Apr 292014
 
Boxcar in a field

Boxcars: the rolling of two sixes in a dice game, specifically craps, or it could refer to an enclosed railway car used to carry general freight. When retired from service the latter are sometimes sold to be used as sheds and the like. Farmers are known for their thrift and they often would buy these up, no doubt cheaply, for just such a use. In this report, we’ll concentrate on some old boxcars found down on the farm, although a couple dice, showing two sixes of course, may make an appearance.

Surprisingly, the three boxcars we found were either inside the city limits of just outside them. They are all relatively complete but heavily weathered, their paint faded or nonexistent, and all are clearly showing their age. A forth was spotted but it was far off and inaccessible in a field and could not be properly photographed.

There is no way to really identify these cars. It’s certainly possible that something, some old paint, the faint shadow of a road number, might be found on each – some kind of hint telling us the who’s and what’s. This would require viewing them up close however and that was simply not possible. They are all on private land.

Rules of exploration: show respect, don’t trespass and take only pictures.

One thing we can do is roughly date them. Given the style of construction, their size and that the bodies are all wood, tells us they could be from the 1890s or perhaps the early to mid 1900s. Wooden boxcars before that period were smaller and those after, were more likely to have identifiable steel elements like ends and side braces. These rules are not hard and fast though and there would be some overlap and exceptions.

Starting in the mid-1920s boxcars would be made completely of steel although as before there was a transition period. The modern boxcar of today looks much like the wooden relics we’ve seen here. It’s a simple design that works well.

It’s likely these cars were at least 15-20 years old, or perhaps a bit older, when they were retired from railway service and sold as surplus. This means they may have been sitting in their respective fields, pastures and barn yards for close to a century now. Wood boxcars, by the way, were not nearly as long lasting as their steel brethren, and the latter could be expected to last forty years easily. Rail cars took a beating, and wood ones wore out quickly in comparison.

It’s not known if these are ex-CPR cars, but that seems likely. That railway has a large presence in Calgary. Its competitor, the CNR, is in comparison a minor player in town.

A couple of the cars seen have been modified with the addition of windows. They being used as pens or sheds or for storage, who knows. On the one, some of the sheathing is missing and this gives a view of how the car was constructed. Note the large beams – I am told they are typically made of oak.

Some deer took great interest in us as we photographed one boxcar.

The origin of the dice term – I guess the arrangement of the six dots on each die sort of looks like a railway boxcar. By the way, the odds of throwing two sixes, or boxcars, is one in thirty six. Calling boxcars is often heard when playing any game of dice although it origins is with craps. Interestingly in that game, every possible outcome of the dice is given a nickname – for example, “snake eyes” for two, a “natural” or “seven out” for any seven and “yo” for an eleven.

It’s more than likely many other boxcars cum farm sheds can be found in the area. They may be hidden away behind barns or in some way out of view however. Even so, I am sure we’ll discover more in our adventures. We travel a lot of back roads and pass many, many farms. Interestingly, flat cars are sometimes sold to be used as bridges when retired and we’ve come across a few. In that same vein, we’ve also seen a caboose made into a cabin (the post: More soup).

To see some other boxcars that we stumbled across in our adventures, follow these links…
The dome buildings and an ancient boxcar.
Kelowna BC rail yards 1989.
DeWinton De Wintin Dewinton.

If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!

Date: April, 2014.
Location: Calgary area, AB.

Boxcars and a boxcar

Boxcars!

Boxcar in a field

This old timer was found in a farmer’s field.

Farmer's field boxcar

It’s not as rural as it looks – in fact all the boxcars seen are close to or even inside the city.

 

Boxcars (dice) and a boxcar

More boxcars!

Boxcar shed

This one is being used as a shed or pen of some sorts.

 

A boxcar and dice boxcars

What…more boxcars!

Herd of deer

These deer took great interest in us.

Boxcar and deer

This car is located in a horse (or is that a deer) enclosure.

Deer and boxcar

There is likely no way to find the lineage of any of the three cars seen.

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22 Comments on "Boxcars!"

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Erin887
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Erin887

All are very close to Calgary? Can you show me where they are?

Erin887
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Erin887

Oh by the way, the dice. Very clever!

charlie_bighead
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charlie_bighead

Very clever! I’m working in Manitoba and have seen a few old boxcars being used as sheds.

Ron McMahon
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Ron McMahon

Just south of Hay River NWT there are a number of homes constructed around the frames of old wooden boxcars. One home I was in was so perfectly finished that I did not know I was in a boxcar home until it was pointed out to me by the owner!

Brian Foxwell
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Brian Foxwell

(via Facebook)
Aww…craps! Lol!

John Reid
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John Reid

Darn deer. Always stealing the show. You go to all the work of photographing these amazing historic sites, writing a well researched article, publishing it online and then those furry creatures with white tails come along and get all the recognition.

Gord Tolton
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Gord Tolton

(via Facebook)
We had one on our farm, pretty much served as a very spacious house for the dogs. Then Dad got the idea to house hogs in it, and those walking ham bones just destroyed it from the inside out. Sadly we had to put a match to it. If only we knew then what we know now.

Rob K Hill
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Rob K Hill

Lot’s were used as bunkhouses also.

Dale Kethler
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Dale Kethler

I didn’t know that boxcars were made of wood.

Ronnie Cole
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Ronnie Cole

(via Facebook)
There used to be 5 or 6 former Cotton Belt boxcars just southwest of Corsicana, TX in a field near the Cotton Belt main line (now abandoned) that were built in 1911 and re-built in 1922. They had been there for decades when I first saw them in the late 1960’s.

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