Image credit: Flickr
Image credit: Flickr

Also called goods van, a boxcar is an enclosed railcar, typically 40 to 50 feet in length, used to transport freight. These cars are versatile and capable of lugging around varied loads: automobiles, livestock, coal, grains, military material, paper, fresh produce, etc. In fact, circus companies used boxcars for transporting supplies, workers and animals. The boxcar started as a basic wooden frame and graduated into all-steel designs, to haul heavier loads. The enclosed design, however, made it tough to transport living beings during summer.

Not equipped with windows, this railcar has a door with a sliding mechanism, for easy access and view. Other door designs were also in use to accommodate different loads, such as double doors (wide/large loads), end doors (automobiles), reefer (cold storage), stockcar (livestock), etc. The height varied too—for instance, the “hi-cube” car (89-foot high) was and is still used for carrying huge quantities of automobile parts. Custom designs such as the Wagon Top also existed.   

The no-ventilation design was to shield the content from weather and other external elements. The boxcar design’s inability to facilitate faster loading and unloading, along with the emergence of the much more versatile shipping container have made the car a dated transport wagon in the 21st century. Other cars that have contributed to boxcar’s decline are well car, refrigerator car, auto rack, etc.