af773atmsp
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Questions About Freight Rail

Mon Jan 19, 2015 2:41 am

This mostly has to do with the freight rail industry in the U.S, but could also apply to other places. Sometimes on Google Earth I look at rail lines in my area, and all of them have random rail branches, or spurs, to local industries. However, most of these spurs are abandoned, but the roadbed is still visible or the rails have been left to rust and be covered in brush. Many other spurs are long gone and can't be seen except with old aerial photographs. Most of these industries are still in operation, but ship by truck instead.

So how much more expensive can it be for a local industry to ship by rail instead of truck? Since the Interstate Highway System was built the economics of shipping have changed in favor of the truck, except for heavy industries that ship/receive in bulk (such as a coal power plant receiving coal by train, or an oil refinery receiving crude oil by a train from North Dakota). But now that roads keep getting congested and oil prices will eventually rise, will more small industries want to locate by a rail line? What are the advantages and disadvantages of shipping by rail vs. truck? Are railroads (Class 1 and lower) interested in getting new local customers and former customers, or are they mainly focused on the more profitable bulk freight?

Here is a local example of an abandoned industrial spur (not my photo):
http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=2956229

It was last used in the 1990s. Obviously it must have been cheaper to ship by truck at that point, but why leave the rails there?
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johns624
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Mon Jan 19, 2015 3:37 am

The customer would have to fill up at least one car. Railroads don't do partial car shipments. Even then, it's not cost effective. Don't forget, even many industries that don't have spurs or sidings ship by rail without knowing it. A truck may pick up their shipment but then the trailer or container may be loaded onto a train at the local yard.
 
PanHAM
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Mon Jan 19, 2015 6:20 am

Abandoning industrial spurs is rather common in Europe. For most shippers here, anything less than a block Train does not pay. ig industrial firms form Trains of 42 Export Containers (40') for direct Transfer to ocean ports. But sending a650 HP Switch engine to an industrial spur is by far too exensive and not ecological at all.
Goods are instead loaded on trucks and then there is an optin to load that Trailer on a Train car. That is called intermodal.

Done so in the US as well since many years, IIC that date back to the arly 30's of the last cetury. But what surprises me is your conclusion. Thereare many (shor line) small railroads in the US that have acquired spurs from the Majors and serve local industries. Handling over rail cars at a junction. They have far lower costs than the big lines , opeate a Train or 2 per day switching local spurs with a few locomotives. Fom what I read and understand qzuite athriving Business in the USA.
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57AZ
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Tue Jan 20, 2015 10:01 pm

In many cases, rails are left in place to permit future rail service in order to attract new industry. Industries like to have the option of different modes of transportation.

Customer focus depends on the specific railroad. Regional railroads generate more business handling carload shipments that are not profitable for the Class One roads and consolidating them for transfer.

Railroad accounting is a major factor in determining payment. The originating road gets more money than the line haul or delivering road, so having as many businesses that originate carload shipments makes a big difference for smaller roads. Also, anytime a crew is required to pick up, deliver or move cars, there is a switching fee which can be anything from $100 to $500 per move. Larger industries often prefer to operate their own industrial railroads for this reason.

Each shipper has differing needs and the fact remains that rail is the second most economic mode of shipping. It can cost a lot more to use trucks to haul freight from the loading dock to the team track at the local railyard if the business generates or receives large volumes of cargo. In those cases, it is usually more economic to have a rail spur at the customer's facility.

That entails another cost-benefit analysis: if the railroad owns and maintains the trackage, the customer will pay an annual maintenance fee. If the customer owns the trackage but contracts the railroad to maintain it, they pay an annual maintenance fee. If they own the trackage and do not hire the railroad to maintain the track, they must either do the maintenance themselves or hire a contractor to maintain it to the railroad's standards. If at any time the trackage fails to meet the railroad's maintenance standard, the spur will be embargoed and no shipment accepted or delivered until the track is repaired to acceptable standards.
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Stealthz
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Wed Jan 21, 2015 9:57 am

In the late 1990's here in Australia, the Victorian rail company V-Line/Freight Victoria tried to make more efficient use of the many spur lines spread through out the state.
They developed the RTL concept, Road Transferable Locomotive. This was basically a large Over the Road prime mover, it could drive to a small grain or logging town, haul a small number of hopper or log cars to the mainline then drive cross country on public roads to the next task and do it again.







