Trains.com

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Box cars making a come back?

2176 views
15 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
WPA
  • Member since
    April 2018
  • 106 posts
Box cars making a come back?
Posted by WPA on Wednesday, July 28, 2021 9:23 PM

Read the attached today regarding less than car load experiment by NS.  Maybe they will come up with a colorful per diem days paint job for the new (or old new) rolling stock. 

https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/norfolk-southern-launches-expedited-less-than-carload-service/

  • Member since
    October 2008
  • From: Canada
  • 1,530 posts
Posted by cv_acr on Thursday, July 29, 2021 8:56 AM

WPA
Maybe they will come up with a colorful per diem days paint job

 

Yeah, don't count on that. Modern boxcars are pretty spartan in their lettering. Shortline marks (used by proxy by leasing companies) are common, splashy paint jobs are not.

These GATX cars are pretty cool in blue:

http://canadianfreightcargallery.ca/cgi-bin/image.pl?i=lrs100195&o=lrs

but most new boxcars (other than TTX/Railbox's yellow and black cars) in the last few years are just plain brown:

http://canadianfreightcargallery.ca/cgi-bin/image.pl?i=aok115182&o=aok

http://canadianfreightcargallery.ca/cgi-bin/image.pl?i=coer173449&o=coer

  • Member since
    February 2015
  • 649 posts
Posted by NHTX on Thursday, July 29, 2021 10:22 AM

If anything, freight cars in general, will probably become even more spartan in paint and lettering.  The situation has reached the point where reporting marks and data are now being applied as high up as possible, to remain visible.  Perhaps freight cars spend too much time standing still?

  • Member since
    February 2018
  • From: Danbury Freight Yard
  • 269 posts
Posted by OldEngineman on Thursday, July 29, 2021 9:34 PM
NS promotes LCL? What's old has become new again...!
  • Member since
    April 2009
  • From: Staten Island NY
  • 1,732 posts
Posted by joe323 on Sunday, August 8, 2021 9:39 AM

The problem nowadays is that railroads aren't going to spend a lot of money painting boxcars (or any other car) just to have them covered up with graffiti.

Until that issue is solved you aren't going back to the good old days of colorful paint schemes.

Joe Staten Island West 

  • Member since
    March 2003
  • From: Central Iowa
  • 5,930 posts
Posted by jeffhergert on Sunday, August 8, 2021 7:44 PM

Even if you could prevent graffiti the large railroads aren't going to spend money on fancy or colorful paint schemes. Cutting costs to the bone and beyond is the current mantra.

I'm surprised they don't just have cars delivered in primer and park them where the "street artists" can paint them for free.

Jeff 

  • Member since
    May 2004
  • 6,865 posts
Posted by 7j43k on Sunday, August 8, 2021 7:58 PM

Railroads were once in competition with each other, and used their freight cars to "show the flag".

Now, there's only, what, 4 major railroads.  And no competition.

No incentive.

 

 

Ed

  • Member since
    August 2003
  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 12,974 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Sunday, August 8, 2021 9:16 PM

7j43k
Railroads were once in competition with each other, and used their freight cars to "show the flag".

I imagine a lot of shippers decided to shy away from displaying their corporate image on rolling stock in light of some of the high-profile derailments, especially those with haz-mat consequenses, when these images show up in all the media outlets.

Nothing worse than your Gerber Baby Food boxcar being shown on the nightly news with a burning tank car in the background and talk of evacuated neighborhoods and smoke seen for miles around. Not a warm and fuzzy PR event.

Cheers, Ed

  • Member since
    February 2015
  • 649 posts
Posted by NHTX on Sunday, August 8, 2021 11:32 PM

    Having to sit at a grade crossing waiting for one of today's freight trains to pass reveals a different world on today's rails.  When I was a kid, growing up in the 1950s, counting the cars of a passing freight train was, a window into corporate pride and, a geography lesson.  In an age not poisoned by ambulance chasers, refiners and chemical compnies were glad to have rolling billboards for their products.  Today, tank cars are no longer labeled with their intended cargoes.  This a combination of potential terroristic targeting and having your company's name and logos clearly visible on that tank car burning behind Ed's Gerbers Baby Food car.  The earlier freight train also carried cars with the names of many other companies we regularly found in our refrigerators

     Another potential problem is pilferage in transit.  It is a big problem in the transportation of new vehicles but, hits other types of freight as well.  Anyone remember the white MHLX RBLs with the red Miller Brewing emblem on them?  Would it be wise for a clearly marked car of beer or any other widely desirable commodity to attempt to travel from shipper to receiver, on today's rails?

     Railroads want no part of owning a roster of freight cars.  With all the vagaries of the American economy, the railroads would be happier simply coupling onto your car and pulling it over state-owned rails to your customer's town.  Notice I said "town" not "door"?  Railroads only want to operate on the mainlines, not the spurs and yards.  In todays speak, it will be known as "hub-to-hub" transportation.  If you want it in Dallas, we'll get it there-but you'll have come get it-we don't deliver!

     Another glaring indicator of the railroads desire to shed the responsibility of maintaining a car fleet is the number of cars with reporting marks ending in "X".  When I was a kid, the X reporting marks were found almost exclusively on reefers and tank cars.  These cars were generally rolling billboards for what they carried, while the railroads extolled the virtues of their passenger or freight service, on their freight cars.  The disappearance of passenger trains, the rise of Amtrak, intermodalism, have all played a role in the minimalist lettering as much as the explosion of the filth that covers America's rail industry.  Another factor in the rise of the "X"" cars is the demand some industries have for a readily available car supply.  Like the power and, grain companies.  It has gotten to the point even the trash and scrap metal business wants a reliable car supply, when they need them, not when the railroad industry that does not want the expense of owning-by lease in many cases-and maintaining a car fleet.  The whole goal in today's rail industry is to drive that operating ratio lower and lower, no matter what it takes.

