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Trains - Freight Cars
Trains - RR Freight Cars
If you are confused by the numerous RR reporting marks and locomotive types, you will be happy to know that RR freight cars names are about as simple as you can get!  If you see a tank or a box on wheels it's a tank car or a box car, respectively! Here's 10 of the most common RR freight cars you will see today...
Box Car
Box Car. The utility car of the railroad is used to haul a large variety of products such as boxed food items, lumber, manufactured goods, and auto parts.
Covered Hopper
Covered Hopper. Cars that unload from the bottom are hoppers.  The covered hopper has a roof with hatches to fill the car and protect the contents from the elements.   Typical cargos are grain (corn, beans, wheat, etc.), dry fertilizer, clays, and cement. Covered hoppers can be cylindrical or flat sided.

Refrigerator or "Refer". The refer is a box car with insulation and a refrigeration unit (the left end of this car has a diesel powered unit). Refers haul frozen foods, fruits, and vegetables that require a constant low temperature; e.g. items you keep in your refrigerator/freezer.
Double Stack
Double Stacked Container Car. Containers (the 2 blue units) are "intermodal" vehicles; a box car or truck trailer without wheels. They can be carried on ships to overseas markets, loaded on a trailer and pulled by a truck, or loaded in RR "well cars" (the Sea Land unit) either singly or stacked 2 high as shown.

Tank Car
Tank Car. Used to haul bulk liquid products such as fuel oil, corn syrup, liquid fertilizer, propane, or molten sulfur. Many of the cargos in tank cars are hazardous materials.
Auto Rack
Automobile Rack. Auto racks transport finished cars and light trucks from factory or ports to inland distribution centers. Interior are either 2 or 3 levels and typically carry 12-18 vehicles.
> Gondola
Gondola. An open trough car is a gondola with either high or low sides. They haul bulk material such as coal and wood chips or material such as scrap metal or RR ties.  Contents must either be pick up or dumped from the gondola.
Hopper.  Similar to it's covered cousin, hoppers haul bulk material that don't need protection from the elements. Coal and gravel are typical cargo's.  This car has 3 dump bays.

Center Beam Flat
Center Beam Flatcar. This specialized car is a flat car with bulkheads at the ends and a central beam for cables to secure loads; usually lumber or drywall.  Two loaded cars in the background contain plastic wrapped lumber bundles.

Trailer on Flat Car (TOFC). Flat cars are somewhat mundane; just a platform on wheels. At distances greater than 500 miles, it is often cheaper to transport truck trailers via rail than on U.S. interstate highways.
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