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02.09.2014: details on weight of the on-board equipment

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As I highlighted in my Speciale #11, the use of semi-trailers as intermodal loading units seems to be appreciated by European carriers, even more than of swap bodies or containers.


More, to give a chance to load on train nearly any type of semi-trailer, without the customer should be equipped with a special "caneable" vehicle, is considered a favorable condition to encourage the approach of new carriers to rail transport, just as is the case with the "Rolling Motorways" in which the whole normal road vehicle can be boarded on special railcars, and this can much widen market area to focus on.


For this reason, various systems have been recently developed to operate the loading of trailers without lifting them, using different techniques which mostly, however, require the use of special wagons and often also of dedicated terminals.


The system ISU [Innovativer Sattelauflieger Umschlag]  was invented and patented some years ago by the Austrian Federal Railways to allow on the contrary the transport, even on normal pocketwagons, of road trailers not manufactured according to the requirements of UIC to be "Craneables", but loading them in any case by lifting with normal equipment of intermodal terminals. (see my article on Ship2Shore from novembre 2010 [in Italian]).


The technique is based on the arrangement of intermediate elements in steel, on which the trailer is placed, which can transfer the lifting forces from the reach-staker to the points of normal support of the semitrailer on road: the wheels and the king-pin. In this way it is not necessary for the trailer to have a special chassis with reinforcements at the points where piggy-back pincers engage the unit, and other features in accordance with standard UIC.

The only one restriction concerns the types of compliant pocket wagons, which are only those of the newer types with large pocket and long bay so not to require the tipping of the rear bumper bar of the trailer.


Since last November 23, 2013 the ISU system is used in regular service with trains Trieste - Wels (AT) of Rail Cargo Austria carrying both craneable and not-craneable semitrailers: the latters are large majority (usually 85-90% of the total) and in connection with the Ro-Ro ferries from Turkey.

Starting Sep. 15th, service shall increase to 6 roundtrips a week.

Here is a picture of a train still in the trial period, bound for Trieste (photo by C.Stopar), where you can appreciate seeing the trailers not bearing the specific signs typical of craneable types, and the composition of the train with pocket wagons T3000e:

S.Giovanni Duino, 09.10.2013
photo C.Stopar








How ISU system works, the devices that compose it and its peculiarities have been well described in an interesting article by Petr Kaderavek on Railvolution n.3/14.


I just add here some data not included in the article:

- Checking of compliance with the P400 profile - as the semitrailers are not encoded because they are not "intermodal" - is done either with a gauge portal at the entrance of semitrailers in the yard, and after the loading on the train, by a verifier who uses a measuring rod as comparison.

- The system is intended for use with railway wagons types TWIN , T3000 and T5


Hereafter follow excerpts from the article of Railvolution, thanks to the agreements of the author and of Rail Cargo Group (current patent holder and manager of the operating ISU system). The photographs, unless otherwise indicated, are by Petr Kaderavek



ISU makes use of standard pocket wagons, which have been fitted with additional equipment (also shown in the photos on the opposite page). ISU-System of Herzogenrath, near Aachen, is the supplier of all the necessary additional equipment, though it subcontracts the manufacturing of this to other European concerns. This equipment comprises:

- the about 380 kg support crossbeam, which supports the trailer’s king pin during loading manoeuvres and stays then positioned underneath it

- two about 300 kg each wheel grippers, which are put underneath the two outermost wheelsets of the trailer

- the rectangular frame connected to the reach-stacker, from which hang six pairs of chains. During manipulation, two pairs of these chains are clipped to the ends of the support beam and four more pairs of the chains are attached to the end of the wheel grippers (see the series of photos )

- the loading platform on which the support beam and the wheel grippers have to be placed before the semi-trailer is towed onto it. The support and grippers are thus underneath the trailer, and serve as slings while it is being lifted onto the train

The ISU system has the advantage of being relatively cheap. This is somewhat offset by the fact that the semi-trailer handling procedures are more complex and slow than in case of craneable trailers.

When only the unloading of a semi-trailer takes place, without another one taking its place on the wagon, the support crossbeam and wheel grippers are returned back into the wagon. In the opposite direction - if only the loading of a semi-trailer is realised, only the equipment needs to be removed from the wagon at first. In these cases, entire manoeuvre takes around seven minutes, the time depending also on other factors, such as the distance between the loading platform and the wagon.

When one trailer is unloaded and another loaded, this takes at least around eight minutes, but this manoeuvre avoids the inefficient handling of empty equipment.

A craneable trailer can also be lowered onto the equipment, usually retained on board the wagon ; in such a case, the wagon’s king pin cradle is set to the correct height position, since the support beam adds to the height of the wagon’s king cradle support above TOR.



