American Wooden passenger car
British Mark 3 rail coach; an
all-steel car from the 1970s
Inside a modern day car from
A railroad car
is a vehicle
on a rail transport system
(railroad or railway)
that is used for the carrying of cargo
. Cars can be coupled together
into a train
and hauled by one or more
. Passenger cars
can be self propelled in
which case they can be single or multiple
Most cars carry a "revenue" load, although "non-revenue" cars
the railroad's own use, such as for maintenance-of-way
purposes. Such uses
can generally be divided into the carriage of passengers and of
freight. "Revenue" cars are basically of two types:
, or coaches
, and freight cars
, or coaches
, vary in their internal fittings:
In standard gauge
cars, seating is
usually between three and five seats across the width of the car,
with an aisle in between (resulting in 2+1, 2+2 or 3+2 seats) or at
the side. Tables may be present between seats facing one another.
Alternatively, seats facing the same direction may have access to a
fold-down ledge on the back of the seat in front.
- If the aisle is located between seats, seat rows may face the
same direction, or be grouped, with twin rows facing each other.
Sometimes, for example on a commuter train, seats may face the
- If the aisle is at the side, the car is usually divided in
small compartments. These usually contain 6 seats, although
sometimes in second class they contain 8, and sometimes in first
class they contain 4.
- In vehicles intended for commuter services seats are sometimes
placed with their backs to the carriage side. This gives a wide
accessway and standing room which accommodates standing passengers
at peak times and improves loading and unloading speeds.
Passenger cars can take the electricity supply for heating and
lighting equipment from two main sources - either directly from a
head end power
generator on the
via bus cables; or by an axle
powered generator which continuously charges batteries whenever the
train is in motion.
Modern cars usually have either air-conditioning
or windows that can be
opened (sometimes, for safety, not so far that one can hang out),
or sometimes both. Various types of onboard train toilet
also be provided.
Other types of passenger car exist, especially for long journeys,
such as the dining car
, parlor car
in rare cases theater
and movie theater
car. In some cases another type
of car is temporarily converted to one of these for an event.
were built for the
rear of many famous trains to allow the passengers to view the
scenery. These proved popular, leading to the development of
multiple units of which could be
placed mid-train, and featured a glass-enclosed upper level
extending above the normal roof to provide passengers with a better
(generally) small bedrooms allow passengers to sleep through their
night-time trips, while couchette cars
provide more basic sleeping accommodation. Long-distance trains
often require baggage cars
passengers' luggage. In European practice it used to be common for
day coaches to be formed of compartments seating 6 or 8 passengers,
with access from a side corridor. In the UK, Corridor coaches fell
into disfavor in the 1960s and 1970s partially because open coaches
are considered more secure by women traveling alone.
Another distinction is between single- and double deck train
cars. An example of a double decker
is the Amtrak superliner
A "trainset" (or "set") is a semi-permanently arranged formation of
cars, rather than one created 'ad hoc' out of whatever cars are
available. These are only broken up and reshuffled 'on shed' (in
the maintenance depot). Trains are then built of one or more of
these 'sets' coupled together as needed for the capacity of that
Often, but not always, passenger cars in a train are linked
together with enclosed, flexible gangway connections that can be
walked through by passengers and crew members. Some designs
incorporate semi-permanent connections between cars and may have a
full-width connection, making in essence one longer, flexible
'car'. In North America, passenger equipment also employ tightlock couplings
to keep a train
reasonably intact in the event of a derailment or other
Many multiple unit
trains consist of
cars which are semi-permanently coupled into sets; these sets may
be joined together to form larger trains, but generally passengers
can only move around between cars within a set. This "closed"
nature allows the separate sets to be easily split to go separate
ways. Some multiple-unit trainsets are designed so that corridor
connections can be easily opened between coupled sets; this
generally requires driving cabs either set off to the side or (as
in the Dutch Koploper
) above the passenger
compartment. These cabs or driving
are also useful for quickly reversing the train.
Freight cars (UK: "wagons" or "trucks") exist in a wide variety of
types, adapted to the ideal carriage of a whole host of different
things. Originally there were very few types of cars; the boxcar
(UK: "van"), a closed box with side doors, was
among the first.
Common types of freight cars include:
- Aircraft Parts
- Autorack - (also called auto
carriers) are specialized multi-level cars designed for
transportation of unladen automobiles.
- Boxcar (US), covered wagon (UIC) or van (UIC) - box
shape with roof and side or end doors.
- CargoSprinter - a self propelled
- Centerbeam cars
- Coil car - a specialized type of
rolling stock designed for the transport of coils of sheet metal,
particularly steel. They are considered a subtype of the gondola
car, though they bear little resemblance to a typical gondola.
- Conflat (UK) - A flat truck for carrying
- Covered wagon (UIC), van
(UIC) or boxcar (US) - fully enclosed wagon
for moisture-susceptible goods.
- Covered hopper - similar to open
top hoppers but with a cover for weather and temperature-sensitive
- Double-Stack Car (or well car)
- specialized cars designed for carrying shipping containers. These have a
"well" with a very low bottom floor to allow double stacking.
- Flatcar (or flat) - for larger
loads that don't load easily into a boxcar. Specialized types such
as the depressed-center
flatcar (aka "well car") exist for oversize items or the
Schnabel car for even larger and
heavier loads. With the advent of containerized freight, special
types of flatcars were built to carry standard shipping containers and semi-trailers.
- Gondola (US) - railroad
car with an open top but enclosed sides and ends, for bulk
commodities and other goods that might slide off.
- Hicube boxcars
- Hoppers - similar to gondolas but with bottom dump doors
for easy unloading of things like coal, ore, grain, cement,
ballast and the like. Short hoppers
for carrying iron ore are called ore jennys
in the US.
- Lorry - An open wagon
(UIC) or gondola
(US) with a tipping trough, often found in mines.
- Lowmac (UK) - A low-floor wagon for
- Modalohr Road
- Open wagon (UIC) - railway wagon with an
open top but enclosed sides and ends, for bulk commodities and
other goods that might slide off.
- Refrigerator car (or
reefer) - a refrigerated subtype of boxcar.
- Roll-block - a train designed to
carry another railway train.
- Side Dump Cars - used to transport roadbed materials such as,
and large stone, and are able to
unload anywhere along the track.
- Slate wagon - specialized freight
cars used to transport slate.
- Stock Car - for the transport
- Tank car (US), tank wagon (UIC) (or
tanker) - for the transportation of liquids or gases.
- Tippler (UK), Gondola (US) (or
Lorry) - An open wagon with no doors or roof which are
unloaded by being inverted on a Wagon Tippler (UK) or Rotary car dumper (US). They are, used for
minerals, such as coal,
limestone and iron
ore as well as other bulk cargo.
- Transporter wagon - a wagon
designed to carry other railway equipment.
- "Whale Belly" car, a tank car with a
The vast majority of freight cars fit into the above
Military armoured trains
types of specialized cars:
Cold War, the Soviet Union fielded a number of trains that served as mobile
carried the missile and everything necessary to launch, and were
kept moving around the railway network to make them difficult to
find and destroy in a first-strike
. A similar Mobile Minuteman system was proprosed but not
deployed in the United States.