Moving cars …(without a locomotive)


Using the old John Deere to position a BNSF box car at a rice mill in Beaumont, Texas 2007. photo by C. Hunt

It is fascinating all the different ways that have evolved to move or unload freight cars without locomotives, many of which weigh well over 100 tons.

Track Mobile in Winona MN.

Track Mobile in Winona MN.

The need arises in industries that need to shuttle cars for various purposes but the volume is low enough that the industry cannot justify having a locomotive on hand.  An example is an industry that unloads covered hoppers over one or a few unloading features such as a grate. 


Using a cable system to move sand cars in West Texas. Photo by B. Smith

Sometimes the unloading device can move so the cars don’t have to move.


Auger connected to tractor. Fosston, Minnesota 2010. Photo courtesy –


This auger was positioned to unload the below string of cars in Odessa, Texas June 21, 2008. Photo by C. Hunt

Cars awaiting unloading.

Sand cars awaiting unloading.

Lastly, one of my favorites…


The manual rail mover. Photo courtesy –

This devise is good for moving one car short distances at about five feet a minute.

This is the first installment of a three part series on this topic.  This post was a quick overview.  The second will focus on a couple of industries in greater detail.  The last will show how this aspect of railroading has been modelled on B. Smith’s LCN Railroad layout.

Note: The image of a tractor pulling a covered hopper is courtesy, Photo © –E. Clark

One thought on “Moving cars …(without a locomotive)

  1. Pingback: Moving cars …(without a locomotive) — Part III | ATSF in Roswell in the 90s

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