Encyclopedia of Operations Research and Management Science

2001 Edition
| Editors: Saul I. Gass, Carl M. Harris

Rail freight operations

  • Carl D. Martland
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/1-4020-0611-X_849

In North America, the railroad industry is predominantly privately owned and overwhelmingly oriented toward freight rather than passenger operations. An emphasis on profitability and practical problems has been a characteristic of OR/MS applications in the rail industry. We address freight car utilization, operations planning and control, and line dispatching, the three rail areas that have had the longest history of successful OR/MS applications.


There are three main issues in freight car utilization: fleet sizing, allocation of equipment to specific services, and distribution of empty equipment. Each of these issues is complicated by the fact that cars are interchanged among the North American railroads. A complex set of rules has been developed for the use of “foreign” cars owned by another railroad or “private” cars owned by a shipper or a car-supply company. The Freight Car Utilization Research/Demonstration Program (1980), jointly established in 1975 by...

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carl D. Martland
    • 1
  1. 1.Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA