Old 06-29-2009, 06:22 PM   #1
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Hello, Looking at al the nice pictures on RP it makes me curios how the railroad in the US operates. I'm from the Netherlands and I'm impressed by the length of the freight trains and the curved tracks showed on most of these pictures . That's something we don't have in the Netherlands, even not in Europe.

For example the track nearby my home is a track were passes by 16 passengers trains and 2-4 freight trains per hour with a speed of 140km/h for passenger trains and 80km/h for freight trains. The longest freight train in the Netherlands can not be longer as 1.6km.

I've got an impression of the US were the frequence of trains passing by is a smal fraction of what I'm used to. I also thing the speed is very slow. How else you get such nice sharp pictures .

Is there someone who can tell me a bit about frequency, speed and length of the trains in the US. Maybe guiding to interresting sites about this subject.

Thanks.
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Old 06-29-2009, 08:31 PM   #2
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In terms of freight;

Most people would call 25-30 trains a day a 'busy' line. The busiest lines, of which only a handful exist, see roughly 100 trains per day.

Most people would call 45 MPH a fast mainline, with the fastest lines being 80+ MPH.

Most people would call a mile long train a normal one, the longest being 2 miles (give or take).

In my opinion, the most impressive stat behind all these numbers is that these are private companies, operated for profit - two things that the various high speed, high capacity lines in Europe can't say.
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Old 06-29-2009, 10:42 PM   #3
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I also thing the speed is very slow. How else you get such nice sharp pictures .
fast shutter speed
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Old 06-30-2009, 10:43 AM   #4
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Let me shade my expression about the speed . Often I see pictures of the same train on different locations by the same photografer. I don't know how they pursuit a train like that. In Europe and sure in the Netherlands, that is almost impossible.
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Old 06-30-2009, 10:55 AM   #5
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In my opinion, the most impressive stat behind all these numbers is that these are private companies, operated for profit - two things that the various high speed, high capacity lines in Europe can't say.
I know in Europe commurcial transport by private companies started later than in the US, but now it's very common. Maybe one difference: The infrastructure belongs to the state. The companies do the transport. So many companies (state and private) share the tracks the ride on. The owner of the infrastructure define the regulations on the tracks. Naturaly with local law and technical conditions in mind.
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Old 06-30-2009, 04:08 PM   #6
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Let me shade my expression about the speed . Often I see pictures of the same train on different locations by the same photografer. I don't know how they pursuit a train like that. In Europe and sure in the Netherlands, that is almost impossible.
We drive fast down country roads here. VERY fast.
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Old 07-01-2009, 10:58 AM   #7
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We can also drive fast, but before you're on speed there is alway's a traffic light, sharp curves or crosswalk. And if not there are a lot of fences, trees or other obstructive objects. If it's not next to the track than it's next to the road.

Last edited by vismj; 07-01-2009 at 06:13 PM. Reason: use of wrong words
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Old 07-01-2009, 12:09 PM   #8
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Main Track freight train speeds vary based on type of traffic and terrain. In the mountains (which, of course, are not a factor in the Netherlands) even a well-powered intermodal train may only be operating at 20 mph while in the flatlands it may cruise at 70 mph. The European freight network is growing - expect for passenger-only districts such as the TGV network, the significant passenger traffic requires freight trains have to operate at close to the same speeds or at night when passenger traffic is less.

Outside of major metropolitan areas much of the North-American network has no passenger traffic or perhaps only one or two passenger trains a day. Across Nebraska, although there is no regularly-scheduled passenger traffic Union Pacific has four main tracks to handle freight train traffic. North Platte, the largest yard in the world can handle more than 100 freight trains a day. Here is a photograph of about half the yard from last year when traffic was just beginning to feel the effects of the economic recession. In the foreground are the run-through tracks for eastward trains. In the distance are the locomotive servicing facilities. to the left is the westbound departure yard and to the far left is the westward (empty) coal yard. Not seen are the two hump yards and the diesel facilities.


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Old 07-01-2009, 06:01 PM   #9
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So if I understand you right, it's not possible to go from the east to west coast by passenger train? Maybe that's one difference between US en European rail traffic. In Europe the main priority is on passenger trains, in the US on freight trains?

Some comparasion of the North Platte yard: In the Netherlands we have 1 "big" yard en a few smaller ones. The biggest is Kijfhoek yard. It's about 50 hectare (about 124 acre), has 43 tracks and can handle about 120 trains of 34 wagons per day.

Last edited by vismj; 07-01-2009 at 06:14 PM. Reason: grammatical error (I know of)
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Old 07-01-2009, 06:39 PM   #10
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So if I understand you right, it's not possible to go from the east to west coast by passenger train?
That is incorrect. Amtrak passenger trains go from coast to coast. Chicago is the Amtrak's hub for long distance trains - there are daily trains to Los Angeles, and Portland/Seattle on the west coast, San Antonio to the south, and a large number of destinations on the east coast.

The majority of the US rail network today exists to move freight traffic though.

