Back To The Future?

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Back To The Future?

Dennis Wilmot, President & CEO

Dennis Wilmot, President & CEO

Who has watched the series of Back To The Future movies and enjoyed them more than me? They are a staple in my family, and certain phrases have become part of our family dialogue.

Doc: “See you in the future.”

Marty: “You mean the past?”

Doc: “Exactly!”

And that is where we are going this month. To the future? Do I mean the past? Exactly!

The newsletter from what is now Iron Horse Logistics Services has been issued now for at least 15 years. This month we decided to share some of the articles as they originally appeared unedited, and notes from years ago. I hope you enjoy this glimpse of the past and look forward to your feed. As always, you can email me directly at, or see me on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.


Quick News Notes    [from the issue March 8, 2003]

  • SDI announced it is restarting in Iron Dynamics operation in Butler, IN.
  • North Star Steel has decided to close the relatively new steel mill in Kingman, AZ.
  • Recycling Today reported on March 3 that “Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel. Corp.’s request for a $250 million loan from the Emergency Steel Loan Guarantee Board was turned down Feb. 28th. The guarantee was to be a central part of Wheeling-Pitts’ proposed plan of reorganization.”
  • Weirton Steel has notified employees and former employees that unless retirees accept some changes to health care coverage the company may have to file bankruptcy or even face liquidation.

What Happens to Your Private Car After Unloading?     [from the issue February 8, 2007]

AAR Rules and individual carrier rules and practices automatically waybill private cars back to the last loaded origin. In other words, when your private car releases empty the railroad sends it right back for the next load. Right?

Wrong! Too often cars are erroneously billed to other shippers to fill gon orders or misappropriated for the wrong shipper. Unless you watch every car every day you can be sure you will be paying for someone else to use some of your cars.

Don’t let it happen! WT&L’s Railcar Management Service can prevent this. Call (330) 995-9859 to discuss how.

Heard On the Street- Comments From Anonymous People In the Know   [From the issue March 4, 2004]

  • The truckers’ lobby continues to confront effectively these costs by objecting to toll increases — most recently a PA proposal to make I-80 a toll road. Until gas taxes and other highway use charges to the trucking industry reflect costs more accurately, trucking companies will be able to underprice rail when the underlying costs for rail, particularly fuel, are lower.
  • No one can say that they’re surprised with these huge price decreases. In fact, most dealers and brokers (and certainly the mills) are relieved that this wild run up has stopped and reversed itself. Even with $30-40-50-60 a ton drops, the new pricing levels will still allow obsolete scrap to move. And yards that handle industrial material all report a substantial increase in those grades indicating an economy that’s getting moderately better. I believe all the fundamentals are still in place for good demand and decent pricing for the balance of the year.
  • Look for volatile markets over balance of year. Export will be back at lower levels. Mills will be in good inventory shape by end of April but shipments may slow down.
  • Could see higher prices in summer due to reaction to sharp drops and raw material slow up. Will need to raise raw material prices to start flow again.
  • One unmentioned factor in this huge market rise is the cash crunch this has created for so many in the scrap and even the steel industry. It sounds great to talk about high prices but when you mix in high volumes and float cash to mills for very long cash can suddenly be all tied up and leave you short.

Market Report    [from the issue February 5, 2005]

The average price of factory bundles dropped $65 per gross ton for February, the largest single-month drop (in dollars) in decades.  They dropped again in March by another $60. The AMM Auto Bundle index was reported at $250 per gross ton for March, almost $200 per ton lower than the index just last November when it reach all-time highs.

Weather continues to pay a major factor with reports of iced-over rail yards, broken rails, frozen switches, and all the fun normally associated with winter.  This reportedly has had a significant impact on getting raw material feed into the shredders, which is how we can have shred and bundles pricing in such seeming disparity.

The inland river system found itself in a quagmire in January as weather and water levels  (and some sunken barges on the Upper Ohio) restricted movement. Even though this has cleared to some degree, all carriers are reporting very short capacity on virtually all rivers. I can vouch for that!

Based on preliminary Census Bureau data for December, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) reported that the United States imported a total of

35,662,000 net tons (NT) of steel in 2004, including 28,304,000 NT of finished steel. Imports in these categories increased 54.2 and 54.6 percent, respectively, compared to 2003. Total and finished steel imports in December 2004 were 2,778,000 NT and 2,314,000 NT, up 62.7 percent and 77.3 percent, respectively, over December 2003. The 2004 percentage gain for finished steel imports was more than three times the 15.9 percent increase in steel consumption. As a result, finished steel import market share rose from 16.0 to 21.2 percent. (

United Airlines – UP Merger    [From the issue March 6, 2006]

There is a present rumor that Union Pacific Railroad and United Airlines are in merger talks. The rumor mill says the new transportation company will be a merger of equals (Where have we heard that before?). The new company will be called United Pacific. As evidence of the validity of this rumor…..see the attached photo taken recently at Council Bluffs International Air Terminal over by the Ice House. The NYSX stock analysis’s recommendation – sell your stock now!

Somewhere In Time    [From the issue December 2009]

The inland waterways system in the United States allows
commerce to take advantage of one of its greatest natural resources –
the 25,000 mile waterway system – and adds $5 billion a year to the U.S.
economy. This industry moves more than 800 million tons each year of
raw materials and finished goods. Waterways transportation is the most
economical mode of commercial freight transportation. This is due to
the enormous capacity of a barge. For example, a typical inland barge
has a capacity 15 times greater than one rail car and 60 times greater
than one semi trailer truck.
Before the railroads became the largest corporations and the biggest
industry in a growing America it was inland waterway transportation that
initially allowed the development of industry. President James A.
Garfield actually worked on the Ohio and Erie Canal as a young man, but
as the railroads began to spread across the continent, eventually
connecting at Promontory Point, UT in 1869 (see the August Newsletter
article “Somewhere In Time” for details) the use of canals declined.
Floods were the final nail in the coffin that drove them completely from
Visionaries within the Founding Fathers knew that for the new
experiment in democracy to work (against all odds and against all beliefs
of the other countries and empires of the world at that time) it was the
develop of industry and commerce that would build an economy to allow
growth and development of a collection of individual states into one
federally united people. Before rails were laid, water was the only
efficient and useable means of transport, but not enough natural
waterways existed.
It was the Founding Father himself, George Washington, who envisioned
and complete waterways system. “In optimistic moments, the general
could imagine that, someday, a person would be able to go almost
anywhere by water. Canals would lace the landscape, connecting
navigable rivers, linking every state, city and village. In a letter to a
friend, Washington imagined that someday, with enough effort, it might
be possible to bring water navigation ‘to almost every man’s door’.”

As a surveyor Washington had explored where most had never traveled.
He knew some of the river system, enough to recognize the value, and
wrote about canal systems traversing the land to connect cities and
create a network of arteries through which commerce would flow. Today
the inland waterways system remains one of the unique features of
America and an ongoing key to successful commerce


By | 2018-02-21T15:16:18-05:00 February 21st, 2018|logistics|0 Comments

About the Author:

Dennis Wilmot started Iron Horse in January 2002 after eleven years working for rail carriers and sixteen years for private corporations. My full details are available @

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