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Old January 31st, 2010, 12:37 PM   #121
Coccodrillo
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Originally Posted by mgk920 View Post
Didn't Spain recently begin a project to regauge its 1668 mm network to 1435 mm?

Anyways, I am aware that some of the trains that cross between France and Spain have 'switch on the fly' dual-gauge wheelsets. I wonder why that isn't done between the 1435 mm and 1520 mm networks.

Mike
There are two system to cross a gauge border:
- variable gauge axles, very expensive: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variable_gauge
- changing the whole bogeis, cheaper but slower

The first system is used mainly in Spain (between 1435 and 1520 there are only some tests) and mainly for passenger trains.

The second system is used on both gauge borders (Spain-France 1668-1435 and 1435-1520). A freight train wait until 24 hours at the French-spanish border to change bogies, also because these yards are very small, and in the case of Cerbère-Port Bou yards they can't be enlarged because they are built in two valleys between mountains.

Spain still wants to convert all the network to standard gauge, but it will not do that until all the high-speed lines are completed.

If they don't convert it freight rail traffic in Spain will always be irrilevant: the most used railway line in Spain (except suburban networks and HSL) doesn't exceed 100 trains per day (compared to 200 to 400 on other mainlines in Europe), and most Spanish lines have less than 40 trains per day (both passenegr and freight, including the Madrid-ABrcellona non-HSL line).

It is instead impossible to convert the Russian gauge network as it is enormous (250.000 km/160.000 miles versus 15.000 km/10.000 miles of the iberian gauge network).

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Originally Posted by hammersklavier View Post
1) Are the on-the-fly gauge changing stations in Iberia only possible because of the unique nature of the Talgo trucks* on which Iberian trains run? That is, is it possible to build those types of stations at gauge changes between standard and Russian gauges where Talgo trucks predominate on neither side?
Variable gauge trains are now quite easy to construct. The problem is that they are very expensive. A couple of variable gauge bogies for a single freight wagon may cost arount 80.000-100.000 €, that is 150.000 $ (approximatively). Also there may be a limit on axle load on these variable gaueg bogies.

Talgo and Bombardier are building a sort of universal high speed train that can run on two gauges, two types of current (3 and 25 kV) and also with a diesel generator. Both locomotives and coaches can change gauge, and this is done while the train is running at 20 km/h.

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Originally Posted by hammersklavier View Post
For example, there has been enormous debate involving the gauge of the planned TEN-T line from Tallinn to Warsaw, a freight axis which is supposed to connect these nations (Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia) into the Western European rail network. How are these nations (and in due time, Finland) to resolve the conflicting needs caused by being in the buffer zone between the Western European standard gauge and the Eastern European Russian gauge?
In my opinion, if the new line is projected as a link to Western Europe, it has to be standard gauge. The conventional network must remain broad gauge ebcause of the heavy freight traffic with Russia.
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Old January 31st, 2010, 01:50 PM   #122
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Originally Posted by Coccodrillo View Post
There are two system to cross a gauge border:
- variable gauge axles, very expensive: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variable_gauge
- changing the whole bogeis, cheaper but slower

The first system is used mainly in Spain (between 1435 and 1520 there are only some tests) and mainly for passenger trains.

The second system is used on both gauge borders (Spain-France 1668-1435 and 1435-1520). A freight train wait until 24 hours at the French-spanish border to change bogies, also because these yards are very small, and in the case of Cerbère-Port Bou yards they can't be enlarged because they are built in two valleys between mountains.

Spain still wants to convert all the network to standard gauge, but it will not do that until all the high-speed lines are completed.

If they don't convert it freight rail traffic in Spain will always be irrilevant: the most used railway line in Spain (except suburban networks and HSL) doesn't exceed 100 trains per day (compared to 200 to 400 on other mainlines in Europe), and most Spanish lines have less than 40 trains per day (both passenegr and freight, including the Madrid-ABrcellona non-HSL line).

It is instead impossible to convert the Russian gauge network as it is enormous (250.000 km/160.000 miles versus 15.000 km/10.000 miles of the iberian gauge network).



Variable gauge trains are now quite easy to construct. The problem is that they are very expensive. A couple of variable gauge bogies for a single freight wagon may cost arount 80.000-100.000 €, that is 150.000 $ (approximatively). Also there may be a limit on axle load on these variable gaueg bogies.

Talgo and Bombardier are building a sort of universal high speed train that can run on two gauges, two types of current (3 and 25 kV) and also with a diesel generator. Both locomotives and coaches can change gauge, and this is done while the train is running at 20 km/h.



In my opinion, if the new line is projected as a link to Western Europe, it has to be standard gauge. The conventional network must remain broad gauge ebcause of the heavy freight traffic with Russia.
What ???

Add the 2700+ portuguese network to the "iberian gauge" mileage.


Anyway ... both iberian networks are being upgraded to "changeable gauge" (by as late as 2020 it is planned to start a massive gauge changing) .

