Saturday, April 6, 2024

New York Central USRA Design Automobile Cars


Fayetteville, NC, Oct 12, 1952, Col. Chet McCoid photo, Bob's Photo

In 1922-1923, the Michigan Central added 4,000 automobile cars based heavily upon the USRA-design steel box cars that were the de facto standard box car of the NYC System from the 20s into the 50s. They had the same rather diminutive inside height (for an auto car) of 8'7". They were delivered in three groups: NYC Lots 440-B from Standard Steel (Hammond, IN, car nos. 96000-97999,) 464-B from American Car & Foundry (St. Louis, car nos. 98000-99499,) and 465-B from Standard Steel (Hammond, IN, car nos. 95000-95499.) They had auxiliary doors with a door opening of 10 feet. They were eventually renumbered into NYC reporting marks, series 189300-190999, 145400-146999, and 194000-195498.) Most (if not all) of the cars were built with Camel-Gilroy doors, like those shown on NYC 189735, above, and some cars, like NYC 189735, shown above, had their auxiliary doors sealed, making them into box cars. NYC 146479, shown below, had Youngstown doors and also received a replacement Murphy rectangular panel roof.

Fayetteville, NC, Oct 22, 1951, Col. Chet McCoid photo, Bob's Photo

Between 1930 and 1932, The NYC increased the height of many of these cars by adding plate steel sections at the top of the sides and raising the roof. An indeterminate number also received replacement Murphy rectangular panel roofs, as well, although photos show that many continued on with the Solidsteel roofs (lacking raised panels.) The raised roof cars were eventually assigned to series 194000-195498.

Charles Winters Collection

Paul Dunn photo, R. J. Burg

These three prototype images (above and below) illustrate how the cars appeared after the modifications. Note the Solidsteel roof and two extra Murphy end corrugations on the car shown below. 

crop of "Milwaukee Road, general view of part of Galewood Yard, Chicago," Jack Delano photo, FSA-OWI Collection, Library of Congress, call number LC-USW36-619

Years ago, I built a Westerfield kit to replicate one of the cars that continued on with its original 8'7" inside height, as shown above. While Broadway Limited released a specific version of the NYC System's USRA design box cars, Westerfield is still the only way to model many variants (including the most numerous varieties.) 

Sunshine Models also produced a kit to replicate the raised roof variants. These went out of production with the death of Martin Lofton. However, Yarmouth Model Works has resuscitated this model, with one-piece body casting.

I was fortunate to have one of the Sunshine kits in my stash and decided to start building it. As it's a flat kit, one has to assemble the sides and ends and then add the roof and floor to complete the basic assembly. I did all that, following my usual process, the most important part of which is to true up the sides first (equal length and square edges... it's been awhile since I have detailed that process, so I will post about that in the next couple weeks, with commensurate detail.) The biggest hurdle, as shown in the photos above, was that the lines of the peaks of the ends did not match that of the roof. To overcome that, I finessed things into place. My approach was to glue [ACC] the roof to one half of the top of the ends and also one side. You can see in the photo of the end of the car, how the roof is attached at the left, but the right portion is raised (not yet glued.) I let the half that was glued dry thoroughly and also augmented the joint with some 0.125" square styrene on the interior of the body where the side and roof abut. I then repeated this process for the other side. This resulted in a clean and strong assembly with the underside of the roof matching the peaks of the ends. I will continue this build in a future installment.


  1. Ted- Thanks for the info on the NYC car. TJ Stratton

    1. You're welcome TJ... glad to share this stuff since so many of us are building the same kits


Comments always welcome!