Roadrailer

Roadrailer

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In railroad terminology a Roadrailer or RoadRailer is a highway trailer
Trailer (vehicle)
A trailer is generally an unpowered vehicle pulled by a powered vehicle. Commonly, the term trailer refers to such vehicles used for transport of goods and materials....

, or semi-trailer
Semi-trailer
A semi-trailer is a trailer without a front axle. A large proportion of its weight is supported by a road tractor, a detachable front axle assembly known as a dolly, or the tail of another trailer...

, that is specially equipped for use in railroad intermodal
Intermodal freight transport
Intermodal freight transport involves the transportation of freight in an intermodal container or vehicle, using multiple modes of transportation , without any handling of the freight itself when changing modes. The method reduces cargo handling, and so improves security, reduces damages and...

 service.

Overview



The advantage of using roadrailers is that due to their construction, the trailers can be pulled directly behind other freight (or even passenger) equipment without the use of trailer flatcar
Flatcar
A flatcar is a piece of railroad or railway rolling stock that consists of an open, flat deck on four or six wheels or a pair of trucks or bogies . The deck of the car can be wood or steel, and the sides of the deck can include pockets for stakes or tie-down points to secure loads...

s.

Roadrailers first appeared on American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 railroads in the 1950s. The trailers
Semi-trailer
A semi-trailer is a trailer without a front axle. A large proportion of its weight is supported by a road tractor, a detachable front axle assembly known as a dolly, or the tail of another trailer...

 were built with integrated railroad wheelsets that could be lowered into position when the trailer was pulled behind a train. More modern roadrailers do not include integrated railroad wheels, but ride on regular trucks
Bogie
A bogie is a wheeled wagon or trolley. In mechanics terms, a bogie is a chassis or framework carrying wheels, attached to a vehicle. It can be fixed in place, as on a cargo truck, mounted on a swivel, as on a railway carriage/car or locomotive, or sprung as in the suspension of a caterpillar...

 that do double-duty, serving as articulation points between multiple trailers in a train. Each regular truck
Bogie
A bogie is a wheeled wagon or trolley. In mechanics terms, a bogie is a chassis or framework carrying wheels, attached to a vehicle. It can be fixed in place, as on a cargo truck, mounted on a swivel, as on a railway carriage/car or locomotive, or sprung as in the suspension of a caterpillar...

 is equipped with two fifth wheels
Fifth wheel coupling
The fifth wheel coupling provides the link between a semi-trailer and the towing truck, tractor unit, leading trailer or dolly. Some recreational vehicles use a fifth wheel configuration, requiring the coupling to be installed in the bed of a pickup truck as a towing vehicle...

 and at one end (or both ends) of a convoy there is an adaptor truck equipped with one fifth wheel and one regular AAR
Association of American Railroads
The Association of American Railroads is an industry trade group representing primarily the major freight railroads of North America . Amtrak and some regional commuter railroads are also members...

 Type "E" or Type "F" automatic coupler. Each semi-trailer has one king pin
Fifth wheel coupling
The fifth wheel coupling provides the link between a semi-trailer and the towing truck, tractor unit, leading trailer or dolly. Some recreational vehicles use a fifth wheel configuration, requiring the coupling to be installed in the bed of a pickup truck as a towing vehicle...

 at each end. Because the truck (bogie) is significantly lighter than a rail flatcar
Flatcar
A flatcar is a piece of railroad or railway rolling stock that consists of an open, flat deck on four or six wheels or a pair of trucks or bogies . The deck of the car can be wood or steel, and the sides of the deck can include pockets for stakes or tie-down points to secure loads...

 or well-car, roadrailer freight trains are much lighter and therefore are more energy efficient than traditional intermodal trains.

RoadRailers were built by the Bi-Modal Corporations in the early 1980's located in West Chester Pennsylvania. The trailiers were built by the Budd Corporation locally with the integration of the wheelsets and railroad braking system done at the nearby Bi-Modal factory. This was a modern up-date of C&O’s Railvan used in the 1950’s. The railroad wheelsets attached to the aft portion of the trailer were lowed pneumatically by activating a simple valve controller on the left rear of the trailer. To transfer from highway mode to rail mode the trailer driver would position the trailer over tracks inlayed into a paved rail yard. First the operator would activate the valve to remove the air from the airbags that supported the trailer in the highway mode. In the fully lowered or squat position, hooks which held the railwheel set up above the road surface released. Then the operator would move the valve to inflate the two large airbags used for rail mode. These rail air bags were similar to those used in passenger rail cars at this time. After being fully transferred, the trailer would be fully level and ready for connection to the next trailer in the train. A similar system was trialed in the UK, though the concept did not prove successful, partly due to the reduction in load volume required to fit inside the UK's smaller loading gauge.

