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Thread: Intermodal Containers - Current Usage

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    Quote Originally Posted by Silent1961 View Post
    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.

    Yes I have to agree, I frequently railfan in East Vancouver and around the CP Rail downtown Vancouver yard where a lot of containers are stored awaiting import or export. Primarily 40' containers and some 20' as well are coming and going from Port Metro Vancouver.

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    I've been trying to get a handle on container traffic. I took some videos if trains in Edmonton last summer and found China Shipping, Evergreen, and some others are common, mostly 40' but some 20'. Domestic trains seem to be dominated by 53' and 40' units.

    I've found the following site to be a really great resource for modelling containers http://www.matts-place.com/intermoda...ontainers1.htm but timelines for various containers remains something that could benefit from better information.

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    I find wikipedia can give you a lot of information as to the major shipping companies, their subsidiaries and destinations of said containers. It's interesting to see several containers on a train may all be from one major company but carrying several different paint schemes.

    Years ago while railfanning in East Vancouver I saw a container ship with an entire load of bright new shiney Safmarine dark blue containers, one of the more interesting observations Ive had.

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    I just came across this recent picture of FEC:

    http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=510791

    Behind the locomotives it looks like a 53', two 45' (one might be 48'?) and a 40' container. I don't know how "normal" that is, but at least it happens sometimes.

    LinuxPunk

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    Quote Originally Posted by linuxpunk View Post
    I just came across this recent picture of FEC:

    http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=510791

    Behind the locomotives it looks like a 53', two 45' (one might be 48'?) and a 40' container. I don't know how "normal" that is, but at least it happens sometimes.

    LinuxPunk
    Nice pic!

    Pretty sure they're both 45's. On FEC, I'd expect to see just about anything... it's the long haul trains that seem to be more consistently loaded. Even so, I'll see a few 40's and 45's tucked into a trainload of 53's. But the 48's seem to be quite rare if not gone completely.

    Of course, part of what started this thread is that my sample size is one mainline that carries almost exclusively domestic containers, so that's not really very representative.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TwinDad View Post
    Of course, part of what started this thread is that my sample size is one mainline that carries almost exclusively domestic containers, so that's not really very representative.
    While maybe "not really very representative" I'm sure it is very impressive!:Spong B:
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    I work for a US trucking company that was 'drug' into imports by their clients. We own a warehouse and do our own LTL trucking supplementing the containers.

    The 48 foot containers were domestic units. Anything less than 53' is a dinosaur according to US shippers. J B Hunt and Schneider National traded in the TOFC 48's for 53' cans. The TOFC units were strengthened to handle being lifted on and off the trains; plus the running gear was subjected to a lot of non-highway abuse. Anything that adds extra weight reduces efficiency. Switching to 53' cans and separate chassis keeps the running gear off the rail increasing payload and reducing maintenance cost.

    International boxes are 20', 40' and 40' high cube [9.6' tall vrs 8.6'] and 45' and I see about 20% 20' and 10 - 15% 45' with the rest being 40 ' running about 70% high cube.

    I have a collection of photos showing the effects of use on containers that I need to edit...

    In the meantime anyone shipping containers needs to pay attention to making the ends very dirty from wheel spray, etc. Often the container number is placed vertically in the 2nd indent from the right corner post; exactly where the wheels make the can dirty. Sometimes the bottom of the number is unreadable due to the buildup. I never see pristine containers. One voyage [even domestic cans are made in china] marks up the corners and tie down areas so I see new containers [2 - 3 months old] w/ the corners already looking ugly so dirty up and beat up your cans.
    Last edited by wis bang; 7th Apr 2015 at 09:30 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TwinDad View Post
    Nice pic!

    Pretty sure they're both 45's. On FEC, I'd expect to see just about anything... it's the long haul trains that seem to be more consistently loaded. Even so, I'll see a few 40's and 45's tucked into a trainload of 53's. But the 48's seem to be quite rare if not gone completely.

    Of course, part of what started this thread is that my sample size is one mainline that carries almost exclusively domestic containers, so that's not really very representative.
    Yeah, FEC is a Class 2, and anything class 2 and lower that can handle intermodal traffic ships containers to and from domestic points, so they pick up both 53' and 40'/20' containers from the big Class 1s and take them to smaller destinations.

    But if you're a UP/BNSF/CSX/NS modeler, you need to keep your 53's separate from your 45'/40'/20'ers.

