Since the time of the Model T, railroads have played a role in getting automobiles to market. For the first half of the twentieth century, that generally involved automobile boxcars, usually with wide doors and often with end doors as well. But with a capacity of only about four autos, the boxcar was just slightly more economical than an over-the-road auto carrier, which could hold as many or more autos and deliver them right to a dealer’s door.
By 1957, railroads’ percentage of new-car shipments had slipped to a low of less than 10%. That year marked a turning point, however, as the Canadian National Railway fielded an experimental, enclosed 78’ bilevel car that held eight vehicles and had drive-on, drive off capability. The following year, Volkswagen introduced open bi-level cars in Europe that could carry 10 new VWs. The era of bi-level and tri-level open autoracks was born, and railroads’ share of new-car shipments began to climb.
What followed was a decade of experimentation, as railroads and car manufacturers worked together to bring shipping costs down and make the distribution process more efficient. When open auto racks proved prone to vandalism and parts theft, protective sides were added to the open cars, and then end doors and roofs. By 1974, the auto carrier had evolved to the format that continues today: a fully enclosed, extra-height car, about 85’ or longer, with two or three drive-on/drive-off decks, perforated side panels, and full-height end doors. Auto carriers introduced in the past few years can be changed quickly from two decks to three, improving the ability of the railroads
to adapt to changes in car production. And where earlier auto carriers could serve only a specific car maker, because each brand used a different type of tie-down to prevent cars from shifting, the introduction of adjustable wheel chocks has made the entire rail fleet more versatile. From its low in the late 1950s, the railroads’ share of the car business has climbed to 70% of U.S. new vehicle shipments today.
MTH Premier O Scale freight cars are the perfect complement to any manufacturer’s scale proportioned O Gauge locomotives. Whether you prefer to purchase cars separately or assemble a unit train, MTH Premier Rolling Stock has the cars for you in a variety of car types and paint schemes.
Virtually every sturdy car is offered in two car numbers which makes it even easier than ever to combine them into a mult-car consist. Many of MTH’s Premier Rolling Stock offerings can also operate on the tightest O Gauge curves giving them even more added versatitlity to your layout.