Improvements to allow for doublestack trains in Philly

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Re: Improvements to allow for doublestack trains in Philly

Postby bth8446 » Mon Mar 09, 2015 1:49 pm

Perhaps I'm the last one to notice, but Last week, for the first time, I noticed double stack traffic on some of the railcars of a passing train.
I see traffic on the line as my commuter (SEPTA) train runs parallel for a mile or more. Never have I seen double stack until last week.
So I guess they have the appropriate clearance from point to point where they can move double stack from one location to another.
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Re: Improvements to allow for doublestack trains in Philly

Postby Arlington » Mon Mar 09, 2015 3:05 pm

^ That's cool. Can anyone else say for how long this might have been the case? Also, since we know that the Long Bridge in DC can't do double stack, how far down South might these have originated, and how far up north (Newark?) might they be going?
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Re: Improvements to allow for doublestack trains in Philly

Postby nomis » Mon Mar 09, 2015 5:36 pm

Within the past month or so. I've turned off most of the Yahoo group notifications since I'm not often along the TREL.
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Re: Improvements to allow for doublestack trains in Philly

Postby mmi16 » Tue Mar 10, 2015 9:14 am

Arlington wrote:^ That's cool. Can anyone else say for how long this might have been the case? Also, since we know that the Long Bridge in DC can't do double stack, how far down South might these have originated, and how far up north (Newark?) might they be going?

Any thing viewed North (East) of Philadelphia came from the North.

Boone Tunnel, South of Phila.; Howard Street Tunnel in Baltimore, Virginia Ave. Tunnel in DC will not clear doublestacks.
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Re: Improvements to allow for doublestack trains in Philly

Postby mmi16 » Sun Oct 11, 2015 11:01 pm

I forgot to mention, in the DC area, the Long Bridge is not the feature the prevents handling double stacks - it is the Virginia Avenue Tunnel which accommodates 17 foot 3 inch shipments - double stacks are 20 foot 2 inches high. That is why CSX has undertaken the Virginia Avenue Tunnel rebuilding project, to have a double track tunnel that can handle double stacks on each track.
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Re: Improvements to allow for doublestack trains in Philly

Postby Arlington » Mon Oct 12, 2015 7:40 pm

mmi16 wrote:I forgot to mention, in the DC area, the Long Bridge is not the feature the prevents handling double stacks - it is the Virginia Avenue Tunnel which accommodates 17 foot 3 inch shipments - double stacks are 20 foot 2 inches high. That is why CSX has undertaken the Virginia Avenue Tunnel rebuilding project, to have a double track tunnel that can handle double stacks on each track.

Why is CSX going to all that trouble in the VAT if Howard St is going to frustrate it all.
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Re: Improvements to allow for doublestack trains in Philly

Postby mmi16 » Tue Oct 13, 2015 6:41 pm

Arlington wrote:
mmi16 wrote:I forgot to mention, in the DC area, the Long Bridge is not the feature the prevents handling double stacks - it is the Virginia Avenue Tunnel which accommodates 17 foot 3 inch shipments - double stacks are 20 foot 2 inches high. That is why CSX has undertaken the Virginia Avenue Tunnel rebuilding project, to have a double track tunnel that can handle double stacks on each track.

Why is CSX going to all that trouble in the VAT if Howard St is going to frustrate it all.


Portsmouth, VA - closer to the ocean for vessels, still have Midwest access. With Howard street Tunnel and the container terminal on the wrong side of it, Baltimore becomes the loser, unless and until another solution is implemented.
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Re: Improvements to allow for doublestack trains in Philly

Postby Arlington » Tue Oct 13, 2015 7:01 pm

mmi16 wrote:
Arlington wrote:
mmi16 wrote:I forgot to mention, in the DC area, the Long Bridge is not the feature the prevents handling double stacks - it is the Virginia Avenue Tunnel which accommodates 17 foot 3 inch shipments - double stacks are 20 foot 2 inches high. That is why CSX has undertaken the Virginia Avenue Tunnel rebuilding project, to have a double track tunnel that can handle double stacks on each track.

Why is CSX going to all that trouble in the VAT if Howard St is going to frustrate it all.

Portsmouth, VA - closer to the ocean for vessels, still have Midwest access. With Howard street Tunnel and the container terminal on the wrong side of it, Baltimore becomes the loser, unless and until another solution is implemented.

Isn't what you're saying tantamount to saying that Baltimore (and by extension, Philly) is already the loser because of Howard St Tunnel, and that the double-stack part of the new VAT is mostly irrelevant (double tracking is useful but for now double stack clearances through the Virginia Ave Tunnel only lead you to a dead end at the Howard St Tunnel portal)
Playing around with the CSX Clearance Map, it sure looks like CSX's future double stack map runs through Hagerstown and/or Hancock MD, and that'd include Philly via Baltimore somehow.
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Re: Improvements to allow for doublestack trains in Philly

Postby ccutler » Tue Oct 13, 2015 10:08 pm

Port of Philadelphia has a sizable intermodal operation that will benefit from doublestack clearances, for trains using the water level route.
It appears that the work in Washington DC will allow trains from the south to connect better with the old B&O route through Cumberland.

