Posts Tagged ‘RoadRailer trains’

RoadRailer Rambles

July 19, 2020

An eastbound Norfolk Southern RoadRailer train passes through downtown Cleveland on Aug. 6, 1989.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s the Norfolk Southern RoadRailer was sort of the in thing as the heritage units are currently.

I was never able to see the Conrail or Union Pacific RoadRailers and missed an opportunity to see the CSX rendition. We were set up in Kentucky to catch the CSX RoadRailer train led by the F-units but it was out of service on this day.

However I did have good luck with NS and  here are some of my favorite catches.

Article and Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Crossing the Grand River in Painesville on April 16, 1989.

Soaring over Conneaut Creek and the Bessemer & Lake Erie tracks in Conneaut on April 16, 1989.

In Bellevue on April 30, 1989.

In April 1989 the former Nickel Plate still crossed the former Wheeling & Lake Erie in Bellevue on a diamond.

At Spring City, Tennessee, on June 28, 1989.

Going into the siding at Conneaut on Aug. 12, 1989, as a westbound steam special waits.

Once Upon a Time in Orrville

May 14, 2018

A westbound Conrail RoadRailer cruises through Orrville on June 12 1995, during the then-named Depot Days of the Orrville Railroad Heritage Society. The view is from the steps of Orr Tower.

The last sentence of a news release issued by the Orrville Railroad Heritage Society noted that the upcoming open house to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Orrville Union Depot will not feature train or track car rides.

That was probably placed there because in the past track car rides and a short train ride were a part of a day-long festival that centered on the station that once served the Pennsylvania Railroad.

But all of that began to go away a few years ago when some ORHS passenger cars being ferried back home by the Wheeling & Lake Erie derailed while on Norfolk Southern tracks in Bellevue.

The W&LE subsequently banned excursion trains from its rails and evicted the ORHS from a siding track in Orrville.

I may or may not get down to the depot anniversary event on Saturday, May 19. If I do, it will be to indulge in a little bit of nostalgia.

Back in the 1990s the ORHS used to sponsor what it called Depot Days. Aside from track car and train rides, the depot was open along with the restored Orr Tower.

Conrail usually sent a locomotive that was on static display and visitors were allowed to visit the cab.

In those days Conrail had a fair level of traffic through Orrville, much of it coming off the Indianapolis Line at Crestline and taking the Fort Wayne Line that ran through Orrville.

You could count on seeing a couple of intermodal trains in late morning and manifest freights at intervals throughout the day.

Much of that traffic ended after CSX and NS divided Conrail in 1999. There were no more visiting locomotives and the level of train traffic greatly diminished.

The event itself was renamed Railroad Days and moved to August. But the train rides and track car rides continued and at times the W&LE would have a visiting locomotive to view.

This week’s event will be but a shadow of what used to be. You can sit in Orrville for hours now before a train comes through.

But there will always be memories of what once was.

Already Forgotten?

February 20, 2016

Triple Crown in the Falls

It is has been merely a matter of a few months, but it seems as though Norfolk Southern RoadRailers have been gone for years.

They used to be a common sight during railfan outings in Northeast Ohio, but changing economic conditions prompted NS to shut down all but one route for its Triple Crown subsidiary, which offered the RoadRailer service.

In the end NS was the last railroad to offer RoadRailer service. Shown above is an eastbound RoadRailer train passing through Olmsted Falls on Sept. 24, 2011.

Photograph by Craig Sanders

Consultant Laments the Near End of RoadRailers

November 30, 2015

A railroad industry consultant believes that Norfolk Southern decided to reduce the scope of its RoadRailer operations because it felt uncomfortable being the only railroad to continue to embrace the technology.

Larry Gross told Trains magazine that had other railroads continued to operate RoadRailers then NS might have followed suit.

Instead, NS this month scaled back its RoadRailer operations to one lane, which carries automotive parts between Detroit and Kansas City.

Gross, who has been involved with the RoadRailer program since the 1980s told the magazine that RoadRailers worked best for shorter hauls.

He said they were ideal for the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast, and were well-suited for moving such freight as auto parts

However, as railroads focused more on hauling longer, heavier trains the RoadRailer train became an outlier, Gross said.

Gross, who described himself as a “true believer” in the RoadRailer concept, said that the NS decision to do away with most RoadRailer lanes represents a “missed opportunity” for the industry.

NS operated its RoadRailer service under the Triple Crown brand. Many NS RoadRailer trains that ran through Northeast Ohio had originally been Conrail trains.

Other railroads that operated RoadRailer service for a time included CSX, Amtrak and BNSF.

