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Necessity Breeds Innovation: The Vert-A-Pac Railroad Auto Carrier

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Aimed at reducing shipping costs and minimizing transport related damage a uniquely American railway innovation entered service in April 1970.

The Vert-A-Pac Car Model Railroader Magazine Article October 1971

The Vert-A-Pac Car Model Railroader Magazine Article October 1971

Measuring 89' 4" long Vert-A-Pac automobile carriers transported thirty sub-compact cars in the same cubic space as conventional tri-level autoracks, which were designed to transport eighteen standard sized vehicles.

Cooperatively developed by ACF and the Southern Pacific Railroad to transport General Motors then upcoming Chevrolet Vega models from their points of manufacture to US distribution centers, the Vert-A-Pac car bodies were designed to transport thirty of the new sub-compact automobiles in a vertical, rather than a horizontal position.

Chevrolet Vegas Loaded In Southern Pacific and Frisco Vert-A-Pac Cars

Chevrolet Vegas Loaded In Southern Pacific and Frisco Vert-A-Pac Cars

Parked on one of three spots that were located on ten bottom hinged doors, which doubled as ramps and numbered five per body side, each Vega was secure, then, in groups of three, were stood on end (i.e., nose down) within the Vert-A-Pac body once each door was lifted into a closed position with a forklift truck.

As issues related to fluids (e.g., battery, gasoline, oil, and windshield wiper) retention and potential transport damage to engines and transmissions had to be carefully considered, transporting automobiles nose down was no small engineering feat.

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Forklift Truck Closing SP Vert-A-Pac Door with Stac-Pac Containers Directly Behind

Not only rostered by the Southern Pacific, Southern Railway, and Illinois Central (whose cars bore home road lettering and reporting marks), Vert-A-Pac bodied mineral red or yellow flatcars with TTX or TTVX reporting marks were utilized by the Baltimore & Ohio, Burlington Northern, Denver Rio Grande Western, Florida East Coast, Louisville & Nashville, Merchants Dispatch Transportation (leased to Penn Central), Milwaukee Road, Missouri Pacific, Rock Island, Seaboard Coast Line, and St. Louis San Francisco Railway (Frisco) railroads.

Purpose built, of the four-hundred-ten Vert-A-Pacs that entered service, most wound up having their flatcars reracked with conventional tri-level racks, and their bodies scrapped upon the conclusion of Vega production in 1977.

Quality Craft Models S-7 HO Scale Vert-A-Pac Car Kit Plans Sheet

Quality Craft Models S-7 HO Scale Vert-A-Pac Car Kit Plans Sheet

Vert-A-Pac cars were first released in model form by Robert E. Weaver's Quality Craft Models as stock number S-7, a Craftsman Series HO Scale basswood kit.

Manufactured in 1996 by the Korean firm Ajin Precision Mfg., unpainted and custom decorated brass models were released by Overland Models Inc. as OMI-3010, OMI-3010.1 (Baltimore & Ohio), OMI-3010.2 (Burlington Northern), OMI-3010.3 (Florida East Coast), OMI-3010.4 (Illinois Central), OMI-3010.5 (Merchants Despatch MDT), OMI-3010.6 (Missouri Pacific), OMI-3010.7 (Rock Island), OMI-3010.8 (St. Louis Southwestern - Cotton Belt), OMI-3010.9 (Southern Pacific), OMI-3010.10 (Denver & Rio Grande Western - Brown), OMI 3010.11 (Denver & Rio Grande Western - Orange), OMI-3010.12 (Milwaukee Road), and OMI-3010.13 (Louisville & Nashville).

Produced in very small numbers, the custom painted and lettered versions offered by Overland are extremely rare.

ExactRail HO and N Scale FEC Vert-A-Pac Car Models

ExactRail HO and N Scale FEC Vert-A-Pac Car Models

Exquisitely detailed, with operating knuckle couplers and metal wheels, the most recent run of Vert-A-Pac models were injection molded plastic N and HO Scale products that were released by ExactRail.

Eighteen N Scale versions were released in 2009 (Rio Grande EN-50500-1, EN-50500-2, and EN-50500-3 - Seaboard Coast Line EN-50501-1, EN-50501-2, and EN-50501-3 - Milwaukee Road EN-50502-1, EN-50503-2, and EN-50502-3 - Burlington Northern EN-50503-1, EN-50503-2, and EN-50503-3 - Florida East Coast EN-50504-1, EN-50504-2, and EN-50504-3 - Illinois Central EN-50505-1, EN-50505-2, and EN-50503).

Also released in 2009, ExactRail's first twenty-one HO Scale releases (Rio Grande EN-1201-1, EN-1201-2, and EN-1201-3 - Seaboard Coast Line EN-1202-1, EN-1202-2, and EN-1203-3 - Milwaukee Road EN-1203-1, EN-1203-2, and EN-1203-3 - Burlington Northern EN-1204-1, EN-1204-2, and EN-1204-3 - Florida East Coast EN-1205-1, EN-1205-2, and EN-1205-3 - Illinois Central EN-1206-1, EN-1206-2, and EN-1206-3 - Frisco EN-1212-1, EN-1212-2, and EN-1212-3) were followed by six more models in 2011 (Merchants Despatch EN-1214-1, EN-1214-2, and EN-1214-3 - Baltimore & Ohio EN-1216-1, EN-1216-2, and EN-1216-3).