Eastern Seaboard Models U.S. Railway Equipment Class X72 Boxcar

Published: 2021-02-26 - By: CNW400
Last updated on: 2021-02-28
visibility: Public - Headline
In November 2020, Eastern Seaboard Models (ESM) expanded their USRE X72 collection with the addition of the Canadian National and Conrail railroad systems. The USRE X72 was a general service boxcar built for the Penn Central and Western Pacific railroads in the early-1970’s. After the dissolution of the Penn Central in 1976, most of these cars were absorbed by Conrail (Consolidated Rail Corporation) and later purchased by the Canadian National and short-lines with the breakup of Conrail in 1999. Since then these boxcars appear to have been either scrapped or sold to private lines located in the southern United States and Mexico.

Road Names and Pricing

The Eastern Seaboard Models USRE X72 & X72A Boxcar series is comprised of four different paint schemes. The road names represented in this collection include:

Stock NumberRailroadRoad NumberReleasedMSRP
228101Penn CentralPC 269274Sep 2019$43.45
228102Penn CentralPC 269362Sep 2019$43.45
228103Penn CentralPC 229465Sep 2019$43.45
228201Western PacificWP 4056Sep 2019$43.45
228202Western PacificWP 4059Sep 2019$43.45
228301ConrailCR 269157Nov 2020$47.45
228302ConrailCR 269252Nov 2020$47.45
228303ConrailCR 269962Nov 2020$47.45
228401Canadian NationalCN 416381Nov 2020$47.45
228402Canadian NationalCN 416484Nov 2020$47.45

My review includes observations of Canadian National #416381 (ESM stock number 228401).

Prototype History

After the formation of the Penn Central Transportation Company in 1968, the railroad found itself with an abundance of outdated rolling stock and dilapidated equipment from its predecessors: The Pennsylvania Railroad, New York Central Railroad and New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. Other than the inherited X58 boxcars from the Pennsylvania Railroad, they needed a rejuvenation of new equipment to keep the infant company viable.

In 1972 and 1973, the Penn Central ordered 1,074 newly designed 50-foot X72 & X72A boxcars from the U.S. Railway Equipment Company (a subsidiary of Evans Railcars) of Blue Island, Illinois. These cars were built primarily for the Penn Central under lease agreement and delivered in the familiar Deepwater green paint scheme. The Penn Central’s initial order in 1972 of 574 boxcars of the X72 design featured smooth, 12-panel welded sides and a 9’ 8” tall, 6-panel Superior door. One of the benefits of this high door allowed forklifts and other equipment to easily load and unload cargo. The following year the Penn Central ordered another 500 of a slightly larger designed X72A boxcar. The Western Pacific Railroad also leased a group of Tuscan red X72 cars in 1972.

Blue Island shares its northern boundary with Chicago and is located 16 miles south of the Chicago Loop. Blue Island is famously known as the home of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad (Rock Island) from 1852 until the railroad’s demise in 1980. Metra Rail, a commuter rail system in the Chicago metropolitan area, has operated on the old Rock Island tracks since the mid-1980’s and maintains the Blue Island Vermont Street station - a brick depot build by the Rock Island Railroad in 1868. The U.S. Railway Equipment Company built and serviced railcars at their Blue Island facility from 1954 to 1978.

A distinguished characteristic of the USRE X72 is the signature flat roof with circa 1970 Stanray X-panel pattern. The roof is absent of running boards that were no longer required on new railcars built after 1966. All running boards had to be removed from older rolling stock originally by 1974 but that date was later extended to 1983 to allow removal during normal maintenance cycles. The boxcar also sports 4x4 Stanray Dreadnaught ends and a low mounted modern hand brake (appears to be either a Miner or Equipco model).

The railcar runs on 70-ton rolling bearing trucks and 33” wheels. The use of rolling bearing trucks on new freight cars has been mandatory since 1968.

When these cars became the property of Conrail in 1976, the boxcars retained their Penn Central numbers while receiving ‘CR’ reporting marks. The X72 railcars either received a complete Conrail paint job with the ‘ Can-Opener” logo or simply received a patch job. A famous variant of the Conrail X-72 boxcar was the “Buy And Hold US Savings Bonds” scheme with star clusters on the car door.

When Canadian National (CN) purchased these cars in the late 1990’s, they were painted boxcar red with white lettering. Several prototype images of these CN cars are available online but most are sadly covered with graffiti and other forms of vandalism.

The Model

The ready-to-run boxcar comes packaged in a clear plastic jewel case with a slip-off cover and a two-piece plastic cradle to cushion the model. The model information is clearly labeled on the end of the case for ease to locate when in storage. I personally prefer the larger-style cases for protection and ease of identification. I did find the folded cardboard tab with the ESM logo annoying when trying to remove the model from its case.

