Atlas Master Line 40-Foot PS-1 Box Car

Published: 2023-04-01 - By: CNW400
Last updated on: 2023-04-13
visibility: Public - Headline

Prototype Information

Tired, Poor & Weary … Two Pony & Wagon ... Tired, Proven & Willing are just some of the undesirable epithets given to the Toledo, Peoria & Western Railway (TP&W). A short line railroad servicing the Midwest with a long history and hapless story.

Its tale began in the farming town of Peoria, Illinois – located in the central part of the state about 170 miles southwest of Chicago. With a desire to grow the economy of the community, a plan was devised to connect Peoria with the Mississippi River. The first four miles of westward track was laid in 1853. At the same time, a subsidiary of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (CB&Q) named the Peoria & Oquawka Eastern Railroad began construction east of Peoria completing its link to Effner, Indiana in 1859. In 1861, Peoria & Oquawka Eastern was renamed the Logan, Peoria & Burlington (LP&B) Railroad. Falling on challenging times financially, the LP&B went into foreclosure in 1864 and reemerged as the Toledo, Peoria & Warsaw Railroad – with the intention of completing the 105 miles of track that had begun westward and meeting the Mississippi River on the banks of Warsaw, Illinois. The railroad reached the mighty river in 1868.

Quickly the new railroad realized the possibility of greater interchange opportunities with a destination seven miles north to Hamilton, Illinois and crossing the river into the town of Keokuk, Iowa. The TP&W started construction in 1869 of a 2,190-foot bridge for rail, horse-buggy and pedestrian traffic from Hamilton over into Iowa. This allowed a connection with both the CB&Q and Rock Island Railroads near Keokuk. The bridge was completed in 1871 and rebuilt in 1915 as a double-deck rail and highway span bridge. The Hamilton-Keokuk Bridge still stands today and handles rail traffic.

Consequently, with the move away from Warsaw, the line was reincorporated as the Toledo, Peoria & Western Railroad in 1879 and leased to the Wabash the following year. This partnership was brief as the Wabash fell into receivership in 1884. The TP&W severed their ties with the Wabash and became known as the Toledo, Peoria & Western Railway in July 1887.

Later during the summer of 1887, the TP&W was involved in a horrific passenger train wreck that left 85 people dead. On August 10th, the Niagara Falls excursion train left Peoria - consisting of two engines, seventeen coach cars and an estimated 500 passengers - plunged down an embankment along the Vermillion River just outside the town of Chatsworth, Illinois. The lead engine crossed a wooden trestle bridge, which then collapsed, causing the second engine and trailing rail cars to telescope and catch fire as they tumbled down the causeway. This accident is still considered one of the worse disasters in North American rail history.

While recuperating from the tragedy, the TP&W concentrated their efforts at the turn-of-the-century upgrading depots, constructing steel bridges, and acquiring modern rail equipment to service its 230 route miles. Passenger revenues were strong with over one million paid fares in 1910. However, with newly formed state highways developing parallel with TP&W lines, those numbers nose-dived to 260,000 paying travelers in 1925. In 1929, the United States Postal contracts were cancelled, and passenger service halted with willing passengers riding inside the freight caboose...a service that lasted over 40-years into the 1970s.

During the late 1910s, the TP&W became associated with the Pennsylvania and Santa Fe Railroads. Handling interchange service for the PRR in Keokuk, Iowa and for the Santa Fe in Lomax, Illinois. With declining passenger and postal earnings, the Toledo, Peoria & Western fell into foreclosure in 1926. In 1927, a wealthy bank broker from New York City, George McNear Jr., purchased the floundering railroad for $1.3 million. While employed at Guaranty Trust, McNear lead the division that reorganized companies that fell into bankruptcy. And McNear was just the person to overhaul the struggling rail line and revive its profitability. Eliminating underperforming trackage, laying heavier 80-pound rail, constructing a new modern yard in East Peoria, and purchasing 2-8-2 Mikado steam locomotives. The fortunes of the railroad were turning around when labor strife erupted in 1941. McNear refused to negotiate with the unions over wage increases and he wished to streamline operations more by removing current positions within the company. This led to an 84-day strike – but with the nation entering World War II, the federal government seized control of the railroad until October 1945.

