Experimental Flat Car – RI 95650

Builder: American Car & Foundry
Built: 1956
Original Owner: Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad
Capacity: 35 Tons
Class: Experimental
Acquired: 2017

The 15 years following World War II brought sweeping innovation to the American railroad industry. Steam locomotives were replaced by diesel-electric power, dramatically changing railroad operations and maintenance practices. Railroads made major investments in passenger trains, trying one last time to win business away from automobiles and the developing airline industry. Knowing that most of their revenue came from freight trains, management searched far and wide for opportunities to increase efficiency of freight operations and reduce costs.

American Car & Foundry, a large manufacturer of railroad freight and passenger cars, developed a novel idea for an adaptable, low-cost freight car. Dubbed the “Adapto” system, ACF marketed a simple, two axle flatcar that could be easily converted into boxcars, tank cars, gondolas, or trailer carriers by adding or removing modular containers. The low initial cost of the cars, coupled with the idea that easy conversion could reduce car count and empty trips, seemed an appealing idea.

The Rock Island Railroad purchased 50 Adapto cars to sample the idea. Despite the exciting claims, the cars never gained much popularity, and no further orders appear to have been placed. Within ten years, the Rock Island retired the cars from freight work, placing many into maintenance service. Car 95690 was modified to securely hold railcar wheel sets, presumably to transport them between repair shops.

After arriving at the Age of Steam Roundhouse, the car was restored to its appearance as a maintenance car and is now displayed with a load of wheel sets.