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Longer & Longer consists

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Yes when one looks at the shrinking Via long distance network the trend certainly appears downhill! Similar situation happened here in Australia. Our two best known long distance trains(Indian Pacific and the Ghan) are now all first class services owned by a private equity group. They use Budd cars built in 1969/ 1970 .  The crunch for Via will come when those 1950,s built cars have to be replaced.

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So, due to basic railroading economies-of-scale, long trains make sense.

 

However, "longer than the sidings" never makes sense.  And honestly I can't imagine why the freight railroads would try to run super-long trains in single-track territory.  In double-track territory it can work out pretty well, as long as there are enough crossovers.  But in single-track territory, it's like taking tractor-trailers down one-lane roads.  Not sane.

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On 1/23/2019 at 4:07 PM, Inlander said:

Yes when one looks at the shrinking Via long distance network the trend certainly appears downhill! Similar situation happened here in Australia. Our two best known long distance trains(Indian Pacific and the Ghan) are now all first class services owned by a private equity group. They use Budd cars built in 1969/ 1970 .  The crunch for Via will come when those 1950,s built cars have to be replaced.

I expect VIA's remote services to be pawned off on First Nations and provinces one at a time.  The remaining two "long distance" services are the Canadian, which VIA has somehow turned into an upscale, infrequent tourist cruise but lacks political support en route; and the Ocean, which actually has a pretty substantial political support base and will probably eventually be brought back to daily and re-equipped as an extension of the Corridor services, after New Brunswick and Nova Scotia campaign about it enough.

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On 2/4/2019 at 12:47 PM, neroden said:

So, due to basic railroading economies-of-scale, long trains make sense.

 

However, "longer than the sidings" never makes sense.  And honestly I can't imagine why the freight railroads would try to run super-long trains in single-track territory.  In double-track territory it can work out pretty well, as long as there are enough crossovers.  But in single-track territory, it's like taking tractor-trailers down one-lane roads.  Not sane.

All they look at is costs.  If it is cheaper on paper, to heck with what happens in the field! Precision railroading lives on!!

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1 hour ago, Thirdrail7 said:

All they look at is costs.  If it is cheaper on paper, to heck with what happens in the field! Precision railroading lives on!!

For whatever reason the costs of crew replacements, delays to other trains, customer dis satisfaction, extra costs for other crews of non  associated trains, additional equipment needed for delayed trains especially when locos are not available to make a return trip, delivery days missed,  lost Amtrak, UPS, FED EX,   incentive payments etc.  The question is who tells the cost accountants where these costs go?  Or does no one at the RR has any clue ?   Worse maybe a way to make the OR look better?

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It's all about each departments managers 'numbers'.  I learned this the hard way about 40 years ago as a manager at a steel products manufacturing company, itself, a wholly owned subsidiary of a major US steel manufacturer.

While investigating the reasons for why the coiled steel painting department was always playing 'catch up', it was discovered that the manufacturing department scheduling manager wasn't telling the paint department what was going to be manufactured more than 2 days in advance.  Hence, the paint department had to go through numerous color changes on their 80 foot-long 20 feet high coil painting machine.  Each color change took 2-3 hours, depending on if only one side had to be changed, or both colors had to be changed.  Much disassembly and cleaning with hazardous chemicals was required for each color change.

The result of this 2-day-only lead time was that the manufacturing department manager looked good on paper based on keeping their schedules and minimal damaged products and the paint department manager looked like a complete idiot whose costs were out of control.  The manufacturing managers' reason?  Once a coil was painted, it was put on 'their side of the wall' between departments.  If it got damaged in any way on 'his' side, it was 'his' budget that took the hit, not the paint departments!  Remember, we're talking 2-3 ton coils of steel being damaged, not a 5 foot roll one can buy at a hardware store.

Long trains make the employment department manager look good as there's fewer crews, fewer overnight hotel stays, etc.  Meanwhile, the dispatchers are nearing insanity trying to get a pair of 3 mile trains to pass each other at a 1.5 mile siding.  Double saw-bys are very time consuming and end up clogging the line even worse than before!  Here's an explanation of them: Double Saw By definition  

 

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In copmanies with competent management, this kind of idiotic "make the department numbers look good and to hell with the company" behavior leads to a round of management firings for cause (the manufacturing department manager, in your example!) and some fast restructuring.

So basically it comes down to management incompetence/corruption.  It's one of the types of incompetence I look for (to avoid) when evaluating companies from an investment perspective.

 

On a railroad, the order for decision making should go: customer (what do they need?), dispatcher (what do they need to deliver when/where the customer needs delivery?), track maintenance and construction (what do they need to deliver what the dispatcher needs?), equipment/crew allocation, and finally equipment purchasing.  The Class Is are very bad at this.

Edited by neroden

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17 hours ago, neroden said:

In copmanies with competent management, this kind of idiotic "make the department numbers look good and to hell with the company" behavior leads to a round of management firings for cause (the manufacturing department manager, in your example!) and some fast restructuring.

So basically it comes down to management incompetence/corruption.  It's one of the types of incompetence I look for (to avoid) when evaluating companies from an investment perspective.

Not really as this kind of idiotic make the numbers look good actually makes the stock look better (at least for a while.) . Therefore,  it is for the good of the company.

17 hours ago, neroden said:

On a railroad, the order for decision making should go: customer (what do they need?), dispatcher (what do they need to deliver when/where the customer needs delivery?), track maintenance and construction (what do they need to deliver what the dispatcher needs?), equipment/crew allocation, and finally equipment purchasing.  The Class Is are very bad at this.

The operative word is in your opening sentence: SHOULD.

However, the railroads often have a stranglehold on a great deal of their customers. Increase the lead time, and deliver within the bloated schedule and they'll accept it. Therefore, you can still cut your labor costs.

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And I'm guessing, just like the rest of Corporate America, there's not much one can do?

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