The concept did not succeed, I am not sure whether the idea was flawed or the then govt. owned rail system did not understand how to make it work.
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Wed Jan 21, 2015 11:16 am

I would guess that these spur lines are left in place as the cost of removing them is more than the scrap value of the rails. The only justification for dismantling is if the land is required for another purpose.

Here in the UK long distance (by our standards) transport was once mostly carried out by rail. Wagons were loaded at either a factory spur or a local goods yard. These were then collected up and taken to the nearest marshalling yard, of which I believe there were around 12 across the whole Country. The wagons were then pushed over a hump and rolled down an incline to be sorted into 11 lines to be taken to the nearest marshalling yard to the destination. At the destination marshalling yard they were then resorted to be taken to their destination goods yard or spur.
Typically this took 3 or 4 days from start to finish, not only due to the complexity, but also that passengers took priority on the lines over freight. Along came road haulage and you could arrange anything door to door in 2 days max.
Rail freight in the UK is now either whole trains of coal, aggregates etc, or trains of shipping containers from the docks to inland handling centres.
 
PanHAM
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Wed Jan 21, 2015 12:44 pm

Deutsche Bahn and the many "private" freight haulers are not interested in anything smaller than a block Train. Spurs must make at least a Million turnover p.a. to get Service. LCL (Less than carload) and single cars are Long time gone.

Automobile firms, chemical plants and similar large users assemble their own Trains and forwarders who cannot assemble their own block trainms drive Trailers to an intermodal faciltyfor line haul.

That is in short the reality here. Pretty much the same in the US except that we do not have the number of short lines the US has.
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aloges
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Wed Jan 21, 2015 12:56 pm

Quoting PanHAM (Reply 6):
That is in short the reality here.

Aren't there companies (other than state railways) that rent/assemble/build/whatever their own intermodal trains and then sell spaces on them to road transport companies? I seem to recall hearing and/or reading something about that, it may have had something to do with transport in the Alps.
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Wed Jan 21, 2015 1:15 pm

Quoting johns624 (Reply 1):
The customer would have to fill up at least one car. Railroads don't do partial car shipments.

Yes. Our Swiss Federal Railways stopped doing bulk freight in the 1980ies or early 1990ies.

By the way, all the household waste in my region is transported by rail, though. Garbage collection lorries pick up the waste, bring it to town A, where it is put in roller containers, which then are put on rail cars, brought to BSL for incineration, and the ashes/residual waste back to town A where the waste dump is.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roller_container

Quoting stealthz (Reply 4):
The concept did not succeed, I am not sure whether the idea was flawed or the then govt. owned rail system did not understand how to make it work.

The same happened with the Cargosprinters in Germany: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CargoSprinter

These were multiple units with 4 x 265 kW of diesel engines, with a five-speed gearbox, able to transport 10 twenty-foot-containers at 75 mph (120 km/h) with a driver cabin at each end. Word is that they could not figure out how to make them work economically. At least the Cargosprinter technology was developed into firefighting and tunnel rescue vehicles, equipped with materiel for firefighting, first aid and accident response, with all cabins having positive air pressure.


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cjg225
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Wed Jan 21, 2015 1:31 pm

Quoting af773atmsp (Thread starter):
So how much more expensive can it be for a local industry to ship by rail instead of truck?

Ideally, it shouldn't be. The general wisdom is that it is more expensive to ship by truck, especially in cost-per-unit-of-measurement. Take, for example, a covered hopper car. Let's assume it's filled with sand. A typical covered hopper may be able to carry 100+ tons of sand, while a single over-the-road trailer might be able to carry only about 25-30 tons, depending on a few things. It is enormously more economical to move large volumes of goods by rail.

There are three primary reasons why the industries at which you're looking may not be interested in rail:

1) They are moving their goods a short distance. Rail is not economical for short distance moves unless the freight is in very high volume and very heavy. Additionally, some short lines find ways to make it economical to move even lower-volume, lighter loads short distances if there are 2 or more stopping points that regularly ship to each other, like a raw material provider shipping a short distance to a customer on a very regular basis.

