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Thread: Modern era flat cars

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    Default Modern era flat cars

    Hi all

    I've searched for this topic a few times but never really found an answer so I thought I'd ask here.

    I have a dozen or so flat cars of various styles/makes. I'm having a hard time finding out what era some are and what would be ran today, in the modern era.

    If anyone could help point me to some resources for flat cars that'd be awesome.

    I'm also interested in what it would take, if anything, to bring so me of these up to modern era standards.

    If they cant be updated, and are not modern era appropriate, I'd love to know so I can swap em out with some that are.

    Thanks!





    These had bulk heads but they fell off, to lazy to fix, so wanting to use them as flat cars for now -- if that's acceptable.




    Some more used ones with missing bits and to lazy to fix, so using as a regular flat car.



    And one random flat car

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    The first clue is written on the car sides. It is the Build or Rebuild date. Cars generally only last about twenty years in exchange service. Then there is the owner. Are they still around? How long ago did the company go out of business? Does the current owner of the car need the old reporting marks intact? (The UP did this with C&NW numbers) Old flatcars are valued in MOW service. But they do not leave the home rails. So while they may not make money, old flats keep working until it doesn't make sense to repair them.

    The next clue are the trucks. Are they Friction or Roller bearing? Friction bearings were outlawed for exchange use in the 1970s. Friction bearings have the angle topped boxes at the axle points. Roller bearing were first installed on locos and tenders, then passenger cars, slowly working their way onto new freight cars until the ban. Any car equipped with friction bearings can be upgraded to roller bearing trucks.

    Then there is the placement of the brake wheel. The most modern cars use a side mounted vertical brake wheel for safety. The end mounted horizontal wheel requires the employee to climb onto the equipment to apply the brakes. They can be easily injured by slipping and falling on wet equipment or when it is suddenly moved or bumped. The wheel was often relocated on cars used for circus loading piggyback service. The wheels were in the way, if not lowered.

    Your car(s) without a deck are easy to fix. The simplest method is the commercial laser cut/etched wood decks. There are many available. Cheaper alternatives are numerous. They can be as simple as sheet styrene or wood trimmed to fit and etched with boards. More realistic are decks made from scale lumber, flat toothpicks or matches glued into a sheet. To get a well used look, stain and sand the deck multiple times. This not only thins the wood to a realistic thickness but adds wear and tear to the wood.

    On these horrible Readers' Digest flats (below), the molded plastic deck with holes for the semitrailer were replaced with matchsticks. The individual "planks" each taking the thinned paint staining differently. Not always possible on a laser cut deck.



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    The only modern flatcars you see on the railroads today are 89' flatcars (F89F), which are usually known for carrying piggyback trailers, but have generally been replaced by spine cars. But railroads will haul other vehicles such as military tanks or jeeps or other kinds of large equipment on them. And of course, auto rack cars are really modified flatcars with sides, racks and a roof added to them. The other common flatcar in today's railroads are bulkhead flatcars; these are usually 62' or 68' long. Those 50' and 40' flatcars with the side stakes you have pictured are long obsolete from today's railroads; they are from the 1950s & 1960s.

    In N scale, BLMA, Micro-Trains and Atlas makes 89' flatcars. ExactRail makes 68' Trenton Works bulkhead flatcars.

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    In addition to the above, centerbeam flatcars are still in use, mostly for lumber and similar products. I couldn't say if they're used in your area though.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=cent...w=1536&bih=755

    Micro Trains has made 60' centerbeam flats, and I think Red Caboose has made a longer version.

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    Quote Originally Posted by OTFan View Post
    In addition to the above, centerbeam flatcars are still in use, mostly for lumber and similar products. I couldn't say if they're used in your area though.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=cent...w=1536&bih=755

    Micro Trains has made 60' centerbeam flats, and I think Red Caboose has made a longer version.
    I didn't include centerbeams because I consider them "centerbeam cars" and not flatcars since they're not flat

    But since we're talking about them, Red Caboose makes 73' centerbeam cars. They've been discontinued for a few years, but you can find a lot of them on eBay, just search for "N scale centerbeam" (that's how I get mine). Good luck finding a TTX centerbeam though, those things are rarer than diamonds!

