The Beginning Of The Shipping Container
In the late 19th century, British and French railroads experimented with wooden containers to transport furniture, using cranes to move containers from platform wagons onto wagons. Toward the end of World War I, when trucks were in widespread civilian use, the Cincinnati Motor Terminals Company stumbled upon the idea of using cranes to lift interchangeable truck bodies to transport cargo. The visionary considered using "an unloadable enclosed automatic truck body as a standard unit container with the ability to use a crane to transfer between trains, pallets, warehouses and ships. "The first to adopt this idea was the New York Central, who invented steel containers in about 1920, placed in rows of six on narrow-bottomed rail cars to transport freight.
The Pennsylvania Railroad strongly supported the idea of using containers, but the problem was that many customers didn't ship large amounts of freight to the same destination. They later opted to use a steel container about 9 feet wide, about 1/6 the size of a general purpose wagon car, and these containers could be carried on a train by a forklift, which would easily load the container onto another train at a staging point.
In the 1920s, other countries also began to use containers in rail transport, mainly to deal with the new rival one-by-one trucks. The Sunshine Biscuit Company of Australia advertised containers to transport its products; in 1927, the London, Milan and Scottish Railways transported 1,000 containers; and the French National Railways saw it as an efficient way to transport farmers' processed meat and milk coolers to the cities. In 1933, the French National Railways joined with other railroads to form the International Container Bureau, which became the organization that managed container transport in Europe.
After the war, the U.S. Army began using small steel containers called link boxes to transport the personal effects of military personnel. In 1951, the first container ship was designed by Denmark ' s United Shipping Company to transport beef and grain in containers between Danish ports; the American Dravo Corporation of Pittsburgh invented a 7-foot steel cargo container, and by 1954, its number had grown to more than 3,000 worldwide. In 1951, Missouri Pacific Railway improved a "high speed box", an aluminum container with wheels; in 1953, Alaska Steamship Company began using wooden ships to transport wooden and steel containers from Seattle to Seattle. In 1953, the Alaska Steamship Company began using wooden ships to transport wooden and steel containers from Seattle to Alaskan ports.
All of the above containers were not used on the same scale and scope, but the goal was the same: to reduce transportation costs.