We use the phrase “freight train” today to mean any train that is on the tracks, and it has even made its way to popular songs that use it as a rhyme. The freight train was started when we stretched tracks across North America, and there are quite a few people who do not realize that we have separate trains and tracks for passengers and box car cargo. The freight trains we have today will carry chemicals in canisters, and they will use box cars to carry the majority of the items they have packed in. They are driven by the conductor, and the engine sits up front where all the power is housed.
The Flat Cars
A flat car is nothing more than a platform that would be used to hold something that would not fit inside a box car on the tracks. There are many different trains that balance the items on the flat car because they cannot get the items on the train any other way. There are many freight train lines that will use the flat car to ensure that they can carry shipping containers, and it allows them to be a part of the shipping industry from the cargo ship to the train. These containers are easy to transfer, and they are easy to stack on a flat car. A freight train will strap down these items to ensure that they do not rock back and forth, and they may carry them for thousands of miles to their new destination.
The Box Car
A box car is the car that is enclosed and has a sliding door. Hay and other items are shoved into these cars every day, and they are often used by people who are jumping from one train to another as they travel across the country. You have seen these cars in many pieces of literature, and they are often used to show that people will travel using freight trains as they come through town.
The caboose is the last car on the tracks, and it is often designed completely differently from the rest of the train. The caboose has a tiny stair that allows you to climb on, and it is typically a bit shorter. We often use this term to describe anything that is at the end of a train regardless of its style, and the caboose could be a flat car or box car depending on how the freight line is laid out on the tracks.
One engine was once all that was needed for the conductor to pilot the freight train, but now there is more than one engine so that the conductor may tow the box car fleet, flat car fleet and the caboose at the back. The conductor needs that extra power to get across the tracks, and it must transfer that power through many an engine to get everything going back to the caboose. The conductor is in control from the engine in the front, and the conductor is often the only person on the train for those long journeys across open land.