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Conrail The Big Blue Railroad
Intermodal Operations-TOFC/COFC
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1977 Profile of Conrail

Here we have what constituted the fastest growing segment of Conrail's freight traffic business-Intermodal. Intermodal comes in two basic forms on a flatcar or well car: Wheeled trailers and containers without wheels loaded directly onto a rail car. More than two dozen trains served customers through 21 terminals throughout the system. Conrail Intermodal featured several run through trains operated in conjunction with other railroads, such as Santa Fe, Union Pacific, and Seaboard System or CSX, to name three.

Prior to April 1,1976 when Conrail began operations, Erie Lackawanna, Lehigh Valley, Reading Company, Penn Central,and Central of New Jersey all had intermodal services of their own. On these railroads, Penn Central was perhaps the largest operator of intermodal service, which operated more dedicated trains in this service than the other railroads combined and then some. Penn Central, even then, after merging Central's Flexivan and Pennsy's TrucTrain services together, called the resulting operation TrailVan Service. The Lehigh Valley Railroad counted with Apollos 1 and 2, dedicated piggyback trains operated in conjunction with the Norfolk and Western railway west of Buffalo. These two trains often saw a mix of LV and N&W power. It was these trains that the Lehigh Valley purchased EMD GP38ACs and -2s for. Erie Lackawanna had its 100 family of freight trains, two of which were primarily for intermodal traffic: NY99 and NY100, PB99 and PB100 which were operated in conjunction with the Delaware and Hudson and Boston and Maine railroads. During Conrail's first months of operation, the Apollo pig trains went to the Delaware and Hudson, others became TV trains, while still others were dropped. In this section, we will take a look at how Conrail intermodal service evolved.Intermodal services offered by Conrail consisted of the following:
Premium Intermodal (trailers) service consisting of conventional Trailer On Flat Car (Piggyback) service, Double Stack Service, featuring well cars carrying two containers per platform stacked one above the other on cars ranging from a single platform to the common five platform cars capable of carrying 10 full size containers each, or various combinations of 20 footers and 48 foot containers. Some of these well cars are also capable of handling wheeled trailers as well. For the double stack service, there were nine terminals  to cater to this service system wide. Some of these served conventional intermodal service as well.
Other intermodal services operated by Conrail involved several runthrough services in conjunction with other railroads. These were as follows: Atlanta Flyer Service, a joint Norfolk Southern-Conrail intermodal service between New York and Atlanta with connections to Birmingham and New Orleans.2.California Connection Service, a joint service between Conrail and the Santa Fe Railway between New York and Los Angles. Trains in this service were symbolled TVLA and LANY, and often ran with Santa Fe power mixed with Conrail road units or solid Santa Fe power lashups.3.Lone Star Special Service, a joint Union Pacific-Conrail service between New York and the Northeast and Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston areas.4. Orange Blossom Special, the piggyback train bearing the name of a famous Seaboard Air Line passenger train which made its final runs in the early 1950s. This was a joint service between Conrail and Seaboard System Railroad and then CSX. For motive power, Conrail relied primarily on EMD GP40-2s, SD40-2s, GE B36-7s and B40-8s for powering these intermodal trains in high speed service. The SD40-2s were particularly useful on the heavier double stack trains, since this six axle locomotive was equally at home in high speed intermodal service or low speed drag freight service. Most intermodal trains operated at up to 70 mph where track conditions and consist of train permitted.  It is Conrail's intermodal franchise that drew the attention of both Norfolk Southern and CSX transportation and helped lead to the split of Conrail's line haul operations between the two railroads. While Conrail focused its intermodal services primarily on Long Haul traffic, CSX, on its part, has been going after both short and long haul traffic on its portion of the Conrail system. A few sample schedules shown below will illustrate what Conrail's intermodal service was all about. Precision blocking of trains, high speed running, dedication of operating personnel all helped make this Conrail freight service competitive with over the road trucking.

Sample Trailvan Schedules (From 1994 CR schedule book)
 
Table 1.  TV5 Boston to East St. Louis (M-F)
 
Boston-TV   Cutoff                    1900
Boston-TV   Release                 1930
Boston-TV                          Lv   2000
Worcester-TV                    Ar    2110
Worcester-TV                    Lv    2135
Springfield-TV                  Ar     2330
Springfield-TV                  Lv    0030
CP150-MA                         Ps    0205
CP SM                              Ps    0345
Selkirk                             Ar     0400
Selkirk                             Lv     0415*
Dewitt                              Ar     0745
Dewitt                              Lv    1030
CP296-NY                         Ps    1055
Buffalo-Frontier               Ar    1410
Buffalo-Frontier               Lv    1415*
CP-5-NY                           Ps    1440
Cleveland-Collinwood    Ar     1830*
Cleveland-Collinwood    Lv     1930
Berea                             Ps     2015
Columbus-TV                 Ar      2350*
Columbus-TV                 Lv     0100
Ridgeway                      Ps     0230
Indianapolis-TV             Ar     0730*
Indianapolis-TV             Lv     0900
E.St.L. Exermont           Ar     1235
E.St.L. Exermont           Lv     1250
E. St. Louis-TV               Ar     1300      CT
 
