Intermodal traffic, consisting of truck trailers or shipping containers loaded on flatcars, dates back to the beginning of railroading, but started becoming popular and important only in the 1950s. Substantial growth began in the 1980s, and in 2003, intermodal revenue surpassed revenue from transporting coal for the first time ever on U.S. Class I railroads. In this view, a BNSF Railway intermodal train travels eastward along the Columbia River at Horsethief Lake, Washington, in 2008. The Columbia River is an important transportation artery in the Pacific Northwest, providing the only water-level route through the Cascade Mountains. The BNSF line along the north bank was completed in 1908 by the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway; Union Pacific already occupied the south bank. Today, both railroads operate near-capacity, while barges ply the waters and highway I-84 parallels the Union Pacific line on the Oregon side of the river.
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