While it didn’t work in New Haven or Bridgeport, this old electric locomotive worked in Eastern Connecticut at the Ponemah Mill in Taftville.
It now resides at the Connecticut Electric Railway in East Windsor.
This photo is at Watervliet, New York in the 1960’s.
The city of New Haven was once a manufacturing center of southern New England. It was built around its rivers and harbors which provided transportation for both raw materials and finished goods. Rail service began in 1839 when the Hartford & New Haven entered the city from the north and ran along the west bank of the Mill River to the harbor at Belle Dock. In 1848 the New York & New Haven Railroad entered the city from the west and joined the Hartford & New Haven at Mill River Junction. This isolated industries on both sides of the Quinnipiac River, forcing them to use horse and wagon to reach Belle Dock.
In 1893 several River Street manufacturers, including a boiler company, a pipe bending company and a brewer; incorporated the Manufacturers Street Railway to run from a connection with the New York, New Haven & Hartford at Mill River Junction over private right-of-way and city streets to the junction of River and East Pearl Streets. This road extended 1.364 miles into the Fair Haven section of the city and allowed electric operation. Legal problems and purchase of private way slowed construction until 1896. By November 17 of that year, the first car was moved by horse. Soon a borrowed snow plow became the first electric locomotive.
The two controlling factors on this line were the 2.5% grade at Mill River and the reverse curve in James Street. The grade problem was solved by ordering a hefty locomotive capable of hauling two loaded locomotives up the grade at 7 miles per hour. The curve remained a problem, sometimes stalling a locomotive and tying up traffic on James and River Streets.
Manufacturers Railroad locomotive No. 1 had been built in 1893 by General Electric‘s predecessor Thompson Houston in Lynn, Mass. It had been exhibited at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
The firms along the line did not want to be in the railroad business so the Fair Haven & Westville Railroad was contracted to provide electric power and operating crews. Additional track was laid as new customers were added. National Wire became the first customer on the east of the Quinnipiac in 1902. The line was extended across the Ferry Street bridge then down Fairmont Avenue. The Fair Haven & Westville merged into the Consolidated Railway in 1904 but service contracts continued. In 1910, New Haven subsidiary Connecticut Company absorbed Consolidated properties in its drive to become the main street railway operator in Connecticut. 1905 saw the freight route continue down Forbes Avenue into the Belle Dock area.
In 1907, the Manufacturers Railroad was sold to the New Haven Railroad. Street railway employees were granted life tenure as New Haven employees. In 1910 the track connection via Fairmont Avenue was removed. This divided the Manufacturers Railroad into the “South End” and the “North End”.
In 1914 the New Haven purchased two 30-ton double truck Baldwin Westinghouse electric locomotives (No. 3 and No. 4) for the Manufacturers’ Operation. In 1924, with more and heavier loads to handle, the New Haven purchased two 56-ton Baldwin Westinghouse double truck switchers (No. 5 and No. 6) equipped with two trolley poles each.
With the opening of the new Tomlinson bridge and the realignment of Forbes Avenue in 1924, the railroad yard west of the river and north of Forbes Avenue was electrified. Another yard was located between the Quinnipiac River and River Street at Poplar Street. Additions continued to the Manufacturers as business increased. 1927 saw a new Kopper’s Coke plant on Waterfront Street and the development of the New Haven Terminal Co. facility. Consignees grew to 45 when the last track extension was made in 1947 in South Front Street from River Street to a scrap yard near Grand Avenue.
In 1931, a locomotive pole broke and fatally injured a brakeman. Criticism of the need to run locomotives in multiple-unit operation caused reassignment of No. 3 and No. 4 to Bridgeport’s Seaview Avenue Railroad.
The Seaview Avenue Railroad was very similar. It was a trolley electric route that served Bridgeport‘s factory area. There are still numerous tracks running through streets into now-abandoned factories. Several old factories even left the cars that were used to move material within the factory area (i.e. not qualified for interchange). Some flat cars have buckled in the middle as the timber rotted.
In 1948 the Connecticut Company planned the end of all trolley service which would leave the Manufacturers Railroad without a source of electric power. A plan to install a converter station to tap 11,000 volt A.C. was dropped in favor of diesel locomotives. A 44-tonner was tested and found satisfactory once “swivel” couplers were installed. Current went off in the overhead wires September 26. No. 5 and No. 6 were sold to Washington’s Capital Transit. Used to haul coal to a power station, they lasted until 1955. No. 3 and No. 4 lasted until 1953 when diesels took over in Bridgeport. Most of the 45 consignees have gone out of business or moved. Switchers from the Belle Dock yard handle a few cars “as needed”.
