Q trains haul mostly JB Hunt, Schneider, and Swift containers in double stack well cars. They rarely have trailers from other trucking companies. Occasionally containers 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. Following the symbol train description is a pie chart showing the proportions of domestic containers and trailers within each train. This should make it much easier to identify trains by the consist. Don't expect the same container or trailer to be the same color in all of the charts.
The following companies ship domestic 53ft containers via BNSF on the Transcon: APL Logistics 1,000, Axsun, CH Robinson 1,000, COFC 800, 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 stanchions to support a container that could be stacked on top of it. They primarily 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 Atlanta) 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
NWH CSX North Baltimore, OH
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 symbol is the rough schedule time when the train is scheduled to go through Barstow (B), Flagstaff (F), Gallup (G), and Clovis (C) in military time, so 1300 is 1 PM. Some schedules have changed recently and I haven't had time to calculate the new rough schedules.
QLACALT6 B 2100, F 1100, G 1600, C 0400 The train averaged 96 JB Hunt, 15 Schneider, 16 Swift, 4 CH Robinson, 1 Matson 53, 4 plain white vans, 2 YRC, 1 other trucking company van, some UPS boxes, FedEx boxes, ABF, and Marten vans. The spine cars with trailers and containers may appear anywhere in the train. I've seen them on the front, middle and the rear with as few as one truck trailer to as many as 15 trailers. On average two domestic 53 ft containers were placed on marine containers.The average train was 72-0:5294T 6778ft with a 0.78 tons per linear foot ratio and was pulled by 3 units.
QLACATG6 B 0300, F 1800, G 2300, C The train averaged 52 JB Hunt, 70 Schneider, 6 Swift, 2 CH Robinson, 6 CSX, 5 Matson 53, and 1 FedEx box. Along with the domestic containers were some marine containers. On average one domestic 53 ft container was placed on a 40ft marine container in each train. The average train was 72-0:5294T 6778ft with a 0.82 tons per linear foot ratio and was pulled by 3 or 4 units.
QLACAUG6 B 2300, F 1800, G 2300, C 1400 JB Hunt containers averaged 177 and Swift 20. The average train was 72-0:5275T 6821ft with a 0.77 tons per linear foot ratio and was pulled by 3 or 4 units. With only two kinds of domestic containers, this train is easy to recognize. I think this runs about four times a week.
QLACCXO1 and QLACNWH6 B 1100 F 2200, G 0400, C 1500 The NWH symbol started on October 30, 2018. The QLACNWH originates when there is enough traffic for the Northwest, Ohio block, otherwise it will use the CXO code. The QLACNWH6 operates more frequently. The average train had 58 JB Hunt, 47 Schneider, 7 Swift, 3 CH Robinson, 10 CSX, and 1 Matson 53. However, the number of containers varied significantly from none to 143 JB Hunt and Schneider from 108 down to 8. The average CXO train was 73-0:5621T 6841ft with a 0.82 tons per linear foot ratio and the average NWH train was 72-0:5391T 6781ft with a 0.80 tons per linear foot ratio. Power was generally 4 units.
QLACLPC6 B 1900, G 0100, C 1600. This train began operating in September 2018. Initially it used either section 2 or 6 in the symbol. Since October, it looks like it is only using section 6. It is mostly domestic containers with some marine containers mixed in. It averaged 176 JB Hunt, 18 Schneider, 9 Swift, 3 CH Robinson, 2 CSX, some Matson 53, and UPS boxes. On average 19 domestic 53 ft containers were placed on marine containers. The average train was 91-0:6925T 8598ft with a 0.81 tons per linear foot ratio and usually had 5 units.
QLACMEM6 B 1900 Monday, F 0500, G 1000, C 0800 This train appears to operates about three days a week. It averaged 83 JB Hunt, 20 Schneider, 18 Swift, 2 CH Robinson, 1 FedEx box, 1 Estes, 1 Prime, 6 other trucking company vans, some Stevens, and plain white vans. The trains were about 90% domestic, with mixed marine near the front. On the rear may be a few Averitt, Transportation of Mississippi, Ozark, Prime, Marten or plain white trailers. On average one domestic 53 ft container was placed on a 40ft marine container in each train. The average train was 71-0:5176T 6714ft with a 0.77 tons per linear foot ratio and usually had 3 or 4 units.
