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Transporting Goods by Train

How to save energy through both societal and individual actions.

Transporting Goods by Train

Unread postby mekrob » Thu 05 Jan 2006, 17:13:21

I'm pretty sure we all know that getting our goods to us requires a great deal of energy, mostly in a form which is a derivative of oil. Many also argue that when supplies get tight, we will be able to save alot of energy by switching from our transportation medium of goods from trucks to trains and how this is more efficient. Well, Wal-Mart is probably one of the most efficient companies in the world. They slash benefits, wages, costs, pretty much anything to get efficiency up. So if trains are so much better than trucks efficiency-wise, they how come Wal-Mart still transports all of their goods by truck? Have they tried to convert in the past? Are they currently trying?
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Re: Transporting Goods by Train

Unread postby emersonbiggins » Thu 05 Jan 2006, 17:21:41

Good question, Mekrob. Two major reasons prevent Wal-Mart from receiving shipments to its stores by rail:

1) Most Wal-Mart stores are not built near railways, so a medium would have to haul goods between the freight terminal and the store. Quite literally, a 'truck' would have to do this work. Rather than using rail as an afterthought in this case, Wal-Mart would rather take advantage of cheap road networks and use its own logistics services, which leads us into...

2) Trucking, as an industry, is very good at delivering the 'just-in-time' inventory that Wal-Marts depend upon; rail is somewhat less effective for time-sensitive shipping. However, the convenience of trucking obviously comes at a great cost, chiefly the industry's notorious damage inflicted upon the highway system, with inadequate compensation paid for said damage. Taxpayers eventually bear these costs, along with all the other costs of maintaining such an elaborate 'free' road system, and this keeps the cost of trucking artificially low, when compared to rail, which has to construct, maintain and pay for its own facilities.
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Re: Transporting Goods by Train

Unread postby Daryl » Thu 05 Jan 2006, 17:49:32

One of the reasons you see alot of factories built on rivers and lakes is because the waterway is used to transport the finished products to market. Similarly, alot of industry is built very close to major railroads and a small connecter rail line is built up to the factory, also to facilitate transport. With modern times and the evolution of the trucking/interstate system, much new industrial develpment has grown away from these traditional transportation nodes. Just like the way modern low density suburbs have developed with the increase use of the automobile. Any massive move to rail transport and mass transit it going to be extremely wrenching for many, many areas. Without autos and trucks, a huge number industrial sites, retail sites and residential communities will become totally unviable. Emerson's point about the costs of maintaining roads is valid. It would not suprise me to see major chunks of the interstate system completely abandoned over time. Would be nice to see some high speed maglev trains built on some the old interstate sites.
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Re: Transporting Goods by Train

Unread postby emersonbiggins » Thu 05 Jan 2006, 17:58:45

Daryl wrote:Without autos and trucks, a huge number industrial sites, retail sites and residential communities will become totally unviable. Emerson's point about the costs of maintaining roads is valid. It would not suprise me to see major chunks of the interstate system completely abandoned over time. Would be nice to see some high speed maglev trains built on some the old interstate sites.


Good points, Daryl. With the end of cheap oil, so goes the notion of an endless motoring utopia, as Kunstler would say. Once the highways collapse, so goes Wal-Mart's business paradigm as well.
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Re: Transporting Goods by Train

Unread postby Cynus » Thu 05 Jan 2006, 18:00:59

I recently drove acroos New Mexico and Arizona and was astounded to see the neverending stream of long freight trains barrelling through the desert. I surmised that they must be shipping goods from China via Los Angeles or San Diego to the interior of the country--maybe to some central distrubution point where the containers were shifted to truck. In time I would expect to see more and more distribution points to enable shorter and shorter truck miles. I'm probably not the only one as train stocks have been doing quite well for a while now.
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Re: Transporting Goods by Train

Unread postby emersonbiggins » Thu 05 Jan 2006, 18:09:54

Here's how I see the future laying out:

1) Increased train freight will put pressure on all levels of government to expand the nation's freight rail networks. Dwindling fuel tax revenue will prevent further expansion of the interstate system and the scarce resources that exist will be concentrated in areas where rail is ineffective. The interstate system will be tolled, if it is to maintain any level of current service. Since the concept of 'free roads' is so engrained in the minds of Americans, I think many would rather face a severe deterioration of interstate facilities, rather than see them tolled. All the while taxes on everything else are going up, of course...