2) They are committed to faster/higher service levels than rail can provide. As someone else mentioned above, a rail move can take considerably longer than a truck move, especially in the short distance and especially in the eastern US, where the rail network is much more dense (increasing the amount of likely touch points for the car) and, more importantly, the population is much more densely packed (severely decreasing the average speeds trains can travel).

Over longer distances, the time to make the journey with a truck and the time to make the journey with a rail car begin to converge. Still, that depends on a lot of factors, and some types of cargo move faster than others. Cross-country moves of intermodal containers are close to matching cross-country moves of tractor-trailers, but other types of cargo aren't.

3) They don't understand rail very well. As someone else above mentioned, rails are hard to abandon, and, in many cases, it is unwise to abandon them. They are essentially left in place for future use. It is very possible that the industries you're seeing either don't know that they can use the rails (they have probably been there so long that the industries have changed ownership multiple times). Or, they simply don't understand how rail transport works. It's not a simple mode. For the uninitiated, it can be overwhelming. They may just not want to put in the effort to figure out how it all works sufficiently to make it an economical move.

Quoting af773atmsp (Thread starter):
Are railroads (Class 1 and lower) interested in getting new local customers and former customers, or are they mainly focused on the more profitable bulk freight?

One of the big brouhahas in the freight world right now is the exact opposite. Many bulk freight commodities are reeling. Yes, shale oil and the supplies for shale oil drilling are in very high demand, but intermodal is the favored son right now. A lot of traditional rail shippers, like farmers, are screaming bloody murder that the railroads are favoring more profitable (and easier to manage) intermodal shipments than their grains.

Some of it is also changes in markets. Coal is dropping like a crap from heaven because of the increase in natural gas usage, amongst other things.

That said, your second half of your question ("are they mainly focused on the more profitable...") is generally true. Yes, they are more interested in big, high-volume accounts than the small customers who may have had a spur for eons. Amongst the biggest rail customers in the US are UPS, FedEx, and USPS, as an ENORMOUS amount of mail and parcel post moves by rail. Those three, as a whole, can throw their weight around with the rail carriers to the detriment of many other customers. Additionally, Hub Group, JB Hunt, XPO Logistics/PACER, and a smattering of other organizations own the bulk of intermodal freight. These companies can get pretty much what they want with the rail carriers. It's a brave new world in rail freight the last few years.
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Wed Jan 21, 2015 3:45 pm

In Japan, freight rail is often linked directly to a customer. The US military is one such customer- they operate a fuel depot near Yokohama, and JR Freight gives them a feeder line to fill up with fuel tankers, and then JRF takes it over to Fussa for the airbase over there.

Transport Communication Sagawa and JRF actually built their own special freight train- the M250. It's an interesting little train, and it goes back and forth between Sagawa's individual terminals at Osaka and Tokyo:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M250_series
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Wed Jan 21, 2015 3:49 pm

Quoting PanHAM (Reply 6):
Deutsche Bahn and the many "private" freight haulers are not interested in anything smaller than a block Train. Spurs must make at least a Million turnover p.a. to get Service. LCL (Less than carload) and single cars are Long time gone.

There was even a word for it - kind of a German Beeching-axe: Mora-C (Marktorientierte Reduzierung des Angebots - Cargo). It meant Deutsche Bahn was actively cutting off all rail links to direct customers who were demanding less than "x" tons of cargo.

This is a stark contrast to the public will of moving cargo from truck to rail, but it is the reality - trains are too inefficient for small loads. It does not help that Europe is still using manual clutches, either.
 
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Wed Jan 21, 2015 6:52 pm

Quoting TheSonntag (Reply 11):

We Swiss have a limit of 1600 tons (MZFW, not counting the locomotives) of each train sans locomotive on the Gotthard pass route, because the couplings are only rated for 1300 tons. Two locomotives are pulling, one is pushing, on gradients that reach 2.8%. Bonus points if the rails are wet or even covered with autumn leaves...

I've heard of experiments with 4000 ton trains, but that's only possible in the flat areas... well, I've no idea how we could introduce the Janney coupling in Europe, but at least we were able to standardize freight (RIV) and passenger cars (RIC) internationally - already in 1922.


