A railroad wreck crane’s constant companion was the idler car, sometimes known as a “boom car.” The idler car was typically a re-purposed flatcar or gondola which would be coupled directly ahead of the crane and below the crane’s long boom, allowing the crane to be coupled to the rest of the train. In addition to providing space for the crane’s boom, the idler car was usually outfitted to carry equipment needed for wreck cleanups, for example tools, spare wheels, or lengths of panel track.
Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum owns two idler cars. Former Pittsburgh and Lake Erie X300504 was the mating idler car for our 160-ton former P&LE wrecking crane. Jerry Jacobson purchased the entire P&LE wreck train in the 1990’s, at which time X300504 became Ohio Central Railroad X502. X300504 was built from a P&LE gondola car.
Former Norfolk Southern idler car 960088 was built from a flatcar and includes special toolboxes and other fittings to carry railroad wheelsets, lifting cables, and tools. Prior to purchase by the Ohio Central, 960088 was assigned to the Bellevue, Ohio wreck train.