be loaded and unloaded quickly and freely interchange between railroads across the country. Although these cars too could be used to haul several different commodities, most found their way into a single service. Carrying different loads usually required a complete cleaning of the interior of the car. For example, the 2003 cubic foot car was well suited for hauling salt, cement and whole grains – but you wouldn’t want to back-haul any of these commodities until it was cleaned. Cars might be used to haul different products in two seasons, with cleanings in between.

Conrail PS-2

Conrail inherited a large fleet of these small PS-2s from Penn Central, Reading, Lehigh Valley, Lehigh and New England, Jersey Central and Erie Lackawanna. The railroad rostered larger versions as well. Look for this car, 6-27069 to hit dealers in late summer / early fall.

These first PS-2s were 34 feet long and had two bays straddling the center sill which supported the car. Air brake equipment was placed in an open area beneath the end sheet and overhanging roof. The sides featured two heavier end posts, and six smaller support posts clustered in groups of three with a larger “panel” in the center of the car. Slope sheets, which direct the load to the hopper doors, were hidden behind the side sheets, making the cars’ capacity look greater than it really was. The design of the end posts, end sheets and other components changed several times over the cars’ lengthy production run, but this general arrangement of parts remained the same and even carried over to larger designs.


The “panels” on the sides of the PS-2 offered interesting paint and lettering options for railroads, even on simple schemes like this Wabash car (6-27085).

The smaller 2003 cubic foot cars were perfect for denser, heavy commodities. Lighter loads like grains and flour were hauled in these cars early on, but as more of the users of these cars converted facilities to receive bottom-unloading cars, larger capacity covered hoppers came into use. Cars of this size, both older Pullman Standard cars as well as competing designs for ACF and PS successor Trinity remain in service today. Older cars can also be found in captive company service hauling and storing sand for locomotives.

Rock Island

Far more colorful were the later cars of the Rock Island – whose image at the time was sadly brighter than the future of the line itself. The PS-2 is perfect for many different eras – even the colorful 1970s. 6-27083

Not only are these cars very common on the prototype, their small size makes them perfect for model railroads. Lionel’s PS-2 covered hoppers have come in many prototypical paint schemes, including four new versions in our 2012 Signature catalog. The Lionel cars feature lots of detail, die-cast trucks, working couplers and even opening roof hatches. With production of these cars spanning decades and numbering in the tens of thousands, there is no end in sight to the variety that can be done.