Atchison’s Army Boxcar – The starting point

The “depot” side of the boxcar. The current deck is built on the depot’s original freight dock. February 3, 2017.

Mechanically speaking, Atchison’s Army Boxcar is in excellent condition. It saw very little use so there is little wear to the wheels or couplers. Even the original brake shoes exhibit almost no wear. The metal portions of the car’s structure are in equally good shape, with only some surface rust. About the only mechanical work that the car will require is reattaching the parts that were removed when the car was moved to Atchison (air hoses, one uncoupling lever and the brake rods), all of which were stored inside the car.

The same cannot be said for the car’s plywood walls and roof or the wood floor. In keeping with the car’s simple design, the roof was just sheets of half-inch-thick plywood, with no roofing material over it. (Traces of roof coating on the metal parts along the edges of the roof indicate that the car may have received an asphalt coating over the plywood at some point, though this was not part of the original design.) Predictably, the bare plywood was not up to half a century of service, and eventually disintegrated. The roof was undoubtedly leaking at the time the car was moved to Atchison, and by 2012 (the first time I looked closely at the car) the roof could best be described as nonexistent.

The roof, or more precisely lack thereof, of the boxcar. February 3, 2017.

As the roof went, it took the side walls and floor with it. The roof first failed at the seams between the plywood sheets, allowing streams of water to run down the insides of the plywood walls and onto the floor. This caused the tops of the plywood walls to rot along with the edges of the floor at each seam. As the roof grew worse, more and more of the floor was exposed to the weather.

By late 2016, the floor was severely rot damaged throughout the car, and in places simply no longer existed. Several of the wall sheets were also rotten to the point of uselessness, as were the plywood sheets in the doors. On the other hand, the tongue and groove wood siding used on the ends of the car survived very well.

Interior of the boxcar looking to the east. February 3, 2017.

The plan for the car is to replace the worst of the plywood on the walls, repair the floor, replace all of the plywood on the doors, install an entirely new roof and then paint the car. Once completed, the interior of the car will be used to house displays about the Knock Down Fleet and the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant.

The area near the doors gives a good idea of the floor’s overall condition. February 3, 2017.
Interior of the boxcar looking to the west. February 3, 2017.

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