Railway Cars: Intermodal

This article will introduce the reader to the various types of rail cars. You will learn what they are typically used for. You will also learn spotting features, and also learn how to tell older cars apart from newer ones.
Intermodal Car Types:


We will start off with one of the most ubiquitious rail cars in current times. The Well Car is the common term for the rail car used to transport shipping containers. It is also known as an Intermodal Car, Doublestack Car or a Container Car. The Well Car is essentially a shallow tub like car, designed for a shipping container to sit inside of it. Often the bottom of the tub is open, with only structural cross bracing spanning between each side of the car. These cars have been made in single car versions, as well as 3 part articulated units, and 5 part articulated units.

Well Cars typically allow containers to be double stacked, which helps decrease train length. Tho, not as common anymore, Containers have also been hauled on top of special Flatcars, and TOFC Cars. But in most cases now always use Well cars.

Container Service is a type of 'Intermodal' service that railways began to offer to compete with the trucking industry. An earlier type of 'Intermodal' service was the idea of transporting Trailers On Flat Cars, or 'TOFC'. TOFC Cars are a type of 'flat car' which is typically only used to load truck trailers on. These trailers are often lifted, or driven onto special flatcars, and secured for the trip. Many such rail cars, are set up in a similar way as well cars, and come in 3 unit sets, or 5 unit sets.

RoadRailer was a service offered by a few railroads. They were essentially normal truck trailers, that had hardened frames and special hardware that allowed rail trucks (wheel sets) to be attached directly to them, so that the trailers could be transported as if it were a train, without the use of any special flat cars or loading equipment. Most of the RoadRailer services has ceased operation, in favor of the more economical container service, but there are still a few hold outs on some specialized routes.