HO-Scale Trains Resource
The Ugly Duckling
40ft. Baby Hi-Cube Box Cars
HO-Scale Plastic Models
The Most Common Is The Oddest
It appears from the research I did that what is the most commonly
produced model in HO-scale for the 40ft. Baby Hi-Cube is the least common prototype, which is not uncommon for the hobby.
The 40ft. Smooth-Side Plug-Door Hi-Cube that was first offered by Athearn and later had similar examples available in the
Bachmann, Lionel-HO, TYCO, and AHM lines seems to be the Union Pacific's homemade car, model BF-50-4, built in Omaha
The Pullman-Standard Smooth-Side Sliding-Door 40ft. Hy-Cube Box Car, produced currently only
by Hi-Tech Details as a flat stock plastic kit, is possibly the car with the most prototypical owners.
Athearn's Outside-Braced Sliding-Door 40ft. Hi-Cube Box Car appears to most closely resemble
a Southern Pacific prototype. It is also close in appearance to a car built by Pacific Car & Foundry in the early
'70s, again for SP and/or Cotton Belt.
Finally, Santa Fe's 40ft Hi-Cubes were built for them by Transco and appear similar to the
Athearn Smooth-Side model. The ATSF cars had a sliding door instead of the insulated plug door found on the Athearn
With respect to roadnames, most offerings in 1/87th will have difficulty finding their 1/1-scale
originals. My research suggests that ONLY the Union Pacific may have rostered the Smooth-Side Plug-Door 40ft. Hi-Cube
Box Car. Many of the Athearn models, like the IC and CB&Q, are close but should perhaps actually be sliding-door
Pullman-Standard models. Others such as the passenger livery Rio Grande from Bachmann, The Rock from Lionel-HO
and AHM's yellow Chessie System are more at home behind a TYCO Chattanooga Choo-Choo, than operating on a strictly prototype
What's That Name Again...Hy...Hi...High?
Over the years and especially while looking into these models for
this information, I kept finding different ways that company's refer to these cars. Some call 'em Hy-Cubes...to
others they are Hi-Cubes...and still others label them High Cubes. What is correct?
Actually, all three may be accurate depending on who you might be talking to about them. Going by the ads placed in
the 1966 edition of the Car and Locomotive Cyclopedia, all three names are used by three different manufacturers. Pullman-Standard
calls their cars Hy-Cubes. Thrall calls theirs Hi-Cubes. Greenville
uses High Cube in its ad.
The labeling lines may blur a bit in HO-scale. Athearn did and does call their 40ft.
smooth-side plug-door a Hi-Cube, though it may be closer to the Union Pacific-prototype, it is stated as being based on a
Thrall original in a 1969 edition of Railroad Model Craftsman. Hi-Tech Details uses Hy-Cube and their model is stated
and does match the Pullman-Standard example. AHM used the full High in its labeling.
Below is a picture from the 1970 Car and Locomotive Cyclopedia of the UP car, which was a BF-50-4
model by Uncle Pete's description. Union Pacific also had a smooth side sliding door model, which was their B-50-55
model. The smooth side slider, B-50-55, may be found in Morning Sun Books' Union Pacific Color Guide to Freight
Cars Volume I by Lloyd Stagner and Robert J. Yanosey on page 31. A color pic of the smooth side plug door Union
Pacific is found in the second volume by Lou Schmitz on page 9 of the Morning Sun series, this again was UP's BF-50-4
Athearn 2007 Ready-To-Roll Series Release
This first offering of the 40ft. Hi-Cube Box Car in Athearn's Ready-To-Roll series includes
a pair of roadnumbers for each of the six roadnames produced. Tooling on the car's shell and underframe is the
same as former found in Athearn's blue box kit examples. The R-T-R Hi-Cubes feature Athearn's newer Roller
Bearing trucks with 36" metal wheels. The prototype was not a 100-ton car and thus would not have to be put on 36" wheels,
though they do look good on the model. Actual examples of the Union Pacific prototype often show it riding on older
friction-bearing trucks that had been adapted to roller bearing specs.
The underframe weight is painted black. Each car retails for $16.98 in the R-T-R release.
The roadnames chosen by Athearn for this 2007 R-T-R release have all been among blue box kit
offerings in the past. As you'll see in comparing this new run with the older Blue Box examples further down the
page, Athearn has enhanced the paint schemes on this new release.
The appearance of the Santa Fe Hi-Cube in the new Athearn RTR offering is enhanced with a black
roof, ends and sill.
The Union Pacific RTR Hi-Cube features silver colored trucks that enhance its appearance.
