Friday, March 11, 2016

Carrying Automobiles in Boxcars

(Update: tractors, fire trucks, busses and airplanes were also shipped in boxcars.)

The Sep 2020 version of Google's blogger software has performance issues with large posts. So I have moved content concerning autoracks to here and transition solutions here. If you want to search the original content, it has been saved here. Cars were also transported on water.

Clare Union Railroad Depot posted
These sleek new Pontiacs are being loaded into specially made Auto-Loaders at the loading bay in Pontiac, Michigan. Each wooden sheathed double door carrier could accommodate 4 new Pontiacs to be transported around the state and country. Ford Motor Company began the trend of constructing such covered bays in the 1920s to replace the exposed loading docks, and the rest of the industry soon followed suit. 
The 1934 Pontiac was a popular choice among drivers during the midst of the Great Depression, with nearly 79,000 built. People still had a choice of 110 American made models to choose from, and the 8 cylinder, newly innovated Pontiac Division offered 7 models of its own, starting at a price of $785. Clare wouldn’t get her own Pontiac dealer until Dan McDonald in 1937, but before that Joseph Naumes in town represented the Martin Naumes Dealer in Mt Pleasant.
Use of these Auto Carriers peaked during World WarTwo as they transported jeeps, staff cars, and ambulances to ports on either coast. Following the War, improved highways and the invention of truck-trailers in the 1950s which could carry four (or six) autos away at one time to any location soon made the specially equipped Automobile Box Cars obsolete. In 1944, the C&O and Pere Marquette operated over 2200 such cars, but 20 years later there were none left on the roster. 
The introduction of the tri-level 85 foot long rail car which could carry 12 to 15 new autos in 1960 re-established the railroads’ dominance in transporting new cars. 
Photo credit to GM Media archives. Information from Al Kreisler and the C&O Historical Magazine, Sept. 2009 and Pontiac info from
Michael Murray: I can't see 4 cars fitting in one of these boxcars . 3 cars are longer than the boxcar .
Clare Union Railroad Depot  provided two images in the comments:


William Brown posted
William's comment:
Long before the invention of autoracks the traditional way to move automobiles was via the boxcar, as seen here with new 1938 Buick's. Colorization by Imbued with Hues. From a Facebook Photography Page.
Evidently the driver is just steering because they don't trust him to be able to drive the car slowly enough as they watch the spacing between the car and the boxcar's door edge. Considering even the pusher in the back is watching the spacing, it is obviously a tight fit and a slow loading.

I noticed the car is labeled "AUTO RACK". Fortunately a comment explained why they are special.

J Pete Hedgpeth These cars were known as "Evans Auto Cars"...or alternately "Evans device cars. Inside the car was a series of chain hoists and racks so that the autos at the end of the car could be raised up and another auto parked partially underneath the front of the car which was raised up IIRC you could load 6 automobiles in one of these cars.. As you might expect when a chain broke or became unhooked the results were not pretty. In later years after the automobiles by rail business ended...going to trucks...and then back to rail via tri level cars. these Evans cars were used for handling "high cube" low density commodities....Example corn cobs moving to a plant where they were used to produce alcohol.

Jeff Aley Technically, there were other makers of the interior racks besides Evans. But I'm not surprised that people called them "Evans Auto Cars" anyways. The horizontal white stripe on the door indicates that the car has automobile-loading racks.

Brian Patterson The Illinois Railway Museum has preserved CRI&P 264070, a 1930 wood outside-braced automobile car built by Standard Steel.

That gives me an excuse to go to IRM to try to find that car.

Daniel C Carroll Jr. shared Robbie Robertson's photo
Robert Wanner shared his post
Could be Reading Company. In the early years your automobile was shipped by rail in a boxcar from the freight platform. Looks like three autos to a boxcar, one hoisted up, and two sat flat, no double stack. Photo from late 1930's I would think. Lot different then today's auto shipments.

Steve Lucas The white stripe on the doors indicated that the boxcar was fitted with an Evans Auto-Loader, which allowed four automobiles in it, two above the other two. Interesting to see how dollies were used on the back wheels to get the auto in.
Daniel Gless Until the auto carrier multi deck cars were developed in the late 50's/early 60's this is the way it was done...and not done very much. Good articles in last summers Classic Trains about them.
Imbued with Hues posted
1935 Packard being loaded onto a boxcar for shipment.
Packard Motor Car Co., first 120 models on loading dock, awaiting transport by special boxcar to Memphis, in doorway 1935 Packard one-twenty, twelfth series, model 120, 8-cylinder, 110-horsepower, 120-inch wheelbase, 5-person sedan (body type #893).
Clare Gilbert Evans Auto Loader in use. The first car was run onto a set of ramps that was then winched up towards the roof. The second car was then tugged, pushed and pulled onto the deck of the box car. The process was repeated at the opposite end of the car to get a total of four autos loaded. Very time consuming and labour intensive. A far cry from the multi level auto racks used by railways now.

