If you stand trackside anywhere in North America, it is hard to miss the bright yellow cars of Trailer Train – now TTX Corporation. What originated as an equipment pool for new “piggyback” business has grown into a multi-faceted company serving the railroads’ needs for freight cars of all shapes and sizes.
Trailer Train Corporation began in 1955 as an independent railroad leasing company owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad, Norfolk and Western and Rail-Trailer Corporation. These companies were all exploring the concept of Trailer on Flatcar (TOFC) or “Piggyback” trains to haul less-than-carload and express traffic in truck trailers aboard flatcars. One of the biggest drawbacks to starting the new service was the cost and risk associated with a major capital investment in new equipment. Although it was a separate company, the Pennsylvania contributed heavily to the corporation both in finances and staff. As time marched on, additional railroads bought into the company.
By creating a separate company, the individual railroads reduced their debt loads and risk while at the same time creating an even and efficient pool to simplify the car movements and improve service overall. The first Trailer Train cars were 75 foot flatcars designed to haul a pair of trailers. The cars, like the majority of freight equipment of the era, was painted a shade of “boxcar red.” There were of course many varieties on this reddish-brown color among railroads, and operating conditions and age also played a tremendous role in determining the color of the paint.
The piggyback business proved succesful, and Trailer Train continued to grow. Intermodal traffic is still at the heart of the company’s business today. Like the flatcars which started it all, today’s TTX roster is always on the forefront of innovative rollingstock. Now well and spine cars have largely replaced the standard flatcar in intermodal service, but there is no shortage of flatcars in the fleet.
In addition to growing to support the burgeoning intermodal business, Trailer Train expanded its services greatly in the 1960s and 1970s. Flat cars for new autocarriers were a natural expansion. Railroads could purchase their own racks and mount them on a Trailer Train flatcar. The cars then operated in pools just like the intermodal equipment to simplify billing and car utilization.
Additional flatcars were soon added to the roster including shorter general service cars, bulkhead flatcars, cars used for construction, farming and military equipment, and specialized heavy-duty and depressed-center cars for oversized loads.
In 1974, in response to a national shortage in boxcars, Trailer Train created Railbox to ease demand. The national pool operated like their flatcars on whatever railroad needed the car next. Five years later, Railgon was created for a similar problem with general service gondolas.
The most noticeable change in Trailer Train’s image from trackside started in 1970 when
the company began painting its cars in the now-familiar yellow and black paint scheme. The bold colors greatly improved the visibility of the cars and the company.
In 1991, Trailer Train became TTX Corporation. This created a change in markings but the color and operating plans of the equipment and company remained the same. Another logo change happened in 2009, and the new red TTX logo has begun showing up on well cars, autoracks and boxcars.
TTX remains a major player in the freight car market, and will be for decades to come. For more on the company’s history and equipment, check out the history page of their website.