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Date: 08/05/22 20:54
Biggest cities with the fewest freight trains
Author: jgilmore

Was looking at a US population list recently and it made me think about how many large cities have little or no actual freight service within their boundaries, esp. mainline road trains, so I decided to make an informal list with an off-the-head approximation of daily trains and activity. Tried to go by the largest population vs the least freight traffic. Definitely speaks to ever-changing business and shipping trends, as well as the railroads' place in big cities. Please join in the fun and make additions/corrections as needed...

1) NYC: Obviously the biggest, but with only 2 road freights and a handful of other moves daily. Never a big freight city like others, but a veritable desert now. Passenger traffic compensates I guess (like in some other cities), unless you're not into that.
2) San Fran: Not nearly the largest but does it even have any daily freight moves (is the UP local daily)? Might be the fewest of any large city.
3) Boston: Traditional manufacturing and shipping center, with drastic loss of freight service, maybe a handful of locals/switch jobs daily? No road trains.
4) San Jose: Very large city with few road trains (maybe 2-4?) and locals. Not sure about this one.
5) San Diego: Large like San Jose, 4-6 road moves and some locals/switchers.
6) Phoenix: #5 city with maybe 10-15 road freights and locals/switchers. Not really its own "fault" due to a variety of factors, but lots of people don't have to worry about being stopped by trains in Phoenix!
7) Mesa, AZ: Was surprised by this one, over 500k population (#36, bigger than Atlanta!) but are there any lines/action in town? Need help on this one.
8) Philly: Very large city with drastically reduced action. More CSX than NS, but only 10 freights a day on the ex-RDG/PRR side, really?? TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia) is usually not a train!
9) ABQ: Medium-sized city with drastically reduced through freight (and passenger) traffic. Couple of daily turns from Belen and some switchers.
10) St. Pete: Never big but hardly anything these days. Totally worthless to a railfan.
11) Combo: Large one-mainline cities like Austin, OKC, Vegas, DC, etc., that have disproportionate population to freight trains. Better than nothing if you live in one.
12) Dallas: Very large city with little freight activity for its size. One good mainline and a couple of secondary mains, plus locals/switchers. Not terrible like others but not great, esp. with Fort Worth next door.
13) Milwaukee: Formerly not a bad RR town, but how much activity still in town? CP's main and a few other road trains and locals? Not counting CN's decent main skirting town. From a historical perspective, not nearly as good.
14) Indy: Like Dallas, big city with one good main and some other stuff, not great for its size, but not far from other busier towns/lines. Miami kinda like Indy.
15) Any place else you can think of?

JG


 



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 08/06/22 09:03 by jgilmore.



Date: 08/05/22 21:33
Re: Biggest cities with the fewest freight trains
Author: pdt

None of this is surprising....and freight follows container terminals, and manufacturing centers, and bulk terminals.

Seeing as "we dont make anything in this country anymore", freight service for traditionsl big city factories is down to nothing.
And many factories have moved away from big cities for various reasons.

While NYC proper has few freight trains, North Jersey just across the river), (Meadows, Oak Island, Waverly, Greenvile, Croxton  and North Bergen Yards),  is probably the busiest Mid atlantic area (altho spread out with 6 different yards)

More interesting, from my perspective, to look at the busiest rail centers.  Some are destinations, and some are destinations and thru points.   The obvious....Chicago, KC, St Louis, LA Basin,. Oakland, Tacoma, North Jersey, Omaha/Council Bluffs, Denver. Atlanta. 
Its been years since i was last in Memphis or Nashville, or Jackson, Miss...but they used to be busy. 

And Ive never been to the chemical gulf coast....but i guess there are some busy spots down there...and many other places .

 



Date: 08/06/22 00:38
Re: Biggest cities with the fewest freight trains
Author: SN711

UP trains enroute to Phoenix pass through Mesa. So Mesa may see about 1/3 of Phoenix rail traffic.

Gary

Posted from iPhone



Date: 08/06/22 03:20
Re: Biggest cities with the fewest freight trains
Author: JPB

Providence RI (city population = 190,000 give or take and urban population > 1M) features one M-F local PR-3 serving E Providence and Prov Port and a turn "road" freight WODA/DOWA that operates through Providence between Worcester MA and Davisville RI interchange with the Seaview RR. Up until 1968, New Haven had Northup Ave Hump Yard just north of downtown Providence but it was flattened during the Penn Central years: https://sites.google.com/site/humpyardprovidence



Date: 08/06/22 05:02
Re: Biggest cities with the fewest freight trains
Author: ctillnc

> 7) Mesa, AZ: Was surprised by this one, over 500k population (#36, bigger than Atlanta!)

