CSX, North Carolina port authority create express intermodal service

The Wilmington Midwest Express intermodal service will serve as a fast and direct rail route from the major North Carolina port to three major midwestern markets. North Carolina Ports Authority

Supply-chain issues continue to impact U.S. ports, shippers and railroads, so a new direct rail service between the Port of Wilmington, North Carolina, and three key midwestern markets comes at an ideal time.  

The express route’s objective: to keep containers moving efficiently to inland destinations.

In late 2021, the North Carolina Ports Authority and CSX unveiled the Wilmington Midwest Express, a service designed to transport containers quickly between Wilmington and Chicago, St. Louis and North Baltimore, Ohio, where the Class I operates a major intermodal terminal. 

The service will offer a five-day transit time to Chicago and North Baltimore, and a seven-day trip to St. Louis. Containers will first travel to CSX’s Carolina Connector intermodal terminal in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, enabling the port authority to tap a larger and more extensive rail network.  

CSX The Class I is testing the service between Wilmington and Chicago. CSX

The authority currently works with CSX to provide a next-day Queen City Express intermodal service between Wilmington and an inland port in Charlotte. Launched in mid-2017, that service targets major southeastern distribution corridors. 

Port authority officials believe Wilmington Midwest Express’ direct connections will help expedite container movements to the Midwest while reducing shippers’ transit costs and cutting emissions from long-haul trucks that currently handle the cargo. The service will offer shippers a competitive advantage while supply-chain issues continue to be sorted out at most U.S. ports, they say. 

The Wilmington Terminal Railroad — a Genesee & Wyoming Inc. subsidiary — switches rail cars at the port, but CSX will directly handle the Wilmington Midwest Express. Currently, the Class I is testing the service. 

CSX The Port of Wilmington already works with CSX to offer a next-day Queen City Express intermodal service to an inland port in Charlotte. CSX

So far, test moves have only been completed between Wilmington and Chicago. The pilot moves have performed as expected, said CSX spokesperson Sheriee Bowman in an email.  

There currently is no estimate as to how long tests will continue, when test trains will travel to St. Louis and North Baltimore, or when the entire service will officially launch, she added. 

“Service will depend on the North Carolina Port Authority’s ability to get steamship lines that have Midwest-destined rail cargo to call on Wilmington,” Bowman said. “[At least a] lack of rail service between Wilmington and the Midwest will no longer be an obstacle.”