Technical Information

Railinc's business is data, specifically data associated with the railroad industry. The source of the vast majority of this data is messages, millions of them - in fact over 5 million per day - sent by trading partners as well as internal applications. The railroad industry is dependent on messages being delivered and received on time. Messages are delivered using a variety of communication protocols, message formats, and connectivity options.

Communication Protocols

Communication protocols define how customers connect to Railinc. Customers can use any of the following:

  • FTP; FTPS; s/FTP – File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a standard network protocol used to transfer computer files from one host to another host over a TCP-based network. FTPS and s/FTP provide additional security and/or speed. Railinc provides FTP services, which enable customers to perform file transfers.  Many short line railroads, car owners, and shippers use this protocol.

  • HTTP; HTTPS – Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is the foundation of data communication for the World Wide Web.

  • SMTP – Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) is an Internet standard for electronic mail (email) transmission.

  • TCP/IP – Transmission Control Protocol and the Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) is the computer networking model and set of communications protocols used on the Internet and similar computer networks.

  • IBM MQ Series – IBM MQ provides assured one-time delivery of messages across a wide variety of platforms. The product emphasizes reliability and robustness of message traffic, and ensures that a message should never be lost if MQ is appropriately configured. This protocol is widely used by Class I railroads and customs agencies.

Message Formats

Railinc switches and translates a wide variety of message formats, including the following:

  • CLM – Car Location Message (CLM) is a specialized type of EDI message that is used by the railroad industry to track the movements of railcars.

  • TRAIN II – The TRAIN II System provides a wide variety of information of North American rail equipment as reported by over 460 railroads. TRAIN II is a subset of EDI X12.

  • EDI X12 – EDI X12 (Electronic Data Interchange) is a data format based on ASC X12 standards. It is used to exchange specific data between two or more trading partners.

  • EDIFACT – United Nations/Electronic Data Interchange For Administration, Commerce and Transport (UN/EDIFACT) is the international EDI standard developed under the United Nations. The EDIFACT standard provides a set of syntax rules to structure data, an interactive exchange protocol (I-EDI), and standard messages that allow multi-country and multi-industry exchange. This format is widely used by customs agencies.

  • Flat File – A plain text file usually containing one record per line such as a comma separated values (CSV) file. Shippers may communicate with Railinc using this simple format.

  • XML – Extensible Markup Language (XML) is a markup language that defines a set of rules for encoding documents in a format that is both human-readable and machine-readable. It is commonly used for the interchange of data over the Internet and it is widely used for the representation of arbitrary data structures such as those used in web services. This format is widely used by many rail industry leaders.

  • iDoc – Intermediate Document (iDoc), is an SAP document format for business transaction data transfers.

  • ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is business management software—typically a suite of integrated applications—that a company can use to collect, store, manage and interpret data from many business activities.

Connectivity Options

Customers can connect to the Railinc network through any of the following modes:

  • FTP Mailbox – Uses the Internet protocol.

  • VPN (Virtual Private Network) – Uses router communication.

  • Frame relay-ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) – Uses dedicated telephone lines.

  • MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) – Uses a high-performance telecommunications network.

  • Web Services – Uses application-to-application connectivity.