Tuesday, August 15, 2023

The Elusive Single Sheathed Bx-35


I posted a short note on working with a photo of the Fe-U donor car three years ago, you can see it and the 1944 railroad map here: https://northbaylines.blogspot.com/2020/07/the-fe-u-and-1944-railroad-map-ive-had.html

This is the before photo

But I still didn’t have a full view of a Bx-35 in the ‘40’s.

The Santa Fe converted it’s 500 car Fe-U class of 50’ single sheathed 10’2” inside height double door Automobile Cars to single door box cars between December 1939 and 1943.  The conversion was a simple one, sealing the left hand door and extending the lining to the center door post.  All 500 cars had the “Automobile” lettering removed and were re-classed as Bx-35 in the 150001-150500 series: 431 Fe-U’s from the 66201-66700 series in 1940, 51 in the 67261-67311 series in 1942, and the final 17 engine carrying cars in the 6200-6217 series in 1943.

 Photos abound of Bx-35s after they were rebuilt with steel bodies in 1953-54, but are scarce as hen’s teeth after conversion, but before rebuilding.  When John Dobyne wrote his 2001 Santa Fe Boxcar book, the only available single sheathed photo was same the Fe-U builder’s photo used in Hendrickson’s 1997 Furniture and Automobile Boxcar book.  Ironically, that book did contain a partial view of a single sheathed Bx-35.  On page 80, the intro photo for the WWII period Auto Cars was a Jack Delano photo of Fe-22 7114 with a load of hay in front of the Kansas City Live Stock Exchange.  Tantalizingly coupled to its right is a partial view of Bx-35 150312.  Visible are the left three single sheathed panels and most of the sealed left hand door, but not the door hardware or center post. 



This evening, I was looking through some photos that I’d obtained from Stan Kistler for something else and discovered a Bx-35.  W.C. Whittaker captured ATSF 1261 about to come off the Muir trestle westbound and enter Valley Division tunnel 2 on 14 April 1946.  When I enlarged the photo to look at the locomotive’s tunnel smoke deflector, my eyes drifted back along the consist to GN 46930 behind the tender with a tank car conveniently between it and the next car.  The tank gave a line of sight to the car number stenciled on the A end of the single sheathed apparently double door car, A.T.S.F. 150179.  I’m pretty sure Will wasn’t even thinking of the rare bird he bagged that post-war, mid-April day, and I don’t know if Stan noticed it either when he added it to his collection.  I certainly didn’t when I obtained a copy to get another view of the massive steel trestle.  But I’m grateful that they captured and preserved that rare piece of Santa Fe freight car history that day almost 80 years ago.  Sometimes you find the darndest things in the background. 


W.C. Whittaker Photo, Collection of Stan Kistler


John Barry

Lovettsville, VA

15 August 2023

78 years to the day after the Japanese people heard their Emperor’s voice as he broadcast an offer to surrender and end WWII.