A ubiquitous freight car that rode America’s rails from one World War to another, the 40-foot double-sheathed wood boxcar developed by the United States Railroad Administration (USRA), is the latest HO scale offering from WalthersMainline.
A war baby. The United States Railroad Administration (USRA) was formed in 1917 to nationalize the nation’s railroads, which were overwhelmed by the task of moving war materiel, fuel, food, troops, and more to Eastern ports for World War I. To address the shortage of freight cars, the USRA ordered 80,000 cars in five standard designs. The majority of these were boxcars, which came in two designs: a 50-ton single-sheathed boxcar (USRA specification 1001-B) and a 40-ton double-sheathed car (1003-B). Walthers’ model represents the latter design, of which 25,000 were built. These standard car designs proved popular with the railroads, which continued to build them after the dissolution of the USRA in 1920; Walthers’ car models a boxcar built at St. Louis in 1922.
Our review sample bore the reporting mark WAB 80789. According to the 1930 Official Railway Equipment Register, the car was part of a 2,800-car batch num- bered from 78200 to 80999. Later edi- tions of the ORER showed the last of these cars survived until 1956.
The model. The HO scale boxcar feels sturdy, with the car floor glued securely into the one-piece injection-molded body. Details like the grab irons, ladders, drop steps, and immovable door are molded in place, though the running boards, fish-belly underframe, brake- wheel platform, and brake gear are separately applied. The car has a vertical brake staff characteristic of the early part of the car’s lifespan.
Our sample was smoothly and evenly painted Oxide Red with white lettering. Though there were gaps in the letters where they crossed the grooves in the siding, even the smallest lettering was opaque, sharp, and readable.
I found drawings of the prototype in the 1925 edition of the Car Builder’s Cyclopedia (Simmons-Boardman). The HO scale model matched the drawings in detail placement and came within a few scale inches of all the major dimensions I checked. The blackened metal RP-25-contour wheels, mounted on plastic axles, were in gauge in the Accurail trucks. The car’s Proto-Max magnetic knuckle couplers were also mounted at the correct height.
I tested the car on our Beer Line project layout, coupling it between a pair of freight cars and pushing it through the 18″ radius curves and no. 4 Atlas Snap-Switches. It handled those curves and turnouts like a pro.
Just can’t get enough. If you model the last few decades of the steam era, you need cars like this, and a lot of them. These boxcars carried it all, so you probably already have destinations for them.
Facts & features
Wm. K. Walthers Inc.
5601 W. Florist Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53218
Era: 1922 to 1956 (Wabash version)
Road names: Wabash (Oxide Red, four road numbers); Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (Boxcar Red with black-and-white circle-cross herald); Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (“Everywhere West” slogan); Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo (yellow and black, four numbers); and Union Pacific (Boxcar Red). Three road numbers unless noted; also available undecorated.
•Blackened steel wheels on plastic axles,
•One-piece injection-molded styrene body with molded-on grab irons
•Proto-Max magnetic knuckle couplers mounted at correct height
•Separately applied running boards, brake staff, and AB brake gear
•Steel Murphy ends
•Weight: 3.7 ounces (0.175 ounce light per National Model Railroad Association Recommended Practice 20.1)