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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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!
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.
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?