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Are trains coming back?

dcsipo

Titanium
Joined
Oct 13, 2014
Location
Baldwin, MD/USA
300 car, dbl stacked train?
You've witnessed this?

Seems reckless to me?

You could have 3 sepparate trains rolling along 10 minutes behind the other safer.
Not like one engine is gunna pull all that alone.
Not saving much/anything.


???


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Think Snow Eh!
Ox
No, but heard of 3-mile trains :)..a rail car is 53 feet long.
  • United States Union Pacific, United States. Run from 8–10 January 2010, consisting of 296 container cars and hauled by nine diesel-electric locomotives spread through the train with a total length of 18,000 feet (3.4 mi; 5.5 km), from a terminal in Texas to Los Angeles. Around 618 double-stacked containers were carried at speeds up to 70 mph/112 km/h. 14,059 t.[35][36]
Typical trains will be less than half of that,
 
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jaguar36

Cast Iron
Joined
May 13, 2015
Location
SE, PA
There is an oil train outside my window right now that is probably a mile and a half long. Has a bunch of engines on it. I assume each engine doesn't have an operator though.

To ship containers via train you lose a lot of time and money taking them off the truck and putting them back on the truck. For cross country trips it makes sense, but for regional trips it isn't worth it. I worked in an aluminum factory years ago that had its own rail siding. They didn't use it any more though. The ignots came in by truck and the coils left by truck. I was told it was actually the time to load and put the train together, and then unload it that is the biggest issue.
 
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Freedommachine

Hot Rolled
Joined
May 13, 2020
Doo you want the goobermint to get involved and start running the railroads ?

tracey-morgan-no.gif
 

DDoug

Diamond
Joined
Oct 18, 2005
Location
NW Pa
No, but heard of 3-mile trains :)..a rail car is 53 feet long.
  • United States Union Pacific, United States. Run from 8–10 January 2010, consisting of 296 container cars and hauled by nine diesel-electric locomotives spread through the train with a total length of 18,000 feet (3.4 mi; 5.5 km), from a terminal in Texas to Los Angeles. Around 618 double-stacked containers were carried at speeds up to 70 mph/112 km/h. 14,059 t.[35][36]
Typical trains will be less than half of that,
Been seeing more of those kind going by as of late with "Distributed Power".
 

gbent

Diamond
Joined
Mar 14, 2005
Location
Kansas
The railroads are often listed as one of the worst companies to work for. About everyone I know that has anything to do with a railroad has nothing good to say, and I know quite a few. The employees keep going to work because they are very highly paid to make up for poor working conditions. The customers keep using the railroad because its the only way to ship or receive product in bulk.
 

M.B. Naegle

Titanium
Joined
Feb 7, 2011
Location
Conroe, TX USA
I can't say much as far as the politics involved, but I do hope to see "more" railroad in in the future. IMO, the quantity of the freight shipped is relative. I'm more interested in seeing more spurs, more depots, more passenger options, and more business with the small guy. Trucks always have a place, but considering fuel costs and damaged goods from careless drivers and poor terminal accountability, I'd wonder how much rail could improve things.

In our town, there was a vacant industrial property with a spur off the main line where they used to make creosote wood products. I think it was vacant for a long time because of some top-soil contamination, and the railroad elements were just old enough to be non-usable and in the way of things. Well, then a few years ago word gets out that Home Depot bought the property. It's nice that they cleaned it up and put it to use building a big materials distribution center, but on top of that they had the whole rail spur REPLACED to use with their logistics. Probably small potato's to most, but I just thought it interesting that the city, the new property owners, and the railroad were able to work together for something new like that, more than the old lines and old politics just keeping up the status quo.
 

Trueturning

Diamond
Joined
Jul 2, 2019
The railroads are often listed as one of the worst companies to work for. About everyone I know that has anything to do with a railroad has nothing good to say, and I know quite a few. The employees keep going to work because they are very highly paid to make up for poor working conditions. The customers keep using the railroad because its the only way to ship or receive product in bulk.
I have a friend who says the exact opposite. He is retired and doing well. I do not know what to say exactly because you have obviously heard different experiences than my friend relates. He is retirement age and so that could be a different experience than people working and retiring today. He has been Retired now for over 20 years. I guess it matters when one retires and the pensions and benefits given to one generation And other generations. Different times seem to have different advantages/benefits.
 
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M.B. Naegle

Titanium
Joined
Feb 7, 2011
Location
Conroe, TX USA
I have a friend who says the exact opposite. He is retired and doing well. I do not know what to say exactly because you have obviously heard different experiences than my friend relates. He is retirement age and so that could be a different experience than people working and retiring today. He has been Retired now for over 20 years. I guess it matters when one retires and the pensions and benefits given to one generation And other generations. Different times seem to have different advantages/benefits.
I don't think Mike Rowe has done an episode on them yet, so they can't be THAT bad.;)

IMO, how good or bad a company is to work for boils down to fairness. Working in harsh conditions is fine with me so long as the safety and compensation is right. You could sit in a cushy office with all the perks in the world, but if your higher-ups are constantly shifting blame to you, promising raises that never come, and your paycheck keeps bouncing, it's not worth it.
 

Strostkovy

Stainless
Joined
Oct 29, 2017
You're assuming that the competition between railroad and trucking boils down to the driver and his/her associated cost ...
I'm pretty sure it's not.
To my knowledge truckers can only drive 60 hours per week. Driverless vehicles can more than double that. So the costs would go way down, and the electrification of semi trucks will reduce fleet maintenance (if implemented well) and I'm sure large warehouses would have very fast chargers for the trucks while they are parked or being unloaded.
As far as I am aware battery powered trains are more of a technical hurdle than battery powered semis.
I see no reason batteries will not continue to improve.