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57AZ
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Wed Jan 21, 2015 6:58 pm

Here in the US, the reduction in trackage is mostly due to route rationalization post merger. However, many railroads prefer to leave the lines in place and only remove a few lengths of rail at points where the line connects to the rest of the rail network. That permits the railroad to forego maintenance until such time that they either petition for formal abandonment or reopen the line.

Our major transcontinental railroads starting to slow down due to congestion and the fact that two transcontinental routes (the Milwaukee Road and the Rock Island) no longer exist. The Milwaukee Road was completely abandoned in the early 1980s and parts of the Rock Island were either abandoned or sold off to regional operators. Some of the regional operators are now running trains over the remaining sections of the RI to provide extra capacity where possible.

The final consideration is cost. Rail can provide very high/fast service but it will cost you. One such operation is the haul service from Wichita, Kansas to Washington that BNSF provides for Boeing. They'll run special trains for Boeing if needed, but it costs them a pretty penny.

All that said, things are changing here. Some regional railroads have reintroduced passenger service on certain lines and at least one large regional railroad is considering operating it's own passenger trains again. Private investors have revived the Pullman Company name and are beginning to operate regular services on limited Amtrak routes.
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Fri Jan 23, 2015 1:26 am

Quoting 57AZ (Reply 13):
The final consideration is cost. Rail can provide very high/fast service but it will cost you. One such operation is the haul service from Wichita, Kansas to Washington that BNSF provides for Boeing. They'll run special trains for Boeing if needed, but it costs them a pretty penny.

I've heard a bit different, at least when it comes to heavy machinery: rail is by far the cheapest, but there is no telling exactly when your machine will get to the destination. It could be days late because trains stop along the way to pick up cargo.
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Fri Jan 23, 2015 3:00 am

Quoting PPVRA (Reply 14):
there is no telling exactly when your machine will get to the destination. It could be days late because trains stop along the way to pick up cargo.

No, the whole train is consigned to Boeing. It's a wide/high special.
 
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Fri Jan 23, 2015 5:30 am

Quoting af773atmsp (Thread starter):
So how much more expensive can it be for a local industry to ship by rail instead of truck?

Full train load is rather expensive, however, the cost benefit comes with something like Intermodal, where you can load the trailer with as much as you want, and the railroad doesn't really care about how much is in there because they are getting paid a set rate on the move.

Quoting af773atmsp (Thread starter):
What are the advantages and disadvantages of shipping by rail vs. truck?

Truck is the fastest mode of transportation (after airplane of course), you can hire a team of drivers to drive a load across the country in 3-4 days if you need to. Then you have Intermodal railroad trains, those are the second fastest, as they are given higher priority from the railroads, typically about 5-6 days transit on the same transcontinental run (Depending on where it switches rail, Chicago might make it 6-7 days). This is followed by unit trains, i.e. coal or oil trains where the entire train is dedicated to one product, and then manifest trains, where the entire train is made up of a various amount of customers.

Quoting af773atmsp (Thread starter):
Are railroads (Class 1 and lower) interested in getting new local customers and former customers, or are they mainly focused on the more profitable bulk freight?

A lot of railroads are focused on getting those smaller customers onto intermodal, using their pool containers (the EMP or UMAX ones that the railroads run) because it is faster for the customer, and less cars that that the railroads have to worry about getting through their system.
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PanHAM
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Fri Jan 23, 2015 6:13 am

Quoting aloges (Reply 7):
Aren't there companies (other than state railways) that rent/assemble/build/whatever their own intermodal trains and then sell spaces on them to road transport companies? I seem to recall hearing and/or reading something about that, it may have had something to do with transport in the Alps.

[
These companies are called freight forwarders. There are specialized forwarders who collect LTL (less than truckload) shipments and consolidate those on a Trailer and distribute at the Destination by 7,5 tons truck. Or, if the shipper has enough volume, the shipper loads the Trailer fully (FTL) and the Trucker picks up the Trailer at the Destination . Larger forwarders assemble block Trains, or Deutsche Bahn or a forwarder sells space on a block Train.

