Inception of Containerized Cargo:
Standard Container for Cargo Transportation
Containerization has its origins in early coal mining regions in England from the late 18th century on. In 1795 Bejamin Outram opened the Little Eaton Gangway upon which coal was carried in wagons built at his Butterley Ironworks. The horse-drawn wheeled wagons on the Gangway took the form of containers, which, loaded with coal, could be transshipped from canal barges on the Derby Canal which Outram had also promoted.
By the 1830s, railroads on several continents were carrying containers that could be transferred to other modes of transport. The Liverpool and Manchester Railway in the United Kingdom was one such. "Simple rectangular timber boxes, four to a wagon, they were used to convey coal from the Lancashire collieries to Liverpool, where they were transferred to horse drawn carts by crane."Originally used for moving coal on and off barges, 'loose boxes' were used to containerize coal from the late 1780s, at places like the Bridge-water Canal. By the 1840s, iron boxes were in use as well as wooden ones. The early 1900s saw the adoption of closed container boxes designed for movement between road and rail.
In the United Kingdom, several railway companies were using similar containers by the beginning of the 20th century and in the 1920s the Railway Clearing House standardised the RCH container. Five- or ten-foot-long, wooden and non-stackable, these early standard containers were a great success, but the standard remained UK-specific.
From 1926 to 1947 in the US, the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railway carried motor carrier vehicles and shippers' vehicles loaded on flatcars between Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Chicago, Illinois. Beginning in 1929, Seatrain Lines carried railroad boxcars on its sea vessels to transport goods between New York and Cuba. In the mid-1930s, the Chicago Great Western Railway and then the New Haven Railroad began "piggy-back" service (transporting highway freight trailers on flatcars) limited to their own railroads. By 1953, the CB&Q, the Chicago and Eastern Illinois and the Southern Pacific railroads had joined the innovation. Most cars were surplus flatcars equipped with new decks. By 1955, an additional 25 railroads had begun some form of piggy-back trailer service.
During World War II the Australian Army used containers to help overcome the various breaks of gauge. These non-stackable containers were about the size of the later 20 foot ISO container and perhaps made mainly of wood .
In 1955, former trucking company owner Malcom McLean worked with engineer Keith Tantlinger to develop the modern intermodal container. The challenge was to design a shipping container that could efficiently be loaded onto ships and held securely on long sea voyages. The result was a 8 feet (2.4 m) tall by 8 ft (2.4 m) wide box in 10 ft (3.0 m)-long units constructed from 2.5 mm (0.098 in) thick corrugated steel. The design incorporated a twistlock mechanism atop each of the four corners, allowing the container to be easily secured and lifted using cranes. After helping McLean make the successful design, Tantlinger convinced him to give the patented designs to the industry; this began international standardization of shipping containers.