Trainworx - N Scale - 40 ft Flexi-Van Trailer - New York Central (NYCU) #19 - Gray w/Yellow & Black Lettering & Graphics (SKU 744-40432-19)
Available On: October 1, 2020
As over the road trucking took business away from the railroads, various railroads began to experiment with ways to combat the threat. The first attempts began with different forms of trailer-on-flat-car (TOFC) service in the 1950s. The first approach was a very logical extension of a concept developed by the circus industry, flat cars with connecting ramps that allowed trailers to be moved from flat car to flat car to load trains. This became the basis of the early PRR Trailer Train operations. This worked well, but took time to load and unload trailers.
In 1957, the New York Central came up with the idea for the Flexi-Van system. The system allowed direct loading of the trailers from the side of flat car, a much faster and more flexible system than the circus ramp method. The Flexi-Van approach used trailers with a detachable set of wheels, often called bogies. The wheels on the trailers were detached for rail transport and left at the point of origin. The trailers were loaded onto specially equipped spine cars or flat cars with yard tractors. These cars had turntables that would accept one end of the trailer, which the tractor rotated the trailer into position.
This approach provided a low overall height and a lower center of gravity for the loaded Flexi-van car. This gave the cars the advantage of being able to pass through lower clearance tunnels and also travel at higher speeds than other piggy-back style cars. Due to these early advantages, these cars could be equipped to run with passenger trains for jobs such as mail transport.
There were a number of variations of the trailers and cars over the next few years as trailer size increased across the industry from 36 feet to 40 feet. The final versions of the trailers and cars were developed in the mid 1960’s. The Flexi-Van system was used most notably by the New York Central, but other railroads used it too. These included Santa Fe, Burlington, Illinois Central, Milwaukee Road, Seaboard Air Line, Southern and Western Pacific.
While the system was successful, improvements and innovations in other methods led to the phasing out of the cars and eventual retirement of the trailers as they aged. Chief among these was the more efficient side loading off trailers on standard 89 foot flat cars and the development and use of intermodal containers.