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Steam Equipment for Heating & Cleaning Rail Tank Cars

Rail Tank Car Heating and Cleaning Systems


Many liquid products transported by rail tank car require heating to be able to unload or transload due to viscosity or freezing point. Depending on the temperature desired to unload the product, heating the product may be a seasonal or year-round requirement. Low pressure steam offers the fastest heat transfer through the tanker's coils, and most of these heat transfer coils are designed for and maximized with low pressure steam.

The Steam-Flo® steam generator is a great solution for heating tank cars with low pressure steam. These industrial steam generators can produce up to 3,450 lbs. (1,564 kg) of steam per hour allowing you to heat multiple cars at once.

Sioux has vast experience with providing low pressure steam for heating food, beverage, petroleum, and chemical products. We love sharing this experience using low pressure steam with operators who are looking for a safe, efficient, and cost effective way to heat their products. Sioux can help calculate the time it takes to heat your specific substance to the desired temperature for unloading or transloading. Use the form below to get heating times for your specific product.



The Steam-Flo® steam generator from Sioux provides low pressure steam for rail tank car cleaning. The steam can also be used with cleaning chemicals to remove substances from the walls of the tanker car. Substances cleaned include oil, fat, chemicals, food products, and other liquid cargo. Steam is a preferred method for cleaning rail tanker cars because:

  • Steam emulsifies most temperature sensitive products allowing a majority of the product to drain with minimal added water. The high temperature of the steam also opens the pores in the metal.
  • Steam removes dangerous fumes in tanks. When water turns to steam, it expands by 1,517 times its normal volume at 212°F which displaces the oxygen and fumes inside the tank. Once the tank cools, it can be tested to ensure it is safe.
  • Tanks are considered sanitized when the metal surface reaches a temperature of 180°F or possibly lower depending on the product.

Turn-key mobile units are available that include open or insulated enclosed trailer, water tank, and electric generator. Steam generators from 20 to 100 BHP are available to clean one or multiple cars at once. Cleaning chemicals can also be used with the steam to accelerate the removal of substances from the tanker cars.



FAQs About Rail Tank Car Heating & Cleaning

The temperature of low pressure steam ranges from 212F to 240F.  Considering environmental losses, 200F is generally the highest product temperature that can be achieved with low pressure steam.

Steam provides better heat transfer than hot water which reduces heating times significantly. Most heat transfer occurs when the steam changes phase from steam back to water (condensate) at 212F.

Yes. If a tank car has cracked coils, low pressure steam is a much better solution than hot water.  Steaming cracked coils will result in water leaking regardless of the method, but steam minimizes that loss compared to hot water.

A mobile system is often 70% less expensive than the total cost of a stationary boiler. Stationary boilers have many hidden costs such as building space, venting, electrical work, gas lines, steam lines, condensate lines, etc.

Sioux sizes fuel tanks for a minimum of 8 hours of operation. The SF-20 can run 11 hours on a fuel tank the SF-50 can run 9 hours on the supplied fuel tank.

In most areas, no. Sioux steam generators operate below 15 psi, which classifies them as low-pressure boilers. High pressure boilers (above 15 psi) are subject to additional regulations, inspections, and require certified operators. Always check with your local municipality as some areas will still have some regulations for industrial water heaters and low-pressure steam generators.

In Stock. A limited quantity of SF-20 and SF-50 enclosed trailer packages are kept in stock and are ready to ship immediately! When they sell out, most standard configurations can still be completed within a few weeks. Stock is available first come first serve and availability changes quickly in the fall and winter months.

Sioux steam generators are extremely simple to operate; quality and ease of operation are our top priorities. The controls are simple and straightforward; three switches stand between you and steam. Check out some of our videos on startup, operation and maintenance of a Steam-Flo steam generator.

Heating times vary depending on the product, desired temperature, and tank car size. Fill out the heating time calculator on this page to get an estimate for your specific application.

We’ve tested this! High pressure and low-pressure steam clean a tank car in the same amount of time.  This is because, unless the steam is under pressure, it is all 212F.  Check out the video of our side-by-side testing.

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Sioux serves a wide range of industries with our decades of experience, reliable products, and value added services that help companies every day around the world.

Why Sioux?

Sioux's products are built for the concrete, petroleum, mining, rail, greenhouse, food & beverage, and manufacturing industries with the highest quality and durability in mind. We strive to make sure our customers have the safest and most efficient equipment they can rely on year after year.

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