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Eastern Railroad Discussion > NB Tropicana train combined with inter-modal


Date: 04/05/17 18:26
NB Tropicana train combined with inter-modal
Author: JLinDE

Apparently starting yesterday, April 4, CSX started combining the northbound Tropicana unit juice train with an inter-modal from Jacksonville? to Philadelphia. The Tropicana train was symboled Q740 or variants, and the inter-modal train Q140 or variants. As far as i know, from it's start up in 1971 or 1972 the Northbound train always operated as a unit train. First a 60 car weekly train via SCL/RFP/PC. Then business increased, and routes changed due to the PC/CR merger and CSX mergers, and after Conrail split in 1999 it became all CSX. There is a long an interesting history to this train. In my years at Penn Central and later Conrail I was involved many times in its operation. even keeping logs of its performance and talking to Tropicana personnel almost every day. I was even able to visit their sophisticated terminal and automated warehouse in Greenville about 25 years ago when it was new; I have evaluation maps of it. Trains magazine had a good article about the Tropicana train around year 2000. For about half of it's existence the empty cars returned to Bradenton in regular freight trains. Still, at 1200 miles each way, the service represented the highest boxcar type turnaround in the USA at 9-10 days.

At the time of my involvement many years ago, until I think the recent present, the northbound schedule had the Tropicana unit train depart Bradenton, FL as a local 'O' symbol around 0800 day 1. it left Tampa yards around 1400 same day, went up mostly the old SAL to Baldwin and Callahan, passing the Folkston rail fan spot in mid-evening, and overnight up the CSX 'A' Line to the ex-RFP. If on time it should run over the Philly sub 2o00-2300 and arrive in Greenville, NJ at 0500 Mon thru Thur and Sunday. At the time I knew it best Bradenton folks that loaded the cars were non-union  but the folks in Greenville were union. So it was very critical for many years to get it to Greenville by 0500 day 3 for a 45 hour schedule. So if the train was on time however many cars that had to be unloaded that day were done in one union shift. If the train was very late, and the first shift made overtime, or a second shift was needed, then Tropicana was very upset with the RRs.

In the last few years it seems the Tropicana train has shrunk; below 30 cars many times. Altho I know from the past the per car revenue was quite high, it may have not really covered the cost of separate unit train operation. and Q140; etc, was small some days. So it was natural to combine them; but they were on very different schedules as far as I can tell here from observations or scanner notes....about 12 hours apart. So I guess CSX and Tropicana made some deal where service could be a day longer, and more certain, than the old arrangement where really CSX did not make schedule that well. As a friend points out the Florida orange crop has not been good lately, and consumers are drinking less orange juice.

Anyway, despite my BS; I was not able to see yesterdays q140 (the symbol for the combined trains at least the last 2 days) but I was able to log today's train, passing DE at noon: 5289-3254; 23 reefers (3 - CSX); 24 well cars (54 wells with 50 cons ( 2 marine and one refrigerated) then 9 cars....37 wells of empty marine cars. Total train 55 cars about 152 car lengths I figure 7649 feet incl locos.


 





 



Date: 04/05/17 19:12
Re: NB Tropicana train combined with inter-modal
Author: Totallamer

