Railcars in Storage

The US railroad network is an engineering marvel. And just as important to the industry as the rails themselves are its rolling stock. After all, without railcars, the rails would be nothing but iron.

But the demand for railcars is not constant, and different kinds of cars are needed at different points of the year. While the exact number of railcars in service in North American railroads and holding companies isn't known, it's about 1.6 million.

On any given day however, about 900,000 won't move. While many of these are simply waiting in large railyards, many more are redundant at certain points of the year, and yet will be needed in the future. Thus, there is a market for train tracks to hold excess cars.

While many of these can be stored away in yards, an alternative to placing a line out of service or abandoning it outright is to lease the space and store railcars and other rolling stock on it. However, the practice isn't without controversy. Some of these cars can stay parked for years, leading to environmental and blight concerns for some nearby residents.

Some last a lot longer than that...

Image: Abandoned Reading Railroad cars. 
Today we explore some of these tracks that otherwise have no other use.

1) Kofa, AZ

Kofa, AZ. Image: Google My Maps
Between Welton, AZ and Goodyear, AZ lies a branch of the Union Pacific Railroad that it inherited from Southern Pacific. While much of it appears to still be in service, a stretch of railcars near Kofa can be seen on Google Maps. On the latest imagery, it appears to extend all the way to Growler, AZ, about 11 miles south.

2) Mescal, AZ

Arizona is also home to another long line of rolling stock; in this case diesel engines. Union Pacific holds about 300 diesels west of Mescal, AZ that can be seen from I-10. As such, they've attracted quite an audience of railfans and urban explorers.

3) Abandoned Passenger Car on the San Diego Arizona & Eastern Railroad

The San Diego Arizona & Eastern, perhaps better known as the "Impossible Railroad", is a treasure trove of abandoned artifacts, despite the fact that is potentially going to be reactivated in the next year or so. On a siding, you can see several old Metra passenger cars covered in graffiti.
Image: Wonderhussy Adventures on YouTube
Further down the line lies Goat Canyon Trestle, the largest standing wooden trestle in the United States.

4) Crivitz, WI

Just east of Crivitz, WI. Image: Google My Maps
Between Crivitz and Marinette, WI lies a line in very rough shape. Using Google Street View, it's quite easy to see miles upon miles of cars stored here. In each of the shots, you can tell that cars have been moved, but how often this occurs is unknown.

5) Lakeville, MN

Image: KARE 11
Lakeville, MN has been one of the more controversial railcar storage lines in the United States, given its a suburban area as opposed to a more rural place where storage is much more common. For Progressive Rail, it nonetheless made sense to store cars on the ex-Soo Line tracks between Lakeville and Savage, MN, given they were headquartered nearby.

While owners fought the storage of cars here for years, as of 2018 on Google Street View, it appears the line no longer serves that purpose, and is now out-of-service.

6) Mazomie to Sauk City, WI

Image: Google Maps
North of Sauk City, WI this line is abandoned, but it appears as though this corridor still serves as a temporary holding spot for freight cars. You can look on Street View and see the change of cars over the years.

7) Corydon Jct, IN

South of Corydon Junction. Image: Google Maps
Much like the Mazomie-Sauk City line, heading south from Corydon Junction is still serving railcar storage interests. Sadly, no street view exists of the rolling stock.

8) South Fork, CO
Image: Google Maps
Another long stretch of railcars exists, or has existed, near South Fork, CO, where immediately west of here begins an out-of-service stretch of this ex-Denver & Rio Grande Western line from South Fork to Creede, CO.

9) The Adirondacks, NY
The Adirondacks were another place where railcars were stored, but much like Lakeville, MN, this generated significant controversy, in this case, environmental groups against them being stored in and around forests. Eventually, politicians got involved and the idea has been shelved for the moment.

Image: TimesUnion.com
10) Elk Grove Village, IL

Image: Google Maps
This is actually a storage facility located within a business park, that has been home to a few vintage pieces of rolling stock, and has thus caught the attention of railfans, both near and far.

Image: Chicago Terminal Railroad right of way.

There are many, many more places railcars are stored in North America, many of which are inaccessible without trespassing. As always, please do not trespass on railroad property to view any kind of railcars.

Thanks as always for reading!


  1. http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/rspicture.aspx?id=597861 it looks like that Ex reading car in the first picture is now alone, and on it's side.


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