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Welcome, Week in Review reader!

We are transitioning to a new format for Week in Review as part of our migration to a new internet service provider. Week in Review subscribers will be able to use their password to access the more recent content. (Content is password protected for 6-9 months, depending on how quickly we update.)

The legacy public archives (1996-2018) are at their old location:


WIR 2019, Third Quarter

Week ending September 27
CP Book of Business discussion tells you what’s working and where in terms of both revenue dollars and revenue units; link to PDF. Why tracking truck rate changes is useful for knowing the direction of truck pricing; some thoughts on why rates change as they do and why RRs can’t seem to keep up. Shortline asset management practices; why knowing “available horsepower” is important. NEARS in Burlington, Vermont this coming week. Highlights: developing new business that sticks; how shippers are using technology to make rail service better; recent STB trends; state of the RR industry from shortline perspective.  We’re expecting 100+ attendees.

Week ending September 20
The UAW strike against GM will have a much wider effect on the railroads than just parts via intermodal and new vehicles in auto-racks; carload participation in the automotive market comes mainly from raw materials from glass to steel to plastics. Retail inventory levels have come down faster than have raw materials and finished goods inventories for manufacturers; it’s the latter that ought most to concern the non-class I railroads. An iRailroad parable. A further preview of RailTrends for November.

Week ending September 13
Cowen Conference highlights. UP strong commodity carload performance; group comprises 69 percent of UP revenues. NS champions pricing over volume. KCS the most customer-focused. RailTrends 2019 preview.

Week ending September 6
OmniTRAX to buy Cleveland Commercial Railroad (CCRL) and its wholly owned subsidiary, Cleveland Harbor Belt Railroad (CHB) for an undisclosed price. Canadian National and CSX have inked an agreement for the former to acquire the Massena rail line from the latter; short line implications? CSX names Adam Longson VP Energy, effective Sept. 9. Canadian Pacific to hold 2019 Shortline Workshop at the CP campus in Calgary October 27, 28.

[No Week in Review August 30]

Week ending August 23
OmniTRAX discontinuing service on its Central Texas & Colorado River Railway; anticipated traffic increases that had motivated the purchase of the line never materialized. Canadian National publishes its 2019-2020 Grain Plan and invites feedback from interested parties including short lines. Comparing UP traffic projections made on Q2 earnings call with YTD results half way through Q3; commodity pattern mirrors what’s happening on all the US Class Is.

Week ending August 16
One continual theme in the railroad business over the last six months has been the steady decline in revenue units; two charts. GWR 2Q YTD results; bulk commodities see largest gains. Now that all the results are in, it’s time to tally how the Class Is scored in percentage changes in my key financial and operating measures; CP ranks first seven of the nine categories. CP to hold 2019 shortline meeting in Calgary October 27-28; reception Sunday evening and formal remarks Monday morning with breakout sessions in the afternoon.

Week ending August 9
BNSF Q2 revenue $5.9 billion on 2.3 million revenue units, for an RPU of $2,299, up four percent. Of 17 commodity groups reporting, only four saw YOY gains; industrial products volume changes were primarily due to strength in the energy sectoroffset by lower sand volumes and reduced car loadings due to the challenging weather conditions in 2019. Why the Class Is are behaving as they do with respect to the manifest carload business; how short lines can cash in. How Watco’s Crew Connect software simplifies crew management and hours of service tracking.

Week in Review August 2
Why I think Class Is are spending more on share buy-backs than capex. OmniTRAX buys Winchester & Western for $105 mm. Santa Maria Valley Railroad celebrates 108th birthday. Pioneer Railcorp acquired by Denver investor group; $$$ not revealed. Anonymous deal-maker seeks $10 mm to buy three mystery short lines.

Week ending July 26
Earnings Week closes with three reports. Canadian National reports record quarterly revenues of C$4.0 billion, up nine percent, on 1.5 million revenue units, up two percent; 11 percent operating income gain to $C1.7 billion. KCS freight revenues increase four percent to $678 million; total revenue increases five percent to $714 million. NS reports total revenue $2.9 billion, up 90 basis points, on 1.9 million revenue units, down 3.8 percent; OR 63.6, off a point year-over-year. It’s getting to the point where the railroads are spending more on share repos than they are capex.