Throughout the early 1980’s various railroads experimented with the RoadRailer concept to determine if the equipment would be durable enough to endure railroad use. The positive attributes of the RoadRailer were its exceptionally smooth ride, light weight and low capital costs to set-up a rail yard. Since no flatcars were involved, no crane systems were needed to transfer the trailers between modes. In fact during one demonstration test a train of RoadRailers was broken down in the middle of an industrial street in Portland Oregon which happened to have track in the street demonstrating the flexibility of the system. Another note was that a RoadRailer train did not have a caboose car which at the time was still required for freight trains. A simple box was designed with a yellow strobe light designed to be installed in the unused coupler of the last car. Later, as cabooses were phased out, railroads today use a similar strobe to mark the end of the train.

In 1982, Conrail operated a route between (Railports) Buffalo, Rochester and Highbridge New York in the Bronx called the Empire State Xpress operated by Bi-Modal subsidiary Road-Rail Transportation Company. The concept was to offer customers rapid freight service that would be competitive with traditional over the road service. Dedicated trains left Buffalo and Highbridge each evening arriving early the next morning. The line was eventually shut down after never establishing enough key customers to utilize the service.

The primary reason that the original RoadRailer concept did not catch on was the weight penalty imposed on the trailers because of the attached railroad wheelset. This was resolved in later designs which removed the integrated wheelset by having a dedicated rail bogie assembly that stayed in the rail yard as seen today.

Triple Crown still uses them, their photo is used in this article, the "TCSZ" on the trailer is for Triple Crown Service.
The trailer number beginning with 464 indicates that the trailer was built approximately 1999-2002, and weighs only 1000 lb (454 kg) more than a regular highway only trailer.

Model versions


In the 1960s, a fully functioning OO-scale model RoadRailer was manufactured by British toymaker Lines Brothers as part of their 'Minic Motorways' range. This allowed the trailer to be remotely coupled and uncoupled from a railway bogey and/or a road tractor unit. Today, Bowser makes an HO model of the current RoadRailer in kit form and the couplermate to connect the locomotive to the trailers. DeLuxe Innovations makes an N scale ready to run model of the RoadRailer trailer and CouplerMate as well.

There are also models of the maintenance roadrailers.

Used in


Roadrailers have been used in:
  • United States
    United States
    The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

     and still are.
  • United Kingdom
    United Kingdom
    The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

     around the 1960s.
  • Australia
    Australia
    Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

     in the 1980s and 1990s.still used today.
  • Austria
    Austria
    Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

  • Brazil
    Brazil
    Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...


Maintenance vehicle


Maintenance vehicles from trucks to cranes are often fitted with both road and rail wheels. The rail wheels are raised when the vehicle operates on the road. Both wheels are lowered when operating on rail, as the rubber tyres tyred road wheels are used for traction. The rail wheels are very small and limit the speed on rail to low speeds.

The road-rail vehicles are often fitted with a turntable so that they can drive off the road at 90 degrees to the direction of the tracks, then turn in the direction of the tracks.

See also


  • Containerization
    Containerization
    Containerization is a system of freight transport based on a range of steel intermodal containers...

  • Intermodal container
    Intermodal container
    An intermodal container is a standardized reusable steel box used for the safe, efficient and secure storage and movement of materials and products within a global containerized intermodal freight transport system...

  • Intermodal freight transport
    Intermodal freight transport
    Intermodal freight transport involves the transportation of freight in an intermodal container or vehicle, using multiple modes of transportation , without any handling of the freight itself when changing modes. The method reduces cargo handling, and so improves security, reduces damages and...


  • Nicky Line
    Nicky Line
    The Nicky Line is the local nickname for the railway that once linked the English towns of Hemel Hempstead and Harpenden via Redbourn. It was officially known as the Harpenden and Hemel Hempstead Railway...

     where some test of a road-railer bus were carried out in the 1930s.
  • RoadRailer Corporation
  • Road-rail vehicle
    Road-rail vehicle
    A road–rail vehicle is a self-propelled vehicle that can be legally used on both roads and rails. Combining the words "highway" and "rail", one is often referred to as a hi-rail truck or just hi-rail, sometimes spelled high-rail, HiRail or Hy-rail. They are normally converted rubber-tired road...

  • Rolling highway
    Rolling Highway
    A rolling highway is a combined transport system to transport trucks by rail....



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