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Boxcar

Boxcar

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A boxcar is a railroad car that is enclosed and generally used to carry general freight. The boxcar, while not the simplest freight car design, is probably the most versatile, since it can carry most loads. Boxcars have side doors of varying size and operation, and some include end doors and adjustable bulkheads
Bulkhead (partition)
A bulkhead is an upright wall within the hull of a ship or within the fuselage of an airplane. Other kinds of partition elements within a ship are decks and deckheads.-Etymology:...

 to load very large items.

Usage




Boxcars can carry most kinds of freight. Originally they were hand-loaded, but in more recent years mechanical assistance such as forklifts have been used to load and empty them faster. Their generalized design is still slower to load and unload than specialized designs of car, and this partially explains the decline in boxcar numbers since World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. The other cause for this decline is the container
Intermodal container
An intermodal container is a standardized reusable steel box used for the safe, efficient and secure storage and movement of materials and products within a global containerized intermodal freight transport system...

. A container can be easily transshipped and is amenable to intermodal transportation
Intermodal freight transport
Intermodal freight transport involves the transportation of freight in an intermodal container or vehicle, using multiple modes of transportation , without any handling of the freight itself when changing modes. The method reduces cargo handling, and so improves security, reduces damages and...

, transportable by ship
Ship
Since the end of the age of sail a ship has been any large buoyant marine vessel. Ships are generally distinguished from boats based on size and cargo or passenger capacity. Ships are used on lakes, seas, and rivers for a variety of activities, such as the transport of people or goods, fishing,...

s, truck
Truck
A truck or lorry is a motor vehicle designed to transport cargo. Trucks vary greatly in size, power, and configuration, with the smallest being mechanically similar to an automobile...

s or train
Train
A train is a connected series of vehicles for rail transport that move along a track to transport cargo or passengers from one place to another place. The track usually consists of two rails, but might also be a monorail or maglev guideway.Propulsion for the train is provided by a separate...

s, and can be delivered door-to-door. In many respects a container is a boxcar without the wheels and underframe.
Even loose loads such as coal
Coal
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...

, grain
GRAIN
GRAIN is a small international non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems. Our support takes the form of independent research and analysis, networking at local, regional and...

 and ore can be carried in a boxcar, with boards over the side door openings. In later times grain transport used metal reinforced cardboard which was nailed over the door and could be punctured by a grain auger for unloading. This was more common in earlier days; it was susceptible to losing much loading during the journey, and damaged the boxcar. It was also impossible to mechanically load and unload. Grain can also be transported in boxcars designed specifically for that purpose; specialized equipment and procedures are required to load and unload the cars.

Livestock
Livestock
Livestock refers to one or more domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce commodities such as food, fiber and labor. The term "livestock" as used in this article does not include poultry or farmed fish; however the inclusion of these, especially poultry, within the meaning...

 can be transported in a boxcar (which was standard practice in the U.S. until the mid-1880s), but there is insufficient ventilation in warm weather. Specially-built or converted stock cars
Stock car (rail)
In railroad terminology, a stock car or cattle wagon is a type of rolling stock used for carrying livestock to market...

 are preferable. Insulated
Thermal insulation
Thermal insulation is the reduction of the effects of the various processes of heat transfer between objects in thermal contact or in range of radiative influence. Heat transfer is the transfer of thermal energy between objects of differing temperature...

 boxcars are used for certain types of perishable loads that do not require the precise temperature control provided by a refrigerator car
Refrigerator car
A refrigerator car is a refrigerated boxcar , a piece of railroad rolling stock designed to carry perishable freight at specific temperatures. Refrigerator cars differ from simple insulated boxcars and ventilated boxcars , neither of which are fitted with cooling apparatus...

. Circus
Circus
A circus is commonly a travelling company of performers that may include clowns, acrobats, trained animals, trapeze acts, musicians, hoopers, tightrope walkers, jugglers, unicyclists and other stunt-oriented artists...

es used boxcars to transport their workers, supplies, and animals to get from town to town.

Historically automobile
Automobile
An automobile, autocar, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor...

s were carried in boxcars, but during the 1960s specially built autorack
Autorack
An autorack, also known as an auto carrier, is a specialized piece of railroad rolling stock used to transport automobiles and light trucks, generally from factories to automotive distributors...

s took over; these carried more cars in the same space and were easier to load and unload. The automotive parts business, however, has always been a big user of the boxcar, and larger capacity "high cube" cars evolved in the 1960s to meet the auto parts industry's needs. Special boxcars carry newsprint
Newsprint
Newsprint is a low-cost, non-archival paper most commonly used to print newspapers, and other publications and advertising material. It usually has an off-white cast and distinctive feel. It is designed for use in printing presses that employ a long web of paper rather than individual sheets of...

 paper and other damage-sensitive cargo
Cargo
Cargo is goods or produce transported, generally for commercial gain, by ship, aircraft, train, van or truck. In modern times, containers are used in most intermodal long-haul cargo transport.-Marine:...

