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Rail & Intermodal Yards

rail yard In the mid-19th century, freight was hauled from the San Pedro waterfront to Los Angeles in carts pulled by oxen and stagecoaches harnessed to horses.  More than 150 years later, the basic concept of overland cargo transportation remains the same: Use powerful locomotion and specialized equipment to deliver cargo to its destination.

The basic concept evolved dramatically with the introduction of intermodalism, the movement of marine cargo containers between different modes of transportation, including ship, truck and train.  Today, modern trains represent an essential link in the intermodal transportation and delivery of transcontinental freight loaded into marine cargo containers.  These trains often comprise railcars specially designed to carry the containers "doublestacked" atop one another.

Each doublestack train departing from the Port represents the delivery of hundreds of cargo containers that would otherwise be transported by less-efficient singlestack trains or container-carrying trucks.  To maximize the tremendous efficiency of doublestack train service, seaports must offer its customers excellent intermodal facilities.  The Port of Los Angeles is a prime example of one such seaport.

Intermodal Container Transfer Facility (ICTF) (Near-dock)

The Intermodal Container Transfer Facility (ICTF) is the near-dock railyard located approximately five miles (eight kilometers) from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.  The $55 million ICTF opened in 1986 as a multi-user facility serving numerous shipping lines.  Since its opening, the ICTF has greatly enhanced transcontinental train service, as well as the relay of marine cargo containers between the two Southern California containerports and major railyards near downtown Los Angeles.

Operated by Union Pacific Railroad, the ICTF has succeeded in providing excellent service to customers of both seaports, totaling more than 7 million container moves from 1986 through 1999.  Customer service features of the ICTF include:

  • Close proximity to all the container terminals of both ports
  • High container lift productivity
  • High train volume to multiple destinations daily in both the United States and Mexico
  • Sufficient land for a 250-acre (101-hectare) railyard operation, with on-site storage for more than 3000 containers
  • Loading railtracks in six lengths, varying from 3800 feet (1158 meters) to 5000 feet (1524 meters), that can accommodate a total of 95 doublestack railcars
  • An adjacent storage yard that can handle up to 100 doublestack railcars
  • Six rubber-tire gantry overhead cranes and a sidepick loader for lifting cargo containers
  • A main gate with 16 entrance/exit lanes for container-carrying trucks (the middle eight lanes are reversible in direction to facilitate varying truck arrival or departure volumes)
  • The main gate is open every day, 24 hours per day, and can process an average of 1800 transactions daily
  • A computer link between the main gate and container-handling equipment in the railyard, with information relayed to Union Pacific Railroad's computerized cargo-tracking system
  • Security fencing and lighting meeting U.S. Customs Service requirements
  • Remote security cameras monitored from the five-story ICTF tower
  • Round-the-clock security patrols

On-Dock Intermodal Service

While the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility is a highly successful, multi-user intermodal operation, some Port of Los Angeles customers requested the development of on-dock railyards for their own dedicated use.  Four modern on-dock complexes currently occupy the Port's waterfront, and they all share common, significant features:

  • Cooperatively designed by the Port of Los Angeles, Port customers and transcontinental railroads to ensure the highest operating efficiency
  • Assistance in the reduction of truck traffic volumes on the freeways that serve the Port, benefiting private motorists and the cargo that must be delivered by truck
  • Located in the backland area of Port container terminals, enhancing the efficient utilization of land and avoiding dockside disruption to vessel operations
  • Loading railtracks are complemented by nearby storage railtracks to maximize operating efficiency and throughput capacity
  • Designed to accommodate various types of container-lift equipment, including rubber-tire gantry cranes, rail-mounted gantry cranes, reach stackers and top picks, depending on terminal operator preferences
  • Security fencing and lighting that meet U.S. Customs Service requirements
  • Heavy-duty paving and fire protection

APL On-Dock Railyard

Global Gateway South is the container facility at Pier 300 on Terminal Island.  Operated by Eagle Marine Services Ltd. for APL Limited, the $270 million, 262-acre (106-hectare) container terminal opened in May 1997, and is the largest complex of its kind in North America.  One of Global Gateway South's primary features is its on-dock railyard, which offers customers:

  • Eight loading railtracks, each approximately 2700 feet (823 meters) long, and capable of handling a total of 64 five-platform doublestack railcars
  • Eight adjacent storage railtracks, each approximately 2700 feet (823 meters) long, and capable of handling a total of 64 five-platform doublestack railcars
  • 10 rail-mounted, electrically-powered intermodal cranes
  • A special-use rail line along the four shipping berths for the direct transfer of oversized cargo, such as heavy machinery, between ships and railcars
  • Fully automated switching and derailing points
  • A compressed-air system to charge railcar brakes

