This article was uploaded from the CSX Transportation Web site on 8/13/96. It has since disappeared for unknown reasons.

CSX and the Iron Highway

Increasingly, over-the-road carriers face an uphill challenge-- how to increase productivity while countering such issues as compatible equipment, shortages of quality drivers, traffic congestion and rising operating costs. This challenge presents an opportunity for intermodal carriers to provide an alternative service for shipments as short as 300 miles.

To explore this potential, CSX, a leader in the freight transportation industry, is conducting R&D on a system that would permit the use of any highway trailer in intermodal service, and provide a competitive option to over-the-road trucking. It would connect short-haul markets that are not efficiently served by intermodal today.

The system being developed and tested is called the "IronHighway," an advanced technology designed to meet the needs of today's motor carriers and private fleet operators in both short-and medium-haul markets -- corridors between 300 and 700 miles.


New York Air Brake, along with CSX Intermodal (CSXI), developed a prototype in the early 1990s. Its name, "Iron Highway," reflects the concept of providing alternative, cost-effective transportation of truck trailers on a "highway" of iron rather than pavement. CSXI bought out New York Air Brake's interestin 1994.

The prototype consists of a 1,200-foot long continuous platform capable of handling any combination of trailer lengths. The element is designed to move as many as 40 trailers of varying lengths or as few as 20 53-foot trailers. The trailers would be driven on and off the ramps, without need for sophisticated terminals. Several Iron Highway elements could then be linked together by automatic couplers to form a train.

The technology involved, overall design and train lengths of the system are all currently being evaluated and tested at the AAR Test Center in Pueblo, Colo., and are subject to modification. A commercial service pilot test on CSXT's system between Chicago and Detroit is expected to begin in the third quarter of 1996. The test, which should run for six months, will allow CSX to evaluate more fully the commercial potential of the Iron Highway.

Potential Benefits of the Iron Highway

Although there is still much to be learned and tested, the Iron Highway shows potential for value in the following areas:

More than two million highway trailers are in use today across the United States. A majority of these are not sufficiently reinforced to accept the lifts involved in an intermodal rail movement. The Iron Highway would extend intermodal service to this potentially huge market by enabling rail loading and unloading without lift equipment.

This technology also presents the opportunity for strategic siting of high-activity, low-investment terminals at a variety of locations, shortening trailer dwell time. This flexibility would allow greater service delivery in markets currently not well served by conventional intermodal service.

For further information, please contact Elisabeth J. Gabrynowicz at 804-782-6775.

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This page was updated on June 07, 1996.