Freight Car ABC’s: A Back to School Quiz

6 09 2013

It’s back to school time – I can hear the parents rejoicing now! In empathy for the kids, how about a little freight car quiz of our own?

Freight cars are filled with “fine print.” And all of it has special meaning for shippers, car repairmen and operators. How well do you know your freight car ABC’s? See how well you can identify the markings on these cars. When you’re finished, you can check your answers with this key.

weight data

1: CAPY, LD LMT, LT WT? What do they mean and how are they different?

1. CAPY, LD LMT and LT WT usually appear just below the railroad’s reporting marks and car number. What do these three lines mean? Why doesn’t the math ever seem to add up?

weigh date

2: “CR-AB 10-83” must mean something… 3: How can you tell what type of car this is just by what you see here?

2. What does the “CR-AB 10-83” mean? (Hint, it has nothing to do with crustaceans.)

3. Without seeing any more of it or checking a roster, what type of car is CR 878330?

Santa Fe map

4: EXW, H, IL – Why are all these dimensions important?

4. EW, H, IL – what are all of these figures and why do they matter?


5: What does “COTS” mean?

5.Today, many of the maintenance figures for a car are put in one place. These black boxes are called “Consolidated Lube Stencils” and include the car’s build date and service information. What does “COTS” stand for?

Plate C

6: What is “Plate C”? 7: “Do Not Hump?”

6. “Plate C”? What does that mean?

7. “DO NOT HUMP” – This shows up on special cars from time to time – sometimes it’s just tacked onto the car as a temporary sign. Why?

yellow dot

8: Why were these yellow dots important in 1978?

8.For a short while, this simple symbol of a yellow dot on a black square background appeared on most cars. What did it mean?

How well do you know your freight car markings? Check the answer key to see if you’ve passed your car inspector’s test.



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