• ITVI.USA
    15,082.320
    -168.040
    -1.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    24.900
    0.200
    0.8%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,049.400
    -171.730
    -1.1%
  • TLT.USA
    2.730
    -0.030
    -1.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.070
    0.150
    5.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    2.860
    -0.120
    -4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.660
    0.230
    16.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    2.950
    0.110
    3.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.040
    -0.090
    -4.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.350
    0.100
    3.1%
  • WAIT.USA
    126.000
    0.000
    0%
  • ITVI.USA
    15,082.320
    -168.040
    -1.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    24.900
    0.200
    0.8%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,049.400
    -171.730
    -1.1%
  • TLT.USA
    2.730
    -0.030
    -1.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.070
    0.150
    5.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    2.860
    -0.120
    -4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.660
    0.230
    16.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    2.950
    0.110
    3.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.040
    -0.090
    -4.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.350
    0.100
    3.1%
  • WAIT.USA
    126.000
    0.000
    0%
BusinessFreightWaves ClassicsInsightsIntermodalNewsRail

FreightWaves Classics: TTX’s history illustrates changes in railroading over the past 65 years

As outlined in Part 1 of this article, TTX Company was founded on November 9, 1955 as Trailer Train Company. Trailer Train’s founders/owners were the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), Norfolk & Western Railroad (which was partially owned by the PRR) and Rail-Trailer Corporation. The new company’s name was the result of an employee contest held by the Pennsylvania Railroad. 

Trailer Train revolutionized the railroad industry by using flatcars that could haul truck trailers, beginning the intermodal era. At the time, the practice hauling truck trailers on flatcars was called “piggybacking.”

According to the TTX website, the new company’s owners had three objectives for Trailer Train Company. They were:

  • Standardize piggybacking by using railcars that were capable of carrying two truck trailers
  • Promote the growth of rail intermodal (piggybacking) by providing Trailer Train’s members/ owners with the “best available equipment” and inform them of new developments in intermodal transportation
  • Provide its members with equipment at the “lowest possible cost”
A Pennsylvania Railroad train. (Photo: University of Pennsylvania)

The Pennsylvania Railroad was deeply involved in Trailer Train’s launch and early success. 

Established in 1846, by 1882 the Pennsylvania Railroad was the largest railroad (by traffic and revenue), the largest transportation enterprise and the largest corporation in the world. At that time, its budget was second only to that of the U.S. government.

Over the years, the PRR acquired, merged with or owned part of at least 800 other rail lines and companies. In the 1920s, it carried nearly three times the traffic as other railroads of comparable length. But by the 1950s the PRR and its rivals were looking for ways to generate more revenue as the nation and the railroad industry were changing. Except for the Northeast corridor, passenger traffic was dwindling as the airlines and passenger cars became more cost-effective. Railroad freight became more important to the railroads, but trucking continued to expand its percentage of freight moved. 

James Newell, who had been the PRR’s Vice President Operations, was named as the first president of Trailer Train. He was a vocal proponent of the pool concept of piggyback car ownership. Rail-Trailer subsidiary Van-Car Corporation was contracted to manage the new Trailer Train Company. Its management was headquartered in Philadelphia (where the PRR corporate headquarters was also located), while its operating headquarters were placed in Chicago. 

An early TTX photograph. (Photo: TTX Company)

The Trailer Train Company held its inaugural Board of Directors meeting on December 16, 1955 – only five weeks after the company was formed. At the meeting, the board authorized the purchase of the company’s first railcars – 500 75-foot flatcars bought from the PRR. Each railcar was able to haul two 35-foot truck trailers. Trailer Train was up and running.

TTX railcars carry domestic intermodal containers through spectacular scenery. (TTX Company)

By 1958, the length of the flatcars used for the piggyback service was increased to 85 feet. 

In addition, these new flatcars were equipped with trailer hitches, which made securing the cars easier and faster.

During the 1960s – the company’s first full decade of operations – there were a number of innovations and improvements made. Examples include:

  • In 1960, the company purchased low-level railcars for its piggyback service in Eastern states, where there were clearance issues in numerous locations. 
  • The first low-level railcars equipped with auto racks went into service in 1961. This was an effort by Trailer Train to capture additional business hauling autos. At that point, the railroads were only transporting 10% of the new cars being manufactured.
  • In 1964 the company increased its fleet by adding general service 60-foot and 85-foot railcars. Less than 10 years after its inception, Trailer Train received its 25,000th railcar. 
  • Several changes took place in 1966. The length of flatcars increased again; the first 89-foot flatcars began to be used for piggyback and autorack service. Also, Trailer Train introduced its first all-purpose flush deck railcars, as well as the first 60-foot railcars designed to haul construction equipment. 
  • In 1968 the company introduced 68-foot flatcars capable of holding 100 tons of cargo. Just four years after receiving its 25,000th railcar (1965), Trailer Train took possession of its 50,000th railcar in 1969.
TTX boxcars with the yellow paint job and the TTX logo. (Photo: TTX Company)

