Centerbeam Flat Cars
Lumber has traditionally moved over the McCloud River Railroad in boxcars or on flatcars. By the early 1980s, bulkhead flats handled almost all lumber movements. However, lumber producers came to prefer centerbeam flat cars over all other types of lumber hauling cars, mostly because of their ease of loading and unloading and the amount of lumber that could be loaded onto each car.
Itel Rail first leased centerbeam flatcars to the McCloud River Railroad in 1988; however, Itel used the cars elsewhere. The centerbeams did not start to become common on McCloud rails until a few years after the McCloud Railway started operations, specifically when Sierra Pacific Industries transitioned from loading bulkhead flatcars to centerbeams. Per diem payments on centerbeams usually ran about $1 per hour, but the railroad did not have to pay per diem on these cars- now owned by GE Capital- for time spent in McCloud. These cars became the most common type of car used by McCloud through the last years of freight operations. In addition to handling freight, the McCloud Railway would also use wreck damaged cars as tie flats and other maintenance-of-way work.
9000-9099: FBS-class, 73-foot centerbeam flatcars. 100 cars reported in 1988-1989, 97 cars 1991-1994, 94 cars in 1996, 93 cars 1997-1998, 49 cars in 1999, 17 cars in 2000, 1 car 2001-2011.
9100-9299: FBC-class 73-foot centerbeam flatcars. Leased 10/12/89 from Itel and assigned 9/25/89 to Southern Railway of British Columbia. Cars in this series numbered 200 in 1988, 155 cars in 1989, 180 cars 1991-1994, 93 cars in 1996, 88 cars 1997-2001, 87 cars in 2002, 127 cars 2003-2004, 125 cars in 2005, and 123-124 cars 2006-2011. Approximately 50 of these cars remained stored in McCloud between 2006-2011, with those cars sent to the City of Prineville Railway for continued storage there.
30000-30174: FBC-class 73-foot centerbeam flatcars. Leased 10/12/89 from Itel and assigned 9/25/89 to Southern Railway of British Columbia. Cars in this series numbered 149 in 1991, 148 cars 1992-1994, 147 cars in 1996, 146 cars 1997-1998, 145 cars 1998-1999, 144 cars 2000-2002, 143 cars in 2004, 142 cars 2005-2006, 138 cars in 2007, 139 cars in 2008, and 138 cars 2009-2011. Most of these cars scrapped early 2011 after a lengthy period of storage in Montana.
A McCloud centerbeam in the McCloud yard. Peter Ely photograph.
Loaded MR centerbeams at Berry in June 2006. Jeff Moore photograph.
Safety warnings on the MR centerbeams. Roger L. Titus photograph.
After the railroad ended freight service, the centerbeams trickled home. The railroad stored them in the Mt. Shasta and McCloud yards. The soft lumber market that has prevailed since has kept GE Capital, owner of the cars, from finding a new lessee. The cars seen here departed the road in late 2011, headed for continued storage on the City of Prineville Railroad in central Oregon. Photo by and courtesy of Norman K. Linn.