Long distance train travel in the US isn't too popular though, the country is just too large. For example, riding from Los Angeles to New York would take 3 days.
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Old 07-01-2009, 07:29 PM   #11
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I don't work for Union Pacific but might as well brag a bit. To put things into perspective, North Platte yard occupies 2,850 acres (about 1150 hectares) and is 8 miles (about 12.8 km) long. A common total weight for a loaded freight car is 286,000 lbs or 129,700 kg.
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Old 07-01-2009, 07:30 PM   #12
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So if I understand you right, it's not possible to go from the east to west coast by passenger train?
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That is incorrect. Amtrak passenger trains go from coast to coast.
You can go from New York to California by train but you need to switch trains in Chicago. Unfortunately, there is no one-seat-ride available, but it is possible just not on one train.

You can go from Miami, FL to Seattle, WA by train as well as Maine to southern California using many connections.
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Old 07-01-2009, 09:48 PM   #13
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Let's cut in our Canadian friends! You can go Vancouver-Toronto on one train (4466 km, about 2770 miles). Toronto is not "East Coast" necessarily but I do believe there is a navigable path to the Atlantic, although I imagine most marine commerce is oriented toward the Great Lakes and Montreal and Halifax handle the ocean trade.

The Chicago-LA route is 2256 miles, Chicago-Seattle 2206 miles.
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Old 07-02-2009, 12:25 AM   #14
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I can go from my living room to the bathroom without changing trains. Can you?!
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Old 07-02-2009, 02:13 AM   #15
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guess i need to take grammer lessons to post and be a part of a forum

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Old 07-02-2009, 02:39 AM   #16
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vismj ... while!!
Someone's enthusiam has greatly exceeded their capacity to guide their prose with traditional notions of organization.

Looking at 30db+'s past posts, I see this single-paragraph expressive style is not an outlier but rather a core aspect of his/her craft. Albeit not taken to this extreme.
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Old 07-02-2009, 04:18 AM   #17
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Someone's enthusiam has greatly exceeded their capacity to guide their prose with traditional notions of organization.

Looking at 30db+'s past posts, I see this single-paragraph expressive style is not an outlier but rather a core aspect of his/her craft. Albeit not taken to this extreme.


I was about to read it but then I realized there were no paragraphs and it all went to a big blur for me. Next!
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Old 07-02-2009, 06:26 AM   #18
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However English (or American) is not my main language, curiosity wins here. So I did try to read the one paragraph.

For me it's not about the biggest, largers, higher standards. The Netherlands (also the rest of Europe) is losing that one.

Although the temperature in the Netherlands is somewhere between -5C and +30C, we also know the problems of expending tracks. But Europe is not only the Netherlands. In Sweden or Norway is can also be -40C. In Spain or Italy it can be +40C. So I think in this respect there is no different.

There is a big different in hight and length of trains. The different in high is mainly because of the power system in Europe. The main power system is electric by overhead wiring. A stack of two containers is just impossible.

About the length: Europe is very crowded. Meaning that you don't have to look far to see the next house or town. That also means that the length of track can not be very long. I thought the longest track in the Netherlands were trains can pass each other is 1.2 km (0.7 mls).

For example: Freight trains from the harbour of Rotterdam to the German border (about 180 km = 112 mls) the train passing 5 large (for dutch standards) cities on a track with high frequence (4 per hour each direction) passenger trains. Passenger trains rides faster and have priority on freight trains. That means that at every town the freight train has to go aside.

Short trains have an advantage though! There are more of them.
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Old 07-02-2009, 06:38 AM   #19
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vismj maybe this might help you out a bit!! For one thing in the Nether

= as far as I made it into that post. Then came down scrolling, followed by laughing.
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Old 07-02-2009, 07:01 AM   #20
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Need to explain something about passenger trains here. In Europe there is also no direct connection from coast to coast (matter of speaking). I think this is because of the high frequency of trains, wide network en relative short distances. Every self respecting city in Europe has a connection on the rail network.

There are direct connections between the capital cities though. So you can ride from Amsterdam to Brussel, Paris or Berlin. But when you want to go for example to London or Zurich, you have to change in Brussel or Paris. And so on.

In most European countries the frequency of passenger trains is also very high. At least 1 train per hour in every direction on a hour sheduler (except the midnight hours).
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Old 07-02-2009, 10:50 AM   #21
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In most European countries the frequency of passenger trains is also very high. At least 1 train per hour in every direction on a hour sheduler (except the midnight hours).
This to me is the most amazing aspect of the European system. Miss a train? No worries!
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Old 07-02-2009, 09:37 PM   #22
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When I worked for Trainload Freight in the UK, we had a visit by a small group from America just before Wisconsin Central took over most of the freight operations in the UK.

Our office in West London was next to the Great Western mainline between London and the West and the one thing that our visitors found most fascinating was the amount of trains going past the window. I think that they probably found the idea of the infrastructure being separate from the trains rather strange and (more than likely) didn't think much of our yard with all of it's three through roads, private siding with run round loop and couple of awkward to access engineers roads.

They would have felt at home with the class 59 out the back though, due to the size of our rolling stock, it would have looked more like a switcher to them

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Old 07-06-2009, 02:22 PM   #23
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They would have felt at home with the class 59 out the back though, ...
Yes, that's also something else. Engines of class 59 and sure class 66 are build in North America by EMD. Are those engines only for export? I can't remember seeing pictures of these engine in America.
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Old 07-06-2009, 06:38 PM   #24
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Correct, while much of the equipment is similiar to North American locomotives, these designs (smaller in height / width / weight) are designed for export only.
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