UP Ending Reefer Service to East Coast

The “salad shooter” is no more.

Union Pacific plans to close its Cold Connect reefer service, which had provided truck-competitive transit times for perishable produce between California and the Pacific Northwest with the Northeast via a dedicated train that ran east of Chicago on CSX through Cleveland.

Cold Connect, which is part of UP’s Loup Logistics subsidiary, informed employees on Friday that it would cease operations after the last loads are delivered.

The produce shipments originated as unit trains from UP terminals in Delano, California, and Wallula, Washington, that were combined in Wyoming and handed off to CSX in Chicago.

CSX delivered the trains, typically operating as symbols Q090 and Q091, to a warehouse in Rotterdam, New York, near Albany.

The produce was unloaded at Rotterdam Sunday through Thursday nights and delivered from there by truck to points in the Northeast and New England.

Last year UP shifted the reefers into its merchandise train network, a move CSX also made after it, too, shifted to the precision scheduled railroading operating model.

In a statement, UP attributed the closing of Cold Connect service to with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting volume and truck prices.

“It is no longer sustainable to continue operations,” UP said in the statement without further elaborating.

The reefer shipments began in 2006 with Railex, which UP acquired in January 2017. The trains almost always operated with Union Pacific motive power although in recent years they could have CSX locomotives east of Willard.

UP has at various times spoken of the service as successful and indicated it planned to expand the Cold Connect network.

As recently as January this year, UP executives were speaking of how the carrier had gained market share in the food and beverage shipment business because its consistent service allowed the railroad to better compete with trucks.

UP provided real-time GPS-based tracking on each pallet shipped and was able to make door-to-door delivery in seven or eight days.

Trucks take two days longer to make the same trip largely due to a 2017 electronic logbook rule implemented to enforce hours of service regulations for drivers.

At times the reefers in the service returned to the West Coast with hard cider, beer, and wine loaded in Rotterdam.

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