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In the initial days of railroading, the first freight car was the flat car.  It was nothing more than a platform with wheels and was used to move anything and everything.  Flat cars today are much more sophisticated and come in an amazing variety of shapes and purposes.  They include drop center, centerbeams, bulkheads and intermodal flatcars such as spine and well cars.  Early in the 1950s, piggybacking (truck trailers on flat cars) got its start and today is a major player in railroad freight.  To reduce the overall weight pulled by locomotives, minimal spine cars (simply a steal beam on wheels) were built to carry several truck trailers.  Well cars carry a double height stack of containers (basically trailers without wheels) by dropping a container down into a welled flat car.

The Alaska Railroad uses various types of flat cars for hauling products as well as for Maintenance of Way (MOW) service.  Shown are several of the basic types. Click here for roster information.

Also, check out the information on centerbeam, articulated and shuttle flatcars


Click on the pictures below for a larger view.
flat #1 This HD flat is used by the ARR for heavy lifts when a depressed center is not required.  Most often these cars are seen with a load of tie plates, spikes, or joiners.

These are examples of the ARR log flats.  Flats from three different builders are used for this service.  These cars are used for hauling logs between Nenana and Seward and also for pipe between Seward and Whittier and Fairbanks. The pipe comes in on a ship to Whittier or Seward and goes to oil companies in Fairbanks who then truck it to the north slope. Log flat

flat #3 This is a depressed flat car. No, it is just as happy as the rest of the freight cars. It is called depressed because it has a drop center. Flats like this are used to transport bulldozers and similar equipment. Since no loading ramp is required, the railroad can stop any place up and down the line and load/offload equipment. This permits express delivery of the equipment to slides and/or derailments to get the line open quickly. 3/99

This is a double piggie, trucks on top of a flat on top of a flat car. Log flat

flat car hauling boats flat #5

Now here is something you don't see every day. This flat is hauling fishing boats to Whittier. 3/99

89 foot flatcars in the Fairbanks yard. June 2007 1 2






flat #3 Here's a roster shot of flatcar ARR 95807 in spent tie service, taken in Healy on 6/8/2013. The railroad owns seven of these special flatcars numbered 95801 through 95807.

CRLE 4020 on Harbor Island on 5/31/14. While not an ARR car per se, it does spend a lot of time going back and forth on the barge between Seattle and Alaska.
flat #3

17XXX 17XXX series

Added 8/26/11:

- 40 used multi configuration COFC Flat cars, builder Greenbrier, year built 2000, all due in Alaska by mid November


Added 1/12/15 by Curt Fortenberry:

There are 20 of 19XXX series flat cars, 19201-19220.  Built in 1972 by Marine Industries (Canada) for CN.  Acquired the summer of 2001.

Added 5/17/15 by Curt Fortenberry:

  • 19209 (9/24/2001)
  • 19217 (9/9/2001)
  • 19052 (This is the only shot I took of this series of TOFC flats.  They didn't last long apparently.  All I know is what the ARR mechanical sheet says, acquired used in 1980, built by GATC 1963-64.)


Thanks to Ed Alford and Casey Durand for providing this information

© 1999-2018 John Combs unless otherwise noted
Page created 1/27/99 and last updated 2/13/18