Image Posted: March 11, 2011
Image Taken: February 25, 2011; Altoona, PA
Well cars carrying double-stacked containers began revolutionizing the intermodal picture in the 1980s. When it began, most containers were 40 feet in length and rail equipment was designed accordingly.
As domestic North American shippers began utilizing the same technologies, larger containers began showing up in trains. Through the 1980s and 1990s, wells grew from 40 to 45 to 48 and eventualy 53 and even 56 feet in length. These wells could still accomodate 20 and 40 foot international boxes as well.
Since then, domestic shipments have increasingly fallen into either 53 foot containers or shorter 28 foot trailers or containers. The 48 foot container for which many of the intermodal cars of the 1990s were designed have become increasingly rare. This left TTX Corporation, the continent's largest intermodal car leaser, with thousands of cars that were too short for domestic service but longer than necessary for international shipments.
While new deliveries continue to accomodate 53 foot boxes, TTX is rebuilding many of its older cars and shortening the wells by 8 feet. While shortening a car may not seem to make sense, over a 100 car train that per-well shrinking can really add up. Not only is the train shorter, it is lighter and more fuel efficient.
This Thrall-built car once had a 48 foot well. Now shortened, it can accomodate 20 or 40 foot containers in the bottom well. Longer boxes can still be placed on top. Walthers has produced a model of this car in the original length in HO and N scales. A similar "kitbash" could be performed by modelers wanting to modernize their fleet.