A freight car (also goods wagon) is a railway car that is designed and used, unsurprisingly enough, for carrying freight. The make of these do vary quite a bit, as they are specialized for certain tasks. Some of the more common ones are:
- Boxcar: a generally box-shaped car that can carry most goods
- Gondola: low sided cars that are open on top and are usually rectangular, used to carry dense goods such as steel
- Coil Car: these are usually round or made up of 5 sides (not including the flat bottom, front, or back) and are designed to carry rolls of sheet metal
- Hopper: these have more complex bodies, and and are designed to hold bulk cargo such as grain and coal
- Tank Car or Tanker: a large tank on wheels used to transport liquids, powders, and gases
- Flatcar: a flat railroad car (these names are not usually very creative) used to transport things that are too large or durable enough not to travel in a boxcar
- Well Car: these are designed with a well to hold large shipping containers
- Refrigerator Car or Reefer: a refrigerated boxcar for things such as produce and meat
- Autorack: Car used to transport cars, usually horizontally and multileveled
- Stock Car: Used to transport livestock
Freight cars, in a way, existed before railroads, used in mines- as often shown. As soon as the 1820s, when the railway was developed, such very basic designs, the rough equivalent to some planks on two axles, were used to transport nearly everything other than that which was transported by jimmies, the hopper's predecessor. By the middle of the 1800s, railroads were the preferred mode of good transport. As the need and demand for these increased, so too did the specialization of them, as these cars were bad for heavy or delicate loads.
What became much more popular as the 1840s neared was the two truck car. This had four axles and eight wheels, much like what we have today. It had much better support for greater loads, and helped inspire research to begin being conducted to find more optimal cars.
Late in the 19th century, there was a switch from wood to metal in their construction. It may seem intuitive and obvious, but cost was a major concern. However, in and by the 20th century, these were the favored make of freight cars, with all the old wooden ones being finally retired in the 1960s.