The boxcars of Emporia

Once the most common cars on any railroad, the standard boxcar was also once a very common sight on farms and businesses throughout the country. The bodies of retired cars, especially wooden ones, found ready homes as sheds or outbuildings once their days on the railroad were done. Today, as we near three quarters of a century since the last wooden bodied boxcars were retired, most have returned to the earth from whence they came, though there are still some to be found.

While it was certainly once home to many more, Emporia, Kansas can still boast of having at least three boxcar bodies waiting out their days in town. As can be expected of a Santa Fe Railroad town, two of the cars are AT&SF veterans, while the third is a visitor from a far corner of the country that met with some trouble on the road and never made it home.

 

The Recycling Center cars

The City of Emporia’s Recycling Dropoff Center is located at an old industrial complex on the west end of town, just south of the tracks of the BNSF’s former Santa Fe Chicago-to-Los Angeles main line. The recycling center is home to two old boxcars, both of which appear to have outlived their usefulness as sheds and are probably only still there because it is more trouble than it is worth to remove them.

The first car is an ancient Santa Fe 36’ long wood bodied car. At some point, the ceiling and upper interior walls of the car were painted silver, which mostly obscured the cars number. As best I can tell, the car’s number is 29847, which does not seem to match any Santa Fe roster that I can find. The car was most likely built between 1900 and 1915 and retired in the 1940’s.

This 36’ long former Santa Fe boxcar waits out its days at the Emporia Kansas Recycling Center. March 3, 2018.
An interior view of the car, showing the wooden construction.
Casting marks on the door latch confirm the car’s AT&SF heritage.

 

The second car is a Northern Pacific 40’ steel boxcar. NP 29901 was built by American Car & Foundry in 1946 as part of an order for 500 cars. The car’s presence in Emporia can be explained by the large “dent” in its “A” end. The car was most likely wrecked in a derailment near Emporia and scrapped as a result. (Into the 1970’s, railroads would often sell the bodies of wrecked cars direct from the wreck site, leading to cars ending up as sheds far from their home line, like NP 29901)

Northern Pacific 29901 at the Emporia, Kansas Recycling Center, March 3, 2018.
NP 2991’s “A” end shows some rather severe damage as the result of a derailment. The car was written off after the wreck, which most likely happened somewhere near Emporia, and its body sold off for use as a shed. March 3, 2018.

The Farm Car

Farms were another common place for boxcar bodies to end up. They were ready made, well-built sheds at an attractive price. Just south of Emporia on Kansas Highway 99, a well-worn Santa Fe boxcar remains in use as a hay shed, just a little ways off the road.

AT&SF 41985 is one of 5000 Bx-X class boxcars built for the Santa Fe in 1910. The Bx-X cars were an interesting composite of standard wood car construction that was re-enforced with steel in various areas. Though several of the cars remained in service into the late 1950’s, most were retired in the 1940’s

Looking a little swaybacked, AT&SF boxcar 41985 is seen near Emporia, Kansas on March 3, 2018.
Another view of AT&SF 41985 on March 3, 2018. Notice the small metal end door, a feature of Santa Fe boxcars and the metal base of the end wall, a distinctive construction method that first appeared on the Bx-X class of boxcars.
The interior of AT&SF 41985, showing it still in use to store bales of hay. Note the wooden carline or roof rib. The car’s swaybacked look is a result of the carlines being removed from the center of the car, most likely in a bid to gain more interior height clearance during the car’s time as a hay shed.
An interior shot of the end of AT&SF 41985. Note the unique metal carline or roof rib used on the end of the car. One of these was used on each end, while the rest of the carlines were wood.

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