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Innovation in bulk liquid transportation

In 1987, CSX Railroad approached Agmark with the news that they were about to initiate the first dedicated intermodal train, in a service between Chicago and Jacksonville. With truck like transit times, Agmark was encouraged to participate. What started with one tank container in that lane, has now developed into America’s largest tank container operator for edible food products.

To participate in CSX’s new service, Agmark looked at what it knew best – agriculture. Agmark knew that there was a “sea” of milk north of Chicago in Wisconsin. They also knew that there was a shortage of milk in Florida. Wanting to participate in CSX’s new intermodal train, formerly known as “piggyback”, Agmark started researching milk trucking and transport.

Initially, Agmark looked at shipping packaged milk in refrigerated containers but this was not what the market wanted. They wanted bulk raw milk for their own processing. At this point, Agmark realized that there was no way to put traditional over-the-road milk trailers on the new intermodal trains as there was no way to lift them onto the flatcars.

This pointed Agmark to use containers built according to ISO standards, capable of being lifted by equipment at the newly mechanized intermodal ramps. Initially, Agmark set out to build a stainless steel cylinder inside a 20′ international shipping box. Quickly they learned that what they really wanted was a sanitary grade, super-insulated ISO tank container.

More collaboration with others in the newly emerging tank container industry led to the construction of one, 3A sanitary, food grade tank container. Meanwhile, as the milk industry doubted that milk could be shipped by rail, Agmark proceeded.

CSX_Milk_articleIn mid 1988, Agmark loaded the first load of milk in its one tank container at Tomah, Wisconsin. It was trucked on a flatbed to CSX’s Bedford Park rail facility where it rode train 121 to Jacksonville. There, the tank was lifted from the flat car onto another flatbed trailer. At that point it was trucked to a Florida inspection station where the Department of Agriculture, the Health Department and various others witnessed the sampling and acceptance of the first load of milk transport on rail since the 1930’s.


handled_with_careAfter this first milk shipment, Agmark began shipping orange juice from Florida to Chicago and in time expanded to shipping other liquid products. By 1990, Agmark was shipping coast to coast, and today, Agmark operates as a bulk liquid tank shipper on 5 continents, shipping more than a hundred bulk edible liquid food and agricultural products.

Today, Agmark Logistics continues to offer innovation in bulk liquid transport. As with its first shipment of milk, Agmark continually finds new and better ways to meet its customers’ growing international tanker shipping needs, giving them the flexible and environmentally sustainable transportation options they need to participate in global commerce.