Manufacturers Railway customers
From Rule 1710, Engine and Car Restrictions, Employee Timetable #23, October 30, 1966:
National Folding Box;
Minor Lumber Co;
L. C. Bates;
Colonial Quilting Co.;
Kasden and Son;
A. W. Flint;
National Pipe Bending Co;
Atlantic Bonded Warehouse;
Connecticut Adamant Plaster;
Grocers Wholesale Outlet;
Elm City Filling (River St);
Schiavoni & Son;
Elm City Filling (South Front St)
POPLAR ST YARD:
BELLE DOCK BRANCH:
New Haven Gas;
American Steel and Wire;
Warner Miller feed;
Keep in mind that these were not ALL of the companies served; only those that had engine restrictions (typicaly, DEY-1, DEY-3, or DEY-4 were allowed, although in some cases, only DEY-4 #0801 and 0812 were allowed). I believe the list of companies starts at the northernend and works its way south and around the tip of Fair Haven. A couple of names I am familiar with are: Schiavone & Son (scrap dealer); Kasden & Son (fuel dealer); National Folding Box Co (cardboard box manufacturer). I also believe that Koppers Coke had a coke plant at then end of the Belle Dock branch(?) on Waterfront Street, where the New Haven Harbor power plant is now located.
The coke plant was, I believe, operated by United Illuminating and it was very near, if not on, the site of the existing power plant. The coke plant also produced gas, which was used to power an electric generating station. Heat the coal into coke, use the gas driven out of the coal to power a generator. This plant used to produce a huge cloud of exhaust steam on a regular basis. After the Peter, Paul and Mary song was out, they used to call the plant “Puff the dragon.” The steam was also used to power two thermos bottle steam engines. These steam engines had no boiler. They took a charge of high pressure steam into what was basically a large thermos bottle, switched the hopper cars around until they needed a recharge. One of the engines is on display at the Westbrook Outlet Stores. The other at Steamtown.
Just Some Other Railroad Customers in City of New Haven
Ind. Plywood, NH Rendering, Strohs at Silver St.
On Track 3 side in West Haven was the Howard Co. Atlas Storage, Eder Bros., Marcus, Armstrong Rubber, General Lumber.
On the Track 4 side, was West Haven yard with sidings and spots for Lenders, Arco excess, Hulls, Alexanders, Tel-Rad, A Rubber outfit, Lubins, Daves Mill, Ardhart, W.H. Lumber, National Biscuit and Nutmeg flour. Next was Armstrongs with five spots, Sears, Schick, Gallo’s, Star Dist., Char Mac, Superior Prod., Richardson Chem., Baumritters and Ethan Allen, which are both part of the Miles Pharmaceuticals plant now.
On the canal that the yard switched, G.O. Lumber, G. O. Steel, Winchesters (5 or 6 cars a day), Chargar, Safety Car, N.E. Iron, Whitney Blake, Hi-Test, High Standard, Leonard Concrete.
There are about or more than 50 companies in just the New Haven area. They are just about all gone with but a car or two from Armstrongs on the track four side.
Baldwin-Westinghouse steeple cab electric Locomotives in Waterbury
In the 1920’s, the Connecticut Company had two Baldwin-Westinghouse steeple cab electric locomotives operating in the Waterbury, Connecticut area. Numbered 1053 and 1054, they were referred to as “Ike and Mike”. These locomotives were built for the narrow track clearances in the Waterbury area and accordingly were different from the majority of B-W steeple cabs in that the air tanks were mounted longitudinally above the main structural beams of the frame instead of transversely under the cab. The result was a pair of locomotives with bodies only 8-feet wide.
Another feature of these locomotives were the short wheelbase trucks, which necessitated the “about face” mounting of the traction motors. In other words, the motors were suspended towards the outside of the truck instead of the usual inwards suspension. These trucks had a wheelbase of 4’6″ with 33″ wheels compared to the 6″6″ wheelbase and 36″ wheels on other Baldwin-Westinghouse motors that the New Haven Railroad ran in the New Haven area (Manufacturer’s Railway).
Built in 1912, they were originally #028 and #029 but soon renumbered as “0” numbers were revised to apply to non-revenue equipment. Rated at 45 tons, they delivered 400 HP using four 100 HP motors.