But yes, the Howard Street tunnel is a bottleneck, but you just gotta use the public funds when the legislators are willing to pay for part of it! Moreover, having two legs out of three will just strengthen the case for Howard Street Tunnel when the time comes for another big public spending project.
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Re: Improvements to allow for doublestack trains in Philly

Postby JayBee » Wed Oct 14, 2015 11:47 pm

The Port of Philadelphia is going to be left out of Containership routings as the big shipping companies move to ever larger ships. As the smaller ships reach scrapping age (~25years), their replacements will be larger ships cascaded down from European services. Doublestack clearances from Philadelphia will be useful for domestic traffic though.
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Re: Improvements to allow for doublestack trains in Philly

Postby jslader » Thu Oct 15, 2015 6:53 am

The projected trend in container ship building is focusing on building ships that are wider, rather than deeper, to haul more cargo. Additionally, the Delaware River, which serves the Port of Philadelphia, is undergoing a dredging project to deepen the shipping channel to 45 feet, which could accommodate all but the very largest ships. Those mega-ships are mainly used in the Trans-Pacific lanes, and do not figure to be much of a factor on the East Coast, even after the Panama Canal is dredged.

The Port of Philadelphia has begun work on expanding the container operation through the construction of two new ship berths, with the option to build a third, and supporting facilities to serve those new berths. The project is called "Southport". A number of large shipping companies have expressed using the new facilities, although that in and of itself may not mean much. However, many of these same large lines, which include Maersk, Hyundai, CMACGA, MSC and others, indicate they would use the port more right now if the channel was already dredged to 45ft, perhaps making the port the first call for a ship, rather than it be lightend first at Newark or Baltimore. At 45ft, the channel would have the capability to handle a container ship with a draught of 50ft at high tide, which pretty much is the entire fleet in commercial shipping, save for the very large ships which don't and won't call at East Coast ports anyway.
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Re: Improvements to allow for doublestack trains in Philly

Postby mmi16 » Thu Oct 15, 2015 3:23 pm

jslader wrote:The projected trend in container ship building is focusing on building ships that are wider, rather than deeper, to haul more cargo. Additionally, the Delaware River, which serves the Port of Philadelphia, is undergoing a dredging project to deepen the shipping channel to 45 feet, which could accommodate all but the very largest ships. Those mega-ships are mainly used in the Trans-Pacific lanes, and do not figure to be much of a factor on the East Coast, even after the Panama Canal is dredged.

The Port of Philadelphia has begun work on expanding the container operation through the construction of two new ship berths, with the option to build a third, and supporting facilities to serve those new berths. The project is called "Southport". A number of large shipping companies have expressed using the new facilities, although that in and of itself may not mean much. However, many of these same large lines, which include Maersk, Hyundai, CMACGA, MSC and others, indicate they would use the port more right now if the channel was already dredged to 45ft, perhaps making the port the first call for a ship, rather than it be lightend first at Newark or Baltimore. At 45ft, the channel would have the capability to handle a container ship with a draught of 50ft at high tide, which pretty much is the entire fleet in commercial shipping, save for the very large ships which don't and won't call at East Coast ports anyway.


The drawbacks to both the ports of Baltimore and Philadelphia is their relative distance from the main shipping lanes along the Atlantic coast. In the past (and currently for that matter) the ocean going vessels could make a call at the ports of Norfolk/Portsmouth, sail up the Chesapeake Bay and make a port call at Baltimore and then continue up the Bay and through the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal and make a port call at Philadelphia. Post Panamax vessels will be too large to use the C&D Canal. Each of these legs of the voyage use roughly a day of steaming between the points. If the port of call was only Baltimore, then it would be a day up the Bay, the port call and a day back down the Bay. Access to Philadelphia is roughly 1/2 a day sailing from the ocean in each direction. The Ports of Savannah, Charleston and New York/New Jersey have far closer access to the ocean shipping lanes. Baltimore has dredged their channels to (I think) 51 feet and have purchased container cranes that can handle the width of the post Panamax sized container ships.

From a container perspective, Philadelphia does have double stack access through CSX's Northern route from Philadelphia uses NYSW trackage rights. Baltimore is screwed for double stacks by the location of it's container terminal at Dundalk/Sea Girt having to use the Howard Street Tunnel to go West or the Boone Tunnel outside of Philadelphia to go East. While NS also has access to the Dundalk/Sea Girt facility, they are restricted from double stacks by Amtrak's catenary between Baltimore and Perryville where NS can use the Port Road to get to Harrisburg and head West.
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Re: Improvements to allow for doublestack trains in Philly

Postby JayBee » Thu Oct 15, 2015 11:25 pm

jslader wrote:The projected trend in container ship building is focusing on building ships that are wider, rather than deeper, to haul more cargo. Additionally, the Delaware River, which serves the Port of Philadelphia, is undergoing a dredging project to deepen the shipping channel to 45 feet, which could accommodate all but the very largest ships. Those mega-ships are mainly used in the Trans-Pacific lanes, and do not figure to be much of a factor on the East Coast, even after the Panama Canal is dredged.


