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Old 02-08-2014, 01:52 PM
 
Location: Nescopeck, Penna. (birthplace)
12,351 posts, read 7,503,405 times
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Some of the regulars here know that I'm a lifelong railroad buff with some work experience. I don't often recommend hobbyist literature, but this months copy of Trains magazine (circulation about 125,000) has a number of articles on several subjects which serves to illustrate the gap between a time when a million and a half families depended upon the railroads for a paycheck, and today's employment of about 200,000.

The articles and columns touch upon such issues as the (by necessity) slow-but-steady implementation of higher speeds on emerging rail-transit corridors, the gowing use of railroads for the transport of petroleum, and the rasons why Amtrak has so few options for response to changes in consumer tastes.

One of my earliest memories from childhood was of witnessing the last revenue operation of a steam locomotive in my home town; that was at the age of four in 1953. In the following six decades, the industry atrophied to a point where government takeover seemed likely, then came roaring back to its best financial health in a century, but in a market position that provides little exposure to the public, and turned itself into a competitor to barges, pipelines, and lake- and coastal-shipping, rather than for general freight -- and the passenger service must, by definition, be part of the public sector.

Much of the current debate on rail-related issues stems form the fact that these significant changes are seldom well-understood by an increasingly-insulated public.
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Old 02-08-2014, 07:53 PM
 
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Take a quick look at the graph. Investment in rail ranged from 38 € to 349 € per capita in the Eurozone. In the US? About $3, in a good year. no wonder trains run better and faster there. Pro-Rail Alliance - EU Ranking: comparison of members' Investments in rail Infrastructure
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Old 02-08-2014, 07:56 PM
 
Location: southern california
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i would think they can freight containers cant they freight cars so as to save gas on long trips?, why so expensive. unlike road transport trains seem to be resistant price changes due to slow downs in business. no competition or just horribly high overhead? japan spends somewhere around 6.2% of its gnp on rail maintenance yes?.
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Old 02-08-2014, 08:22 PM
 
9,520 posts, read 14,819,994 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huckleberry3911948 View Post
i would think they can freight containers cant they freight cars so as to save gas on long trips?
Freight trains tend to be a mode to choose "if it has to get there.... eventually". There's at least one passenger train which takes cars, but it's quite inflexible (goes from exactly one location to exactly one other location, and doesn't run fast or often)
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Old 02-09-2014, 03:49 AM
 
Location: On the Rails in Northern NJ
12,381 posts, read 23,369,436 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huckleberry3911948 View Post
i would think they can freight containers cant they freight cars so as to save gas on long trips?, why so expensive. unlike road transport trains seem to be resistant price changes due to slow downs in business. no competition or just horribly high overhead? japan spends somewhere around 6.2% of its gnp on rail maintenance yes?.
Japan doesn't spend anything on Rail , its all private operating with decent profits.
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Old 02-09-2014, 06:15 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nybbler View Post
Freight trains tend to be a mode to choose "if it has to get there.... eventually". There's at least one passenger train which takes cars, but it's quite inflexible (goes from exactly one location to exactly one other location, and doesn't run fast or often)
That was the old thinking. Railroad mismanagement of the past decided they didn't want to ship fresh fruit or anything time dependent. But BNSF built a terminal to handle UPS shipments, which are.
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Old 02-09-2014, 02:28 PM
 
Location: Nescopeck, Penna. (birthplace)
12,351 posts, read 7,503,405 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pvande55 View Post
That was the old thinking. Railroad mismanagement of the past decided they didn't want to ship fresh fruit or anything time dependent. But BNSF built a terminal to handle UPS shipments, which are.
Actually, the loss, and eventual partial recovery of dressed meat traffic from the Plains states to the Eastern Seaboard is a textbook example. In earlier days, the traffic moved in refrigerator cars from large packing plants in cities like Kansas City and Omaha to cold storage warehouses in central cities. The emergence of feedlots and the collapse of the old meat packers like Swift, Wilson and Rath ended that.

But the industry re-invented itself, and a lot of the same traffic now moves in trailers on flat cars, often operated by freight forwarders (Clipper, Acme) or specialized carriers (England, Prime, Stevens). A few still go all-highway, but the financial incentive is no longer there. CSX and Union Pacific have also experimented with larger volumes of fresh produce in traditional "reefer cars" -- all consigned to one warehouse in upstate New York. Local delivery is handled by truck from there. If successful, that strategy would gain a huge amount of traffic.

But the Western Transcontinental carriers are running up against the limitations of the physical plant. It's almost never more than two tracks, although signaled to permit operation in both directions (unlike the four-track lines in the East before 1960). The privately-owned railroads are reluctant to make major investments, since the property can be de facto nationalized by re-regulation, but the completion of the upgrading of the Panama Canal (PANAMAX) next year might free up some excess capacity if East Asia-to-East Coast container traffic goes back to an all-water haul.

But the point is: "Retail railroading", with a local "peddler" freight delivering single carloads to smaller consignees dried up in the Sixties and Seventies, and is not likely to be revived. There are fewer branch lines, larger cars, fewer but much larger terminals. About half again as much tonnage is being moved with about half of the former physical plant. But it moves in larger, less-frequent shipments.

Auto-train survives largely at the fiat of Amtrak -- it runs from an anchor at the south end of a large concentration of people to the country's most popular tourist destination, and the customers aren't that pressed for time. But I don't think a similar market exists anywhere else in the nation.

Last edited by 2nd trick op; 02-09-2014 at 02:54 PM..
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Old 02-09-2014, 04:47 PM
 
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Auto train is unlikely to happen anywhere else because there is really no place else that people choose to live for extended periods and thus want to bring their cars. And it must be really hard to get a reservation in the spring or fall.
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Old 02-11-2014, 01:58 PM
 
Location: Seattle, WA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pvande55 View Post
Auto train is unlikely to happen anywhere else because there is really no place else that people choose to live for extended periods and thus want to bring their cars. And it must be really hard to get a reservation in the spring or fall.
Er...I happen to live in such a place! Many of these "snowbirds" currently maintain two cars and fly or depend on family members to drive them one way and fly back the other way, twice a year. Students are another category that might prefer to take an auto train if it were available.

By the way, private industry has been dealing with seasonal changes in demand for centuries.
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Old 02-11-2014, 03:06 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 16 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
86,989 posts, read 102,554,590 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hurricaneMan1992 View Post
Er...I happen to live in such a place! Many of these "snowbirds" currently maintain two cars and fly or depend on family members to drive them one way and fly back the other way, twice a year. Students are another category that might prefer to take an auto train if it were available.

By the way, private industry has been dealing with seasonal changes in demand for centuries.
My in-laws used to "winter" in Arizona. They did take a car down there each winter (from Nebraska), but they left a trailer (the kind you tow) there. Lots of snowbirds down there. IIRC, my husband's aunt left a car there.
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