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The Pennsylvania Railroad installed nearly 7,000 box cars in 1912-13 as an intermediate step between its steel underframe fleet of the first decade of the twentieth century and its all-steel fleet commenced in 1915. Pennsy converted 75 X23 box cars to war emergency cabin cars beginning in May 1943. Classed NX23 the cars were numbered 478520-478594. They were rebuilt consecutively at Altoona beginning May 24 and ending January 29, 1944. There were at least three physically different versions. The first car used vertical sheathing on the side and as with all subsequent cars, horizontal sheathing on the end,. A full X23 ladder was mounted to the right of the side door. Photographic evidence shows that some cars received partial (3-rung) ladders with two drop grab irons finishing the five runds. All of these cars would have been rebuilt from standard X23 box cars. A third variation used cars rebuilt with horizontal side sheathing and the removal of horizontal side braces. Such upgrades were performed on "raised roof" X23B box cars but it is certain that X23B's were not used for the cabin car conversions. No records survive to show how many of each type were built. These cars were painted freight car color on all surfaces. All extant photos show the cars originally lettered for WESTERN REGION so it is assumed that all cars were so assigned.


The cabin cars ran in freight service much longer than one would assume for such "temporary" cars. From monthly MP-13 reports the following longevity can be established:

9/1/46 12/1/46 3/1/47 5/1/49 11/1/51 5/1/53 12/1/57 2/1/66 11/1/69 12/1/69
75 73 40 35 30 15 12 4 2 0


By 1957 the railroad had gone to a nine region organization. The following are the assignments of the twelve cars as of May 15, 1957, giving region and specific assignment:

478520 Pittsburgh Pitcairn Work Train
478529 Pittsburgh Branch Riding Car - Cresson Branch
478550 Pittsburgh Work Caboose - JD-Summerhill & South
478555 Northern Enola-Hudson
478557 New York Morrisville-Greenville
478560 Pittsburgh New Brighton PA
478563 Pittsburgh East Liberty Work Train
478564 Chesapeake Colgate Creek Baltimore
478570 Pittsburgh  
478571 Pittsburgh W. Brownsville
478572 New York Reading to Shippensburg
478575 Pittsburgh  


In 1947 at least 38 cars were converted to work equipment, most in series 494011-494043. They were painted gray with black roof, underbody, end sills and metal appliances. Cars repainted after 1954 were painted yellow instead of gray with the same black details. Later re-paintings neglected to paint the appliances and end sills black. Nearly all cars were equipped with benches inside and used as Riding Cars on work trains. Photos suggest that the bay windows were boarded up. One photo of a tool car survives in which the bay window was removed. The cars would have been used well into the 1960s and perhaps as long as the railroad lasted. Several horizontal sheathed NX23s were transferred to the Long Island Railroad where the ends were set back to allow open platforms. At least one horizontal sheathed car was transferred to Pennsy subsidiary Western Allegheny.


Photos of the cars appeared in Rauch, Gary C. and John M. Prophet III, "X23, R7, X24, K7 and Related Car Classes", The Keystone, Sept. 1970, Vol. 3. Car diagrams appeared in Wayner, Robert J., Pennsylvania Railroad Passenger and Freight Car Diagrams, Wayner Publications (1981). A photo of an NX23 converted to a tool car appeared in the March 1995 issue of Model Railroading. A photo of the Western Allegheny cabin car appears in Sweetland, David R. and Robert J. Yanosey, PRR Color Guide to Freight and Passenger Equipment, Morning Sun Books (1992).


Thanks to Robert L. Johnson, Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society archivist, for supplying the bulk of the information and history of these cars. Thanks also to Alan B. Buchan, RIchard Burg, Ian S. Fischer, Alan Hubert and Ken Rideout for supplying photos of the cars.

X23 car converted into NX23 cabin car copy X23 car converted into NX23 cabin car X23 car converted into NX23 cabin car copy 2
X23 car converted into NX23 cabin car copy 3 X23 car converted into NX23 cabin car copy 4