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Friday, July 17, 2015

New York Central System vs Pennsylvania Railroad Throw Down Round 2

Greetings Blog Followers,

Today is round 2 of the New York Central System vs Pennsylvania Railroad throw down! As promised today we look at how both roads continued to court L.C.L. traffic

NYC Flexi-Vans vs PRR Truc Train

New York Central Flexi-Vans

In the late 1950s the New York Central System was focusing promotion efforts on its new intermodal concept, the Flexi-Van, a hybrid design of today's freight container and TOFC (trailer on flatcar) equipment. One problem of traditional TOFC service was that the highway wheels had to be taken along as parasitic tare; further the wheels result in a flatcar load of excessive height. Loading and unloading TOFC cars at this time was slow and labor extensive. NYC introduced this distinctive container technology in concert with the Strick Division of Fruehauf Corporation. 

The Flexi-Van Spine Car boasted a turntable at each end that swiveled to allow a truck trailer to slide off the rear bogie and onto the turntable. The turntable could then swivel and be locked in place. Flexi Van possessed the advantages of low weight, low center of gravity, reduced wind resistance, random access to containers at terminals and low clearance requirements for NYC routes into Boston and New York City.

Ultimately NYC bought over seven thousand vans and 859 Flexi Van flatcars equipping the railroad to run 50 daily high speed Flexi-Van trains dubbed Super Van trains. Unfortunately few other railroads embraced the concept and the Flexi-Van became a NYC-only offering. The need to interchange intermodal traffic became overwhelming and in 1964 NYC bought into the Trailer Train consortium to assure a supply if more familiar trailer on flatcar piggyback.

A Mark IV Flexi-Van flat with two 40' containers.
This car measures 87'3" and was assigned to passenger service.

The Milwaukee Road was one of the few that embraced the Flexi-Vans

Throw Down Power two EMD GP20s lead the Flexi-Van (Super Van) Train

Close up of an 86'9" Mark III car built in 1962

Low clearances are no problem for the Super Van Train. Note the height of the TOFC cars.

Click the below links and you can see some interesting Flexi Van loads

Here's a good look at an Flexi Van Trailer's under carriage.

Pennsylvania Railroad Truc Train

PRR Truc Train was launched in 1954 as the PRR still sought to profit from LCL freight traffic. Hardly a new concept the PRR was one of the pioneers to embrace piggyback on a grand scale. The Truc Train venture was a combination of the PRR's own trucking service picking up a shipment, loading the truck trailer on a train and then off loading it at the end to it's final destination. Truc Trains also handled common carrier truck lines. Both types of movements could be found on the same train. In March 1955 the first dedicated Truc Trains from Kearney NJ to Chicago debuted carrying the symbol TT1 and TT2  (no surprise there). These were the fastest freight trains on the PRR .

The Truc Trains were highly successful and in November 1955 the PRR, The N&W and the Railway Trailer Company of Chicago incorporate Trailer Train Company. Trailer Train is owner 25% by the PRR and 25% by the Rail Trailer Company. The rest of the shares to be reserved for other railroads that join. The firm survives today as the TTX Company. 

Here is an excellent link for an overview of  PRR Truc Train Service

PRR 75' F39 flats with two 32' trailers showcase the early PRR Truc Train Service.

To the delight of the local gentry today's Truc-Train power are two monster SD45s.

The Truc Train rolls under the Empire City Viaduct

Early Truc-Train car and trailers

In 1956 Trailer Train bought all the Pennsy's flatcars relettering them Trailer Train

Two 40' refrigerator trailers on an 85' Trailer Train Flat, class F85A

Here is a link to the TTX website

And the Judges Scorecards: With a heavy heart I score round 2 in favor of the PRR. The NYC buying in to Trailer Train in 1964 and Trailer Train continuing to this day tilts this round firmly to the Pennsy's side.

Round 1: NYC Pacemaker vs PRR Merchandise Service: Winner NYC
Round 2: NYC Flexi Van vs PRR Truc Train: Winner PRR

If you can't beat em, join em!

Next round coming up in a few weeks will be the NYC 20th Century Ltd vs the PRR Broadway Ltd. Until then I have a few other projects to work on and write up. 


  1. Fantastic thorough history of both road's LCL innovations. I get the judge's decision, but on a purely superficial level the green backed Flexi-van logo really catches my eye! Great stuff in the throw down! Keep it coming!

  2. Thanks Ralph! The big green backed FLEXI VAN logo is really eye catching and one of my favorite cars.