Three Ways to Connect With Rail -- And How to Make Them Happen

If it seems connecting to rail is out of reach, it's not. If you want to leverage rail to benefit your business, you have options.

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If you want to leverage rail for its safe, sustainable, and cost effective qualities, you have options.

Remember the train sets of your youth? With a simple repositioning of a couple pieces of plastic track, you could create a whole new path for your little locomotive. Unfortunately, with steel and railroad ties, grown-up tracks are just a little more difficult to adjust. Railroads operate on fixed networks and that may make it seem like connecting to rail is out of reach. Here’s the good news: It’s not. If you want to leverage rail for its safe, sustainable, and cost effective qualities, you have options.

Option 1: Go Multi-Modal

If you take a peek out your facility’s window and see nary a track in sight — or if there is an absence of tracks at the facilities to which you ship, you might want to consider going multi-modal.

What does that mean? Multi-modal means you use a combination of transportation modes, in this case, truck and rail, to move products from origin to destination. If your facility isn’t rail served, trucks can pick up your products and they can be transferred to rail cars to travel the rest of the way. If the destination isn’t rail served, products can be transferred back to trucks for final delivery.

There are two key ways products are transferred between modes: transloading and intermodal.

Transloading
With transloading, products are unloaded from trucks and transferred to rail cars (and back again, if needed). Depending on the product type, this can happen in a number of ways: via forklift for palletized products, by pump for liquids, or by conveyor for sand, to name a very few. Just about everything you can ship by rail can be transloaded.

Intermodal
With intermodal, products are loaded into containers or trailers, which are lifted on to or off of trucks and trains. Unlike transloading, where products undergo a loading and unloading process, with intermodal, products stay in the same container all the way from origin to destination.

Although these processes are slightly different, they have one thing in common: they both allow shippers to access rail, even if there aren’t tracks at a shipment’s origin and/or destination.

How to Access Transloading and Intermodal Services
Because transloading and intermodal rely on a quality network of truck and rail carriers, most shippers and receivers rely on an experienced logistics company to arrange their multi-modal transportation plans.

Our friends at Loup Logistics specialize in connecting shippers and receivers to rail via transloading and can provide a free quote: 800-303-4544 or info@shiploup.com. If you’re looking for intermodal service, get in touch and we’ll connect you with a representative from our intermodal team.

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Option 2: Revitalize an Existing Rail Connection

Sometimes the reason shippers and receivers don’t use rail isn’t because they don’t have tracks – it’s because those tracks simply aren’t active. The good news is, that can change. If you want to use tracks that are currently not in use, follow these steps:

  • Check the track status. Contact the connecting rail carrier to see if the connection is active and in good working condition. If it’s not, the rail carrier can help determine how much it would cost to bring it back into service. Tip: You can use the Serving Carrier Reciprocal Switch (SCRS) Search to identify the carrier. Or, send us an email and we can connect you with a member of our Economic and Industrial Development team for inside intel.
     
  • Make an agreement. Work with the rail carrier to get a track agreement in place — that’s the contract you put in place to get service on your line.
     
  • Get onboard(ed). Get set up on the rail systems and receive price quotes from the rail carrier for the product you will ship/receive.

If you’d like guidance throughout the process, Union Pacific’s Economic and Industrial Development team can help. Contact us and we’ll put you in touch.

Option 3: Establish a New Connection

If you want a direct connection to rail, that’s also an option. To establish rail infrastructure at your site, follow these steps:

  • Draw up the plans. Work with an engineering firm and the rail carrier to develop a basic plan of how you will connect to the rail network.
     
  • Get approval. Ask your rail carrier to review the plan. They’ll provide approval or feedback on any concerns that need to be addressed.
     
  • Request construction quotes. Once your plan is approved and in place, get quotes for construction. Tip: In general, the longer the distance from the connection to the rail line and the busier the rail line you are connecting to, the more expensive the project.

When you’re connecting to rail, you don’t have to go it alone. Our Economic and Industrial Development team can guide you through this process and provide helpful tips along the way. Contact us to connect with them.

Rail: A Viable Option for Shipping Just About Everything

If you ever thought rail wasn’t a viable transportation option, think again. Whether you invest in tracks at your facility, revitalize an existing connection or leverage multi-modal to make it happen, you can ship just about every commodity by rail (just no personal property, passengers, pets or other living things, please!).

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