Tag Archives: St Louis Southwestern

A Short History of the SP/SSW 40 foot Hi-cube boxcars and notes on modelling them

Originally posted on the old HVL Blog – August 10, 2010


The forty foot, 70 ton, Hi-Cube boxcars were built in the mid-1960’s specifically for high volume low weight cargo and were most often used in captive service between appliance manufacturers and distributors. They occasionally branched out into furniture and paper loads. Manufactured by Pacific Car and Foundry and Pullman-Standard ultimately their small size, and the load limitations this imposed saw them leave the rails in a relatively short time. Other larger boxcars from around the same era ride the rails when this article was being written.

The forty footers were a stop gap car. They allowed double (vertical) loading of refrigerators and freezers that still fit on the then current 40 foot door spacing of many warehouses. Within a short time, as new warehouses were built, and the older ones closed or rebuilt, 60ft High-Cubes, which could haul a vastly larger load became the norm. However, there is photographic evidence of the cars riding the rails until at least the beginning of august 1984. I have seen photos showing one of the cars in revenue use in the early 2000s.

Southern Pacific and Cotton Belt B-70-36 Box Cars

My interest in these cars is primarily the Southern Pacific (SP) and Cotton Belt (SSW) hi-cube box cars were all built to the same design by Pacific Car & Foundry in 1966 and 1967 featuring a 5001 cubic foot capacity, Hydra-Cushion underframes and 10′-6″ Youngstown sliding doors. These cars came to be nicknamed the “Ugly Ducklings” due their awkward  appearance.
Initially intended for appliance service, internally their dimensions were 40′-6″ long, 9’ 6” wide and 13’ high. This allowed double stacking of freezers allowing greater loads than regular boxcars. Up until their introduction the second layer of freezers were laid on their sides. This in turn led to problems with damage to the second layer due to train handling.Externally the cars had an overall coupled length of 45’ 5”, a maximum width of 10’ 8” and stood at their highest 16’ 10” above the rail height. It should be noted that the 1969 ORER shows the 11 SP cars one inch higher at 16’ 11”.

A roster of the class B-70-36 Hi-Cube box cars for the Southern Pacific (SP) and the St Louis Southwestern (SSW) or Cotton Belt is provided in Table 1 below:

Road    Number Range    Number    Load Specific Data
SP    659100-659111        12        DF-B loaders
SSW    36014–36026        13        DF, DF-B, Car Pac loaders
SSW    36027–36081        54
SSW    36082–36120        39
SSW    36121-36126          6

Total Cars: 124

Table 1: Southern Pacific Railway System 40’ High-Cube data

The Cotton Belt had one other set of Hi-Cube cars (SSW 36000-36013). These had been rebuilt from cars in the SSW 33850-33949 series built by Pullman-Standard in 1951. The roofs were raised and they were given new 10′-6″ wide by 11′-9″ tall doors. They were converted at Pine Bluff between December 1965 and January 1966[2].

Operationally the Cotton Belt (SSW) had the lion’s share of these 40 foot cars. It would appear that they were delivered in four different lots during 1966 and into 1967 and thus while consecutively numbered were given different listings in the ORERs of the time.

Modelling the 40 foot Hi-Cube

A word of caution

It should be noted that these cars were a minority car, and for the most part in captive service between the major white-goods manufacturers and the regional distribution locations hauling high volume low weight cargo. While used from the mid to late 1960’s they appear to have all be off the roster, or at least mostly out of use by the mid 1980s.

Having said that if you have a need for or want to model these cars the details below, which were found on the Yahoo! group “Railway Operations SIG” will be of assistance to you.


  • The cars manufactured by Pacific Car and Foundry for Southern Pacific (SP) and the Cotton Belt (SSW) match the Athearn exterior-post model. (#1950 40′ Ob Hi Cube Box Car – PC&F for SP 659100-659111; SSW series 36014-36126, both class B-70-36) failry closely
  • The Transco (ATSF), Maxson (CNW) and UP’s home built car match the Athearn plug door model; these also match the rebuilt cars of the SP. (#1960 40′ Plug Door Hi Cube Box Car – UP class B-50-4 appliance car)


  1. This data was sourced from the January 1969 Official Railway Equipment Register.
  2. Source: for more information please visit: http://www.railgoat.railfan.net/
  3. http://www.ho-scaletrains.net/id28.html (updates to the site have since rendered this link inoperable, check out the wayback machine for the link to see what was their)