A little more history on the Knock Down Fleet boxcar

The weather here in northeast Kansas has been quite warm and dry for the past few weeks, so I have been taking advantage of that fact to start working on the car. I had intended this post to cover the condition of the car at the beginning of the project, but I will get to that next time. First, though, we’ll delve a little more into the car’s history by taking a look at the casting marks found on various parts of the car.

Railroads in general liked to mark the parts of their cars. Most cast metal parts found on a railroad will be identified somehow, even if it is just a part number. Often times, the part will be marked as to the manufacturer, the date it was cast, and the railroad for whom it was cast. These markings are in the form of raised letters/numbers on the part. Though not infallible, the casting marks on a railroad car can tell you a lot about the car.

The 1952 casting date on the truck frames is consistent with the known fact that the car was built around 1953, as is the AAR 1951 marking on the wheels. The 1967 casting dates on the couplers and coupler buffers at first seem out of place, until the car’s story in considered a bit more closely. Available records indicate that when the Knock Down Fleet cars were built, they were built with European standard buffer and chain couplers as well as the ability to accept standard American knuckle couplers and draft gear.

When the cars were built, it was envisioned that they would be used in a foreign war zone and would most likely never be used in the United States. As such, it would appear that though the cars could be equipped with American couplers, those parts were not built at the same time as the cars. When the decision was made to assemble the cars and put them to use in the United States, couplers and draft gear had to be acquired and installed. The late 1967 casting dates on these parts would indicate that the Army bought new parts and that this car was assembled in 1968 (the 1968 date on the air hoses would seem to confirm this as well). My guess is that this true of many of the surviving knockdown fleet cars, it would be interesting to compare any other existent cars and see if the theory holds up.

At any rate, reading the casting marks on this car tells us with a fair degree of certainty that the parts kit that would someday become this boxcar was built in 1953, and stored at an Army base somewhere until 1968. Sometime in 1968, the car was put together, equipped with new knuckle couplers and put into service at the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant.

As a side note, the air hoses, which were taken off and placed inside the car when it was moved to Atchison (and have never been on the car during its time in Atchison), have yellow overspray on them, indicating that the car was painted yellow at the Sunflower Plant. In all probability, the car was painted yellow when it was assembled.


(All photos by Clarissa Midyette.)

An overall view of one of the car’s trucks. Casting marks tell us that this is an ASF “Basic Truck” with 5×9 journals that was cast in November of 1952. The wheels are AAR 1951 design wheels made by American Car & Foundry in St. Louis, Missouri.
November, 1952 (11-52) casting date on the truck side frame.
They sure used a fancy font to denote a “Basic” truck!
American Car & Foundry marking on the wheel face. The car retains its original cast iron wheels that show little to no wear.
November 1967 (11-67) casting date on the coupler buffer.
June 1967 (6-67) casting date on the coupler.


    1. Jason Midyette

      Depends how intact it is. Does it still have trucks and couplers? What shape is the plywood in? If you have photos you can share, that would give me a better idea what you are working with.

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