Intermodal Railroading

Overview

This richly illustrated history chronicles one of the most revolutionary developments in freight railroading during the twentieth century: intermodal shipping, or the use of containers to move cargo between trains, trucks, and oceangoing vessels. It was a development that transformed the movement of freight around the world, with an almost incalculable impact on American industry.

Intermodal railroading in North America begins tentatively, with attempts at piggybacking in the ...

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Overview

This richly illustrated history chronicles one of the most revolutionary developments in freight railroading during the twentieth century: intermodal shipping, or the use of containers to move cargo between trains, trucks, and oceangoing vessels. It was a development that transformed the movement of freight around the world, with an almost incalculable impact on American industry.

Intermodal railroading in North America begins tentatively, with attempts at piggybacking in the 1930s, before moving on to more serious developments in the period from World War II through the 1960s, notably by Canadian Pacific and the New Haven and Southern Pacific railroads. After looking at early intermodal technology and traffic, particularly the formation of pioneering equipment manufacturer and provider TTX, author Brian Solomon turns to the contemporary period. His account of mighty changes in North American shipping ranges from the implications of deregulation and various railroad mergers, to the emergence of partnerships between railroads and trucking and shipping firms. In addition to railroads like Conrail, BNSF, and CSX, this comprehensive history features trucking, freight delivery, and forwarding firms such as J. B. Hunt, Sea-Land, Maersk, and K-Line. It also considers the importance of specialized modern rolling stock, motive power, loading equipment, and intermodal hubs including South Kearney, Seattle, Long Beach, Oakland, and Houston.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780760325285
  • Publisher: Voyageur Press
  • Publication date: 9/15/2007
  • Edition description: First
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 8.62 (w) x 10.87 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Brian Solomon is one of today’s most accomplished railway historians. He has authored more than 30 books about railroads and motive power, and his writing and photography have been featured in Trains, Railway Age, Passenger Train Journal, and RailNews. Solomon divides his time between Monson, Massachusetts, and Dublin, Ireland.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Dedication

Acknowledgments

Introduction

Chapter 1         The Pig Is Born

Chapter 2         Containers, Staggers, and Stacks

Chapter 3         Equipment

Chapter 4         Intermodal Power

Chapter 5         RoadRailer

Chapter 6         Growth

Glossary

Bibliography

Photo captions

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Introduction

Introduction

Nearly 20 years ago, while driving west on Route 22 and climbing toward Gallitzin, Pennsylvania, I overtook a single tractor-trailer truck struggling up the grade. The driver was gazing across Sugar Run toward Conrail's well-maintained former Pennsylvania Railroad main line. His expression was a look of wonder and disgust as he scrutinized three long intermodal trains-two westward, one eastward-simultaneously threading their way over the mountain; trailers on flatcars zipping past each other on the triple-track main line. Intermodal traffic was up and growing, and there, across the valley, was the proof! Each train was carrying dozens and dozens of trailers-a demonstration in railroad efficiency.

Intermodal railroading, which started out as "piggyback," or trailer-on-flatcar (TOFC)-a way for railroads to better serve customers without sidings-has grown into one of the most significant aspects of modern railroading. Not only has domestic traffic grown dramatically, but international traffic, which as late as the mid-1970s represented only a very small portion of railroad business, has flourished beyond all expectations. The technology of intermodal railroading involves innovative applications of highway trailers and ocean-shipping containers on specially designed railroad cars. Intermodal railway cars have been designed to keep nonrevenue-producing tare weight to a minimum while allowing maximum space for efficient carriage of various types of intermodal vessels. Clever designs have balanced the needs for great capacity, operational flexibility, and rapid loading.

Railroads have adopted highway terminology as well as highwaytechnology. In the old days, railroads typically designated routes in the terms of famous named passenger trains, noteworthy geography, famous gateway yards, or the company's history. Modern railroad services are marketed in terms of "lanes" or "corridors," identified not by geography or railroad history but in terms of parallel Interstate highways, the federally sponsored super-roads built a century after the railroads but which exist foremost in the public psyche and, more specifically, in the understanding of the shipper. Where the Sunset Route may draw a blank for today's shipper, the I-10 corridor highlights a well-known transport route.

New railroad technology-low-profile, 89, articulated spine cars, and, most importantly, double-stack well cars-contributed to the success of the railroad intermodal revolution. Perhaps more important than the successful application of money-saving technologies were milestone regulatory decisions and federal legislation that enabled railroad managers and marketers to adopt new and more creative methods to provide and sell railroad services. The impediments to intermodal railroading involved overcoming old-school mindsets as much as developing radical new technologies. Technology without the sense to use it had left the railroads cold.

Today, intermodal traffic enjoys regular growth and intensive service levels on a few key routes, yet growth remains limited by infrastructure capacity constraints, age-old railroad operating practices, outdated signaling and braking systems, and a largely nineteenth-century route structure not well-suited to modern transport. As busy as railroads are today, they capture only a relatively small portion of traffic moving across North America.

This book looks at intermodal railroading and its history, personalities, technology, infrastructure, and operations. While the emphasis is on North American railways, I have included windows on operations elsewhere, as well as snippets of related transport industries-such as oceangoing and highway transport-that are intended to broaden the scope of understanding and put intermodal railroading in perspective.
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