Sunday, March 4, 2012

Is Plodding Inevitable In the Railroad Industry?

E.Hunter Harris when he was President of the Canadian National Railroad expressed in 2008 that modern freight car equipment can be operated at 100 mph. He was speculating that at a future time regular 100 mph freight operations might be required between Toronto and Ottawa and Montreal in order to keep the railroad line open and fluid.

Freight trains at 100 mph? Harris indicated that roadbed improvements would be required to operate freight at 100 mph. See url:

Modern freight cars with roller bearing wheels and axles together with welded rail of appropriate curvature makes the idea possible.

So,  can coal hopper cars be operated at 100 mph? Yes, but the train would be of shorter length with a greater horsepower to ton ratio.

Why bother? Operating freight trains at faster speeds allows for greater productivity of line haul capacity. Given the inherent problems of dwell time lost in yards, improving line haul speed beyond where it is today does not make immediate sense. But, given the probability for greater future railroad capacity requirements, one way to gain more line haul capacity is for faster operation.

It is possible that future capacity constraints will require higher coal rates in order to operate faster high weight, low value loads to enable greater line haul flexibility.

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