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In-Box Review
O scale
1937 AAR Boxcar
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:
RailRoad Modeling

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Atlas O
Steam Era Classics
M&ST.L (CNW) No.53444
1937 AAR Boxcar

While Atlas is probably most associated with their HO and N scale models of the Trainman® and Masters® series, Atlas also makes a great selection of O scale –1/48—rolling stock, track, and accessories, the Atlas O line. This review of their 1937 AAR boxcar opens the Railroad Modeling series of their Atlas O reviews.

O Scale
Some of the very first commercial model trains were roughly the size of what is now known as O scale. Depending on which side of the Atlantic Ocean you are on, O ranges from 1/43 to 1/48; the once common 1/50 scale from Japan also fits nicely into the stable of O iron horses. As such O scale combines ideally with the growing 1/48 range of quarterscale military models.

O scale provides a sensual heft that magnifies the realism of model railroading. O was dominated by toyish Tin Plate and 3-rail models most often identified with Lionel. A couple of decades ago O scale began to evolve with greater accuracy and authenticity that includes a shift from traditional 3-rail to 2-rail, as well as prototypical scale and details. Into this arena Atlas presents Atlas O models.

AAR 1937 Boxcar
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.

Atlas O 1937 AAR Boxcar
The fully assembled model is securely packed in a form-fitted Styrofoam cradle, protected from scuffing by a thin plastic sheet. The cradle has indentions for your fingers to help grip it for removal from the card carton, which has a clear plastic viewing window. The model is free from mold marks, flash, ejector marks, and glue stains from assembly. Atlas released it for both 2- and 3-rail operation. Atlas "O" scale couplers can also be used on both 2-rail and 3-rail versions.

This model is of the variant built with the diagonal panel roof, 5/4 Dreadnaught ends, Apex open grid metal running board, Bettendorf trucks with 33-inch wheels, and 9-foot Youngstown doors. It is outfitted for post-July 1961 (See below).

The metal wheels are not blackened.

Unfortunately, those Youngstown doors are molded as part of the body. They do no open.

The wheels are in gauge. Measuring the model finds it scaling out properly, matching the dimensional data stenciled on the car. It weighs 1 pound 2.1 ounces, above the NMRA RP-20.1 Car Weight recommended weight of 15 oz. Atlas lists the minimum turning performance as O-36 for 3-rail, and a 2-rail minimum radius of 24".

For you quarterscale military modelers interested in the diorama potential of this model, I include photographs of it with 1/48 military models.

Atlas richly equips this model with individual separate parts:
• Wire grab irons
• Die-cast eight-rung ladders
• Etched metal roofwalk
• Door rings
• AB air brake system with wire piping
• Ajax brake wheel, housing, retainer valve, and shelf
• Airhose and angle cocks
* Springs in the trucks

Markings and Livery
Atlas prints four road numbers per road name. Almost a dozen roadnames are available. The box car is painted with box car red sides and roof and black ends. The paint is smooth and does not obscure detail.

This model is decorated as a 53000 series Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway car after its merger with Chicago & North Western Railroad.* The road name and data stenciling is yellow and sharp. It shows that this car was built in October 1944, and re-weighed in July 1961 at C&NW’s Clinton, Iowa facility. Atlas also released a pre-merger model in M&StL's green livery with their Peoria gateway slogan.

An undecorated version is available.

This model is a good representation of a C&NW / "Tootin' Louie" 1937 AAR box car. It is beautifully molded, finished, and impressively detailed, with sharp printing. I prefer the doors to be operable and the wheels to be darkened, but they aren’t.

If you want to freelance and kitbash, it should not be troublesome to cut the doors off for repositioning. Replacing the roof running board with an older wooden type is no more difficult than popping off the P/E one and gluing strip wood up there. There are many model railroad companies issuing aftermarket parts and decals to modify models. There were many designs very similar to the 1937 AAR box car.

Whether you plan to use this on an O scale layout or in a 1/48 diorama, this is an impressive model. Highly recommended.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here – on Railroad Modeling.

Further 1937 AAR Box car History
”The purpose of this section is to identify all possible candidates for one of the most popular types of box car models. Technically, there was a 50 foot version of the AAR standard, but we steam-era modelers understand this longer car was an exception in the world where 40 feet was standard. Also, in '42, the AAR accepted a slightly taller 10 ft. 6 in. inside height, sometimes called the "modified '37 AAR box car" or the "1942 alternate standard" or whatever. Also, the Dreadnaught end and raised panel roof were options left to the builder, although in practice, they were almost universal.

“However, for the purpose of this section, I will list both heights and unless otherwise noted, this roof and end combination will be implied. What I am trying to do is find candidates with 4/5 or 5/5 Dreadnaught ends, with either the older square corner or the 1940 rounded "W" corner. Technically, cars built after WWII with the older 10 foot IH (the 1942 alternate height of 10-1/2 feet was made standard in '44) most likely would have Improved Dreadnaught Ends, and those I do NOT consider '37 cars, even though the railroad industry might. (The 1942 alternate height of 10-1/2 feet was made standard in '44, but this section is for modelers, not railroad historians.) Cars with 4/4 ends will be considered too low (the 1932 AAR standard). Thus a car with an inside height of 9 ft. 4 ins. would be considered too low to qualify, but one that was two inches taller, if it had a 4/5 ends, would be okay (even though I will try to note the discrepancy.) This list is for candidates for the Accurail-type quality with cast-on parts. The craftsman-type kits, particularly the cast-resin ones, would be expected to match the prototypes point for point.

“I also will list candidates that might at first glance fall under this 1937 title, even if I list the reasons they might be too far to qualify. And even list roads that did NOT have '37 cars, as I get so tired of manufacturers tacking schemes for these on their '37 models. (I won't mention any names, but a company with the initials "MDC" was the most recent offender with the use of the Rutland wood box car scheme on their retooled '37 box car.)

“To start with, I will try to identify at least one class of candidates for each road, rather than trying to get every class in one road...I am cutting and pasting from the information I have already posted on our web site, so some of this might require cleaning up, especially when I've taken from two different locations.

“Almost at the same time as Standard Railway changed the design of their end from Dreadnaught to Improved Dreadnaught (c. '44), Youngstown also improved their door design. They raised the horizontal seams in the same plane as the frame, making a stronger box-like structure. Thus even if one can't see the end of a prototype, the use of the older door type is a real good indication of a '37-type car.” [2]

[1] (Steam Era Freight Cars, Freight Car Prototypes 1937 AAR Box Car)
[2] (Rensselaer Railroad Heritage Website, NEB&W Guide to 1937 AAR Type 40' Steel Box Cars, 2011)
[3] Atlas O

*Products bearing M&STL and C&NW marks are made under trademark license from Union Pacific Railroad Company.

Click here for additional images for this review.

Highs: Excellent detail including many separately applied parts, including photo-etched and wire pieces. Excellent finish and markings.
Lows: The doors do not open and the wheels are shiny.
Verdict: This impressive model will enhance your 2- or 3-rail O scale railroad layout. It's perfectly for 1/48 military dioramas c.1937 through the Vietnam War era.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: O Scale (A
  Mfg. ID: 9591
  Suggested Retail: $67.95
  Related Link: Atlas O Catelog
  PUBLISHED: May 01, 2011
  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.


Dang, I keep forgetting that O scale is 1/48. I need to remember that... Would be sweet to see a P-51 loaded up on a flatcar.
MAY 27, 2011 - 03:37 PM

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