Athearn Trains 50-Foot SIECO Box Car

Published: 2023-03-06 - By: CNW400
Last updated on: 2023-02-28
visibility: Public - Headline

The Prototype

The Ashley, Drew & Northern Railway (ADN) was a Class III railroad that operated from 1912 thru 1996. Class III railroads are short-line companies operating on a limited amount of track – usually serving small towns or hauling and switching cars for other rail companies. Class III railroads by definition must have an annual operating revenue of $42.3 million or less (2021 level announced by the Surface Transportation Board on June 23, 2022 Currently there are nearly 600 short-lines active in the United States – the largest number of participants of the three rail classifications. The ADN operated on 40.7 miles of track between Crossett and Monticello, Arkansas.

The roots of the railroad date back to 1905 when the Crossett Lumber Company built a ten-mile line to haul lumber and logs. In 1912 the lumber company sold their interests in the rail line to the Crossett, Monticello & Northern Railroad. Only five months later in August 1912, the newly incorporated Ashley, Drew and Northern purchased the old lumber line and completed the connection from Crossett to Monticello in July 1913.

The fortunes of the small railway changed for the better during the mid-1930s. The lumber and log hauler connected with the Missouri Pacific Railroad at Monticello and with the Rock Island Railroad at Whitlow Junction. Business grew for all three lines with the Crossett Chemical Company built in 1934 and the construction of the Crossett Paper Mill in 1937. Furthermore, the Chase Paper Bag Company opened a plant in Crossett in 1945 and several large customers built along the Ashley, Drew & Northern trackage during the 1950s – including Crossett Concrete Products, Simplex Paper, Bemis Brothers Bag Company, and Textile Paper Products.

By 1960, Crossett, Arkansas – a quaint community of barely 6,000 residents nestled amongst the pine forests in the southeast corner of the state near Louisiana - was an industry leader in producing kraft paper, flakeboard, food cartons and plywood. This fact caught the eye of mega conglomerate Georgia-Pacific (GP).

Georgia-Pacific was founded in 1927 with its headquarters located in Atlanta, Georgia. It is a global manufacturer and distributor of wood pulp, paper, paper towels, building materials, chemicals, and toilet & nose tissue products. On July 31, 1963, Georgia-Pacific acquired the Ashley, Drew & Northern Railway along with the Crossett Lumber Company.

Georgia-Pacific controlled the Ashley, Drew & Northern for the next thirty-three years, keeping the railway based in Crossett. Throughout the 1970s, the railroad continued to haul chemical tanks, pulp & woodchip cars, and boxcars filled with paper & hardwood products. During its peak years, the Ashley, Drew & Northern maintained a fleet of over 2,000 pieces of rolling stock. Their most beloved railcar was the 50-foot boxcar painted in Tedder Green paint with white letters and the pine tree “Serving Southern Forests” emblem. The paint scheme was named after Russell Tedder, who was the Director of Corporate Rail Services and President of Short-Lines for the Georgia-Pacific Corporation from 1976-1997. It was under his direction that the railroad freshened their ‘image and look’ during the latter part of the 1970s.

As the 1980s progressed, troubles emerged for the short-line. First, Georgia-Pacific began to use tree length wood instead of pulpwood at their processing mills. Trucks were assigned the duty of hauling logs while the movement of pulpwood on the rails experienced a sharp decline. Additionally, extensive maintenance was needed on the AD&N trackage – improper grading and steep grades with tight curves made for a slow ride that was becoming too expensive to maintain. Thus in 1991, Georgia-Pacific purchased the rights of the Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi Railroad (ALM). Better maintained and easier to navigate, Georgia-Pacific began to transfer traffic to the 53-mile ALM Railroad --- making the Ashley, Drew & Northern inadequate. (Note: Georgia-Pacific sold the ALM to Genesee & Wyoming in 2004)

In June 1996, the Georgia-Pacific was granted permission by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to abandon 35 miles of track and sell the remaining 5.7 miles between Whitlow Junction and Crossett to the Fordyce and Princeton Railroad…marking the end of over 80 years of service provided by the Ashley, Drew & Northern Railway.

