HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM)– Trucking is one transportation mode that makes the Harrisburg area a shipping and logistics powerhouse, and another is rail. And now yet another indication of just how important rail is here.
Harrisburg is one of the top ten of what are called “Intermodal ports” in all of America, and Norfolk Southern is the big freight railroad here.
And how big is Harrisburg to Norfolk Southern? Well the railroad mentions Harrisburg in the same breath as two much bigger cities.
“Chicago, Atlanta and Harrisburg,” publisher of Railroad Weekly Jay Shabat said. “If you look on a map and draw a triangle between these three cities, that’s what they call their golden triangle.”
A “golden triangle” of “intermodal shipping.” Why “Intermodal?”
“Because you have two modes, you know, truck and rail,” Shabat said.
Railroads compete against some trucking companies but cooperate with others. Imagine a container like these coming from China.
“Typically a lot of consumer goods, stuff that you’ll buy at Walmart or Target,” Shabat said.
It might arrive at a west coast port, get on a train there, and end up in Harrisburg.
“Railroads have very close partnerships with certain trucking companies,” Shabat said. “J.B. Hunt comes to mind.”
They’ll take the container to a warehouse where everything will be unloaded, sorted and sent on to stores or homes. Harrisburg’s geography is the key.
“In between Chicago and Atlanta. and the very heavily populated, wealthy centers of the northeast, like New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington,” Shabat said.
What rail gives Harrisburg, it can also take away when bad things happen – like the big Norfolk Southern derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, back in February.
“It did disrupt this important golden triangle intermodal network for quite some time,” Shabat said. “That’s starting to normalize now.”
That’s important because during the disruptions some shipments ended up on different routes that did not involve Harrisburg.