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There are so many idle boxcars in the country that they are being parked on sidetracks for months, often dividing towns with a kind of moveable, but unmoving wall of steel. The Wall Street Journal’s Alex Roth reports, “Tens of thousands of boxcars are sitting idle all over the country, parked indefinitely by railroads whose freight volumes have plummeted along with the economy. And residents of the communities stuck with these newly immobile objects … are hopping mad about it.” (The story is here, but you might need a subscription.) 

As the economy has slowed, so has freight. Railroads have seen volume drop by double digits, Roth reports. And so the nation’s five largest railroads have place 30% of their empty boxcars (that’s 206,000 of the enormous things) into cold storage. Roth says that put end to end these idle boxcars would stretch from New York to Salt Lake City.

They have to go someplace, so the cars are parked in small towns where there’s empty track. Thornton, Colorado has a three mile long string of cars. Or had. Residents revolted and the cars were moved, a town/railroad conflict that is happening across the country.

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