    If we continue on the course we are on, we may wind up with two major railraoads-one north and, one south.  A locomotive fleet is scattered to the four winds today, and merger on top of merger eliminates known names and the need for differing paint schemes.  This is paving the way for the next minimalist paint jobs, this time on the locomotives, as the locomotive-leasers will be the "surge tank" of the locomotive fleets.  The railroads have already began the march towards the small core locomotive fleet augmented by the lease fleet when traffic surges.  Let's see how THAT works out!

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • From: Omaha, NE
  • 10,017 posts
Posted by dehusman on Monday, August 9, 2021 7:51 AM

NHTX
Today, tank cars are no longer labeled with their intended cargoes.  This a combination of potential terroristic targeting and having your companies name and logos clearly visible on that tank car burning behind Ed's Gerbers Baby Food car. 

By Federal Law tank cars containing hazardous materials are REQUIRED to be labeled and placarded with the commodities they carry.  They used to just have a generic  hazard class placard, now they have a more specific UN number, so pretty much anybody can figure out what's in a tank car and whether its hazardous.

NHTX
Another factor in the rise of the "X"" cars is the demand some industries have for a readily available car supply. 

And more specifically, cars sprecifically tailored to the commodities the customer hauls.  That's why tank cars were private cars, there are dozens of specifications of linings, construction, pressures, fittings, insulation, etc . that tailor a tank car to the commodity its hauling.  A tank car for one commodity won't work for other commodities.  Chemicals in covered hoppers, same thing.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

  • Member since
    May 2019
  • 335 posts
Posted by BEAUSABRE on Monday, August 9, 2021 8:05 AM

NHTX
With all the vagaries of the American economy, the railroads would be happier simply coupling onto your car and pulling it over state-owned rails to your customer's town.  Notice I said "town" not "door"?  Railroads only want to operate on the mainlines, not the spurs and yards.  In todays speak, it will be known as "hub-to-hub" transportation.  If you want it in Dallas, we'll get it there-but you'll have come get it-we don't deliver!

It's always been like that. Way back when, it was called "the team track" - you hitched your team to the wagon and went down and unloaded the boxcar yourself

  • Member since
    March 2011
  • 1,077 posts
Posted by NVSRR on Monday, August 9, 2021 8:20 AM

The Nittany and Bald Eagle rr. Already mostly operates as a hub to team track operation.  They have a few online customers but most are off line using team tracks.    Of note is how those team tracks have stuff like small warehouses and tanks and bins and such owned by the team track user so they don't pay much for the car sitting loaded or unloaded, waiting to be loaded or unloaded.      I can see the main carriers doing hub to hub while short line/regonals do hub to door or hub to team track.      Not sure which track the flaming gerber food car  would be on while the news shows it with hazmat evacuation notice.   What is in that formula anyway?

 

Shane

A pessimist sees a dark tunnel

An optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel

A realist sees a frieght train

An engineer sees three idiots standing on the tracks stairing blankly in space

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • From: Potomac Yard
  • 2,424 posts
Posted by NittanyLion on Monday, August 9, 2021 2:55 PM

gmpullman
I imagine a lot of shippers decided to shy away from displaying their corporate image on rolling stock in light of some of the high-profile derailments, especially those with haz-mat consequenses, when these images show up in all the media outlets.

Naw, it is way more simple than that: why bother?  The side of a railcar isn't a particularly valuable ad space, even when you already own the ad space, so why bother on the minimal ROI.

DC Metro's main advertiser is itself.  They can't sell the side of buses, insides of subway stations, and the inside of subway cars to anyone.  And that's an ad space you can sell to third parties, unlike the side of your boxcar.  No one is going to be like "you know, I just saw a fancy CSX paint job, so the next time I need to ship 500,000 tons of wheat, I know who I'll use."

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • From: Omaha, NE
  • 10,017 posts
Posted by dehusman on Tuesday, August 10, 2021 8:15 AM

There was a reason boxcar LCL died out, the real question is whether those reasons have changed.  Actually LCL never left the railroad, it just converted to TOFC and a third party did the sorting.  A lot of the boxcar business converted to TOFC/COFC.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

  • Member since
    October 2008
  • From: Canada
  • 1,530 posts
Posted by cv_acr on Tuesday, August 10, 2021 9:05 AM

dehusman

There was a reason boxcar LCL died out, the real question is whether those reasons have changed.  Actually LCL never left the railroad, it just converted to TOFC and a third party did the sorting.  A lot of the boxcar business converted to TOFC/COFC.

There are still warehousing/logistics operators that ship what is basically "LCL" in boxcars, but they're just not run by the railways, and not located in every town with rail service.

  • Member since
    May 2015
  • 5,121 posts
Posted by ericsp on Sunday, August 29, 2021 10:09 PM

I seem to recall UP running LCL trains between Portland, OR and City of Industry, CA about 2000. If I remember correctly the trains consisted of a couple of GP60s and a few dozen 50', excess height boxcars.

"No soup for you!" - Yev Kassem (from Seinfeld)

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!