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BNSF and KCS Auto-Max Cars  
Auto-Max cars
By Funnelfan

   In 1999 Gunderson (a subsidy of Greenbrier Inc.) began producing a revolutionary new car that is at the cutting edge of railroad technology.  With the catchy name, Auto-Max, these cars are unmistakable and have been turning the heads of both railfans and model railroaders alike. The sheer mass of this two-unit articulated car has all the subtly of a rolling barn. At 20' 2" tall and 145' 4" long, this is one of the largest car on the rails today.
   The real driving force behind the development of a car of such huge proportions is the popularity of Sport Utility Vehicles. Practically since the development of the rack on flatcar, "Autoracks" have come in two versions. The Bi-Level is intended for large trucks and vans while the Tri-Level is intended for sedans and other small vehicles. But most SUV's fit in the gray are between the cars and trucks. Before Auto-Max, SUV's were put in Bi-Levels and represented a lot of wasted clearance room.  Because Auto-Max uses most of the railroad clearance diagram, it can actually load three levels of SUV's in one railroad car. In other words, the Auto-Max can cram in 22 SUV's while a standard Bi-Level can only hold a mere 10. Even Thrall's new articulated Bi-Level car can only handle 16 vehicles
   For more information refer to the article and drawings on pages 126-130 of the November 1999 issue of Model Railroader Magazine.

Left: BNSF version of the Auto-Max (in the 314000 series). 33 cars at the head end of a eastbound  vehicle train at Hauser Jct, ID.
Auto-Max Specifications
Dimensions (approximate)
 Overall length of 2-unit car, over coupler pulling faces
145' 4"
Overall length, inside
141' 3 1/4"
Width, outside, extreme at ends of car
10' 8"
Width, outside at center of units
Width, inside between side posts
9' 3 1/2"
Height, extreme, empty car
20' 2"
Truck centers
64' 0"
Width, clearance at doorways
8' 5"
Curve Negotiability (Radius)
Coupled to like car (horizontal)
Coupled to 40' base car (horizontal)
Uncoupled (vertical)

BNSF Auto-Max Pictures (click on Thumbnail for full size pic)

KCS Auto-Max Pictures (click on Thumbnail for full size pic)

Modeling Notes:
    The best starting point for this car is a pair of Athearn's Husky Stack cars in HO scale or MDC's Husky Stack in N scale. The body of the Husky Stack is nearly the exact length of each unit of the Auto-Max. But it will require some work to lessen the angle of the fishbelly on the cars. The super structure of the car will have to be scratchbuilt out of styrene, but should pose no signifigant problems. While not prototypicly acurate, I would use two roofs from Walther's autoracks to make the roof for this car. The walthers roofs have a couple of folds up each side, but a little bit of sanding may lessen theeffect and look more like the rounded tops of the Auto-Max cars. A pair of etch-metal truck door locks will be needed for each end of this car.
   And for the more computer savy modelers out there, the way to make the hole patterns on the side of the car would be to scan the MR drawings using a flat bed scanner. Then take a piece of .010 sheet styrene (free of paint or other markings for the BNSF car, but paint it cream for the KCS car), and throw it in a of at least 600 DPI quality and print the scaled drawing right onto the styrene. Cut out the styrene on the side of the car with the hole pattern intact and glue it to the side of the super structure. And clear coat it ASAP!

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This page was produced and edited by Funnelfan (Ted Curphey): 2-14-2000