Tony Lazzara posted
John Peters My Dad loaded military vehicles in boxcars in 1942 at the Lincoln plant in Detroit until he was called to basic training. I showed him a photo similar to this one once, he said it was “like wrestling with an alligator” to get the last vehicle in.

Tory Marmaduke posted
Brand new Chevy's.... looks to be 1956, being delivered to Sonoma, CA
Don Butler Jo San Metz look at the turn signal lights.
Definitely 56 Chevy

Daniel C Carroll Jr. shared
Rick F The could ship at least 4 if not 5 as the automobile boxcars had racks in them so they could be stacked over each other. If you look close at the picture you can see the end of a bumper above the mans head just showing near the top of the opening for the door.

Dale Williams No rail dust on those cars !
Michael Haag Dale Williams Great point! It took me over 3 hours of hard work with a clay bar to get the rail dust off of my new Mustang in 2012. It appears that is beyond the usual dealer prep.

Peter Dudley shared
Evidently, double-door automobile boxcars were still-operational during the 1950s (when Lionel began producing three-rail O gauge versions).

Michael Catalano commented on Tory's post
Here's how they were loaded inside, four to a boxcar. Hot, heavy manual labor to load and unload them.
[Those are older model cars, and the older boxcars were probably shorter than the SP boxcar. I wonder if they got more than four in the SP boxcar.

Stever Hart posted
so THAT'S how they did it.
Yes and based on the language my tender little ears heard they were a bitch to unload.

David Rochelle posted  (source)
This photo captures a batch of freshly assembled 1940 Fords leaving the Louisville plant in box cars to find their way to dealers. Ford used railways to ship cars long distances.
Charles Aay Always loved the chevron tail lights on the 40s.
Rick Tonet Black model closest to camera is a base model with only a single tail light.
Richie Pointer I understand that only deluxes got dual rear tail lights on 40's.

Jimy Takvingsson shared
J Pete Hedgpeth: They moved in what was known as "Evans Device Cars"...high cube. Seres of chains and platforms to hoist the cars up to allow the lading to be "stacked". Sometimes the chains broke or sllipped. The results were not pretty.
Arthur Mallette: 1940 Fords
(Some comments show the "one and only PRR x-30" that was used to ship fire trucks.)
Ray Oak: Hard to imagine everything went by box car at one time. Even grain was loaded into box cars
Larry Behl: When I was 14 I helped at the home town elevator for a couple of weeks in early summer between de-tasseling and bailing hay to fill box cars with corn. We put wood planks on the inside and start filling as we worked inside to scoop the corn to the ends. When the car was half full we added more planks at the door to the point you had to crawl out when the car was filled. Not a fun job.
Jim Manna: coopering a car, later they switched to cardboard with metal strapping.
Vernon Davidson: That cardboard with the metal straps made into it was called "grain doors". I've nailed many of them in place to get a car ready for loading.

Old Photos posted

Jim Arvites posted
View of new automobiles being unloaded at the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad freight house in Sandwich, Illinois in 1912.
(Sandwich Historical Society)
Dave Ladislas Sr. Friend of mine just sent me a pic,car on left looks like a Flanders Model 50-6.
[The photographer was more interested in the cars than the boxcar. :-) Getting the cars out onto a narrow, steep ramp had to be even more tricky.]

This was almost as awkward.
Mark Hershoren posted
1937 (or there-abouts) Studebaker coupe bodies being loaded in a boxcar.

Walter Hooker posted
Edward Jarolin shared

Randy Alan posted
Rich Kolar: “Chicago Union Station was first envisioned by famed architect Daniel Burnham. Ultimately designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, Union Station opened in 1925 after ten years of construction. The station was built by a "union" of four railroads to accommodate the ever expanding demand for passenger rail to and from Chicago. Construction included not only the station itself, but also the rail yards coming into the station and the many blocks of viaducts and bridges necessary to separate trains from other traffic.
Its awe-inspiring looks are the result of sweeping limestone exteriors (quarried in Bedford, Indiana) and larger-than-life ornate interiors. This grandeur is best experienced in the Great Hall, the station's main waiting room spanned by a 219-foot-long, barrel-vaulted skylight that soars 115 feet over the room. The skylight ceiling was blacked out during World War II in order to make the station less of a target for enemy aircraft.”

Carl Venzke posted

Carl Venzke commented on his posting

Carl Venzke commented on his posting
Carl Venzke posted
Loading or unloading some model Ts. Apparently there was some assembly required at the destination. ;)

Greg Bunce posted two photos with the comment: "Here's a couple of builders photos of GTW Automobile boxcars built by American Car and Foundry in 1921. Photos from the John W. Barriger Railroad Library."

Peter Dudley shared
New Hudson automobiles were being loaded into a New York Central System (post-1935) automobile boxcar, in this undated photograph.
The Hudson plant was located along Detroit Terminal Railroad on Detroit's east side, near Conner and East Jefferson, I believe.
J.L. Hudson was a partner in the company.

