When the mass news media report on freight transportation for a general audience, the results are often entertaining. That was the case with "Land at a premium, railroad exploits its air space," a recent article in The Boston Globe about a new intermodal yard under development by CSX.
Reporter John Dyer did a good job of explaining in simple terms how the yard will operate. What we most enjoyed, though, were the comparisons to saloons and dry cleaning establishments he elicited from the experts he interviewed.
In the new yard, CSX will replace the side loaders it now uses for transferring containers from railcars to waiting trucks with overhead cranes. The side loaders waste time shuttling back and forth, and they get in each other's way trying to get to the train, said Carl Martland, a retired Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher. What does that mean to a layman? "It's bellying up to the bar, and somebody's already standing in front of you," he explained.
At the current terminal, there's no easy way to match up a truck with the side loader carrying the container the truck has come to pick up. The new operation will assign numbered parking spaces alongside the cranes, matching each truck with the right container—a process Maurice O'Connell, CSX's vice president for state government and community affairs, likened to "going to the dry cleaner and getting your clothes."