Most of their service was hauling traffic to and from Chase Brass plants. Sometimes they were used to haul ice from points on the Woodbury line. In 1936, the Waterbury Division of the Connecticut Company was transferred to the Connecticut Railway & Lighting Company which concentrated on converting trolleys to bus operations. Lack of trolley rail to run on made these motors surplus.
World War II saved them from scrap with #1053 moving ammunition at Fort Hancock on Sandy Hook, New Jersey and #1054 joining the Air Force at Hampton & Langley Field. After the war, #1053 was sold to the Kansas City & Kaw Valley RR where it became #503. It moved cement from Bonner Springs to Kansas City until being scrapped in 1956. #1054 went to the Hagarstown & Frederick in Maryland as #10 and lasted until the line dieselized in 1955.
New Life for the New Haven Terminal?
In June, 2005, local media in New Haven reported that new tenants could be coming to the New Haven Terminal.
What used to be the New Haven Terminal building now has two new tenants signed up: an interstate transport company and a shipping container storage area.
Acres of waterfront property are unused at what many consider a valuable spot.
This area is at the junction of Interstates 95 and 91. It is an opportunity to bring the three modes of transportation together here – water, rail, and freight movement on trucks.
Truckers and commuters are finding that moving ANYTHING on I-95 is extremely difficult, so moving freight and people off the highway to the railroad is an idea whose time has come. Plus, there is the advantage of the waterfront for ocean shipping.
One thing that has to happen is to extend the train tracks so they reach the port. Right now they stop just 100 yard short. Going right to the wharves makes a lot of sense.
See more about the New Haven Port Authority
Gateway Terminal operates as a full service independent terminal operator and marine service provider with modern facilities, state-of-the-art technology and equipment, and an experienced labor force to expeditiously load or unload vessels.
Sea to rail or rail to sea is one of the cheapest modes…… eliminate truckers….save big bucks.
The new Tomlinson Bridge has a single track across it on its own grade away from the road. Its also a vert-lifter. Gives ya something to look at if you are stuck in traffic on I-95. The previous Tomlinson Bridge was a low drawbridge with double track in the middle of the street.
I would guess that scrap metal would be the potential rail business these days. New Haven might never be a container port — there isn’t room for the sort of mega-terminal that shipping companies use these days.
June 2006: A single train rumbled and squeaked down the tracks parallel to Waterfront Street carrying a load of German steel and the promise of opening the entire North American market to the Port of New Haven.
For the first time in 12 years, a freight train called on Logistec’s terminal east of the Quinnipiac River.
Governor M. Jodi Rell and state Department of Transportation representatives witnessed the loading of 13,000 tons of steel on a Providence & Worcester Railroad train. The DOT has just finished a $5.7 million section of new track that will ultimately connect terminals at the harbor directly to the line.
New Haven has a competitive advantage over other ports which handle steel: it’s closer to European ports and with the rail line, cargo can get to Pennsylvania and other steel-using centers more quickly than it could moving through Philadelphia.
Steel wouldn’t have even come to New Haven if it had to be trucked out of the port. Instead, the shipper would have landed the product in Philadelphia. The coils are too heavy to haul over roads efficiently because it would have taken 55 tractor-trailers to move it all.
Rell said the new line will enhance the state’s image around the world as a place that can move freight quickly. She said this represents an opportunity for New Haven and Connecticut to capture a larger share of the steel market, especially in the winter when the St. Lawrence Seaway is impassible and steel shipments must be brought into ports further south, like Connecticut.
For 12 years, this side of New Haven Harbor has not had access to the rails due to the rebuilding of the Tomlinson Bridge.
Providence & Worcester sees petroleum, steel, lumber and chemicals coming into New Haven and being shipped by train all over North and Central America.
The new rail line still has further to go and terminates in an empty lot where Logistec was able to load the coils. The steel coils had to be trucked from Logistec’s terminal just down the street to the lot and then loaded onto trains. With this addition, two of Connecticut’s three deep-water ports, New London and New Haven, now have rail access.
MOTOR CARS TO DIESELS (MOSTLY GE)
In 1847 the Great Eastern Counties Railroad of England tried a 7-passenger steam-powered car. Like every railcar, its objective was to provide service cheaper than could be done with a regular train. Steam cars were used until around 1920. Compressed air cars were tried in the late 1870’s. Their range limited them to short runs. Battery-powered cars first appeared in 1880. Originally, they were also limited to short range, but eventually could cover 100 miles or more.
