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A boxcar is a freight car which is used for storing general merchandise goods for shipping long distance or for local, private customers. Various commodities or goods such as paper rolls, autoparts, and (in some cases) refridgerated goods.
SOU Waffle Boxcar

A Southern (SOU) "waffle" boxcar.

Other forms of boxcars include livestock cars, reefers (refridgerated boxcars), and bunk cars. In other dialects, they are referred to as box wagons, box vans, goods vans, and etc.


The boxcar has always been regarded as the workhorse of the freight car fleet. Offering better protection than flatcars, they have hauled everything from lumber to livestock. The first boxcars appeared during the dawn of railroading in the 1830's, and consisted of a basic frame enclosed entirely out of wooden walls and a wooden roof, and was mounted on two four-wheeled trucks. Sliding doors on each side covered an opening of about 6 feet, while the overall length of the average car at the time only spanned about 30 feet in length in contrast to today's modern 50 to 60 foot boxcars. In the early 1900's, the length was extended to 36 feet in length, and could carry about 40 tons.

While boxcars were used for carrying entire loads from point to point, they were also used from "less than carload lot" (LCL) shipments. During the first half of the 20th century, literally every town throughout the United States (as well as parts of Canada and Mexico) had a freight house which was used for shipping and delivering various amounts of cargo such as mail, high priority packages, and even ammunition during both World Wars. If one were to order a package from a department or retail store, said package would be loaded in a specific boxcar and delivered to the destination near the approximate address. Railroads initially served the same purpose as companies like UPS until after World War II.
Old Wooden Boxcar

A preserved early wooden boxcar.

Trivia/Facts Edit

The Boxcar Children series, by Gertrude Chandler Warner features a wooden boxcar extensively.