Week ending July 19
Canadian Pacific second quarter revenue units increase six percent to 716,800 and freight revenue gains 13 percent to C$1.9 billion, thanks in part to the seven percent RPU gain. CSX total revenue units decrease four percent in the second quarter; merchandise carloads, including auto, increase one percent; coal gains two points and intermodal plummets 11 percent. Union Pacific revenue units off four percent to 2.1 million units in the second quarter; commodity revenue slips two percent to $5.2 billion but total revenue, $5.6 billion, was down just a point.

Week ending July 12
Short lines, switch carriers, and regional railroads are closing ranks by getting closer and closer together; will we see more Alphabet Routes? First half 2019 weekly carload trends revisited; second-half comps repeating 2016-2018? Further thoughts on GWR going private.

[No Week in Review July 5]

WIR 2019, Second Quarter

Week ending June 28
Longer trains and less interim car handling can’t be all that good for single-car shipments not moving in unit trains. Paper commodity group is still in a funk — boxmakers who typically expect to see a seasonal uptick in demand by mid-June have yet to see any signs of a pickup as demand remains sluggish. IORY and Ohio Rail Development Commission get access to nearly $7 mm in funding for upgrading and adding to industrial trackage. A look at the BNSF O-gauge layout on display at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting.

Week ending June 21
This AAR graph clearly shows the continuing downward trend of railroad revenue units; continue the trend line down and see that, at this rate, the railroads will have no customers left by the year 2023 or so. CSX ’s Foote on reversing the trend; fitting short lines into the trip plan matrix. PMI contracting along with railroad revenue units. Continue reading

WIR 2019, First Quarter

Week ending March 29
GWR acquires two Indiana short lines to perpetuate its long-standing “contiguous railroad” model, stitching together formerly independent operations and its existing network. Greenbrier gets orders for 3,800 new fright cars — chiefly tank cars, auto racks, and covered hoppers; tank cars and covered hoppers easily fit the non-cyclical category for chemicals, energy, and grains. Not sure about auto racks.Tony Hatch reports from SEARS.

Week ending March 22
CSX is in flux; opportunities for short lines abound. CN looks for growth in shortline carloads; managing customer behavior. Thoughts on the Total Addressable Market (TAM) concept for short lines. Continue reading

WIR 2018, Fourth Quarter

Week ending December 21
The Dow Theory and share prices; what they tell us about the State of the Union and its effect on the railroad outlook. Table. What REALLY is Precision Scheduled Railroading; Quotes from Hunter’s book set the record straight.

Week ending December 14
RailTrends 2018 recap. More than 300 attended; all the Class Is and 14 non-Class I operators represented. Adding value to the customer, PSR, sustainable profitable growth, reliability the major themes. Regional and short line panel on first-mile/last-mile role; creating a custom process out of the batch process delivered by the Class Is. Why carload trip plans must be dock-to-dock. Rod Case on trucks eating our lunch and what to do about it. Continue reading

WIR 2018, Third Quarter

All issues in Adobe Acrobat format.

Week ending September 28
The Northeast Association of Rail Shippers (NEARS) holds its annual fall conference in Tarrytown, NY. Stifel touches on recent developments in the Oil & Gas Exploration and Production arena. Soybean growers continue to get hammered by the US trade restrictions. Cherilyn Radbourne writes that CN is well-positioned to cope with next year’s burgeoning demand for its service. Iowa Interstate Railroad promotes Joe Parsons to President and CEO. RailTrends 2018 coming to the Times Square Marriott in NYC November 29-30.

Week ending September 21
KCS holds its annual “Strategic Partners Conference” in KC; partnership with short lines and regional railroads a key ingredient to growth. Union Pacific debuts “Unified Plan 2020” based on Precision Scheduled Railroading principles; builds on “Blend and Balance” initiative begun in May. Continue reading