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Western Railroad Discussion > Why so few stack trains on the BNSF Transcon this past week?


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Date: 01/27/22 05:58
Why so few stack trains on the BNSF Transcon this past week?
Author: RailDawg

Just drove from Reno to Houston and back. Many hundreds of miles along the BNSF Transcon including a leg from Belen to Clovis. Spent the night in Mountainair, NM along route. 

Before the "pandemic" one would see stack train after stack train heading eastbound. This past week on the drive I saw less than 10 eastbound stacks. The tracks were empty. Talked to some folks that live along the Transcon and all agree traffic has fallen off a cliff. 

I live long the Overland Route in Lovelock, NV and can say the UPRR does not run many stack trains eastbound either. 

I think we are in for major shortages. It appears anything from overseas is not making it onto the major rail routes. 

Am I mistaken?

Chuck



Date: 01/27/22 06:42
Re: Why so few stack trains on the BNSF Transcon this past week?
Author: OliveHeights

When I used to work it always seemed slow right before and after Chinese New Year, which is Feb 1 this year. I think everyone takes a week off in China.



Date: 01/27/22 07:10
Re: Why so few stack trains on the BNSF Transcon this past week?
Author: Lackawanna484

Lockdowns in China have also limited the output of some factories, which limits shipping.



Date: 01/27/22 07:17
Re: Why so few stack trains on the BNSF Transcon this past week?
Author: wyeth

Doubling up on the train sizes means fewer trains as well.



Date: 01/27/22 07:58
Re: Why so few stack trains on the BNSF Transcon this past week?
Author: mapboy

"Stack" trains on BNSF to many means "S" trains, overseas traffic in mostly 40' containers.  Others use the term generically for all intermodal trains.  Is that what you are commenting on?  Definitely a slow time of year.

mapboy



Date: 01/27/22 08:53
Re: Why so few stack trains on the BNSF Transcon this past week?
Author: memphisfreight

I doubt it's anything related to UP, since they haven't recently grabbed any marine traffic from BNSF.   Go to the link and sort for intermodal on BN and UP and the downturn is a trend over the last 6 months on both railroads, just as dramatic on UP.  There is also a normal downturn after peak season.  Oddly enough, manifest and "baseline" traffic are both rising on the UP and BNSF.    I am no expert but it certainly suggests trouble in the import sector.   From AAR, UP container traffic down this week 10 percent over same week last year.  Trailer (domestic) up 20 percent.     

https://railfax.transmatch.com/

 



Date: 01/27/22 08:54
Re: Why so few stack trains on the BNSF Transcon this past week?
Author: RailDawg

Trains with containers on them are also few and far between on the Overland here in N Nevada. 

I can never remember the stack terminology. 

This is not a slow time. This is a near-shutdown from my lone perspective. I can only imagine where supplies will be in 6 months. 

Try buying 10-ply tires anywhere. I can list 20 things off the bat that are almost unobtainable out west. I run a small mining operation. Learning to do without some items. Stocked up on Toyo 10-ply tires last month. Fan belts, truck batteries, diesel oil I can go on. Can not get these items. Start looking for cars driving on unmatched tires. 

We mine like we are in the early 1900's. We do not need too many modern contrivances. We do have lots of solar installed but getting new solar equipment is no longer an option due to supplies. 

I've been watching trains for 60 years. Something is very wrong. 

Chuck



Date: 01/27/22 09:15
Re: Why so few stack trains on the BNSF Transcon this past week?
Author: WW

I agree.  Many of the supply shortages are occurring in areas that the average consumer does not see, but that will cause severe consumer shortages in a few months or less.  As an example, a friend of mine works in a plant that produces a large amount of the plastic fittings used in plumbing.  The plant is down from three working shifts per day  to  one because there are no replacement parts available for the various extruding machines, etc. that are used to manufacture the fittings.  So, if a machine breaks down and need parts, it just stays broken down--and off line.  Another fellow that I know said that similar things are happening in the food processing plant where he works.  I've done some of my own economic analysis (I did it for years in my prior line of work)--if one includes the people under retirement age who could work, but just don't want to, the "real" unemployment rate right now would be near 10%.  With what is coming due to inflation (caused by excess money creation by the government) and supply shortages, that rate could easily double in the next 6-8 months.  At that point, we're talking near Great Depression-era unemployment.  In a way, I consider the railroads the "canary in the coal mine."  When you see significant drops across the board in railroad car loadings, it usually signals economic trouble ahead.



Date: 01/27/22 10:22
Re: Why so few stack trains on the BNSF Transcon this past week?
Author: callum_out

You should see the increase in the UP North/South M trains over Tehachapi, overall traffic used to be 30:15 BNSF, lately it's about 20:20.

Out 



Date: 01/27/22 11:52
Re: Why so few stack trains on the BNSF Transcon this past week?
Author: bradleymckay

memphisfreight Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I doubt it's anything related to UP, since they
> haven't recently grabbed any marine traffic from
> BNSF.   Go to the link and sort for intermodal
> on BN and UP and the downturn is a trend over the
> last 6 months on both railroads, just as dramatic
> on UP.  There is also a normal downturn after
> peak season.  Oddly enough, manifest and
> "baseline" traffic are both rising on the UP and
> BNSF.    I am no expert but it certainly
> suggests trouble in the import sector.   From
> AAR, UP container traffic down this week 10
> percent over same week last year.  Trailer
> (domestic) up 20 percent.     
>
> https://railfax.transmatch.com/

A bit OT: a UP eastbound departed Global 3 Tuesday night with all Walmart containers.

