Shipping Big Iron & Rail Right-Of-Way Abandonment

From: John Chris Wren <>
Date: Wed Mar 6 00:25:16 2002

        I imagine one of the contributing factors to the problems with railroads is
their intense unionization. Nothing like a union to impede progress. It
about took an act of Congress to get them to accept those caboose lamps,
instead of cabooses. The only reason it went through was because the
railroad could get more profit (one less car to pull), and that goes into
the profit sharing plan.

        Rails and road beds do deteriorate, with and without use. The beds are
pretty well laid, but weather just like any berm. Rails rust and pit (when
not used regularly), and switches sieze. Tracks periodically need
resurfacing (a pretty neat operation, complete with rail cars with lasers
mounted on them), and crossings need maintainence (I don't know this for a
fact, but I suspect they are some of the more high wear items, especially
the ones that still use timber instead of "Parco").

        The other problem with rail is that it still takes surface transport to
move it from the rail head to the warehouse. As warehouses and
manufacturing plants are moved out of cities because of tax reasons, you
still have a cost of loading it into a cargo container and moving it to/from
the rail head.

        A rail shipment may also be held until enough cars are destined for a
certain area. Next to shipping by boat, shipping by train is probably the
slowest method to get something some where, as far as total transit time. A
truck can be anywhere in the US in a matter of 4 days. For perishible
items, trucks are far more viable. Also, trucks generally ride better than
rail cars, so delicate cargoes benefit from the air-ride suspension systems.

        I indirectly have a project that involves state highway systems. The
Eisenhower interstate system has a rule that 1 out of every 5 miles of
interstate must be suitable for landing a military aircraft on (I don't know
what model. I think this predated the C-130). There are variations in this
rule, depending on airport locales, proximity to cities and military bases,
etc. But take a look sometime when you get a little ways out from the city.
Straight sections of highway, with no bridges, power lines, tall signs, etc.
That's the 1 in 5 mile section.


> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> []On Behalf Of Chad Fernandez
> Sent: Wednesday, March 06, 2002 0:37 AM
> To:
> Subject: Re: Shipping Big Iron & Rail Right-Of-Way Abandonment
> I got thinking about this on my way to work today. If this has indeed
> been going on for the last 50 years as Allison said, this makes sense.
> It was in the 50's that our highway system was laid down.... I think
> I-94 went through hear in 1957. Also, since the mid 70's (??) much of
> our manufacturing has gone overseas.
> The only rail that I can think of around here that has been abandoned is
> a a section that goes across one of our downtown roads, but I think it
> was just a very short line that served some of the now closed factories.
> Everything I hear on TV says that our rail system is way out of date and
> that it can't keep up with all the traffic. I wonder how that comes
> into play with this railway abandonment..... I wonder if it helps or
> hinders. Rails probably don't deteriorate like roads, so I would guess
> that the problems are more railway management related, signaling
> systems, traffic management, etc. I know worker fatigue is high too.
> Chad Fernandez
> Michigan, USA
> Lawrence Walker wrote:
> >
> > Try all over North America. It's been going on for years. The
> joke of it all is
> > that transportation gurus are now tending to think that rail is the more
> > economical way. Better for the environment and causing less damage to
> > the roads not to mention the congestion and delay of the highways.
> > It escapes me why they ripped up the track in the first place.
> The scrap
> > value of the steel couldn't have offset the cost of doing so
> and should you
> > ever change your mind there's no going back except with
> astronomical costs.
> > The trucking industry lobby had a finger in the pie methinks.
> >
> > Lawrence
Received on Wed Mar 06 2002 - 00:25:16 GMT

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