Archive for the ‘Railroad News’ Category

NS to Webcast Cleveland Investor Conference

September 23, 2014

Norfolk Southern has announced plans to conduct a webcast of today’s conference for investors and financial analysts that is being held in Cleveland. The conference will feature a train ride on the NS executive train from Cleveland to Bellevue and return.

While in Bellevue, attendees will view the expansion work being conducted of the Bellevue classification yard. The train is expected to depart Rockport Yard at 11:30 a.m.

Conference events in Cleveland will be presented between 7:45 a.m. and 11 a.m. The Bellevue event will be webcast between 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

The webcast can be heard by calling 877-869-3847.  Webcast and presentation materials will be posted on the company’s website at under the Investors section.

An audio replay will be available for 60 days by calling 877-660-6853 and using the access number 13591242.

The replay will be archived on the NS website and available for download to a portable audio player or computer as an MP3 (or podcast) file. Both the archived replay and the MP3 file will be located under the Investors section of the website.

Amtrak Extends Delay Warning for LSL

September 23, 2014

Amtrak has extended through Oct. 29 its notification of possible delays on trains traversing New York State on the CSX Water Level Route.

The Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited, which serves Northeast Ohio, will be subject to delays of up to 45 minutes on Sunday through Wednesday due to CSX track work between Buffalo and Rome, N.Y.

Also affected are the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf and the New York-Niagara Falls, N.Y., Empire Service trains.

Amtrak said passengers should sign up for delay notifications when booking their travel and to check the status of their train on, its mobile apps or at 800-USA-RAIL (800-872-7245).

Way Cleared for Michigan Talgo Purchase

September 22, 2014

Legislative opposition to Michigan’s purchase of two sets of Talgo trains has been smoothed over and the state is now expected to proceed with the acquisition.

That acquisition was the subject of a summer-long probe in the Michigan Senate after some lawmakers raised concerned about a one-bid contract.

But the senators who expressed concern about that are now are willing to let the deal proceed, said Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John Pappageorge.

“It was appropriate to look into it because that didn’t look right,” Pappageorge said. “Digging into it, we came to the conclusion that Talgo was the right answer — not a perfect one but adequate.”

The Talgo trains that the Michigan Department of Transportation wants to buy were built in and for Amtrak service in Wisconsin.

But Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker canceled the deal not long after he refused to accept federal runs to be used to develop service between Milwaukee and Madison. The Talgos have sat idle in Indiana while the Spanish company that built the Talgos and Wisconsin battle in court over money that the company claims Wisconsin still owes it.

Although some Talgo equipment built in Milwaukee later entered service in Oregon, the Talgos built for Wisconsin have yet to enter revenue service.

The Wisconsin Talgo trains have since been moved to Amtrak’s shops in Beech Grove, just outside of Indianapolis.

Pappageorge said Michigan needed to act quickly to acquire the Talgos because federal funds were available.

The $58 million for Michigan’s two train sets is to come from $200 million in federal funds for Amtrak improvements in Michigan and other states, mostly in the Midwest.

Michigan plans to assign the Talgo equipment to the Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) route where it will replace the current Amtrak rolling stock being used.

The Talgos are capable of top speeds of 110 miles an hour and, in a few years once the tracks used by Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains are rebuilt passengers will be able to travel up to two hours faster between Chicago and Detroit.

State officials also hope to improve Amtrak’s on-time service performance for the Wolverine Service, which ranged from 6.5 percent to 52.3 percent in July. Amtrak’s website reports on-time rates for Wolverine Service have ranged from 21.5 percent to 39 percent in the past 12 months.

Patronage of the Wolverine Service route has steadily has been building back toward a 20-year peak of nearly 504,000 passengers in 2010.

The Talgo equipment is expected to serve during a transition period. Eventually, Michigan Amtrak routes will be assigned “next-generation” passenger car and engine sets that are about to be built.

Michigan Department of Transportation railroad chief Tim Hoeffner said the state will own the cars.

Hoeffner said the Talgo purchase is pending an evaluation of the equipment’s suitability for Michigan’s needs. That inspection combined with the Senate investigation has meant that the Talgo equipment won’t be in service by October as originally proposed, he said.