Southern Iron & Equipment Company (SIECO) of Atlanta, GA jumped onto the Incentive-Per-Diem (IPD) boxcar construction bandwagon in the early 1970s with a 50-foot steel car. SIECO was founded in 1903, their primary business was to recondition older locomotives for resale, while also acting as a repair facility for various railroad companies. Spotting featuring for the SIECO boxcar include:
  • Eight-Panels on Each Side of Door
  • Plate B Clearance
  • Improved Dreadnaught Ends
  • Straight Bottom Sill from Bolster to Bolster with a Reinforcement Channel Under Doors
  • Gaps Between the Walls and Roof of Boxcar
  • Standard Railway Equipment Co. (Stanray) X-Panel Roof
The early 1970’s found the American railroad with a unique predicament – a shortage of general service boxcars to handle rail traffic demand... and a great deal of boxcars that were available were deemed out-of-date. One of the contributing factors to this problem was the low per diem rate (the daily fee a railroad paid the car owner when online). The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) hoped to incentivize the construction of new rolling stock with the approval of a higher per diem rate making ownership of a boxcar more financial appealing – thus the formation of the Incentive-Per-Diem (IPD) boxcar.

The boxcars manufactured during the IPD era had a basic 50-foot, external-post design with 10-foot sliding doors, 70-ton capacity and Plate B or Plate C clearance. Plate markings indicate if a railcar outside dimensions falls within a standard cross-section. Freight cars are assigned Plates B, C, E or F – the plate size of a car is stenciled on the side panel. The Plate B designation, first used in 1948, has the smallest basic dimensions (maximum exterior height 15’-1” and width 10’8”) and can run anywhere in North America without road clearance authorization for tunnels and bridges. Plate C cars are slightly taller with a maximum height of 15’-6” and can run safely on about 95% of North American routes.

Road Names and Pricing

Released in August 2022, Athearn Model Trains expanded their 50-foot Southern Iron & Equipment Co. (SIECO) boxcar collection with six paint schemes. Originally announced in June 2021, these fully assembled models are a flashback to the colorful boxcar Incentive Per Diem days of the 1970s. Athearn Trains is the only model company to release the SIECO 50-Foot boxcar in N Scale. The road names included in the recent series are:
  • Ashley Drew & Northern
  • Atlantic & Washington (Hutchinson Northern - Primed for Grime)
  • Boston & Maine
  • Canadian Pacific (Primed for Grime)
  • Norfolk & Western
  • Virginia Central
Individual cars were released with a suggested retail price of $29.99 and $34.99 for the ‘Primed for Grime’ versions. ‘Primed for Grime’ paint finishes have faded colors and patches that replicate real-life wear-n-tear on the rails. These boxcars are perfect candidates for weathering. My review includes observations of Athearn Trains (ATH22372) - Ashley, Drew & Northern #7735.

The Model

The ready-to-run boxcar came packaged in a plastic jewel case with a slip-off cover and a thick two-piece clear plastic cradle to support the model. The model information is clearly printed on the end of the case for ease to locate when in storage. A thin plastic sleeve was wrapped around the car to protect the model from scuffmarks. No additional parts were found inside the case.

The sides of the model closely resemble a prototypical Southern Iron & Equipment Company 50-foot steel railcar with 10-foot-tall Rail Car Specialties (RCS) 6-panel non-functioning doors. RCS doors varied in panel numbers and width configuration to better suit individual customer needs. Furthermore, the Athearn model exhibits the proper 8-panel and 8-exterior rib post pattern on each side of the door that is associated with the SIECO boxcar.

The Athearn railcar also features prototypical correct low mounted placard boards, four-rung grab irons and stirrup steps on each end of the boxcar. The sides have the characteristic SIECO squared, straight bottom sill from bolster to bolster with a small support sill mounted under the door opening sections.

