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First Look Review
HO scale
Trainman® 1937 AAR 40' Box Car
Trainman® 1937 AAR 40' Box Car Kit
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:
RailRoad Modeling

Atlas' HO Trainman® 1937 AAR 40' Box Car Kit is the 5th release of this popular box car kit. It provides the sharp detail and printing of Atlas' RTR models with the satisfaction of actually assembling a model.

1937 AAR 40' Box Car
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 boxcar was an initiative during The Great Depression that was widely accepted. These versatile and soundly designed boxcars 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.

These boxcars 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. They have 3713 cubic feet inside.[1] That gave them a load capacity of 50 tons.

Further history of the 1937 AAR boxcar can be found below, following the summary.
    The 1937 AAR Box Car is widely recognized as the first standard freight car design to be voluntarily adopted by the majority of railroads throughout the United States. Although previous USRA designs also achieved widespread distribution, their success was mostly due to government control rather than popular acceptance.

    The 1937 AAR Box Car also had many features that became standard on boxcars for years to come, including dreadnaught ends, straight panel roof and an inside length of 40’ 6”. They had an interior height of 10’ with a 3700 cubic foot capacity. With only a few variations built, this design helped the industry realize the economic advantages of freight equipment standardization; a concept that continues into the modern era.
    - Atlas

in the box
Atlas packs this kit in a sturdy standard lid-tray box. Box art is a sepia tone photograph of a Geep next to a depot with "Atlas HO Trainman Kit" overlayed atop the image. Inside is an instruction sheet and several parts:
    • Brake hand wheel
    • Coupler pocket covers (2)
    • Couplers (2)
    • Door sliders
    • Doors (2)
    • End overlays (2)
    • Frame
    • Metal nuts for weights (2)
    • One-piece body and floor
    • Roof
    • Roofwalk
    • Truck mounting screws
    • Trucks (plastic) with metal wheels

This model features:

    • Quick and easily assembly
    • Highly detailed body with molded ladders and grab irons
    • One-piece underframe with full brake detail
    • Quality painting/printing of prototypical paint schemes

The body is protected from scuffing by two card panels with cleverly cut tabs that fit into the open doors. The metal nuts are restrained by a cleverly cut flap held by tabs.

Molding is flawless with no flash, visible ejector marks, sink holes, or mold seams. Detail is sharp.

This 10-side panel model is the variant built with the diagonal panel roof, 5/4 Dreadnaught ends, wooden running board, Bettendorf trucks with 33-inch wheels, and 9-foot Youngstown doors. The panels edges have fine rivet detail. Stirrups, grabs and ladders are molded on, either raised or recessed as appropriate. Grab irons and railing and stirrups are not fine scale yet they are not distractingly oversize, either.

A one-piece frame includes crossbearers plus an AB air brake system with piping and gear hangers and rods. On an end is an Ajax brake wheel, housing, retainer valve and shelf, and tack boards. All of that detail is molded on. The ridge of the roof has 13 roofwalk supports so that you can see air between the roof and walk.

The separate doors have separate sliders so that you can attach them

Underneath the body is rudimentary stringer detail.

Couplers are a two-piece type of knuckle coupler.

Truck detail is sparse.

instructions, paint, markings and assembly
This is Atlas' 5th run of this model. The previous runs offered six road names - each with three road numbers - and an undecorated kit, as does this release.

1. Canadian Pacific "Spans the World"
2. Detroit & Mackinac
3. Genesee & Wyoming
4. NC&StL "Dixieland"
5. New York Central
6. Union Pacific (OWR&N)
7. Undecorated

While the parts are molded in color, the roadnames, numbers, and dimensional data are exceptionally printed, crisp and opaque. Beautiful! You can easily read that it was built in June 1947, and rebuilt in October 1962.

Instructions are a single face black-and-white exploded view diagram with simple text guiding assembly of each component. It is written in a friendly style. Tool types are also recommended. Atlas includes their address, telephone number and e-mail contact information.

Assembly is straightforward and simple. While cement is recommended, I assembled it as a snap-together except for screwing on the trucks. It took about 15 minutes. The most difficult assemblies are the couplers.

Atlas has produced a fine model. Molding is flawless and detail is sharp. Printing is also exceptional, crisp and opaque. Some separately applied parts and metal wheels to enhance it, too.

It looks good to me and should be a quick build for a good model for your transition era HO layout. Recommended.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on RailRoadModeling.

[1]. Adams, Rob. "Steam Era Freight Cars - 1937 AAR Box Cars - As Built.". Steam Era Freight Cars, 8 Aug. 2002. Web. 12 Dec. 2014. .
Highs: Molding is flawless and detail is sharp. Printing is also exceptional, crisp and opaque.
Lows: Plain truck side frames.
Verdict: It looks good to me and should be a quick build for a good model for your transition era HO layout.
  Scale: HO Scale
  Mfg. ID: 21 000 055
  Suggested Retail: $18.95, Undec $13.95
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Dec 14, 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.


Thanks Fred, this is the kind of kit was looking for to get my GS for Christmas.
DEC 14, 2014 - 11:32 AM
Very glad to see kits still being made. Glad for the sharp paint and nice detail that Atlas is giving these too, and at a decent price too! These were originally sold by Branchline Trains, but Atlas bought them up (did Mr. Branchline retire or something? ). Cheers, Sean H.
DEC 14, 2014 - 10:02 PM

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