business transportation logistics, railroads and railfanning
Way back in the Spring semester of 1980 (my senior year of college), the instructor in the Transportation and Physical Distribution class, Dr. Joe Mattingly, said (paraphrasing from memory) when you save a dollar in costs or expenses it drops to the bottom line. What he meant is that every dollar in cost savings drops down 100 per cent to earnings before income taxes. The idea of the class was to effectively manage transportation and warehousing costs to increase profits for a business enterprise. These type expenses for manufacturers can be a very significant portion of the total cost of goods sold. (Increases to the top line, to sales revenues, do not drop down 100 per cent to earnings before income taxes because of the cost of those additional products sold.) Dr. Mattingly also cautioned us undergrads that in business when you make mistakes, it costs you money.
Of course, in 1980, the main focus was on trucking. The railroads were going through a tough time and there were a lot of fallen flags (regional and smaller railroads going into bankruptcy never to emerge from it). But, the rail industry was de-regulated shortly thereafter, and positive changes slowly came to the industry. Now, the intermodal transport of goods is key. This involves seamlessly moving the cargo containers from manufacturers in Asia across the Pacific Ocean on large ships, then offloading them at West Coast ports (Seattle, Oakland, and Los Angeles/Long Beach) on to trains for movement to markets in the central and eastern sections of the US. At various major rail centers (Chicago, Kansas City, Dallas, etc.), the containers are taken off the trains and put on trailers for local trucking to final destinations. (The old Santa Fe (ATSF) Railway was very good at intermodal transport and that was one of the reasons that Burlington Northern acquired the Santa Fe in the mid to late 1990s. Then the combined railroad was called Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF). The Journal of Commerce was very good at covering the rail industry during the 1990s, and I fondly recall reading it regularly during that time.)
Trains do have a major advantage over trucks in at least one area, that of bulk transport. The bulk transport of commodities (metal ores, coal, grains, chemicals, etc.) is a natural for the railroads. I think it is CSX ( a major eastern railroad, formed from the old B&O and C&O railroads years ago), that, in its commercials on radio, informs us that a train can haul more tonnage of freight for less diesel fuel consumed than trucks are able to. In other words, rail transport is more efficient than truck transport.
The whole area of business logistics is fascinating, and yet is often overlooked or taken for granted in its important role and contribution, not just in individual businesses, but for the entire economy. Transportation of raw materials and/or finished goods is not glamorous, but affects all of our lives each and every day.
Now, there is another facet of the railroads that is also often overlooked and under-appreciated. There is much history to the railroads in the USA. There is also much beauty in many of the areas where the physical rails are located. Taking photographs of trains, either stopped on a siding, or moving down the mainline(s) in these picturesque areas is a popular hobby among rail fans. And, rail photography is also popular in Canada and Australia.
On long auto trips here in the West, it has often struck me that along a number of major highways there is a rail line nearby and within sight, often running parallel to the highway. Well, that is because the rail lines were there before the highways were paved decades later. The old towns along the highway, where one can now stop for fuel or to eat lunch, were railroad towns in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Here are some pics from various sites for your viewing pleasure. These are best viewed on a desktop computer and not on hand-held devices. (I will not put so many images into any future essays – it is taxing on me, and on all of you. At least there is much variety here. But, enjoy!)
This beautiful photo is from hcn.org.
A CP Rail train is from en.wikipedia.org
A rail sunset is courtesy of rpca.com
This striking photo of rails into sunset is from groups.drupal.org
A Santa Fe train in Arizona is courtesy of santaferailroad.blogspot.com
A set of twin tracks is from wkp.maluke.com
A Powder River Basin (Wyoming) scene is courtesy of atbozzo.blogspot.com
A coal train is from thehindubusinessline.com
A container lift is courtesy of unife.org
A moon over train is courtesy of westernrailroads.com
A rail depot is from treehugger.com which supports mass transit
A recent commuter rail tunnel (in Dubai, below) is from fleminggulf.com
Gotthard rail tunnel is from abb.com
A svelte safety rail (below) is courtesy of ultraprt.net
Union Rails is courtesy of sayitloudersilverspur.blogspot.com
A rail switch (below) is courtesy of railwaytenders.blogspot.com
This pic of a CSX train in snow is from wired.com
This photo of an excursion train in Arizona is courtesy of freewebs.com
This colorful example of intermodal transport is courtesy of whileoutriding.com
The intermodal flows map is courtesy of ops.fhwa.dot.gov
A Kansas Memory (below) is courtesy of kansasmemory.org
This winter time photo is courtesy of look4trains.com
A Santa Fe train in a winter scene (below) is courtesy of carrtracks.com
This Santa Fe locomotive sports the famous and colorful “War Bonnet” motif, and is courtesy of santaferailroad.blogspot.com Note how small the mechanic is compared to the engine!
This night time photo is from thesunbreak.com
This photo of a Santa Fe consist (below) is courtesy of eddiesrailroad.blogspot.com
This photo of a train near the highway is from en.wikipedia.org