    Centerbeam cars are totally found in Southern CA. The UP (and BNSF too) sends them down from the Pacific Northwest mills and they come down to So Cal via Tehachapi. How else does our Home Depots and Lowes get their plywood stock?

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    I have a list of pretty much every N scale freight car ever made - http://www.spookshow.net/freight/freight.html

    Said list includes approximate "first built" dates. Should help get you in the right ballpark.

    -Mark

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    Thanks everyone! What a bummer.. I was on a flat car buying spree it felt like - I really like em but had that feeling that they were from the incorrect era.

    Looks like my FS/FT stash is growing even larger!
    Last edited by socalup; 13th Jun 2017 at 11:26 AM. Reason: removed ?, found answer on Spookshows site

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    Ahh.. Wish I had known about spookshow's site when I got started a few months back.. looks like a lot of my gondolas are a bit dated as well...

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    Quote Originally Posted by socalup View Post
    Thanks everyone! What a bummer.. I was on a flat car buying spree it felt like - I really like em but had that feeling that they were from the incorrect era.
    Don't feel too bad, I did the same when I first started in the hobby last year. I bought several out-of-era flat cars until I began researching them more thoroughly. I did some related research on behalf of another member on another forum and was bit surprised at my findings. I'll re-post what I wrote here:

    "I just ruffled through the TTX section of my 1989 ORER (my oldest volume), and only found less than 200 85' flat cars listed under the MTTX name on page 1,255 of the ORER issued October 10, 1989 (vol. 105, no. 2). A smatterring of 40', 48', 60', 75' flat cars are also listed. The bulk of the TTX section is filled with 89' flats.

    In my 1993 ORER, there's about 70+ pages of TTX 89' flat car listings in various configurations, but I couldn't find any 85' flats (though I did see a few 82' flats under the TTEX name). They do show a few dozen (35) 75' flat cars under the ATTX name, plus various listings of a smattering of 40', 48', 50', 60', 62', 68', 73', and 75' flats."

    So, it appears that 85' flat cars all but disappeared (at least from TTX' inventory) by the early 1990s. I believe 85' flats were the primary flat car used for TOFC transport. I am inferring from that observation (possibly incorrectly) that TOFCs in general were in decline (with the exception of RoadRailers), and that by the late-1990s the majority of container traffic was handled by well-cars and spine-cars.

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    Official Railway Equipment Register (ORER):

    ORER volumes appear frequently on eBay, sometimes for as little as $20-$25 per volume, plus a modest book-rate shipping fee (typically less than $5.00). Below is a list of ORERs I've collected so far. Amazingly, my oldest ORER, the 1989 volume, arrived looking brand new!

    • ORER: October 1989.
    • ORER: January 1993.
    • ORER: October 2001.
    • ORER: January 2016.

    They're really handy for getting an idea of the approximate ratio of the types of cars still in use (e.g., 85' vs. 89' flat cars). Listed alphabetically by railroad/owner, the TTX sections are HUGE! If your desired year isn't available or too over-priced, just wait a few weeks and another one is likely to show up.

    I got lucky and found a mint-condition 1989 volume right away for only $20, and a few weeks later found the 1993 volume for $25. More recent volumes seem harder to find, so I did pay a premium for the 2001 volume at $55, and the 2016 volume set me back $39. Volumes older than 1980 may sell for more "vintage" prices. The good news is that book-rate shipping is always only about $4.50. Just check frequently, because I think they sell pretty fast.

    Southern Pacific | Santa Fe | SPSF | BNSF | Metrolink | CalTrain | Chicago Metra | TGV Lyria

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    ambient sound design by Fantasonics | digital command control by Dynamis Ultima | layout automation by RailController

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    Quote Originally Posted by Metrolink View Post
    Official Railway Equipment Register (ORER):

    ORER volumes appear frequently on eBay, often for as little as $25, plus a modest book-rate shipping fee of only about $5.00. Amazingly, my oldest ORER, the 1989 volume, arrived looking brand new!

    • ORER: October 1989.
    • ORER: January 1993.
    • ORER: October 2001.
    • ORER: January 2016.

