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In-Box Review
HO scale
1932 ARA Box Car, Master Line
1932 ARA Box Car Norfolk Southern (Tarwheel Overnight) Road # 25045
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:
RailRoad Modeling

Atlas has released this detailed HO scale 1932 ARA Box Car in their premium Master Line series. The model is offered with 5 different variations of bodies, ends and roofs, with many separately applied parts.

    A goal of the American Railway Association (ARA) in the early 1920s was to produce an all-steel box car that could be recognized as a standard by the member railroads.*
The result was the ARA 1932 design which incorporated partial structural integrity in the sides instead of all in the frame. It was a design that, while not a “cookie cutter” design, heralded the age of a common design for any railroad instead of in-house designs from a railroad’s mechanical department.

    Although the original design presented in 1923 produced in excess of 60,000 cars, it wasn't until a new design was presented in 1932 that the member railroads gave their approval.*

These cars were eventually built with a variety of roofs and ends; some were welded. Most had Youngstown doors and 7-rung ladders. Apparently the standard interior height was not standard as the floor would vary from railroad to railroad.

    After extensively testing five prototypes in 1933, over 14,500 cars were produced for twenty-three railroads throughout the following decade. This design soon evolved into the 1937, Modified 1937, and Postwar AAR box cars.

    Although not the most popular design produced, numerically speaking, the 1932 ARA Standard box car is considered one of the most important designs in railroad history.*

1st Norfolk Southern Railway
The Norfolk Southern of today is not the original Norfolk Southern of this model.

Rechristened 'Norfolk Southern' in 1883 from progenitor Elizabeth City & Norfolk Railroad (chartered in 1870), NS and successors bought or built railroads to become a Class I regional that eventually linked Norfolk, Virginia with Charlotte, North Carolina. The little line struggled with solvency yet showed panache with bold yellow stripes and large slogans on freight cars. NS also acquired the last – and smallest – 2-8-4 Berkshire-type steam locomotives to speed up freight traffic for the ever tightening schedules required to remain a competitor. It also acquired a very large stable of Baldwin diesel locomotives. An excellent portrait of the railroad can be found in Extra South by H. Reid. NS was acquired by the Southern Railroad in 1974; the name was changed to free it up for the corporate identity of today's Norfolk Southern.

NS ordered 500 1932 ARA box cars from Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Co. in November 1935. Designated XM2, they were numbered 25000-25499. NS specified 9'-3" interior height, 4/4 Dreadnaught ends, with a Viking roof.

HO 1932 ARA Box Car
Atlas packs this ready-to-run HO scale model with a lot of detail, including:
• Friction-bearing trucks
• AccuMate® couplers
• Separate ladders and handholds ("grab irons")
• Brake detail
• 5 body styles:
    1. “Long tab” body, Murphy panel roof, 4/4 Dreadnaught
    2. “Long tab” body, 11 panel flat riveted roof, flat riveted ends
    3. “Short tab” body, Viking corrugated roof, Buckeye ends
    4. “Long tab” body, Viking corrugated roof, 4/4 Dreadnaught ends
    5. “Long tab” body, Murphy panel roof, flat riveted ends

You may notice the model looks warped. This is due to distortion of the small model under close-up photography.

Atlas securely packs this model in a formed plastic cradle with a fitted top. Plastic film protects the model from scuffing; the cradle is held inside the red and black and gold Master Line end-opening carton with a cellophane viewing window.

Your 1932 ARA box car is molded to a high standard. Fine rivets are molded along the 10 side panels. Each end is a 4/4 Dreadnaught type. The roof is a Viking. Underneath is a well detailed underframe. The trucks are free-rolling machined RP-25 blackened metal wheels, compatible with code 70 track. Knuckle couplers by AccuMate® are a big plus. The doors, while separately attached, are not made to open. The entire model is cleanly molded: no flash, no sink holes, no ejector marks, and no seam lines.

What else does the model offer? Finely molded hardware detail for the doors. Separately applied tack boards. Separately applied handholds (grab irons), ladders, and end sill steps . (Side sill steps - "stirrups" - are molded on and while not gigantic, they are not quite to-scale.) Separately attached hand brake wheel and end stand, cut-out valve, and horizontal end-platform . Each model ladder is a 7-rung type per the prototype. A separate running board is attached to the roof.

All that rides upon 40-ton friction-bearing trucks which have good detail for the scale.
Look at the photos of the underframe. Plenty of brake system detail including triple valve, reservoir, cylinder, actuator arm and levers, a partial train line, and brake rods. However, while brackets for the uncoupling ("cut") levers are molded to the body, no uncoupling levers are provided. Nor are air hoses.

Car knocking
This model rolls nicely on Atlas code 83 track and across Peco and Atlas turnouts. It measures 40 1/2 scale-feet from end to end and weighs 3.8 ounces, exactly as recommended in NMRA RP-2O.1 Car Weight.

Paint and Livery
Today's standard of finish is very high and Atlas Master Line keeps the bar up there. I find it incredible just how legible the fine, crisp printing is! Dimensional data, road names and numbers, service markings, Pullman-Standard builder marks - you can read it all.

This box car is marked as NS 25045. It features the Norfolk Southern Railway Company herald, Norfolk Southern Tarwheel banner, and slogan “OVERNIGHT MERCHANDISE SERVICE BETWEEN CHARLOTTE AND NORFOLK”. That dates the car past the steam era as the yellow banner was added circa 1960.

Atlas offers this model with three road numbers for each of the six roadnames plus five undecorated versions:
1. Central of Georgia (Streamlined)
2. Erie (1942)
3. Maine Central (1949)
4. Norfolk Southern (Tarwheel Overnight)
5. NC&StL (Small Dixie Line)
6. Seaboard Air Line* (1954-59)
7-11. Undecorated with each body style mentioned above.

Atlas has worked a lot of detail into this box car. It features exceptional printing and paint. Plenty of fine detail, too, including attached grabs and ladders. The underside with all that brake detail - too bad the car can't be run upside-down. Knuckle couplers are a plus. The metal wheels are blackened better than some I have examined in the past.

I think it is curious that the cut bar brackets are molded on but none are provided. That is not a deal breaker for me, though.

This is an impressive model with plenty of detail. It should be an essential addition to steam-diesel transitional era modelers. I do recommend it.


* Atlas Model Railroad Co., Inc. (2013.) [Atlas N 1932 ARA Box Car.]

** NC&StL Preservation Society, Inc. (2003.) [http://www.ncstl.com/history/index.htm.]

*** Wikipedia. (3 April 2014.) [Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway.]

Rensselaer Railroad Heritage Website. (12 September 2011.) [NEB&W Guide to 1932 ARA Box Cars - Introduction.]

Theodore J Culotta. (2004.) AAR Standard Box Car of 1932. Speedwithc Media.

Click here for additional images for this review.

Highs: Separately applied grab irons and ladders, nicely detailed air brake components and underframe; excellent paint and lettering. Metal wheels and knuckle couplers.
Lows: Cut lever brackets are molded on but none are provided.
Verdict: This is an impressive model with plenty of detail. It should be an essential addition to steam-diesel transitional era modelers.
  Scale: HO Scale
  Mfg. ID: 20 002 607
  Suggested Retail: $33.95
  Related Link: N Scale 1932 ARA Box Car
  PUBLISHED: Apr 19, 2014
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Atlas Model Railroad!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


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