JLinDE Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Apparently starting yesterday, April 4, CSX
> started combining the northbound Tropicana unit
> juice train with an inter-modal from Jacksonville?
> to Philadelphia. The Tropicana train was
> symboled Q740 or variants, and the inter-modal
> train Q140 or variants. As far as i know, from
> it's start up in 1971 or 1972 the Northbound
> train always operated as a unit train. First a 60
> car weekly train via SCL/RFP/PC. Then business
> increased, and routes changed due to the PC/CR
> merger and CSX mergers, and after Conrail split in
> 1999 it became all CSX. There is a long an
> interesting history to this train. In my years at
> Penn Central and later Conrail I was involved many
> times in its operation. even keeping logs of its
> performance and talking to Tropicana personnel
> almost every day. I was even able to visit their
> sophisticated terminal and automated warehouse
> in Greenville about 25 years ago when it was
> new; I have evaluation maps of it. Trains
> magazine had a good article about the Tropicana
> train around year 2000. For about half of it's
> existence the empty cars returned to Bradenton in
> regular freight trains. Still, at 1200 miles each
> way, the service represented the highest boxcar
> type turnaround in the USA at 9-10 days.
>
> At the time of my involvement many years ago,
> until I think the recent present, the northbound
> schedule had the Tropicana unit train depart
> Bradenton, FL as a local 'O' symbol around 0800
> day 1. it left Tampa yards around 1400 same day,
> went up mostly the old SAL to Baldwin and
> Callahan, passing the Folkston rail fan spot in
> mid-evening, and overnight up the CSX 'A' Line to
> the ex-RFP. If on time it should run over the
> Philly sub 2o00-2300 and arrive in Greenville, NJ
> at 0500 Mon thru Thur and Sunday. At the time I
> knew it best Bradenton folks that loaded the cars
> were non-union  but the folks in Greenville were
> union. So it was very critical for many years to
> get it to Greenville by 0500 day 3 for a 45 hour
> schedule. So if the train was on time however many
> cars that had to be unloaded that day were done in
> one union shift. If the train was very late,
> and the first shift made overtime, or a second
> shift was needed, then Tropicana was very upset
> with the RRs.
>
> In the last few years it seems the Tropicana train
> has shrunk; below 30 cars many times. Altho I know
> from the past the per car revenue was quite high,
> it may have not really covered the cost of
> separate unit train operation. and Q140; etc, was
> small some days. So it was natural to combine
> them; but they were on very different schedules as
> far as I can tell here from observations or
> scanner notes....about 12 hours apart. So I guess
> CSX and Tropicana made some deal where service
> could be a day longer, and more certain, than the
> old arrangement where really CSX did not make
> schedule that well. As a friend points out the
> Florida orange crop has not been good lately, and
> consumers are drinking less orange juice.
>
> Anyway, despite my BS; I was not able to see
> yesterdays q140 (the symbol for the combined
> trains at least the last 2 days) but I was able to
> log today's train, passing DE at noon: 5289-3254;
> 23 reefers (3 - CSX); 24 well cars (54 wells with
> 50 cons ( 2 marine and one refrigerated) then 9
> cars....37 wells of empty marine cars. Total train
> 55 cars about 152 car lengths I figure 7649 feet
> incl locos.
>
>
>  
>
>
>
>
>
>  

​I can tell you for a fact they tried running the loads with the 140 a couple of years ago.  It didn't last.  I wouldn't be surprised if it did last this time though.



Date: 04/05/17 19:20
Re: NB Tropicana train combined with inter-modal
Author: Greyhounds

A couple things.
1) US production and use of orange juice has gone down significantly in the past 10 years.  In 2005 the US produced and imported 1,410.5 million gallons of OJ.  In 2014 (last available number) that figure had declined to 973.9 million gallons.  The per capita "disappearance" of OJ declined from 4.76 gallons to 3.05 gallons.  People just are not drinking as much OJ.  So the Tropicana trains got smaller and were combined with intermodal.  No big mystery here.  (These are USDA numbers.)

2)  I hope someone figures out that if they shipped the remaining OJ north in refrigerated TOFC trailers they could reload those trailers with southbound dry freight intermodal to Florida.  That would eliminate the empty miles on the southbound railcars and the empty miles on the northbound trailers/containers. 

 



Date: 04/05/17 19:25
Re: NB Tropicana train combined with inter-modal
Author: Totallamer

Greyhounds Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> A couple things.
> 1) US production and use of orange juice has gone
> down significantly in the past 10 years.  In 2005
> the US produced and imported 1,410.5 million
> gallons of OJ.  In 2014 (last available number)
> that figure had declined to 973.9 million gallons.
>  The per capita "disappearance" of OJ declined
> from 4.76 gallons to 3.05 gallons.  People just
> are not drinking as much OJ.  So the Tropicana
> trains got smaller and were combined with
> intermodal.  No big mystery here.  (These are
> USDA numbers.)
>
> 2)  I hope someone figures out that if they
> shipped the remaining OJ north in refrigerated
> TOFC trailers they could reload those trailers
> with southbound dry freight intermodal to Florida.
>  That would eliminate the empty miles on the
> southbound railcars and the empty miles on the
> northbound trailers/containers. 
>
>  

​2) Usually the "empty" soundbound juice has around 2 to 5 cars that are actually loaded.  Block summary shows the loads as either wine, canned beverages or malt liquor depending on the car.



