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Heavyweight Railway Express & Head End Cars

Hauling everything, including the kitchen sink

In addition to the RPO, passenger service also requires other types of cars for hauling storage mail, baggage, express shipments and for specialty applications. Some of these cars are highly specialized (and thus found in limited numbers) while others are common and versatile designs: an ordinary "baggage car" can be assigned to baggage service, express or RPO storage as desired. Here are a selection of the basic types found throughout North America.

This 70 foot car is typical of the basic and most common head end cars. Head end equipment will vary in fittings depending on the service they run in. This particular car does not have an express messenger (being intended for sealed shipments between cities), and is thus lacking the toilet and related facilities. It is also lacking a battery box, as cars like this would be lit by a plug in cable at the express terminal. The practice of using one wide door and one narrow one is common, although the relative widths of doors and which is on which end will vary widely.

Many railroads prefer to use these shorter cars for a variety of services. Note that this car, again, lacks messenger facilities. However, it is equipped with lights - indicating it is outfitted for storage mail service attached to a full 60' RPO. Note, too, that it is riding on 4 wheel trucks; the choice of 4 wheel or 6 wheel trucks on 60' cars depends on speed and track conditions.

Horse cars are relatively rare, as the demand for hauling prize race horses (ordinary cattle and horses are shipped in cattle cars) is small. Most cars of this type use collapsible internal dividers which can be stored out of the way so the car may be used for general express. Note that it lacks end doors. Note, also, that it has extensive battery boxes (these cars are rarely fitted with generators) and that there are small windows in the upper sides to provide light for the horses. Finally, note that the under frame has only two cross beams (horses being relatively light weight cargo). Among the fittings in a horse car are collapsible watering troughs across the fronts of the stalls which are fed from water tanks under the roof.

One of the most exotic of head end cars is the Scenery Car. These are used (as the name implies) for hauling theatrical scenery; limiting their use to the East Coast (Broadway), the West Coast (Hollywood) and Circus Train duty. This particular Scenery Car shows some common features that make them more useful: they can be outfitted as a Horse Car (see above) and the end of the car has a large pair of swinging doors that open to allow end loading of motor cars. This is probably the most DeLuxe service given to head end cars, as the motor cars being hauled are those of wealthy patrons traveling to exclusive summer or winter resorts. Cars in this service will be seen in the New England trade, the Florida trade and on routes to the Desert Southwest and California.


Refer to "Free Downloads" for a summary of Pullman car types.


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North East Rails  Clint Chamberlin.
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Current update: 8/11/99