Quoting TheSonntag (Reply 11):

There was even a word for it - kind of a German Beeching-axe: Mora-C (Marktorientierte Reduzierung des Angebots - Cargo). It meant Deutsche Bahn was actively cutting off all rail links to direct customers who were demanding less than "x" tons of cargo.

That's what I said, DB would not Service an industrial spur if the Revenue was less than an amount X . It is indeed not economical to pick up a carload with a 650 HP locomotive and two men. There is nothing ecological on that either. But DB still does carloads, that is the smalles unit they accept.
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cjg225
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Fri Jan 23, 2015 1:10 pm

Quoting iFlyLOTs (Reply 16):
Full train load is rather expensive, however, the cost benefit comes with something like Intermodal, where you can load the trailer with as much as you want, and the railroad doesn't really care about how much is in there because they are getting paid a set rate on the move.

Of course a full train load is expensive. It's the per unit-of-measure price you're paying that's important, not what the overall cost is. If I am a shipper and I have X amount to freight to ship and it takes my Y amount of rail cars to ship it cross-country or, say, 4 * Y number of trucks (where I am assuming it's not intermodal, since road weight limits would nullify advantages of using rail, and further assuming I can load about 100 tons of freight per car but only 25 tons of cargo per truck), it's certainly going to be expensive to pay for the whole train, but it's going to be a hell of a lot less expensive in on a per-UOM basis.

Furthermore, as I said above, I disagree about intermodal. Unless you're in a situation where you will only ever move the container via private roadway, there is technically a low weight limit for intermodal containers. Especially in terms of domestic intermodal, you're limited to the same amount of product in a container as you'd put in a truck in order to keep it (and the truck itself) under state roadway weight limits.
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Fri Jan 23, 2015 1:22 pm

For the exemption of the rail corridor Washington-New York-Boston on the east coast, freight trains have priority on passenger one's.
Few years ago i made the mistake of traveling from Washington to Chicago by train, we stopped and stopped and stopped to let freight trains overtake us. We arrived four hours late into Chicago, never again, give me trains in Switzerland, Germany and even France anytime.
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Fri Jan 23, 2015 3:29 pm

Quoting SOBHI51 (Reply 19):
For the exemption of the rail corridor Washington-New York-Boston on the east coast, freight trains have priority on passenger one's

  

Not sure you can make a sweeping statement like that.

Amtrak owns its own track in the Northeast Corridor. It owns a small amount of track elsewhere.

Yes, the freight railroads own the track everywhere else, but Amtrak's Host Road Development group negotiates with the freight railways for the rights to move over the freight railroads (or, "host roads") outside the northeast . Generally speaking, agreements give Amtrak priority for a specified period of time. If Amtrak is too early or too late for the stretch of track, it will face a delay due to freight traffic. However, even in Amtrak's window of time it can face delays. There are very extensive contracts that cover these relations.
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PanHAM
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Sat Jan 24, 2015 3:45 pm

The states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and others take efforts to build up dedicated Networks of high Speed railroads. California as well, bsides the HSR efforts there.
Still a Long way to go when compared to European or Asian Systems but it is a (re-)start.
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747400sp
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Sat Jan 24, 2015 7:28 pm

I know that truck can get the loads closer, also believe it or not, on long distance with no traffic, a truck travels faster than a train. I know I out ran UP trains traveling along I-10, and BNSF trains traveling along I-40, and our trucks are governed..
 
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Sat Jan 24, 2015 8:26 pm

Quoting 747400sp (Reply 22):
I know that truck can get the loads closer, also believe it or not, on long distance with no traffic, a truck travels faster than a train. I know I out ran UP trains traveling along I-10, and BNSF trains traveling along I-40, and our trucks are governed..

I didn't think that was even a question, really.

Rail travel has various limitations both physically and human-imposed for safety reasons.
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Sun Jan 25, 2015 12:41 am

Quoting 747400sp (Reply 22):

On a few short-lines around town I've been able to keep pace with a train on my bike (10-15 miles per hour is about as fast as I can go).

Which also brings up another question; Are railroads trying to be competitive with trucking in terms of mobility, or is it not worth the extra cost to upgrade tracks for higher speeds (especially on short-lines)?
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Sun Jan 25, 2015 1:45 am

Quoting 747400sp (Reply 22):
I know I out ran UP trains traveling along I-10, and BNSF trains traveling along I-40, and our trucks are governed..

