Sunday, 1 September 2013

Railway Ramblings...About Trains of Course!

A few more words from the writer to add to the already more than a few too many words on this subject, but added nonetheless.

The original volume was nothing more than a scrap book filled with scraps of paper (what else would you expect?) together with scraps of memories; some eroded and fouled by the passing of too many years.

The unfortunate part about recording railway history, and/or details concerning related train stuff, is that too many of the trains, tracks and scenes have been scrapped by circumstances brought about by the relentless passing of time and change.

The first page of a new chapter, and what better way than to begin with a photograph of my favourite railway?

A CP Rail freight train in the Canadian Rockies - minus the caption and critical details.

These pages, I hope, shall also answer, or at least address, another dilemma which has plagues me for years - what is to be done with all these train pictures? Many I don't want to keep simply because of practicality; insufficient space in which to keep everything. Having said this, some photographs I would like to possibly revisit again at some indefinite time in the future...maybe.

Only the Slowly

First, my apology to the late Roy Orbison, but the title fits.

A few scenes clipped from an old Delaware Otsego Corp. annual report.

NYSW/NS inspection train meets train 257 at Buffalo, NY, on November 11, 1994.

Susquehana was part of the Delaware Otsego Corp. I can recall when the stock for this company was traded on NASDAQ for $8.10 per share. I thought about taking a flyer on 100 shares but in the end did not buy. Only weeks later the price jumped above $21.00 per share. Norfolk Southern and CSX bought out the Delaware Otsego Corp. to preempt CP Rail doing the same. 

The CSX-NS Conrail split completely rearranged the railway map in the US northeast and CP Rail ultimately acquired its access into New York City anyway.

Intermodal - ya gotta hate to love this business...or love to hate it.

Intermodal, COFC, TOFC, piggyback or whatever you may want to call it, is the ultimate love-hate situation in my life. My employer is one of the global marine container lines (not pictured) and I truly do not like working in this type of business. I detest the problems associated in moving these urgent metal boxes crammed full of stuff we really do not need and may not even want.

Do you really believe that lifting a container off or on a rail car is simple and efficient? Do not believe it for a minute!! All those containers loaded up on the rail cars (top left for an example) may have been waiting for days just to move from the ground to the rail cars, or vice versa.

Freight carrier customers that rely on transportation systems just do not understand transportation. Yes you read this correctly. Carrier customers do not understand the operational complexities of trying to balance cost controls against transportation efficiency. And why should customers understand transportation limitations? They just want their junk in the boxes.

Now, as for balancing costs and efficiency, what do you think? 

My answer - there is no such thing! 

Yes, you read this correctly too. Why? Because transportation efficiency and cost control are two diametrical conflicting concepts even though management experts would have you believe differently. Cost control does not improve efficiency. Cost control hampers efficiency. Conversely, efficiency is not the result of cost control. Reality is an equilibrium eventually achieved at the expense of both cost control and efficiency - and this mediocre state is what we accept as efficient and cost effective transportation but, in truth, is neither.

Customers, the bottom line is this: containers won't be there before they get there only because they get there when they get there but they will still be there after they get there simply because they got there. Got it? Then go and pick up your container you urgently wanted yesterday.

This obviously presents the hate side of my love-hate relationship with intermodal. While I may not like working in this business as a career, I am fascinated by the way intermodal transportation systems function, or for that matter, do not function as well as they should...assuming they could.

So where is the logic in all of this? I do not know.

Containers and trailers on the move

Now this is what I call an interesting photo to further expand upon my previous comments. 

I shall be surprised if the intermodal train pictured above was travelling any faster than 30 miles per hour. Now look at the trucks on the adjacent highway. I shall be surprised if any of the trucks were travelling at or less than 55 miles per hour.

So what is my point?

Those double stacked containers will be delivered days later whereas the trucks will be there, wherever the destinations may be, in a matter of hours. Highway trailers can move whenever the loads are ready to go to wherever they need to go. Containers and trailers moving by rail only move when there is a sufficient volume to justify originating a train - perhaps once a day on a busy container lane so far as a short line rail carrier is concerned - and only to the railway's end point which is not the ultimate destinations.

Trucking costs are much higher, but end-to-end movement is accomplished much faster. Conversely train movement is less expensive on a per trailer or per container basis, but the end-to-end transportation is accomplished far slower. The cost/time trade off is usually hours versus days.

Is anything going to change?

Most likely not but only slowly if it does.

Train time, rail cars included, is any time, anywhere.

The original intent of this volume was to fill it with photographs and not with me spouting on about the inefficiencies of intermodal transportation. 

This next scene reveals what is often a problem when scanning a photo clipped from a magazine or other publication; what the eye does not perceive the scanner does. The end result is a much poorer image.

CN freight train in the Canadian Rockies. Original caption details missing.

CN - the other railway which I used to have little or no interest in for no other reason than it was not CP Rail. Today, any railway is okay and Canadian even better. My bias of course. Today the Canadian rail carriers remain Canadian but one can only wonder how long this may continue if another round of rail mergers ever get off the ground again.

At Lennoxville, Quebec, on August 01, 1997. CN Locomotive numbered 9466 was leading St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad's southbound intermodal destined for Auburn, Maine, over the former CN Sherbrooke Subdivision.

This scene above was recorded by chance, simply by being in the right place at the right time. My family and I were returning home from vacationing in Maine and New Hampshire via the Eastern Townships. The crossing protection signals started flashing with bells ringing and the vehicles in front stopped. I pulled off to the side of the road, grabbed the camera, got out of the car and managed to obtain this one picture.

August 17, 1997, heading north on the Algoma Central Railway

Algoma Central Railway's northbound Agawa Canyon tour train crossing the Montreal River. While I liked enjoying the train ride and watching the scenery, Kie liked photographing the front of the train on a curve. Opportunity abounds! No shortage of curved track on the ACR!

Sault Ste. Marie on October 01, 1994. Grimy covered hoppers in CP Rail paint but showing Algoma Steel Corp. reporting marks.

What possible glamour is there in a string of dirty, forlorn-looking covered hopper cars parked in a steel mill?

Some railway scenes will never be magazine cover material and may not even be worth preserving, as with these two scenes. In places like this is where many freight cars in main line freight trains start out or end up.

Rail cars lined up waiting to be utilized for work... eventually.

Freight cars are designed to carry freight - all kinds of freight - there is no other reason for their existence. Dirty, beat-up, and scruffy-looking means that the rail cars have been dutifully doing what they are supposed to be doing even if they do spend most of their lives sitting on rusted rails waiting to be pulled or shoved somehere else.

Anyway, these two images of the rail cars at Algoma Steel Corp. mill in Sault Ste. Marie, were taken from a boat cruising the St. Mary's River locks. Again, unexpectedly being in the right place at the right time to record a railway scene.

A final word on intermodal transportation.

If trucks can travel on rails, then maybe rail cars can move on trucks... I don't think so.

Some ideas will not get off the ground and other ideas should never become airborne, or truckborne either. 

One thing is certain; should the above concept ever happen you'll never find me driving behind something like this on a highway.

Just one more...

Somewhere in Europe: 2 x 20FT containers joined to make a bridge

As soon as you think that you've seen everything concerning a particular subject, invariably something new will show up. I think that prevents life from becoming predictable and monotonous.

Normally marine containers go on board ships, however, in this instant a rowboat is passing beneath these containers. No doubt designed for pedestrian traffic, can this made-from-containers covered bridge be considered a form of intermodal transportation?

I shall leave this question for you the reader to decide.

The Oddblock Station Agent

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