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What is a Baggage Car?

Dan Cavallari
By Dan Cavallari
Updated Jan 28, 2024
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A baggage car is a type of railroad car designed to haul the luggage brought on board by passengers that cannot be stored in overhead compartments or on one's person. The baggage car is often positioned behind the locomotive toward the front of the train, and it is designed to store pieces of luggage as well as other packages or objects for transport. The car often features large doors to allow larger pieces of luggage or parcels to be loaded into the car for transport. Many such cars are outfitted with straps and other methods of securing baggage so the luggage does not shift during transport.

While many modern trains feature more storage within the passenger cars, a baggage car is still often necessary, especially on passenger trains that travel long distances. Commuter trains usually do not feature a baggage car because it generally is not necessary, since most people do not carry a significant amount of baggage during such short trips. These cars are usually reserved for long distance trains, and the aesthetic of the baggage car is often no different than the aesthetic of the other cars except for a lack of windows.

Some baggage cars were similar to horse cars, which were enclosed and ventilated cars in which race horses were commonly transported before automobile trailers were common and roads were easily traveled at higher speeds. Box cars could also be used for baggage transport or horse transport, though box cars were generally much smaller than baggage cars, so a few box cars may have been necessary to accommodate the luggage of all passengers. A baggage car was also useful for transporting larger items for theater purposes, circuses, and carnivals, since the car was long and wide open, making them able to contain the large pieces.

The baggage car was a specialized type of car. Other specialized cars included the brake van and the caboose, which were both generally positioned at the end of the train. The brake van was used to apply the brakes to the entire train, since many train cars did not feature brakes on the individual cars; if the cars did feature brakes, they would need to be activated individually and manually, so a brake van at the end of the train was a quick way to apply the brakes in case of an emergency.

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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