Specially designed with an open top and doors in the floor, hopper cars hold freight like grain, sand and gravel. The freight unloads into large containers below the tracks when the doors open.
Fully enclosed, boxcars safely carry packaged or wrapped freight. Packages are loaded through side doors, often using a forklift.
Flatcars & Piggybacks
Commonly seen hauling large pieces of freight, flatcars look just like their name implies. Piggybacks are flatcars that carry shipping containers. The piggyback ride speeds up delivery and eases loading. When the container arrives at its destination, it is unloaded and reattached to a truck’s tractor rig to finish its journey.
The gondola, a roofless boxcar, is used to carry freight such as logs, machine parts and scrap metal.
Tank cars carry liquid freight such as milk, gasoline and chemicals.
Reefers, also known as refrigerated cars, carry perishable goods such as fruit or frozen foods. The air system of these refrigerated boxcars keeps the freight cold or frozen during travel.
Specialized cars, called autoracks, carry automobiles. They hold approximately twenty vehicles stacked three high and six-to-seven end-to-end.
The caboose traditionally brought up the rear of a freight train and provided shelter, storage and office quarters for the crew. One crewmember was stationed in it to watch for trouble and communicate with the train’s engineer. Beginning in the 1980s, new technology made the heavy caboose obsolete. Today, a flashing rear-end device (FRED), monitors functions and transmits data to the locomotive.