One of the things I miss most about grade school is field trips. So the ability to blow off half a day and go on a bona-fide adult field trip was a truly awesome event. We visited the Union Pacific Intermodal Transfer Facility in San Pedro, for kind of hazy and unspecific reasons (which made it all the more fun).
The "facility" is the place where containers are transferred from ship to train (with a tiny interim on a truck in-between). They had built a fairly detailed model of the facility, which was cool, but perhaps a bit of overkill. Check out the tiny little trucks:
After viewing the model we were brought up to a kind of control tower that overlooked the entire yard. Here is where the trucks check into the "ramp" (slang for a transfer yard). I swear every fifth container said Costco on the side. Note the kick-ass refinery beyond.
Here is the area where the transfers take place. Other than trains and trailers, the two main pieces of machinery were the mini-tractors that raced all over the yard pulling trailers next to the trains, and the awesomeAkira-esque gantry cranes that lift the containers into place. A skilled operator can move a container from trailer to train in less than a minute.
There was also some other pretty awesome industrial architecture visible from the tower, like this freakishly monolithic dry-storage "shed," which looked to be as big as a medium-sized Egyptian pyramid.
To the rear of the facility, you could see the source of the thousands of containers the Union Pacific moves every day-- the dockyards. The cranes look massive even from miles away. More field trips will have to be made.