Metro Atlanta has 6.9 million. Only 7% live in the city. There are historical reasons why the city couldn't annex. 



Date: 08/06/22 05:14
Re: Biggest cities with the fewest freight trains
Author: Passfanatic

NYC proper, indeed, doesn't have any large freight rail corridor passing through. There are a couple of lightly used freight routes that really should be used as light rail routes. New York & Atlantic has a line that runs from LIC to Jamaica. I know that there is the Fremont Secondary, which I think is CSX. That runs in Queens, I think starting at Fresh Pond and interchanging with Amtrak's NEC near the Hellgate Line. In Brooklyn, there is an interesting joint freight rail/boat operation which connects Sunset Park section of Brooklyn with the Greenville part of Jersey City-New York and New Jersey railroad. The freight cars travel by train to the yard in Brooklyn where they are put on a vessel and transported across New York Harbor to Jersey City, before, being put in the hands of Conrail Shared Assets on the NJ side(I think). Yes, many of the busier freight routes in the NYC area are west of the Hudson River.



Date: 08/06/22 05:26
Re: Biggest cities with the fewest freight trains
Author: Lackawanna484

Bronx and Queens to NJ was a popular barge transfer in the 1920s

Posted from Android



Date: 08/06/22 06:06
Re: Biggest cities with the fewest freight trains
Author: mexrail

Would Orlando, FL. and Madison, WI. make the list?  What about Boise, ID.?

Mexrail



Date: 08/06/22 06:40
Re: Biggest cities with the fewest freight trains
Author: Lackawanna484

San Diego (1.5 million) has just a few daily freights.

Posted from Android



Date: 08/06/22 07:25
Re: Biggest cities with the fewest freight trains
Author: pal77

I think this more demonstrates how RR's have changed over the years.  Take NYC tops on the list with just 2 road friegts into NYC proper. However NS & CSX run at least 20 intermodal trains into northern NJ just across the river where these containers and trailers inturn are put on the ground to distrubution centers or go directly into the city with their loads.  So by extension NYC is served by a lot more trains, just go watch trains at Bound Brook NJ and see both roads put on a parade. In days gone by nearly every road had car float operations with corresponding terminals on the Hudson or East Rivers, all but one of these operations are gone.  High line serving the lower west side is a linear park now but has not seen a train in at least 40 yrs.  Rail freight still gets there just on rubber tires.  



Date: 08/06/22 07:31
Re: Biggest cities with the fewest freight trains
Author: scraphauler

Wake County North Carolina (Raleigh/Durham) has a population of 1,2 million and is growing by 62 people a day has no "through traffic".  Raleigh is basically an outpost on dead end branches for NS and CSXT, as NS's N-S main runs 40 or so miles to the west in Greensboro and CSXT N-S main runs 30 miles to the east in Selma.  NS connects to the rest of the NS world at Greensboro - at Durham a branch goes up toward Oxford, at Raleigh a branch goes down to Fayetteville and the "main" continues east to the coast at Moorehead City.  I believe 2 road freights each way run the line, and occsional  unit grain, fertilizer, ethanol type trains to and from the coast along with the garden variety of local jobs.  CSXT comes up the S Line from the south and connects to the rest of the CSXT world at Hamlet.  Only 1 road freight each way between Raleigh and Hamlet.  Two locals based in Apex (south side of Raleigh), one works down to Sanford, other works up the branch to Durham, with a third local based in Raleigh that works the remains of the S Line up to Norlina.  Add 10 Amtrak to the freight mix  - 3 Piedmont sets, the Carolinian, and the Silver Star. 



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/06/22 07:34 by scraphauler.



Date: 08/06/22 07:41
Re: Biggest cities with the fewest freight trains
Author: Lackawanna484

Comparing metropolitan areas to cities opens the comparisons considerably



Date: 08/06/22 07:50
Re: Biggest cities with the fewest freight trains
Author: Interlocker

The city of Sioux Falls, S.D. gets brought up in a lot of these city/rail discussions, and stories have been written in the hobby press about how this city once hosted five Class 1s, but none of them reached town with a bona fide main line. Re: this thread topic, Sioux Falls is currently served by a couple of BNSF locals, a daily move or two from the Ellis & Eastern, and the same from the L.G. Everist-owned D&I Railroad, the latter two roads short lines. I find this a bit intriguing for a city of 200,000 and a metropolitan area of about 250k.