Then the unions resumed their strike until it resulted with the death two workers on February 4, 1946, in the sleepy town of Gridley, Illinois. Stories vary, but approximately 50 striking workers attempted to dispute the movement of a TP&W freight train that left Peoria that morning. While either slowed or stopped at a crossing in Gridley, the striking workers began to haul insults and throw rocks at the train crew. Armed guards on the train responded with gunfire – killing two men. At this time, McNear decided to shut down the railroad. A year later, March 10, 1947, McNear was shot and murdered near his Peoria home while walking home from a Bradley University basketball game. His murder remains unsolved.

After George McNear’s death, Russ Coulter was appointed president of the railroad. The TP&W prospered under his reign. His first plan of action was to ‘dieselize’ the line with the purchase of two EMD demonstrator F3A units - #100 & #F3B (rebuilt as #101). The engines were nicknamed Bertha and Beulah by the employees. In 1950, the railroad was free from steam power – one of the first American rail lines to do so.

With the new East Peoria rail yard and headquarters, the TP&W enjoyed an increase of interchange traffic from the Minneapolis & St. Louis, Burlington Route, Nickle Plate, Pennsylvania, and Peoria & Eastern (now New York Central owned) Railroads. This newfound success earned the railroad new slogans such as: ‘Transcontinental Peoria Way,’ ‘The Progressive Way' or the more famous ‘Links East and West.’ Under Coulter’s leadership the familiar olive green and gold colors were predominantly used and a new public relations tool was revealed – Tee Pee Willie. A possible controversial theme in the modern world – Tee Pee Willie was depicted as a Native America and was the official mascot of the railroad for over 30 years – appearing in numerous advertisements and on company merchandise. In 1955, the McNear family wished to divest itself of the railroad and reached an agreement with the Pennsylvania and Santa Fe Railroads – each gaining equal ownership of the railroad in 1960.

1970 was a grim year for the Toledo, Peoria & Western. First, on February 12th – a barge tow destroyed the railroad’s Illinois River bridge. Without funds to repair or replace the bridge, traffic was permanently diverted downstream to the Peoria and Pekin Union Railway bridge.

Secondly, on June 21st, another catastrophe hit the rail line when a burned-out wheel bearing on a covered hopper caused a derailment of a 108-car freight train. In Crescent City, Illinois – sixteen businesses, twenty-five homes and fifteen freight cars were completely destroyed when nine 34,000-gallon propane tank cars caused a series of explosions and resulting fires. The fires lasted for 56 hours (about 2 and a half days) with sixty-six people injured but no deaths were reported. The investigation of this incident helped to develop some of the safety protocols followed today: thermal protection for tank cars carrying flammable gases, head shields used to prevent punctures from couplers, and shelf couplers created to prohibit vertical uncoupling. Oh yeah, to add fuel to the fire – Penn Central (owner of 50% of their stock) declared bankruptcy the same day. An unbelievably dreadful day indeed!!!

When Conrail was created in 1976 after the failure of the Penn Central and other mergers, the TP&W regained control of the eastern tracks of their line that were owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad. These 55-miles were then sold to the only remaining partner – Santa Fe for $3 million in 1979. The entire Toledo, Peoria & Western system officially merged with Santa Fe on January 1, 1984.

The Santa Fe decided to relieve themselves of TP&W track rights a few years later with the railroad (partial or fully) being sold to a handful of different owners over the last 40-years: Keokuk Junction Railway (1986), Toledo, Peoria & Western Railway Group (1988), Delaware Otsego Corporation (1996), RailAmerica (1999), and finally Genesse & Wyoming (2012). The TP&W continues to flourish under G&W control with heavy freight traffic in agricultural products, cement, chemicals, animal feed, and biodiesel fuels.