Taking Maersk Lines and MSC as examples, together they run 3 circulations of ships from Asia to the US East Coast. Maersk calls one string TP10. It consists of the smallest ships which are Panamax sized and serves China and Korea to Savannah, Charleston, Jacksonville, and Miami. The other two "Transpacific" services (TP11 and TP12) to the US East Coast are routed via the Suez Canal and use ships that are New Panamax sized. Many of these ships draw 46ft or a bit more. For example the "Mærsk Seville" which left Baltimore a bit over two days ago draws 45.9ft.
The Port of Philadelphia has begun work on expanding the container operation through the construction of two new ship berths, with the option to build a third, and supporting facilities to serve those new berths. The project is called "Southport". A number of large shipping companies have expressed using the new facilities, although that in and of itself may not mean much. However, many of these same large lines, which include Maersk, Hyundai, CMACGA, MSC and others, indicate they would use the port more right now if the channel was already dredged to 45ft, perhaps making the port the first call for a ship, rather than it be lightend first at Newark or Baltimore. At 45ft, the channel would have the capability to handle a container ship with a draught of 50ft at high tide, which pretty much is the entire fleet in commercial shipping, save for the very large ships which don't and won't call at East Coast ports anyway.


As you say the effort to express interest in serving the port, is worth about the breath it takes to say it.
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Re: Improvements to allow for doublestack trains in Philly

Postby jslader » Sat Oct 17, 2015 6:09 pm

Much is made about about how far up from the ocean the Port of Philadelphia is, however, the channel is 102 miles long; at a leisurely 10 knots, that's 10 hours to the port, vs the 4 hours it would take to get to NY from that point. However, the Ports of NY/NJ suffer from major congestion and delays. When it is all said and done, the delay visiting Philadelphia and getting back down the channel is offset by the congestion ships face trying to berth in NY, to say nothing of the problems faced getting merchandise and goods out of the area once offloaded from the ships. The entire delay could last several days, versus roughly the day and a half it would take to get a container up the channel, off load it and send it on its way, and get the ship back to the ocean. A couple of shipping lines mentioned the congestion as a factor in why they transferred their operations from Newark to Philadelphia, namely Sea Star Line and Horizon Line.

As for the draft problems, last year the MSC Judith became the largest vessel to ever visit the Port of Philadelphia. Her max draft is 47ft, carrying a little over 8,000 TEU. While she did not come into the port fully loaded m, once the channel is finished being dredged she could at high tide, and unlike the Ports of NY/NJ, the main container port(s, once South Port is finished) is not encumbered by height restrictions; the lowest air draft over the Delaware Channel is under the Delaware Memoral Bridges at 190ft, which could accommodate all but a couple classes of the ery largest ships. All but one of the Ports of NY/NJ must deal with the 151 ft air draft under the Bayonne Bridge, and that one port still suffers from the severe congestion and associated delays.

Philly isn't trying to become as big as, say, the Port of Newark. Should they capture just ten percent of traffic currently going to Newark, let alone all the Port of NY/NJ, it would more than double what currently moves through the port, and the major hindrance to all of this, according to the shipping lines, is the 40ft depth; 45 ft allows them to expand their operations. (That's another thing: the major lines aren't talking about establishing new services, just expanding on the services they already have going to the port).

Concerning railroad options, besides CSX Greenwich Yard, Philly actually is served by two NS terminals. The more well-known one would be Morrisville Yard, northeast of the city. However, NS also has Mustin Intermodal Terminal, adjacent to Greenwich Yard at the port. It was established on the former location of the Mustin Air Field, which served the Philadelphia Naval Yard. A labor dispute let the yard idle for a long time, but it has begun to see some service; I saw pictures of a stack train being unloaded there from a year ago.
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Re: Improvements to allow for doublestack trains in Philly

Postby ChrisE » Sat Nov 07, 2015 6:02 pm

Concerning railroad options, besides CSX Greenwich Yard, Philly actually is served by two NS terminals. The more well-known one would be Morrisville Yard, northeast of the city. However, NS also has Mustin Intermodal Terminal, adjacent to Greenwich Yard at the port. It was established on the former location of the Mustin Air Field, which served the Philadelphia Naval Yard. A labor dispute let the yard idle for a long time, but it has begun to see some service; I saw pictures of a stack train being unloaded there from a year ago.


Didn't realize that NS finally got the intermodal yard in S. Philadelphia going. That's some pretty good news.

I live next to the CSX Trenton Line. I'll occasionally see a double stack train go by, usually later in the day. I couldn't tell you what train marks though (still fairly new at this). What I've noticed is these past few years I haven't really seen any TOFC on the Trenton Line. Not that there was much to begin with, but every now and then I'd see some TOFC go by headed north.
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