Real RRs: loading auto cars

Today for fun I watched an AutoTrain[1] being loaded. This was at UP's Richmond, California auto-loading lot, near their big Richmond yards (don't know the name of them, but it's the biggest railyard in the Bay Area).

Interesting procedure: there's a ramp at one end the cars drive up and onto the current level (out of 3) being loaded, then drive the length of the train; you can see autos passing the gaps between railcars.

The whole thing takes a *lot* longer than I would have figured: it is apparently limited by the size of the crew. Today, they had 10 people working; you'd see a batch of 10 cars drive onto the train. Then a van (the "crummy", I'm guessing) would drive the length of the train, picking up the drivers, and drive to the part of the lot where the cars were, drop off the drivers, and another batch of 10 cars would depart. I would have thought that they'd want this operation to go fast, and have cars continuously coming up the ramp, but it seemed to proceed at a pretty leisurely pace, at least from the distance I was watching at.

I was wondering how the drivers get out of the autos and out of the cars; I'm guessing that there's a walkway the length of each level, presumably on the left (driver's) side of the train, whereby they exit at the ends of the cars via ladders. I couldn't see that side of the train.

Also don't know how this fits in with the current economic situation; I'm guessing that these cars may have come from our local NUMMI auto plant in Fremont, which has recently cut back its hours of operation.

It would be a pretty kewl thing to model, if one had lots of identical car models.

[1] Dunno if AutoTrain is the actual name for these vehicles or not; these were the triple-decker auto carriers, completely covered.
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David Nebenzahl
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David Nebenzahl said this on 2/27/2009 7:51 PM:

We road Amtrak's auto train from Richmond Va to Orlando FL one year with our kids to Disney of course. I only remember it as a 2 layer car but they did it on a much smaller basis. A driver drove in and then walked back. I think it was more logical, the cars were parked beside the trains, and the driver drove down the train a bit and back up into the cars. When he got out he was kinda back where the cars were parked for the next pickup. I do remember we had to be there hours in advance but really don't remember the total time or qty of cars. This was obviously a smaller scale operation, probably no more than 10 train cars. Of course they did it (or do it) several times a week.

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David Nebenzahl wrote in news:49a88a00$0$2696$

Auto Rack actualy. but we knew what you ment.

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On 3/2/2009 3:54 PM Gordon spake thus:

Right; I guess Amtrak owns the Auto Train name (their service from Lorton, VA (Washington, DC) to Sanford, FL (Orlando)).

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David Nebenzahl

Actually they're called Auto Racks. Or many railroaders simply call them Mutli-Levels. You have Bi-Level's and Tri-Level's. Often when spotting the cars up, the conductor will simply use the term Tri-Levels, or "Racks". Just depends on who's counting down to a spot.

Well, unless you have one employee for every automobile you intend to load, it will take time to do it. And with the current economic situation, it's likely they have cut back on the number of employees. The railroad I work for serves a Toyota distribution center. We spot loaded racks, which they unload. It's the same process in reverse, and they usually only have about a dozen people total unloading. I haven't been down there in awhile to see the people unload, but they may have cut back. I know they stopped unloading on Saturday and Sunday mornings. And their car deliveries have reduced greatly. Sometimes they don't get any racks at all.

There's a walk way inside on both sides, because you can load racks from either direction, so there's no "left" or "right" to loading.

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