The omnipresent PS-1 boxcar was produced from 1947 through 1968 with most of the cars having a length of 40’ and heights of either 10’5” or 10’6”. It has been reported that 79 railroad customers purchased the PS-1 with 22 railroads owning at least 1,000 boxcars and 5 (Chicago & Northwestern, Louisville & Nashville, New York Central, Rock Island & Southern) maintaining at least 5,000 cars. The PS-1 was the definitive freight boxcar during this era; used for general merchandise, grain, and even coke & coal.

During the 1960’s production of the 40’ PS-1 slowed as the railroads gravitated towards the 50’ boxcar and commodity-specific specialized rolling stock. Pullman-Standard also offered 50’ and 60’ versions with the PS-1 designation. Records show that at the time of its demise in 1968, 76,848 (3.8% of the US rolling stock) PS-1 40’ cars were produced with many still in service throughout the 1980’s.

The PS-1 was based on the 1944 American Association of Railroads (AAR) industry standard, augmented with Pullman’s proprietary roof and car end designs. Although the early models were riveted, most PS-1 cars featured welded construction. The most prevalent door sizes were either 6’ or 8’ and common styles included Youngstown and Superior doors. The car was frequently painted ‘boxcar red’ with a variant in color from crimson red to deep brown. The boxcar could undergo subtle changes per customer request such as door size and style or applying a colorful paint scheme.

The Pullman designed car ends had a unique series of wide rounded corrugations. Furthermore, another distinguishing trait was the ‘Bow-Tie’ roof panel appearance. The PS-1 roof panel raised sections were wider at the outside and become narrower at the roof peak creating the illusion of a bow-tie configuration.

The PS-1 began to experience considerable design changes in the early-1960s. The boxcars were fitted with shorter ladders, lower handbrakes and underwent removal of the roof walk. The demand for the 40’ boxcar decreased throughout the decade as longer, bigger, and more specialized rolling stock was requested by the rail customer. The last PS-1 boxcar to be produced was in 1968, an order of 25 cars for the Milwaukee Road - #s 4600-4624.

Road Names and Pricing

Released in April 2021, Atlas Model Railroad expanded their vast 40-foot PS-1 boxcar collection with eight paint schemes. Originally announced in August 2020, these fully assembled models have been a member of the Atlas Master Line Series since new tooling was introduced in 2012. Master Line models have a greater amount of detail, are more prototypical correct, and often have separately applied parts. The road names included in the recent series are:

  • Delaware & Hudson
  • Erie Lackawanna
  • Missouri, Kansas & Texas
  • New Haven
  • Port Huron & Detroit
  • Toldeo, Peoria & Western
  • Vermont Railway
  • Western Pacific
  • Undecorated
Two unique road numbers are available for each road name - Individual cars were released with a suggested retail price of $33.95 and $25.95 for the undecorated version. My review includes observations of Atlas Model Railroad (50 005 778) - Toledo, Peoria & Western #5036.

The Model

The ready-to-run boxcar comes packaged in an over-sized 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. A plastic sheet was wrapped around the car to protect the paint job from scuffmarks. No additional pieces were found inside the container.

The paint job is crisp and clean along the entire injection molded plastic model. The Toledo, Peoria & Western 3,707 cubic-foot car is painted in its recognizable olive green and gold colors with green roof and ends. Lettering is extremely neat and clear, even when some magnification is needed for the smaller printing. All diminutive letters and numbers are readable. Exterior panel lines are well-defined, and hinge and lock details are sharp. The size, font, and location of most stenciling on the Atlas model match prototype images found for the TP&W 5000 series boxcars – there are a few minor differences for the load data between the model and true-life cars. Featured on the side panels is the beloved (and controversial) Tee Pee Willie with The Progressive Way slogan...both era correct schemes.

