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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Loads, empties, and tons on an intermodal train


Date: 01/18/19 09:54
Loads, empties, and tons on an intermodal train
Author: march_hare

A question for working rails:  if an intermodal well car is loaded with an empty container, is that well car considered a load or an empty?



Date: 01/18/19 10:09
Re: Loads, empties, and tons on an intermodal train
Author: ExSPCondr

LOAD

Then it gets more interesting, for train makeup restrictions, the first well in a 3 or 5 bay stack may need a loaded container or two in the first position to keep from stringlining the car when first out on a heavy train in mountain territory.
G



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/18/19 10:15 by ExSPCondr.



Date: 01/18/19 11:12
Re: Loads, empties, and tons on an intermodal train
Author: ble692

Just ran into this very issue. Had 5 pack of well cars starting about 5 cars ahead of the two rear DP units on a manifest train. Each well had a single container in them, therefore the computer showed them as loads. The containers were loads of air in reality, and thus were only 25 or so tons each. Cars ahead of and behind units on grade territory have restrictions to a certain point depending on the grade being traversed and number of units being used. Cars being too light is one of these restrictions. The restriction on my railroad for a conventional (non intermodal) car is it must be more than 45 tons. On a 5 pack of well cars there can not be any empty wells, but they list no tonnage restriction. Seemed and looked sketchy to us, but supposedly legal and the computer didn't flag it as a train make up issue. Yardmaster agreed with us and we made a turn to bury those cars farther into the middle of the train.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/18/19 11:13 by ble692.



Date: 01/25/19 12:29
Re: Loads, empties, and tons on an intermodal train
Author: mamfahr

> A question for working rails:  if an intermodal well car is loaded with an empty container, is that well car considered a load or an empty?

I don't have any present-day info for you, but can give you some historical perspective on it.  

Going back a ways, I've seen many different policies about this on different RRs over the years.  There were even different instructions to trainmen and clerks working on different divisions of the same RR at times.  So there wasn't any consistency at all on this in the past.  A good example from 1980, on eastbound UP-CNW intermodal trains from North Platte to Chicago via Fremont, Nebraska.  A train (symbol LAX for example) would depart North Platte on the Union Pacific with 18 loads, 22 empties.  That same train with no physical changes to it would depart Fremont as CNW train 242 with 40 loads, no empties.  Train LAX / 242 handled empty TOFC back from Los Angeles along with U.S. mail and some other loaded trailers. 

From what I was told, the reason for the difference could be traced back to accounting.  UP thought it best to tie their "load/empty" counts into their revenue accounting system to trigger an inventory of loads handled (cars, trailers, containers, etc).  They then used that to generate invoices and/or audit it to be sure they got paid for everything they handled.  Makes sense to me...  CNW on the other hand, just looked at the physical side of things and figured that flat cars were loaded, even if handling only an empty trailer, and they handled their accounting matters separately using interchange reports, waybills, etc; stuff not tied to operating dept. documents.   
The caboose is another creature with a similar story - some counted them as loads, some as empties.  I've found old UP train lists from the 1940s where conductors on the same subdivision were counting them differently...

Take care,

Mark

 



Date: 01/28/19 08:13
Re: Loads, empties, and tons on an intermodal train
Author: trainjunkie

ble692 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Yardmaster agreed with us and we made a turn to
> bury those cars farther into the middle of the
> train.

The yardmaster agreed to let you do a turn? Wow, that would never happen in my terminal if the computer said it was GTG.



Date: 01/30/19 22:16
Re: Loads, empties, and tons on an intermodal train
Author: ble692

trainjunkie Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The yardmaster agreed to let you do a turn? Wow, that would never happen in my terminal if the computer said it was GTG.

To be fair, it was one of our better yardmasters. Most probably would not have gone for it as like you say, the computer thinks all is good.



Date: 01/31/19 14:28
Re: Loads, empties, and tons on an intermodal train
Author: BRAtkinson

While working at CSX Intermodal as a gate clerk/train 'programmer' for 7 years, about 10 years ago, CSX HQ came out with a rule indicating we were to keep loaded cars (empty containers and trailers are considered loads) in the front of the train and empties at the rear.  That rule lasted for less than a couple of months as far as I can tell.   The problem was that 40' and 48' bucket (well) cars were freely interspersed with 53' cars.  Until about 2011, we still had a mix of 48' and 53' containers and trailers to deal with.  By 2012, all the 48' containers were gone, but the cars weren't.   40' well cars, required for international containers, were/are still being mixed in to the consists as well.

The conundrum is either lose 30-40 minutes switching out the 40' & 48' cars (and put them where?  Up Bedford Parks' butt for sending them?), or violate the 'rule' and send them empty whereever they were in the train.  (I also considered calling the scrapper across the street who cutup and took away (under contract) a couple of chassis for us as well as cut up a couple of RR cars that derailed in our yard.  Let's see them find their shorty cars NOW!)  If it were up to me, I would have bad ordered them one at a time, and when the yardmaster was screaming for track space a month or so later, send them to the Columbus OH ramp (I had a grudge against the Columbus ramp for their screwing me when I had been on the job less than 2 months).

On the other hand, there are specific AAR rules regarding how 2, 3, 4, and 5 banger (as we often called them) bucket cars can be loaded.  And yes, there are/were a couple of 2 and 4 bangers created using drawbars between single bucket cars, though most of those were 3 bangers.  In particular, the heavier load always went on the bottom and the computer would prevent our programming it the other way around.  But then, there was maybe a 1000 pound 'gimme' as far as being top heavy and the weights were designated by the shipper, not from actual RR measuring equipment.  But more importantly, when a multi-unit car was only partially filled,  there were specific rules which buckets had to be empty and which ones had to be full.  In general, the end buckets had to be loaded (even with just one container, if need be) as did the middle bucket in a 3 banger.  Hitch cars had similar rules.  We were fortunate to have a couple of very experienced yard jockeys that knew how to load a 5 banger 48' hitch car with 53' trailers if the platforms for the wheels of the trailers lined up.  This came in very handy when we had a number refers to load along with the usual UPS loads and there was a shortage of hitch cars, including single bucket cars with hitches on both ends.

And getting the RR people (conductors, engineers, yard masters) straightened out regarding what is a 'car' was a challenge.  Every time we got a new one, they'd be thinking 1 car length = 70-80 feet or so but for intermodal cars, it could be anywhere from about 50 feet to 480 feet!  There are all sorts of varieties of intermodal cars of 1 to 5 wells/hitches in each of them.  They may be articulated/hinged together on a common truck, or may be individual cars joined by draw bars.  The fun was listening to a conductor on the radio when he was backing a cut of cars into our tracks.  He'd call out the usual 3 cars....2 cars...  but the new engineer was thinking 80 foot cars and the conductor was talking buckets (50-65 feet each usually).   There were some tremendous 'crashes' until they finally started using 'buckets' rather than 'cars' on the radio.  A week or a month or so later, it would happen again after someone bumped their way into our trains.

I've been gone 4 years now, and I've heard they're using sometimes distributed power on the old B & A to get over the Berkshires.  I can only wonder what a bunch of empty spine cars handle ahead of the DP...

  

 



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