Allen

Posted from Android



Date: 01/27/22 11:56
Re: Why so few stack trains on the BNSF Transcon this past week?
Author: bradleymckay

There has been an uptick in the number of marine containers moving east and west, on UP's Sunset Route, the last 2 weeks.

Normally there is a rush to get containers on ships prior the the Chinese New Year.

Allen

Posted from Android



Date: 01/27/22 12:02
Re: Why so few stack trains on the BNSF Transcon this past week?
Author: memphisfreight

bradleymckay Wrote:

> A bit OT: a UP eastbound departed Global 3
> Tuesday night with all Walmart containers.
>
> Allen
>
On the Tucson webcam this morning there was a WB train thru that had at least 40 or more Walmarts.  UP also hauling a lot of Swift boxes especially on the Dallas trains. 



Date: 01/27/22 12:18
Re: Why so few stack trains on the BNSF Transcon this past week?
Author: bradleymckay

memphisfreight Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> bradleymckay Wrote:
>
> > A bit OT: a UP eastbound departed Global 3
> > Tuesday night with all Walmart containers.
> >
> > Allen
> >
> On the Tucson webcam this morning there was a WB
> train thru that had at least 40 or more
> Walmarts.  UP also hauling a lot of Swift boxes
> especially on the Dallas trains. 

Still quite a few Swift boxes on BNSF "Q" trains going by the La Plata cam...

Allen

Posted from Android



Date: 01/27/22 12:37
Re: Why so few stack trains on the BNSF Transcon this past week?
Author: Lkirts

Covid slowed things down a bit, ports were short workers.



Date: 01/27/22 14:25
Re: Why so few stack trains on the BNSF Transcon this past week?
Author: PHall

BNSF may have anticipated some labor unrest so they may have cut back a bit just to see what happens.



Date: 01/27/22 16:35
Re: Why so few stack trains on the BNSF Transcon this past week?
Author: mapboy

callum_out Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> You should see the increase in the UP North/South
> M trains over Tehachapi, overall traffic used to
> be 30:15 BNSF, lately it's about 20:20.
> Out 

Right after the derailment at Cable cleared (0040 on 1/14), for the next 3 days Fr 1/14 to Su 1/16, the count was 66 BNSF (63%), 38 UP (37%).  This despite UP being the gatekeeper.

mapboy



Date: 01/27/22 18:57
Re: Why so few stack trains on the BNSF Transcon this past week?
Author: zchcsse

The BNSF Transcon definitely doesn't seem to have rebounded after the holidays as it usually does.  



Date: 01/27/22 19:55
Re: Why so few stack trains on the BNSF Transcon this past week?
Author: MrMRL

zchcsse Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The BNSF Transcon definitely doesn't seem to have
> rebounded after the holidays as it usually
> does.  

Gee.... I wonder why.


~ Mr. MRL



Date: 01/27/22 22:20
Re: Why so few stack trains on the BNSF Transcon this past week?
Author: wyeth

WW Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> At
> that point, we're talking near Great
> Depression-era unemployment.  In a way, I
> consider the railroads the "canary in the coal
> mine."  When you see significant drops across the
> board in railroad car loadings, it usually signals
> economic trouble ahead.

That's what I keep wondering - when is the big economic crash going to happen.  I thought it would have happened by now, but the bubble just keeps growing bigger and bigger.  This will probably result in an even bigger economic crash, or as stated, depression, maybe the likes as we have never seen before.  I'm also afraid that with the extreme polarization of politics in this country, the US will be ripe for, well, let's just say another form of government to take over, and it will likely not include freedoms for the people.  One would think that humans would know to learn from history...



Date: 01/28/22 01:28
Re: Why so few stack trains on the BNSF Transcon this past week?
Author: Bandito

Two factors that have not been raised in previous comments are contributing to lower international volumes.

1) A good number of the marine terminals got so backed up with yard inventory that they have had to significantly slow down the vessel operations. Some terminals are taking more than twice as long to work a vessel as planned for in pro-forma schedules. Other things being equal, that means half the volume going out the gate or being loaded to ondock rail.

2) There are reports that the containerlines have significantly reduced import intermodal bookings (Inland Point Intermodal--IPI--where the ocean box moves intact to inland rail hubs). This serves to push importers who would otherwise have taken receipt of the box in Chicago, Memphis, etc., to instead transload to either OTR trailers or domestic 53s.

Both of the above merely serve to slow or delay the flow of imports to inland destinations. All of the vessels that are drifting in the Pacific waiting for a berth will eventually arrive. The terminals that are operating at under 50% capacity will eventually work those vessels. The plastic cutlery from China that has to be transloaded from an ocean 40 to a domestic 53 to get to Chicago will still move on rail, but its transit will be delayed from January to February (or longer).



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