Yeah, but you were using one man to haul one trailer. They were hauling 100 with two men.
 
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Sun Jan 25, 2015 10:00 am

UPS uses dedicated railroad "hot shot" Trains for time sensitive shipments. Big trucking firms like Schneider use block Trains for their Trailers and one of the reasons is Driver shortage. to be really competetive with the hotshot Trains a truck Needs 2 Drivers. A Train Needs several Crews, but the total work hours are still far less per unit than a semi-Trailer with 2 Drivers.

Quoting af773atmsp (Reply 24):
On a few short-lines around town I've been able to keep pace with a train on my bike (10-15 miles per hour is about as fast as I can go).

when you have one Train a day switching your few customes on that line, upgrading the track to 25 or even 45 mph does not pay.
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Sun Jan 25, 2015 8:07 pm

Quoting af773atmsp (Reply 24):

Now at days, trucks and trains try to work together. JB Hunt, has a contract with BNSF to haul their containers. As a matter of fact, JBH has a terminal in Los Angeles, on I-710, between Long Beach Harbor and the BNSF Vernon yard. I believe Werner, Swift, and CR England transport a lot of their containers and trailers on UP trains,so trains do work with trucks. As I been informed, containers rides on trucks mostly to their final destination. Now there are sometimes when they compete, in the late 2000s, both NS and CSX had commercials saying their trains can take a lot of trucks off the road.
 
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Mon Jan 26, 2015 12:02 am

Quoting 747400sp (Reply 27):
Now there are sometimes when they compete, in the late 2000s, both NS and CSX had commercials saying their trains can take a lot of trucks off the road.

Or in the case of my local railroad they do this:
http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=4064653

On the other side of the locomotive there is a sign that states "Every ton of freight behind me [the locomotive] will travel 425 miles on just this [a 5 gallon gas tank]".
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57AZ
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Mon Jan 26, 2015 9:55 pm

Quoting 747400sp (Reply 27):
Now at days, trucks and trains try to work together. JB Hunt, has a contract with BNSF to haul their containers. As a matter of fact, JBH has a terminal in Los Angeles, on I-710, between Long Beach Harbor and the BNSF Vernon yard. I believe Werner, Swift, and CR England transport a lot of their containers and trailers on UP trains,so trains do work with trucks. As I been informed, containers rides on trucks mostly to their final destination. Now there are sometimes when they compete, in the late 2000s, both NS and CSX had commercials saying their trains can take a lot of trucks off the road.

True. There's the driver shortage and the fact that a lot of folks don't want to do OTR runs. It makes more sense to put as much long haul freight on the trains and hub and spoke the deliveries from the railroad terminals. Only short haul point to point makes real sense for OTR runs.

Quoting PanHAM (Reply 26):
when you have one Train a day switching your few customes on that line, upgrading the track to 25 or even 45 mph does not pay.

That's why some railroads don't run daily. Some roads run two or three times a week and others only run one train a week. It's all economics.
"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."
 
PPVRA
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Wed Jan 28, 2015 4:11 am

Quoting johns624 (Reply 15):

Quoting PPVRA (Reply 14):
there is no telling exactly when your machine will get to the destination. It could be days late because trains stop along the way to pick up cargo.

No, the whole train is consigned to Boeing. It's a wide/high special.

Sorry, I meant freight rail in general, not the specific case mentioned.
"If goods do not cross borders, soldiers will" - Frederic Bastiat
 
Gemuser
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Wed Jan 28, 2015 5:16 am

Quoting johns624 (Reply 15):

Quoting PPVRA (Reply 14):
there is no telling exactly when your machine will get to the destination. It could be days late because trains stop along the way to pick up cargo.

No, the whole train is consigned to Boeing. It's a wide/high special.

It's not actually, the Boeing 737 fuselages cars run as part of a general freight train, on Montana Rail Link, at least. Didn't you see the pictures when they dropped 6 fuselages into a river, that was off a general freight.

