All aboard the Rocky Mountaineer: Shipping 10 train carriages around the world

Shipping train carriages from Germany to the US for a luxurious Canadian train line requires WW Ocean’s in-house expertise as well as specially-designed roll trailers. With half the trains now shipped, we reflect on what it takes to transport this kind of cargo.

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Whether it’s winding its way from Seattle to the Canadian Rockies or rolling through the rugged wilderness of Whistler, the Rocky Mountaineer train offers its passengers a pretty unforgettable travel experience. And WW Ocean plays an important role in ensuring the famous train line continues to enchant the tourists who jump aboard every year.

How? By shipping brand new train carriages from Bremerhaven, Germany to Tacoma in the US, from where they are then transported in-land to Canada. Four new train carriages have been successfully shipped since last summer out of a total of 10, with the remaining six to be shipped later this year.

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Having been manufactured at the Stadler factory in Berlin, the trains are transferred through Berlin city centre on pallets by trucks and then transported by barge to Bremerhaven port.

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Roll trailers were especially designed and manufactured for the project.

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A ship with clearance of 6.5 metres is needed to handle the trains.

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Each carriage is 27.32m long, 3.9m wide, 5.25m high and weighs 74 tonnes.

Taking a tailored approach

And these aren’t just any train carriages. With a length of 27.32m, width of 3.9m, height of 5.25m and weight of 74 tonnes, this is breakbulk that requires a tailored transportation approach. The €7m trains, which feature domed windows for panoramic views of the Canadian landscape, are manufactured by Stadler Rail Group in Berlin – a Swiss company that has been building trains for 75 years.

Fabian Wulferding, WW Ocean Sales Manager in Germany, explains that the journey the rail carriages take from production in Germany through to delivery in Canada is a complicated one. Having been manufactured at the Stadler factory in Berlin, the trains are then transferred through Berlin city centre on pallets by trucks, and transported by barge to Bremerhaven port.

There, they are transferred to custom-built roll trailers – known as ‘Rocky Trailers’ – before being loaded onto WW Ocean’s RoRo vessels. So far, four RoRo vessels have been used: Tiger, Patriot, Faust and Theben. A ship with clearance of 6.5 metres is needed to handle the trains – this takes into account the increased height once placed on roll trailers. Once the vessels arrive in Tacoma, WW Ocean’s specially built discharge ramp is used to move the carriages from roll trailer to ground.

“We designed and manufactured roll trailers especially for this project,” says Fabian.“This is a complex, multi-modal shipment – because these rail carriages are unique globally. The trains really are one-of-a-kind, and WW Ocean was chosen because of our regular sailings and stable transit times. On top of that, RoRo is a much safer way of shipping compared to conventional methods.”

Fostering long-lasting relationships

Freight forwarder Fracht were brought on by Stadler to plan and manage the transportation needs of the project. Dominik Pinzer, project manager and head of the project management department at Fracht Nuremberg, says: “Considering the complexity of the project and the sheer size of the train carriages we transport all the way from Berlin to the Rocky Mountains, we are glad to work with an ocean carrier like WW Ocean. It means we don’t have to worry about the longest part of the journey – the sea transport leg from Bremerhaven to Tacoma.”

With the fifth carriage due to be shipped from Bremerhaven to Tacoma in the coming weeks, the project continues to roll along nicely. Whether the tourists hopping aboard spend much time considering quite how many miles the rail carriages have travelled thus far remains up for debate...

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