Intermodal containers re-purposed.

intermodal containers

Intermodal containers as restaurants on Claiborne Avenue (photo courtesy WWL TV)

Converting industrial space

We’ve seen rail cars get converted and re-purposed for generations. Passenger cars become diners. Baggage cars become kitchen space for restaurants. Rail cars were logical candidates for re-purposing. Passenger cars are usually 8′ long and wide enough to make for comfortable seating arrangements. After all, dining cars have been around for over a century. The classic design was to convert a rail car into a counter diner. An 80′ car will turn into 60′-70′ of counter eating, leaving one side for kitchen/storage space.

Intermodal containers are the next conversion craze

With only one railroad company offering passenger service (Amtrak), there just aren’t the same number of surplus rail cars available as there were thirty years ago. The present-day railroad industry is all about intermodal transport. So, shipping containers (which range in size from 20′ to 53′) are trucked to a rail yard. Then they go to a container freight port facility. From there, they travel by ship to other destinations. Upon arrival, they travel to their destination by truck and/or rail. Since there are literally millions of these containers, it’s easy to pick up surplus.

Containers as restaurants have arrived in New Orleans. These two containers are side-by-side, with shared outdoor seating between them. They cut off the steel doors on one side of the containers, replacing them with glass and glass doors. These things are 8’6″ (102″) wide. While they’re inexpensive, there’s not much room for indoor seating. Therefore, to be successful, container-restaurants will have to rely on the outdoor space and takeaway items. They don’t have the novelty of rail cars. This is simple space, taking advantage of solid, inexpensive construction.

Will it work?

In the right neighborhood, this is a great idea. Since intermodel containers travel on truck trailers, it’s easy to re-locate them.

Pontchartrain Railcar Company will study this trend and look at the feasibility of doing container conversions.