Changing the transsiberian network to 1435mm would in the long run be an incredible far sighted maneuver indeed but I don't know if Russia would agree with such a chinese-invasion-welcoming maneouver (in freight terms of course).
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Old January 31st, 2010, 02:52 PM   #123
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Originally Posted by Slartibartfas View Post
But Los Angeles for example was already a mentionworthy city 100 years ago (even though it was not a metropolis it featured a nice PT infrastructure), yet a few decades ago its rail services were pretty much totally annihilated.

I think your argument is a bit too simplistic.
WRONG ... not a single of those videos that I placed over there is of ANYTHING older than 1974

The canadian built MLW CP 1550 are the only "old stuff" here ...140mph Alfa Pendular tilting trains run on THE EXACT SAME TRACKS as the 2500ton coal trains.

LEt's look at California ... southern California.

There's not a single reason why Sand Diego , Bakersfield , Santa Barbara , Barstow and Palm Springs are NOT connected to downtown LA with FAST ELECTRIC COMUTER trains. (running at up to 125mph?).

General and massive electrification of the LA area would also mean that freight could be run with "cheaper" electric traction (consider the IORE trains in Norway as the starting point for any American freight electrification standards).

Considering San Bernardino as a starting point for any northbound/eastbound mainlines:

Northbound: 40km "new" direct route between Ontario International and HisperiaMun. (20km paralell to the OntarioFwy and a 25km long tunnel with 2% grade? to get uphill?).
Saturate this connection with High Speed and comuter trains to each and every possible destination in California , Nevada , Arizona(north) and Utah.
Create some newer "central LA" and a MASSIVE "LA International" stations and you get some chances for low cost air/rail carriers.

(sidenotice: assuming an extra 30 minutes in any connection for the link to downtown LA/LAX ... distances from OntarioIntl):

LA-Yuma = 320km (1h15 HST ,1h30 comuter/Regional)
LA-Phoenix = 580km (2h HST)
LA-Tucson = 700km (2h30 HST)
LA-Nogales = 800km (3h HST)
LA-SanDiego = 150km (30 min. HST , 45 min regional , 1h commuter)
SandDiego-Calexico-Yuma = 235km (1h regional ???)

Create vast comuter networks in all major cities (Phoenix , tucson should have a decent comuter network) and most important of all ... link the city centres to the airports.

Just immagine a 2+2 track electrified connection stretching from SanBernardino to Tucson ... 2 High Speed tracks and nearby the electrified freight tracks.

Just try to imagine what a 12800KW (some 15000hp?) pair of electric locomotives could pull in the american loading gauge with decent trackage ...


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Originally Posted by hammersklavier View Post
Fixed.

For the record, several issues come to mind when contrasting American and European rail. Two particularly stand out, one as a result of tradition, and the other a result of postwar choices.

1. The inability of the European chain-and-buffers coupling system to handle freight drags the length and weight which the motive power is capable of pulling (for example, the toaster-box AEM7, developed from the Swedish Rc4, is capable of developing 7,000 horsepower--more than the mighty SD90MAC or AC6000CW were ever capable of!). The European coupling system is a throwback, effectively, which did not disappear when the similar systems elsewhere around the world were phased out due to it having certain advantages that through most of the history of railroading kept it alive (simplicity in switching, primarily, as well as the expense of conversion and the tradition of the system). But in the new era of railroading, when the efficiencies needed to make money in freight rail demand utilizing all the horsepower your motive power is capable of, the fact that the old couplers cannot take the strains a mile-long coal drag (or an anything-else drag, really) that the engine or motor is clearly capable of pulling (again, It's Done In America) is a major detriment to the length of a typical European freight train, and thus how much cargo can be hauled by a single locomotive, and thus how much money a carload can make for the railroad. This is even admitted as much in Europe, where (AFAIK) the coal unit trains are specifically equipped with knuckle or Russian couplers!
There is no such thing as "european couplers" ... there are dozens of different tipes of couplers in europe.

Fast Electric Multiple Units tend to use Schaffie/Delner couplers , heavy freigh uses mainly American stile couplers ... general freight and loco hauled passenger use standard chain couplers.

And it's the SIGNALING (or better yet the signal block lenght and siddings) that determines the actual lenght of intermodal and heavy freight trains in europe.

Axle Load x signal block lenght/siding lenght / tracction performance of the locomotive = actual train size.

Restrictive capacity in europe mainlines usually means a 780m train ... is it such a short lenght ??? I think not since this usually means a 100/120 km/h train every 2 minutes in each direction = nearly 49km of freight cars every hour (possibly 24h aroudn 24h for the entire year).

Wich route in the USA can cope with 1100km of freigh train lenghts per day ???



Quote:
2. Postwar changes in mentality. In the US, after WWII, with the blossoming of the suburbs and the building of the Interstates diverting half or more (look, Pa! It's shiny! And new!) of both freight and passenger traffic away from the railroads, the companies decided to focus on the black bits in their ledgers to the exclusion of all those giant swaths of red. The fact that the black bits got smaller and smaller every year was what drove the railroads to merge, and merge again, and then merge some more, until you got the network of exactly five Class I freight carriers based somewhere between the Rio Grande and the 49th Parallel. By expanding their systems (through mergers), applying economies of scale, and pawning off their old passenger operations to the Feds, the freight railroads have gotten massively efficient--and profitable. Since efficiency (not necessarily speed, although that's a bonus) is the name of the game in freight railroading, the American (and Canadian, since they essentially followed the same business model) freight railroads have become, by virtue of their efficiency, among the very best in the world. Of course, it helps that a higher tonnage per train is transported here than in Europe--and that's the key efficiency that makes US railfreight so danged good.
The events in the USA and Europe were EXACTLY the same ... the various degrees of public/private missmanagement were also the same ... the only difference is the result of such practices ... most freight-only-if-they-were-americans european companies can happily provide money-losing regional rail in europe ... the FRA (anti-)regulations is what is killing both freight and passenger rail in the USA.