Gemuser
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57AZ
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Wed Jan 28, 2015 6:22 pm

Quoting gemuser (Reply 31):
It's not actually, the Boeing 737 fuselages cars run as part of a general freight train, on Montana Rail Link, at least. Didn't you see the pictures when they dropped 6 fuselages into a river, that was off a general freight.

They also run Boeing specials if the production line needs more fuselages on a tighter schedule than the normal delivery can accommodate. Not unusual to see a train with just a locomotive and the high-wide clearance cars at the front and rear of the consist and one or two flats with fuselages. Railroads will run specials if the customer's willing to foot the bill.
"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."
 
N1120A
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Wed Jan 28, 2015 7:20 pm

Quoting af773atmsp (Thread starter):

So how much more expensive can it be for a local industry to ship by rail instead of truck? Since the Interstate Highway System was built the economics of shipping have changed in favor of the truck, except for heavy industries that ship/receive in bulk (such as a coal power plant receiving coal by train, or an oil refinery receiving crude oil by a train from North Dakota).

If they can fill a car load, it is significantly cheaper to ship by train. Train is significantly more efficient than truck, with boat being even cheaper.

Quoting cjg225 (Reply 20):
Yes, the freight railroads own the track everywhere else, but Amtrak's Host Road Development group negotiates with the freight railways for the rights to move over the freight railroads (or, "host roads") outside the northeast . Generally speaking, agreements give Amtrak priority for a specified period of time. If Amtrak is too early or too late for the stretch of track, it will face a delay due to freight traffic. However, even in Amtrak's window of time it can face delays. There are very extensive contracts that cover these relations.

That is not true. Certain host railroads on which Amtrak runs are infamous for putting their needs ahead of those of the people who ride Amtrak. Union Pacific is infamous for this, and the Coast Starlight has a schedule 4.5 hours longer than it had nearly 50 years ago because of it, and still gets delayed. BNSF is better, but there are still issues. The only places where Amtrak will get dispatch priority, outside the NEC, are on rails it owns and rails owned by local authorities, like SCRRA, NCTD, MBTA, etc.
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ER757
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Wed Jan 28, 2015 7:50 pm

Quoting 747400sp (Reply 27):
I believe Werner, Swift, and CR England transport a lot of their containers and trailers on UP

Almost all the major FTL carriers have an inter-modal division these days. If their shippers can live with an extra day or two transit time over team (or sometimes even solo) over-the-road, intermodal is usually quite a bit cheaper. The railroads have been doing a pretty good job of improving turnaround time at their hubs on inter-modal the past few years.
 
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cjg225
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Wed Jan 28, 2015 10:24 pm

Quoting N1120A (Reply 33):
That is not true. Certain host railroads on which Amtrak runs are infamous for putting their needs ahead of those of the people who ride Amtrak. Union Pacific is infamous for this, and the Coast Starlight has a schedule 4.5 hours longer than it had nearly 50 years ago because of it, and still gets delayed. BNSF is better, but there are still issues. The only places where Amtrak will get dispatch priority, outside the NEC, are on rails it owns and rails owned by local authorities, like SCRRA, NCTD, MBTA, etc.

There is a huge difference what a contract says and what happens in reality. From your profile I see you're a lawyer. I doubt this is a surprise to you.

Contractually, Amtrak trains have priority for periods of time per contracts. So, what I said is true. Amtrak does have priority. Now, what you are saying may be referring to actual operations. Operations may be run to the point that Amtrak trains are prejudiced. That is an all-to-often occurrence, and is in large part why there is such bad blood between the freight roads and Amtrak right now.

Amtrak can have priority yet get screwed because the freight road violates the contract.

That all said, Amtrak is not perfect. It contributes to its problems in large part because of its own shortcomings as an organization.

[Edited 2015-01-28 14:28:45]
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YVRLTN
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Thu Jan 29, 2015 4:48 am

Quoting PPVRA (Reply 14):
I've heard a bit different, at least when it comes to heavy machinery: rail is by far the cheapest, but there is no telling exactly when your machine will get to the destination. It could be days late because trains stop along the way to pick up cargo.

