Martin Tärnrot

Offloading Bulk Cargo into Containers

Martin Tärnrot
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Duration:   4  mins

How do you manage the freight cargo on your layout? MRA Contributing Editor Martin Tärnrot loads and offloads cargo at destinations because he believes that adds an extra dimension of realism to the freight traffic.

You have waybills that list what type of cargo and how much to offload at different destinations. Some cargo is easy to handle, such as palettes and lumber—just glue it all together and remove it from the car at the destination. For bulk cargo, it’s more difficult, but Martin has come up with his smart cargo system for loading and offloading bulk cargo, including ashes, coal, sawdust, and gravel. It also looks prototypic.


Martin has built some containers that are the same size as the cargo to hold the coal when it is offloaded. The coal itself is glued to sheets of plastic or wood, and a standoff is in the middle of the container to make the cargo easy to install and remove. Just push on one end of it and the other end pops up.

The diesel engine comes and attaches to the cars filled with coal and takes them off to the locomotive yard. (For the longer gondolas shown here, Martin has two center supports supporting the cargo within.) At the destination, Martin presses on the forward part of the coal and, due to the standoff, it comes out of the car easily. He places it in the trackside container.

These containers are made of styrene strips and pieces of Northeastern Scale Lumber.


Martin shows cars filled with ashes and sawdust sitting trackside. These are handled the same way as coal for offloading.

If you offload cargo from flatbed cars and run them back empty, check out this video about weathering wooden flatbed decks. If you need to create lumber stacks, Martin has a video dedicated to that also.

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