Express Freight

Those two words sound like an oxymoron: freight isn’t fast. What usually matters most is high capacity and predictable delivery, even trains carrying perishables aren’t in a great hurry. For most U.S. modelers, a “freight” is something that trundles along at 40 mph (64 kph) or less, and “express” probably conjures up images of the old Railway Express Agency, which handled parcel and small package transport via express cars on passenger trains and other methods, until highways made it unprofitable (REA had stopped using express cars on passenger trains well before it filed for bankruptcy in 1975). High-speed trains also cost more to operate, not simply in fuel, but in terms of constructing and maintaining track to the more exacting standards needed for higher speeds.

Freight Locomotives and Trains

I’ve written about my model freight trains before, but that was nearly two years ago, and I think it’s time for an update. This time I’m going to talk about the trains, as well as the locomotives. As usual, the focus of my collecting is the area around Tōkyō, and thus the trains found there are what I am writing about.

Freight locomotives in the Tōkyō area tend to be electric. There are exceptions: in addition to switching duties, the diesel-hydraulic DE10 can sometimes be found moving short trains. One example of this is the coal train I’ll describe further down below. But for the most part these trains are operating over lines already electrified for passenger trains, and so it makes more sense to use electric locomotives. Read More...

The Humble Boxcar

The boxcar is one of the earliest types of railway car, and they were in use in the U.S. in the 1830’s, almost as early as the first railways here. The earliest railway cars were probably flat cars or gondola cars, as the use of the latter to carry coal over rails predated the invention of steam propulsion (they were horse-drawn) by over two centuries, and possibly by much longer. But it didn’t take long for someone to realized that fully enclosing some cargo was important to protect it from the weather, or to keep it secure in transit.

Originally boxcars were used for both “less-than-carload” (LCL) shipments originating at freight stations and for whole-car shipments originating from private industry sidings. As LCL traffic shifted to trucks, or express baggage cars on passenger trains (essentially a specialized type of boxcar if you want to be pedantic) they were left to carry whole-car shipments that for one reason or another weren’t better carried in some other kind of car. Often a cargo first carried in boxcars would later have specialized cars developed to better meet its specific needs (automobiles were first shipped in boxcars, before multi-level autorack cars were developed).

Freight Trains, Electronics and October 2010 Status

Not much got done on the layout itself in October, mostly I’ve been running trains (as documented in an earlier post with a video) and doing a bit of electrical work (mostly the previously noted update to the power panel). I’ve spent a good bit of time on a couple of other things though.

Freight Trains of Sumida Crossing

My model railroad is primarily a passenger railroad. That’s not because there is no freight in Japan, or even in Tōkyō, but freight is definitely second to passenger service in a nation where most of the population lives close to ports, and trains have to compete with both trucks and ships. As a result, freight in Japan largely means containerized cargo and bulk products such as petroleum, although boxcars and other general-freight cars are still in use. Freight trains in Japan tend to be relatively short, often just a dozen or two cars, or even just a few.