Tips For Adding Loads To Model Train Freight Cars

There is a great which is said about creating a model railroad that replicates a prototype railroad in exacting detail.  Even those which are built based on a creative idea, whose source is strictly the imagination of the model railroader should present as many hints of realism as is possible.

As part of this effort, the open freight cars which are part of your consists should display loads which are relevant and speak to the industries which line the sides of your tracks, and are stopped at for loading or passed along the way while your trains are on their journey.

Of the many choices for rolling stock, open freight cars offer more possibilities for imaginative ideas for products which are transported on lengthy trains seen throughout the country.

The following suggestions represent many of the various types of loads your freight cars can be loaded with:

  1. Coal – This type of load is most frequently associated with the hopper car. You can elect to scratch build a load of coal or you can purchase pre-made loads offered by a number of manufactures at your local model train hobby shop. 
  2. Another popular idea for an open freight car is to add a load of lumber to it. Once again, you have an excellent selection of lumber to select from at your local hobby shop.

You can choose lumber loads which are fresh cut lumber or even sheets of plywood. These lumber loads can be left exposed or you can elect to cover them with plastic sheeting.  Also, multiple manufactures offer pre-made lumber loads which is an advantage because it takes quite a bit of work by the modeler to carefully stack lumber loads in an open freight car.


  1. Another type of load which is frequently seen on flatcars is new cars and a variety of different types of equipment which are being transported from one place to another.

Along this line, you may also want to consider one of a number of different types of loads which are considered to be special loads.

These are loads which require consideration for weight distribution on the car, and also height requirements for the load so the car can safely pass under overheads as well as through tunnels.

You can either build items like machinery, generators, or even boilers from scratch or you can purchase these from your local hobby shop in kit form.

You may also want to consider modeling a yard which is equipped to handle special loads such those which were previously described.  One thing is for certain, if you choose to load your freight cars with these type of loads you’ll increase the interest level in your model railroad.

  1. Steel – This is another type of load which is often seen being transported by freight cars.  If the load is being transported by a flat car you’ll want to make sure that it is spaced properly as well as banded to secure it to the car.
  2. Another type of load which you may want to consider, are those which must be protected from weather and natural elements which can damage or deteriorate the load before it reaches its destination. This type of load must be kept under wraps.  This also, when chosen, is one more way to add a touch of realism and interest to your model railroad.

Now, let’s take a look at the various types of cars which can carry loads:

  1. Gondolas – these can carry a wide variety of products.
  2. Flatcars – this is a car which can also provide a number of interesting ideas for loads which can be transported.
  3. Heavy duty flatcars which are used to transport unique and special loads.
  4. Here’s a type of car that you may not have considered: an empty car which is as natural as those cars which carry loads.  You may want to consider that empty cars are not exactly empty.  Often they contain the debris of the previous load the car hauled, and litter from these loads should be scattered about the floor of the car as evidence of its previous cargo.


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