Routing of cars?

Ed Youngstrom Nov 26, 2021

  1. Ed Youngstrom

    Ed Youngstrom TrainBoard Member

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    Hello all,

    I’ve done multiple searches but can’t find the answer to my question.

    How do railroads handle the movement of cars once they leave their own tracks? I’m especially interested in transition era procedures.

    For example, a shipper in eastern Pennsylvania needs his goods to go to California. He buys a car-load worth from the Pennsy and they rout it via their tracks to one (or more) of the western railroads, and said car winds up in Los Angeles.

    Then what? Does ATSF/UP/whoever just ship it empty back to the nearest PRR interchange? Do they try to find a shipper wanting to send something?

    I’m sure there is a site or book that tells me how this works, but my searches aren’t finding it. I’m probably missing a particular term that would make it easy!

    Thanks in advance for your help,
    Ed
     
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  2. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    The Shipper decides on his car's routing and in the transition era, the originating road often supplied the empty car. In that era, many routes were available and the choice was made based on available rates and reliability of service. When the car was interchanged to another railroad for furtherance to its destination, the other railroad(s) would pay the car owner a "Per Diem" ("Per Day") charge for each day the car was off home rails. This provided financial incentive for the other railroad(s) to expedite the car's return to its home road.

    In the transition era, when a car reached its destination and was unloaded, it was often returned empty to its owning road. There were exceptions of course and sometimes stenciling was seen on car sides with specific interchange point instructions while others were sent on to the nearest interchange point. By the way, Shippers and Receivers pay "Demurrage" to their serving railroad to incent them to load and/or unload cars promptly.

    These days, most movements are covered by private contracts which address transportation details. It's a changed world today.
     
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  3. Ed Youngstrom

    Ed Youngstrom TrainBoard Member

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    Thank you.

    That’s very interesting that the non-owning railroad paid per diem. That certainly would incentivize to get it back “home.”
     
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  4. mmi16

    mmi16 TrainBoard Member

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    Per Diem, went from a Daily charge to a a hourly charge - with the charges calculated based on the date and time of interchange. Per Diem pertains only to RAILROAD owned cars. Private cars operate under a different set of accounting rules.

    In the days when Per Diem was a daily charge (who had the car at Midnight, was charged for the entire day), railroad that were 'bridge carriers' such as the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac (RF&P) that operated between Potomac Yard (adjacent to Washington, DC) and Richmond COULD end up without being responsible for the Per Diem on the cars they handled - for instance - Got the car from the B&O on Day 1 at 0100, switched and delivered the car to the ACL at Richmond at 2300 Day 1. Car was in the B&O account on Day 0 and in the ACL account at the end of Day 1.

    Per Diem rates are calculated based on the purchase price of rail cars and the date when they were purchased and depreciated over time. Obviously the newer more expensive cars will have a higher Per Diem rate than a 45 year old car that is ready to be eliminated from unrestricted Interchange service account of its age.
     
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  5. mmi16

    mmi16 TrainBoard Member

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    Carriers are expected to receive Interchange from connecting carriers when those carriers offer the cars.

    For a variety of reasons, sometimes the receiving carrier is not able to accept the cars when offered. When that happens the delivering carrier can go through a process to 'reclaim' the Per Diem on the cars they intended to deliver in interchange to the receiving carrier but were prevented from doing so by the receiving carriers actions or instructions. Once a Reclaim situation is created, in some cases carriers will 'reclaim' the Per Diem on cars that may be hundreds of miles from the designated interchange.

    Let the games begin!
     
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  6. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Ouch! :unsure: Demurrage too can be a contentious affair. I spent much of my career at enormous manufacturing plants where we'd often have more than 150 railcars on site and at the end of every month, we'd get a lengthy invoice from our rail carriers showing debits and credits for each car. We'd audit each of them prior to payment and it was often a time-consuming mess, with payment delayed until we reached agreement on the amount due. You're right that privately-owned cars are handled on a different basis and they were in the mix too. Eventually, computerization was to greatly aid the effort, though disputes still arise. :mad:
     
  7. Dave1905

    Dave1905 TrainBoard Member

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    Rates were set under tariffs, and the rates were between origin and destination, regardless of route. Every commodity on every route had its own individual tariff and shipping rate.
    As mentioned, the shipper could set the route or the shipper could defer to the railroad. The railroad traffic salesmen would try to convince the shippers to long haul on their railroad.

    Nope. The shipper doesn't "buy a car load" of anything from the Pennsy. The consignee (reciever) in California buys a carload from the shipper. then the shipper (or consignee, depending on who is paying the freight) decides how to ship it and the route. The origin carrier supplies the car.

    The origin carrier can supply one of its own cars, a car from one of the railroads in the route or a car going toward "home". If the car is routed PRR-Chicago-CNW-Fremont-UP-Losa, then the PRR can supply one of its cars, a CNW or UP car or for example a WP car since Los Angeles is closer to "home" for the WP car than Pennsylvania. If they don't have any of those cars, the PRR might use a car they really aren't supposed to use, but it's the only one they have (like a NYC car).

    The railroads split the revenue for the shipment (which is charged by weight, not distance), generally based on their portion of mileage on the route, with the originating and delivering carrier getting an extra bit. If the car doesn't belong to the railroads in the route (such as a WP or NYC car in the example above), the car owner doesn't share in the revenue, they only get per diem.

    Private cars generally charge based on mileage, and in the modern era railroad owned cars can be a combination of hourly rate and mileage. The per diem rate in the steam era was very low, a dollar or two a day maybe, but when you have thousands of cars out there floating around it adds up.

    Yes, the other railroad will try to load the car back (assuming it's PRR car), if not they will return it empty, but any terminal along the way might grab it load it back "toward" the PRR. The return could get pretty convoluted if it's loaded. It could be loaded to Minneapolis, then loaded to southern Illinois, then back up to New York, then back to Ohio and finally back to the PRR.
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2021
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  8. Ed Youngstrom

    Ed Youngstrom TrainBoard Member

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    Thank you to everyone for the information. I find these kind of processes fascinating, even if using them in real life could have been frustrating or tedious.
     
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  9. mmi16

    mmi16 TrainBoard Member

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    Some companies would fight harder over a $100 Demurrage bill than they would on an overcharge on a freight rate that was 10 or 15 times as much.
     
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