Photo courtesy of Jonathan C. Fischer

The 651 E is a unique maintenance of the way car that I photographed at Birchwood approximately 30 years ago today. This was another picture taken when I ventured into the wilds of Alaska on my first real trip out of the city.
The ARR has only recently joined the AAR. Prior to joining the AAR the ARR listed the AAR mechanical designation in the lower right hand corner of their freight cars. The Official Railway Equipment Guide (I've been using the October 1974 edition for consistencies sake) generally lists freight cars that are in interchange service. It does not list cabooses or maintenance of way equipment. A relevant exception is that the Guide does include the ARR power cars on it's roster, even though I sort of doubt those cars were ever in interchange service. The Guide does provide definitions of the various AAR mechanical designations that apply to maintenance of the way equipment.
In this case ARR 651 has been listed by the ARR as having an AAR mechanical designation of MWF. A MWF is used for transporting rails, ties, or ballast and for storage of wrecking trucks, or gathering scraps along the right of way. These cars are at times equipped with low sides, about 10 to 12 inches high.
I'm glad I took the pictures at Birchwood that I did. Of course, I wish I had taken more as there was a plethora of railroad equipment flotsam that would continually accumulate at Birchwood. Birchwood was often the last stop before oblivion, and that was probably the case with the 651 as I never saw this car again.
It's such a "cute" car. What did it do? I’ve speculated that it was used to transport herbicides, but I have no factual information to back up that thought. It reinforces the notion that there is a prototype somewhere for every model. It also provides an alternative definition to the acronym TOFC (tank on flat car). The 651 has a light weight of 36800, and from the general look of the car, it looks to be less than 40' in length. In 40 years of photography I don’t recall seeing a similar car.
There seem to be many websites that are satisfied with sensational super saturated scenery shots with trains in them. I like those pictures as much as anyone else. However, I appreciate a website that can take a moment to recognize the contribution of a small bedraggled flat car on its way to extinction. The gritty essence of railroading is more aptly reflected in these humble pieces of work equipment than the aforementioned ethereal photographs.