Ramblings of a frustrated armchair Railway Modeller

Everyone is entitled to my opinion, so I've decided to enter the blog-o-sphere in order to share them with you.
My focus is the rationale and development of my model railway, but I am likely to wander off topic from time to time.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Back on December 28, 2005 I was thinking...

About the Humber Valley & Simcoe Railway:

I'm working on a Modern Narrow Gauge railway line that does intermodal and roadrailers like the Swiss RhB, but in Canadian (Southern Ontario) 42" gauge instead of European meter gauge...

Well, I haven't really put a lot of thought into the subject but while I was standing and waiting for a bus the other day, I was counting the number of Transport Trucks that passed on the 401 Hwy. In about 5 minutes, I counted over sixty. Not including smaller Freight in cube vans and the 2-5 ton axle vehicles. There's plenty of traffic that would translate to several trains per hour...

Here's the idea...

Model Railroaders often lament the the decline of the railroads through the 20th century. So many fallen flags and mergers. Service cuts, rails abandoned and torn up. The cars and trucks that run on the roads and highways that take passengers and freight away from the once mighty railroads...

Here in Southern Ontario, in the 1980's and '90's, the trucking industry applied for the right to haul multiple trailers on the highways. Road-trains, like the ones that cross the Australian Outback, in order to realize economies of scale...

At the same time, trucking industry standards were falling, and/or not being maintained. Trucks were falling apart on the Freeways and there were several incidents of flying truck tires and fatalities.

The general populance was pushing for special trucking lanes and/or restrictions to keep trucks off the freeways.

Maintenance Inspections and stiff penalties were introduced... But not much else changed...

As always, the status quo is upheld.

This brings me around to my idea...

The major railroads have to maintain their own ROW's, and therefore, focus on profitable unit trains and shy away from, or charge a premium for LCL's. Passenger service has been abandoned by the Railroads and has been taken over by the Government that has to rent/least trackage rights in order to operate.

The Trucking Industry handles the LCL and Time-Sensitive deliveries. More freight is handled on the highways than railways. Although the trucking industry is private, it is heavily subsidized by the various levels of government indirectly through the fact that the tax base supports the infrastructure that the trucks run on. Toll routes in Canada are almost unheard of. To my knowledge, there are only two overland toll routes in Canada. Hwy 407 in Southern Ontario, and the Coquihalla in B.C.. The rest of the Freeways are supported by government subsidies.

What I propose is a lane in each direction on the Ontario "400-series" highways be replaced with Narrow Gauge Railway. And all freight would move in containers, road-railers or piggy-back. The initial expense to convert asphalt to rails would bring about long term savings.

It would be a new-ish industry and subject to a whole new set of rules and regulations regarding labour and regulations. Taking the best from the Trucking and Railroad industries.

Adopt a model that is similar to what the Swiss are doing on the RhB for using tolls for heavy trucks and introducing equipment that handles LCL's with small containers and Self unloading intermodal along with traditional Road-Railers, containers and piggy-back.

Here's a list of links for information and inspiration:
Intermodal Association of North America
The Intermodal Container FAQ
Intermodal Transportation Institute
Welcome to Intermodal Transportation Matching
General Electric Intermodal and Rail Equipment and Services
Intermodal Container Page
Piggyback Consolidators
Intermodal 101
RoadRailer® equipment photos
Roadrailer Wiki
Wabash National Roadrailer


  1. Hey Goat! I love the business model - it seems almost reasonable! Trains on the highway - just think, you'd never again have those darn trees get in the way while pacing a train (of course, you would need a nice wiiiiiiide angle lens if you're taking photos). Matt Goodman

  2. Hi Matt,

    No more level crossings. Everything would be grade separated. Any view of the mainline would be from bridges or while pacing the train. Those trains could really fly. Talk about expedited!

    I went to a High Speed Rail Canada Symposium: http://highspeedrail.ca/ and suggested that they use the median of the 401 Highway. The big issue is having grade separation. An added expense for the Toronto to Montreal rail corridor. The Railways don't have full grade separation, but the Highway does. Weird Huh?