Re: Boxcar Production During the WWII Years

Tony Thompson

Todd Horton wrote:
I ran across something that caught my interest. During the WWII era there were boxcars produced using both steel and wood siding. The "war emergency" boxcars that I was interested in were single sheathed 40' cars built in 1944. It had never dawned on me that there were steel side cars being produced during this same year. What was the reason for the "war emergency" cars being built with wood sides vs. steel cars being built the same year? I would have assumed the war production board (WPB) would have had a say so in the construction techniques during this era. The WPD wasn't dissolved until Nov 1945.
There is no question that steel supplies were considerably better in the course of 1944, as a number of things (not only railroads) point that way. But remember the WPB would okay orders even in the shortage for anything regarded as a critical need, such as steam and diesel locomotives for impacted roads. They approved an order of all-steel reefers for PFE at a time when a steel boxcar order for SP was turned down (actually, "put on hold," which at the time usually meant, "don't call us, we'll call you"). By late 1944, all kinds of car orders were being approved, and of course it was no secret the war was on the way to being won (back in late 1943, the Liberty ship program was renamed Victory ships), so the sense of crisis was definitely past. Military activity continued at a high level (Normandy was in June), but both in Europe and the Pacific, the Allies were on the offensive and their opponents definitely in retreat.

PFE designed its R-40-20 class in late 1943 with WPB approval, and drawings were completed in January 1944. Paperwork needed for authority to place the order held up placement until May, but WPB approval was granted, subject to steel availability. It took the carbuilder awhile to assemble materials, and construction began in the fall.

Tony Thompson Editor, Signature Press, Berkeley, CA
2906 Forest Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705
(510) 540-6538; fax, (510) 540-1937; e-mail, tony@...
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