When it announced that it was doing away with most RoadRailer trains, NS said it would incorporate that traffic into general intermodal services.

The Triple Crown subsidiary of NS was based in Fort Wayne, Indiana. About 200 Triple Crown employees are expected to be out of work as a result of the restructuring.

RoadRailers were specialty trailers that did not need to be loaded onto a flat car. Although the technology dates to the 1950s, the concept did not take off until the 1980s.

Conrail and NS launched Triple Crown Services in 1986. The service moved 5,000 trailer loads during its first year, but by 2007 had grown to 294,000 loads a year.

Last NS RoadRailer Passes Through NE Ohio

November 19, 2015

Online reports indicate that Norfolk Southern’s RoadRailer trains made their last pass through Northeast Ohio on Tuesday.

No. 261, the last westbound RoadRailer, was led by NS 6782 and had a Union Pacific unit trailing.

A few photographers got out to make photographs of the last RoadRailer trains and posted them on

This included one fellow who flew his drone over the Triple Crown yard in Sandusky. Reportedly, this facility will be closed.

There has been speculation that some RoadRailer equipment may pass through in a positioning move now that regular service has ended.

NS announced earlier that it was phasing all out RoadRailer trains except those operating between Detroit and Kansas City.

NS to Cut RoadRailer Service to 1 Route

September 19, 2015

In recent years trackside scuttlebutt among railfans has been that Norfolk Southern was going to get out of the RoadRailer business.

It isn’t going to quite happen that way, but NS did announce on Friday that it plans to pare its RoadRailer operations to one route that will carry automobile parts between Detroit and Kansas City.

Other routes served by RoadRailers will be converted to container trains. In the process, NS expects to lay off by the end of the year about 200 of the 240 employees working for Triple Crown Services, which oversees the RoadRailer service.

NS said in a statement that the affected employees will be eligible for severance pay, job placement assistance and opportunities to apply for positions at NS.

“This change is a natural evolution in the business,” said NS Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Alan H. Shaw. “We want to retain the best of TCS in specific markets, with efficient door-to-door logistics and award-winning customer service.”

RoadRailers are reinforced tractor-trailer boxes that can ride atop a single railroad truck.

The concept has been around since the 1960s, but has failed to gain traction at most railroads, with NS being one of the exceptions. Triple Crown is the last major carrier to use RoadRailer trailers.

When CN Ran RoadRailers

February 9, 2013

Northern Ohio railfans are spoiled by Norfolk Southern’s Triple Crown RoadRailer trains. Several of them go through in each direction daily and Triple Crown has been a success story for almost three decades.

Many other railroads have tried and failed with RoadRailer service. Union Pacific, BNSF, CSX and even Amtrak have all tried at one time or another.

Canadian National also tried out RoadRailer service in the early 2000s. A Chicago-Toronto service was tried and eventually failed, ironically, because of success elsewhere. This service lasted barely six months, but I was able to document it on several occasions.

The eastbound RoadRailer came through the sleepy township of Granger, Ind., (near South Bend) around 6 p.m. every day.

Initially, the trains were short with a locomotive and five to six RoadRailers. The consists became larger toward the end of the service.

CN also ran a Toronto-Montreal RoadRailer and when a customer wanted to expand this route CN cancelled the Chicago train in order to use the equipment.

In the end, all RoadRailer service went away because CN management never really supported the RoadRailers.

Still, it was interesting while it lasted and is a reminder to get out and photograph what you can see today because it may soon be gone tomorrow.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

Amtrak RoadRailers trailing the “Late Shore Limited” in Indiana. It was “only” six hours late on this day.

Amtrak RoadRailers trailing the “Late Shore Limited” in Indiana. It was “only” six hours late on this day.

A former Chesapeake & Ohio RoadRailer, which is now a shed in Detroit. C&O was the first railroad to use the RoadRailer concept. Two or three of these RoadRailers would trail a regular a passenger train.

A former Chesapeake & Ohio RoadRailer, which is now a shed in Detroit. C&O was the first railroad to use the RoadRailer concept. Two or three of these RoadRailers would trail a regular a passenger train.

A Taste of Winter Railroading

January 28, 2013

Roger Durfee was sitting in his “office” when a Norfolk Southern RoadRailer came along. Being an avid photographer, he picked up his camera and made a photograph of it.

Of course, his office is the cab of a locomotive of an NS local freight that was sitting near CP 107 on the Cleveland Line.

RoadRailer train – symbol 261 – kicks up some snow as it plunges through the bitterly cold weather that gripped Northeast Ohio last week. But it’s all in a day’s work on the railroad, where wintery conditions are just one more variable to deal with in a day’s work.

Photograph by Roger Durfee