Custom Painted P-2000 units

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Automobile Industry Traffic on the New York Central Part 1

Greetings All,

Back in August I built a Roundhouse CB&Q 50' Automobile boxcar kit. I posted about it here on August 15th.

Since building that car I became even more interested in automobile industry traffic on the real New York Central System and my own New York Central Train Layout. So I did a little research using both printed media and the internet. Here are some of the things that I found interesting and a bit ironic.

The New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroad competed fiercely for lucrative automotive traffic. Ironically, NYC, who's extensive passenger service was decimated by the growth in highway transportation, benefited greatly from the growth of automobile industry traffic. The NYC for many years claimed the title as the world's leading transporter of new automobiles. During the 1960s the number of new vehicles carried by the railroad increased dramatically. In 1962, the railroad moved approximately 500,000 new cars; in 1965 the NYC carried nearly 1.2 million cars. This was roughly 12 percent of American new car production.

Until the late 1950s autos shipped by rail were transported in special boxcars which was inefficient and cumbersome making railroads easy prey to the trucking industry. The introduction of the bi-level and
tri-level auto rack in the late 1950s changed all that. A single train could carry as many as 2,300 new cars and significantly lowered transportation costs not only for auto manufacturers but for railroads. Auto traffic resurged on America's railroads.

Let's take a look at the 1950's Automobile Traffic on the New York Central and the New York Central Train layout.

NYC Automobile Boxcar
NYC Lot 701B 50'6" All Steel Boxcar

NYC 50'6" 64000 - 64499 series All Steel Box with double doors. Built by DSI in 1941. Lot# 701B consisted of 500 cars of this type for the NYC. Some cars from this group in revenue service with NYC reporting marks until 1977.

NYC 76027 looks to be a rebuilt and repainted 64000-64499 series all steel double door box. So far research has this car number assigned to rebuilt Lot 700B series cars which were single door car. Go figure.  

A 50'6" CB&Q all steel box car fitted to transport automobiles 

G.T.W. 50'6: all steel double door automobile boxcar with end door. 
The NYC exchanged cars in Detroit with the GTW so I like having this car on the roster.
 Of course I did not know that at the time I bought this car.

CB&Q exterior post 50'6" automobile boxcar with end door. The car that started this research.

Nickel Plate Road 50'6" Automobile Boxcar #87143

Lehigh Valley 50'6" Automobile Boxcar with end door #8516

New York Central 40'6" All Steel Auto Box
New York Central Lot# 760B 
1000 cars built by DSI in 1947. Some cars assigned to various special services. Some cars from this lot in revenue service with NYC reporting marks until 1977.

40'6" NYC All steel auto boxcar #70835

A rebuilt and repainted lot 760B NYC All Steel auto boxcar #70924

A 40'6" all steel PRR auto boxcar.

A pair of Fairbanks Morse C-Liners leads a string of automobile boxcars towards terminal Yard.

A grainy video of the action

Next installment we'll take a look at the growth of the equipment and automobile industry traffic on the NYC and NYCTL. 


  1. Having grown up with auto racks its hard to imagine shipping new cars in boxcars! How many did they manage to get in a 50 ft box? That said, they are cool cars and you have a nice roster of them appropriate for your modeling era. Nice find with the GTW car!

    1. Thanks Ralph! I can't imagine more than 4 cars per rail car. Taking into account the size of the cars of that era it must have been a tight fit.

  2. Some boxcars simply carried parts, not the assembled cars, so that's answer number 1. Answer 2 is that those that carried cars had racks so the first car that was moved in (via the double doors) went onto a rack, which lifted the car at least partway up. A second was then moved beneath it. I think this was done with the auto in neutral and pushed in, by the way, not driven. End doors would have made things a little easier, but then you needed an end loading ramp. Cars with auto racks had white stripes on the doors. 50 foot boxcars were no longer used in shipping assemb;ed autos after the 1950s, but they stayed in auto parts service after that. These would not have stripes on the doors.

    1. Thanks for the info John! As I researched this information one thing was evident as automobile car sizes grew so did automobile freight traffic. The amount of cars the NYC received for automobile service starting in teh early 1960s was shocking to see once I added them all up. We'll look at more on this in the next entry.

  3. I found a detailed discussion of the auto racks at including illustrations. You're right, John, it was 4 autos in a 50-foot car.

  4. Thanks John, Very interesting read!

  5. I don't know if you're aware of it, but Walthers put out a book on railroads and the auto industry called America's Driving Force. You can find it very reasonably as a used book on Amazon.