Q trains haul mostly JB Hunt, Schneider, and Swift containers in double stack well cars. They rarely have trailers from other trucking companies. Occasionally contrainers from JB Hunt, Schneider, and Swift will be loaded onto spine cars but that does not make these Z trains. On the surface these trains may all look the same but there are subtle differences. Matson, CH Robinson, COFC, and APL Logistics 53ft containers will also appear in these trains, but these appear to be quite random and not an indicator for any particular symbol. One spotting feature for LAC trains is domestic 53ft containers sitting on top of marine containers.
The following companies ship domestic 53ft containers via BNSF on the Transcon: APL Logistics 1,000, Axsun, CH Robinson 1,000, COFC 800, Crowley, CSX 4,000, FedEx 1,800, JB Hunt 85,000, Matson 400, NFI, Pacer 10,000, Schneider 17,000, Swift 9,000, Universal 800, UPS 5,700. The numbers reflect the size of each companies fleet of containers as of the end of 2016. Pacer containers are moving into a lease fleet with Pacer being painted out. Some of these Pacer lease containers are showing up on the BNSF. There are about 150 raildecks or flatracks in use across the country. These look like a flatbed trailer frame but have braced stansions to support a container that could be stacked on top of it. They primarilly haul structural steel. Due to their low numbers you don't see raildecks very often.
Here are the main intermodal terminal codes:
ALT Alliance, TX (north of Fort Worth)
ATG Atlanta, GA
AUG Austell, (near Atlnata) GA
CHI Chicago, IL
CXO CSX North Baltimore, OH
LAC Hobart Yard in Los Angeles, CA
MEM Memphis TN
NSA Norfolk Southern Ashland Avenue in Chicago
NYC Croxton, NJ near New York
PEA Pearland, (near Houston) TX
PHX Phoenix, AZ
RIC Richmond, (near Oakland) CA
SBD San Bernardino, CA
STL Saint Louis, MO
STO Stockton, CA
Following the train symbol is the time when the train is scheduled through Flagstaff in military time, so 1300 is 1 PM. Following the scheduled time will be a indication of how often that symbol was observed over a 20 day period and the power configurations. For example 10/20 4 units 8x 3 units 3x means that the train was seen and logged 10 times during the 20 day period. It had 4 units 8 times and 3 units 3 times.
QLACALT6 1100 10/20 4 units 8x 3 units 3x JB Hunt containers averaged 88, Schneider 11, and Swift 10. Normally Q trains do not handle piggyback trailer traffic, however, this train has had a short block of new Amazon, Landstar, and Walmart trailers. I think these companies have these new trailers loaded with imports, so that when they receive them they can claim that the trailers are used and pay less in taxes. Along with these three companies there have also been a few Estes, Universal, US Xpress, YRC, ABF, Central Freight, Waco Leasing, and plain white trailers in the mix. The plain white trailers also looked new.
QLACATG6 1800 8/20 4 units 5x 3 units 3x JB Hunt containers averaged 73, Schneider 36, Swift 2, and CSX 11. Along with the domestic containers were some marine containers, 6 Matson, 14 CMA CGM, 3 MSC, 4 OOCL, and a few APL, Hyundai, and lease.
QLACAUG6 1700 7/20 4 units 5x 3 units 2x JB Hunt containers averaged 166 and Swift 10. With only two kinds of domestic containers, this train is easy to recognize. I think this runs about four times a week.
QLACCHI2 0900 9/20 4 units 6x 3 units 2x 5 units 1x JB Hunt containers averaged 93, Schneider 14, Swift 5, and CSX 3. Two of the trains observed had no Swift containers. Most had an average of 5 Matson 40ft and a few other marine containers. This train is a second section to the QLACCHI6.
QLACCHI6 2100 10/20 4 units 6x 5 units 4x JB Hunt containers averaged 167, Schneider 17, and Swift 7. Of the trains I saw only one had 3 CSX containers. Some trains had a few marine containers and there were 2 instances where domestic 53ft containers were placed on top of marine 40ft containers.
QLACCXO1 2200 6/20 4 units 5x 3 units 1x. This train is fairly illusive and I only observed one train during the period. I think it comes through Flagstaff while I am trying to get my beauty sleep. I have averaged it along with other trains earlier in the year: 12 JB Hunt, 36 Schneider, 2 Swift and 12 CSX. Note the high count for Schneider containers, one of the unique features of this train. About 80% of the trains were marine containers. There were also a few domestic 53ft containers (usually JB Hunt or CSX) sitting on top of marine containers.