Maersk On-Dock Railyard

Pairing the world's largest shipping line with the world's largest proprietary container terminal requires an on-dock railyard of enormous capability.  The largest on-dock railyard at the Port of Los Angeles is located at the Port's largest container terminal, the 484-acre Pier 400, operated by APM Terminals (a subsiderary of the Danish shipping line, Maersk).  The Maersk Railyard is a 40-acre (16-hectare) intermodal facility that offers: 

  • 12 loading tracks, each approximately 2500 feet (762 meters) long
  • Each track has the capability of handling eight 305-foot-long (93-meter-long) doublestack railcars, for a total capacity of 96 railcars
  • Six adjacent storage tracks, each 6400 feet (1951 meters) long and each capable of handling 21 305-foot-long (93-meter-long) doublestack railcars for a total capacity of 126 railcars

The cargo-handling efficiency provided by this high-volume, on-dock railyard gives APM Terminals and its customers high-speed intermodal connections unrivaled by any other U.S. containerport.  All on-dock rail trackage is installed in the backland area of the Pier 400 container terminal, away from the shipping berths and vessel activity, in an east-west direction.  The rail tracks turn north along the one-mile-long (1.6-kilometer-long), 350-foot-wide (107-meter-wide) transportation corridor, which connects the Pier 400 landfill to Terminal Island.  

The intermodal rail route ultimately merges with the Alameda Corridor and two near-dock railyards, operated by Union Pacific Railroad and BNSF, to accommodate containerized cargo departing from Los Angeles for transcontinental destinations throughout North America.

Terminal Island Container Transfer Facility (TICTF)/
Evergreen/NYK On-Dock Railyard

The 162-acre (66-hectare) container terminal operated by Evergreen America Corp. and the 185-acre (75-hectare) container terminal operated by Yusen Terminals Inc. [a subsidiary of Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) Line] on Terminal Island comprise two the busiest cargo complexes at the Port.  When both shipping lines expressed the desire for dedicated on-dock rail service, the Port initiated the design and construction of the $15 million Terminal Island Container Transfer Facility (TICTF).   Engineered and constructed by the Port with great foresight, TICTF opened in May 1997 with partial operating capacity to expedite on-dock rail transfer capability.  

Utilized by both Evergreen and NYK, the customer service features of TICTF include:

  • Four loading railtracks, each approximately 2300 feet (701 meters) long, and capable of handling a total of 28 five-platform doublestack railcars
  • Five adjacent storage railtracks, each approximately 2300 feet (701 meters) long, and capable of handling a total of 35 five-platform doublestack railcars
  • Dedicated arrival railtrack with a 28 five-platform railcar capacity
  • Dedicated departure railtrack with a 28 five-platform railcar capacity
  • Dedicated railtrack to facilitate switching between loading and storage railtracks 
  • Derail operation for heightened safety 
  • Compressed-air system to charge railcar brakes

Yang Ming/China Shipping On-Dock Railyard

Yang Ming Line operates a 130-acre (53-hectare) container terminal in the West Basin area of the Port of Los Angeles.  The shipping line determined that overland delivery of its rapidly growing cargo volume would be most capably handled by operating its own on-dock railyard.   In response, the Port recently completed a $20 million on-dock facility for Yang Ming Line that is shared with neighboring container terminal Berth 100, operated by China Shipping.  The key customer service features that this railyard offers include:

  • Three loading railtracks, each approximately 3000 feet (914 meters) long, and capable of handling a total of 27 five-platform doublestack railcars
  • Three adjacent storage railtracks, each approximately 3000 feet (914 meters) long, and capable of handling a total of 27 five-platform doublestack railcars
  • Dedicated departure railtrack with a 27 five-platform railcar capacity
  • Dedicated railtrack to facilitate switching between loading and storage railtracks
  • Power-operated turnouts
  • Derail operation for heightened safety
  • Compressed-air system to charge railcar brakes

Alameda Corridor

The cornerstone of the Port's intermodal train traffic network is the Alameda Corridor, a $2.4 billion, 20-mile-long (32-kilometer-long) cargo expressway that opened in 2002.  The Corridor serves as the primary connection for cargo-carrying train traffic moving between the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the transcontinental rail network based near downtown Los Angeles.  Construction of the Alameda Corridor constituted one of the largest public works projects in the nation, with three major components:

