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While searching for TOFC decals I stumbled over a description of the 1960s Flexi-van intermodal system used by NYC, Santa Fe, and other roads. What I liked most about it was the ingenious method of loading and unloading containers on a flat car/spine car without need for a crane/forklift or drive-on ramp. It went through a number of changes and is described in this old OGR post
https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...83#60698708034743383  which is apparently too old to allow me to reply. It's also described and pictured at
https://www.trains.com/ctr/pho...exi-van-flexibility/
https://www.truckinginfo.com/1...f-intermodal-history
https://www.reddit.com/r/Weird...container/?rdt=34656

It was a brilliant system. I know that you can buy / make / kitbash Flex-van trailers and non-functioning flat cars / spine cars. But the loading-unloading facility itself and flat cars with working deck-mounted Flexi-van turntables would make an interesting operating accessory with tons of play value. I see that Lionel has produced the Piggy Back Transport Loader No. 460, the 6-12781 Operating Intermodal Crane, and a 264 operating fork lift loader accessory, but the Flexi-van system is unique. I couldn't find anything online where someone's modeled a working facility. It's beyond my skills but has anyone here done this?

Last edited by John's Trains
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John, making a working facility would definitely be an interesting project! The tractor and trailer wheel sets could be done by putting a magnet on the top of the wheel set and a strip of metal on the container bottom to accomplish the adding of the trailer wheels with the removal of the container from the car.

A few times I had considered to kit-bash a couple of K Line TTAX cars to make the car itself, but it would end up being more than 22” long using the trailers that came with the spine cars, and look a bit out of place with my other passenger cars.
Even considered using the scaled down Lionel containers, (which where made in NYC Flexi Van scheme and Santa Fe Red over Silver scheme), but even using those, would make the car 19” long. Still a bit longer than the 18” cars.

@BRicch I wondered how that transition between tractor and railroad car could be modeled and your magnet idea is very good. My railroad is unfortunately so small that I wouldn't be able to fit scale-length spine cars.

@coach joe  Your mention of "more for static use than operational" together with BRichh's comments got me thinking.

I have a very small area reserved for a Railway Express / intermodal facility. It's an island between two 0-36 curve stub-end tracks, so it's completely un-prototypical and unworkable. I can't even couple cars on the curves easily. Still, I've planned on making a flat car deck-level platform on both sides of the island for driving a trailer off a flatcar or loading an REA boxcar. It would just be a static display. Now I realize I could make one side for a single flexi-van being unloaded from a traditional-sized flatcar. It would even be easy enough to make the container rotating freely on the flatcar.

My intermodal facility is already un-prototypical so maybe I'll take it further and create a very loose interpretation of a Flexi-van system with liberal doses of artistic license. And with no mention of how tractor-trailers would maneuver in and out of there.  Just for a non-functioning display.

intermodal

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Last edited by John's Trains

For the play value, instead of using the K Line trailer but still using the front runner car, consider using a Lionel trailer frame, cutting the wheel set to create your boggie. Add the small magnet on top of it, and then using a Lionel container, add the metal plate to its bottom. The front portion of the trailer frame can still be used to attach the container to the tractor. Or just take the pin on the frame bottom and attach that to the front part of the container to couple onto the tractor.IMG_1307

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@BRicch and @coach joe Thank you for the VERY TIMELY ideas. I have some of the Lionel traditional-size flatcars and trailers with the removable containers. Yesterday before seeing these updates I was playing with the Lionel container hanging off the flatcar at an angle being pulled onto the Lionel trailer frame. I didn't know about the K-Line Front runner cars so that's better. I can make it non-functional as a test and add magnets later. The intermodal/REA island is the only area I haven't developed, which is good. I didn't think I could have a drive-off-the end ramp for the other Trailer on flat car track because I didn't think there was enough room between the bumper and grade crossing. I also didn't want to remove the very nice Fastrack bumper with its light which is fun if unrealistic. Last night I saw I can create separate ramps that straddle the Fastrack bumper. It can look like something that was retrofitted. Part of the bumper structure and its light will still be visible. And the ramp isn't too steep. I'll keep the car-level dock for box car unloading.

intermodal rev1

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The Lionel trailer frames and containers are what made think about it.  I have two of the Flexi-Van containers and had a Matchbox Mack B tractor in a very similar yellow so some NYC decals went on that tractor.  Some of the pictures I had seen didn't make it clear that the Mark IV was more like a spine and from those pictures I thought a log dump car with the cradle removed might be a good fill-in.

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