50’ Autocar and 50’ express boxcars in Proto:48 and O scale
The Evolution of the all-steel 50’ automobile car
Beginning in the middle 1920‘s automobiles came into great demand. In 1927, Chevrolet reached the number of 1 million vehicles produced, and Ford was right along. Everyone wanted their own car and at the time there were literally hundreds of different marque’s to choose from. Railroads were pressed to come up with a sufficient number of freight cars for automobile service. The auto industry was expanding as fast as they could, opening more and more assembly plants throughout the U.S. Assembly plants required a constant stream of all the hundreds of parts that made up an automobile. More 40’ and 50‘ automobile cars were needed in auto parts service than automobile cars carrying fully assembled cars. At that time these cars were mostly single-sheathed 40’ and 50‘ wood sided cars with the exception of a few double-sheathed wood sided 50’ automobile cars for the D&RGW and Santa Fe‘s Type-S - both included in this project. This combined growth of the auto industry and the railroads ability to deliver automobiles and automobile parts came to an abrupt halt with the October 29 stock market crash of 1929. From that point on and until about mid-1935 when the economy began to rebound, almost no automobiles or railroad cars were built with the exception of the PRR’s X31.
By 1936, automobile sales began to return to normal and the railroads found themselves short of automobile cars. In 1935, the AAR Committee on freight car design had revised the earlier 1932 ARA design into what became the mainstay of the boxcar fleet: the 1937 AAR boxcar - these 40’ all-steel ubiquitous boxcars eventually reached over 92,000 and were to be seen all over the Country and in Canada. It’s 10’-0” inside height with a volume of 3,713 cu. ft. was soon heightened to 10’ 4”- or 6“ with a capacity of 3,901cu. ft. with 44,000 Modified 1937 AAR boxcars added to this group. By lengthening the cars to 50’-6”, cubic foot capacity was now increased to 4,950 cu. ft.; adding an auxiliary door, and for automobiles, fitted with Evans Products auto racks, the new all-steel automobile car was born as the first and only 1942 American Association of Railroad’s (A.A.R.). Standard 50-ton, 50‘-6” steel-sheathed automobile car, and almost all the Class I railroads acquired these cars for the auto industry service.
Evans auto loading racks could load 4 cars to a 40‘ car or 5 cars to a 50’ car - a great labor saving device. The AAR required cars with Evan’s auto loading devices installed to display a 3” wide stripe across the lower 1/3 of the main door with 2“ numbers showing the inside height clearance. 50’ automobile cars without Evans auto loading equipment but with Evans restraining equipment for auto parts service had a 3” tall symbol in white at the same location. The Evans system secured the automobiles with chains, and when not in use, chains were stored beneath the floor in 5” diameter pipes, called Floor Tubes. Besides the white stripe on the main door, the 24“ long floor tubes were another visible indication that the car was dedicated to automobile service.
By 1936, railroads began ordering all-steel automobile cars starting with the S.P.’s order for 500 Class A-50-12 in October 1936 built by General American Transportation Corp. Soon to follow was Nickel Plate‘s 87000 series in June 1937 built by the Ralston Steel Car Company. About that time there were orders for automobile cars from just about every major railroad in the Country. The builders were so busy that orders were spread amongst all of them with American Car & Foundry and Pullman-Standard being the major builders. Many larger railroads with their own shops ordered all the steel metal components from Standard Railway Equipment Co. in Chicago or other suppliers, and assembled their own cars such as the Union Pacific, Burlington and NYC’s Dispatch Shops.
With so many autocars carrying automobiles and auto parts, and automobiles being in such demand, 50’ autocars were put into a pool service controlled by the shippers. A typical automobile consist coming out of Detroit might have over 20 different railroad’s auto cars in it - and they went all over the US and Canada. Once again the automobile industry suffered a major setback - WWII arrived on December 7, 1941, and within 45 days the Government ordered all automobile factories to cease producing cars and begin producing much needed war equipment. With Evans equipment bolted to the interior roofs and out of the way the railroad‘s automobile cars were pressed into the war effort and were busier than ever. It was not until mid-1945 that the automobile industry was able to return to building automobiles and the automobile car builders allowed to resume building automobile cars.
Accurate models of the 50’ autocars have yet to be available to the O scale hobby. With this in mind Protocraft has designed this 7th project to cover the primary cars of this era; many with end doors and others with Evans Auto Loading features. Some 50‘ cars with single or double doors for express service in passenger consists. All 24 versions of cars are individually different. Protocraft Decals has created over 60 new and specific decals to cover the different paint schemes over time.
Protocraft has obtained hundreds of Pullman, AC&F, General American and Mt. Vernon builder drawings from the late 1930’s and 1940’s when most of these cars were built. Sources were the National Museum of Transportation in St. Louis; the John Barriger National Railroad Library at the University of Missouri and the Pullman Library at Union, Illinois. Hundreds of builder and in-service photos to augment the drawings were provided by Bob Liljestrad, Arnie Menke, Richard Burg, Ed Hawkins and Pat Wider, the Smithsonian Institution in Wash, DC, and the National Archives of Canada. Ed Hawkins has provided extensive spread sheets documenting these cars as well as functioning as an overall consultant to the project.
Version 3701, the D&RGW double-sheathed 50’ autocars with either door and a half or double-doors are expected to arrive mid-March 2021. Cars are priced at $349 - either O gage or P48.
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