For the first 100 years of their operation, railroad tank cars were adapted to many different commodities. Like other cars on the rails, size and capacities remained relatively small. Beginning in the 1960s, as railroads adopted larger car footprints for other rolling stock, the idea of producing larger tank cars for bulk shipments presented new opportunities.
The engineering of larger “super tank cars” was by no means coincidental. Railroads were facing increased competition from new federally-funded pipelines and inter-coastal waterways for petroleum traffic. The older 10,000 to 13,000 gallon tank cars just couldn’t keep up.
The 1960s saw the construction of the largest tank cars in history. The major tank car builders and leasers, as well as the Pennsylvania Railroad, built experimental prototypes to test construction theories and entice shippers. Much like shopping for groceries in a wholesale outlet, shipping in bulk allowed railroads to offer reduced rates to large…
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