The Talgo equipment will replace 30- to 40-year-old Amtrak cars on two of the three daily Chicago-Detroit roundtrips.

“The difference between them is like the difference between the car I learned to drive in the 1970s and the cars my kids learn to drive now,” Hoeffner said. The Talgos are similar to sleek, modern trains that run in Europe and Asia.

The Horizon coaches now used lack modern amenities and are deteriorating because Amtrak has no budget to overhaul them, according to MDOT. They have institutional decor, lack carpeting, contain harsh lighting and lack hot water in restrooms, the department says.

The Michigan Senate investigation also was triggered by a challenge from Chicago-based Corridor Capital, which claimed the process seemed to favor Talgo. The state’s bid specifications were so narrow only one company could meet them, Corridor Capital said.

U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz of Battle Creek, a train buff and volunteer adviser to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on rail issues also raised questions about whether Talgo’s equipment can meet Michigan’s needs — a criticism Corridor Capital continues to press.

“They didn’t meet the minimum requirements,” said Lansing public relations specialist John Truscott, who represents Corridor Capital. “If they did qualify, this would have been an easy decision. We (still) feel it would be just as easy for MDOT to do the right thing and open this back up (for rebidding).”

But Pappageorge said members of the Senate’s Transportation and Appropriations committees found the bid process was handled properly. They also concluded Talgo’s equipment is adequate, based on hours of testimony about train car specifications, he said.

Corridor Capital didn’t help its case when its equipment wasn’t ready to enter service. Hoeffner said Corridor Capital sought a state contract under which it would take over the entire state rail service, not just supply rail cars. It has reached a similar deal with Indiana to operate the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State.

Michigan transportation analysts believe an “incremental approach” is more prudent. Hoeffner said the goal is to continue building ridership on the Chicago-Detroit route, the busiest of Michigan’s three intercity rail passenger corridors, through faster service and nicer cars.

The state also funds Amtrak’s Chicago-Port Huron Blue Water and the Chicago-Grand Rapids Pere Marquette.

“All customers want to know is: When do I leave, when do I arrive and is it convenient?” Hoeffner said.

The trip now takes about 6.5 hours, but Hoeffner said that MDOT’s goal is to cut the travel time to four hours, which is about the same amount of time needed to drive the route between the two cities.

The state has purchased the tracks used for much of the Wolverine Service route within Michigan and has launched a track rebuilding program that should be completed in late 2017 or early 2018.

Altoona Derailment Snarls NS Traffic

September 21, 2014

Norfolk Southern traffic was moving through Altoona, Pa., again Sunday morning after all three mainlines were shut down due to a derailment of train 18N on Saturday.

News reports indicated that auto rack cars carrying new automobiles jackknifed at about 9:45 a.m. in Altoona near 21st Street and 10th Avenue. No injuries were reported and no hazardous cargo was involved.

Officials said 17 cars derailed, including nine auto racks. The train was moving through a crossover when the accident occurred.

The train had two locomotives and 107 cars. NS said in a statement that the train had originated at Fostoria, Ohio, and was bound for Wilmington, Del.

Residents of nearby homes were evacuated as a precautionary measure. They described hearing the sound of screeching of metal as the train derailed.

“When it first happened [I] heard a bunch of slamming. [I] could hear the train cars hitting the rocks. [I] heard it slam and hit the ground. [I] heard everything skid, and slide and then there was this big cloud of brown smoke … it was just horrible,” resident Casey Case said told WJAC-TV.

NS crews and those of hired contractors were on the scene removing the wreckage and working to re-open the tracks. The cleanup operation is expected to take several days.

Blair County EMA Director Dan Boyels said the automobile and vans on the auto rack cars each had two gallons of gasoline, making the plan to remove the train delicate.

“We’re not out of the woods yet. Nobody’s gotten hurt so whenever [NS] starts moving the vehicles then we have to be ready in case we have a spark,” Boyels said.

Online reports indicated that helper locomotives were pulling the cars from the 18N that did not derail back westward with 61 cars pulled to Cresson and tied down at MO.

