March 15, 2014

Innovating the Railcar Industry


Cryo-Trans, Inc. Leases Build-to-Order Mechanical Refrigerated Railcars

Cryo-Trans, Inc. (CTI) of Owings Mills, Maryland, has created its own niche in the railcar industry, offering the largest fleet of privately-owned, mechanically refrigerated railcars in North America. Built-to-order and technologically advanced, CTI’s railcars are designed to ensure customers realize the transportation savings and efficiencies that rail transportation can provide. The company is North America’s only designer/ builder and lessor of refrigerated and insulated railcars.

“We are a full-service lessor to our customers,” explained Herman Haksteen, CEO of CTI. “This includes taking responsibility of all maintenance and operational issues related to the fleet and tailoring our railcar leasing program to each customer’s individual needs. This customized approach helps each food shipper company integrate rail transportation into their supply chain in the most efficient way possible.”

CTI was founded in 1985 on the premise of technological innovation. The company revolutionized the frozen rail industry, securing a patent for a cryogenic railcar and developing long term leases for 500+ boxcars throughout its first 10 years. The company began converting the majority of its fleet to mechanical refrigerated railcars in 2000 due to the increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) prices, and hasn’t looked back.

With innovation still the priority for CTI, the company does not cut corners on its modern fleet of nearly 1300 boxcars, which are leased primarily by food manufacturing companies … many of which are Fortune 500. CTI builds each railcar to stringent standards including extra insulation and innovative floor designs to withstand years of wear and tear, typically 50 years for railcars.

The performance of the refrigeration units selected for each railcar is crucial as well, primarily due to the long, unattended trips railcars endure. CTI chooses Thermo King reefers to provide the reliability required to meet the demanding needs of the rail industry. “Quite simply, it’s a must for us to specify the most reliable refrigeration units for rail. Downtime is detrimental to the cargo and to our customers’ bottom lines,” said Haksteen.

Designed for greater efficiency and increased cooling capacity in a rail-ready unit, Thermo King’s SB-RR unit has served CTI and its customers well for the past two years, with the company ordering 450+ units in 2013. Key features of the technology are high speed engine lock-out when railcar doors are open, which saves fuel and stops ambient air contamination, and the low ambient Cycle Sentry override that keeps units running when ambient temperatures fall below 10 degrees F. “This, along with an integrated fuel heater, helps avoid fuel gelling issues during unattended rail transport during the cold winter months,” explained Rick Boily, Thermo King strategic accounts, rail. “Cryo-Trans’ units also utilize a custom Optiset file, which helps keep box temperatures very consistent while utilizing as much low speed operation as possible.”

All-New Precedent™ Rail Unit

“The SB-RR has been extremely reliable and has offered tremendous fuel savings for CTI,” said Brandon Pugh, Thermo King Northwest, CTI’s home dealer. “With the introduction of the new Thermo King Precedent™ rail line, CTI and its customers will be enjoying even greater savings and reliability, as well as the best warranty in the North American rail industry.”

The Precedent all-new rail-ready unit platform was designed to deliver double-digit fuel savings and offer compliance choices that don’t compromise performance. The engine offers a 30 percent longer maintenance interval with more capacity than standard packages and is built to function in unattended situations. The Precedent S-700 RR units are being installed in CTI boxcars in January for initial performance testing by various CTI customers. 

If the Precedent rail line performs as promised, it will further transform the rail industry and should help convince more shippers of the benefits rail transportation can provide. Haksteen claims that “rail is already four times more fuel efficient that shipping by truck. On average, 3.2 trailer loads of product can fit into one boxcar. The savings – in fuel and on the environment – are undeniable.”

“The fuel efficiencies, maintenance and overall operational cost savings that the new Precedent rail ready units tout will ensure customers the lowest cost of ownership among all reefers in the market,” explained Doug Moore, Thermo King business development/applications manager, rail. “The technology is years in the making and was successfully introduced into the trailer product line in 2013. The impact this cost-saving technology will have in rail should be dramatic considering a typical boxcar will go through 6-7 refrigeration units in its lifetime. The savings in fuel and maintenance equate to faster return on investment. ”

Helping keep costs down further is Thermo King SVC’s centralized billing program. “This ensures service for CTI boxcars at Thermo King’s network of authorized dealers across North America and guarantees parts and service pricing,” explained Patrick O’Meara, SVC director, Thermo King.

CTI has equipped all of its reefers with satellite-based, two-way GPS communication capabilities and the units are enhanced for reliable operation. This includes solar panels on boxcar roofs to charge the battery, built-in accelerometers, temperature sensors in the reefer unit and in the boxcar, door open sensors, and remote fuel level monitoring. In addition, trip history temperatures can be downloaded through an Internet-based platform 24-7 via laptop, iPad or smartphone.

“This is an exciting industry that is ever-evolving and growing fast,” said Haksteen. “We expect to build at least another 100 boxcars in 2014 to meet demand of our leasing customers. Private railcar programs provide guaranteed transportation capacity year round; capacity swings based on seasonal growing seasons will not affect the private railcar user! Currently, less than five percent of temperature-controlled product is shipped via boxcar rail. Cost savings, environmental regulations, and efficiency demands will continue to nudge more companies towards the advantages of rail transport. CTI is ready to provide the custom solutions to meet the need.”    


Dealer: TK Northwest |

Customer: Cryo-Trans, Inc. |


Since launching the SB-RR Thermo King has expanded our rail portfolio. Please click here to see our full range of options available for rail applications.