Athearn Blue Box 40ft. Hi-Cube Box Cars
Athearn is first to the HO-scale plastic model train market with
its pair of 40ft. Hi-Cube Box Cars in late 1969. The February 1970 Model Railroader includes mention of the cars in
its Trade Topics section. Model Railroader states that the prototype for all four (86' 4-door; 86' 8-door; 40' plug-door;
and 40' sliding door) Hi-Cubes are from Thrall originals. Inspection of Union Pacific's home-built cars of the '60s
seems to suggest that perhaps the Athearn model may more closely resemble the UP prototype over any Thrall examples.
It is noted that the original Athearn 40' Hi-Cube kits included the first offerings of the company's working roller bearing
The initial Athearn Ugly Ducklings were each produced in six roadnames,
Athearn Smooth-Side Plug-Door 40ft. Hi-Cube Box Car
Athearn also introduced the Outside-Braced Sliding-Door 40ft. Hi-Cube Box Car at the same time.
This car was issued originally in six roadnames (B&O, SSW, GN, PC, SCL, SP) and Undecorated too.
My understanding is that this car's prototype is the SP/SSW B-70-36 class box car. To date, I do not know of any owners
beyond the SP/SSW for this example.
AHM 40ft. Hi-Cube Box Cars
AHM's 40ft. Hi-Cube Box Car was made in Taiwan and
carries AHM's name and Made in Taiwan on its underframe. I do not find it among listings in AHM catalogs, nor does it
seem to appear in the company's many magazine ads for freight car offerings. To date, I've seen the AHM example dressed for
Burlington, Chessie System, and Union Pacific. My guess is AHM had the car in its line sometime around 1980.
The yellow Chessie System is the unique decoration of AHM's offerings. The AHM CB&Q and UP cars are near duplicates
of the Bachmann models with respect to both tooling and lettering.
For more AHM information, check out my AHM HO-Scale Trains Resource...
AHM HO-Scale Trains Resource
Bachmann 40ft. Hi-Cube Box Cars
Everyone remembers those great shots of Rio Grande's Yampa Valley
Mail being pulled by an Alco PA with an RPO, that odd ex-C&O Dome-Obs and the omnipresent 40ft. D&RGW Baby Hi-Cube
that delivered appliances to rural parts of northwestern Colorado, right? Okay, so Bachmann did take a few liberties
with decorating its 40ft. Hi-Cube Box Cars. Can't decide which is better looking this Rio Grande example or maybe the
Jade Green NYC?
Bachmann does not currently, but did until recently include their 40ft. Hi-Cube Box Car in
the company's Silver Series line of freight cars. The Silver Series Hi-Cube, like other models in the line, features
body mounted knuckle couplers and nicely tooled roller bearing style trucks with blackened metal wheels.
Produced for Lionel's 1970s HO-scale line of model trains by Kader in Hong Kong,
this 40ft. Hi-Cube Box Car is the insulated plug-door model also sold by Bachmann. Kader is Bachmann's parent company.
Lionel-HO examples include the company's name on the model's underframe and made in Taiwan and/or R.O.C. for origin mark information.
Lionel's other roadname offering was Union Pacific, which was later found in the Bachmann line.
TYCO 40ft. Hi-Cube Box Cars
Examining shells, TYCO may be the one who didn't do its
homework and simply copied off Athearn. TYCO's 40ft. Hi-Cube Box Car most closely matches the basic design and tooling
of the Athearn model. TYCO did initially offer cars with open steps, but soon "improved" its tooling with filled-in
steps. The TYCO model is a one-piece shell with separate brake wheel. The car's underframe snaps into the body
shell and is held by four tabs. Two tabs per side each fit into slots cut into the car's shell. TYCO
offered this car in three roadnames (Illinois Central Gulf, Soo Line, and Union Pacific). TYCO's unique approach to
decorating its rolling stock provided this rather bloated UP shield on its Baby Hi-Cube, as seen in the above image.
TYCO catalogs its 40ft. Hi-Cube Box Car from 1978-1982, however in its Chug-Chug Sound variation it survives through
the end of TYCO train offerings in 1993.
See TYCO's 40ft. Hi-Cube Box Car offerings
TYCO utilized its 40ft. Hi-Cube Box Car for its infamous Chug-Chug
Sound in Box Car (No.902) accessory. Packaged frequently with TYCO's Chattanooga Choo-Choo sets, this Baby Hi-Cube included
a large wheel in its belly that was filled with rocks. As the car rolled along and spun the wheel, the rocks produced
a chug-chug steam engine-like sound to the less discerning ear. The car was first decorated with TYCO's 40ft. Reefer
Baby Ruth scheme. You'll notice the paint job doesn't quite make it all the way up this excess height car. In
the '90s at the end of TYCO's train offerings, the Chug-Chug Sound Box Car was back with Ralston-Purina's checkboard pattern.
See TYCO's Chug-Chug Sound in Box Car