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Thread: Intermodal Containers - Current Usage

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    Default Intermodal Containers - Current Usage

    I've been digging around a bit, looking for ideas on current usage statistics and patterns for intermodal containers...

    All the trains I see locally are domestic freight, so they are almost exclusively 53' containers, though I will occasionally see a pair of 20' containers or something less than 53'.

    So I'm wondering... it appears that as far as I can tell among the sizes:

    1) 20' containers are still frequently used for heavy/dense cargo
    2) 53' containers are very common on domestic trains
    3) 48' used to be used but have largely been supplanted by 53' for domestic use.. (or have they?)

    That leaves 40' and 45', so I guess I'm mostly wondering what the story is with them... for international, are the 40' still common, or are they being supplanted by the 45', or a mix, or what?

    In other news, Sea Box has a nice page showing all their offerings including a wide variety of open top, flat rack, insulated, and other specialty containers: http://www.seabox.com/commercial.php

    Pacer also had a page, but they only showed 53' domestic containers. Nothing smaller.

    I did find this article from 2006: http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs.../trnews246.pdf (pages 13-16) that seems to imply that the trend is to move up from 40' to larger sizes, but also indicates that EU regulations limit lengths to 45' in Europe. And the article is 8 years old.

    So, clearly for the trains in my immediate local area, 53' is the thing (but it's almost all domestic traffic). But where is the international or transcontinental train moving to? Are there still a lot of 40' containers on there, or are the 45' taking over in droves? has 48' gone by the wayside?
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    Have you tried to research the sea side of this rather than the rail size? What containers the ships are carrying will translate into what the trains then carry.

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    Hapag-Lloyd, Evergreen, China Shipping and Mearsk Sealand are 4 major players docking in Port Metro Vancouver for distribution of containers across North America. Visually, I see almost exclusively 20' and 40' containers heading in and out of the ports by rail for sea shipments. Try their websites for shipping info on container size availability for international shipments from the US and Canada.
    Grant.

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    Still not having a whole lot of luck with the research, so I took a different tack... after watching YouTube videos of intermodal trains for the last few hours, one thing is clear...

    Trains are either *almost* exclusively 53' domestic trailers, or *almost* exclusively 40' and 20' international trailers. In either case, you can almost count the number of "wrong size" containers in the train on one hand.

    The exception is that it's somewhat more common to see pairs of 20' containers on a domestic train. Maybe 10% of the load.

    The third thing I've noticed is that cuts of TOFC cars are quite common mixed in to domestic trains, but almost nonexistent in international trains.

    All of this makes intuitive sense, given that the 40' containers are largely being "land bridged" from coast to coast and the 53' containers are almost exclusively in domestic use. The two apparently just don't mix.

    I'll keep digging, see what else I can learn.
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    53' is always domestic they don't go on the ocean at least as far as I've worked with and seen
    40' 45' and 20'are all common on international shipping

    youll see them all mixed together on trains but also remember
    53' containers and TOFC's are normally going from one intermodal yard to another
    20',40',45' are going from a intermodal yard to a dock and vis versa
    so the it doesn't make operational sense to mix them on the same car/ train
    unless said dock acts as the intermodal yard for a local area and takes some 53' trailers for local service



    I normally see about 1-2 UP container trains a day so I'll have to look a bit harder
    Modeling the Pennsylvania Railroad Middle Divison in 1954

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    Yeah that's my excuse. The little intermodal terminal in my town serves both the local industries container needs plus the nearby port.

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    In the trains coming through Tuscaloosa, AL on the NS I've seen trains with just 53', a mix of 53' and 40' (mostly in somewhat contiguous blocks) and even some trains with a few well car sets combined with autoracks and rarely box and tank cars. I've sure in heavily trafficked mainlines this might be different, but if you're modeling a smaller IM yard then I wouldn't be surprised to see a mix come through. Also I think 48' is disappearing in favor of 53'. See this for an example:

    http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=499679

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    Containers mixed with box cars and tank car? Interesting!

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    Quote Originally Posted by baronjutter View Post
    Containers mixed with box cars and tank car? Interesting!
    Yeah. I think I only saw that once out of maybe 40-50 trains I saw with containers.

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    As was mentioned, for sea shipment, 40 foot is the standard size for a cell in a container ship. This can be either a single 40-foot container or a pair of twenty foot containers. You can ship larger ones, but they have to be carried above deck and handled specially when it comes to lashing on deck.