QLACMEM6 2200 3/20 4 units 3x. This is another train that does not operate often. Two of the trains were QLACMEM3 and these were the ones I had a chance to observe. The trains were about 90% domestic, with mixed marine near the front and rear on one and mixed marine near the front of the other.
QLACNSA6 0200 8/20 4 units 6x 5 units 1x 3 units 1x. JB Hunt containers averaged 115 and Swift 4. Marine traffic varied from 1 container up to 51 containers. These were mostly China Shipping, COSCO, OOCL, Yang Ming, and lease. There were also a few domestic 53ft containers sitting on top of marine containers. These were usually JB Hunt on top.
QLACNYC6 1500 2/20 4 units 1x 3 units 1x. It ran once as the QLACNYC3 and that was the one time I saw it. JB Hunt 177 and Swift 4. There was one JB Hunt 53ft container placed on top of a marine 40ft lease container. The only other marine traffic was 2 Matson 40ft containers.
QLACPEA1 1000 9/20 4 units 8x 3 units 1x JB Hunt containers averaged 61, Schneider 16, Swift 14. There were multiple instances where domestic 53ft containers were placed on top of marine 40ft containers. The marine containers were mostly China Shipping, COSCO, OOCL, CMA CGM, with some Maersk, MSC, Hamburg Sud, and Hyundai.
QLACSTL1 0700 3/20 4 units 2x 3 units 1x This train is fairly illusive and I only observed one train. There were 57 JB Hunt containers, 11 Schneider, and 14 Swift. There were multiple instances where domestic 53ft containers were placed on top of marine 40ft containers. The marine containers were mostly CMA CGM, China Shipping, COSCO, OOCL, with some Maersk, MSC, Horizon Lines and 3 40ft tanktainers.
QPHXCHI1 0200 7/20 4 units 3x 5 units 2x 3 units 1x 10 units 1x. The power desk put ten units on one of these trains in order to move excess power out of Phoenix east to where it was needed. The train is generally betwen 3,000 and 4,000 tons, sometimes as high as 5,000 tons, but three units are enough to move the train. I only observed four of these train and one was the QPHXCHI3. The primary role of this train is to move low priority loads and available empties out of Phoenix. The train looks different almost every day it runs. JB Hunt containers varied from 2 to 119, Schneider 2 to 21, Swift 2 to 50. It handled piggyback three out of the four times observed. Again no set pattern, but about a third was containers from the big 3: JB Hunt, Schneider, and Swift. But the rest was trailers: ABF, Central Transport, Go2, Hobby Lobby, Premier, plain white vans, UPS pups (42 on one train, 14 on another), US Xpress, Vitran, and YRC.
QRICALT6 1400 1/20 4 units JB Hunt 61, Schneider 5, Swift 6. Near the end was 8 trailers (1 Marten, 1 KLLM, 2 Stevens, 3 YRC, 1 plain white van) and then 37 autoracks.
QSBDALT6 1100 2/20 4 units 2x JB Hunt containers averaged 124, Schneider 33, Swift 25. Both trains had a section of spine cars near the rear with mostly containers from the big 3: JB Hunt, Schneider, and Swift. However, one also had 6 trailers from ABF and Southern Refrigerated.
QSBDCHI6 2000 7/20 4 units 6x 3 units 1x JB Hunt containers averaged 123, Schneider 47, and Swift 14. This is a second section to the QSBDCHI7.
QSBDCHI7 0800 10/20 4 units 9x 3 units 1x JB Hunt containers averaged 136, Schneider 28, and Swift 11.
QSTOALT6 0200 3/20 4 units 2x 3 units 1x JB Hunt containers averaged 115, Schneider 8, and Swift 14.
QSTOATG6 2200 4/20 3+2 units 1x 4 units 2x 3 units 1x JB Hunt containers averaged 110, Schneider 15, Swift 9, and CSX 1.
QSTOCHI6 0700 6/20 3+2 units 4x 4 units 2x JB Hunt containers averaged 125, Schneider 30, Swift 8, and CSX 12. Along with a few CH Robinson and Matson domestic containers were around 4 Agmark 20ft tanktainers in each train.