by: Frederick Boucher [ ]
Originally published on:
Series: Ready To Roll
Subject: 40' Double-Door Box Car
Roadname: Gulf, Mobile & Ohio
IntroductionFor decades Athearn was known for their extensive line of "Blue Box" kits (lower right photo). They were state of the art decades ago but demands for greater accuracy and strides in model making lead to many modelers criticizing many of Athearn's offerings, and abandon them for models by newer manufacturers. Athearn addressed that and released new models; as some modelers aged and others eschewed kits, Athearn released their Ready To Roll series. These include metal wheels and factory-installed knuckle couplers.
* Fully assembled and ready for your layout
* Razor sharp painting and printing
* Weighted for optimal performance
* Machined RP25 profile 33" metal wheels
* McHenry scale knuckle spring couplers installed
"Box car" or "boxcar"?? Well, I don't know, both spellings are widely used. However the model maker spells it, that's how I'll write it.
Double-Door Box CarsFor a century box cars were the primary freight car in North America. They carried almost everything from merchandise, to lumber, factory goods, grain, animals, vehicles -- anything that could get through the doors. The doors were the limiting factor for many loads, so double-door box car was introduced. Usually the doors were staggered from the other side.
Ready To Roll 40' Double-Door Box CarThis model is based on the Association of American Railroads, 1937 standardized design. The Association of American Railroads (AAR) is a rail industry trade group that considered best practices and efficient designs. They recommended standardized procedures and equipment. The 1937 AAR box car was an initiative during The Great Depression that was widely accepted. These versatile and soundly designed box cars rode the slow economic recovery of the late 1930s, soldiered through World War Two (Both at home and probably overseas under Lend-Lease), witnessed the diesel supplant the steam locomotive through the ‘50s, and suffered the derailing of America’s railroads through the ‘60s and into the ‘70s. A few even survived, in non-revenue service, to witness the Staggers Act which resuscitated the industry in the 1980s.
While variants of differing heights were made, the standard box cars are 40 feet 6 inches long, 10 feet wide, and 13 feet 11 inches high from rail head to running board. The doors are Youngstown corrugated types, the roof a Murphy rectangular panel design, covering an AAR standard underframe, riding upon 50-ton AAR cast sideframe trucks.
This model is packaged in an attractive blue and yellow box with a cellophane display window. The model is securely held in a form-fitted cradle and secured in place by a plastic cover. Athearn includes a parts diagram and an insert about their model club.
The model is sharply molded. I found no flash or obvious ejector marks. Typical of model box cars, this model is assembled with a plastic floor that holds a steel weight, and single piece body and roof. Fine rivets detail the surface. Athearn blue box models are derided for out-of-scale details such as the door tracks; this model features detail more to scale. Molded detail includes:
* Youngstown doors and hangers
* Door tracks and hasps
* Wooden tackboards
* Freight car locks
* Ladders, stirrups, and grab irons
* Brake gearbox, chain, and rod
* Brake hangers, rods, and trainlines
Unfortunately the doors are molded shut. While the Apex Tri-Lok running boards are separately applied the tread is molded solid. And while the brake wheel is separately applied it does not really match any Ajax, Equipco, Miner, Universal, or Champion brake wheel.
Underneath is a basic underbody with "AB" brake detail. The triple valve, reservoir, and cylinder are separately applied. These are not visible unless you turn the car over, due to the long fishbelly side sill.
Further details include 50-ton trucks with operating bearing caps, holding .110" tread RP25 profile 33" machined metal wheels. These wheels are slick—this boxcar rolls with ease. However, they are unrealistically shiny.
McHenry scale knuckle spring couplers are factory mounted. These couplers and trucks can easily be replaced by removing a screw.
My inspection finds the model to be in conformance with NMRA Standards and Recommended Practices, with RP-25 wheels and couplers at acceptable height. The model measures to scale and weighs 3.8 ounces, almost perfect per RP-2O.1 Car Weight.
Finish and MarkingsAthearn currently produces 97 of these 40' double-door box cars decorated in 15 liveries. This GM&O model is molded in color. The impressive printing is razor sharp. You can read all the dimensional data and operation stenciling, including the build date of December, 1947, and the Federal Railroad Administration date of December, 1969.
Finally...Athearn has improved its image with this Ready-To-Roll model. The fidelity of detail is much improved over the old blue box kits. Not that the kits took long to assemble but it is nice to be able to remove these from the box and run them. The printing is fantastic! I appreciate the metal wheels and knuckle couplers.
On the minus side all of their 40' double-door box cars have the same body; you may have to perform surgery upon the model depending on your desire for accuracy. And can those shiny wheels be dulled down?
Neutral thoughts: doors molded shut? I like to be able to position them but that would create over-scale door tracks again.
Athearn is offering the model world a new line of good RTR cars with the wheels and couplers many modelers have recently been asking for. These are not meant to be prototype-specific, rather to be good looking affordable RTR cars. As such it is a good model. Recommended.
Please remember to tell vendors and manufacturers that you saw this model here -- on Railroad Modeling!
Click here for additional images for this review.