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Europe in 1945 had a drastically different problem. There were craters were yards should be, bridges were ten feet down in the middle of the river, stations had been ripped to smithereens, equipment mangled...it was a mess. There was no way in Hell that the private companies could Fix It All Up, so the governments nationalized the railroads and spent public monies getting the trains to run again. The focus--it being a national endeavor now--was on providing top-notch service to the most visible customers. Passengers.
In fact it was the AMERICAN funding that paid for much of the rebuilding of Europe ... MArshall rings a bell ???

Most large scale investments was in fact FREIGHT oriented ... passengers were invited to switch to the road and air travel as much as in the USA ...

Again the ONLY visible difference was preciselly the LACK of FRA stile over-zealous regulation in europe.

What saved a lot of passenger traffic in short lines in europe was the rail-bus concept wich prevailed amongst mostly PRIVATELY OWNED regional carriers.

Consolidation (as in corporate mergers or nationalization) was a rare event ...

Quote:
So rail projects in Europe, once the basic infrastructure was up and running again, were primarily directed at bettering the passenger experience (although in some cases, like Euston, this has been decidedly lackluster). When the improvements helped freight run better--well, that was a bonus. This drive for the best passenger service was what led to the development of the TGV, of the APT and its successors the Pendolini, and of the ICE, and most importantly, what led to the construction of a fully grade-separated function-separated HSR system--tracks for the running of fast trains only. Only now, as the HSR system has gotten more and more complete to the point where it's basically become Europe's main mode of intercity travel, can enough intercity trains be removed from the traditional lines to provide necessary free track for efficient freight operations.

Or: to summarize: in the U.S. the railroads killed off the passenger trains. In Europe, the government railways improved passenger trains to the point where they no longer needed to run on the freight mains. So now the Europeans can finally have freight rail that's flexible, efficient, and profitable.* **

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* Another issue in Europe has been the crossing of Customs every 200 f--ing miles. With the Schengen Agreement in place, though, this issue is by and large eliminated. However, since freight railroads throughout Europe have been poorly privatized, if at all, and there is little current run-through operational ability, the separate, inward-looking national systems of the constituent countries still provide a barrier to the type of long-distance efficiency that makes North American railfreight so good.

**Please remember that there is some exaggeration for the sake of humor. You do need to have fun reading, too!
Most european passenger rail traffic is there because it is either more costly to travell by car/Air in such short distances or because people just CARED ENOUGH with their own comodity as to go the unconfortable way (driving all along).
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Old January 31st, 2010, 02:55 PM   #124
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And, by the way, European rail networks were all nationalized way before the end of WW2.
In fact, British Railways was established in 1948.
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Old January 31st, 2010, 02:58 PM   #125
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The biggest reason for the diferences is simply geography.

The km long container trains in the US exist because China faces the West Coast, but most of the population lives East. The consequence is a large flow of goods between both coasts.

We don't have good flows in Europe that require such monster trains, which is why there really is no need for them. Europe is all "on the same coast", and the large flows of goods terminate at one of the main harbors. Freight traffic within Europe does not consist of large flows, but is part of the final distribution phase of logistics.
A truck departing from here can have 4 basic options to reach central europe (2000km away):

1- drive the entire lenght
2- hop the cargo into a freith train in a nearby intermodal yard (needs an extra truck in the destination)
3- drive to the cantabrian coast and hop into a ferryboat Bilbao-Antwerp(?) seems to be a successfull route nowadays
4- drop the cargo in the container terminal at a nearby harbour and go by general shipping (also needs a 2nd truck)

Coal , Iron ore and Copper travel by rail to/from the harbour and by ship to/from the destination/origin ... no need to put them in intercontinental rail freight.
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Old January 31st, 2010, 03:42 PM   #126
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Originally Posted by sotavento View Post
Add the 2700+ portuguese network to the "iberian gauge" mileage.
Portuguese network is incldued in these 15.000 km (my estimate, they may be 14.000 or 16.000 between Spain and Portugal)
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Old January 31st, 2010, 07:14 PM   #127
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Originally Posted by sotavento View Post
Anyway ... both iberian networks are being upgraded to "changeable gauge" (by as late as 2020 it is planned to start a massive gauge changing) .

Changing the transsiberian network to 1435mm would in the long run be an incredible far sighted maneuver indeed but I don't know if Russia would agree with such a chinese-invasion-welcoming maneouver (in freight terms of course).
And even more far-sighted if that pipe-dream of a Bering Strait crossing is ever realized - as the railroads in China and North America (Canada, Mexico and the USA) are 100% compatible with each other (same track gauge, maximum axle loading, coupling and braking standards, etc).

