union_pacific_logoLike a train engineer blessed with good weather and clear tracks, Union Pacific has arrived ahead of schedule.

The railroad company’s $400 million intermodal facility in Santa Teresa broke ground in 2011, expecting to be operational in 2015. Instead the Omaha, Neb.-based company announced that it will have a grand opening ceremony on May 28, a year ahead of schedule.

Read the complete story at the Las Cruces Sun-News.

Train and engine employment on major U.S. railroads climbed by almost 7.5 percent in March 2011 to 62,627, versus March 2010, according to U.S. Surface Transportation Board data.

The 7.47 percent increase in train and engine employment is more than double the increase in any other craft.

The total Class I workforce totaled almost 156,000 in mid-March, up almost 4.5 percent from March 2010.

The increased headcount reflects the rise in carloadings — especially intermodal (trailer and containers atop flatcars) and an economy climbing out of recession.

Railroad intermodal (the movement of trailers and containers aboard flatcars) is poised to enter a “golden age,” reports the Journal of Commerce.

The magazine estimates that 2011 could set an intermodal shipment record, eclipsing the record 14.2 million trailers and containers hauled by rail in 2006. In 2010, railroads hauled 13.4 million trailers and containers.

For the six weeks ending Feb. 12, the Association of American Railroads reports trailer and container loads are running more than 7 percent ahead of the same period in 2010.

Given a spike in fuel prices owing to Mideast turmoil, and the fuel efficiency advantage of rail over truck, that surge is expected to continue.

UTU members employed by Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) have ratified two new four-year agreements affecting wages, benefits and working conditions.

Conductors, engineers, trainmen and yardmen ratified their tentative agreement by a 75 percent plurality, while Florida East Coast yardmasters represented by the UTU were unanimous in ratifying their new agreement.

Both agreements are retroactive to Jan. 1, 2009, extend through Dec. 31, 2012, and include retroactive pay.

UTU negotiators included General Chairperson John Hancock and Vice General Chairperson John Whitaker (both, GO 851), Local 903 Chairperson Jim Bush, and Local 1138 Chairperson Jim McCorkle. The UTU negotiating team was assisted by UTU International Vice President Robert Kerley.

Florida East Coast is a Class II, or regional, railroad, operating more than 350 miles of mainline track along Florida’s east coast. During 2010, the railroad completed 2,000 consecutive days of on-time service to UPS — a record for any transportation company serving the logistics giant. During that almost 5 1/2 year period, FEC delivered 125,000 on-time intermodal trailers and containers.

WASHINGTON — Rail traffic for the week ending Jan. 15 continued its upward climb, reports the Association of American Railroads.

Carloads were up by 7.5 percent compared with the same week in 2010, and intermodal (trailers and containers on flat cars) showed a gain of 5.8 percent over the same week in 2010.

The AAR reported that for the first two weeks of 2011, U.S. railroads reported an increase of 13.5 percent in carloads and 7.2 percent in intermodal.

Decades ago, the chairman of New York Central Railroad complained that while freight could move cross country without being transferred from one boxcar to another, transcontinental passengers often had to change trains in Chicago.

Even today, on Amtrak, passengers must change trains in Chicago.

A similar complaint is heard regarding intermodal passenger transportation — the separation of terminals for train and motor coach transportation. In Washington, D.C., for example, an intercity bus terminal is blocks from Union Station, which hosts Amtrak and commuter rail.

In St. Paul, Minn., the intermodal passenger problem is being solved.

The Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority has broken ground on a $243 million multi-modal transportation facility in St. Paul, reports progressiverailroading.com.

The city’s 1920s-era Union Depot train station is slated to bring together rail, bus, motor vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic by 2012, reports progressiverailroading.com. Local, state and federal funds are financing the project.

Amtrak intends to dispatch its Empire Builder through the renovated terminal, which will also serve as a transfer point for light-rail, Metro Transit and intercity bus service — and, eventually, be a hub for hoped-for high-speed trains between the Twin Cities and Chicago.

Rail traffic continued its torrid growth the first week of 2011, with the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reporting freight carloadings were up more than 20 percent versus the same week in 2010, and intermodal (trailers and containers on flat cars) were up almost 9 percent from the first week of 2010.

This comes on the heels of a banner year for freight railroads in 2010. The AAR said the combined increase in total annual carloads and intermodal in 2010 was equivalent to some 20,000 additional trains moving when compared with 2009.

U.S. Class I railroad traffic continued its growth trend through the Christmas holiday week, reports the Association of American Railroads.

Carloads were up almost 30 percent versus the same holiday week in 2009, and intermodal (trailers and containers on flat cars) was up more than 25 percent versus the same holiday week in 2009.

The AAR reported that for the first 51 weeks of 2010, carloads are up more than 7 percent and intermodal is up more than 14 percent over the first 51 weeks of 2009.

Shippers are increasingly abandoning all-truck movements for their freight in favor of rail intermodal (trailers and containers atop rail flat cars), reports the Journal of Commerce.

Journal of Commerce trucking editor Bill Cassidy writes, “Supermarkets and shopping malls don’t have rail sidings, truckers love to point out, but the intermodal industry is moving steadily closer to the store floor.”

Increased investments in improved port transfers and the growing fleet of 53-foot long domestic containers are creating what shippers call more “seamless” transportation — hence the move to intermodal, says the Journal of Commerce.

The Association of American Railroads reported last week that through the first 46 weeks of 2010, total intermodal loads are up 14.8 percent over a similar period in 2009. 

The Association of American Railroads reports that through the first 46 weeks of 2010, total intermodal loads (trailers and containers atop rail flat cars) are up 14.8 percent over a similar period in 2009.

Intermodal loads on Class I railroads doubled from some 6 million in 1990 to more than 12 million in 2007. Although the economic downturn saw intermodal loads retreat to fewer than 10 million in 2009, they have resumed their upward climb, according to AAR statistics.

Railroad intermodal traffic –- especially the movement of containers atop flat cars — is sizzling.

Responding to the growing demand, Union Pacific has ordered almost 10,000 new 53-foot containers this year, according to the Journal of Commerce. Additionally, reports the Journal of Commerce, UP has ordered 5,600 new wheeled chassis on which the containers travel to and from the railhead.

UP Chairman Jim Young told the Journal of Commerce he expects UP will set a record for container loads before year-end.