SPECIAL FLAT CARS
Railroads have developed several types of specialized flat cars for hauling various commodities. The AAR classifications for the types available in N-scale are listed below:
LF- Container car. A flat car equipped to handle one or more demountable containers.
FD- Depressed center flat car. A flat car with the floor depressed between the trucks to provide extra clearance for oversize loads.
FW- Well flat car. A flat car with a hole in the deck to provide clearance for oversize loads.
FL- Logging flat. A flat car or skeleton car with racks for transporting logs lengthwise.
LP- Pulpwood car. A flat car with a solid floor and fixed ends for transporting pulpwood
ATLAS and MINITRIX
Due to their volatility, some chemicals were shipped in containers rather than in bulk. The containers were then shipped in modified flat cars (class LF) or gondolas (class LG). Atlas offered one such car years ago; made in Austria by Roco, this sharp-looking model carried 22 cylindrical containers.
Of the four road names offered, three had some basis in reality:
SOUTHERN PACIFIC- Espee’s two cars were the apparent prototype for the model, they were described in Equipment Registers as “Equipped with 22 demountable containers for handling calcium chloride.”
MISSORI-KANSAS-TEXAS- The Katy’s single car was also listed as “Equipped with twenty-two 2-1/2 ton demountable containers for handling calcium chloride”.
CHESAPEAKE & OHIO- The C&O’s two cars were equipped with “Tote bins containing chemicals” (Barium oxide was mentioned in early Registers). The 81011 first appeared in 1960, but was gone by 1969. The 81015 first appeared in the 1966 Register and lasted until 1978; the January 1979 Equipment Register listed it as an ordinary class FM flat car.
Like the Atlas version the Minitrix container car was also made in Austria by Roco. It was also sold by Aurora under the “Postage Stamp Trains” label. It is a model of container cars built by ACF for DuPont beginning in 1957. According to the Equipment Registers, they carried 28 containers which, sadly, aren’t included with the model. A photo of car number 50008 is in the book “Freight Car Pictorial” by John Wayner. It differs from the model by having a vertical brake wheel and a dark (black?) paint scheme. The caption mentions that the containers carried sodium cyanide. An online photo of car number 50021, built by Ortner in 1967, is painted in the same dark scheme.
The cars were listed in the Equipment Registers under both Shipper’s Car Line and Dupont; the amounts differed so I’ve included both in the chart. Though the cars were originally leased to Dupont I get the impression that some were eventually sold to Dupont. As for the other three road names (Dow, Monsanto and Hooker), I could find nothing even close.
LOG FLAT CARS
It is amazing how many oddball prototypes were manufactured in the early days of N-scale. Like so many others, the Atlas log car was made in Austria by Roco. My guess is that the manufacturers thumbed through a copy of the Freight Car Cyclopedia and picked out what looked cool. Of course, the fact that Roco had already made many of them in HO was certainly a consideration. Atlas 3001 represents a series of ten bulkhead log cars built for the Norfolk & Western. Numbered 32850-32859 the entry in the April, 1963 Equipment Register has a star, which indicates an addition. The January, 1979 issue listed eight cars, but only two were listed in the July, 1981 issue. The cars carried an AAR classification of FMS.
As for the other three road names, there is nothing close. However, by cutting the sides and inside bulkheads and adding a wood floor to a Louisville & Nashville car you can have a halfway decent stand-in for a bulkhead flat car.
FOUR-AXLE CENTER DEPRESSED FLAT CARS
MODEL POWER AND GHQ
Center depressed flat cars are AAR class FD, and like class FW well cars, they are used to haul oversized loads. Since the loads are often heavy, most class FD cars have six or more axles, though a few roads owned small four-axle cars. Most had a length of between 36’ to 40’ and a loading platform between 16’ and 17’.
The only ready-to-run model of a four-axle center depressed flatcar was offered by Model Power. Unfortunately, it is rather toy-like and two of the four road names offered are inappropriate. The lettering is very basic, and the model has two figures (hobos?) and either a searchlight or two undersized cable reels for a load. I don’t own one so I can’t measure it; the photo above is of a modified Minitrix six-axle car. If you’re willing to put in the effort, a nice pewter kit is available from GHQ. The two-car kit includes decals for several railroads which are indicated in the chart below by an asterisk.
The chart below lists those roads that owned four-axle center-depressed flat cars with the above dimensions. Of the two ready-to-run road names, the Canadian National comes closer with a length of 43’ and a loading deck of 18’6”. The Pennsylvania cars were significantly longer, with a length of 55’1” and a 30’ loading deck.
SIX-AXLE CENTER DEPRESSED FLAT CARS
MICRO-TRAINS, MINITRIX, BACHMANN and ER models
The six-axle center depressed flat car was the most common type, and was owned by a variety of railroads. Most were home-made affairs using a cast steel body made by General Steel Casting (GSC). The most common length was 58’4” with a loading platform of 21’. The Micro-Trains model matches these dimensions nicely, so it is presumably a model of these cars.