Mike
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Old January 31st, 2010, 10:48 PM   #128
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Originally Posted by Gag Halfrunt View Post
In fact, British Railways was established in 1948.
But has since been de nationalised, and then in the case with the ECML re nationalised haha
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Old January 31st, 2010, 11:36 PM   #129
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Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, those seven stan country plan to link Iran and China for different reason but their need it indeed. For example, central Asia need the closest seaport in Iran, Pakistan, also sell resources to Chinese exchange their goods. These behavior also change the world's transport background make the world economic more and far globalization.
Such a link already exists, since 1995 or so. Crossing from Iran to
Turkmenistan via Seracks, then use the ex-USSR network in Turkmenistan,
Usbekistan and Kazakhstan, then cross into China with the Almaty-Urumqui
line.

This link is not used intensively yet for several reasons :

- still two ferry crossings : Bosphorus (soon to disappear with the Marmaray
project) and Van lake ;

- low line capacity : single track, poorly equipped, little or no signalling, etc ;

- small capacity of the bogie change facilities in Seracks and Alashankou

- Terrible bureaucracy in all those countries making border crossing very slow ;

- High level of banditism, bribery, etc, specially in the ex-USSR states.

But it's there, only waiting to be used.

Longer term, there are talks to build a line parallel to the famous Karakorum
highway in Pakistan. That would still require two breaks in gauge at the
Pakistan border, though. But now that the Iran-Pakistan link is complete,
this becomes a possibility.

The only way to create a rail link between Europe and China without any
break of gauge would be to cross Afghanistan. Iranian railways are building
a line from Mashhad to Herat. From there, the chinese border is only at a
few hundred miles, but the terrain to cross is very rugged...

Link from central asian countries to a sea port already exists too since the
creation of this - already mentioned above - Mashhad-Seracks line, the
Mashhad-Bafq line that opened a couple of years ago, and from there the
line to Bandar Abbas.
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Old January 31st, 2010, 11:39 PM   #130
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Originally Posted by Coccodrillo View Post
Portuguese network is incldued in these 15.000 km (my estimate, they may be 14.000 or 16.000 between Spain and Portugal)
Just a side question, not exactly directed only to you: why do people usually group Portugual with Spain when discussing any European theme or issue? The fact Portugal doesn't have a land border with any other country but Spain doesn't make it a "West Spain" autonomous region!

It was not your case, but I even recall some people, in other topics on SSC, treating Portugal like it was a subordinated political divison of Spain with some autonomy like Catalunia or Euskadi.

Meanwhile these same people usually don't mix other countries like talking about "rail transport in Germany + Austria", or airports in "United Kingdom + Ireland".

Sad, really sad.
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Old February 1st, 2010, 12:38 AM   #131
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Originally Posted by sotavento View Post
WRONG ... not a single of those videos that I placed over there is of ANYTHING older than 1974

The canadian built MLW CP 1550 are the only "old stuff" here ...140mph Alfa Pendular tilting trains run on THE EXACT SAME TRACKS as the 2500ton coal trains.

LEt's look at California ... southern California.

There's not a single reason why Sand Diego , Bakersfield , Santa Barbara , Barstow and Palm Springs are NOT connected to downtown LA with FAST ELECTRIC COMUTER trains. (running at up to 125mph?).

General and massive electrification of the LA area would also mean that freight could be run with "cheaper" electric traction (consider the IORE trains in Norway as the starting point for any American freight electrification standards).

Considering San Bernardino as a starting point for any northbound/eastbound mainlines:

Northbound: 40km "new" direct route between Ontario International and HisperiaMun. (20km paralell to the OntarioFwy and a 25km long tunnel with 2% grade? to get uphill?).
Saturate this connection with High Speed and comuter trains to each and every possible destination in California , Nevada , Arizona(north) and Utah.
Create some newer "central LA" and a MASSIVE "LA International" stations and you get some chances for low cost air/rail carriers.

(sidenotice: assuming an extra 30 minutes in any connection for the link to downtown LA/LAX ... distances from OntarioIntl):

LA-Yuma = 320km (1h15 HST ,1h30 comuter/Regional)
LA-Phoenix = 580km (2h HST)
LA-Tucson = 700km (2h30 HST)
LA-Nogales = 800km (3h HST)
LA-SanDiego = 150km (30 min. HST , 45 min regional , 1h commuter)
SandDiego-Calexico-Yuma = 235km (1h regional ???)

Create vast comuter networks in all major cities (Phoenix , tucson should have a decent comuter network) and most important of all ... link the city centres to the airports.

Just immagine a 2+2 track electrified connection stretching from SanBernardino to Tucson ... 2 High Speed tracks and nearby the electrified freight tracks.

