Modelers of mid-20th century railroading have a new piece of rolling stock to add to their fleets in the Walthers Mainline 40-foot American Railroad Association (ARA) standard single-sheathed boxcar. This ready-to-run car is modernized with AB brakes and has metal ends and doors.
An adaptable standard. The 1923 ARA XM-1 single-sheathed boxcar was a standard that allowed variety. Roofs, ends, trucks, doors, and brake gear could all be customized to meet a railroad’s preferences. Ultimately, the standard came down to dimensions for the height and length of the car.
The other standard was the use of a steel Pratt truss for side reinforcement. In a Pratt truss, the diagonal members are in tension, which makes better use of the steel material. Most double-sheathed wood boxcars used wooden Howe trusses, in which the diagonal members are in compression.
The Louisville & Nashville was the largest purchaser of ARA single-sheathed cars with more than 3,000. Boston & Maine had 2,000, including 25 for its subsidiary Mystic Terminal Co., and Rock Island had 1,000. The cars lasted into the 1960s on some railroads, and later in maintenance of way service.
The model. Walthers’ model has a one-piece plastic body shell with separately added running boards, brake staff and wheel, and brake step. The underbody has a separate frame section attached to the floor with screws that also secure a flat steel weight inside the car. AB-style brake gear is a single separately applied piece consisting of the brake cylinder, air tank, and control valve, all connected with simulated piping.
Metal knuckle couplers are body-mounted at the correct height, although one of the uncoupling pins on our sample was hanging a little low. The draft-gear boxes have plastic covers secured with screws. The Andrews trucks are screw-mounted and carry blackened metal wheelsets that are in gauge. The car weighs 3.7 ounces, about .1 ounce lighter than National Model Railroad Association Recommended Practice 20.1.
Counting the rivets. Our sample XM-1 was decorated for the New York Central as a class 376-B single-sheathed boxcar. According to diagrams on the website canadasouthern.com, class 376-B cars had eight panels per side instead of the six on the model.
The car isn’t an exact replica of a particular prototype, but captures the flavor of the XM-1 and its variations. The overall length over the strikers, the flat plates above the couplers, measured 42′-4″. Height from railhead to running board was 14′-4″. The distance from truck center to striker plate measured 5′-0″. Overall width at the eaves was 10′-31⁄2″. All are within scale inches of various prototypes.
The boxcar red paint was smoothly applied, and the white lettering was all opaque and legible, although there were a few gaps over the molded separations between the wood boards that make up the sheathing.
I tested the car on our Wisconsin & Southern project layout and had no trouble pushing and pulling it through the yard and industry tracks at Troy. It also performed well at the head of a train climbing a steep grade on our Milwaukee, Racine & Troy staff layout.
Walthers’ model fills a niche in the transition era, and with its lower roof and trussed sides, will certainly add a bit of variety to long trains full of boxcars.
Wm. K. Walthers Inc.
5601 W. Florist Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53218
Era: 1920s to 1960s, 1940s as detailed and decorated for NYC no. 277361
Road names: New York Central; Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific (Milwaukee Road); Baltimore & Ohio; Maine Central; Pennsylvania RR; and Southern Pacific (all with multiple road numbers). Also available undecorated.