Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Carrying Airplane Parts on Freight Cars

I see carrying airplane parts on a freight car is not a new development.
Carl Venzke posted
Boeing makes 100' 737 fuselages in Wichita, KS and then ships them 2000 miles to Renton, WA for final assembly. This view not only shows the clearance frame at the front of each car, it provides a good view of where the wing attaches. The clearance frame would destroy things like icicles before they have a chance to damage the fuselage. The fuselage is not abnormally tall, but it is abnormally wide. Fortunately, the special paper work for an oversize load needs to be done only when there is a route change, not for every train. They used to travel in their own trains, but now they run at the front of the hottest (highest priority) Z symboled intermodal trains. And the trains are allowed to stop only in highly secured yards.

Photo by Dan Bennett, License CC BY
The fuselages are mounted to their 89' carriers at three points corresponding to the eventual locations of the landing gear struts....Before loading, all openings such as cabin doors, access pannels and the like are sealed with special yellow tape to prevent moisture from getting into the sensitive componenets and causing corrosion en route. The larger openings such as wing spars are covered with clear plastic inserts designed to fit in each location. Each model of the 737 requires a different set of inserts and each insert is seperatly numbered for tracking....According to a source at Boeing, they receive usually one train with three fuselage sections a week from Wichita.  [NWownRailfan]
Behind every flatcar carrying a fuselage is an idler flatcar. I see that in the photo above a box carrying a cockpit for a 747 is on the idler car. [TrainsIn this case (source), the idler car is empty and a couple of Boeing workers are riding on it. In this case, every idler car has a cockpit box.

BNSF is making more special cars because Boeing is ramping up the production of 737s. [BizJournals] In a different article, I read they intend to build 47 a month by the end of 2017.

Boeing declined comment on how dumping a few fuselages into a river would impact their production.
This photo from July 5, 2014 photo by Brock Sarbeck - provided by Wiley E. Waters Whitewater Rafting - shows a freight train that derailed near Alberton in western Montana, sending three cars carrying aircraft components down a steep embankment. (Photo: Brock Sarbeck/Wiley E. Waters Whitewater Rafting via AP) from USA Today
All six fuselages where first crushed into bales and then shipped to a plant to be shreded. [SeattleTimes]

(new window) The guy taking the video never turns back so that we can't see how much the ears that were cut into the Cascade Tunnel (7.8 miles, the longest train tunnel in the US) clears the double stacks. The square top of the containers is the reason those "ears" were cut. Other tall cars such as autorack cars have curved upper edges so they don't need the "ears" in the tunnels.

For the 787-9 Dreamliner, even more sub-assemblies were made at other locations. The timelapse video below shows how they are assembled. Final assembly plants are located in Washington and South Carolina. I remember reading articles about the production of the first planes being delayed because they had serious supply chain problems to work out. Now we can read retrospective articles about those problems, e.g. Forbes. Delivery was pushed back seven times for a total delay of three years. The cost overrun was billions of dollars because Boeing ended up having to send its engineers to the subcontractors to help solve the problems. And they had to compensate their successful subcontractors for profits they lost due to the delay in production, which delayed the revenue stream.

I think the assembly plant was a greenfield plant that Rockford, IL bid on. Obviously, they lost. Boeing ended up with a location in South Carolina because the subcontractor there, Vought, was so missed up that they ended up buying the company to fix it. [Forbes]

A video of two fuselages and a parts car train. (source, comment: "Saw this this afternoon at Berea NEBR. It was northbound at about 3:00.")

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