Just try to imagine what a 12800KW (some 15000hp?) pair of electric locomotives could pull in the american loading gauge with decent trackage ...
Wrong. Ever heard of Pacific Electric? One of the best interurban railways in the country, entirely dismantled by 1960.
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There is no such thing as "european couplers" ... there are dozens of different tipes of couplers in europe.
Both right and wrong. For passenger trains there might be more couplers than anyone can count, but with freight equipment, where the issues of standardization count, there are effectively only three systems--buffer-and-chains, which are used on most freights; and knuckles and Russian couplers, both of which are primarily used on coal drags and other heavy unit trains. That heavy trains have two different styles of couplers bespeaks to the general tonnage-moving inefficiency of the European network--due to the inefficiencies of the traditional mainline couplers and the lack of desire to standardize across the entire freight system. (Gauge issues are also a problem, Ireland's equipment's all isolates and the difference between Finnish and Russian gauge is but a paper difference, rendering the difference between standard and Iberian gauge the only one that really counts.) This inability to standardize, I'm afraid, will only be cured by a catalyst of some sort, and so far, the EU design has failed to be that.
Quote:
And it's the SIGNALING (or better yet the signal block length and sidings) that determines the actual length of intermodal and heavy freight trains in Europe.

Axle Load x signal block length/siding length / traction performance of the locomotive = actual train size.
All of which feeds back into my original point that European equipment, in the main, is not designed to take full advantage of the efficiencies offered by diesel or electric operation.
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Restrictive capacity in Europe mainlines usually means a 780m train ... is it such a short length ???
Yes. 780m = 2560 feet, which, when divided by 40 feet (the length of a standard North American boxcar) yields a 64-car train (or 61 when you take away four boxcars for the locos). This is short by American standards.
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I think not since this usually means a 100/120 km/h train every 2 minutes in each direction = nearly 49km of freight cars every hour (possibly 24h around 24h for the entire year).
That number sounds extremely fishy. There is no main line in the world that I am aware of that would let heavy freight trains operate under such short headways (not least because that would be the railroad version of tailgating--you can't stop in time if the train in front of you suddenly applied the brakes).
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Which route in the USA can cope with 1100km of freight train lengths per day ???

600 mile-long freight trains? Don't fool yourself: it's unsafe to operate freight trains at the frequency needed for 600 U.S. trains to cross a stretch of rails in a day--not least because of braking issues. You can run passenger equipment in such a tight schedule, because it's lighter and shorter, but freight trains can take a mile or more to come to a complete stop, which is why you need to have that space between two trains--otherwise, it's exactly like tailgating on the Interstate. Although a lot trains do go through the Tehachapi Loop, it's on the Southern Cal mains for both BNSF and UP (historically, the ATSF and SP).
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The events in the USA and Europe were EXACTLY the same ... the various degrees of public/private missmanagement were also the same ... the only difference is the result of such practices ... most freight-only-if-they-were-americans european companies can happily provide money-losing regional rail in europe ... the FRA (anti-)regulations is what is killing both freight and passenger rail in the USA.
Freight rail is thriving more in the U.S. than it has been in the last fifty years! What killed passenger trains in the U.S. was because people shifted to cars and planes as we sunk a ton of money into the infrastructure necessary for them--but neglected the railroad infrastructure and overregulated the railroads themselves. Remember that Amtrak, on Day One, cut 50% of the passenger trains it'd inherited from its constituent railroads. Mismanagement in the U.S., it is arguable, can be more costly than it was in Europe--the Milwaukee Road died, for example, not because it wasn't profitable (its transcon route was the most profitable railroad in North America c. 1972) but rather because its management bungled the management of the Pacific Extension until it no longer remained competitive with the competing transcon routes across Bozeman and Marias Passes, thereby killing its main source of revenue, thereby forcing the railroad into bankruptcy liquidation in 1980--whereas mismanagement in Europe seems to have had little, if any, effect, on the road's survival in Europe. Or: Mismanagement has been more costly in the Americas than it has in Europe.
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In fact it was the AMERICAN funding that paid for much of the rebuilding of Europe ... Marshall rings a bell ???
How you managed the railroads once they were rebuilt is not the same as lending you the money to help rebuild them in the first place.
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Most large scale investments was in fact FREIGHT oriented ... passengers were invited to switch to the road and air travel as much as in the USA ...

Again the ONLY visible difference was precisely the LACK of FRA style over-zealous regulation in Europe.
No. The difference was the nationalization which meant that, since there railroads were an arm of the government, there was no need for any regulation (the government would be telling itself what to do). Passenger service was forced to remain, again, by the wishes of the government--had Europe's major railways been private, they would likely have shed passenger services in much the same way the UP or D&RGW or SP did. In fact, prior to the formation of Amtrak, both Europe and the FRA were forcing the passenger trains to keep running--only in very different ways.
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What saved a lot of passenger traffic in short lines in Europe was the rail-bus concept which prevailed amongst mostly PRIVATELY OWNED regional carriers.
Big whoop. We're not talking about shortlines. A lot of shortlines in the U.S. have passenger service, too. I can name three within forty miles of where I live.
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Consolidation (as in corporate mergers or nationalization) was a rare event ...
That's because the lines were all nationalized!
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Most European passenger rail traffic is there because it is either more costly to travel by car/Air in such short distances or because people just CARED ENOUGH with their own commodity as to go the uncomfortable way (driving all along).
Most European rail services are there because the nationalized railroads made them be there. I'm pretty sure SNCF still banks a net loss on its non-high-speed intercity trains.

