No. 22: Steam Era Freight Cars – B&LE 1937 Box Car

I photographed this car at the same time I photographed the UTLX X-3 (see the first Steam Era Freight Cars post on this site). It IS obviously a 1937 ARA box car, but obviously IS NOT a Pennsylvania Railroad car.


Wanting to identify the car before posting the photo, I e-mailed Ed Hawkins, Bill McCoy, Pat Wider and Bill Welch, asking for their thoughts. I referenced the 40-ton trucks, apparent seven-foot door opening, and unique defect car holder as an identifying “birth marks”. Normally I don’t rely on trucks to identify museum cars since trucks were often changed over time. However, identifying the trucks is a good starting point.

Bill Welch immediately speculated it was a B&LE car. There was some discussion it may have been a Western Maryland car as well. Ed Hawkins then replied and put the debate to rest. Here is Ed’s reply.

  • Presuming the trucks are original (Barber S-1-L lateral motion), I think Bill has it right. The WM cars were delivered with double-truss trucks.
  • Bill is referring to B&LE 90101-90800, built as lightweight box cars using Cor-Ten Steel by Greenville Steel Car Co. in 1940-1941. See RP CYC Vol. 31-32 p. 103-104.
  • In 1960 when the cars were just 20 years old, B&LE began selling some of the cars but I have not been able to determine where they went. From 1/59 to 10/60, nearly 200 were removed from service (total number in service dropped from 774 to 575). By 4/61, 215 cars remained in B&LE 90101-90800 series while 360 had been renumbered B&LE 80101-80800 when these cars were refurbished and received side sill reinforcements and 5-panel Superior doors. When refurbished they were painted orange with white stencils and black & white circular monogram. Remember the Athearn cars in this scheme?
  • When it comes to cars meeting the definition of a 1937 AAR box car, does a 1937 car require a 6’ door opening? If the WM cars having 7’ door openings meet the definition, then I see no reason why these B&LE cars with 7’-3” openings should be any different. Both the WM and B&LE cars had an IH of 9’-11” that was one inch shorter than the standard dimension that might vary due to interior differences.

Pat Wider later confirmed:

  • I agree. Based upon the car’s features including the Barber Stabilized Lateral Motion trucks, defect card holder, 7’ door opening, and lack of a Duryea underframe, it must be the B&LE box car as described by Ed and shown in my article on “lightweight” box cars in RP CYC Vol. 31/32. The only OTHER 1937 AAR boxcars that I know of that had 7’ door openings were built by GATC (Lot 2954) circa 6-45 for the Western Maryland (28201-28300). See 1946 CBC page 128.

Mystery solved.

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