Slip-Off Acrylic Box

The paint job is crisp and even along the entire single color injection molded plastic body. The Canadian National car is painted boxcar red with white and black printing. Lettering is clear and the majority of small characters are neat and legible with magnification. The most diminutive lettering does not appear to have the same sharpness seen on recent Atlas and Athearn releases. The color, placement, font and size of printing is very similar to that found on the prototype images.

One freight car marking that needs explanation is the ‘Plate C’ designation located to the right of the road number. Plate markings indicate if a railcar's outside dimensions falls within a standard cross-section. Freight cars are assigned Plates B, C, E, or F - a square with the appropriate letter is stenciled on the side panel. Plate C indicates a car height of 15′ 6″, which is standard for the majority of boxcars, covered hoppers and center-beam flatcars.

Clean Paint - Proper Railcar Markings - Smallest Print Not as Sharp as Other Brands
Disappointed with Molded Ladders

Each side features a 9’ 8” 6-panel Superior door, a smooth-side 12-panel configuration (6x6), stirrup steps and two half-ladder at opposite ends of the car - the exact configuration found on other CN 416000 number series prototype images. Extra fine detail is exhibited with raised panel seams. Although I admit I didn’t select the sexiest model to review (I have a soft-spot for CN - living near one of their lines in Northern Illinois), the model fails to ‘come alive’. The model has a very flat appearance - the addition of separately applied ladders and sharper door details may have added some ‘oomph’ to a $48 model.

Etched Metal Walkway - Extended Body-Mounted MTL Coupler

Furthermore, the sides of the model feature simulated white reflective dots at regular intervals along the bottom of the panels. White (or yellow) markings are situated on a piece of rolling stock to reflect the headlights of a vehicle. All railroads have adopted the practice of applying reflective stripes to their equipment with the Santa Fe instituting the idea back in 1971. The ARR mandated that all in service railcars have reflective markings by January 1,2014. This ESM model has a built year of 1972 with a repaint date of 1998.

4/4 Stanray Dreadnaught Ends

Both ends feature two molded half height ladders, tack board, finely etched metal car-end walkways and prototype correct 4/4 Stanray Dreadnaught ends. A separately applied low mounted hand brake sits above the platform on one end. Again the lettering is neat and in proper arrangement with the road marker & road number located at the top right corner of each end.

X-panel Roof Configuration

The barren Stanray metal X-panel roof features a flat 9-section pattern. The underframe has an elaborate pipe arrangement with highly detailed features such as the brake cylinder, braking system components, stringers and cross bearers. These underframe features are visible when the car is on the tracks and offers a realistic railroad scene (see below). The boxcar rides along 70-ton ASF (American Steel Foundries) Ride Control roller-bearing trucks and blackened metal wheels. Although the ESM branded wheels are considered ‘blackened’ they are much too shiny and silver looking for my taste. Finally the model is equipped with brown extended draft gear body-mounted Micro-Trains Line (MTL) Magne-Matic couplers. The minimum recommended radius is 10-inches.

Complex Underframe Detail

Visible Underside Detail Including Brake Lines and Reservoirs

The car is 3 7/8 inches in length and weighs about 1.1 ounces, which is perfect according to the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) recommendations (which are 1.1 - 1.2 ounces for this size car). I found it a below average runner while testing the car on Kato Unitrack. The boxcar had the impression of being dragged along the track instead of rolling freely. I also experienced some wobbling at slow and medium speeds through turnouts and around curves. This is the first ESM boxcar I have owned - so to be fair - Kato Unitrack may not be the optimum track system for these low profile wheels sets. The wobbling could also be attributed to the extended body mounted couplers. In the future I will change the wheel sets to a different brand to hopefully alleviate the performance and appearance issues.


Overall the Eastern Seaboard Models U.S. Railway Equipment Class X72 Boxcar offers a good presentation - flawless paint job, exceptional printing, some attractive details (i.e. metal walkways and underside parts) and prototype accurate depiction. My main concerns were the performance of the shiny metal wheels and the lack attention to ladder & door details - sharper elements and separately applied ladders would help to justify the lofty $48 price tag and make the model come more dynamic...if it is your ‘thing’ - maybe adding graffiti like the modern prototype cars can add a little needed enhancement. With some tweaking these railcars may be a decent runner for those modeling the early 1970’s to present. For now, mine will sit on a siding awaiting a move to a freight car shop for maintenance - just gotta keep those pesky kids with their spray paint cans away!

To see a list of all cars in this series, Click Here.

About the Author

CNW400 became enamored with trains while watching the ‘Green & Yellow’ double-decker cars clad with shiny green windows (C&NW) rumble by his childhood house in Chicago. His first train set was the Tyco Bicentennial model in 1976. Furthermore, he is also a collector of railroadiana focusing on lanterns, locks & keys and insulators.