The difference is: In Europe the railroads were (and still are) managed primarily to benefit the public sector; in America, they were (and still are) managed primarily to benefit the private sector (this is why Amtrak has shed about 90% of the routes it inherited and has never made money: because private-sector management simply does not work in respect to non-high-speed intercity passenger trains). Furthermore, the demands the public sector places on freight--making it run more like passenger trains--undermines the efficiencies the private sector has been able to demonstrate in their handling of railfreight transport.

By the way, there a lot of railroads throughout the NAFTA zone that are today considered Class II when once upon a time they would've been considered Class I. FEC, ARR, and PANAM all spring to mind.
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Old February 1st, 2010, 01:39 AM   #132
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I would say UK rail freight is booming too, despite all the problems with gauge, signalling and length.



However Freight is only 11% of UK rail traffic.
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Old February 1st, 2010, 02:18 AM   #133
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due to the inefficiencies of the traditional mainline couplers and the lack of desire to standardize across the entire freight system.
With an added restriction. Different countries allow different tonnages with the same couplers due to different internal regulations.


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All of which feeds back into my original point that European equipment, in the main, is not designed to take full advantage of the efficiencies offered by diesel or electric operation.
See it under a distinct approach. European railways are built with passenger trains in mind thus creating a whole set of rules, regulations, infrastructure, etc, etc, for passengers' and freight trains have to adapt. In the US the exact oposite applies and this is specially true if you glance over the structural requirements used for building the coaches. You will find that they are built for the same standards as freight trains, merely adapted for the reality of passenger transport.


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Yes. 780m = 2560 feet, which, when divided by 40 feet (the length of a standard North American boxcar) yields a 64-car train (or 61 when you take away four boxcars for the locos).
And even those 780m are not true. Different countries have different allowances. In Portugal for instance the maximum allowed length is 700m under special permits which are granted for certain trains and routes or 500m otherwise. In Spain the maximum length goes from as low as 300m to as high as 600m depending on the route, being the rule around 500m. In France the maximum is of 750m. Etc, etc. Please note that I am not speaking by heart and out of my head. For France and Spain I retrieved the data from the network statements, for Portugal from the official regulations.

You also mentioned brakes somewhere. Please note that the Brake Power requirements in Europe are much, much higher than in the US.


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Most European rail services are there because the nationalized railroads made them be there. I'm pretty sure SNCF still banks a net loss on its non-high-speed intercity trains.
Yes it does, like almost everywhere local and regional trains run at a loss. That's why those services receive compensations from local authorities and are run under specific agreements between the train operators and the local or regional authorities. The equivalent in the US would be agreements with the states or the counties. As a matter of fact there are some of those agreements in the US as well.


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Furthermore, the demands the public sector places on freight--making it run more like passenger trains--undermines the efficiencies the private sector has been able to demonstrate in their handling of railfreight transport.
And that is one of the reasons why rail transport won't ever be as efficient in Europe as it is in the US.

Last edited by Oponopono; February 1st, 2010 at 02:29 AM.
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Old February 1st, 2010, 11:35 AM   #134
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Just a side question, not exactly directed only to you: why do people usually group Portugual with Spain when discussing any European theme or issue? The fact Portugal doesn't have a land border with any other country but Spain doesn't make it a "West Spain" autonomous region!

It was not your case, but I even recall some people, in other topics on SSC, treating Portugal like it was a subordinated political divison of Spain with some autonomy like Catalunia or Euskadi.

Meanwhile these same people usually don't mix other countries like talking about "rail transport in Germany + Austria", or airports in "United Kingdom + Ireland".

Sad, really sad.
I usually say "Iberian peninsula", or "russian gauge network" where "russian" is refered to the gauge, not to the State.

I may also use "the rail border between Spain and France", referring to railways.

But when I refere to the whole 1668 mm network (rounded 5'6'') I use "Iberian network" or similar words, not "Spanish network".
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Old February 1st, 2010, 11:53 AM   #135
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...This inability to standardize, I'm afraid, will only be cured by a catalyst of some sort, and so far, the EU design has failed to be that.
Although it must be said that the standardisation is being pushed through in various ways. A slow and painful process, as ever, within the EU. But it is being done.

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There is no main line in the world that I am aware of that would let heavy freight trains operate under such short headways (not least because that would be the railroad version of tailgating--you can't stop in time if the train in front of you suddenly applied the brakes).
Yes that figure was a bit fishy. Nonetheless a 5 minute headway for freight certainly is available on many routes. European freight trains can stop from 70mph in half the time and third of the distance of US trains it seems. Indeed, if a train can't stop in 1.2km (or however long exactly a normal signal block is) from 70mph it isn't allowed to do 70mph. I've seen 'emergency' stops by freight train in the USA on youtube that are unbelievable taking much longer than a European train would on a normal timetabled stop, obviously piggybacked intermodal will be of a higher weight/brake force ratio but still, the braking performance of USA freight trains is seriously poor (though I'm sure this is on purpose as it is not needed to be any better), so much that USA freight trains would not be allowed on European rails just because of braking ability alone (ignoring guage issues etc).