  1. North End Corridor
    The Los Angeles River Bridge, which was dedicated in November 1998, replaced a single-railtrack bridge with a three-track bridge; the Washington Boulevard/Santa Fe Avenue Grade Separation will separate train and vehicular traffic; the Redondo Junction Project will elevate Amtrak and Metrolink passenger train lines over Alameda Corridor freight trackage.
  2. Mid-Corridor Section
    Freight trains will travel through a 10-mile-long (16-kilometer-long), 35-foot-deep (11-meter-deep) and 50-foot-wide (15-meter-wide) trench between State Route 91 and 25th Street in Los Angeles. Eastbound and westbound streets will bridge across the trench, which will expedite train and vehicular traffic while also minimizing train noise.
  3. South End Corridor
    The Henry Ford Avenue Grade Separation Project will separate train and vehicular traffic while reconstructing sections of Henry Ford Avenue and the Terminal Island Freeway; the Compton Creek/Dominguez Channel Project will replace the existing single-railtrack bridge over Compton Creek with a three-track bridge, and add a second three-track bridge over the Dominguez Channel.  The Alameda Corridor generally parallels Alameda Street along most of its route from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to downtown Los Angeles.  Alameda Street will be redesigned south of State Route 91, widening it from four to six traffic lanes.  New traffic signals, left-turn pockets and pavement will be added north of State Route 91.

For more information about the Alameda Corridor, visit www.acta.org

Intermodal Traffic Control

The intermodal train traffic network at the Port of Los Angeles has been carefully planned and designed to merge and funnel onto the Alameda Corridor.  The Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) System, which is operated by Pacific Harbor Lines for the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, manages all rail dispatching and switching functions to govern inbound and outbound train movements with the highest levels of efficiency and safety.  All of the Port's existing on-dock railyards, as well as the future Pier 400 facility, are linked to the CTC System.


The ICTF and Port of Los Angeles on-dock railyards maximize doublestack unit train service. The trains themselves excel at lessening reliance on trucks to deliver containerized cargo. These railyards and trains work best when combined with a modern infrastructure system that enables cargo to move through the Port unfettered by traffic complications.

The Port of Los Angeles has completed more than $200 million in rail and highway infrastructure improvements, which have all succeeded by enhancing the cargo delivery system, increasing the Port's efficient cargo-handling capacity and improving major traffic routes used by private motorists throughout the Port area. Major infrastructure projects completed by the Port in the 1990s as part of the Pier 300 and 400 terminal development programs include:

    • $49 million Badger Avenue Bridge Replacement Project
    • $48 million New Dock Street-Henry Ford Avenue Grade Separation Project
    • $37 million Seaside Avenue-Navy Way Grade Separation Project
    • $20 million Anaheim Street Viaduct Reconstruction Project

Current rail infrastructure projects related to the TraPac Container Terminal expansion and modernization program that have been recently completed include:

$115 million Berth 200 Rail Yard: This project involved relocating the former Pier A Rail Yard to Rear Berth 200 to allow for construction of a new automated on-dock rail yard to be located within the TraPac Container Terminal known as the Berths 142-147 ICTF project. In addition to the Pier A Yard relocation, the Berth 200 Rail Yard project also included upgrading the existing single West Basin mainline to a double track mainline, mainline rail signal improvements and construction of intermodal car storage tracks to support the new TraPac on-dock yard. $90 million in State and Federal grant funding was allocated for this project.

$71 million Berths 142-147 ICTF: This project provided a new semi-automated on-dock rail yard for the TraPac container terminal. Eight working tracks on concrete ties and a 136’ gauge RMG crane rail foundation will be constructed. The rail yard is equipped with a Train-In-Motion system, automatic rail switches, Radiation Portal Monitors and a Compressed Air system. Site structures include a guard booth, compressor building, and CBP Office. Electrical work includes a 34.5 KV substation, a 12.47 KV substation, a communication system and 100’ high mast light poles. $20.7 million in California Transportation Commission grant funding was allocated for this project.

$66 million South Wilmington Grade Separation: This project constructed a grade separated bridge structure to carry vehicular and truck traffic from Harry Bridges Blvd. over the West Basin mainline and new TraPac Berth 142-147 ICTF access track to Port terminals south of the tracks. The South Wilmington Grade Separation also provides grade separated roadway access to the LA Waterfront and Banning's Landing Community Center.

The Port of Los Angeles understands the importance of planning and building world-class cargo terminals in combination with a modern infrastructure network that provides Port customers with a superior cargo transportation and delivery system.

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