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Old 02-23-2015, 12:21 PM
 
Location: Pennsylvania
1,392 posts, read 1,278,079 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chicago76 View Post
Intermodal freight is growing and it is something that railroad companies are keen to emphasize. Why wouldn't they? They're marketing their services. When you get down to it, it still represents a very small proportion of all rail freight. It is also something of a temporary stopgap for a lot of different types of goods until other changes are implemented.
Intermodal currently is 20-25% of freight rail business. That's not a small amount by any measure.

Quote:
It's a lot cheaper to ship the ingredients for those Frosted Flakes across the country from various sources, drop them in a contract manufacturing facility outside of LA, and let that manufacturer produce the frosted flakes, cheerios, etc for Southern California, Vegas, and Arizona. It's also a lot easier to ship a bunch of cardstock on pallets in containers to satellite box making plants that perform the laser cuts and printing on the boxes before sending them to businesses who use those boxes within 100 miles of the box plant. It will also be easier to simply 3D print a lot of plastic forms in a local area. Ultimately, it is likely that we are 3D printing things like fabricated components for housing locally.
I'm not going to get into the entire 3D printing debate since the technology is still in it's infancy. I'm going by right now that moving freight across the country intermodal is where the future is at in most regards. You can't print food products after all and the west coast doesn't provide most of the food for the east coast either. Since a lot intermodal freight is grocery being food product and beverages this is a rather huge development that 3D printing won't be taking over. The same way it won't take over chemicals, copper wiring, mail, etc.

Quote:
That's where we are headed on supply chain.

Rail will still have a place in this for certain types of electronic components, cars, paper goods, textiles, etc.
Your underestimating intermodal.

Last edited by cwa1984; 02-23-2015 at 12:41 PM..
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Old 02-23-2015, 01:35 PM
 
2,388 posts, read 2,958,688 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cwa1984 View Post
Intermodal currently is 20-25% of freight rail business. That's not a small amount by any measure.
Not debating the stat but wondering - is this by volume or by tonnage?
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Old 02-23-2015, 03:55 PM
 
Location: Pennsylvania
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drive carephilly View Post
Not debating the stat but wondering - is this by volume or by tonnage?
Revenue

The tonnage is rather small being below 10%
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Old 02-23-2015, 10:33 PM
 
2,388 posts, read 2,958,688 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cwa1984 View Post
Revenue

The tonnage is rather small being below 10%
ahhh, right. I would imagine the tonnage would be small. A container of cheap plastic crap from China probably weighs a lot less than a car full of gravel or oil.
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Old 02-23-2015, 11:21 PM
 
Location: Pennsylvania
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drive carephilly View Post
ahhh, right. I would imagine the tonnage would be small. A container of cheap plastic crap from China probably weighs a lot less than a car full of gravel or oil.
Or laptops fully loaded into a container which weighs a lot less then a car full of coal. To give you idea of how ridiculous this can get with light weight containers once to several times a week a container is loaded at a Duie Pyle facility in York PA with parts for Tesla Motors and gets sent to the Harrisburg rail yard and goes out to there facility in California. The container never gets more then 5,000 lbs loaded on it but it's just so cheap to ship that way even though the container is not anywhere near filled and only usually has about 2,000 lbs of weight on it it's cheaper to ship the freight that way across country even though the parts could fit in the bed of a 1500 series pickup truck most of the time. The rail road, Duie Pyle, and the company whose containers' are used all make a profit off it so no really cares considering it's also cheaper for Tesla to get the freight directly that way. Now somethings like beverages, rice, paper rolls (mostly used in printing newspapers), etc are extremely heavy being barely legal in regards to weight most of the time. That freight is more a lot more common then ultra lightweight freight.

Going back to profitability of course there is less maintenance cost with intermodal vs general freight where the rail road owns all the equipment being used and has to maintain it all. Or the fact general freight has to be broken up in rail yards and trains have to built up from scratch hooking all the cars together individually which takes time. Where as in intermodal the yard jockeys and crane operators due all the train building with the train just hooking up to the well cars and depending on the train piggyback cars for hauling regular road trailers. More profit is made with less in Intermodal.
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Old 02-24-2015, 07:55 AM
 
Location: Nescopeck, Penna. (birthplace)
12,351 posts, read 7,523,628 times
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Way back in the 1960's, not long after intermodal freight began its first spurt of growth, an MIT professor named Ann Friedlander launched the first study to determine at what point (as measured in "length of haul", intermodal transport became more economical than door-to-door trucking. The study concluded with a tradeoff point somewhere between 125 and 150 miles, but in the real world, I doubt that any traffic professional would agree to a point of at least twice that figure, probably because almost all the intangibles in the calculation are viewed as slanted in favor of the trucker.

Over forty years ago, when I was studying nearby at Penn State, Penn Central closed its Altoona TOFC ramp, citing that there were very few destinations within the system that TOFC could serve at an advantage. What freight still seemed suited to TOFC was trucked to Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh reportedly only solicited traffic for the gateways of Chicago and St. Louis, or beyond.

