I recently wrote “Burlington Northern locomotive one-offs” featuring five Electro-Motive Division diesels, including unique paint schemes, rebuilds, and test subjects. This time, I dug through my negative collection and found eight Burlington Northern freight car one-offs.
Most of the photos are from family travels throughout northwest Minnesota and northeast North Dakota between the early 1980s and BN’s merger with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe in 1995. If you look at the photo credits, you’ll noticed I even dipped into Dad’s collection for one of the images. Thanks, Dad!
You can find other examples in books on BN freight cars and cabooses and when searching through images on railfan photo websites, such as railcarphotos.com, the Burlington Northern Railroad Photo Archive, and Fallen Flag Railroad Photos.
With modeling season in full swing, consider adding one (or more ) of these eight Burlington Northern freight car one-offs to your project list.
Pullman-Standard 4,740-cubic-foot capacity three-bay covered hopper No. 457008
We’ll kick off our look at eight Burlington Northern freight car one-offs with one of my dad’s photos. He documented Pullman-Standard 4,740-cubic-foot capacity three-bay covered hopper No. 457008 at the yard in Crookston, Minn., in the early 1980s. The car was part of BN’s 457000 through 457324 series, built for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy under Lot 9231 in June and July 1967. On the CB&Q, the cars were numbered 184600 through 184924.
It was always easy to spot ex-CB&Q 4740s because they had two lengths of channel welded to the upper right corner where the Burlington Route herald placards were once attached. Oddly, the 457008 retained its placards after being repainted. There wasn’t enough room to squeeze the large BN herald on the placards, so they squished the X and Y coordinates just a tad to make it fit. It definitely made for an interesting looking car.
General American 4,180-cubic-foot capacity Airslide covered hopper No. 410392
American Crystal Sugar Co. had a sugar beet processing plant in Crookston, Minn., my childhood home. A steady stream of General American 4,180-cubic-foot capacity Airslide covered hoppers, used to transport sugar, would come through the yard year-round. The cars were so commonplace it took something pretty unusual for them to stand out.
Burlington Northern No. 410392 certainly stood out. The car, part of the railroad’s 410300 through 410404 series built by General American Transportation Co. between August and December 1974, was repainted in the early 1990s. The car wears what railfans call the “herald over three lines” scheme. This was the only Airslide I saw painted in the scheme.
Pullman-Standard 4,750-cubic-foot capacity three-bay covered hopper No. 449045
Burlington Northern No. 449045 is from the railroad’s 448925 through 449424 series built by Pullman-Standard under Lot 1036 between December 1979 and January 1980. The 4,750-cubic-foot capacity three-bay covered hoppers were delivered in the railroad’s standard Cascade Green scheme with “Burlington Northern” lettering in the upper left corner and a large BN herald spanning parts of five body panels on the right end of the car.
I spotted the car in a unit train at the Crookston Farmer’s Co-op Elevator in the early 1990s. The covered hopper was most likely repainted at a contract shop, and not by the railroad, judging by the style of stencil lettering used.
Much to my surprise, the car was still in service (sans “Burlington Northern” lettering) as of March 2021.
American Car & Foundry Center Flow No. 454417
Burlington Northern inherited three-bay covered hoppers from Chicago, Burlington & Quincy; Great Northern; and Northern Pacific when it began operations in March 1970. American Car & Foundry 4,650-cubic-foot capacity three-bay Center Flow covered hopper No. 454417, part of the railroad’s 454300 through 454599 series, was built for GN under Lot 11-02619 in November 1966. The cars were part of GN’s 171700 through 171999 series.
At casual glance, the BN car looks like any other repainted Center Flow covered hopper. But take a closer look at the font used for the road name in the upper right corner. It’s definitely not in the railroad’s standard typeface.
I caught the car in the mid-1990s. It was still soldering on in January 2006.
Thrall 4,750-cubic-foot capacity three-bay covered hopper No. 448528
Railcars take a beating, and Thrall 4,750-cubic-foot capacity three-bay covered hopper No. 448528 has the scars to prove it. Judging by the repairs on the left end of the car, I would guess the covered hopper was sideswiped. The seven exterior posts, counting from left to right, look to be replacements. The body panels were either repaired or replaced.
The car is part of BN’s 448425 through 448924 series built by from September to November 1979. The paint and herald on the right end of the car look to be factory. The reporting mark and road number, well, aren’t exactly standard. And I’d love to know why the “528” is spray-painted over a black patch. I don’t think it’s graffiti. Perhaps the digits were transposed, and the shop forces hastily made the fix to get the car back in service? I’m sure there’s a story to be told.
Round-top double-door boxcar No. 951318
Burlington Northern predecessor Northern Pacific leased 50-foot round-roof double-door boxcars from A.A. Morrison. The ex-Detroit, Toledo & Ironton cars were numbered in the 39500 through 39609 series, while the former Norfolk & Western cars were numbers 39610 through 39759. One of the differences between the two groups was the width of the door opening. The DT&I cars had a 12’-1” opening, while the N&W cars had a 15’-0” opening.
During a family trip to Jamestown, N.D., I spotted a 50-foot double-door maintenance-of-way boxcar in a freight train. Initially, the car stood out because it was painted solid white. Then I took a closer look, and it had a round roof. I figured the ex-NP cars were long off the roster, but this one hung on to serve the Twin Cities Region Steel Gang.
To re-create this car in HO scale, I’d start with Bowser’s X32 boxcar. The reporting marks and road number can be found in Microscale set No. 87-252. Other lettering, such as the “MWT” and “TC Region Steel Gang” stencils, will have to spliced from other sets.
American Car & Foundry 4,650-cubic-foot capacity three-bay Center Flow covered hopper No. 447381
Burlington Northern 4,650-cubic-foot capacity three-bay Center Flow covered hopper No. 447381 is from the railroad’s 447050 through 447499 series built by American Car & Foundry in February and March 1977. Here’s an example of a car from the series shortly after it rolled off the production line.
In May 1988, car No. 447381 was repainted into the (thankfully) short-lived simplified scheme. The old lettering and herald had started to rust through the paint, creating an interesting look. I’ve seen this happen on a few other cars, including another BN Center Flow where the Burlington Route herald was rusting through and an Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe covered hopper. The Santa Fe car became the subject of my article “Realistic ghost lettering” in the January 2007 issue of MR (pp. 62-63).
Thrall Car gondola No. 559340
We’ll wrap up our look at Burlington Northern freight car one-offs with this gondola. At first glance, you might think No. 559340 is a former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy car. And that guess makes perfect sense. The car has a placard on the right end with the BN herald and a second placard on the left end with the reporting mark and road number. However, those were post-merger additions.
Burlington Northern 559340, part of the railroad’s 559000 through 559199 series, was built by Thrall Car for Great Northern in 1967. On GN the cars were numbered 78400 through 78599. When built for GN, the reporting marks, road number, and herald were the smooth body panels. After repainting, BN opted to move the marks, number, and herald in one body panel. Because those panels were corrugated, the railroad had to add placards to provide a smooth surface so the letters, numbers, and herald wouldn’t be distorted over the corrugations.