Roco produced an N-scale center depressed flat car for Minitrix in the early seventies. It was 52’ long with an all wood deck, a large round crate for a load and offered in four road names. The model was later re-issued by ER Models in four additional road names with either the round crate or a transformer for a load.
Atlas also offered a 52’ center depressed flat car that was made by Roco. These differed from the Minitrix car by having vertical ribs along the frame. I’m guessing it represents a car with a fabricated frame, but I have yet to find a prototype for it. The car came in two road names, which were printed on an unpainted black frame and came with a transformer load.
Bachmann’s model has a ribbed side frame like the Atlas car; the earlier 5500 series came with a rather toy-like missile load, while the later 71000 series came with no load. Currently, the car is offered in an Army camouflage scheme with a Sheridan tank, or undecorated with a boiler or transformer load.
The chart below lists the models into three groups: 52’ cars that are best represented by the Minitrix and ER Models cars, 58’ cars that are best represented by the Micro-Trains model, and the “Stand-ins” that vary significantly from either model.
CANADIAN NATIONAL- Micro-Trains 10900120 represents CN’s flatcars as renumbered and repainted in the mid-sixties. They were slightly longer, with a length of 59’9” and a 22’7” loading platform.
CANADIAN PACIFIC- CP 309910-309911 had a length of 51’3”, which is slightly shorter than Minitrix 3118. Micro-Trains 10900060 is numbered for the 3000925-309929 series which had a length of 54’5”. Both series had a 22’7” loading platform.
ERIE and ERIE LACKAWANNA- Micro-Trains 109050 and 10900050 models are numbered for Erie’s first series of center depressed flatcars which are closer to the dimensions of Minitrix 3117. However, the dimensions of Erie’s second batch (7260-7271) match the dimensions of the Micro-Trains models
GREAT NORTHERN- The GN’s three cars had a length of 52’9”, a loading platform of 23’9” and four-wheel trucks. Bachmann 5504 is painted in the big sky blue scheme adopted in 1967.
NORFOLK & WESTERN- N&W’s first car (70099) had a length of 54’4” and a loading platform of 22’ which matches Pennsy’s F35 class. Subsequent cars numbered 70096-70098, 202903 (Ex-NKP) and 300010-300011 (Ex WAB) match the dimensions of the Micro-Trains models.
SOUTHERN PACIFIC- Micro-Trains 10900091 is numbered for a series of twenty former Texas & New Orleans cars which had a length of 63’4” and a 26’ loading platform. However, SP owned two cars whose dimensions matched the Micro-Trains model; originally numbered 39900-39901, they were renumbered to 500500-500501 in 1956.
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE- The DODX cars were about the same length as the model and had two six-axle trucks, however, they had a framework and container for carrying radioactive material which gave them a height of 15’4”. There’s a photo in volume six of Classic Freight Cars for anyone who would like to model the load.
TRAILER TRAIN- The Micro-Trains model represents a series of cars that were about the same length, but had two two-axle trucks and a 25’ loading platform.
U.S. ARMY- The U.S Army’s center depressed cars were seventy-two feet long with a 30’ loading platform and four four-wheel trucks. By 1975, the USAX reporting marks had been changed to DODX.
EIGHT-AXLE CENTER DEPRESSED FLAT CAR
An eight-axle center depressed flat car is available from Tomix. Not surprisingly, it is based on a Japanese prototype. It is available in the United States as an undecorated car with two rather puny transformers as a load. Though several railroad and private owners had eight-axle cars, I haven’t been able to find anything similar to the model. The model measures 82’ long with a 26’ loading deck.
As you can see in the photo above, it dresses up nicely with some decals and a proper load. An Arnold Rapido transformer fits nicely in the car with little modification.
GSC WELL CARS
EASTERN SEABOARD MODELS
Well cars have an AAR classification of “FW”, and like center depressed cars were used for hauling oversized loads. Eastern Seaboard Models produced an N-scale model of a General Steel Casting (GSC) well car from 1958, which had a well opening of 23’and an overall length of 49 feet. Like modern stack cars, the bottom of the well is only ten inches above the rails, and the cars were prohibited from third rail territory and were not allowed to be humped.
The eight cars of the D&H, NYC and LV may well represent the entire production, and the cars listed below differ from the model:
ALLIS CHALMERS- Allis Chalmers’ two well cars differed from the model in having a 30 foot well and a length of 52 feet. ACMX reporting marks are not listed in later Registers, but the ESM website does mention that one of the cars was not scrapped until 2005.
CONRAIL and PENN CENTRAL-- The numbers in parentheses indicate the number of ex-PRR cars, which differ from the model. There is a discrepancy in the number of cars listed October 1993 Register as two cars are listed twice.
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE- Built in 1972, these cars were similar in dimensions to the model, but are listed as having four four-wheel trucks.
PENNSYLVANIA- This model represents Pennsy’s F49 well cars, which had a 25-foot well and a length of 51’.