.

While not holding the dominant position in the world of railborne freight that they had before World War II, the boxcar still exists and is used in great numbers around the world.

Double door boxcar


A double door boxcar has two sliding door
Sliding door
A sliding door is a type of door which opens horizontally by sliding, whereby the door is either mounted on or suspended from a track. Types of sliding doors include pocket doors, Arcadia doors, and bypass doors...

s on each side instead of one.

Hicube boxcar


In recent years "hicube" — "high cubic capacity" — boxcars have become more common in the USA. These are higher than regular boxcars and can only run on routes with increased clearance (see loading gauge and structure gauge
Structure gauge
The structure gauge, also called the minimum clearance outline, is the minimum height and width of tunnels and bridges as well as the minimum height and width of the doors that allow a rail siding access into a warehouse...

). The excess height section of the car end is often marked with a white band so as to be easily visible if wrongly assigned to a restricted gauge line.

Passenger and wartime use



The boxcar has been used to carry passengers, especially during war
War
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

time. In both World Wars, French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 boxcars known as forty-and-eights were used as troop transports as well as for freight; in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 by first the French forces, then the German forces, and finally the other Allied forces. In addition to soldiers, the Germans transported prisoners in crowded boxcars during the Nazi regime. The same transportation was used by the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 during the 1930s and 1940s, when over 1.5 million people were transferred
Population transfer
Population transfer is the movement of a large group of people from one region to another by state policy or international authority, most frequently on the basis of ethnicity or religion...

 to Siberia
Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

 and other areas from different countries and areas incorporated into the Soviet Union.

The United States used troop sleeper
Troop sleeper
In United States railroad terminology, a troop sleeper was a railroad passenger car which had been constructed to serve as something of a mobile barracks for transporting troops over distances sufficient to require overnight accommodations...

s to ferry U.S. soldiers through North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. These cars were both based upon boxcars and intended to be converted into boxcars after the war was over.

Hobo
Hobo
A hobo is a term which is often applied to a migratory worker or homeless vagabond, often penniless. The term originated in the Western—probably Northwestern—United States during the last decade of the 19th century. Unlike 'tramps', who work only when they are forced to, and 'bums', who do not...

s and migrant worker
Migrant worker
The term migrant worker has different official meanings and connotations in different parts of the world. The United Nations' definition is broad, including any people working outside of their home country...

s have often used boxcars in their journeys (see freighthopping
Freighthopping
Freighthopping or train hopping is the act of surreptitiously hitching a ride on a railroad freight car. In the United States, this became a common means of transportation following the American Civil War as the railroads began pushing westward, especially among migrant workers who became known as...

), since they are enclosed and therefore they cannot be seen by railroad-employed security men ("Bulls") or police, as well as being to some degree insulated from cold weather.

The French called their troop-carrying boxcars "forty-and-eight" (quarante et huit, often written 40/8) because they were rated by the army as capable of carrying forty soldiers or eight horses. The name was adopted by veterans of such transport in forming the Forty and Eight veterans organization
Forty and Eight veterans organization
The Forty and Eight is an organization of veterans of the United States armed forces. Its official name is "La Société des Quarante Hommes et Huit Chevaux," which is French, and translates as "The Society of Forty Men and Eight Horses."-History:...

.

Preservation


One of the largest collections can be found at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum
Western Pacific Railroad Museum
The Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola, California, formerly known as the Portola Railroad Museum before , is a heritage railroad that preserves and operates historic American railroad equipment. The museum's mission is to preserve the history of the Western Pacific Railroad and is...

 at Portola, CA. The museum rosters over 30 boxcars, including several rare or unusual styles. The oldest dates from 1909, while several are from the 1960s and '70s.

See also

  • Bockscar
    Bockscar
    Bockscar, sometimes called Bock's Car or Bocks Car, is the name of the United States Army Air Forces B-29 bomber that dropped the "Fat Man" nuclear weapon over Nagasaki on 9 August 1945, the second atomic weapon used against Japan....

     - World War II
    World War II
    World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

     bomber
  • Covered goods wagon
    Covered goods wagon
    A covered goods wagon or van is a railway goods wagon which is designed for the transportation of moisture-susceptible goods and therefore fully enclosed by sides and a fixed roof. They are often referred to simply as covered wagons, and this is the term used by the International Union of Railways...

     - for European and UIC practice
  • Freight cars
  • Railbox
    Railbox
    RailBox Company , founded in 1974, was an effort to address a perceived boxcar shortage in the United States in the 1970s. Under the routing rules in effect at the time, cars owned by operating companies were supposed to be routed back to their owning road as soon as possible or the host road would...



People
  • Ernest E. Debs, Los Angeles County supervisor who emigrated in a box car to the West Coast as a young man

External links