Lesson 1: Introduction to Railcar Storage

What happens when the supply of railcars exceeds demand? When there isn’t enough carload traffic to keep all the available cars busy? An oversupply of cars develops -- an excess or surplus of cars that must be dealt with.

The rail network is finite. There is only so much space for the railroads to get their work done and they don’t need extra cars getting in the way. The rail network becomes congested when things get busy. Surplus equipment exacerbates congestion, so railroads want these excess cars to be stored out of the way. The responsibility to store these surplus cars falls to the owner of the cars: either the railroad itself, another railroad, or the shipper/ leasing company that owns the car. Regardless of the reason, a surplus of railcars is an issue that needs to be addressed. Unless the car owners’ answer is to retire and scrap the car, storage will be needed.

Storage Yard (1)

Before a car owner puts a car into storage, they need to ask why the car needs to be stored and for how long. Is this a short-term situation… say, a two-week plant maintenance shutdown that will idle a shipper’s cars for a couple of weeks? Or is it a market downturn that will force a lessor to store a car for six months or so before it can find a new lessee? Or maybe the situation is a coal car owner who, for financial reasons, is unable to immediately retire a train set of coal cars it will never need again, but will need to store the set for years until it can scrap the cars? Many deciding factors are involved when railcars are put into storage.