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A Schnabel car is a specialized type of railroad freight car. It is designed to carry heavy and oversized loads in such a way that the load makes up part of the car. The load is suspended between the two ends of the cars by lifting arms; the lifting arms are connected to an assembly of pivots and frames that distribute the weight of the load and the lifting arm over a large number of wheels.
When a Schnabel car is empty, the two lifting arms are connected and the car can usually operate at normal freight train speeds. Some Schnabel cars include hydraulic equipment that will either lift or horizontally shift the load while in transit (at very low speeds) to clear obstructions along the car's route. There are 31 of this type of car in Europe, 30 in North America, 25 in Asia and one in Australia.
The largest Schnabel car in public railroads operation, owned by Westinghouse, carries road number CEBX 800, and is used in North America, although it was built by Krupp in Germany in 1982. It has 36 axles (18 for each half). Each half contains nine trucks which are connected by a complex system of span bolsters. Its tare (unloaded) weight is 370 short tons (340 t; 330 long tons). When empty, this car measures 231 ft 8 in (70.61 m) long; it can carry loads up to 113 ft 4 in (34.54 m) long. For comparison, a conventional boxcar currently operating on North American railroads has a single two-axle truck at each end of the car, measures 50 to 89 feet (15.24 to 27.13 m) long and has a capacity of 70 to 105 short tons (64 to 95 t; 63 to 94 long tons). One notable load of CEBX 800 was completed in January 2006, transporting a reactor for Nexen Inc. and OPTI Canada from Duluth, Minnesota to the Athabasca oil sands in northern Alberta. The 678-tonne (667-long-ton; 747-short-ton) load was the heaviest rail load ever transported on the rails between Edmonton and the oil sands. The reactor vessel was shipped to Duluth in the fall, but was not moved by rail until January to allow the ground to fully freeze and support the load.
The word Schnabel is from German Tragschnabelwagen, meaning "carrying-beak-wagon", because of the usually tapered shape of the lifting arms, resembling a bird's beak.
The Schnabel design is covered under US patent #US 4041879 A, filed December 1, 1975, issued to Charles R. Cockrell, with Combustion Engineering, Inc. as assignee. 
- Daspit, Tom (2005). "CEBX 800". Retrieved May 6, 2005. (additional technical details on CEBX 800)
- GATX Corporation (2005). "Car types". Retrieved May 6, 2005. (boxcar comparison figures)
- Passi, Peter (May 5, 2005). "Railroad Giant". Duluth News Tribune. Retrieved May 6, 2005.[dead link] (details on CEBX 800)
- Railway Industrial Clearance Association (2000). "Glossary of terms used in railroad high and wide clearances". Retrieved May 6, 2005. (basic definition of a Schnabel car)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Schnabel cars.|
- Schnabel cars – photos and technical information on Schnabel cars used worldwide.
- Heavy Rail Transport Basics[dead link] archived version[dead link]