Boston TV
Takes cars classified:
1.Syracuse single stacks and conventional COFC
2.Syracuse and west Trailvans
3.St. Louis Trailvans and conventional COFC
4.Syracuse Trailvans and conventional COFC (including
Chicago -ATSF,BN,SP and CNW)
5.Cincinnati-NS, Trailvans and conventional COFC
6.Atlanta-NS, Trailvans and conventional COFC
Worcester TV
Cutoff for receipt of intermodal traffic: 2000, release 2030 day 1.
Takes cars behind Block 1 classified:
1.Syracuse and West Trailvans (incl. Columbus, Indianapolis,,Atlanta-NS, and Cincinnati-NS).
2.St. Louis Trailvans and conventional COFC
 
Train also worked at Syracuse(Dewitt),Cleveland(Collinwood),Columbus,Indianapolis, and Exermont.
* Indicates crew change enroute.
Table 2. TV-1 Morrisville to Chicago (Daily)
 
Morrisville-TV  Cutoff               2000
Morrisville-TV  Release           2100
Morrisville-TV                   Lv   2200
CP Phoenix                      PS  2340
Harrisburg                        Ar   0240
Harrisburg                        lv    0400
CP Conpit                         Ps  0950
Conway West Yard           Ar  1215*
Conway West Yard           Lv  1230
Alliance                            Ps  1435
Berea                               Ps   1720
Toledo-Emerald Ave.       Ar    1945*
Toledo-Emerald Ave.       Lv    1950
CP421-IN                           Ps   2305
Chicago-47th St. TV          Ar   0100
 
Morrisville TV
Takes cars classified:
1.Conway Trailvans
2.Indianapolis Trailvans
3.St. Louis Trailvans
4.Chicago Trailvans
 
Harrisburg
Setoff Blocks 1,2, and 3.
Block 1 connects to HBPI-W day 2.
Blocks 2 and 3 connect to TV 3, Day2.
Blocks 2 and 3 connect to Mail 3.
Takes cars classified:
1.Chicago-Trailvans
2.Chicago Mail Trailvans
 
Table 3. TV2H Chicago to Harrisburg (Mon.-Sat.)
Chicago   51st Street    Cutoff            1700
Chicago   51st Street    Release         1800   ct
Chicago   51st Street                  Lv    1930   CT
CP421 IN                                    Ps     0010   ET
Toledo-Emerald Avenue           Ar      0320*
Toledo-Emerald Avenue           Lv      0330
Berea                                        Ps      0600
Alliance                                    Ps      0800
Conway                                    Ar      1010*
Conway                                    Lv      1020
CP Conpit                                 Ps      1400
Harrisburg-TV                           AR     2000
 
Chicago 51st Street-TV
Cutoff for receipt of cars at Ashland Avenue 1000 Day 1.
Trailers and containers received on cars must be paired to
same destination. Takes cars classified:
1.Harrisburg
Harrisburg-TV  First placement on arrival.
 
Table 4. Mail 4 (Exc. Mon) E. St. Louis to Harrisburg
 
E. St. Louis-TV     Cutoff               2200     ct
E. St. Louis TV     Release           2300      ct
E. St. Louis TV                   Lv      0001     ct
Indianapolis-TV                  Ar     0555      et
Indianapolis-TV                  Lv     0635      et*
Ridgeway                           Ps     1030      et
Crestline                            Ar      1205       et
Crestline                            Lv      1215      et*
Alliance                             Ps      1450      et
Conway                             Ar      1635       et*
Conway                             lv       1645
Pittsburgh-TV                     Ar      1715
Pittsburgh-TV                     Lv      1745
CP Conpit                          Ps      1945
CP Banks                           Ps      0115
Harrisburg                         Ar      0145
 
E. St. Louis-TV cutoff for receipt of intermodal traffic, 1400 Day 0
Cutoff for receipt of Harrisburg UPS traffic,2230 Day 0. Trailers
and containers received on cars must be paired to the same
destination.
Takes cars classified:
1. Pittsburgh, Trailvans
2.Morrisville, Trailvans
3.Allentown, Trailvans
4.Baltimore, Trailvans
5.Harrisburg, Trailvans
 
Pittsburgh-TV
Set off Block 1 for placement by 1830,Day 2.
Harrisburg
Block 2 connects to Mail 8M, Day 2
Block 3 connects to TV62A, Day 2
Block 4 connects to TV22 ,Day 3.
Block 5 available for placement Harrisburg TV by 0300, Day 2.
 
Table 5. Mail 3H. Harrisburg to Columbus (Tues  thru Sat.)
 
Harrisburg             Lv 1230    et
CP Banks               Ps 1300   et
CP Conpit              Ps  1740  et
Pittsburgh-TV        Ar  1940   et
Pittsburgh-TV        Lv  2010   et
Conway                Ar   2040   et *
Conway                Lv   2050   et
Alliance                Ps  2255    et
Crestline               Ps  0120    et
Galion                  ar   0130    et
Galion                   lv  0200    et
Columbus-TV        ar  0400    et
 
Harrisburg TV. Block 3 includes connection from TV3.
Cutoff for receipt of Trailvans at Harrisburg-TV 0930, release1030,day 1.
Takes cars classified:
2.St. Elmo-MP (Dallas) Trailvans
and conventional COFC
3.Columbus Trailvans and conventional COFC
Galion
Setoff Blocks 1 and 2.
Block 1 connects to Mail 3, Day 2.
Block 2 connects to TV55, Day 2.
Columbus-TV
First Placement on arrival.
 
These are a few examples of the precision with which Conrail set up its Trailvan services to be operated, not all trains operated daily and many were designated as to days of operation, while some daily trains had their schedules dovetailed to differ on weekends from what the normal weekday schedule for a given train would be. Most TV trains operated at close to passenger train speeds over the road.