Monday, March 19, 2018

2018 Railcar Analysis "Big Data"

Everywhere you turn in the rail industry you hear about big data and how carriers and car owners use it to manage their fleets. Obviously from a model railroad perspective we dont have this same exact data, however we do have other ways to pull "big data" in regards to our own layout rosters. 


Case in point comparing the August 2017 roster to the March 2018 data is well astonishing and tells a story in itself that we will discuss in just a minute. Being a modern contemporary model railroad I do my best to recreate what I observe trackside or read about. Some of the practices have to do with railroads actually decreasing fleets or going to more versatile cars that can be a one stop shop like the venerable 60' Plate F boxcar. Nowadays it seems this one car type has become the 50' Plate C, 50' Plate F, 60' Plate F, and even the RBL... So the more of a renaissance fleet the better to flex for customer demands. As fleets age out railroads may go towards more towards consolidating fleet types as scene with the boxcar, completing going away from a fleet, leasing a fleet, or customer moving to privately owned and managed equipment. This applies to beyond railroads and can be inferred with airlines and many other types of managed fleets. Its important to have a cost effective fleet that services the customer properly, otherwise it does no one any good because real railroading is a for profit business. 


We are going to look at the changes made to the St. Clair Sub roster over the past seven months first at a high level then going to jump in the car owner / type level to see exactly what transpired. 

Immediate take away from the high level totals - total roster grew by 35 cars in three of four categories. How can this be if MCIS sold and acquired covered hoppers assets in this time frame, what else could be driving the large growth. Lets now look into the owner / car type information to tell us more. 

 - Foreign cars down account age outs and other carriers moving towards TTX cars
 - Private ownership up account TTX picking up the share of age outs with 60' Plate F's
 - MCIS does plan to begin replacing aging 50'  Plate C cars with second hand owned 50' and 60' Plate F cars. 
- Early 2019 will see the end of the MCIS All door boxcar fleet in revenue service. 

Open Top Hoppers
 - Foreign ownership up due to coke orders originating in CWE pool cars  
 - Private ownership up significantly due to securing DTE coal contract (DETX hoppers)

Covered Hoppers
- Foreign ownership up a few cars due to new service lanes with CN and CSXT
- Home road is no change as retirement of the 4600 fleet was a wash with new 5188s 
- Private ownership up significantly due to Graystone Cement establishing a terminal at Bay City adding their own fleet of WSOX and NRLX marked 3281 cubic cars.

- Large increase due to wind unit train operations and further Essar steel business 

- Increase due to growing LPG and Dow Chemical business


The state of the railroad post described going after new business and leverage grow with more unit train operations. With the coal and wind cars we are growing this business which ironically is a balanced energy plan, and the new 5188s in grain service will support cycling more unit trains to export Michigan crops to market. Boxcars and how they are operated will continue evolve as the fleet gets older. Lastly we will continue to see a heavy reliance on private owned cars to fill the bill on specialized loadings like steel, cement, and chemicals. From a modelers perspective between what manufacturers are offering now and the aftermarket products from decal vendors there is no better time to capture the continued evolution of modern railroading. 

There you have it - 2018 analysis in a nutshell. Have a great rest of March. 


** This post is completely fictional and does not relate to any real railroad or customer **

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