A California company plans to ship two travel trailers to the storm-damaged Southeast from Northern Indiana next week to test a prototype railcar designed to carry towable RVs and motorhomes.
If the test run is successful, Larry Gaugenmaier, principal of JLG Enterprises, Newport Beach, intends to broker specially designed train cars as an alternative to transport drivers delivering RVs by road.
“We have been going through different facilities and testing the car,” Gaugenmaier said. “We call it the Fat Boy because it’s wide enough to allow you to get into the RV while it’s on the railcar.”
Gaugenmaier, 63, is an RV industry veteran, having operated a California RV dealership and held sales and executive positions with Thor Industries Inc., Jackson Center, Ohio, and Monaco Coach Corp., Coburg, Ore.
The chief benefits of rail shipments, Gaugenmaier said, are limiting damage to the coaches and not accumulating mileage on motorhome speedometers.
“The cost will be pretty equal to shipping over the road,” he said. “But we will be able to go from Elkhart to California, Nevada or Washington within five to eight days. And there won’t be any paint chipped or broken windows when the coach arrives. And it will have zero miles on it.”
Gaugenmaier plans to ship two 32-foot travel trailers to Savannah, Ga. next week on a prototype 82-foot-long Fat Boy that is 10 1/2 feet wide and 14 feet high. The trailers will be dispersed by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to victims of the recent spate of hurricanes that have hit Florida, Alabama and Louisiana.
In tests with RV manufactures, Gaugenmaier said, “The biggest problem we had was finding ramps to get them off the cars in some of the smaller towns.”
If next week’s test is successful, Gaugenmaier said, he expects to ship as many as 100 trailers into the storm-damaged area on specially equipped flatbed cars.
Gaugenmaier said two major railroad companies each have 100 Fat Boys on order from TTX Co., Chicago, a firm that manages a pool of 127,000 railcars in North America and is collectively owned by various major U.S. railroads such as Union Pacific Railroad Co. and Norfolk Southern Corp.
Each new car costs about $200,000, but flatbed cars can be retrofitted for about $90,000, Gaugenmaier said.
He also has designed a double-deck rail carrier that can accommodate shipments of tent campers and Class B and small Class C motorhomes.