The prototype is discussed in the Rolling Stock Reference Series – Volume Three, Furniture and Automobile Box Cars, pages 83-92. Santa Fe ordered 500 50-foot automobile cars from Pullman-Standard which were delivered in late 1941 and 1942, classed as FE-24. The design became the AAR standard box for 1942 with many other railroads using the same basic design. They had Murphy rectangular panel steel roofs, double Youngstown corrugated doors with staggered 14’6” openings. The ends were 5-5 Dreadnaught with W section corner posts. They had Ajax power hand brakes and bottom operated Type E couplers. The first 200 were equipped with steam and signal lines, marker brackets, and painted coach green for passenger express service. The Express cars numbered 10000-10199 and rode on Allied Full Cushion Pedestal trucks. The other cars numbered 10200-10499 were in the usual freight scheme for normal freight service. Of note for the review is that the sides were made up of 4 panels, 2 doors, and 7 panels.
In 1943, 100 of the freight FE-24s were moved to Express service. Then all of the express cars were renumbered 4100-4399 while the freight units remained 10300-10499. The express cars lost their maps and slogans at that time. The Allied Full Cushion trucks were prone to derailing, so they were replaced with Barber S-2 Stabilized or ASF A-3 trucks around 1943. In the mid-1960s, they were equipped with roller bearings.
In late 1948, FE-24s 10400-10499 were rebuilt with extended roots to accommodate Plymouth and Dodge auto bodies standing on end. Additional alterations were made through the years, but the 300 express cars remained as they were.
The Athearn car is a standard “shake the box” blue box Athearn car with molded on grabs and basic underbody. It has the correct roof, ends, and side panels and is a good 3’ representation of the Express FE-24. Athearn did produced the car with Allied and regular trucks and map and express paint schemes. It weighs 3.95 oz. compared to the 4.5 oz NMRA recommendation. An article on improving the Athearn car appeared in the October 1984 Model Railroader with a follow up by Richard Hendrickson in the September 1985 issue.
Thanks to Steve Sandifer for the review and photos.