The gasoline (or alcohol or kerosene or whatever) engine was first built in the late 1880’s. The big hit was, of course, the automobile, but in 1890, the Patton Motor Car Co. demonstrated a gasoline-electric railcar. Others such as the Hydro Carbon Company of Chicago built gas-mechanicals without much impact. The McKeen Motor Car Company grew out of Union Pacific’s dislike of high branchline passenger costs. It was started in 1904, spun off from the UP in 1908, and folded in 1920. By 1913, 138 had been built. These pointy-nosed cars didn’t last because the power plant and drive equipment were not insulated very well from the rough tracks which usually comprised branchlines.
In 1904, the General Electric Company’s Railway Engineering Department recognized the potential of the gas-electric car. Henri G. Chatain, A. F. Batchelder and E. D. Priest were given some space in the Schenectady Works to begin development seriously. At that time, J. R. Lovejoy was the department general manager, William B. Potter was the chief engineer, and John G. Barry was the assistant manager.
Barry eventually headed the department and went on to become an industry leader through offices he held in the American Electric Railway Association. Potter was a veteran of electric traction. Beginning with the West End Railway in Boston, he worked on installation of systems in Albany, Utica and Saratoga. He invented the series-parallel controller used on most electric railways. His more than 130 patents included railroad control equipment, electric braking and switching equipment. He developed the otheograph used for recording the wheel action of various types of rolling stock. He participated in some of the major electrifications such as Milwaukee, Great Northern, Paris-Orleans and London Underground.
The best engine for their specifications was built by Wolseley of Great Britain. The Delaware & Hudson lent GE a Barney & Smith combine for experimenting. An ALCO motor truck was added on the front. Two 75 h.p. traction motors and a 600-volt generator were added. Once the huge engine was added, the baggage compartment was filled and the car weighed 68 tons. A trial run from Schenectady to Saratoga showed D&H 1000 (sometimes referred to as GE No. 1) could go 40 mph.
The designers, now joined by William Everett Ver Planck, decided their next car needed: light weight, greater power, single end control, and a more dependable engine. The engine was the most difficult to accomplish. In 1906, a Gas Engine Department was formed. A new V8 was developed that required an explosive charge to start. It weighed 3,900 pounds as opposed to the 7-ton Wolseley. GE No. 2 was an all-steel from Wason Mfg. Co. of Springfield, MA. The final weight was less than half that of car no. 1. This car trialed on the Lehigh Valley; Chicago Great Western; Dan Patch Lines; and the D&H. It was extensively damaged by hitting a locomotive on the Rapid City, Black Hills & Western. Car 2 was later sold to the Dan Patch Lines where it was destroyed in a 1914 fire.
A third GE demonstrator was built which incorporated even more improvements such as a 125 h.p. engine with compressed air starter. Car 3 eventually traveled 50,000 miles in demonstration service.
An attempt was made in 1909 to break into the street railway business. New York’s Third Avenue Railway Company had several “horse-powered” lines. Not wanting the expense of electrification, they had a “bake off” between the GE car and a battery powered one. The battery won.
By 1909, orders were coming in. Southern; Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh; Frisco; and Dan Patch Lines. Many improvements were made by Hermann Lemp. In 1910-11, the Gas Engine Department moved to a new plant in Erie, PA.
Before production ceased in 1917, almost 100 motorcars were built. Several were oddballs. One for the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie was only 42 feet long (as opposed to 70-foot normal). It was designed to pull a trailer. One was built as a line car for the New York, Westchester & Boston. It was the only GE (except no. 1) without a Wason body. Some cars built for southern railroads had two doors – to comply with “Jim Crow” laws.
Operating costs ranged from 12 to 17 cents/mile. Cost of the cars was between $20,000 and $30,000. They usually ran with a crew of two (not withstanding labor agreements requiring more). Don’t forget though gasoline only cost 7 cents/gallon.
In the 1920’s, GE worked with Ingersoll-Rand on switch engines.
There was some degree of internal dissension within GE. Many would rather have sold all-electric. Little did they realize that non-electric would almost end electric.
GE’s history was wrapped around electric traction. In 1884, Frank J. Sprague, convinced that a street car could be powered by electricity from overhead cables, built a street railway in Richmond VA. By 1888, 40 cars were in operation. The Sprague Electric Railway and Motor Company joined the Edison General Electric Company in 1890.
Elihu Thomson and Edwin J. Houston, two science teachers from Philadelphia, formed a company in Lynn MA that also built streetcars. Their company merged into the Edison General Electric in 1892 to form today’s General Electric Company. One of their employees was Charles Van Depoele, a woodcarver whose trolley-pole proved practical for overhead electric operation.