    What I have noticed lately though is that you can find 53' well cars in international trains carrying 45'/40'/20' containers, so the rolling stock doesn't really matter.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinetrainman View Post
    I find wikipedia can give you a lot of information as to the major shipping companies, their subsidiaries and destinations of said containers. It's interesting to see several containers on a train may all be from one major company but carrying several different paint schemes.
    If you're modeling modern intermodal operations, make sure to get containers from container leasing companies, such as Capital, GE Safeco, Florens, etc. Shipping companies will often not have enough of their own containers at their disposal so they lease additional ones from a 3rd party. The tracking codes still reflect the original cargo company though.

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    So this makes me curious then, as I am modeling both '95 and "Today" what happened to well cars that are 48' wells? Do they just haul 20/40's or are they sitting in razor boxes?

    Now I have also read from you guys that 40's and 53's aren't mixed so even if there are trains going to say LA, and are in those 40/53' mixes or would those blocks be shoved to a transload facility or yard to be sorted near by?
    Being in MO I don't see alot of intermodal traffic and when i do its empty wells flying down the rails at 50mph or double stacks that is just a toss up of what looks to be all container sizes? (well maybe not 48s even though I have spotted a few...)
    @MetroRedLn only reason I tag you is because you live in LA, and would have that answer about LA.

    (Still need 48's btw)
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    Quote Originally Posted by nscaler711 View Post
    So this makes me curious then, as I am modeling both '95 and "Today" what happened to well cars that are 48' wells? Do they just haul 20/40's or are they sitting in razor boxes?

    Now I have also read from you guys that 40's and 53's aren't mixed so even if there are trains going to say LA, and are in those 40/53' mixes or would those blocks be shoved to a transload facility or yard to be sorted near by?
    Being in MO I don't see alot of intermodal traffic and when i do its empty wells flying down the rails at 50mph or double stacks that is just a toss up of what looks to be all container sizes? (well maybe not 48s even though I have spotted a few...)
    @MetroRedLn only reason I tag you is because you live in LA, and would have that answer about LA.

    (Still need 48's btw)
    Many 48' well cars have been modified into 40' well cars to save on weight and space (since they can't be used for larger containers, all that empty space and train length equals more fuel costs for the railroads, so the 40' well cars are much more efficient). But other 48' sets still remain on the rails. In fact I was riding a light rail train here in LA today, which runs by a UP track which the railroad stores a lot of empty intermodal cars eventually bound for the harbor. I actually saw a couple 48' well cars on that track. So yes, they're still out there, just not as common anymore.

    As for the 40' and 53' containers, here in LA there are separate intermodal facilities for international and domestic intermodal freight. The international ones are, naturally, right near the Los Angeles/Long Beach harbor area, so certain containers would be put on truck chassis while others would continue their journey on rail to points east.

    The domestic intermodal facility, at least for UP, is located near Downtown Los Angeles, at a facility called LATC (Los Angeles Transportation Center -- an old SP name for the facility). Tha facility handles both 53' containers and 53' piggyback trailers.

    The BNSF has an intermodal facility southeast of Downtown LA, but they are eventually replacing it with a dedicated international facility close to LA Harbor, and move the rest of the domestic freight to their existing domestic intermodal facility in San Bernardino, a city 60 miles east of LA.

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    Never say never...

    I have seen 53' containers on the top stack of a few wells in an otherwise solid wall of 40' containers. And I have seen a few 40' wells mixed in to an otherwise solid 53' car.

    MOSTLY, the railroads seem to keep the domestic and international separate, but it doesn't seem unusual for there to be a small amount of mixing. Most likely if there's a container that needs moving it will get put on the next available train heading in that direction. I would guess at least partly due to "hot" shipments, or containers that were delayed from their planned train due to a car repair or other such problem and are thus "late", etc. etc. (that's all supposition on my part, but reasonable, I think).
    Never mistake a guy who talks a lot for a guy who has something to say...

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    I know this is an older thread, but it's an excellent one! Dense with detail and observational knowledge. Thank you to all who contributed! I'm just starting my intermodal journey, and wanted to get my containers sizes figured out. I have a bunch of 53' well-cars, the 53' containers that came with them, and some new o40' containers that I just bought (K-Line, Evergreen, and US Army).