The rest of the points you have made seem fair though. (The following is an open reply to the whole thread btw)

But in general, there is an odd understanding of the situation, from Europeans as well as americans. Couplers, signalling, safety regs, etc etc, are not the cause of why they are different, they are the result.

From the outset there has been no desire to have very long freight trains in Europe. In the USA there has. Unsurprisingly therefore, the trains and the track have been optimised by the engineers for these very criteria. It is not rocket science. If a coupler does not need to be strong why build it strong? Does anyone think a USA-strength coupler is beyond the capabilities of European industry?

Henry Ford learnt that there's no point over-engineering something unecessarily, indeed he lowered the quality of some parts of the model-T when research discovered these parts were lasting far longer than most of the rest of the car.

Fact is, Europe and the USA are different because the intented operations are different, the infrastructure then followed suit. It wasn't the other way around. Neither approach is necessarily best.
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Old February 1st, 2010, 12:10 PM   #136
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so much that USA freight trains would not be allowed on European rails just because of braking ability alone (ignoring guage issues etc).
They would be heavily restricted on their speed because, precisily, of their brake power. Perhaps to 50 kph or less, depending on the exact route. But then again, where in Europe would you be able to have 30t/axle trains...
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Old February 1st, 2010, 12:14 PM   #137
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I would say UK rail freight is booming too, despite all the problems with gauge, signalling and length.



However Freight is only 11% of UK rail traffic.
Yes, due to increase dramatically I should say. Channel Tunnel freight operation are returning to strength slowly, and projects like W9 guage clearance from Southampton docks to the WCML at Birmingham are well underway. Indeed, the whole Southampton tunnel has been lowered already (the biggest element in the project) and was completed this year over Xmas, one year ahead of schedule. Originally it was planned to do one track per Xmas closure, but they managed to do both in one!
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Old February 1st, 2010, 03:29 PM   #138
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Although it must be said that the standardisation is being pushed through in various ways. A slow and painful process, as ever, within the EU. But it is being done.



Yes that figure was a bit fishy. Nonetheless a 5 minute headway for freight certainly is available on many routes. European freight trains can stop from 70mph in half the time and third of the distance of US trains it seems. Indeed, if a train can't stop in 1.2km (or however long exactly a normal signal block is) from 70mph it isn't allowed to do 70mph. I've seen 'emergency' stops by freight train in the USA on youtube that are unbelievable taking much longer than a European train would on a normal timetabled stop, obviously piggybacked intermodal will be of a higher weight/brake force ratio but still, the braking performance of USA freight trains is seriously poor (though I'm sure this is on purpose as it is not needed to be any better), so much that USA freight trains would not be allowed on European rails just because of braking ability alone (ignoring guage issues etc).

The rest of the points you have made seem fair though. (The following is an open reply to the whole thread btw)

But in general, there is an odd understanding of the situation, from Europeans as well as americans. Couplers, signalling, safety regs, etc etc, are not the cause of why they are different, they are the result.

From the outset there has been no desire to have very long freight trains in Europe. In the USA there has. Unsurprisingly therefore, the trains and the track have been optimised by the engineers for these very criteria. It is not rocket science. If a coupler does not need to be strong why build it strong? Does anyone think a USA-strength coupler is beyond the capabilities of European industry?

Henry Ford learnt that there's no point over-engineering something unecessarily, indeed he lowered the quality of some parts of the model-T when research discovered these parts were lasting far longer than most of the rest of the car.

Fact is, Europe and the USA are different because the intented operations are different, the infrastructure then followed suit. It wasn't the other way around. Neither approach is necessarily best.
I feel you are coming closer to the crux of the matter than I am...yes, indeed, the physical plants are different, but as an effect rather than a cause of the rift that happened after WWII. The U.S. neglected passenger trains insofar as FRA overregulation was the only thing keeping them running for many years--and indeed, FRA overregulation remains an enormous problem for Amtrak. Conversely, the superior braking power of European trains (due to their being shorter than their American counterparts?) is due to the railroads' block lengths being dictated by passenger requirements--not freight.

With that said, I sense that trends that have already started will, in the long term, equalize the freight-hauling potentials of both European and American railroads--namely, the fact that with the rise of HSR there is now an ability to separate passenger trains and freight. The premier passenger main between Paris and Marseilles, for example, is not the same line that it was in 1945; rather, it is the LGV Sud-Est and its Marseilles extension. This, in turn, takes these trains off the rails of the older main, freeing it up for more freight traffic, at which point, the demands of freight efficiencies (horsepower optimization, etc.) will start riding up, ironically enough, against the passenger-centric European block lengths, braking regulations, etc.

Conversely, in the U.S. we already see that the Acela had its wheels clipped due to freight-centric overregulation placed on it by the FRA. New U.S. HSR has to be on a separate network than the freight network, for the time being, because the block lengths, signaling system, etc., that they demand is more akin to the European standards rather than the American standards.

There is another issue I want to tackle: namely, the European perception that "all freight moves by boat or truck; therefore it can't be any other way." I've seen it both here and on SSP--where I've been posting for a lot longer--and while it is certainly true that Europe's more indented coastline enhances shipping to a greater degree than it does anywhere else in the world, it does have its limitations.

