Aside from the standard flatcar there is the centerbeam flat. This car is just that, it contains a center beam on the car and tall bulkheads on each end. Usually coming equipped with standard two-axle trucks the car
is typically used to haul paper, lumber, or some other type of bulky
construction material, such as insulation. Similar to the centerbeam
flat is the bulkhead flatcar, which lacks the center beam but includes end bulkheads to haul heavy loads while not allowing them to shift horizontally (lumber or wood products are also an example of what these cars sometimes carry).
Another type of flatcar, while a bit more “advanced,” are today’s well cars developed over the past twenty years to haul international containers
in loads of one or two (typically two if railroad tunnel and bridge
clearances will allow) from port to market and vice-versa. While the car has been embraced by the railroads for the efficiencies it allows, it is actually nothing more than a glorified flat car. The well car was also just another step in the evolution of COFC service (said "Cof-cee"), or Container On Flat Car.
As the 1950s gave way to the 1960s the TOFC service, also known
as “piggyback” service, began to gain momentum with many Class I
railroads using the service in one form or another and building hubs and
centers to load and unload trailers. Railroads began blocking entire trains of trailers and they were usually given top priority over the particular route they operated and known as “hotshots.” Names like TrailerJet, Apollo, Razorback, Thunderhawk, and Flexi-Van services began popping up on many railroads. Today, instead of using traditional flatcars to haul truck trailers, which would take a lot of time to load, a new type of car known as a spine-car was developed. Essentially a center beam on trucks the car is specially equipped to haul trailers and to also quickly load and unload them.
One final type of flatcar includes the depressed-center flat, which is still used today to haul extremely heavy or tall loads. The car’s very low center of gravity coupled with its extra two axles, giving it six in total, allows it the ability to haul these types of loads. Usually you can find the car carrying some type of heavy or bulky industrial equipment. Today flatcars are becoming increasingly used, especially in regards to container shipments, carried by well cars, which continue to grow in volume yearly. Keep on the lookout and on almost any mixed freight train you can spot some type of flatcar in transit, from the utilitarian common flat to a coil car, which transports loads of rolled steel.
|A Burlington piggyback freight train with a waycar trailing (the CB&Q's term for a caboose) rolls through Eola, Illinois on September 13, 1965. Note the numerous commuter cars stored away in the background.|
For more reading about flatcars consider the book, Freight Train Cars, from Mike Schafer, one of the leading authors covering all corners of the railroad industry (from its history to present day operations). The book gives an excellent general history and overview on all of the common freight car
types and if you are interested in learning more about them, or you are
simply looking to better understanding their history and development
you should very much enjoy Mr. Schafer’s book. If you're interested in
perhaps purchasing this book please visit the link below which will take you to ordering information through Amazon.com, the trusted online shopping network.