Saturday, October 15, 2022

SP & T&NO B-50-15,-16 (Part 1) - Modeling, Research, & Rapido

Continuing my SP Boxcar writing binge (After a couple month delay).  I'm pressed to get this article out due to Rapido's announcement (yikes) six months ago that they will be producing the SP B-50-15 & B-50-16 classes of boxcar.  The pre-order cut-off is Oct 17, 2022, just two days from now!

New Rapido B-50-15 wood side - linked photo from their website.

While some of you have seen my previous post on my Sunshine B-50-15, SP 32451.  It is currently still just a shell with no details yet.  So to get this article posted in time to help fellow modelers sort out their options regarding the Rapido B-50-15/16 announcement, I don't want to wait on finishing my two resin kits!

Fair disclosure: I have no professional interest in or connection to Rapido's B-50-15/16 project.  My personal interest is in getting a good model to help fill out my fleet for the Jawbone Branch, help fellow modelers learn more about this class of car, and help any other modeling groups I am part of out there.  I've currently pre-ordered five B-50-15/16 models from Rapido.


After WWI, and the assignment of 1000 (B-50-12) USRA single-sheath boxcars to the SP while under US Government control, the SP ordered large numbers of boxcars to an improved design, roughly based on the B-50-11 with some improvements, designating it B-50-13 of 1923.  The following class, B-50-14 of 1924, was very much the same, built with pressed steel ends, but otherwise very similar.

SP 32570, a late-series B-50-15.  This resin kit was built by Paul Doggett ang with his permission I'm using his models as examples of the SP's B-50-15/16.

By 1925, the designs had moved forward again and a new pair of classes were being worked on at the drafting desks of the SP Mechanical Department.  B-50-15 and follow-on B-50-16 class would total 4903 cars and break with the traditional Pratt-truss design of B-50-8/10-14, shifting to the Howe-truss style of diagonal side braces.


B-50-15 - 1925-1926 Built

Rapido B-50-15 wood side - linked photo from their website with Murphy corrugated steel ends.

SP 14480-15979 (1500 cars) - Standard Steel Car - T-Section Trucks, 1st 750 cars Murphy radial roof, 2nd 750 cars Viking roof
ML&T 36210-36509 (300 cars, after 1928 to T&NO) - T&NO Shops - Arch-bar Trucks, Murphy radial roof
ML&T 53060-53559 (500 cars, after 1928 to T&NO) - Standard Steel Car - T-Section Trucks, Hutchins roof
SP 20000-20499 (500 cars) - SPE Sacramento (shops 'contractor') - T-Section Trucks, Hutchins roof
SP 31560-32659 (1100 cars) - Pullman - T-Section Trucks, 1st 600 cars Viking Roof, 2nd 500 cars Hutchins roof
3900 cars

B-50-16 - 1927-1928 Built

Rapido B-50-16 wood side pre-production photo from the Rapido website with Murphy Dreadnought steel ends.

SP 37340-37839 (500 cars) - SPE Sacramento (shops 'contractor') - T-Section Trucks, Viking roof
SD&AE 7000-7002 (3 cars) - SPE Sacramento (shops 'contractor') - T-Section Trucks, Viking roof
T&NO 53560-54059 (500 cars) - T&NO, Houston (shops) - T-Section Trucks ,Murphy radial Roof
1003 cars

Rendering for Rapido's SD&AE 7002, one of three cars assigned to the SP subsidiary

The three SD&AE cars I believe all went to SD&AE MW at end of service life.


Looking through Thompson's Vol4 on the Boxcars, specifically the B-50-15/16 classes. A number of them were converted to steel sheathing in the 1930s for PMT/Overnight and passenger express boxcar assignments.

Rendering of original wood-sided Passenger-Express B-50-15 from Rapido in Dark Olive Green.

I think it's a little unfortunate that Rapido has only announced the wood-sided version of the DOG Passenger-Express version of the B-50-15s and not the slightly later and more common all-steel rebuild version.

These cars would be correct for the first batch of October of 1935 "Overnight" cars.  These were to replace the 1933 use of baggage cars assigned to the PMT's predecessor of the Coast Merchandise East and West (Overnight) trains.  The new upgraded service started with the conversion of 95 Passenger-Express cars of B-50-15 & -16 classes cars.  Receiving special upgrades including a coat of Dark Olive Green with gold/yellow lettering, signal lines (& hoses), wrought-steel wheels (for high speed braking), and Type-E couplers.  However, they kept their freight numbers until March of 1936, when they were changed to the new SP 9000-9094 series.  This conversion process continued in a program that extended into April 1936 to complete all 95 cars.  The original wood-sided cars received upgrades to steel-sides in 1943.

Another 50 cars were converted for Passenger/PMT service in Summer of 1936 (SP 9095-9144) which were steel-sheathed for the conversion and painted into the new PMT Black with PFE Orange Trim "Overnight" scheme.  From this point on, the DOG and the new "Overnight" cars were upgraded with steel-sides wheels, signal lines, etc.

