While freight railroad remains one of the safest sectors, a damaged railcar can cause serious damage. By following this checklist you minimize that risk.
Whether you’ve bought or leased your rail car, keeping it in working condition is critical. This checklist will ensure that small problems don’t become serious issues.
Keeping your railcar in working condition is also just the right thing to do for the next shipper in line. After all, you want to receive safe equipment when you buy or lease right? So do they. Using the checklist we make sure everyone can get what they want.


  • No structural damage

    • Tanker car shells and heads have been checked for any conditions that make the car unsafe for travel. These conditions include abrasion, corrosion, cracks, dents, distortions, and defects in welds.

  • No leaning or listing

    • If the railcar body is leaning to one side you may have a spring or a side bearing problem. A leaning car has the potential to become derailed on a turn.
  • No sagging

    • Sagging usually occurs in the middle of the body. It’s an indication that too much stress has put on the frame and will need repair or replacement.
  • Positioned properly on trucks

    • Freight cars actually only sit on their trucks through the force of gravity, no fasteners of any type are involved. This makes it possible, although rare, for the railcar body to become misaligned.
  • No objects dragging

    • Having free swinging objects dragging behind the Train is a recipe for disaster. Usually not to the train, but for what the train passes by. Remember to scan under each car body.
  • No objects extending from the side

    • In the same way that a dragging object can be dangerous, so too can an extended object. With the momentum that a train provides, even a small object can result in damage to property.


  • Good condition

    • Any signs of excess rust, bent pieces, or instability require immediate attention. For a complete list of railcar safety appliance standards, you may refer to DOT’s Safety Appliance Enforcement document.
  • Appropriate height clearances (minimum of 2”)

    • Any appliances that reach too high will inevitably run into and damage rail equipment. For the safety of others, and for the protection of your wallet, keep appliances close to the care body.
  • Appropriate width clearances (minimum of 1”)

    • Whether the train car is passing through a crossing or driving through a tunnel, there are times when width is a luxury. Keeping appliances from hanging too far away from the body will help keep them intact. Wide-reaching appliances aren’t likely to survive the journey.


  • Proper shoe alignment

    • If your trucks’ shoe is misaligned then it needs a tire turning of the wheel discs and bogie maintenance. These adjustments have an impact similar to a wheel alignment for a car.
  • Proper shoe thickness

    • Most shoes start at a thickness of 2 inches. Once they start getting close to 1/2 inch they need to be replaced. If your haul is particularly heavy, the shoe thickness should never go below 3/4 inch.
  • All brakes will apply and release

    • All brakes on both sides should be applied and released together. A jammed or broken brake will not change positions with the other railcar brakes.
  • Piston travel not exceeding 8”

    • Excessive piston travel is an indication that the train might throw a piston. A thrown train piston can absolutely be deadly and should never occur. In 2011 a piston was thrown from a Canadian National locomotive that luckily resulted in only severe house damage.
  • No apparent safety hazards

    • A look over of the trucks and brake shoes should always be done to make sure nothing is where it shouldn’t be. It’s vital that the braking system is in good enough condition to make it to the next inspection.


  • In place & properly secured

    • No one benefits from a hatch getting blown open or off the car. The best case scenario is it blows off without anyone around. While the worst case could result in a casualty.
  • TID applied

    • This only applies to Tanker cars. This is used to tie into the tank car database to manage inspections and reports.
  • Fill Hatch Cover Securement Pin in place

    • Once again, this only applies to Tanker cars. The cover securement pin should be in place with a tight fit. Do not open the hatch for inspection. Keep the pin in place and locked.
  • Placards and labels in place

    • Beyond a safety measure, this is a legal requirement. Make sure placards and labels are placed on both sides of the train car.


Following this checklist protects you, your railcars, and the environment the train passes through. Keeping the railcar in good condition makes it easier to sell your railcar.
While many know this checklist by heart, it can be useful to have it all in one place. It’s also useful for those new to railcars. If you or your business needs railcars, don’t hesitate to reach out for a free quote.
You can call me at 860-756-0302 or fill out our contact form.