In the fall of 1981, Santa Fe began development of a revolutionary new freight container for use in intermodal transportation. San Bernardino Shop was to become the project managers to complete the development and testing. The goal was to develop a versatile container capable of improved equipment utilization and fuel efficiency. Six containers, three of aluminum and three of fiberglass, were built. Both materials were chosen to reduce weight without sacrificing strength. The aerodynamic exterior is shaped approximately like a block letter “A”. The new lightweight intermodal freight container was designed for efficient handling of both bulk and manufactured commodities and was displayed in Chicago, Illinois in May 1983. They were known as the “A Stack Fuel Foiler” container. The container is fitted with a trough hatch at the top for loading bulk materials, and gates at the bottom of each leg for speedy unloading. A grated deck inside allows bulk materials to flow through easily and yet provides a level support for package goods. Standard forklift trucks can be driven inside The “Fuel Foiler” containers could be stacked six-high aboard ship or in staging areas. When in rail service they would be stacked two-high when empty or loaded with light materials, but would not be double stacked with bulk materials. They had excellent aerodynamic characteristics and a very low center of gravity. When loaded aboard “Fuel Foiler “ railcars there was a minimum void between containers, to reduce wind drag.
These containers were exhibited to shippers in Chicago, Los Angeles, The San Francisco Bay area, and Houston. The equipment was made available for test loadings by Santa Fe’s customers.
Unfortunately, the containers never caught on and only the six were built. We are not sure just how much shipping was done with the ones that were built but all eventually ended up as storage units for various departments. The only aluminum container left at this time, as far as we know, is here at the Western America Railroad Museum.
c. 2007 Western America Railroad Museum. This article originally published in WARM's newsletter, Semaphore, spring 2007.