The paint job is neat and vibrant in Tedder Green with a white door and white lettering. All lettering and images are crisp and sharp and (with a few exceptions) in the proper location when compared to real life prototype photographs of boxcars ADN 7733 & ADN 7735. Lease data and safety instructions (‘Secure Both Clasps...’ - ‘Do Not Move Car...’ - ‘When Empty Return to ADN...’) are legible and in correct position. The Athearn model also features the era correct ACI tag. The KarTrak ACI tag was a color-coded 13 horizontal bar label designed to help identify rolling stock and locomotives with optical scanners located trackside. This assisted with pinpointing the exact location of equipment and shipper’s cargo. designation marking. Lastly the boxcar is assigned with the proper XM classification - an XM class boxcar is designated for general service and equipped with either side or side & end doors.

Unfortunately, if you are hoping for a fully prototypical railcar – we have a few errors when comparing the Athearn model to the photos found of ADN 7733 & ADN 7735 taken in October 1977. First, the load capacity data is different on the model and true-life cars (CAPY, LD LMT and LT WT). Secondly, the prototype cars have a large U.S. Equipment Company builder's logo (American map) stamped on the bottom sill – missing on the model. Additionally, the prototype has a NEW date of 6-77, while the Athearn car shows a date of 7-77. Those might be a little ‘nit-picky’ for me to point out...but the most egregious error is the fact that the Ashley, Drew & Northern boxcars from the Athearn collection are NOT SIECO railcars but instead a batch of cars built by U.S. Equipment Company (USEC) of Blue Island, IL. The USEC built 150 5,077 cubic-foot boxcars in 1977 for the ADN (road numbers 7650-7799) ...thus explains the discrepancies from above and why the Athearn model has the wrong car ends when compared to the prototype. The Athearn model does feature the correct Improved Dreadnought pattern found on other railroad SIECO 50-foot boxcars. The true-life ADN 7735 has a 3/3 corrugated pattern with a split or bifurcated rib shape and a safety cross-over railing that runs the entire width of the end. Again, splitting hairs – but not a true prototypical piece if that is your contentment (Image Source:

The Athearn model and prototype cars do share the same low-mounted Ajax hand brake and placard board on each end. Along with a three rung grab iron pattern and road markings neatly displayed in the upper right corner.

The top of the boxcar displays a smoothly painted silver ‘X-pattern’ Stanray eleven-panel non-overhanging metal roof. The model also features the proper raised roof panel line with no running boards - running boards were not mandatory on new equipment built after 1966 with a target date of 1974 to have running boards removed from all rolling stock. The deadline was extended to 1983 to allow removal during normal maintenance cycles.

The highly detailed underframe has an intricate AB brake system arrangement with features such as the brake cylinder, brake reservoir, control valve and brake rod. The boxcar is fitted with screw mounted 70-ton trucks with blackened machined metal wheels. Lastly, the model is equipped with proper height body mounted McHenry knuckle spring couplers.

The car is 3 7/8 inches in length and weighs 1.4 ounces, which is a tad heavy according to the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) recommendations (which is about 1.1 - 1.2 ounces for this size car). In my hand the car felt strong and sturdy – nice solid construction. I found it a well-balanced runner while testing the car on Kato Unitrack with no issues around curves or through turnouts at slow and medium speeds. The recommended minimum operating radius is 9 3⁄4" for both Code 55 and 80 rails.

In conclusion there are two paths we can stroll down...One, the Athearn 50-Foot SIECO Boxcar model is a beautiful car. Excellent paint and printing job with bright colors faithfully representing the IPD boxcar days. Solid construction, well-balanced and some fine detail parts.

On the other hand, not all road names in this collection are true SIECO protype boxcars...incorrect end cap configurations and confusion on which railroads in the Athearn collection are SIECO built cars or actually U.S. Equipment Company products (with USEC builder stamps shown on protype images for ADN and others). Looking for a pretty, well-made 50-foot boxcar representing the 1970 IPD years – this model is a winner. If are you seeking prototypical correct equipment – then buyer beware and do your research before you purchase.

TroveStar Database

To see a list of all cars in this series, CLICK HERE

Photo Credits

A. Wolcott, Marion Post, photographer. Unloading logs at paper mill in Lincoln, New Hampshire. Mar. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

B. Wolcott, Marion Post, photographer. Pulp wood at paper mill. Berlin, New Hampshire. Mar. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, .

C. Vachon, John, photographer. Paper mill. West Point, Virginia. Mar. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, .

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.