Pre-production Rebuilt B-50-15 from Rapido website

By March 1937, 195 more steel-side conversions for express service (SP 9145-9339), with 32 more in 1939-1940 also getting AB-brakes.

In addition to the express service cars listed above, 930 B-50-15s and about 200 B-50-16s were steel sheathed by this time for freight service in standard FCR color. So about 1/3 of all B-50-15s and 1/5th of all B-50-16s were converted before WWII to steel sheathing.

WWII Conversions, Colors, & Assignments

Another batch of 100 DOG express service B-50-15/16s were completed in 1941-42. By Jan 1942, a total of 472 cars (269 from B-50-15) were in DOG for passenger service or "early" Overnight express service, and most received new U-section AAR trucks. Only 4-cars were fitted with Allied "Full Cushion" trucks during the 1942. All Allied trucks were removed by 1947, replaced by modern AAR U-section trucks with bolster stabilizing with steel wheels for high-speed braking.

The WWII demands suspended special freight service, such as the 'Overnight' using the black with orange trim, not the postwar version with the all black and arrow ball logo.  

This is an interesting point about suspending service, despite the two wrecks involving the Lark and Overnight in 1941 and 1942! - So one wonders if the CME/CMW "Overnights" which hit the Lark twice were being run with still black/orange Overnight cars, or if they were being supplemented by regular boxcars in the last months of peace and the early months of the war.  

In any case, the final group of 100 cars were converted in 1943 for Baggage-Express service (painted DOG) and numbered in the 5900-series, but only the first 24 cars assigned, the remaining 75 cars went to the 5800-5874 series.

The express equipped B-50-15/16s were all painted in the Passenger Dark Olive Green (DOG) scheme until 1948, which I assumed started in 1942 with the ending of "Overnight" service on the coast.  During this time, the Dark Olive Green Passenger Express cars would have been steel-sheathed for most of us post-war modelers wanting one of these cars.  Also a number of these cars would have been refitted with U-section AAR trucks, which would be better suited to the higher speed operations with steel wheels, not cast iron wheels.

Post-War "Overnight" Scheme - 1946-1950-ish

SP 14483, a B-50-15 repainted in 1946 for Overnight service until 1950-1951.  Note U-section AAR trucks, suggesting this is one of the express car upgrades after 1942. Used by Paul Doggett, used with permission.

When the war ended 500 new B-50-24 class (all-steel) cars were ordered for Overnight and passenger service. The 450 new Overnight cars were protected with 150 cars of the B-50-15/16 express DOG cars that were painted in the new all-black Overnight Scheme with red ball and arrow herald in 1946. This lasted until the 1950's drop in Overnight loading when all of the older B-50-15/16s were removed from Overnight service, and were painted back into FCR over the following couple years.

SP 32251 with Brooklyn rebuild, including new diagonal panel roof, AB-Brakes, and U-section trucks, by Paul Doggett, used with permission.

During the post-war conversions of B-50-15/16 class cars with steel sides continued totaling 750 more cars with modern roofs in the 1950-1956 time frame.  All of the 1950 and later SP Pacific Lines rebuilds received diagonal-panel roofs, most of this work being done at Brooklyn, OR.

Of the 1000 cars on the T&NO, less than 50 cars were resheathed with steel by 1950.

T&NO numbered car transferred to SP in 1961, by Paul Doggett, used with permission.

So it would appear that by the 1955 time frame probably 50% or better of surviving B-50-15/16s would be steel sheathed, this makes since as the number of B-50-15s being retired to SPMW during the 1954-55 time frame is very large.  After 1956, I would guess it was more like 60-75% were steel-sheathed, with the wood cars lasting until scrapped in the 1960-62 time frame. It appears that most of the 1955-56 retired B-50-15/16s to SPMW cars were wood-sheathed. Steel-sheathed SPMW cars coming from retiring later cars in the 1960-1970s, some of which are still around today.

I plan to go look through my 1950 ORER and see if I can get anymore insight for modeling that era on how many and which series were wood or steel-sided.


In the past the only way to get a model of SP/T&NO B-50-15/16 class cars were to build resin models from Sunshine Models (out-of-production) or Westerfield Models.

Completed Resin Models by Paul Doggett

I want to take a moment to thank Paul Doggett for the gracious use of his assembled B-50-15/16s as visual examples of the topic being discussed today.  The cars are assembled, painted and finished by Paul Doggett.

T&NO 36259, B-50-15 (1st T&NO group) by Paul Doggett, used with permission.

SP 20095, B-50-15 (2nd SP group) with original wood sides by Paul Doggett, used with permission.

SP 32570, B-50-15, with wood sides by Paul Doggett, used with permission.

(SP) T&NO 53360, B-50-16 with steel resheath by Paul Doggett, used with permission.

Cars for the Jawbone Branch

Sunshine SP 32451 under construction with wood sides and original Hutchin panel roof, spotted on the wye at Owenyo, July 1, 2022. Jason Hill model & photo.