    When you see the capacity for a container ship, it is given in TEU. This is a Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit. A hold over from when trucks were shorter and the systems were designed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TwinDad View Post
    I've been digging around a bit, looking for ideas on current usage statistics and patterns for intermodal containers...

    All the trains I see locally are domestic freight, so they are almost exclusively 53' containers, though I will occasionally see a pair of 20' containers or something less than 53'.

    So I'm wondering... it appears that as far as I can tell among the sizes:

    1) 20' containers are still frequently used for heavy/dense cargo
    2) 53' containers are very common on domestic trains
    3) 48' used to be used but have largely been supplanted by 53' for domestic use.. (or have they?)

    That leaves 40' and 45', so I guess I'm mostly wondering what the story is with them... for international, are the 40' still common, or are they being supplanted by the 45', or a mix, or what?

    In other news, Sea Box has a nice page showing all their offerings including a wide variety of open top, flat rack, insulated, and other specialty containers: http://www.seabox.com/commercial.php

    Pacer also had a page, but they only showed 53' domestic containers. Nothing smaller.

    I did find this article from 2006: http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs.../trnews246.pdf (pages 13-16) that seems to imply that the trend is to move up from 40' to larger sizes, but also indicates that EU regulations limit lengths to 45' in Europe. And the article is 8 years old.

    So, clearly for the trains in my immediate local area, 53' is the thing (but it's almost all domestic traffic). But where is the international or transcontinental train moving to? Are there still a lot of 40' containers on there, or are the 45' taking over in droves? has 48' gone by the wayside?

    40' containers are standard-size for international cargo. Most countries have narrower roads than we do in North America, so if containers get put on truck chassis, they would likely be smaller than our 53' containers.

    Some countries have accepted the use of 45' containers (which used to be standard for North American domestic use before being supplanted by 48' and later 53's), you will still see some of them, but they'll always be a minority of a ship's/train's load.

    48' containers are obsolete everywhere. They are of no use on a layout unless you're modeling the mid-'80s to late '90s. Or as static storage units.

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    great, all my stuff is 48'

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    Quote Originally Posted by coffeeman View Post
    great, all my stuff is 48'
    Depending on your model timeframe, you could be on the bleeding edge of intermodal technology
    Never mistake a guy who talks a lot for a guy who has something to say...

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    I've seen 48' containers on trucks and trains before. Not as common as 53' and 40' but I know for a fact I've seen them. Also I often see 53' and 40' containers mixed together.

    I'm modeling modern era, not too concerned how accurate my container stacks are. I mix 40', 53', 45' and 48' and they all look good together.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ckblum View Post
    I've seen 48' containers on trucks and trains before.
    Surely you have, back in the 1990s

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    oh Goody, so who doesnt want their 48' containers then?? Because I need a handful... or two hand fulls... Pocket fulls (ACU style, pockets so big you could smuggle a few smurfs) yea pocket fulls. :evil:
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    I'm surprised they aren't used.

    After this post I've been watching the intermodal trains much closer, and the rail cars are 53', and they have markings for 2 x 20', 40', 48' and 53'. Every train I've seen since then only have 2 x 20' loads or 40' containers. Occasionally it looks like a 53' on top of a 40'.

    Seems strange not to use the 48'.

    But I'm with nscaler711, if anyone is having a fire sale of 48' I'd be happy to help free you of this ancient technology.

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    I don't think it's all that odd. The 48's are simply obsolete. They are too big for international shipping and road trailers went to 53 feet years ago. When you factor in the capacity lost to the containerization, 48' containers are at a big disadvantage to 53' road trucks, which are their main competition.
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    There's intermodal in Victoria? It would make sense, ship to truck, but not much trains running now, they have intermodal?

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    Quote Originally Posted by MetroRedLn View Post
    Surely you have, back in the 1990s
    Last thing I would've noticed in the 90's is the length of intermodal containers when I had bigger things on my mind like, things like Lego and Micro Machines. What I do remember though is seeing 48' containers on trucks recently (as in the past few weeks). I don't know 100% if I've seen the 48' by rail now but I have seen 45'. This is all in the BC, lower mainland area.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by MetroRedLn View Post
    Surely you have, back in the 1990s
    Last thing I would've noticed in the 90's is the length of intermodal containers when I had bigger things on my mind like, things like Lego and Micro Machines. What I do remember though is seeing 48' containers on trucks recently (as in the past few weeks). I don't know 100% if I've seen the 48' by rail now but I have seen 45'. This is all in the BC, lower mainland area.

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