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Freight Cars

freight train pipe cumbres 1990 tlhprn.jpg (126107 bytes)
Freight train near Cumbres c1990

Freight cars are the equipment used to ship goods for a profit on the railroad. The cars come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes to carry different types of goods and materials. 

At first there were just a few shapes of freight cars like the box car, gondola and flat car. As the goods shipped on the railroad became more sophisticated, so did the cars used to carry these goods. Forms of cars were invented for conveying special materials like the tank car for liquids, the refrigerator car for produce, etc. Specialized units were developed to freight things like automobiles. 

The basic material used to construct the freight cars transitioned over time from wood to steel. Steel became more available, the fabrication technology more sophisticated. and the material proved much more durable than wood. 



Box Car Drawing  (12K)

Box Car (46K)
3681 box car 1997


Box Cars

The box car is the basic carrier of packaged goods and supplies. Cargo shipped in box cars has a solid shape that can be loaded inside the unit through the door.

In modern times the box car has almost been replaced with the piggy back flat cars.


Flat Car Drawing (5K)

Flat Car (85K)
6200 flat car 1995


Flat Cars

The flat car is a uniform flat plane with wheels. Any type of goods might be placed on top and strapped down for the ride. In general this might be various types of equipment, lumber, steel or other materials that could withstand being exposed to the weather.

At first the narrow gauge flat cars were built entirely of wood. Eventually steel sided flat cars were introduced. Some wooden versions were reinforced by adding a piece of old rail to the bottom of the side sills. 


Gondola Car Drawing (7K)

Gondola Car (77K)
700 Side dump Gondola 1995


Gondola Cars

Ore and coal was a major cargo for the Rio Grande and it was most often carried in gondola cars. The drop bottom style has a floor that hinges down to dump the load beneath the car. Side dump gondolas have a visible hinge along the length of the side and this allowed the side to drop open and the load to be dumped over the side.

Most narrow gauge gondolas were built entirely of wood. A few outside steel frames.

In 1923 the side boards were raised on some of the gondolas to 4 feet 2 inches. These cars were called High Side Gondolas.


Refrigerator Car Drawing (18K) Refrigerator Car (46K)
166 refrigerator car 1995


Refrigerator Cars

The Refrigerator cars were a basic boxcar with an ice compartment on the ends that kept the cargo cool.


Stock Car Drawing  (11K)

Stock Car  (70K)
5706 stock car 1995


Stock Cars

Stock cars carried live animals to and from the market and pastures. Cattle and sheep were frequent passengers on the old line. The "open air" cars kept the animals somewhat happy.


Tank Car Drawing (8K)

Tank Car (on flat) (43K)



Tank Cars

Tank cars carry bulk liquids. Early models were basically a flat car with a tank strapped down to the bed. Most tank cars found their way to the railroad during the oil boom of the 1950’s and 60’s.

The UTLX tank cars were previously lettered with GRAMPS in the 1950’s for Gramps oil company.




Box Car








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