• Can it be done better?

  • General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.
General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.

Moderator: Robert Paniagua

  by David Benton
Amtrak has all those MHC cars lying around doing nothing . seems hard to believe theres not demand for some kind of overnite Boston -Washington express parcel service . Though they may want to have cars that are faster to unload , full lenght curtainside for e.g .
  by 2nd trick op
One has to recognize that both parcel and express services are subject to both extreme fluctuations in both the volume and makeup of demand, and high expectations on the part of the customer. That's probably why so many attempts to organize them have failed.

"Express" service originally grew out of private companies such as Adams Express and Wells Fargo, but there were any number of gaps and interfaces in the service that didn't always allow it to function efficiently. Furthermore, much of the demand for the service was in gritty urban working-class neighborhoods where local organized crime could exert some influence as to who got the business.

The various services were consolidated into the Railway Express Agency, a consortium owned by the participating railroads with the shares apportioned by the volume of business. But again, the high cost of the infrastructure and overhead doomed Railway Express to the role of a white elephant.


United Parcel Service, the first success story in this field, began to evolve in the 1950's. Relatively little published information is available as to the details of operation in the early years. But it's worth noting thats its first successful operations were in the midwest rather than the large Northeastern cities, and a friend of mine who grew up in an urban atmosphere where petty corruption was more readily accepted, used to say that "the Mafia got out of that business because it was just no longer worth the trouble".

Latecomers like Federal Express and DHL got in by other routes of approach. FedEx was high-value air-oriented from the start, building everything around its Memphis hub; DHL arose from a union between an American operation which began operations oriented toward moving documents, and the well-established European forwarder Danzas. It is now headquartered in Germany, but does a large volume of domestic business exclusively within the U S.

Likewise, Roadway Express, for many years one of the best-known American intercity truckers, tried to enter the parcel business as RPS, but later sold the service to FedEx Ground, which evolved in part from Harrison, Ark.-based American Freightways.

And as for Adams Express and Wells Fargo, both survive today, but only as providers of financial services. Railway Express, on the other hand, went out of business in the mid-1970's after a last fling as a common-carrier trucker.

The whole point being, package service is a very demanding and complicated business, and a very costly one to enter. That's why the freight roads leave it to UPS, et. al.
Last edited by 2nd trick op on Sat Jan 12, 2008 10:59 am, edited 3 times in total.

  by D.Carleton
I was doing some research the other day and calculated the combined population of the state of Connecticut, the five boroughs and Long Island to be roughly 15 million persons. This would be about equal to the population of the state of Florida or 5% of the total national population. So it is of interest that, although there remains substantial rail infrastructure on either side of the Hudson River, there is still no rail connection in between. I would wholeheartedly agree that a lack of efficient freight transportation is a major contributing factor to the high cost of living in this demographic. How high does the price of diesel fuel need to reach before a tunnel under the Upper Bay becomes financially feasible? Mind you I'm not talking about parcel or express type service. I'm wondering just how we’re going to continue to reasonably and realistically deliver food to these people.

  by neroden
Well, there is this long-standing proposal for a Cross-Harbor Rail Tunnel from New Jersey (which has plenty of freight rail capacity, and ports) to Long Island, plus an intermodal terminal in Long Island.

I don't think that will ever be privately funded, unless the road bridges and tunnels across the Hudson stop allowing trucks.

Likewise, a restoration of one of the lower Hudson River rail bridges might more effectively move freight to Connecticut and the Bronx, but as long as there's relatively cheap road bridges, nobody's going to bother. Easier to transfer it to truck in New Jersey and pay the tolls (and don't pay for the pollution).

This means it really has to be funded by government. So it's a matter of public policy again.
  by 2nd trick op
There are essentially only two truck routes onto Long Island: I-80 to the George Washington Bridge, then the Long Island Expressway, and a combination of the Goethals and Verazanno Bridges, then the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Tolls on the Port Authority bridges run from $27 to $40 (round-trip) and a similar amount can likely be added for the Verazanno crossing.

Even before the vulnerability of this arrangement in the Age of Terrorism can be addressed, it's worth noting that the reorganized New York Cross Harbor rail system has apparently found its niche, and could likely be expanded without large investments in new technology.

The carfloat operations which were a prominent feature of New York Harbor until the 1960s's deteriorated due to a wide variety of factors, but the mergers and reorganization of the weakened eastern trunk lines were likely the largest single component. Once the New Haven was absorbed into Penn Central, most of the freight could be diverted via Selkirk Yard, near Albany.

Passenger ferry traffic has already undergone a modest revival, and it appears that the high labor cost of a maritime operation can be negotiated into a reasonable compromise. Perhaps our Homeland Security planners should investigate the possibility of rehabilitating and mothbolling a few extra tugs, barges, and float bridges as a backup system.