You may have noticed that railway cars have identifying letters and numbers on them. There are two parts to these: the reporting mark and the car number.
Reporting marks are the letters on every freight car that identify the owner and the car. They are up to four letters long and are assigned to companies or lessees. For example CN has a few reporting marks (CN, CNIS), plus the marks of railways they acquired like Wisconsin Central (WC).
Reporting marks ending in X indicate the owner is not a railway; they could be end customers like Cargill (CRGX) or Dupont (DUPX) or leasing companies like Progress Metal Reclamation (PMRX).
The numbers that follow the reporting marks make up the car number. Each combination of reporting mark and car number should be unique across North America. Two railcars could have the same car number but different reporting marks.
The reporting mark and car number are always on the left side of a car, normally in the bottom left corner. They are also on each end of a railway cars, and sometimes on the top of tank cars as well.
See also the Report Marks post.
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