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   This page covers flat cars that were used in general service.  They were used for carrying loads that would not easily fit in other types of cars and varied in length from forty feet to sixty feet.  While the walls of boxcars and gondolas form a truss which helps support the load, flat cars require a heavy underframe which usually consists of fishbelly sides or center sills.  The lack of side walls also means a lack of panels, so in describing flat cars, the number of stake pockets is used here.


   In the steam era, the most flat cars were plain unequipped cars with an AAR classification of FM.  Those equipped for special duty were categorized as FMS.   As the specialized types proliferated, new classifications were added as follows:

FA- A flat car equipped with multi-level racks for hauling automobiles.

FB- A flat car equipped with fixed or permanently attached movable bulheads for general commodity loading.

FC- A flat car equipped for hauling trucks, trailers or removable trailer bodies (containers).

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  The forty-foot flat car was an obsolete design and in rapid decline by the post-war era. Union Pacific’s acquisition of 800 cars in the fifties were likely the last ones ever built, as well as the last ones to remain in revenue service.  Some cars, however, would soldier on in maintenance of way service for many more years.  In Worcester, Massachusetts a Reading forty-foot flat car was being used as a boom car for a CSX crane until about 2015.   


   Red Caboose produced a forty-two foot flat car in N-scale, which features a fishbelly side sill with twelve stake pockets.  Unlike earlier models, they have crisp paint jobs and a nice low profile.  Both Minitrix and Atlas offered a 40’ flat car in the early years of N-scale.  The Austrian made Minitrix model was a twelve-pocket car similar to the Red Caboose model. However, it rode a bit high and the paint jobs were rudimentary; the lettering on many were applied to unpainted black bodies.   The black models are marked with an asterisk after the catalog number.  Atlas offered an eleven-pocket flatcar that was made in Italy by Rivarossi; but three of the four paint schemes were too modern for the car, leaving only the Reading.


  The chart below lists all flat car series with a length between 40’ and 42’.  Photos of these cars are few, but those roads I’ve been able to confirm had similar cars are indicated by an “F12” in parentheses.  Exceptions are as follows:

ATCHISON, TOPEKA & SANTA FE- Red Caboose 16022 is numbered for one of several series of flatcars with a length of 44’6’.  These cars are listed in the 45’ flat car chart below. 

CHICAGO & NORTH WESTERN- Red Caboose 16008 is decorated in the “as delivered” scheme, which would be rare or nonexistent in postwar years.

NEW YORK CENTRAL- Red Caboose 16004 is decorated in the black “as delivered” scheme, which would be rare or nonexistent in postwar years.  The “S” in front of the number indicated that it was a “System car”.

UNION PACIFIC- Red Caboose 16010 is numbered for earlier series of 40’ flatcars as repainted between 1947 and.  However, the UP received 800  flat cars numbered 51000-51799 beginning in 1951.  This series won the record for longevity with sixteen cars listed in the 7/1999 Equipment Register.  They were equipped with tie-downs for hauling farm implements, though by that time they were most likely paint

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