U.S. rail hauls of metal cargoes reach highest level yet in 2009.A traffic recovery for large U.S. railroads picked up steam in the week ending Aug. 1, adding to signs that freight demand may be on a sustained climb from recession lows. The Class I carriers and a few regionals that report to the Association of American Railroads said their U.S. operations carried 274,728 bulk carloads, up nearly 800 from a week earlier. Train hauls of intermodal boxes, containers and trailers combined, hit 193,332 units for a gain of about 350. From the same week in 2008, carloads were down 18.3 percent and intermodal down 16.1 percent. But for the second straight week carloads were their strongest since March 21 while intermodal volume was the most since Jan. 24. The year-to-date peak in metal shipments – to 7,727 carloads — came amid a sustained recent pickup in scrap metal loadings, consistent with demand from metal furnaces to use cheap scrap inputs along with costlier ore when they are getting more metal product orders from other factories. Other cargoes swelling rail traffic in the latest week included the strongest grain volume since Feb. 14 at 20,983 hopper carloads, chemicals with 27,846 tank cars at their highest since Feb. 28, and pulp or paper shipments the most since Jan. 17 at 5,989 units.