QLACNSA6 B 1500, F 0100, G 0500, C 1700 JB Hunt containers averaged 152 JB Hunt, 7 Swift, and 1 Matson 53. Marine traffic varied from 7 containers up to 31 wells of containers. On average 6 domestic 53 ft containers were placed on marine containers. The average train was 72-0:5287T 6807ft with a 0.78 tons per linear foot ratio and usually had 3 or 4 units.
QLACPEA1 B 0100, F 1100, G 1600, C 0500 The trains run from about a 50-50 mix of domestic to marine containers, to as high as 75% marine containers. The domestic traffic averaged 47 JB Hunt, 25 Schneider, 10 Swift, and 1 CH Robinson. On average 11 domestic 53 ft containers were placed on marine containers. The average train was 72-0:5861T 6711ft with a 0.87 tons per linear foot ratio and usually had 3 units.
QPHXCHI1 F 0200, G 0700, C 1600 The power desk put nine units on one of these trains in order to move excess power out of Phoenix east to where it was needed. The primary role of this train is to move low priority loads and available empties out of Phoenix. The train is generally between 2,000 and 4,000 tons with an average length of about a mile. So the weight to length ratio is low at 0.42 to 0.63 tons per linear foot. By contrast the average LA to Chicago Q train runs between 0.75 to 0.80. The train looks different almost every day it runs. The train averaged 27 JB Hunt, 17 Schneider, 11 Swift, 1 CH Robinson, 6 plain white vans, 4 ABF, 1 Alliance, 1 Clipper, 6 Estes, 1 Go2, 13 YRC, 5 other trucking company vans, some FedEx boxes, and Stevens reefer trailers. One train had 66 UPS trailers, normally average is 11. The average train was 56-0:2959T 5316ft with a 0.56 tons per linear foot ratio.
QSBDCHI6 B 0800, F 2000, G 0100, C 1400 This is a second section to the QSBDCHI7. They averaged 146 JB Hunt, 40 Schneider, 17 Swift, 1 CH Robinson, and 2 Matson 53ft containers. The average train was 80-0:5863T 7562ft with a 0.78 tons per linear foot ratio and usually had 4 units.
QSBDCHI7 B 1800, F 0800, G 1400, C 0300 See previous entry for consist. The average train was 80-0:5960T 7557ft with a 0.79 tons per linear foot ratio and usually had 4 units.
QSTOALT6 B 1400, F 0200 G 0800, C 2000 The average train had 76 JB Hunt, 22 Schneider, 6 Swift, 1 CH Robinson, 1 Matson 53, 1 plain white van, 1 Amazon, 1 KLLM, 3 Stevens, and some Prime reefer trailers. The average train was 61-0:5246T 5855ft with a 0.90 tons per linear foot ratio and usually had 3 or 4 units.
QSTOATG6 B 0600, F 1800, G 2300, C 1201 This train operates several times a week The average train had 122 JB Hunt, 21 Schneider, 10 Swift, 2 CH Robinson, 2 CSX, and 6 Matson 53ft containers. The average train was 61-0:5530T 5721ft with a 0.97 tons per linear foot ratio and usually had 3 or 4 units.
QSTOCHI6 B 1800, F 0700, G 1300, C 0200 The average train had 130 JB Hunt, 34 Schneider, 9 Swift, 3 CH Robinson, 9 CSX, and 5 Matson 53ft containers. There were around 4 Agmark 20ft tanktainers in each train. The average train was 69-0:6165T 6574ft with a 0.94 tons per linear foot ratio and usually had the power in a 3+2 configuration.
The following is a tally of the Q train symbols that have run at least 10 times during the first
half of 2019. Most trains use section 6 at the end of the symbol. However there are a few lower priority trains that use section 1. San Bernardino has a second section in and out that uses section 7 at the end of the symbol.
Revised 8-8-2019 with data collected Jan to July 2019
BNSF Train Symbols
Bare Table Trains
Manifest Trains Westbound
Manifest Trains Eastbound
Q Trains Westbound
Marine Stack Trains
Z Trains Westbound
Z Trains Eastbound