As far as my fleet goes from way back about 20 years ago, I have a Sunshine B-50-15 SS (wood) 20000-20499, 32160-32659 series) with Hutchins roof (Kit #38.7) which was the last one that a vendor had at a convention several years ago.  This car is slated to become SP 32451.  

SP 32451 Left side after decalling starting color pencil weathering. - Jason Hill model & photo.

When Westerfield came out with their beautiful one-piece body version, I picked one of the steel-sided B-50-15 SS with AB brakes and "Overnight" decals (kit #12863), which I'm now debating if I'll finish as black "Overnight" car or if I'll do it as one of the ex-express/Overnight cars back in the Freight Car Red scheme of the early 1950s.

My Rapido Order?

In November 2021, Rapido Trains announced plans to offer R-T-R models of SP B-50-15 and B-50-16 class cars with various roofs, ends, and steel or wood sides.  Rapido is planning to offer 6-packs $329.70 (no price break) and single cars on reservation for $54.95 USD.

As of November 2021, I went ahead and ordered a mix of five Rapido cars.  They are showing different versions with Murphy or Viking roofs, so that's good.  

Rendering of Rapido's 1946-1952 "rebuilt" steel-sided B-50-16 in FCR.

While it's great that we're getting the steel-sided version of the B-50-15/16, as of Nov 2021 I'm a bit confused by Rapido's naming/numbering convention in their advertisements and ordering options, as to exactly which combination of parts we're getting in each option.

Note: I did sit down and sort out that the options, and I think Rapido might have slightly changed the options in the last two months August-Oct, 2022.  I had to reorder due to some changes in Rapido's on-line reservations and website.  As of Oct 15, 2022 I have one each of the following SKUs on pre-order is as follows: 
  171007A - HO SP B-50-15 Boxcar: 1931 to 1946 scheme - Rebuilt w/ Viking Roof: Single Car
  171002A - HO SP B-50-15 Boxcar: 1946 to 1952 scheme - As Built w/ Viking Roof: Single Car
  171004A - HO SP B-50-15 Boxcar: 1946 to 1952 scheme - As Built w/ Murphy Roof: Single Car
  171054A - HO SP B-50-16 Boxcar: 1946 to 1952 scheme - Rebuilt w/ Viking Roof: Single Car

I believe this will give me an ideal spread of FCR boxcars from this first run with different features which will compliment my two resin B-50-15/16s I have now which both have Murphy Roofs and both B-50-15s from Rapido will have Vikings.  The Rapido B-50-16 has early Dreadnaught-type ends, which neither of my resin cars has.

Rapido #171005A - B-50-15 "Passenger" Wood-sided, Viking Roof

Rendering of original wood-sided Passenger-Express B-50-15 from Rapido in Dark Olive Green.

During my re-order I decided to skip getting this passenger version with the wooden sides, as it really would be a rare car... maybe only 20% of the express B-50-15/16 fleet at the end in 1948/49 still having wood sides.  Also with most of my modeling era shifting to post-1949 and Jawbone with minimal passenger service, personally I'm shifting away from needing this car.

Rapido #171056A - B-50-16 "Overnight" Steel-sided, Viking Roof

Rendering of Post-war Rapido's SP "Overnight" B-50-16 with Steel-sides & Viking Roof

I've also ordered a steel-sided 1946-1950 "Overnight" scheme car from B-50-16, with rebuilt sides and viking roof.  While a little weird for the Jawbone Branch in 1949-1954, these cars might have shown up just after they were released from Overnight service as regular boxcars for a few trips before getting into get repainted in FCR.

In Closing

Rapido's rendering of their SP B-50-15/16 (<- main page link), which is reportedly in-tooling as of July 2022 according to the Rapido website.

The SP did have 4900 of these cars and started with multiple versions with different roofs and ends.  Add to that the SP was rebuilding and upgrading the cars to steel sides and improved ends or diagonal roofs over the years too.  It's not really as simple as "as-built" or "rebuilt".  I was able to confirm with Bill at Rapido that they are planning to do other roof/end/side combinations which the research shows did happen in the future, but they weren't able to do all the variations at once in this run.  Hopefully, I can get some more information as it relates to the prototypes and pass that info along in SP & T&NO B-50-15,-16 (Part 2) - Update soon.   In the future production runs it would be great to see T&NO B-50-16 and possibly other roof combinations.  I may check a bit more if the roof options will allow one of the wood-sided Rapido B-50-15s to be redecalled as a T&NO prototype, just to balance my fleet a bit more.

Right now, if you want to show support for these models, you have until Oct 17, 2022 to get your pre-orders in!

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

Modeling SP B-50-series Boxcars (Part 3) - Plastic Options for B-50-8, -10, & -11

Modeling SP B-50-series Boxcars (Part 5) - B-50-13/14 from Accurail or resin kits

SP Pre-War Boxcar (Part 1) B-50-18/19/20/21/23 classes

SP Post-War Boxcars (Part 2) B-50-24/25/26/27/28/29 classes

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