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Flatcar - The Waggon Freight Dictionary

Written By:
Picture of Robert Rajfer
Robert Rajfer

Robert has worked in the supply chain / logistics industry for the past five years. Robert spent the first three years of his career at C.H. Robinson (NASDAQ: CHRW) and the following years at Flock Freight (backed by SoftBank, Google Ventures, and Signal Fire).

Key takeaways:

  • Flatcars are essential for transporting oversized or heavy cargo, such as construction machinery and military equipment, due to their ability to carry loads that don’t fit in regular rail cars.
  • Different flatcars, such as bulkhead, centerbeam, and heavy capacity, are designed for specific cargo needs, making them versatile tools in freight transportation.
  • Flatcars can lead to quicker loading and unloading times, ensuring goods arrive safely and efficiently while reducing transportation costs.
  • Flatcars supports intermodal shipping by seamlessly connecting trucks, trains, and ships, enhancing businesses' supply chain logistics.
  • Waggon offers specialized services with experienced personnel and the latest technology to handle flatcar transportation effectively.

Unlocking The Utility Of Flatcars In Freight Transportation: A Waggon Perspective

Flatcars, the unsung heroes of freight transportation, cater directly to your shipping needs.

These rail cars accommodate items too tall, wide, long, or heavy for standard options — providing a stable platform for various goods.

With Waggon’s flatcar shipping services, we can enhance your logistics operations.


Flatcar - The Waggon Freight Dictionary1

Understanding a Flatcar in Freight Transportation

A flatcar is a railroad car with a flat, open deck.

It’s made for hauling large items that don’t fit in regular transport.

Contact Waggon for a no-obligation quote to fulfill your shipping and logistics needs.

Our team is here to streamline your shipping process and ensure your goods are transported efficiently and securely.

Table of Contents

Defining Flatcar - The Freight Dictionary

Flatcar Definition

Flatcars serve a straightforward yet critical role in freight transportation.

They consist of a flat, horizontal deck mounted on wheels, making them versatile carriers for goods.

These railroad cars are engineered to transport dimensional loads — items too tall, wide, long, or heavy for standard rail cars.

Flatcars handle everything from hefty construction machinery and military equipment to specialized aircraft parts.

Their design allows for the efficient use of space and secure cargo transportation across vast distances.

The beauty of flatcars lies in their simplicity and versatility — a true backbone in the freight transportation world.

Flatcar - The Waggon Freight Dictionary2

Types of Flatcars

Each type of flatcar offers unique advantages, ensuring that cargo reaches its destination safely and efficiently.

Whether securing loads with bulkheads or carrying heavy equipment on heavy-capacity flatcars, Waggon has a solution for nearly every need.

  • Bulkhead Flatcars: These come equipped with sturdy vertical walls at each end. The bulkheads prevent cargo from sliding off, making them perfect for transporting materials that need extra security. Items like steel beams and lumber fit well here.
  • Centerbeam Flatcars: These flatcars have a central support beam ideal for heavy or oversized loads. They can easily handle items like construction materials, and the center beam ensures stability during transport.
  • Heavy Capacity Flatcars: Known for their strength, these can carry around 200,000 lbs or more. They’re designed to transport hefty loads, such as industrial machinery or large vehicles.

Benefits of Using Flatcars in Freight Transportation

Flatcars stand out for their ability to handle oversized or cumbersome cargo with ease.

The design of flatcars allows for quick loading and unloading, drastically cutting down wait times.

Notably, securing bulky items is straightforward on a flatcar’s open deck, ensuring safe transit over miles of railroad tracks.

With ample tie-down points and robust construction, flatcars are reliable tools needed to transport diverse loads securely across vast distances.

Partner with Waggon for the best logistics solutions customized to meet your needs.

Let us streamline your shipping process and help you transport goods quickly, securely, and efficiently.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What Does A Flatcar Do?

    A flatcar is the workhorse of the rail freight industry.

    Its open design is perfect for transporting large, heavy items like steel plates and machinery.

    Picture an extended, flat platform on wheels with no sides or roof, offering flexibility in loading and unloading goods that don’t fit well in enclosed cars.

    With lengths varying from 60 to 89 feet, these cars can handle some of the heaviest loads across vast distances.

    A flatcar is also key to moving bulky construction equipment and military gear that would be challenging to ship by other means.

  • What Is The Difference Between Trailer On Flatcar And Container On Flatcar?

    Trailers on flatcars (TOFC) carry semi-trailers with goods over rail lines.

    This method hooks trailers onto the flatcars.

    Container on flatcar (COFC), however, deals with large boxes used across various transport modes — these intermodal containers are stacked onto flatcars.

    The major distinction lies in their design for specific cargo types.

    TOFC is ideal for quickly loading items from truck to train without unloading the goods.

    COFC suits global shipping needs, allowing containers to transfer between ships, trains, and trucks effortlessly without touching the contents inside.

  • What Is A Container On Flatcar?

    A container on a flatcar (COFC) combines a metal storage box with a rail flatcar for transporting goods.

    This setup allows containers to move between ships, trains, and trucks easily without unloading or reloading cargo — making it a key player in intermodal shipping.

    The process uses well-designed rail cars to carry these hefty containers long distances.