The finely detailed TP&W boxcar has the prototypical correct 7’- 9” seven panel segment Superior doors. The non-operational doors have well-defined placard cards and route boards. Atlas substitutes Youngstown doors for other rail name models when applicable. Furthermore, the model sports the proper Pullman-Standard 5x5 welded panel sections on each side of the door and the proper PS-1 boxcar side sills. A separately applied two-color ladder is also attached on each far end panel.

Both ends feature molded full height ladders and a high mounted placard board, as well as Pullman-Standard 4/5 Dreadnaught non-tapering steel ends with six rectangles in the hat section. The brake end has a high mounted Ajax wheel with brake rods and brake platform. Again, the lettering is neat and in proper arrangement with the road marker & road number on the top right corner of each end. Stamped on each end are ‘NEW. STD 1W WROT.STL WHLS’ (one wear wrought steel wheels) and SD-4 (railway spring group size). One or single-wear wheels are light with a thin tread profile and are scrapped were worn.

The 12-panel metal roof features the Pullman-Standard proprietary ‘bow-tie’ pattern with an extended see-thru metal etched roof walk with lateral boards and separately applied corner grab irons. (Atlas provides 10-panel roof patterns when appropriate for other road names)

The black underframe has an AB brake system arrangement which features a brake cylinder, brake reservoir, control valve and brake rod. The boxcar is fitted with pin mounted Barber S-2A 50-ton trucks and blackened metal wheels. Finally, the model is equipped with proper height screwed body mounted Accumate knuckle couplers.

The car is 3 1/16 inches in length and weighs 0.90 ounces, which is almost perfect according to the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) recommendations (which are 0.98 - 1.0 ounces for a car of this size). I found it an excellent runner while testing the car on Kato Unitrack with no issues around curves or through turnouts at slow and medium speeds.


This is a first-rate release of an old, faithful friend. A nicely detailed model with prototypical design and features. Beautiful paint job, perfect balance, and separately applied detail parts. Extra thumbs-up to Atlas for the inclusion of difference roof patterns and doors based on the road name. Not much to complain – and I was extremely happy to see an offering of the often-ignored Toledo, Peoria & Western. Atlas - ‘The Pullman Way’ done right.

TroveStar Database

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

Photo Credits

Hinshaw & Joy, photographer. View of the Great Railroad Wreck. Photograph shows a crowd standing among piles of wreckage of the Niagara excursion train engine 13 and its passenger cars. Retrieved from the Library of Congress. No known restrictions on publication.

Holferty, H., photographer. (1887) View of the great railroad wreck. The most appalling railroad disaster on the Continent, on the T.P. & W.R.R. near Chatsworth, Illinois, of the Niagara Excursion Train, at midnight, August 10th; Shows the general destruction of the timbers between Superintendent Armstrong's car and the culvert / / Harlan Holferty, view artist. Chatsworth Illinois, 1887. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress

Holferty, H., photographer. (1887) View of the great railroad wreck The most appalling railroad disaster on the Continent, on the T.P. & W.R.R. near Chatsworth, Illinois, of the Niagara Excursion Train, at midnight, August 10th,; From south, showing sleeper "Tunis," the height and width of the culvert 5 1/2 by 8 feet, the cause of the wreck, and seventeen pairs of trucks in one pile / / Harlan Holferty, view artist. Chatsworth Illinois, 1887. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress. No known restrictions on publication.

Harris & Ewing, photographer. (1938) Final witness before profit sharing committee. Washington, D.C., Dec. 14. George P. McNear, Jr., President of the Toledo, Peoria, and Western Railroad system, who was the final witness before the finance subcommittee studying profit sharing. The president of the 300-mile road told Senators Herring and Vendenberg that the government could best help railroads by leaving them alone and by giving some relief on social security taxes. The committee is expected to close the hearings today, 12/14/38. United States Washington D.C. District of Columbia Washington D.C, 1938. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress. No known restrictions on publication.

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. Always a fan of the railroad, CNW400 is newer to the hobby, active for the last four years (now that all the kids are grown-up!). Furthermore, he is also a collector of railroadiana focusing on lanterns, locks & keys and insulators.