By 1908, General Electric completed the electrification of Grand Central Terminal. Although this installation used direct current, Charles Proteus Steinmetz, GE’s “wizard of electricity”, developed methods of designing alternating current machinery that would assure the future of GE in electric propulsion.
A big competitor was Westinghouse Electric Manufacturing Company. Beginning in the 1920’s, they built the electrical gear for some diesel-battery cars. Most of these were for Canadian National. New Haven’s Comet of 1925 was an example of a 6-cylinder, 400 h.p. unit (run as a three-car articulate). Boston & Maine got a V-12 about the same time. Between 1928 and 1937 they built several locomotives with Baldwin.
In 1930 General Electric built 34 three-power oil-electric box cab switchers (class DES3) for the New York Central. These were used mostly in the New York harbor area because of their light weight and fire safety aspects. They used battery power for traction. The batteries could be charged through either third-rail contact shoes or a 300 h.p. diesel engine.
The Electro-Motive Company came into being in 1922 in a little shop in Cleveland, Ohio. It got into the railroad business by making gas-electric motor cars using carbodies from St. Louis Car, electrical gear from GE and engines from Winton. In 1930 both EMC and Winton became subsidiaries of General Motors. By 1934, a new factory was underway in La Grange and streamliners were produced for Union Pacific (“City of Salina”) and Burlington (“Zephyr”).
In 1938 a steam-electric locomotive was built for the Union Pacific. Later on, gas turbine locomotives would also be tried.
In 1945 Fairbanks-Morse entered the locomotive business but it didn’t have a plant. GE built 111 locomotives for them before they struck out on their own.
The success of Budd’s RDC prompted GE to draw up plans for a diesel-electric railcar with underslung engines. GE argued that an electric transmission would enable its car to out-accelerate RDC’s and to pull trailers.
In 1960, GE announced its intention to enter the road diesel market with a 2500 h.p. four-motor hood called a U25B (Universal line, 2500 h.p., B trucks). Growth and the overtaking of EMD was accomplished by making good on low fuel consumption, high reliability, attractive financing and favorable trade-in allowances. Over the last 29 years there were some rough spots. Shown below are some of the reasons (most since overcome) that operating personnel favored EMD over GE:
· Poor throttle design – large and hard to operate.
· Power lag when throttle moved between settings.
· Amps drop and hard to regulate train speed.
· Difficult to start on grades with mixed EMD-GE power.
· Poor position and poor regulation of heat.
· Too little room to get to toilet.
· Low oil and low water resets in impossible position.
· Hard to see ammeter. What do dots mean?
· Hard to climb steps with a suitcase.
· Oil runs from engine on right-side runningboard.
GE aggressively pursued the diesel-electric market. The product line grew from industrial switching locomotives to giant road engines. During 1988, alliances beyond U.S. borders brought “Dash 8” orders from Canada and Australia. Furthermore, an agreement with Mitsui will help third world financing. Orders in 1988 were the highest in recent years. They were led by Union Pacific’s order for more than 100 locomotives. CSX placed its first order for Dash 8’s. Conrail, Norfolk Southern, Sante Fe, Southern Pacific, and the NY, Susquehanna and Western all added Dash 8’s to existing fleets.
New Haven RR Sykes Rail Bus
Near the end of passenger service, the railroads tried to cut costs by switching from steam trains to gasoline powered rail buses. The rail buses ran from Pine Plains to Beacon and from Copake through Pine Plains to Poughkeepsie every day. Some old timers may remember riding the “Galloping Goose” to high school in Beacon or Poughkeepsie.
Photo courtesy of Bernie Rudberg
Matteawan station in 1933.
Gasoline powered railbuses were used for the last few years of passenger service. Some old timers may recall riding the “galloping goose” to high school in Beacon or Poughkeepsie. Railbus service ended in September 1933.
The ND&C RR (Newburgh, Dutchess and Connecticut Railroad) established an operation that survived through good times and bad for over 25 years until it was absorbed into the Central New England Rwy and later became part of the New Haven RR. Still later 11 miles of the old ND&C line became part of the ill fated Penn Central, next Conrail, then the Housatonic RR and currently Metro North.
After many years and many different names, these tracks are still in service and owned by Metro North MTA. There is no regular train service on this “Beacon Branch” but they are keeping the line open for possible future use.