Say I own a factory in Stockholm and my main customer is in Naples. To get my product from Sweden to Italy, I would have no less than five different options: 1) send it by ship from the Port of Stockholm, through the Oresund and the English Channel, around the Iberian Peninsula and through the Strait of Gibraltar, and into the Tyrrhenian (sp?) Sea to the Port of Naples; 2) send it by riverboat from the Port of Stockholm through the Oresund, up the Rhine, across the canal connecting it to the Danube, down the Danube to the Black Sea, through the Bosporus, down the Aegean and past the Strait of Messina towards the Port of Naples; 3) by plane from Stockholm Airport to Naples Airport; 4) by truck along E4-E6-E20-E45; and 5) by rail via the Oresund and either the Lötschberg/Simplon, Gotthard, or Brenner alpine crossings. Both (1) and (2) suffer from the same problem, namely that although ships can haul the most tonnage relative to other modes of transportation, in order to clear Europe's indented coastline or navigate the waterways, they have to follow a circuitous path that takes by far the longest of all the options; (3) runs into the same issues that all airfreight does--namely, in this case, a) how to get it to the airport? and b) how many planes will it take to haul your shipment? Planes, remember, expend most of their energy keeping themselves up! This extremely high fuel-to-revenue ratio (i.e. 10 tons of fuel expended for every 1 ton of freight shipped) is a major reason why shipping freight by air remains prohibitively expensive in most cases. So we're left with (4) and (5), since, although neither of them would take as little time as air, both take less time than following the zig-zagging watercourses and do so more economically. The difference, economically speaking, between the cost-effectiveness of trucks and that of trains, is shipment size. Trucks cost less to ship on per truck but a typical truck only holds a half to a third as much as a typical train car; thus, if you're hauling mostly LCL (less-than-carload loads) trucks remain your most viable option. But if you had been doing that, and your product was time-sensitive, then airplanes would be the most sensible solution! So, for the sake of argument, let's say that this particular factory in Stockholm is sending 20,000 metric tons of sneakers to his customer in Naples--a product that is not time-sensitive at a weight greater than the maximum efficiencies trucks can handle. For this type of load, trains are--or should be--the most efficient and economical mode of transport. These economies are even further exaggerated in North America and the Far East where the time factor means that large cargo ships aren't even economically viable for most trips! Indeed, in North America, there are two major river valleys capable of handling large amounts of river-borne freight: the Mississippi and the St. Lawrence Seaway (including the Great Lakes). And in China, three: the Huang He, the Yangtze, and the Pearl. Along those rivers, and only along them, can river traffic be more competitive than overland traffic.
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Old February 1st, 2010, 03:42 PM   #139
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(due to their being shorter than their American counterparts?) is due to the railroads' block lengths being dictated by passenger requirements--not freight.
The heavier brake power is not due to the trains' length. That would be easier to solve and in the US it is solved by attaching a rear compressor unit connected to the main conduct. Length, mostly, increases reaction time due to the time needed for the compressed air to propagate along the train. Not the braking power itself. It is due to the braking systems on each individual car. In the US they are prepared for a much lower braking effort than in Europe.


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the fact that with the rise of HSR there is now an ability to separate passenger trains and freight.
Please note that HSR lines cope with fast long-distance services. All others, including long-distance services with more stops than those existing in HSRs, remain in the conventional lines.
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Old February 1st, 2010, 04:18 PM   #140
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The difference, economically speaking, between the cost-effectiveness of trucks and that of trains, is shipment size. Trucks cost less to ship on per truck but a typical truck only holds a half to a third as much as a typical train car; thus, if you're hauling mostly LCL (less-than-carload loads) trucks remain your most viable option. But if you had been doing that, and your product was time-sensitive, then airplanes would be the most sensible solution! So, for the sake of argument, let's say that this particular factory in Stockholm is sending 20,000 metric tons of sneakers to his customer in Naples--a product that is not time-sensitive at a weight greater than the maximum efficiencies trucks can handle. For this type of load, trains are--or should be--the most efficient and economical mode of transport.
European trucks can transport about 33 europallets each. A typical two axle sliding door boxcar (ex: Hbbins) will also transport 33 europallets. So the typical truck and the typical freigth wagon are quite similar. Anyway, to avoid transhipment the preferred way nowadays is to use swap bodies or trailers.

But the biggest issue in railfreight has been (up to the recent liberalisation) been reliability. Suppose you are sending 20000 metric tons of sneakers to Naples every week. You do want those sneakers to arrive at the agreed upon date, or the staff you've assigned to unload and warehouse them at the other end will sit idle.
And there the european railways have sadly not performed very well, especially those in Southern Europe. After the Channel tunnel opened Avesta - Sheffield tested transporting stuff between it's Swedish and UK operations by rail. The first test trains basically "disappeared" the moment they arrived in France. The SNCF was unable to tell where the trains had gone to, and Avesta ended up sending it's own staff down to look for the trains in the different SNCF yards...
Avesta is again shipping everything by sea...
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