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First Look Review
O scale
AAR 1937 40' Box Car
Atlas O 40' 1937 AAR Single Door Box Car
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:
RailRoad Modeling

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40' 1937 AAR Single Door Box Car
Atlas O Steam Era Classics
Item: 9727 (2-rail), 8727 (3-rail)
Roadname: Wabash (WAB) No.752

While Atlas is probably most associated with their HO and N scale models of the Trainman® and Masters® series, Atlas also makes a great selection of O scale –1/48—rolling stock, track, and accessories, the Atlas O line.

AAR 1937 40-ft Box Car
The Association of American Railroads (AAR) is a rail industry trade group that considered best practices and efficient designs. They recommended standardized procedures and equipment. The 1937 AAR boxcar was an initiative during The Great Depression that was widely accepted. These versatile and soundly designed boxcars rode the slow economic recovery of the late 1930s, soldiered through World War Two (both at home and probably overseas under Lend-Lease), witnessed the diesel supplant the steam locomotive through the ‘50s, and suffered the derailing of America’s railroads through the ‘60s and into the ‘70s. A few even survived, in non-revenue service, to witness the Staggers Act which resuscitated the industry in the 1980s.

These boxcars are 40 feet 6 inches long, 10 feet wide, and 13 feet 11 inches high from rail head to running board. The doors are Youngstown corrugated types, the roof a Murphy rectangular panel design, covering an AAR standard underframe, riding upon 50-ton AAR cast sideframe trucks. They have 3713 cubic feet inside.[1] That gave them a load capacity of 50 tons.

Further history of the 1937 AAR boxcar can be found below, following the summary.

Atlas O 40’ 1937 AAR Single Door Box Car
The fully assembled model is securely packed in a form-fitted Styrofoam cradle, topped with a fitted plastic top, and protected from scuffing by a thin plastic sheet. The cradle has indentions for your fingers to help grip it for removal from the package, and holes to poke the model out of it; although the fit is tight I had no trouble working the model out of the cradle. It is packed in a card carton with a cellophane viewing window.

The model is free from mold marks, flash, ejector marks, and glue stains from assembly. Atlas released it for both 2- and 3-rail operation. Atlas “O” scale couplers can also be used on both 2-rail and 3-rail versions.

Features Include:

    • Wire grab irons
    • Die-cast ladders
    • Weighted chassis
    • Etched metal roofwalk
    • Bettendorf trucks
    • Prototypical painting and lettering
    • Scale 33" wheels (2-rail)
    • Minimum diameter curve: O-36 (3-rail)
    • Minimum radius curve: 24" (2-rail)

This model is of the variant built with the diagonal panel roof, 5/4 Dreadnaught ends, Apex open grid metal running board, Bettendorf trucks with 33-inch wheels, and 9-foot Youngstown doors. It is outfitted for post-July 1961 (See below).

Unfortunately, those Youngstown doors are molded as part of the body. They do no open. The metal wheels are not blackened.

The wheels are in gauge. Measuring the model finds it scaling out properly, matching the dimensional data stenciled on the car. It weighs 1 pound 2.1 ounces, above the NMRA RP-20.1 Car Weight recommended weight of 15 oz. Atlas lists the minimum turning performance as O-36 for 3-rail, and a 2-rail minimum radius of 24".

Quarterscale military modelers -- note the diorama potential of this model!

Atlas richly equips this model with individual separate parts:

    • Wire grab irons
    • Die-cast eight-rung ladders
    • Etched metal roofwalk
    • Door rings
    • AB air brake system with wire piping
    • Ajax brake wheel, housing, retainer valve, and shelf
    • Air hose and angle cocks
    * Springs in the trucks
    • Brake shoe sets attached to the trucks

That beautiful etched metal roofwalk looks great, but it does not lie level upon the roof. It seems the sparse adhesive bond failed between the walk and a few of the roof mounts. However, I set the box car upon its roof and the photo-etch walk mostly straightened out for later photos.

Markings and Livery
Atlas prints four road numbers per road name. Seven roadnames are available.

    • Undecorated - Standard Roof
    • Canadian National
    • Erie Lackawanna
    • Maine Central
    • New Haven
    • Southern Pacific (T&NO)
    • Union Pacific (OWR&N)

This model is decorated as a 700 series Wabash Railroad car. The road name and data stenciling is sharp. It shows that this car was built in September 1944. The paint is smooth and does not obscure detail.

This model is a good representation of a Wabash 1937 AAR box car. It is beautifully molded, finished, and impressively detailed, with sharp printing. I prefer the doors to be operable and the wheels to be darkened, but they aren’t.

If you want to freelance and kitbash, it should not be troublesome to cut the doors off for repositioning. Replacing the roof running board with an older wooden type is no more difficult than popping off the P/E one and gluing strip wood up there. There are many model railroad companies issuing aftermarket parts and decals to modify models. There were many designs very similar to the 1937 AAR box car.

Whether you plan to use this on an O scale layout or in a 1/48 diorama, this is an impressive model. Highly recommended.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here – on Railroadmodeling.

Further 1937 AAR Box car History

    ”The purpose of this section is to identify all possible candidates for one of the most popular types of box car models. Technically, there was a 50 foot version of the AAR standard, but we steam-era modelers understand this longer car was an exception in the world where 40 feet was standard. Also, in '42, the AAR accepted a slightly taller 10 ft. 6 in. inside height, sometimes called the "modified '37 AAR box car" or the "1942 alternate standard" or whatever. Also, the Dreadnaught end and raised panel roof were options left to the builder, although in practice, they were almost universal.

    “However, for the purpose of this section, I will list both heights and unless otherwise noted, this roof and end combination will be implied. What I am trying to do is find candidates with 4/5 or 5/5 Dreadnaught ends, with either the older square corner or the 1940 rounded "W" corner. Technically, cars built after WWII with the older 10 foot IH (the 1942 alternate height of 10-1/2 feet was made standard in '44) most likely would have Improved Dreadnaught Ends, and those I do NOT consider '37 cars, even though the railroad industry might. (The 1942 alternate height of 10-1/2 feet was made standard in '44, but this section is for modelers, not railroad historians.) Cars with 4/4 ends will be considered too low (the 1932 AAR standard). Thus a car with an inside height of 9 ft. 4 ins. would be considered too low to qualify, but one that was two inches taller, if it had a 4/5 ends…

    “Almost at the same time as Standard Railway changed the design of their end from Dreadnaught to Improved Dreadnaught (c. '44), Youngstown also improved their door design. They raised the horizontal seams in the same plane as the frame, making a stronger box-like structure. Thus even if one can't see the end of a prototype, the use of the older door type is a real good indication of a '37-type car.” [2]


[1] Steam Era Freight Cars. Freight Car Prototypes 1937 AAR Box Car.
[2] Rensselaer Railroad Heritage Website. NEB&W Guide to 1937 AAR Type 40' Steel Box Cars. 2011.

Click here for additional images for this review.

Highs: Dozens of individually applied detailing parts, metal wheels, etched roofwalk, and knuckle couplers. Exceptional paint and printing.
Lows: The doors are not positionable. The wheels are shiny, and the roofwalk came loose from the roof in places.
Verdict: This is an wonderful box car for O scalers or quarterscale modelers. This impressive model will enhance your 2- or 3-rail O scale railroad layout and 1/48 dioramas c.1937 through the 1970s.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: O Scale (A
  Mfg. ID: 9727
  Suggested Retail: $74.95
  Related Link: Atlas O M&StL AAR Box Car
  PUBLISHED: Feb 11, 2012
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Atlas Model Railroad!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. All rights reserved.


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