Not everything shipped by rail fits in an intermodal container, gondola, hopper, or box car. For high, wide or oversize loads railroads such as BNSF Railway use specialized railcars.
Products hauled by the Class I railroad include farm and construction machinery, tanks and other military vehicles, wind turbines and blades, pipeline segments, turbines, boilers, transformers, generators and other equipment that require customized planning.
BNSF specialists work with companies to understand their shipping requirements before manufacturing begins to make sure products can clear bridges, tunnels, trains running on the opposite track, trees and other restrictions. BNSF then validates all measurements and confirms clearances along the planned route, according to a video on the company’s Website.
An advantage of moving project cargo by rail is avoiding state-by-state permits and convoy escorts.
One of BNSF’s customers for overdimensional cargo is Boeing. The railroad has allocated additional flat cars to support increased production of the aircraft manufacturer’s popular 737 narrow-body plane through 2014, spokeswoman Krista York-Woolley confirmed in an e-mail. She declined to provide additional details, but the Puget Sound Business Journal reported in February that BNSF now has 99 special railcars in operation for Boeing.
The fuselages are made in Wichita, Kan., and transported to Boeing’s assembly plant in Renton, Wash.
Boeing recently announced that its 737 production has increased from 31.5 to 35 planes per month during the past two years and the production rate will reach 38 planes per month this quarter and 42 planes a month per year going forward, as demand for 737-800s grows.
BNSF usually hooks the 737 fuselage cars onto regular manifest trains, but sometimes runs dedicated express trains when Boeing has an urgent need, a company official told the Puget Sound Business Journal.