Posts Tagged ‘railroad freight cars’

Lightweight Gondola Developed for NS

December 10, 2021

Norfolk Southern has teamed up with the Greenbrier Companies and United States Steel to develop a gondola that is being billed as built of more sustainable steel.

In a news release, NS said the car will be constructed by Greenbrier of lightweight, high-strength steel that was developed by U.S. Steel.

The Class 1 carrier called the use of such steel “a real revolution for rail cars.” Each gondola will weigh up to 15,000 pounds less than comparable cars when empty.

NS plans to acquire 800 of the gondolas for use in hauling metal scraps, coils, wood chips, steel slabs and ore.

Lightweight steel could be applied to other types of freight cars NS said. The news release said the railroad would recycle existing gondolas as new ones are placed in revenue service.

NS said the new gondolas use steel that is twice as strong as traditional steel used in the rail-car manufacturing process, which potentially could extend the useful life of each gondola to 50 years.

CSX Donates Historic NYC Hopper Car

April 20, 2021

A former New York Central covered hopper car is being preserved by the Conrail Historical Society and a Connecticut railroad museum.

The Flexi-Flow hopper car was built by ACF Industries in 1966 as one of 220 such cars.

A Flexi-Flow hopper allowed easy unloading of the contents by applying air pressure inside of the car.

The cars were typically used to haul cement or other dry bulk goods and helped railroads regain business that had been lost to trucks.

The 46-foot car will be donated by CSX to the Conrail historical group and displayed at the Danbury Railway Museum.

The museum is seeking donations to help restore the car and repaint it in its previous Conrail livery.

The Quest for Fallen Flags

January 21, 2017








The popularity of the heritage locomotives of Norfolk Southern can be explained by a number of factors, but chief among them is that they represent something that can’t be seen anymore and, in some instances, has never been seen by some.

Railroads that no longer exist under their original corporate identity are known as fallen flags because their “flag” has been folded and relegated to history.

Typically, for a few years after a railroad is acquired or loses its identity in a merger, rolling stock bearing the fallen flag’s name, logo and markings can be seen out on the line.

Repainting locomotives and freight cars can get expensive so it’s more economical to let the old look linger a while longer until a car or locomotive is due to go into the shop or is retired from the roster.

In the past couple years, I’ve been on the lookout for freight cars still bearing the long-since vanished identity of a previous owner.

Finding fallen flag cars takes patience and vigilance. Many fans tend to stop watching a train closely once the motive power has passed.

But if you keep observing, you might be rewarded if you have your camera ready and spring into action at a second’s notice.  That is not as easy as it might seem.

I present here a gallery of fallen flags that I found within the past couple of years.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Glimmer of Good News in Freight Car Report

July 21, 2016

A railroad industry analyst has found of glimmer of good news in the 2016 second quarter freight car order report of the Railway Supply Institute.

KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Steve Barger said the order, delivery and backlog statistics are “somewhat better than expected.”

train image2The report said that second quarter orders increased sequentially to 7,555 cars from 6,646 in the first quarter of this year.

Carbuilders delivered 15,655 railcars in the second quarter of 2016, which was a decrease from first quarter deliveries of 16,834 cars.

The freight car backlog is 89,155 units, which although down 6.2 percent from the 95,038 units of the first quarter is at historical highs.

Barger said there appears to be a replacement market that is experiencing modest growth.

Non-tank car orders totaled 4,363 units in the second quarter as opposed to 5,729 units in the first quarter.

Covered hoppers experienced the largest concentration in orders, totaling 2,017 rail cars, or about 27 percent of the total, below last quarter’s 51 percent, with mid-cube covered hoppers representing the majority of the orders at 1,286 cars, vs. 2,020 cars ordered in the first quarter.

Orders for large-cube and small-cube covered hoppers were 708 and 23 cars, respectively, as opposed to 1,335 and zero, respectively, for the first quarter.

Orders for tank cars were 3,192 units as opposed to 917 in the first quarter.

Tank cars and covered hoppers accounted for more than 69 percent of total orders in the second quarter against 64 percent last quarter.

Demand for New Rail Cars Falling

July 2, 2016

Falling coal and crude oil traffic has resulted in falling demand for new freight cars.

Economic Planning Associates said it expects a 33 percent decline in 2016 of new car deliveries.

train image2The group had earlier estimated the 30,000 new tank cars would be deliver, but has lowered that to 20,000 due to weakening railcar demand in the first quarter of the year.

There is now a backlog of 95,038 freight cars the group said.

“The railroads will shoulder a heavy commodities burden this year,” EPA said. “Coal and petroleum loadings have faltered considerably this year and will be slow in recovery. Intermodal traffic has also been weak. On a brighter side, we expect some improvement in grain, motor vehicles and chemical movements as we proceed through 2016 and into 2017.”

Demand for cars to haul coal is virtually nonexistent. Most of the 400 steel-bodied hopper cars ordered in the first quarter are ticketed to carry ore and aggregates.

No aluminum-body cars to haul coal were ordered.

