Book Review
Piggyback & Container Traffic
Piggyback & Container Traffic
  • move

by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Piggyback & Container Traffic is a new book from Kalmbach Publishing. It is Item #12804 in Kalmbach's catalogue and has the ISBN 9781627003834. Authored by Jeff Wilson, it is a 8.25" x 10.75" format with 128 pages and boasts 200 color photographs. As Kalmbach tells us:
    In his all-new book, Piggyback & Container Traffic, modeling expert Jeff Wilson provides a comprehensive guide to railroad intermodal equipment and operations, tracing the development of piggyback (trailer-on-flatcar) and container traffic from the steam era to today.

    You will learn:

    What equipment and operations are appropriate for a specific era.
    How trailers and containers are loaded onto railcars.
    How piggyback containers and terminals work, and much more!

    A must-have reference guide for model railroaders and rail enthusiasts alike!

One of the models that hooked me into model railroading was a Tyco piggyback set with trailers similar to the ones on the book cover; that they are in Minneapolis & St. Louis Rwy livery makes this book hard for me to not love.

Author Jeff Wilson has penned many books and articles. Piggyback & Container Traffic should be an informative and enjoyable title. We will learn about the general history of intermodal transport through 10 chapters:
    Chapter 1, History of container and piggyback traffic

    Chapter 2, Piggyback trailers

    Chapter 3, Containers

    Chapter 4, Trailer and container flatcars

    Chapter 5, Double-stack container cars

    Chapter 6, Spine and skeleton cars

    Chapter 7, Roadrailers and Flexi-Vans

    Chapter 8, End-loading temrinals

    Chapter 9, Modern intermodal terminals

    Chapter 10, Intermodal operations

I found the history of TOFC (trailer-on-flat car, or "piggyback") interesting, especially because one of the early haulers was so unlikely, the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina, a.k.a, "The Tweetsie". While running loaded wagons on railcars can be traced as early as the 1870s, TOFC as we know it today started c.1921. The book presents Interstate Commerce Commission and their 1954 ruling for those interested in rule-making, as well as the impact of the later Staggers Act and the resulting impact of containers.

The reader will also learn about spotting features of particular trailers and trailer types. Did you know that there were even auto-rack trailer TOFCs? Ever wonder what a "pup trailer" is? Or the lengths of trailers? This explains those topics. It covers leasing companies, reporting marks and numbering, and how modelers can chose the correct model to represent their era and area. Next, the book presents the many facets of containers. Much of this chapter is similar to the trailer chapter although it expands to cover international and domestic containers.

Chapter 4, Trailer and container flatcars presents aspects of the industry that I never thought of, like special rails or wheels under semis to allow them to operate more efficiently on the flatcar. One innovation was the Clejan system; another was the rub rail. How the trailers were secured to the car is also detailed. Purpose-built flatcars came along to haul TOFC, and hitches were designed for the various types, too.

Flatcars have succumb to container cars and chapter five covers these: Southern Pacific's 513300; Budd/Thrall; Gunderson; Trinity; rebuilts. Ownership is discussed as well as their reporting marks. Car loading is explained and modelers can make their layouts look more authentic. Chapter 6, Spine and skeleton cars explains why these curious cars came to be and how the oil embargoes of the 1970s influenced their design with Santa Fe's Fuel Foilers. How spine and skeleton cars evolved is presented as well.

Doing away with railway cars altogether as a concept resulted in the compelling Roadrailers and Flexi-Vans, covered in Chapter 7. This book holds many fascinating stories including that those interesting cars first ran in regular service through my hometown, albeit for a short time, and while I was away in college and military basic training. For readers interested in labor relations, the book offers minor insights in how TOFC and their revolution affected railroad work forces and economics. Such is abundantly clear when reading about Norfolk Southerner's success with their Triple Crown Services.

Chapter 8, End-loading terminals and Chapter 9, Modern intermodal terminals describe how those trailers and containers get onto rail cars. This is an excellent section for modelers wanting to incorporate this service into their layouts. Modelers and ferroequinologists can find expanded information on this subject through Kalmbach's book Waterfront Terminals and Operations, which you can access via Click here for additional images for this review, below.

Finally, in Chapter 10, Intermodal operations, we learn how we can incorporate TOFC/containers into our model railroad operations in a realistic manner. Designing a schedule, interchange, hotshot trains, those are a few topics covered.

The text is informative and easy to follow. The book features many sidebars and text boxes to highlight information that needs more emphasis or is supportive of the text, e.g., side loader forklift-style specialty vehicles.

Graphics and Photography
There is plenty to support the text. This is a highlight of Kalmbach books. Kalmbach draws upon their expansive resources of their publications such as Trains and Classic Trains magazines, among other sources. Kalmbach boasts of 200 color photos in this book and while I did not count them, I am sure there are that many, as well as a similar number of black-and-white images. While some original shots from the 1920s and 30s are not Pulitzer quality, they are not blurry reproductions from magazines, either. Most of the images are sharp and detailed.

Original tables and illustrations are provided, as well as those borrowed from Kalmbach's other publications. These include:
    Two-page examples of trailer components and markings

    Typical international container schedule

    Major U.S. intermodal routes and terminals, 2012

    Busiest U.S. rail intermodal ports/terminals, 2013

    Largest U.S. container ports, 2014

    BNSF Chicago-area intermodal facilities

      * RoadRailers and Flexi-Vans
      *Spine cars
      *Intermodal flatcars
      *Piggyback trailers
      *Trailer Train memberships

    Flexi-Van service, early 1960s

    Triple Crown RoadRailer lines, 2011

    Trailer Train spine and skeleton cars in service

    Number of Trailer Train flatcars in service

    Trailer Train flatcar descriptions

    TTX paint schemes

    Intermodal carloadings by year

    Container and chassis numbering

    Trailers in service

    Types of trucking companies

    Auto-rack trailers

    Trailer numbering -
      *August 1988-Present

    Railroad TOFC equipment, 1954

Typical of Kalmbach books this title is a wealth of visual support.

Piggyback & Container Traffic is an excellent primer for historians and model railroaders interested in this significant category of railroad business. I remember piggybacks and I wonder where in the world one would have to go not to find an intermodal container? The author introduces the book with comments about just how enormous of a task it would be to write a full history of the subjects, and ends the book with a large bibliography of sources, as well as the sidebar Finding train information.

This book is full of photographs and other graphics. The text is very detailed and yet easy to follow. I have no meaningful complaints and happily recommend this book.

Please remember to mention to retailers and vendors that you saw this product here - on RailRoad Modeler.

Click here for additional images for this review.

Highs: This book is full of photographs and other graphics. The text is very detailed and yet easy to follow.
Lows: De minimis.
Verdict: An excellent primer for historians and model railroaders interested in this significant category of railroad business.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 12804
  Suggested Retail: $21.99
  PUBLISHED: Sep 20, 2017
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Kalmbach Publishing Co.!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

View This Item  |  View Vendor Homepage  |  More Reviews  

About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright 2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


Click image to enlarge
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move