Why the RailBox concept?
Prior to the introduction of the RailBox fleet the ICC car routing rules in effect meant that cars owned by each railroad had to return to their home-road, as an empty, as soon as possible and via the shortest route. When this did not, or could not happen, the hosting railroad had to pay demurrage (car storage and handling) charges to the car’s home railroad.
The ICC rules often caused a shortfall in available boxcars. Not because there weren’t enough boxcars available, because there were plenty of boxcars roaming the rails. But because they could not be loaded and moved when and where they were needed by the hosting railroad. The ICC rules required that:
- empty cars were routed and moved to their home railroads
- empty cars could not be loaded and backhauled to other destinations
This had the effect that these empty cars were not providing the owning railroads with income.
The RailBox Company (reporting marks ABOX, RBOX, TBOX, and FBOX), founded in 1974, worked on the concept of “Next Load, Any Road.” 32 railroads and 1 freight forwarding company jointly owned RailBox as a private cooperative. As such these boxcars were not subject to the ICC load/empty rules. RailBox cars could be assigned for service on any railroad in Canada, Mexico, and the United States where an AAR Plate-B loading gauge boxcar was permitted.
RailBox ordered boxcars from many Manufacturers, including American Car and Foundry (ACF), Food Machinery & Chemicals (FMC), and Pullman-Standard (P-S). RailBox boxcars were painted yellow with black doors. They had a bold graphic side logo, a stylized X made of red and blue intertwined arrows, that symbolised free flow. In the 1970s many railroads had fleets of aging rail cars. With the poor financial state of many railroads, these cars were dirty and grimy. Railbox cars stood out with their bright yellow paint and large logos.
The company’s car reporting marks, as noted above, ended in the letter “X”. Under FRA designation reporting marks ending in “X” are assigned to private owner cars. The rise of intermodal containerised freight (which began in the late 1980s and early 1990s) reduced the demand for full carload boxcar service. Deregulation and the recession of the 1980s lessened the impact of the legacy car routing rules until they were abolished when the Interstate Commerce Commission was eliminated in 1995.
Focusing on the first 600 XAF10 class cars we’re modelling
The first 600 Railbox cars, which we’ll be modelling, were the AAR plate B, XAF10 class. Built by ACF as Lot 11-06829 between October 1974 and February 1975 they are classed as AAR Type B314 with the mechanical designation of XM.
XAF10 cars have the following dimensions:
|Interior Length||50 Ft 6 In|
|Exterior Length||55 Ft 7 In|
|Capacity||5090 Cu Ft|
|Load Limit||158800 Lbs|
|Light. Weight||61200 Lbs|
|Gross. Weight||220000 Lbs|
The XAF10 class all carried RBOX reporting marks and were numbered from 10000 to 10599. Without a prototype car, it is difficult to say which car left the ACF St. Louis plant first.
So what happened to the XAF10 cars?
In 1983 recession and a struggling economy forced the withdrawal and redistribution of around one-quarter of the RailBox fleet to the railroads which had guaranteed the Railbox cooperative debt. The XAF10 class cars were among the first to be purged from the RailBox fleet.
The first 1000 cars (RBOX 10000-10999) including the XAF10 class went to the Seaboard system as SBD 10000- 10999. They became SBD 129761-130699 during a renumber before being taken in by CSX during the consolidation and becoming CSXT 129761-130699.
Only one car remained from the original XAF10 class in RailBox paint and markings: RBOX 10323. This car survived the purge and according to Eric Neubauer, this car was renumbered in 1977 to RBOX 9999. RBOX 9999 after its body centre plates were replaced and was listed in Umler in 2009 and may have been repainted into what was then new (and Eric believes the small arrow) RBOX scheme.
Notes in the text
- Data gathered from: http://cs.trains.com/mrr/f/13/t/32001.aspx
- You can read more about the US freight loading gauge here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loading_gauge#Freight
- You can find out more about Eric at his website: http://www.ericsrailroadcarhistory.com/
- You can view a photo of RBOX 9999 at RailcarPhotos.com