EPA described the current energy environment as sluggish at best.

Freight Car Demand Remains High, Firm Says

August 5, 2015

This isn’t the best time to be in the business of building hopper cars that carry coal, but otherwise the demand for railroad freight cars remains at a high level.

Economic Planning Associates said in a recent forecast that freight car demand remains at a healthy level despite a sluggish economy and soft financial performances by the railroads.

The consulting firm said orders for rail equipment advanced from 15,952 units in the first quarter to 19,786 cars in the second quarter.

The backlog of cars stood at a robust level of 135,800 cars.

“Based on current assembly rates, there are 6.3 quarters of railcar production in the end of June backlogs, implying continued strong levels of assemblies for a number of quarters to come,” the firm said.

“While second quarter financial performances by the railroads were adversely affected by steep declines in coal traffic, we expect stronger economic activities to bolster railroad revenues and profits during the remainder of this year and throughout 2016. This will serve to support future demand for railcars.

“With the exception of coal cars, all other car types are expected to advance at a strong pace due to either expansion of traffic or replacements of aged equipment. Due to the weakness in coal cars and lower than anticipated first-half assemblies of boxcars and mill gondolas, we have moderately lowered 2015 deliveries to 86,000 railcars. Based on somewhat stronger orders and backlogs for other car types, we have raised our 2016 deliveries estimate to 81,800 cars. After 75,500 cars are assembled in 2017, deliveries will remain at the healthy annual level of some 73,000 to 74,000 cars through 2020.”

Boxcar demand is rising in the wake of a decision by leasing company TTX to upgrade a portion of its general service boxcar fleet, but demand from other companies has also been rising.

“In the past, we had noted that there seemed to be little support from individual investors or owners of boxcars other than TTX,” the firm said. “However, we now believe that some refrigerated boxcars were ordered in the second quarter by the railroads to upgrade their fleets. Based on the momentum in second quarter orders, modest production runs and first half backlogs, we are looking for deliveries of only 1,000 boxcars this year before a strong rebound to 3,000 cars in 2016.”

Economic Planning Associates also sees strong production for covered hoppers over the next five years.

But demand for cars that carry coal is nonexistent. “Industry sources inform us that the 1,271 GT steel gondolas ordered in the second quarter are destined for ore service while the 698 steel hopper cars ordered in the second quarter are primarily for aggregate service. The absence of any current demand for coal equipment is due to the dismal coal environment,” the firm said.

The analysis said that first quarter coal loadings was 3.2 percent below a similar period in 2014. Coal consumption by electric utilities declined 15 percent in the first quarter and utility stock piles of coal amounted to 155.5 million tons at the end of March, which was 37.2 million tons higher than the March 2014 level of 118.3 million tons.

Exports of coal were 18.6 percent below last year. Overall, the first half rail movements of coal were 9.4 this year compared with the first half of 2014.

Although intermodal traffic has been strong in 2015, Economic Planning Associates noted that no new orders were placed for articulated or non-articulated platforms and cars.

“Intermodal developments remain a dynamic element in the railroad environment,” the firm said. “Due to relatively weak manufacturing and export sectors, first-half intermodal haulings advanced only 2.7 percent as a 3.0 percent increase in container movements was dampened by a 0.1 percent advance in trailer traffic. However, we anticipate stronger expansion in intermodal movements as we proceed through the rest of this year and into 2016.

Demand for tank cars is moderating due to falling oil prices and volumes of crude oil being shipped by rail.

However, Economic Planning Associations remains optimistic about the long-term outlook

for U.S. oil production and rail movements of crude oil and petroleum products even as it is concerned with a decline in crude oil shipments by rail.

Shipping of oil by rail rose by 30.9 percent in 2013 and 12.7 percent in 2014, but fell 1.4 percent in the first half of 2015 compared with 2014.

“The current energy environment is sluggish, at best, and we had noted a slowing in second quarter orders and assemblies of tank cars. As a result, we are moderately lowering our 2015 tank car deliveries estimate from 40,000 to 38,000 cars. Next year, we still expect deliveries of 32,000 units.

“After 2016, demand for tank cars will be led by expanding oil production and will also be supported by replacements of certain cars. As such, we look for deliveries of some 30,000 tank cars each year from 2017 through 2020.”

Freight Cars Orders Rose in 4th Quarter of 2014

March 3, 2015

Demand for all types of freight cars is on the rise, but nearly half of the new cars to be delivered in 2015 are expected to be tank cars.

Economic Planning Associates expects 85,500 new freight cars and intermodal platforms this year with 40,000 of them being tank cars.

“Demand for rail cars continues to expand,” EPA’s Peter Toja wrote in his quarterly freight car forecast. “Orders for 37,431 cars and platforms in the fourth quarter of 2014 far outpaced deliveries of 18,491 units, sending end-of-2014 backlogs to a record 142,837 cars.

“As a result, car builders in 2015 are starting the year with formidable levels of cars set to be assembled this year and in the foreseeable future. Equally important, with the exception of coal cars, rail equipment demand is broad-based, as both expanding traffic and replacement pressures lifted the need for a variety of car types. And, the railroads are providing significant support to equipment demand.”

