Freight Car Friday – The Strange and Unusual

5 10 2012

If you love trains, you’ve seen your share of boxcars and gondolas and covered hoppers. But every great once in a while you see a car that makes you stop and scratch your head. This week we’ll take a look at a few of those.

QUAX 88966

At first glance this looks like an ordinary flatcar, but then you look a little closer and have to wonder what all of those extra parts are on the deck. The car itself was originally built to carry a tri-level autorack. This gives the car a very low deck height.

QUAZ 88966

From finished automobiles to broken rail cars – this flatcar has had an interesting life.

Now this flat is a car-hauler of a different sort – damaged rail cars. The two heavy beams on the deck support the car in place of its own trucks. The one seen on the left is fixed and the other can be moved to handle cars of any wheelbase. The trucks can then be strapped to the deck in the guides seen on the right side of the car, or simply loaded in a gondola.

This car makes it easier and much safer to transport damaged rail cars to a car shop for repair than trying to move them on their own wheels. These cars may have some body damage or simply problems with the trucks or brakes. Most cars with extensive structural damage will simply be scrapped in place, but if the car is worth saving the railroads will find a way to get it back in service.

The reporting marks, which sound like something a duck would say, belong to Redstreak, LLC.

SWFX 1658

An American Car and Foundry Centerflo hopper – what’s so unusual about that? Well nothing, if it had a roof! Despite building tens of thousands of Centerflo covered hoppers, only 82 of these open-top hoppers were ever built.

SWFX 1658

Centerflo hoppers are nothing rare – but this variation is.

Most were sold to Southwest Forest Products and operate regularly over BNSF and the Apache Railroad. Car 1658 is seen here at the interchange. Additional cars were built for Burlington Northern.

The Centerflo design remains popular for loads requiring the protection of a covered hopper, but the concept never adapted well to the open design, partly due to limited weight capacity. The roof is actually an important part of the design of the Centerflo, and without it the strength of the carbody is greatly compromised.

Norfolk Southern 907627

NS 907627

This odd-looking car caries switches.

So far the cars have all at least had a passing resemblance to traditional rolling stock – not so for this special piece of equipment!

This odd-looking car is used to transport sections of pre-made track switches to work sites. Switches are pre-assembled at a maintenance of way base speeding work out on the line. And you thought only model railroaders used premade track sections!

panel track

Just a few feet from where the empty switch car was seen at a later date, a portion of a prefab replacement switch is eased into place.

The panels have to be transported on an angle because of their excessive width. Two or more panels are needed per switch depending on its length. Hoists mounted on the center beam are used to help raise the panels into position on the car and then they are strapped into place.

Once the panels are delivered, heavy construction equipment puts them in place and workers connect the rails and ensure everything is in proper alignment. A crew can replace a switch in a single day. Such was the case in this other view where workers position the frog portion of the switch while yard traffic continues to move only a few feet away!

Southern 599000

articulated rack

This Southern car was ahead of its time.

This experimental articulated autorack rolled out of the Southern’s innovative freight car design tables. It is one of only two, built in September of 1973 by Greenville Car Co. The Southern was a leading innovator in freight car design and utilization in the 1960s and 1970s. Cars like the “Big John” covered hoppers literally changed railroading. Other experiments included articulated hoppers and this auto rack.

SOU 599000

A closer view of one section gives a better look at its unique wheels and articulation.

Decades before today’s articulated racks, this car showed a concept but never progressed any further. The three-part car features just two axles per unit. This same concept was applied to early spine cars for intermodal service at about the same time. The articulation gave the long car a much shorter and more flexible frame than conventional 89′ autoracks, but one as to wonder about the quality of the ride.

The car is seen here preserved at the Virginia Museum of Transportation in 2007.

When it comes to the strange and unusual, we’ve only just begun! Do you have any favorite odd freight cars you’d like to share?



6 responses

5 10 2012

I once saw a car that looked like a tank car on the NS here in St. Louis, and the exposed structure and tank was painted blue but was mostly covered in diamond-embossed bright, polished aluminum, probably as a jacket over some type of insulation. It was relatively long and rode on six-wheel buckeye-style trucks.

Still have no idea what it was.

5 10 2012

How many of those centerflo hoppers were built as open-top hoppers?

5 10 2012

A total of 82 cars were built. The prototype was constructed in 1968. 81 production cars were built in 1975-1976. Of these, 70 were purchased by Southwest Forest Products.

5 10 2012
Andrew Falconer

There are Union Pacific’s long flat cars with solid sides that appear to be used to haul framework object that look like the wings for aircraft.

5 10 2012
Andrew Falconer

There are those hard to find short, cylindrical, pressure-differential, covered hoppers built by ACF in the 1960’s and 1970’s. They had heavy ribs on the sides. They were used for very specific commodities like cement so they got stuck in shipment patterns.

17 05 2014
Conductor Andrew

Reblogged this on theredcaboose1.

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