2) 'Just-in-time' inventory and the '3,000 mile Caesar Salad' will be a thing of the past. Relocalization warrants a downscaling of national and international operations into more sensible, workable configurations. Chain stores like Wal-Mart, Target will either adapt accordingly or go out of business. Surviving chains are likely to thrive, especially if a movement towards walkable, transit-based communities pans out. These stores and facilities will be largely serviced by rail, with a local intermodal presence that transfers goods onto/off of smaller derivatives of our 26' box trucks that haul Coke and Coors these days. These smaller, more sensible trucks do not require elaborate street designs in order to accommodate their size, as current 70'+ configurations do.
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Re: Transporting Goods by Train

Unread postby Cynus » Thu 05 Jan 2006, 18:24:02

So here's a model for future business success:
1. Buy up old empty retail establishments in downtowns of cities and towns serviced by freight depots.
2. Buy some small hybrid/electric/biodiesel trucks to move goods from depot to the store.
3. Laugh all the way to the bank.
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Re: Transporting Goods by Train

Unread postby emersonbiggins » Thu 05 Jan 2006, 18:35:21

Cynus wrote:So here's a model for future business success:
1. Buy up old empty retail establishments in downtowns of cities and towns serviced by freight depots.
2. Buy some small hybrid/electric/biodiesel trucks to move goods from depot to the store.
3. Laugh all the way to the bank.


Yeah, basically. After all, we're turning back the clock - all the way back before we had developed uses for cheap oil like trucking and easy auto commuting. Not that we're searching for 'Pleasantville' or anything... :P
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Re: Transporting Goods by Train

Unread postby Wildwell » Thu 05 Jan 2006, 18:45:35

Wal-mart probably does have goods going by rail, somewhere in the logistics chain. America has 42% of inter-city freight on trains. A lot of this traffic will be on intermodal trains, piggy back or the container system. Local distribution would be by truck though.

In fact I’ll put money on they do, because their UK arm ASDA moves freight by rail from east coast ports to the midlands.

But the above poster is quite correct in posting that since the highway system has grown up, a lot of business has tended to build warehouses systems around that, really because of the flexibility it offers and the ‘just in time’ delivery schedules and of course cheap oil. As I’ve pointed out before the highway system is paid for by cars in the main, which allows trucks to run at lower prices than otherwise would be the case.
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Re: Transporting Goods by Train

Unread postby emersonbiggins » Thu 05 Jan 2006, 18:52:28

Wildwell wrote:Wal-mart probably does have goods going by rail, somewhere in the logistics chain. America has 42% of inter-city freight on trains.


Here's a graph showing the types of freight on railroads. WM-type finished goods account for a very minor percentage of overall freight. Most freight, in fact, is either raw, bulk materials or chemicals.

Image

My guess is that finished goods will comprise a greater percentage of an overall increase in rail freight in the future, especially as the interstate system falls into disrepair.
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Re: Transporting Goods by Train

Unread postby Daryl » Thu 05 Jan 2006, 19:12:25

Also, don't listen to the doomernomics disciples on these boards. Most of what I am hearing sounds very good and very healthy for the US economy. Nuclear power plants, wind farms, rail systems, transit systems, resurgent local agriculture, resurgent local manufacturing, hydro projects, booming inner cities, some exburbs forming the nucleus of new cities, more efficent and productive electric transport vrs oil based transport. Don't worry about the international money flows and theoretical debt imbalances. That's just the way the global economy is structured now and it will continue on that way. Everyone's so interlocked these days, if someone tried to unilaterally pull out or alter it, it would be like mutually assured destruction. Globalization is the MAD of the 21st Century. That's why there won't be any large scale resource wars also. Now get out of your darkened basements and let's get to work!!!!!
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Re: Transporting Goods by Train

Unread postby frankthetank » Tue 10 Jan 2006, 01:16:59

I don't know about all rail lines, but the ones hauling coal aren't able to keep up with shipments are theres talk of building 200+ miles of track in the N. Plains to ship WY coal. Sometimes when i'm hiking i have to wait for trains to pass to cross...I always see trains full of lumber...mostly from Canada.
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Re: Transporting Goods by Train

Unread postby emersonbiggins » Tue 10 Jan 2006, 01:37:14

frankthetank wrote:I don't know about all rail lines, but the ones hauling coal aren't able to keep up with shipments are theres talk of building 200+ miles of track in the N. Plains to ship WY coal. Sometimes when i'm hiking i have to wait for trains to pass to cross...I always see trains full of lumber...mostly from Canada.


Imagine all that coal being transported by truck. 8O
Why, the government would have to build and dedicate an entire highway just for that...
-OR-
just build a new rail line instead. :grin:
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Re: Transporting Goods by Train

Unread postby apocolyptica » Thu 26 Jan 2006, 07:15:24

some of you are overly optimistic sorry to have top say that but lets be honest do you really see the people around you banding together to do anything @daryl
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Re: Transporting Goods by Train

Unread postby Doly » Thu 26 Jan 2006, 07:55:54

Daryl wrote:Everyone's so interlocked these days, if someone tried to unilaterally pull out or alter it, it would be like mutually assured destruction. Globalization is the MAD of the 21st Century.