EPA analysts project that 80,500 cars will be delivered in 2016 with 75,800 cars being delivered in 2017. Through 2020, EPA expects new car deliveries to be 75,000 a year.

“During 2015, we look for continued high levels of commodity haulings and further growth in investments by the railroads,” Toja wrote.

“Our analyses of the major customer markets indicate that the investment plans are well-founded. We anticipate a modest growth in coal traffic and continued expansion in grain movements this year that will provide a major boost to rail commodity haulings.”

In the fourth quarter of 2014, car builders received orders for 14,964 tank cars, the highest since the first quarter of 2013.

Car builders thus entered 2015 with backlogs of 57,625 cars.

“On the regulatory front, car builders are responding to the Notice of Proposed Rule Making on hazardous material tank cars carrying crude oil and ethanol,” Toja wrote. “At issue here is the retrofitting or replacement of a number of DOT-111 tank cars as well as the most recently built CPC-1232 tank cars with enhancements to the bottom outlet value and pressure relief values that will reduce the likelihood of tank cars releasing contents in derailments.”

Analysts estimate that 90,000 to 100,000 tank cars currently in the fleet will be affected by increased safety regulations.

“Due to the rapid expansion in oil production and the lack of any significant pipeline additions, especially given the president’s recent veto of the Keystone XL Pipeline, rail will continue to benefit, and we anticipate strong annual deliveries of oil service tank cars throughout the forecast horizon,” Toja wrote.

“With railroads espousing the growth of petroleum movements, the possibility of overhauling a major portion of the fleet with newer equipment, and industry reports of expanding productive capacity among the carbuilders, we expect 2015 deliveries of 40,000 tank cars. Next year, we look for a moderation to 32,000 deliveries.

The demand for boxcars, which had slumped in recent years, is on the rise. Orders for 3,510 boxcars were placed in the third quarter of 2014 with 800 more cars ordered in the fourth quarter. Most of those boxcars are going to TTX, which is looking to upgrade its aging fleet.

However, there is little demand for boxcars from users other than TTX.

The EPA report did say that steady expansion in motor vehicle demand and production is leading to a revitalization of auto parts boxcars.

The demand for all types of covered hoppers continues to expand and hi-cube equipment posted gains in 2014.

The orders for 7,250 cars far outpaced deliveries of 2,449 units, sending backlogs from 5,689 at the beginning of 2014 to 10,490 cars at the end of the year.

EPA said that industry sources continue to point toward plastic pellet and chemical demand for hi-cube equipment.

“Due to the strength in current backlogs and the anticipation of continued growth in the corn to ethanol process, which will keep DDG demand on a high note, we look for deliveries of some 4,500 hi-cube covered hoppers this year and 5,000 cars in 2016. From 2017 through 2020, deliveries will be in the range of 4,000-4,500 cars per year,” Toja wrote.

“Given the strength in grain exports last year, orders for grain service cars rose to 11,937 units in 2014, far outpacing assemblies of 4,481 cars. As a result, backlogs at the end of the year amounted to 9,856 cars, 3.8 times above the opening-year level of 2,600 units.

“Based on higher opening year backlogs, we expect 2015 deliveries of mid-sized hoppers to amount to 5,500 cars, followed by deliveries of 6,000 units in 2016. From 2017 through 2020, deliveries will average 6,000 cars per year.

“Demand for small-cube covered hoppers continues to astound us. Full year 2014 orders amounted to 49,809 cars, far ahead of the annual assemblies of 13,402 units. As a result, carbuilders will open 2015 with unprecedented backlogs of 39,835 cars. Based on these backlogs and rising production schedules, we look for assemblies of 17,500 cars this year and 17,000 cars in 2016.”

Demand for hoppers to haul coal remains lacklustre with just 16 cars orders in the fourth quarter of 2014 and a backlog of a “paltry” 1,853 going into 2015.

“Nonetheless, there are limited bright spots for coal in the next few years,” the EPA report said. “During the winter, American Electric Power pressed into service several of its older coal-burning generating units targeted for retirement in a few years, in order to comply with new federal Environmental Protection Agency rules. Indeed, a full 87 percent of those soon to be shuttered coal units needed to operate to help maintain electric grid reliability when the mercury plummeted across the region.

“Based on extremely low backlogs, we expect deliveries of only 2,500 coal cars this year. Next year, we look for deliveries of 3,500 units, mostly replacements.

A brighter spot was the demand for intermodal equipment. After three consecutive quarterly increases, orders for articulated equipment expanded fourth quarter of 2014.

Backlogs at the end of 2014 had increased to 12,251 units, almost 15 times the beginning-year level of 825 platforms.

“Based on the gathering momentum in demand, we look for deliveries of 7,500 intermodal units this year and 10,000 units in 2016. Longer term, we continue to anticipate strong steady expansion in deliveries. From 12,000 units in 2017, we look for deliveries of 15,000 cars and platforms in 2020,” Toja wrote.