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Western Railroad Discussion > The intermodal ramp at Sparks, Nevada

Date: 01/22/06 17:00
The intermodal ramp at Sparks, Nevada
Author: mdo

The intermadal ramp at Sparks, Nevada was a real thorn in my side in 1974 when I became the AVP for intermodal operations at the SP. By this time many, but not all, of the TOFC flat cars had fixed hitches requiring lift off, as opposed to drive off, operations.

Many a TOFC load arrived at Sparks, loaded on a fixed hitch car. This required either a second move to Roseville and a lift off and lift on to a collapsible hitch car and then a return to Sparks or we had to cut the hitch off of the car with a torch, both expensive and damaging to the car,if this was a really hot load. In any case, we would make no money on any of these loads. Of course, no COFC could be handled at Sparks at this time.

In 1986, Marvin Wells, then the Assistant Division Superintendent of the Sacramento Division and I,came up with a way to mechanize the Sparks ramp. Marvin found that quarry fines from a pit in Eastern Nevada were very cheap and available for the taking. These quary fines could be used to surface the area surronding several of the track leads leading to the locomotive survicing area at Sparks near the existing ramp tracks.

I found a P-70 piggypacker which was being used only as a back up machine at the Oakland ramp. We disassembled this packer and moved it, by rail, to Sparks where we reassembled it and put it in service. Schazamm! We had mechanized the Sparks ramp. (this left only Tucson as a drive on/off ramp on the SP system and we soon fixed that one too.)

With a little more area for parking, this is the ramp at Sparks to this day. A;though now there are three pieces of lift equipment at Sparks when I looked last November.

Now here is the UP's problem. Volume has increased and parking is at a premium today. However, since the place does function after a fashion, there is no, zero, nada, return for paving the existing parking areas,which, of course, are scattered all over the UP property around the north side of the yard at Sparks. At this point, no matter what you pave, you get no more parking slots and there is no return on any investment. All of the economics for any improvements were taken long ago by the SP. And the truck drivers don't control the routing on any of the traffic.

Even if the UP wanted to improve the ramp at Sparks there is no way to justify the investment.

FGS should invest in a pair of rubber boots.


Date: 01/22/06 17:21
Re: The intermodal ramp at Sparks, Nevada
Author: drew1946

On one of my many photographic trips to Sparks, I heard that UP planned on building a facility at Fernly to replace both Sparks and Parr.

Date: 01/22/06 18:09
Re: The intermodal ramp at Sparks, Nevada
Author: brianbergtold

Thanks for that MDO. When I was there last weekend on PV trip, it looked muddy but useable to me. As you note, it's shoehorned into some oddly shaped parcels that aren't going to get any bigger with blacktop. With the weather there, it would no doubt be full of potholes inside 5 years anyway.

Date: 01/22/06 18:58
Re: The intermodal ramp at Sparks, Nevada
Author: KevO

Why not invest in a facility in the near future at the Reno Tahoe Industrial Park on the East end of Sparks at Patrick ? I hear it's going to be the "Worlds Largest" industrial park and have a 10+ mile spur on it. I deliver sand out here daily to a plant that is served by rail called James Hardin Building Products.


Date: 01/22/06 20:44
Re: The intermodal ramp at Sparks, Nevada
Author: hepkema

We also had a problem on the old WP up at Parr--only circus ramps, which required the Reno Local to spend a LOT of time in the dark at Reno Jct. wying cars to that they would be facing the right direction. I did some of the design and much of the survey work in '81/'82 when we built the new ramp. When it was operational, we sometimes had drivers waiting for hours to pick up a trailer that had been emptied and returned. then, they would all show up near ramp time. The shipper with the waiting driver would then have to wait an extra day. A "distribution" place like Reno/Sparks is going to be REALLY lopsided and will result in empty boxes being shipped out. There goes a lot of your relatively small profit margin.

Date: 01/22/06 20:51
Re: The intermodal ramp at Sparks, Nevada
Author: StStephen

The mostly inbound (intermodal) would seem to be the reason that it should be a wholesale operation (UP not marketing directly, just providing service to truckers/steamship/IMCs) who are responsible for moving their equipment. Think most of the outbound shipments from Sparks/Reno would be serving Central/Northern California, thus not a good fit for intermodal if marketed directly by UP.

Date: 01/23/06 01:13
Re: The intermodal ramp at Sparks, Nevada
Author: JohnSweetser

Who (or what) is FGS?

Date: 01/23/06 04:41
Re: Intermodal Ramp, Sparks, Nevada
Author: billio

Bruce Gillings hit it on the head. Unless you have a backhaul, there's usually little money in intermodal. Same with trucking, by the way--a good way to remove trucks from an area is to grab their backhaul. Add to this the fact that Reno is an undisputably small market (sorry, Jimmy V, Reno/Sparks ain't exactly the Los Angeles Basin), and that UP's capacity needs are far more pressing elsewhere, and you're going to keep having to cope with floods when it rains in Reno. Period.

Date: 01/23/06 06:39
Re: Intermodal Ramp, Sparks, Nevada
Author: mderrick

"Who (or what) is FGS?"

This should explain a bit for you:


Date: 01/23/06 12:28
Re: The intermodal ramp at Sparks, Nevada
Author: bobs

It is James Hardie, not Hardin. They make fiber cement siding products, among other things.

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