    I also did a bit of research to see if TOFCs and COFCs (as opposed to well-cars) were even still in use (I'm modeling mid-1990s through present day). Apparently TOFCs are still quite common (e.g., UPS). So, I'm also starting to buy 20' piggybacks and 40' trailers on 52' flatcars with hitches. I basically build two, separate types of intermodal consists (with the assumption it's more prototypical): One, exclusively pulling 53' well-car double-stacks, and a second that's a mix of TOFCs and COFCs. Whomever said modern intermodal unit-trains are "boring" is nuts! This stuff is fascinating!


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    so @Metrolink I already see a problem with your containers already...
    generally and about 99% of the time the larger container will always sit on top of the shorter container...
    I think its a weight thing if I'm not mistaken...
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    Quote Originally Posted by nscaler711 View Post
    generally and about 99% of the time the larger container will always sit on top of the shorter container...
    Dang! Now I need prettier, "branded" 53' containers!

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    Quote Originally Posted by nscaler711 View Post
    so @Metrolink I already see a problem with your containers already...
    generally and about 99% of the time the larger container will always sit on top of the shorter container...
    I think its a weight thing if I'm not mistaken...
    No. The only loading restriction is that 20 foot containers cannot go on top of 40 foot ( or longer ) containers.

    The reason for this is that containers have stacking posts that allow stacking containers on top of one another. On 20 foot and 40 foot containers, the stacking posts are on the ends. On longer containers, the posts are inset from the end, but they are spaced 40 feet appart.

    Because the stacking posts of 40 foot and longer containers are spaced 40 feet apart, one end of a 20 foot container stacked on top of a longer container falls in the middle of the container, where there isn't anything to support the weight of the upper box.

    ( there is an exception to this. In the 1990s, BN America and UPS both had 28 foot containers, with stacking posts spaced at 20 feet. You could stack 20 foot containers on top of those in a 56 foot well car. Also, BN America had some stacking frames that allowed two 28 foot containers to ride on top of other containers by distributing the weight to the stacking posts of the lower container.)

    Paul

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    Quote Originally Posted by Metrolink View Post
    I also did a bit of research to see if TOFCs and COFCs (as opposed to well-cars) were even still in use (I'm modeling mid-1990s through present day). Apparently TOFCs are still quite common (e.g., UPS). So, I'm also starting to buy 20' piggybacks and 40' trailers on 52' flatcars with hitches. I basically build two, separate types of intermodal consists (with the assumption it's more prototypical): One, exclusively pulling 53' well-car double-stacks, and a second that's a mix of TOFCs and COFCs. Whomever said modern intermodal unit-trains are "boring" is nuts! This stuff is fascinating!
    Two pieces of advice:
    1) skip the 20 foot trailers. They have not really been used since the 1950s.
    2) except for dedicated "land bridge" trains, it has always been rare to see solid trains of nothing but trailers or containers

    Paul

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    I'd suggest you also steer away from the 52' TOFC flats. Those are also long out of use. For modern Intermodal you'd want 89' flats and/or spine cars.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dwwojcik View Post
    I'd suggest you also steer away from the 52' TOFC flats.
    I thought so. I only ended up buying just two, and they only cost as much as the trailer alone would've cost. Although, I thought I saw some UPS trailers on regular flat cars in a prototype photo somewhere. I did also see two 20' containers stacked under a single 40' container in some other prototype photos. So for modern intermodal, it's basically:

    • 53'-base well-cars: carrying either 53' (land-bridge), or 40' (ship-load) containers.
    • 40'-base well-cars: carrying 40' containers in its well, with 53' or 40' containers loaded on top.
    • 89' TOFCs: with trailer hitches to accommodate 40' trailers with rigging, or two bare 40' containers.
    • XX' spine-car with XX' trailer load.

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    Well there is a prototype for everything, so I wouldn't be surprised if you could find at least a 2 or 3 52' flatcars still in service. You can just say all two of them happened to be on the part of the line you model when the picture was taken.

    2 20' containers under a 40' is perfectly ok. It's just that you can't have 20' containers on top.

    Don't forget about 40' well cars. 45' and 48' well cars have fallen out of use since only 40' and 53' containers are used these days, but while 40' well cars can't carry 53' containers, they are lighter than 53' wells and are therefore more efficient for when only 40' containers are involved. But if you have a mix then 53' wells will work fine.

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