Date: 04/05/17 19:32
Re: NB Tropicana train combined with inter-modal
Author: florida581

Here's some info for you regarding yesterday's / today's Juice out of Bradenton:

On Tuesday 4/4/17, O823-04 departed Bradenton at 10:08 with 13 Juice cars and arrived at Tampa at 11:59.  Power was CREX 1523 and 1510.  Cars and power were placed on Q188-04 in Uceta Yard.  Q188-04 departed Tampa at 19:54 with 8800 ft of train and arrived in Jacksonville at 04:10 this morning 4/5/17.  Juice cars were presumably transferred to Q140-05.  Q140-05 departed Jacksonville at 05:05 and is currently at Rocky Mount, NC as of 22:15.

Andrew



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/05/17 19:33 by florida581.



Date: 04/05/17 19:41
Re: NB Tropicana train combined with inter-modal
Author: gmojim

Here is a backhaul program to load the cars for the return to Florida;

https://www.csx.com/index.cfm/customers/commodities/food/services/sunshine-special/

gmojim



Date: 04/05/17 19:51
Re: NB Tropicana train combined with inter-modal
Author: JLinDE

Yes, there are some SB loads in Trop cars as described above. Recently one car that either had a problem or was not correctly in the consist versus an axle cout report was identified as a 'load'. It would take 3 or 4 trailers or containers to equal the Tropicana cars, which are 286k GWR cars (excluding the 30 CSXT owned reefers, a bit smaller). Putting a container on a chassis to reach market reduces the legal carrying capacity of the box by about two tons, for the weight of the container which are built a bit stronger than trailers, and the weight of the chassis. IF, CSX manages to get double stack clearances thru the Howard St tunnel and Boone tunnel then I think the carload Tropicana service is over. It is all de-regulated for pricing. And yes, the market is falling. I do not know why folks do not like orange as much. I sure do. But despite my past association with Tropicana, the only time that product name appears in my house is when she determines it is cheaper than 'Florida natural' or something else.



Date: 04/05/17 20:32
Re: NB Tropicana train combined with inter-modal
Author: Greyhounds

If anyone is interested, here is the USDA site that gives the breakdown on the consumption of about everything we eat or drink.  Scroll down a bit to find the reported commodities.  The railroads miss a whole lot of the food market they should be handling.  It is a rather large market to miss.

https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-availability-per-capita-data-system/

I realize that there is a program to reload the reefer boxcars back to Florida.  It does not seem to be more than very moderately successful.  In contrast, nearly every TOFC trailer that came out of Florida with a food product could be loaded back with any product, refrigerated or not.  CSX could put UPS in the reefer trailers, for example.  

I am talking about trailers instead of containers.  As mentioned, you loose payload with heavy commodities using containers.  Food products, such as orange juice, potatoes, apples, etc. tend to contain a lot of water.  That means they load heavy.  I reason that the best vehicle for rail transport of perishables, such as OJ, is a lightweight TOFC trailer.



Date: 04/05/17 21:02
Re: NB Tropicana train combined with inter-modal
Author: JLinDE

To florida581 and gmojim. Very interesting info you have provided. At first i thought after only a month of the new regime at CSX that CSX might have said to Tropicana "Your volumes have dropped, we can no longer support a unit train northbound, so here is what we can offer". I think, at the time of the CR takeover, the rate for a Tropicana car was around $2700 a car. It could only be more now for a unit train service. But, as reported by florida581, yesterday's Trop cars from Bradenton were only 13 cars, then no RR for the distance involved could justify unit train service for only 13 cars unless the revenue was so high that the business would go all truck. So, obviously, CSX and Tropicana, have come to some economic terms that a unit train service northbound is not compensatory for the CSX or even needed by Trop. I think a one day longer service was agreed to by both parties. That could mean reduced rates to the shipper, more frequent service (6 or 7 days per week; altho q140 was i think only 5 days per week but different days than q740) or any other arrangement.  It could even be temporary or based on daily volume; ie, if enuf cars are loaded by Tropicana on some days they will get unit train expedited service. With my past involvement with Tropicana, I would have lived to be a 'fly on the wall' during those negotiations. But all I can do now is watch and report.  