I also think that short freight runs can be made with self driving tiny trucks that just move a few pallets on a route. They don't have to survive collisions so can be whatever they need to be.
 

gbent

Diamond
Joined
Mar 14, 2005
Location
Kansas
The generous retirement program has kept many working. My understanding is the work environment is much more petty and advisorial than 20 years ago, and getting worse.
 

Ries

Diamond
Joined
Mar 15, 2004
Location
Edison Washington USA
Rail volume has stayed pretty much constant for the last 20 years.
View attachment 374302

It does seem like they are moving more bulk goods rather than finished products, and going more towards unit trains. That makes sense though as a truck is going to be more efficient at small loads while a train will be more efficient at large bulk goods.
And yet, the economy has grown, the population has grown, and rail volume has stayed the same.
 

Strostkovy

Stainless
Joined
Oct 29, 2017
A quick search tells me that rail is extremely expensive to install, especially if there is any sort of terrain. I think part of the efficiency of rail is that the rails have to be so flat.
 

cnctoolcat

Diamond
Joined
Sep 18, 2006
Location
Abingdon, VA
A quick search tells me that rail is extremely expensive to install, especially if there is any sort of terrain. I think part of the efficiency of rail is that the rails have to be so flat.

There have been no major freight railroad lines built in North America in over a century. The cost to build new through mountainous terrain would be unimaginable today!

And yes, those same railroads had to adhere to maximum practical grades, and curvature. A 2% grade is considered very steep for a Class 1 main line today.

Railroads have been pursing "PSR", or Precision Scheduled Railroading for the last decade or so. Thanks to the late E. Hunter Harrison---who CEO'd a couple of Class 1's and made PSR all the rage. Primarily for the shareholders though.

The Class 1's laid off about 1/3 of their hourly work force since the decline of coal over the last 15 years. Although the railroads are busy hauling metallurgical-grade coal today, it's only about 1/4 of the coal they use to haul (which was steam-plant coal).

The Class 1's are busy again, hauling double-stack container trains, ethanol trains, covered hoppers full of grains, plastic pellets, tank cars full of chemicals. Essentially the railroads have replaced most of the lost carloadings from coal, yet are still only 2/3rd's staffed.

One of the brilliant concepts of "PSR" is to work less men, but work them to the maximum hours every week...

ToolCat
 
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Ries

Diamond
Joined
Mar 15, 2004
Location
Edison Washington USA
A huge amount of railroad track, and sometimes right of way, has been abandoned. From its peak mileage in 1910 or so, up to 1990, 100,000 miles was decommissioned. Since 1990, I cant find an exact number, but my guess is its over 50,000 miles. Its always a lot cheaper to maintain existing, as opposed to building new. But we havent been doing much of either.
Amazing map here - https://www.frrandp.com/p/the-map.html
 

standardparts

Diamond
Joined
Mar 26, 2019
A quick search tells me that rail is extremely expensive to install, especially if there is any sort of terrain. I think part of the efficiency of rail is that the rails have to be so flat.
The California high speed rail project is likely a great example when it comes to right of way costs. Note---'right of way' in this case is for pass service but no doubt would be similar for freight.
 

Ries

Diamond
Joined
Mar 15, 2004
Location
Edison Washington USA
Right of way is right of way. The only reason we have the train network we do now is because the Federal Government GAVE the railroads billions of dollars worth of land, along with the right to borrow billions with government backing. Even at 1880 prices, paying for right of way would have been way too expensive. There were a few railroads that actually bought their own land, but not many.
 

bryan_machine

Diamond
Joined
Jun 16, 2006
Location
Near Seattle
Some of the math doesn't work for RR in the modern environment. Trucks use about the same roads as everybody else (indeed this is often a problem) and essentially every endpoint has to be served by roads. So aside from exotic exceptions (mostly in Alaska) all endpoints are served by roads to even become endpoints. (And the ones that aren't served by road aren't candidates for rail either.) Rail only serves endpoints it is specially built to reach, and for safety reasons alone is useless to private cars, pedestrians, cyclists, and so forth. A road is much more broadly useful thing. RR could be a big force in the 19th century because overland trucks didn't exist. Note that RR decline in the US roughly aligns with the rise of trucks....

The endpoint problem alone means that trucking (in all sizes) will always be a big force in the economy. And as Ries himself has pointed out before, truck drivers do all manner of things other than just drive the truck. So there will be a lot of truck drivers, with high turnover because of how poorly structured a career it is (unpleasent job made worse by bad structure.) (As for "self driving" trucks - if that's possible self-driving trains should be quite easy, right??? I've not seen even a peep of a suggestion for such for overland cargo trains....)

The problem with Zeihan is that while he talks about things that are true (I've actually checked on some of the wild ones and was surprized to find that yup, factually correct), he sometimes overstates the real world significance but worse often assumes that nobody can or will respond to it. So yes, if the CCP cannot change things, the population of the PRC will decline quite dramatically this century. There are far less click-baity more-serious demographers saying this exact thing, and there's lots of reason to think they'll have a very hard time. But that's not the same as destiny.

To point here -> if *nothing changes* there will be an even bigger shortage of truck drivers. But things always change. Maybe not for the better, maybe not timely, but they change.
 








 
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