The Future of Rail

For topics on Class I and II passenger and freight operations more general in nature and not specifically related to a specific railroad with its own forum.

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Re: The Future of Rail

Postby Jackinbox1 » Fri Sep 16, 2016 6:08 pm

airman00 wrote:So fine I get the idea that the long distance container trains and the transloading, are good for business. The question is then, how do we save the locals and the brachlines? What do we do to prevent the old rusting away freight siding, from becoming as such? How do railroads save the individual freight customer?

Just bumping this statement.
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It's the Lading, Not the Car, that Counts

Postby 2nd trick op » Tue Sep 20, 2016 8:09 pm

airman00 wrote:So fine I get the idea that the long distance container trains and the transloading, are good for business. The question is then, how do we save the locals and the brachlines? What do we do to prevent the old rusting away freight siding, from becoming as such? How do railroads save the individual freight customer?


They still can, but both the markets and the technology have evolved considerably, and both the infrastructure and equipment required have to be more adaptable.

In the days of Casey Jones and Joe Broady, railroads held a near-monopoly on freight carriage. Unless the shipper and consignee were both located within a short distance of a navigable waterway, shipments of any respectable size and volume had to go by rail. A small, rail-served community of 2500 population might have a feed dealer or two, a coal dealer, and a lumber yard; if it was favored with any sort of manufacturing, finished merchandise might go to a warehouse in a major city (possibly operated by the railroad) where it was sorted, reclassified as an express or less-than-carload (LCL) shipment, and distributed to other communities, along with other merchandise in what was sometimes called a "trap" or "ferry" car.

All this changed with the development of the motor truck and the all-weather highway. By 1960, LCL was a lost cause, and the last operations, mostly to and from the Pacific Northwest, were gone by about 1975. Some of it found its way to TOFC (piggyback) but the industry had a lot to learn about loss and damage, and equipment-compatibility issues, before more favorable trends began in the early 1980's

In the face of these trends, many branch lines and local services became redundant. But the business could sometimes be retained by transloading at a limited number of terminals in and around the major cities. Flour, for example, once shipped in hundred-pound sacks, now moved in a covered hopper, and could be pneumatically transloaded in bulk for delivery to the bakery by truck.

The new technology didn't require new spurs, or their removal, and probably saved on overhead items like property taxes. The continued success and expansion of carriers like Providence and Worcester, operating in a territory seldom viewed as well-suited to freight railroading, serves as testimony that the opportunities are still there, but the ground rules have changed drastically.
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