The 1970s continued the company’s expansion, growth and innovation. Highlights include:

  • The decade began with a new paint job. Trailer Train changed the color of its railcars from red to yellow. TTX continues to use that paint color today.
  • The company closed its Chicago offices in 1971 and consolidated headquarters and operations in Philadelphia.
  • In 1973, Trailer Train began to use mobile vans in Chicago and St. Louis, providing parts and repair services to railroads that kept railcars in service. These services were the beginning of the company’s future field maintenance operations (FMO) network.
  • The Railbox subsidiary of Trailer Train Company was formed in 1974. It ordered 10,000 50-foot boxcars, and the first was delivered on October 15, 1974. Also that year, a new generation of railcars – 89-foot flatcars designed with low-level flush decks and equipped with roofs and end doors – went into service. The company also purchased Hamburg Industries in 1974. This facility (now called SRD-North Augusta) became the company’s first repair facility.
  • The company took possession of its 75,000th railcar in 1975, and in 1976 the last of the 1974 order for 10,000 boxcars was delivered to Railbox.
  • Two years later (1978), Trailer Train opened its second repair facility, located in Mira Loma, California. 
  • In 1979, Trailer Train/Railbox took delivery of the 100,000th purchased railcar. 
A train with TTX covered hoppers moves past hills and a somber sky. (Photo: TTX Company)

Innovations and expansion continued in the 1980s. Examples include:

  • In 1980, a third repair facility was opened. However, the company closed the facility in 1982 because of a recession. In 1984 the facility was sold to Amtrak. Another repair facility was opened in Jacksonville, Florida in 1981.
  • Trailer Train’s railcars had been getting longer and stronger over the years. That was also true in the trucking industry. In 1981, the company modified over 20,000 railcars because truck trailers were longer. The modified railcars were able to carry two 45-foot trailers. 
  • The company opened its first FMOs in Chicago and Houston in 1984. That year Trailer Train also added single-axle, single unit 50-foot flatcars equipped with one hitch to its fleet. These flatcars were named “Front Runner®.”
  • In 1985 the company made additional changes to its railcar fleet. It modified 89-foot hitch cars so that they were capable of carrying two 45-foot truck trailers or three 28-foot trailers. Trailer Train also modified a number of surplus 60-foot general service railcars to container railcars. In addition, the company bought its first double-stack railcars.
  • Trailer Train began connecting two 89-foot flatcars using drawbars. These were named “Long Runner®” railcars.
A train with TTX railcars (with domestic intermodal containers) is stopped at the Banff train station in Canada.
(Photo: TTX Company)

In the 1990s, the company continued its expansion and made other significant moves as well. Examples include:

  • In 1991, the company’s name was changed from Trailer Train Company to TTX Company, the name it continues to use today. The company also undertook a total quality management (TQM) initiative. 
  • The company’s fleet grew to more than 125,000 railcars. Also, heavy-duty flatcars became part of the TTX fleet.
  • In 1995, Reload, a company that managed the distribution of autoracks, was absorbed by TTX. The same year, the company began adding articulated bi-level railcars to its fleet.
  • TTX bought its first 53-foot double-stack railcars in 1999. It also added 89-foot flatcars  capable of carrying 100 tons of cargo. That, plus their length, meant that TTX could begin carrying significant amounts of piping.

Since 2000, TTX has continued to expand and innovate. Examples include:

  • In 2003, specialty boxcars designated as TBOX and FBOX were added to the TTX fleet. In addition, the company began modifying 48-foot double-stack cars, shortening them to 40 feet.
  • As more and more wind farms were started to generate electricity, railcars able to carry windmill components became part of the fleet in 2008.
A train with a TTX boxcar passes a beautiful waterfall. (Photo: TTX Company)

The highlights outlined above were adapted from the TTX corporate timeline, which is found on the company’s website. TTX has had a history of significant accomplishment, adding different types of railcars to its fleet to meet the changing needs of the railroads it serves and the industries that they serve. Its fleet has grown significantly over the decades – not only in number, but in types of railcars.
To read Part 1 of the TTX profile, click here. To learn more about this innovative company, visit its website.

Scott Mall, Managing Editor of FreightWaves Classics

Scott Mall serves as Managing Editor of FreightWaves Classics. He writes articles for the website, edits the SONAR Daily Watch series, marketing material for FreightWaves and a variety of FreightWaves special projects. Mall’s career spans 45 years in public relations, marketing and communications for Fortune 500 corporations, international non-profits, public relations agencies and government agencies.