The Bx-166 is unique for its double- door configuration, distinguishing it from its fellow beer-hauling cousins. The defining characteristic on these cars, instantly separating them from the pack, are the diagonal braces on either side of the doors. No matter where you live or have railfanned in North America, chances are you’ve seen this car mixed into general merchandise freights - both individually or in cuts of several beer cars.
Custom-built by the ATSF in 1974, a total of 300 Bx-166 boxcars were built at the Santa Fe’s car shops in Topeka, KS. Measuring 61’ 6” in length (66’ ½” over strikers), this icon of beer transportation has proven invaluable to the Santa Fe and, later, BNSF. Boasting two 8’ insulated doors on each side, the Bx-166 provides a total of 16’ door opening width for crews to load and unload pallets and kegs of beer – one of the most delicious beverages known to man. Originally built with interior load dividers, the boxcars prominently feature a “Holland Load Snugger” sticker above the Plate C stencil.
With a much storied history, the Bx-166 was first unveiled in the Santa Fe’s famous “Indian Red” paint scheme, bearing a large white cross herald and “Shock Control” lettering. Later, the cars were repainted into a more minimalist scheme: plain mineral brown paint with a small Santa Fe herald affixed to the upper left corner of the car. Many cars in the fleet never received the small herald, and feature only the reporting marks and necessary dimensional data. These two schemes alone account for much of what the Bx-166 fleet looks like today. Given ongoing re-shopping, paint schemes became many and varied over the years. To date, the Bx-166 has been identified in 13 different paint schemes, ranging from the original “Shock Control” cars all the way to BNSF’s modern “Powerbar” logo.
Roughly 40 years in service and still going strong, many Bx-166 boxcars have now been relegated to non-beer service, such as the hauling of bundled corrugated and paper recyclables. Some cars have also been retired altogether, but a large number of these boxcars are still living up to their original mission: serving major breweries with pride. The Bx-166 remains a major beer hauler to date, and can be found at western breweries and beer distribution centers all across North America. All you have to do is keep an eye out for that double-door boxcar with its distinctive diagonal ribs on either side of the doors, and you’ve found yourself a Bx-166.
As we all know, change is the only constant in life - and taxes. In 2005, BNSF unveiled their new (and current) 'Powerbar' logo. These cars feature crisp new brown paint and the latest BNSF logo, along with yellow conspicuity stripes.