The pieces of equipment loaded on a wagon T3000e: in the foreground of the crossbeam for the king-pin, in the background the two grippers for the wheels of the semitrailer


A detail of the two pairs of grippers for the wheels of the semitrailer, laying in the empty transport position into the pocket of a wagon..


Terminal staff arranges in the proper position the elements of ISU equipment within the stalls on the loading platform..


The trailer is in position on the loading platform, chains are attached to the studs and ready for lifting.


When the chains come to stretch, first of all they raise the jaws with the "tyresaving" flats that close on the wheels.


The front crossbeam too is raised to frame the king-pin. Now the semi-trailer is ready to be lifted.


The frame connecting the spreader, with the upper "corner castings" sizeing 20' and the engagements for the six pairs of chains that hook elements of the equipment..


The trailer is dropped on the railway wagon in the same way as for a craneable intermodal type


Under the crossbeam a pin works like the king-pin for inserting in the fifth wheel of the wagon.


A semi-trailer while lifting above the platform..


The semi-trailers are driven within the port, from the ferry you see on the left up to the loading platform, by dedicated to road tractors.


Once again a preparation of the platform for loading a new trailer, already waiting nearby

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The article by Petr Kaderavek on Railvolution also describes the technical and commercial features of the service Trieste-Wels I mentioned before, intended mainly to serve the trailers of Turkish transporters that use the ro-ro ferries having terminus in the port of Trieste.



A whole day usually elapses between the arrival of the ferry and the departure of the train, enabling the Rail Cargo Group can make all the customs clearance checks and technical checks on the trailers. This avoids delays when the train is being prepared for departure from the freight yard at Trieste Campo Marzio.

The northbound train leaves Trieste on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights and is scheduled to arrive at Wels in the late morning of the following day. The southbound train leaves Wels late at night on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Thursdays and is scheduled to arrive at Trieste in the morning of the next day.

Each train loads to 16 twin pocket wagons, with a capacity of 32 trailers, the length of the rake (without locomotive) being 548 m. This is just under the maximum permitted length of 550 m (without locomotives) in Italy. Fortunately, in northeast Italy all main lines have been passed for the P/C 400 intermodal gauge, enabling 4 m high and 2.6 m wide trailers to be carried on standard pocket wagons. The vehicles used by Rail Cargo Group are new Type T3000e [see Speciale #3 ] pocket wagons built by Tatravagónka [license from Ferriere Cattaneo] and hired from the latter’s sister company, Express Rail. Their loading decks are 270 mm above rail top, and are able to carry semi-trailers, containers and swapbodies

Reloading in Trieste takes place at Molo 5, one of three piers in the port area used for reloading freight. Operation of each pier is run on a concession basis. The concession for Molo 5 is currently held by Samer Shipping, which subcontracts reloading activities to its subsidiary, Seaway. Only three train operators are licensed to enter the port complex. These are Trenitalia Cargo, 100% Trenitalia subsidiary SerFer, and AdriaFer (which is a subsidiary of the Trieste Port Authority). Haulage is particularly complicated - an AdriaFer diesel shunter moves the stock between the quay and nearby sidings. Then an RFI diesel shunter takes over for the short run to Trieste Campo Marzio, and it is only there that haulage using a main line electric locomotive starts.



In Trieste, the train has to be cut for handling in the terminal, which features tracks' length limited to 250-300 meters. In the image a shunter of ADRIAFER is setting to pull to the sidings a first half of the train already loaded, thus leaving free access to the second track for the load of the second half of the same train.



Initially the loading facilities on Molo 5 consisted of just one reach-stacker and one loading platform. In Spring 2014 matters improved, with the acquisition of a second reach-stacker and installation of a second loading platform, to speed up loading and unloading.


At Wels, Rail Cargo Group makes use of the ÖBB-Infrastruktur terminal. Here the tracks are of sufficient length to accommodate a complete train, and trailer handling is accomplished using a mobile reach-stacker too.


The Trieste to Wels service carries semi-trailers which have arrived at Trieste via the U.N. RO-RO ferry service from Turkey. The Rail Cargo Group has worked together with this ferry company for some 15 years, and some of U.N. RO-RO’s main clients, above all Turkish freight forwarders, are also major clients using the train to Wels. Companies making use of the ISU system are granted permission to use Turkey-registered HGV slave units to move their trailers from Wels to destinations in Germany. The slave units really do relatively little work - between being embarked at Mersin in Turkey and unloading at Wels the semi-trailers cover around 2,400 km by sea and rail without the need of a slave unit and driver. Semi-trailers loaded with dangerous goods are allowed for transport.





Rail Cargo Austria and UNRO-RO, during the testing phase of the service and in order to promote it by the carriers have created and published in June 2013 a demonstration video on Youtube where you can see the various tasks related to the operation of the ISU.

At that time, the wagons used were of the type TWIN AAE.


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