Date: 08/06/22 08:21
Re: Biggest cities with the fewest freight trains
Author: tomstp

dallas:  Charles Mizell lived there and had a friend from England visit him.  Charles showed him around town and all the railroad activity and for some reason the Brit was impressed.  That is until Charles took him to Ft Worth and said "  Now, Ft Worth is THE railroad town and it pretty much "blew away the Brit" with all the yards and main lines.
But, let's remember  that mergers really turned dallas into almost nothing with several yards and main lines torn out.



Date: 08/06/22 08:28
Re: Biggest cities with the fewest freight trains
Author: kjmk




Date: 08/06/22 08:32
Re: Biggest cities with the fewest freight trains
Author: farmer

Lansing Michigan
CN 15 a day?
CSX Less than 5 a day?
JAIL One a day?

Posted from iPhone



Date: 08/06/22 08:34
Re: Biggest cities with the fewest freight trains
Author: jgilmore

scraphauler Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Wake County North Carolina (Raleigh/Durham) has a
> population of 1,2 million and is growing by 62
> people a day has no "through traffic".  Raleigh
> is basically an outpost on dead end branches for
> NS and CSXT, as NS's N-S main runs 40 or so miles
> to the west in Greensboro and CSXT N-S main runs
> 30 miles to the east in Selma.  NS connects to
> the rest of the NS world at Greensboro - at Durham
> a branch goes up toward Oxford, at Raleigh a
> branch goes down to Fayetteville and the "main"
> continues east to the coast at Moorehead City.  I
> believe 2 road freights each way run the line, and
> occsional  unit grain, fertilizer, ethanol type
> trains to and from the coast along with the garden
> variety of local jobs.  CSXT comes up the S Line
> from the south and connects to the rest of the
> CSXT world at Hamlet.  Only 1 road freight each
> way between Raleigh and Hamlet.  Two locals based
> in Apex (south side of Raleigh), one works down to
> Sanford, other works up the branch to Durham, with
> a third local based in Raleigh that works the
> remains of the S Line up to Norlina.  Add 10
> Amtrak to the freight mix  - 3 Piedmont sets, the
> Carolinian, and the Silver Star. 

Thanks for the added info, I was wondering about Raleigh/Durham and you confirmed my suspicions. Not a whole lot there...

Orlando is a good example, city and metro: Not much freight activity for its size...

Of course, including metro areas opens things way up for some cities, but others would stay the same. San Diego would top the list, likely followed by San Jose, Orlando, Phoenix, Indy, and a few others. For me, point is if I didn't have to go there for any other reason I wouldn't make a special trip to railfan...

JG



Date: 08/06/22 08:42
Re: Biggest cities with the fewest freight trains
Author: offthebeatentrack

jgilmore Wrote:
> 8) Philly: Very large city with drastically
> reduced action. More CSX than NS, but only 10
> freights a day on the ex-RDG/PRR side, really??
> TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia) is usually not a
> train!

Could someone provide some clarity on Philly? I would’ve thought that traffic on the CSX main (line beneath the Art Museum) and combined NS/CSX on the High Line would’ve amounted to at least 20+ a day. And would trains taking the Engleside connector to access the Delair Bridge and Pavonia Yard be considered in Philly as well?

Posted from iPhone



Date: 08/06/22 08:57
Re: Biggest cities with the fewest freight trains
Author: Soo715

Interesting discussion. I would take issue with your description of Milwaukee. The busy CP (ex-Milwaukee Road) main cuts right through town, it doesn't skirt it. There is still a active yard near downtown and some local traffic. It is the very busy CN (ex-Soo Line) that skirts town. But there is also a UP line and regional (WSOR). For its size, Milwaukee isn't too bad rail action wise.

jgilmore Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> 13) Milwaukee: Formerly not a bad RR town, but how
> much activity still in town? Maybe a few road
> trains and locals? Not counting CP's decent main
> skirting town.
>  



Date: 08/06/22 09:00
Re: Biggest cities with the fewest freight trains
Author: jgilmore

offthebeatentrack Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Could someone provide some clarity on Philly? I
> would’ve thought that traffic on the CSX main
> (line beneath the Art Museum) and combined NS/CSX
> on the High Line would’ve amounted to at least
> 20+ a day. And would trains taking the Engleside
> connector to access the Delair Bridge and Pavonia
> Yard be considered in Philly as well?

From what I understand, maybe 30 freights a day total in Philly:

1) 20 or so to and through town on CSX (ex-B&O)
2) 10 on NS from the ex-RDG side, 6 to Morrisville and 4 to Camden
3) Few locals and switch jobs

Bottom line: traffic drastically reduced like I mentioned, with nothing at all on the former Pennsy, and in such a large city/metro area. Not good, I'll take Reading or Harrisburg any day over that...

JG



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