Peter Dudley posted
New Ford Model T automobiles are shown being loaded onto Michigan Central Railroad (M.C.R.R.) "Automobile" boxcars, utilizing "a second shipping platform" alongside M.C.R.R.'s street-level Peninsular Spur industrial track, which ran behind Ford Motor Company's 1904 Piquette Avenue factory in Detroit MI.
This photograph was shot some time between 1908 and 1910, when Model T production moved to Ford's new Highland Park plant.
When all tracks in the area (including the Peninsula Spur) were elevated in 1911, new Piquette plant - owner E-M-F / Studebaker erected an elevated second-story loading platform (which still stands).
Note the FORD logos on the boxcars.

Raymond Storey posted
Detroit circa 1909..Loading Model Ts.
safe_image for
Photo: Michigan Central Automobile Boxcar
Photo from Classic Trains:
“New York Central (and subsidiary Michigan Central) had a large fleet of steel auto cars by the early 1920s. These had 10-foot door openings with 6- and 4-foot plate steel doors. New York Central photo”
Bob Chaparro
Hemet, CA
Jacob Montaigne commented on a post

The following information came from the comments by Bob Lalich and others on a post asking about this facility with a figure-8 track. Note that the "X" of the "8" appears to be grade separated. According to topo maps, it was built between 1929 and this 1938 aerial photo. My current theory is that the track was used for accelerated testing of the trucks turning in a new, possibly interurban, car design.
Bob Lalich It was Evans in later years. Before that I think it was US Railway Equipment, and possibly Wells & French before that.
1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP
The figure-8 part looks like a scrap yard and the eastern part is now the IAIS railyard.
Google Earth, Mar 30, 2002

Daniel O'Hearn Looks like we are not the first people to talk about this particular railroad anomaly. Here is a question someone asked on a discussion board several years ago (if interested, here’s the link to that discussion board here: A Mr. Paul North had the following to say about it:

Information from doesn't include the change from US Railway Equipment Manufacturing to Evans nor that French & Wells was the precursor to US Railway.
Wells & French:



Paul Musselman commented that a Google search with the keywords: "Evans automobile boxcars" offers several photos. Looking at the photo results, Kalmbach covers this topic in their Railroading & The Automobile Industry book. And core77 has four photos from LIFE on the subject.

Dennis DeBruler commented on the post
I pursued some links from your Google search and found:
"Founded as U.S. Railway Equipment, or U.S. Railway Manufacturing, the name was changed to Evans Railcar Manufacturing in 1964. Evans Products Freight Cars built in the 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's were plentiful in the 1990's and many EP Freight Cars are still around. SIECO became one of their subsidiaries. Evans was purchased by GE Transportation sometime in the 1980s and transformed into a maintenance division."
That page also explains:
"With the Per Diem rules implemented by the US government to encourage railroads to purchase more boxcars, boxcar manufacturing roared into gear in the 1970s. Every major manufacturer cranked out 50 foot boxcars to satisfy the demand. Evans was no exception. Empowered by its acquisition of United States Railway Equipment (USRE), Evans-USRE boxcars became ubiquitous during the IPD boxcar boom of the 1970s. With modern upgrades such as box-corrugated, non-terminating ends, Stanray X-panel overhanging roof, and riveted car sides near the end posts, the Evans-USRE 5277 is a classic boxcar of the IPD era."
Jimi Krentkowski I wish this picture was more clear. I was looking at an old Trains magazine, perhaps 1988, and it was on the Iowa Interstate. They used the old Evans car plant as their switching yard. They had an aerial view which is a lot different than today. It looks like to figure 8 race track! Lol) Is now a scrapyard. And the Rock island tracks over the old b&o / harbor belt bridge was replaced bout 1945-47ish. This is a very cool picture for sure. Thanks for posting this Daniel.
Bob Lalich Daniel O'Hearn - that thread from Trains discussion forum has a good tidbit of info. The Blue Island site was once the Mather Stock Car Co, which was merged into North American Car Co. at some point. The 1956 directory of industries lists a site for North American at 135th St in Blue Island.


  1. Thanks so much for this excellent post. This will be great reference material for a lot of people.

  2. On Milw Rd : a short dock was built near North Harvey where a Chicago area dealer shipped used Cadillacs to California. ( about 1960ish) They were loaded and hauled on regular highway auto carry trailers which were then loaded two each onto flat cars equipped with dummy fifth wheel apparatus and chains to lock them in place. It was said that a lot of vandalism en route forced the gradual equipment or building of special cars with sides that we now see. I know that a lot of tires and batteries were stollen where auto cars sat or moved very slowly.

  3. Another thought on subject---- I watched my 1955 Chev station wagon being unloaded from a boxcar in Washington state. Fall of 1954 for sure.

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