Date: 04/06/17 04:50
Re: NB Tropicana train combined with inter-modal
Author: toledopatch

Don't forget that around Jacksonville, there's a need to break out the Cincinnati and City of Industry traffic and work in the cars off FEC from Fort Pierce. It's not a straight-shot unit move from Bradenton to Greenville.



Date: 04/06/17 05:23
Re: NB Tropicana train combined with inter-modal
Author: florida581

toledopatch Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Don't forget that around Jacksonville, there's a
> need to break out the Cincinnati and City of
> Industry traffic and work in the cars off FEC from
> Fort Pierce. It's not a straight-shot unit move
> from Bradenton to Greenville.

That's correct.  Including the FEC juice, I'm curious how many Juice cars the three outbound trains from Jacksonville each had.  That would be trains Q140-05, Q142-05, and most likely Q601-05.

Andrew



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/06/17 05:24 by florida581.



Date: 04/06/17 05:33
Re: NB Tropicana train combined with inter-modal
Author: Lackawanna484

Where do the oranges into Bradenton come from? Many fields in central Florida have been abandoned due to greening disease.

The economics of a 100 mile truck haul to Bradenton change the cost structure.

Posted from Android



Date: 04/06/17 05:50
Re: NB Tropicana train combined with inter-modal
Author: Lackawanna484

I haven't been up to Fort Pierce in a while, but I recall seeing 25-30 Trop cars being  added and taken north.  I've not seen any Trop cars south of Fort Pierce, although there are still groves visible from I-95 and the Turnpike in Martin, Okeechobee, St Lucie, and Palm Beach County



Date: 04/06/17 06:21
Re: NB Tropicana train combined with inter-modal
Author: Lackawanna484

NY Times has a paid article by Tropicana about the growing process. How they select oranges, their environmental responsibility, etc.

Tropicana



Date: 04/06/17 06:28
Re: NB Tropicana train combined with inter-modal
Author: ChessieSystem

I read elsewhere that Bradenton production would be merged with Ft. Pierce at some point. <Read, unverified .. just juice for thought.> 
Should this become reality I con only wonder; Would CSX perhaps spin this route off Tampa south to say Semiole Gulf? 

JW



Date: 04/06/17 14:35
Re: NB Tropicana train combined with inter-modal
Author: VaCentralRy

   Then there's the foreign competition. Delaware's Port of Wilmington is the US's largest juice port. Brazil's Citrosuco operates North America's largest bulk juice storage terminal in Wilmington for bulk orange juice concentrates. They also serve Premier, which imports the same from Costa Rica. The facility has a ten million gallon storage capability. If you don't want "fresh-squeezed" from Florida, guess where it's coming from.

John
 



Date: 04/06/17 19:26
Re: NB Tropicana train combined with inter-modal
Author: JLinDE

With EHH somehow in control of CSX now, the sale of the Tampa to Bradenton line to a short line is certainly a possibility, or even a probability. Most short lines do a much better job of serving a customer. However, that still may not change how CSX runs their service up from Tampa. Heck, maybe ALL of CSX's lines south of Jaxville, Baldwin and west to Flomaton could be subject to sale; especially if the power plant coal and phosphates go down. But look out for NS if that happens. They will take half the traffic. CSX wanted to pare down to a big triangular system before EHH gained control. I've seen it in a mailing in late February. Just like Conrail wanted only 'the big X'. I say OK, as long as employees affected get a fair deal. Short Lines will emphasize the 'loose' or 'individual' carload business much better, as long as they get good co-operation from the the selling railroad and can retain interchange to other carriers  that existed on the sold route.