    They're really handy for getting an idea of the approximate ratio of the types of cars still in use (e.g., TOFCs vs modern intermodal). Listed alphabetically by railroad/owner, The TTX sections are HUGE! If your desired year isn't available or too over-priced, just wait a few weeks and another one is likely to show up.

    I got lucky and found a mint-condition 1989 volume right away for only $20, and a few weeks later found the 1993 volume for about the same. More recent volumes seem harder to find, so I did pay a premium for the 2001 volume at $55, and the 2016 volume set me back $39. Volumes older than 1980 may sell for more "vintage" prices. The good news is that book-rate shipping is always only about $4.50. Just check frequently, because I think they sell pretty fast.
    When you are done with the 1993 version,
    I can haz it?


    (will totally buy it of course)
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    Sorry. I won't be "done" with it until I die!

    Southern Pacific | Santa Fe | SPSF | BNSF | Metrolink | CalTrain | Chicago Metra | TGV Lyria

    railways by Kato Unitrack + Unitram | electric light-rail by Tomix | construction by Kato Diotown & Tomytec Co., Ltd. | vehicles by Busch GmbH & Co. KG
    ambient sound design by Fantasonics | digital command control by Dynamis Ultima | layout automation by RailController

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    OK, first correction is that a car is legal in interchange service for 40 years before 'not allowed in interchange service' if built before 1975 and 50 years after that. A railroad can continue to use a car on their own line indefinitely, and that includes all manner of bearings, etc. And even then, with a structural analysis and AAR approval, the car can be recertified. 49 CFR 215.203

    One of the biggest clues on obsolescence is capacity - your typical 1940's 50-ton flatcar is pretty dead; 70-ton is now a minimum and 100-ton for a conventional flatcar is more like it for modern loads.

    My personal favorite is the James E Strates Co. Warren Car Co. flatcar as the 'ramp car', that car is approximately 100 years old now, last Warren Circus flatcar in operation and it has roller-bearing trucks. Easy to spot with the high sides and the rivets. Carnival and circus cars have different rules.

    N scale kits has some modern flats, military and non-military, to keep up the variety. http://www.nscalekits.co.uk/Catalog.pdf
    Randgust N scale kits web page at www.randgust.com

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    AAR rule 88.

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    Quote Originally Posted by socalup View Post
    Thanks everyone! What a bummer.. I was on a flat car buying spree it felt like - I really like em but had that feeling that they were from the incorrect era.

    Looks like my FS/FT stash is growing even larger!
    Not to worry, I was like that myself when I was starting out in N scale (after a few years being away from the hobby) and started hoarding N scale cars that made sense to me. But there are modelers of all eras, so you won't really have a problem finding buyers.

    Metro Red Ln (Metro Red Line)
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    I'm going to keep the few 70+ ton ones I have on the board so my son can haul some loads around.

    Last night I almost ordered one of these to see how it runs



    'almost' because wow, 89' is pretty huge.. I have 11" radius turns and a pretty small layout, so.. I think I'll buy one of those ORER books and start planning things after that.

    If I can find one that is, is ORER an acronym?

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    Quote Originally Posted by socalup View Post
    If I can find one that is, is ORER an acronym?
    Check out post #10 in this thread .

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    See Metrolink's original post and nscaler711’s quote for the expansion of the acronym.
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    Oh lord, AM replies without much coffee. Thanks gents!

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    Quote Originally Posted by socalup View Post
    I'm going to keep the few 70+ ton ones I have on the board so my son can haul some loads around.

    Last night I almost ordered one of these to see how it runs

    http://i.imgur.com/d1UxQNF.jpg

    'almost' because wow, 89' is pretty huge.. I have 11" radius turns and a pretty small layout, so..

    When I was in HO scale, the whole radius issue bit me in the butt (I had 18" radius curves - which is like the HO equivalent to N's 9.75" curves) and started learning I couldn't really run the 89' cars that I wanted to run). So when I converted to N scale, I made sure to go no lower than 18" radius in N scale (I used my old HO scale snap track curves as a guide for my N scale flextrack) and now I can run anything on my 4x8' layout. Lesson learned!

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