Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
There's been quite a bit of news about idle rail cars in the U.S.

Feb 23, WSJMiles of Idled Boxcars Leave Towns Singing the Freight-Train Blues

Tens of thousands of boxcars are sitting idle all over the country, parked indefinitely by railroads whose freight volumes have plummeted along with the economy...

Railroads, which have seen shipping volumes drop by double-digit percentages in recent months, face a particularly vexing problem. The nation's five largest railroads have put more than 30% of their boxcars -- 206,000 in all -- into storage, according to the Association of American Railroads. Placed end-to-end, the cars would stretch from New York to Salt Lake City.

Boxcars were on a bit of decline in the U.S. before the Wall Street black hole. The U.S. mostly ships goods that would have been shipped previously in boxars in intermodal containers now, however rail freight in North America is declining.

Mar 3, Houston ChronicleRecession sidetracks rail cars by the thousands

The recession has left rail cars parked on sidings in Houston and across the U.S., an estimated 200,000 or more nationally, because of a dramatic drop in cargo.

Overall freight shipments nationally are down about 15 percent, Tom White of the Association of American Railroads said. There are approximately 1.3 million freight cars on U.S. rails.

Union Pacific Railroad, the biggest rail operator in Houston and North America, has 48,000 rail cars sitting idle. It's not clear how many are stacked up in Houston...

The slowdown also has translated into job losses at railroads. Union Pacific has furloughed 3,150 employees as of late January, said Lange, who would not break out how many jobs were cut in Houston.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe, another big player in the Houston region, has about 35,000 freight cars in storage and has furloughed about 2,500 workers, spokesman Joe Faust said.

The other end of the idle rail cars in the U.S. are the stacks of containers in Asia. Shipping containers are stacking up in China.

Feb 26, Cargo News AsiaEmpty containers clog China's Yantian port

In Shenzhen's Yantian port, 400,000 containers are sitting empty, a volume that far exceeds the port's designed capacity of 250,000 containers.

Across the border in Hong Kong, officials are looking for a place to house hundreds of thousands of empty containers expected to hit the city in the next few months, the South China Morning Post reported.

With the global financial crisis deepening and a crippled manufacturing sector, China's port operations would have likely worsened this month.

Last month, container throughput in Shanghai, the world's second-busiest container port, fell 15 percent and that in Shenzhen fell 17.5 percent. The declines were the worst performance ever for the two ports.

In Hong Kong, container throughput fell 24.1 percent in December last year and 23.2 percent in January. Hong Kong's container throughput since November last year has been the worst since the early 1990s.

And the shipping containers are piling up in South Korea too.

Mar 2, Bloomberg News — Empty Containers Clog South Korea's Busan Port as Trade Slumps

South Korea's biggest port is running out of room to store shipping containers, said Park Jung Ho, an official at one of Busan's nine operators. The bigger concern is that the boxes are almost all empty.

Container trade at Busan, the world's fifth-largest port, has fallen about 40 percent in recent months, said Park, at Busan International Terminal Co. Even by stacking boxes five deep and leasing a nearby lot, he barely has room for the 31,700 containers that have piled up on his wharves.

Rail is cyclical in North America and with miles and miles of idle rail cars sitting on sidings across the U.S., some of the rail car manufacturers are tanking. For example — GBX's stock is at $2.82/share, down from a bubble high of $38.37 in July 2007. ARII's stock is at $6.59/share, down from a bubble high of $41.49 in July 2007.

The North American railroads stock also show decline too: UNP, BNI, KSU, CNI, CP, CSX, and NSC all are down between -40% and -70% from their highs in July of 2008.

by Magnifico on Thu Mar 5th, 2009 at 06:35:48 PM EST

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