I wish I was so certain of that. I'm not so sure that there isn't any minor player that has nothing to lose and something to win from calling the US debt bluff.
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Re: Transporting Goods by Train

Unread postby Starvid » Thu 26 Jan 2006, 08:22:51

Often train transport is discounted on the basis it make just-in-time delivery impossible. This is a myth. Trains can and do work even with a just-in-time system.

Volvo is praised for punktlig 8 on the track
The transport company Volvo Logistics is praised of the the European transport organisation EIA for your transport investment off car parts on railway through five countries with a punktlighet [punctuality] on over 95 percents.
Punktligt on the track
Twice about the day, five days in the week go processions average Sweden and the Netherlands, with parts from factories in Olofström, Umeå and Gothenburg to the composition factory in direct.

The procession goes in a rutt that describes a 8, where the waist lies in Älmhult. Processions from the three Swedish towns meet in Älmhult, to be linked together to entire processions, and is transported of Green Cargo to Malmö. There takes Danish Railion over, crosses Denmark via the bridges, leaves over to German and finally to Dutch Railion.

In direct sees one to that the processions with stools and containers once more backspaces to Älmhult. In this “the eighth grade”, that is a part in Volvos Just-in - time - production, follows the goods trains the timetable to over 95 percents, which impressed on the organisation European Intermodal association, that gave Volvo Logistics pinch at the end of the previous year.

The price has now also been noticed of the German railway company Deutsche Bahn, owners to conveyance of goods island clean Schenker Automotive Rail Net, that is responsible for a big part of the transport.

Through transporting just over 50000 containers and 4800 vagnslaster a year on railway relieves Volvo the European road network. Also this impressed on EIA.

Volvo Logistics is an independent transport company that deals with transports to as well Fordägda passenger car producing clean Volvo Cars as the Swedish truck producer Volvo Ltd.

http://nyteknik.se/art/44248
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Re: Transporting Goods by Train

Unread postby TommyJefferson » Sat 28 Jan 2006, 11:57:10

Daryl wrote:Also, don't listen to the doomernomics disciples on these boards. ...Don't worry about the international money flows and theoretical debt imbalances.


I hope you are correct Daryl. The 8 Trillion dollar US National Debt scares me a LOT.

On a personal level, I have begun riding my motorcycle to city centers around Texas and examining their rail facilities. They are in dirty, unsafe downtown areas.

I think a good long-term investment could be to purchase now-decrepit real estate in areas near rail freight depots.

I'm not clear on this, but I envision myself renting these properties to people who wish to serve the passenger rail market.

Would that be a good investment? My understanding is that rail transportation could be the wave of the future because that mode is so much more energy efficient. Is my thinking correct?
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Re: Transporting Goods by Train

Unread postby Daryl » Sat 28 Jan 2006, 12:32:28

TommyJefferson wrote:
Daryl wrote:Also, don't listen to the doomernomics disciples on these boards. ...Don't worry about the international money flows and theoretical debt imbalances.


I hope you are correct Daryl. The 8 Trillion dollar US National Debt scares me a LOT.

On a personal level, I have begun riding my motorcycle to city centers around Texas and examining their rail facilities. They are in dirty, unsafe downtown areas.

I think a good long-term investment could be to purchase now-decrepit real estate in areas near rail freight depots.

I'm not clear on this, but I envision myself renting these properties to people who wish to serve the passenger rail market.

Would that be a good investment? My understanding is that rail transportation could be the wave of the future because that mode is so much more energy efficient. Is my thinking correct?



Well. I'm not a starry eyed economic optimist. But if people are going to worry about these things, they should take some time to become more informed about them. Some statistics are misleading, particularly the use of gross figures that aren't presented in the proper perspective. If you want to learn about global economic imbalances, don't read Heinberg and Kunstler. Here are a couple of good links to get started

http://www.rgemonitor.com/blog/setser/
http://www.econbrowser.com/

Also, here's a paste of a post I made in another thread. (Iranian Oil Bourse discussion).

http://currentaccount.lafollette.wisc.edu/academic.htm

Another good solid link for anybody who has been reading this thread. Understanding the nature of global financial imbalances is at the root of this discussion. A full reading of the academic papers on this site is recommended. Of particluar interest is the paper "Current Account: Fact and Fiction". It is a fairly exhaustive attempt to debunk the omnipresent Cassandra warnings that constitute the established economic conventional wisdom these days.
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Re: Transporting Goods by Train

Unread postby Daryl » Sat 28 Jan 2006, 12:39:44

Oh, and very solid idea to buy property near rail stations. Also, there are alot of "new urbanism" mixed use residential/commercial developments going in the dilapidated downtown areas of cities like Atlanta, Phoenix and Dallas. Very good real estate investment also.
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Re: Transporting Goods by Train

Unread postby oilfreeandhappy » Mon 30 Jan 2006, 21:15:02

I think it's a good idea to invest near these older rail hubs, but I don't think it will be a sure thing. If newer high speed rail systems are implemented, they may not use the existing tracks.
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