This one is new to me. The other evening, I was visiting with my friend Merv and we were discussing some pictures in a freight car book that he had. Some of those cars had numbers in addition to the regular car number and neither of us were sure what they were for.
Well, as usual, I turned to my online railroad friends and found out that the numbers were for freight car pools. The idea is rather simple from the way I understand it… railroads form a bit of a coalition or “pool” to be able to supply a given shipper with a certain number of cars for their purposes. In turn, the shipper uses only those roads to ship its products.
The advantage to the shipper is that there are always enough cars available to ship their product. The advantage to the members of the railroad pool is a little harder to see. On the one hand, you would think that they would want to be the exclusive provider of services to the shipper. But, if those shipments terminate on another line, the cars wouldn’t be useable until they were returned. By sharing, they lessen the number of cars dedicated to a particular shipper and lessen the impact of having those cars captive.
I’m not totally sure about the above comments but that is the way I understood things as they were explained to me by some others who were knowledgeable. If I’m mistaken, please feel free to comment otherwise.