I don't doubt that even after adjusting for inflation, fuel concerns have narrowed the cost gap between the two modes somewhat, and the standardization and refinement of intermodal hardware, particularly with regard to reduction of cargo damage, is paying off handsomely.

Perhaps the biggest test will emerge if and when completion of the PANAMAX project exerts pressure to divert trans-Pacific traffic from Los Angeles to Atlantic Coast ports (reportedly, more likely to Hampton Roads and Savannah than New York/New Jersey due to harbor depth issues). If that should come to pass, BNSF and Union Pacific would then face a challenge of selling no-longer-used capacity.

Regardless of that outcome, I don't expect the railroads to give up the fight; they have solved their financial issues, learned a great deal about improvements in both physical plant and rolling stock, and can likely gain some cooperation and indirect help from the public sector where the growth of passenger transit and the freight roads' need for more capacity coincide.
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Old 02-24-2015, 03:11 PM
 
2,388 posts, read 2,958,688 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2nd trick op View Post
Perhaps the biggest test will emerge if and when completion of the PANAMAX project exerts pressure to divert trans-Pacific traffic from Los Angeles to Atlantic Coast ports (reportedly, more likely to Hampton Roads and Savannah than New York/New Jersey due to harbor depth issues). If that should come to pass, BNSF and Union Pacific would then face a challenge of selling no-longer-used capacity.
Dredging is rarely a huge issue. It's a little controversial in NY because of the PCBs and it's a bit more expensive because they're down to the bedrock at this point but they're dealing with it. The real problem is the bridges. I was working in Lower Manhattan when the Regina Maersk came calling. It barely made it under the Bayonne Bridge. Hampton Roads doesn't have to worry about bridges and the harbor has always been kept deep because of the huge Navy presence. Savannah just built a new bridge with a 185ft. clearance and even still there's a lot of available port land on the river between the bridge and the ocean

That said, even if containers start arriving in bigger numbers on the east coast it's not going to stop the need for them to get inland - it's just going to shift the transit points. As long as the economy is growing and trade with Asia remains strong there will always be a demand for more capacity on the west coast. They might lose some transcontinental business but then I thought they were mostly western RRs to begin with and most of their business is going to Phoenix, Vegas, SLC, Denver, KC, Chicago, etc. I can't see it making much sense to transit the canal, move your containers to a train in Savannah, then haul them to Chicago when you can pull into Oakland and be done with it.
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Old 02-24-2015, 08:00 PM
 
9,520 posts, read 14,857,889 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drive carephilly View Post
Dredging is rarely a huge issue. It's a little controversial in NY because of the PCBs and it's a bit more expensive because they're down to the bedrock at this point but they're dealing with it. The real problem is the bridges. I was working in Lower Manhattan when the Regina Maersk came calling. It barely made it under the Bayonne Bridge.
They're actually raising the Bayonne Bridge.
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Old 02-24-2015, 09:24 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hemlock140 View Post
The challenge for railroads is the NIMBY attitudes becoming more and more vocal with the gentrification of cities with intermodal facilities and tracks running through. Much of the media attention is dedicated to the fear of disaster from oil tanker cars burning in a crash or derailment, but the development of condos near tracks/yards with the noise and crossing delays affecting their sales is more of a factor.
So freight rail is not something I know much about, even in my own city (Toronto) but I'm pretty sure the situation here is that freight rail by-passes the urban core. The big railyards and intermodal facilities are in the suburbs. The two main intermodal facilities are around Clairville/Bramalea in Brampton, and near Elder Mills/Hwy 50 in Vaughan, and then you have two big hump yards, one in Vaughan (Concord) and the other near Malvern. Industry is mostly in the suburbs at this point, and I think goods would mostly be travelling between these facilities and locations in Toronto by truck anyways - I don't think it really matters if they travel 1 mile by truck or 15...
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Old 02-24-2015, 11:20 PM
 
Location: Pennsylvania
1,392 posts, read 1,278,079 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by memph View Post
So freight rail is not something I know much about, even in my own city (Toronto) but I'm pretty sure the situation here is that freight rail by-passes the urban core. The big railyards and intermodal facilities are in the suburbs. The two main intermodal facilities are around Clairville/Bramalea in Brampton, and near Elder Mills/Hwy 50 in Vaughan, and then you have two big hump yards, one in Vaughan (Concord) and the other near Malvern. Industry is mostly in the suburbs at this point, and I think goods would mostly be travelling between these facilities and locations in Toronto by truck anyways - I don't think it really matters if they travel 1 mile by truck or 15...

A lot of freight rail in the US at least is actually in cities and not out in the suburbs. Chicago is like that and so is Harrisburg and Atlanta. Newer terminals are away in the suburbs and even exurbs of cities but the older terminals are actually in the cities.
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