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Rail News: Short Lines & Regionals

Railroads ready to tackle large-vehicle moves, Pacific Harbor Line says

Pacific Harbor Line Inc. (PHL) recently helped move four school buses by rail from Winston-Salem, N.C., to Wilmington, Calif., using "unilevel" rail cars built by TTX Co. and Trinity Industries Inc. — proving railroads can move large commercial vehicles, such as cement mixers and garbage trucks, according to a prepared statement.

Alternative-fuel buses usually are difficult to drive cross-country because of the limited availability of liquid natural gas and other specialized fuels, and to truck because of the high cost associated with shipping full-size vehicles. But in the past, railroads didn't have enclosed rail cars with enough inside clearance to move large vehicles and flat cars couldn't prevent damage during transit.

"With the introduction of unilevel cars, we can now provide the same type of enclosed, secure service for large vehicles that we offer for new automobiles," said PHL Manager of Business Development Don Norton.

The buses were driven from Thomas Built Buses' High Point, N.C., plant to Norfolk Southern Railway's vehicle loading facility in Winston-Salem. NS then moved the buses to a Kansas City, Mo., interchange with Union Pacific Railroad, which handed off the vehicles to PHL in Wilmington. Drivers completed the move to customer First Student Inc.

Because the move involved several companies, PHL contracted Progressive Rail Inc. subsidiary Rail Retrievers Logistics to help coordinate the shipment, and provide insurance services and a single invoice.

"We bundle and manage each shipment door to door, which is something that railroads struggle to do," said Progressive Rail Vice President of Sales and Marketing Bill Kutka.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 12/11/2003