This 44-tonner is at the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum
The New Haven’s 44-Tonners
The New Haven Railroad had 19 GE 44-tonners. They were built between 1940 and 1947. They didn’t have enough “muscle” and never made the grade. Three remained when Penn Central took over and none made it to CONRAIL. In addition, five belonged to affiliate Union Freight Co. of Boston. One was leased to The Connecticut Company, a former interurban with freight trackage in East Hartford and Glastonbury.
New Haven’s Silver Street Yard
New Haven Union Station track plans show a branch heading west and curving 180 degrees to the right starting just after the lead switch to the motor storage area. This leads to what is labeled Silver Street Yard.
This was the connection to the former New Haven & Derby branch, and while the New Haven-Orange end of the branch itself was abandoned in 1938, the portion that doubled back to the onetime NH&D passenger station (which later became a railroad YMCA) about a block from the current New Haven station remained in service into the early 1960s, mainly to serve the New Haven produce terminal. The area was completely redeveloped in the mid-60s and the former station/YMCA area and yard are currently occupied by a housing project and relocated streets. A little bit of the track beyond the junction remained until a few years ago to reach a scrap yard.
See a picture of the Silver Street Yard.
| Intermodal rail-truck transportation was pioneered on the New Haven Railroad in the 1920’s when trailers were loaded on flatcars.
“Modal” means a mode of transportation, and “multimodal” means two or more modes of transportation. “Intermodal” is the connection between the modes.
The Pennsylvania Canal opened in 1839 to connect Philadelphia with Pittsburgh and Lake Erie to compete with the highly successful Erie Canal in New York. Because of the terrain in Pennsylvania, an all water connection was not feasible, so the Pennsylvania “canal” included rail and wagon road segments as well.
Between 1847 and 1896, the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad and the Fall River Steamship Line jointly experimented with an early type of intermodal container to handle freight movements between rail and water modes in New England.
During the 1890s, the Long Island Railroad operated the famous “farmers’ trains” bringing wagons loaded with potatoes and other produce on railroad flatcars to New York City.
Intermodalism, in forms more comparable to those of today, dates back to 1926 when the Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad inaugurated truck-trailer-on-flatcar or piggyback service. In 1929, Sealand Lines introduced a radically new intermodal system that loaded and unloaded full railcars onto specially built seagoing vessels. This new intermodal service was inaugurated between New York City and Havana, Cuba. These vessels were among the world’s fastest and carried up to 100 railcars. Using specially designed heavy lift cranes, these ships could be loaded and unloaded in 10 hours. It would have required six days to handle the same amount of cargo using traditional cargo handling systems.
The rail piggyback service that the Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad began in 1926 grew slowly until the-mid 1950s. A combination of excessive regulation and distrust between the railroads and the trucking companies limited its development. Eventually, the Interstate Commerce Commission revised its regulations and railroads overcame their aversion to working with the truckers and began to take advantage of
In 1956, Malcolm McLean revolutionized ocean shipping with his invention of the container—the TEU—efficiency convenience, safety, and big savings.
In the mid 1960s, as rail intermodal freight transportation spread across the nation, the idea of using the continental United States as a landbridge for moving containers between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans developed. Post-Panamax container ships from the Far East could offload onto rail flatcars and move the containers to East and Gulf Port destinations. Some containers were then reloaded onto ships to continue to Europe. Others containers would move by rail or truck to other U.S. destinations. Either way, the movement was faster than going through the Panama Canal, thanks to technological innovations in handling intermodal transfers.
Rail intermodal traffic continues to expand. While truck-trailer-on-flatcar traffic has declined in recent years, ocean container-on-flatcar traffic more than doubled between 1991 and 2001 to 6.3 million containers annually. This growth is due in large part to the development of doublestack operations in the late 1970s and 1980s. Doublestacking greatly improved the productivity of rail intermodal operations. Nearly nine million trailers and containers were moved by rail in 2001.
The Central Artery/Tunnel (CA/T) project in Boston, Massachusetts is certainly one of the largest infrastructure investments in the U.S. It began with railroad work. The South Boston Haul Road (SBHR), now renamed the South Boston Bypass Road, transformed an old, over-grown, under-used, four-track urban railroad corridor into one rebuilt railroad track with an adjacent two-lane commercial vehicle roadway. The concept of the SBHR was to use an existing transportation corridor for both railroad freight and commercial highway vehicles.
Most people associate the names Swift Transportation, Schneider National, and J.B. Hunt with longhaul trucking. What they don’t realize, however, is that all three are becoming major players in the world of railroad freight, specifically when it comes to intermodal shipments.