Some of these spurs mentioned now are sometimes only used occasionally for outsize cargo. I am moving some cars at the moment to a spur and UP had to take weeks checking them out as they had not been used for so long, but they are still there and technically active. For a long transcon journey once you get to weights above the 75,000 lbs range it will be significantly cheaper than by road. In fact, sometimes the restrictions are so great road is impossible and rail is the only option. In Ontario for example, if there is a rail option available then the DOT will not grant you rail permits. I had to rail pieces 15 miles once...

However, it does take a long time. They go on regular trains for the most part, but it can take days if not a couple of weeks to get one or two cars from a spur into the system.
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747400sp
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Sat Jan 31, 2015 11:59 am

In 2009, Union Pacific tested an ultra long intermodal train. It needed 9 locomotives, I believe it was going from Dallas to Los Angeles.
 
N1120A
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Wed Feb 04, 2015 9:41 am

Quoting cjg225 (Reply 35):
That all said, Amtrak is not perfect. It contributes to its problems in large part because of its own shortcomings as an organization.

The vast majority of Amtrak's shortcomings stem from the way it was created. The freights wanted to dump passenger service altogether, but the government wouldn't let them, so they set up Amtrak instead. Own none of the infrastructure, take on all of the debt and risk of carrying passengers against increasing airplane and car competition. Its sort of like how screwed up Air Canada is, where it was stripped of the single most profitable portion of any airline - ownership of its FF program. If Amtrak owned the infrastructure, it would have far more advantages.

Its sort of like the Postal Service. You expect a company to cover all of its operations, but also expect it to deliver to every remote nook from in the country, and do it for dirt cheap? Ok, but don't expect them to not ask you for money from time to time.

Amtrak does well where it controls the infrastructure or is treated like an equal partner. It gets hit where it is at the mercy of freight.
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PlanesNTrains
Posts: 9526
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Thu Feb 05, 2015 7:21 am

Quoting 57AZ (Reply 13):
The Milwaukee Road was completely abandoned in the early 1980s

I'll forever miss their rocking and rolling freights leaving Renton, WA.

Quoting SOBHI51 (Reply 19):
Few years ago i made the mistake of traveling from Washington to Chicago by train, we stopped and stopped and stopped to let freight trains overtake us. We arrived four hours late into Chicago, never again, give me trains in Switzerland, Germany and even France anytime.

The US rail network outside of the northeast corridor and a few other places is very freight-centric, which makes it tough on Amtrak to be sure.

Quoting 747400sp (Reply 22):

I know that truck can get the loads closer, also believe it or not, on long distance with no traffic, a truck travels faster than a train. I know I out ran UP trains traveling along I-10, and BNSF trains traveling along I-40, and our trucks are governed..

I think the tremendous growth in rail freight traffic has changed things, but there was a time when the Santa Fe was faster LA-Chicago than team truck drivers. After a four day railfanning adventure in the desert of SoCal last year, it was clear that they simply have so many trains that they can't maintain the speeds necessary to do so now. Plus, the price of fuel has likely discouraged freight rail from pursuing higher running speeds (or expensive projects that would only marginally improve running times).

Quoting af773atmsp (Reply 24):
Are railroads trying to be competitive with trucking in terms of mobility, or is it not worth the extra cost to upgrade tracks for higher speeds (especially on short-lines)?

The cost-benefit analysis on a short line likely precludes much investment in infrastructure. I worked for a short line for a while and we ran 10-15 mph for the most part. I was encouraged to solicit business as close to our interchange as possible so that we didn't have to maintain as much track to a higher standard. Plus, there is generally one daily interchange for a small shortline - you'd be spending a lot of money to just "hurry up and wait". Finally, many of these customers are not interested in paying any more than they absolutely have to, so would probably be fine with slower switching times in exchange for lower rates.

I live in Maple Valley, WA along the BNSF Stampede Pass subdivision. This is mostly a relief mainline that is now virtually 100% eastbound empty unit trains. Grain, coal, oil, soybean - probably 5-9 trains a day right now. Those are the big money makers for the Class 1 rail lines today.

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747400sp
Posts: 3900
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RE: Questions About Freight Rail

Fri Feb 06, 2015 5:34 pm

Quoting PlanesNTrains (Reply 39):
from

You are right, there is a higher than normal amount railroad traffic, which makes my job more fun, if I am riding alongside a railroad.

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