What I see, is that CSX with this change has eliminated a separate train operation only from Tampa to Philadelphia. But they could put TROP cars on the Q032, which originates Jaxville Tue-Wed-Thu?And goes all the way to north Jersey. CSX where I listen treats that train as the sacred cow or holy grail. It is almost ridiculous. Track inspects cannot even make a 30 minute run when the train is over and hour away. The axle count on this train above Baltimore is rarely over 180 axles. I cannot believe the Baltimore set off adds much more. With a background in RR costing, I really doubt it makes that much money compared to all the carload freight it delays and re-crews it causes. If EHH could tell UPS to 'stuff it' with this tiny train, and combine it with Tropicana biz and the existing Q034 then his approval rating in my opinion might advance a notch. Rarely anything that folks really need comes by UPS. Most mail order medicines folks need come Post Office. What comes via UPS are the half dead plants and other stuff the wife orders via QVC on her computer. The local postman tells me every day a UPS and Fed-Ex truck arrives at the local Post Office so they can they can deliver their stuff!. I'd REALLY like to know the rates for the trailers and containers that ride Q032 the three days a week it disrupts good carload operations here.  
 



Date: 04/06/17 20:21
Re: NB Tropicana train combined with inter-modal
Author: florida581

Q140-05 arrived in Greenville, NJ today at 20:08.  Since O823-04 departed Bradenton, FL at 10:08 on 4/4/17, and assuming at least some of the Juice cars from Bradenton went to Greenville, total transit time was exactly 58 hours.

Andrew



Date: 04/07/17 11:13
Re: NB Tropicana train combined with inter-modal
Author: florida581

rantoul Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> CSX Tampa Bradenton includes the Bone Valley
> phosphate mines, correct?  If correct, I'd expect
> for business reasons (to control the long haul
> shipments) CSX would hesitate to sell Tampa -
> Bradenton.

Partially correct.  The Tampa - Bradenton line, Tampa Terminal Sub to East Tampa and then the Palmetto Sub the rest of the way to Brandenton, doesn't have any phosphate mines, but it does have a phosphate refinery and three transloading facilities.  From north to south: Rockport is the primary Bone Valley rail-to-ship transloading facility for refined "dryrock" phosphate.  Mosaic Riverview (aka CSX East Tampa) is a phosphate refinery.  It receives unrefined phosphate "wetrock" trains.  Most of the refined phosphate is shipped out by barge.  Next is the Big Bend transloading facility.  It receives wetrock trains to be loaded onto barges destined for a Louisiana refinery.  Also, at Big Bend is the large TECO power station that receives 2-3 loaded coal trains a week.  And lastly there the transloading and storage facility at Port Manatee.  There's also quite a few carload customers along this segment.  The Tampa Terminal Sub to Rockport has CTC signaling and sees 12-15 trains a day.  If CSX were to sell any portion of this line, I'd think it would only be from Port Manatee south to Bradenton.

Andrew



Date: 04/07/17 20:09
Re: NB Tropicana train combined with inter-modal
Author: JLinDE

florida 581, andrew;

i appreciate your good info. The old unit train schedule that I was familiar with for many years was leave Bradenton 0800 day 0 arrive Greenville 0500 day two; 45 hours. Arriving at 2000 means the schedule is a day longer if Tropicana in NJ still unloads daylight only due to their labor agreements. I specifically went to see q140 today, a Friday. It was early afternoon, notes are in the car now. But there were 20 or more Trop cars on a 232 axle train. They will get to Greenville probably by now. We never had trop cars by here on a Friday unless there was a severe problem like a hurricane down south. It used to be the union Greenville crews that unloaded the trains did not work Sat or Sun unless at very high rates per their contracts. Maybe Republican Gov Christie has forced NJ to become a right-to-work state where union membership is thwarted and contracts ignored. Then it would not make much difference if the service was good or not. Either EHH now head of CSX is sticking it to Tropicana; saying this is the service we will provide, or Tropicana and CSX have come to some terms that allows the longer service, maybe due to reduced orange juice demand on the East Coast. anyway, it is fun to watch.  



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