    Containers are reused and built for all transport modes, making them perfect for businesses looking to ship goods via multiple forms of transportation.

    They can be single-stacked on flatcars, optimizing space and improving freight movement across countries.

  • What Is The Capacity Of A Flat Car?

    Flat cars are designed to carry heavy loads, with capacities ranging from 147,000 lbs (73.5 tons) to 202,000 lbs (101 tons).

    This makes them perfect for hauling large, heavy machinery or steel beams.

    These cars can handle different types of cargo by using containers in flat car (COFC) setups.

    COFC configurations allow transporting four 20-foot intermodal containers or two larger 40-foot or 45-foot containers on a single flat car.

How Flatcars Can Unlock Utility in Freight Transportation for Waggon

Flatcars offer the ultimate platform for transporting specialized cargo, such as oversized parts and timber.

They also shine in intermodal shipping, seamlessly connecting trucks, trains, and ships.

Flatcar - The Waggon Freight Dictionary3

Using Flatcars for Specialized Transport

Due to their size and shape, aircraft parts and lumber require special handling.

Flatcars provide a stable platform that prevents damage of these items during transport.

This is crucial for aircraft parts, which are often delicate and expensive.

Lumber benefits from open-air transport, allowing it to arrive at its destination without moisture damage.

Flatcars allow easy loading and unloading with cranes or other heavy equipment for bulky items like aircraft engines or long wooden planks.

These railcars make transporting large goods more efficient than ever before.

Leveraging Flatcars for Intermodal Freight Transportation

Flatcars also play a crucial role in intermodal freight transportation.

These cars make moving large containers by rail easy, connecting seamlessly with trucks and ships for long-distance hauling.

This flexibility boosts efficiency and slashes costs for businesses that ship goods across vast distances.

Their design allows quick loading and unloading, speeding up the transfer process between rail, road, or sea transport modes.

With options like well cars, which let containers sit low and closer to the rails, companies can stack containers higher without worrying about stability during transit.

Incorporating Flatcar Container Linux for Secure and Efficient Container Transport

Incorporating Flatcar Container Linux boosts security and efficiency for container transport.

Each member is well-versed in using tools like container Linux config and ignition to provision minimal OS images on bare metal for secure transport environments.

We leverage these tools to run containers and update them safely across various update channels without disrupting service.

Flatcar Container Linux’s immutable filesystem minimizes attack surfaces, blocking unauthorized changes.

Waggon utilizes this tool, which means better performance and enhanced security for the goods transported across Waggon’s network.

Experience the efficiency of Waggon’s supply chain and logistics services.

We deliver your freight on time, every time — Contact us today to ensure your shipping needs are met with precision and reliability.

Choosing Waggon's Supply Chain & Logistics Services for Flatcar Transportation

Choosing Waggon for your flatcar transportation needs means trusting a leader in the field.

Flatcars revolutionized how we move goods across vast distances.

They are the unsung heroes of freight transportation, offering a stable platform for loads that don’t fit anywhere else.

Waggon’s expertise in leveraging these rail cars means businesses get their products where they need to go — safely and on time.

Choose Waggon to safely and efficiently manage your shipments.

Take the first step towards resolving your logistics challenges by requesting a quote today — our experienced team is ready to assist you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What Are Flatcars Used For In Freight Transportation?

    Flatcars carry a wide range of cargo, from containers and trailers to heavy machinery.

    They’re essential for intermodal traffic, allowing goods to be loaded quickly, shipped, and delivered.

  • How Do Flatcars Handle Different Types Of Cargo?

    With features like tie-down points and specialized designs such as idler flatcars, skeleton cars, center beams, and autoracks — flatcars adapt to secure various loads securely.

  • Can Flatcars Transport Vehicles?


    Autoracks are special flatcars designed to transport cars safely over long distances.

    They’re perfect for automakers delivering new vehicles across the country.

  • What Makes Double Stacking Possible On Some Flatcars?

    Containers on Flatcar (COFC) configurations allow for double stacking, which boosts capacity without increasing train length.

    This method is efficient and cost-effective.

  • Are There Any Innovations In The Design Of Flatcars?


    From depressed-center flatcars with platforms that handle oversized loads to piggyback cars supporting trailer-on-flat-car operations, the evolution continues to meet modern freight service needs.

  • Why Choose Rail With Flatcar Transport Over Other Methods?

    Railroads offer a reliable alternative with lower emissions per ton-mile than road transport — especially when moving large or heavy items requiring a flatcar setup’s unique capabilities.

Written By:
Picture of Robert Rajfer
Robert Rajfer

Robert has worked in the supply chain / logistics industry for the past five years. Robert spent the first three years of his career at C.H. Robinson (NASDAQ: CHRW) and the following years at Flock Freight (backed by SoftBank, Google Ventures, and Signal Fire).

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By transcending conventional norms, we deliver on client expectations like no other.

Ready to ship with Waggon?

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Need to
Ship Your Load?

Our team of logistics experts has the knowledge and experience needed to serve businesses of all sizes.

Waggon proactively offers custom solutions that align with shippers’ specific needs — not the other way around.

By transcending conventional norms, we deliver on client expectations like no other.

Ready to ship with Waggon?

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