Iconic Boxcars in N Scale: The ESM X58 and X72

The Prototype

The PRR X58 Boxcar

Between 1964 and 1966 the Pennsylvania Railroad embarked on an ambitious project to construct a fleet of new and more modern boxcars to allow older less reliable cars to be withdrawn, while also meeting the expectation of providing a cushioned ride for dry goods. Given the designation of X58, more than 2,500 examples of the type were produced. A further 100 examples were also built for the Lehigh Valley Railroad, which although a smaller road, was facing similar equipment issues. The type would live on into both the Penn Central and Conrail era, undergoing several design modifications to meet ever changing railroad requirements, such as the removal of roof walks once their use was outlawed. Many survived longer still, seeing Conrail’s split in 1999, with examples inherited by CSX finally being withdrawn from class one use in the mid-2000s.

The USRE X72 Boxcar

Following the merger between the PRR and New York Central to form the Penn Central system, the railroad found itself burdened with an overwhelming abundance of outdated and decrepit freight equipment. While late-era investments by the PRR such as the X58 were no doubt a lifesaver for the struggling system, they were not enough to keep the freight flowing on the now larger railroad. In 1972 the Penn Central placed an order with the US Railroad Manufacturing Company for a fleet of over 1000 new boxcars to supplement the more reliable members of their inherited fleet, allowing older and inefficient equipment to be sidelined. Much like the X58s, the new cars, designated as X72s, were inherited by Conrail upon Penn Central’s collapse, and following Conrail’s split in 1999, many found their way into further use with Canadian National and various leasing operators. Though becoming increasingly rare, the type can still be found in operation today.

The Models

Both the X58 and X72 have been released by Eastern Seaboard Models, a company with more than 30 years in the model railroad business, which specializes predominantly in east-coast railroad equipment in N and Z scale.

The PRR X58 Boxcar

In this release, the X58 has been made available in several later forms rather than in their “as delivered” appearance. These include accurate representations of how they appeared in both the Penn Central and Conrail eras. Typical of any car which operates through a transitional period, the X58 could be found scruffily patched while still bearing the color scheme of a previous operator. This has been replicated beautifully on these models! Early Penn Central cars still bearing the majority of their PRR livery have been made available in this release, along with former Penn Central examples patched and lettered for Conrail. Both patch jobs have been designed to replicate prototypes as found in research imagery, and look extremely convincing for their small size. The rough edges of the patched paint gives the (intentional) appearance of being hastily slapped on to allow the cars to remain in circulation, and the color tones on the ex-PRR example appear accurate as being close matches to the original, but not perfect, as was common with most patch jobs.

While the patch jobs are the show stoppers in this release, the more pristine paint schemes shouldn’t be overlooked. The “as refurbished” Penn Central scheme looks to be appropriately color-matched with the prototype, while the text and information labels appear sharply applied. Other “freshly painted” examples include several Conrail schemes of note, such as the Safety on Rails theatre car and cancer awareness car. The similar in appearance Milwaukee Road XL type has also been represented in this release.

Details which immediately stand out on these models include the finely etched car-end walkways – a feature seldom seen replicated to this degree in N scale – and the redundant roof walk piers, denoting one of the more drastic changes these cars underwent as their career progressed.

The USRE X72 Boxcar

Like the X58s, the USRE X72 has been made available wearing several appearances from throughout their lifespan. Examples include the original eye-catching Penn Central green, early and late Conrail “Can Opener” schemes, and the Canadian National scheme that can still be found on operating examples today. Interestingly, two Western Pacific variations have been made available, representing a group of the type which was leased to the WP in 1972.

Unlike the dramatic outside bracing of the X58, the X72 was constructed with a smooth sided exterior. ESM has taken great care to replicate the seams in the paneling with a level of scale subtlety that absolutely looks the part. Like the other members of their range, the X72 also features excellent see-through etched car end walkways, an appropriately positioned brake wheel, and full underside detail including brake lines and reservoirs.

Both cars are an absolute must-have for anyone modeling the northeast and midwest regions in the early modern era, but will also be right at home on layouts set further afield as these cars were known to show up across North America (and the Canadian National X72s will of course be right at home on any layouts set to the north!). Both cars are appropriate for scenarios based from the early 70s to the early to mid-2000s, but hey, if you model outside of this period, these cars are sure to still be an excellent addition to any fleet!

See the full selection here