Reports also indicated that some trains will detour east of Cleveland on the former Nickel Plate Road mainline. Among them are the 24M, 20E and 20W. Some westbound trains will also apparently detour over this route.



L&I Expects October Decision on Line Upgrade

September 21, 2014


The Louisville & Indiana Railroad expects a decision next month about winning approval to upgrade a line that is expected to see a significant increase in traffic.

L&I President John Goldman had expected a decision from the federal Surface Transportation Board by the end of summer, but it now appears that late October is the new decision date.

If approved by the STB, the 107-mile former Pennsylvania Railroad route between its namesake cities would be rebuilt starting in 2015.

The project, estimated to cost between $70 million and $90 million, and would last seven years and involve laying welded rail capable of handling 286,000-pound cars.

The top speed on the line of 25 mph would increase to 45 mph, although some curves remain at 25 mph.

CSX is expected to shift as many as 15 trains to the line once the upgrades are completed. It has already begun using the line for some trains.



NS Purchases 100 ex-UP SD90MACs

September 19, 2014

Norfolk Southern has been busy again on the used locomotive lot, this time plunking down money to buy 100 former Union Pacific SD9043MACs from EMD.

The locomotives that NS is acquiring were once among 309 units that were constructed in the late 1990s and recently acquired by EMD.

The 100 locomotives will be the first 90-series locomotives owned by NS and will be assigned road numbers Nos. 7230-7329.

The locomotive builder is undertaking frame modifications to all 100 SD9043MACs in Marshalltown, Iowa, prior to delivery to NS. The locomotives also will be given NS numbers.

Allen Rider, the NS manager of locomotive engineering, told Trains magazine that NS will refer to the units as SD90MACs, which was EMDs official designation for the locomotives when constructed.

The SD9043MACs were constructed with the idea of later installing EMD’s 6,000-hp 265H prime mover once it became available. But that swap never occurred.

When built, the locomotives were similar mechanically to a SD70MAC with a 4,300 hp 16-710 prime mover. The “43” in the SD9043MAC designation is derived from the 4,300 hp rating of the prime mover.

NS is expected to receive about 10 locomotives per month. The units have cab signals but the equipment is compatible with the cab signal equipment used on NS.

Therefore, the SD90MACs will see coalfield duty on the Pocahontas Division where three is cab signaling system in use. For now, the locomotives will retain their UP appearance.

NS will be begin overhauling the SD90MACs in 2015 at its Juniata locomotive shop in Altoona, Pa.

Indiana History Train Fall Stops Set

September 19, 2014

Four stops have been set for the Indiana Bicentennial Train this fall. The Hoosier state is marking its bicentennial in 2016. The train will visit:

  • Columbus, at the Bartholomew County Fairgrounds, Sept. 19-20
  • Jasper, at the community’s station, Sept. 25-27
  • Terre Haute, on Margaret Avenue at Prairieton Road, Oct. 2-4
  • Bargersville, downtown, Oct. 9-11

The bicentennial train has three ex-Amtrak mail cars that were purchased and rehabilitated by the Indiana Rail Road for the Indiana Historical Society.

The train features a bicentennial exhibit, historic interpreter and displays by the Indiana Historical Society.

“Getting the train on the tracks takes an extraordinary effort on the part of our staff and partners, but the train and its associated activities are generating a lot of enthusiasm for the bicentennial,” said John A. Herbst, historical society president and CEO. “It is designed to have communities look to the past, and then contemplate Indiana’s future and what qualities will make us more successful.”

The Indiana Rail Road and Norfolk Southern are sponsors of the tour. For more information, visit

Last Keystone Line Grade Crossing to Close

September 19, 2014


The last highway grade crossing on Amtrak’s Keystone Line in Pennsylvania is about to close. A new bridge on Eby Chiques Road between Lancaster and Mount Joy will enable Amtrak trains to travel at a top speed of 125 mph on the 104-mile route between Harrisburg and Philadelphia, according to Amtrak.

Also helping boost speeds are a new interlocking signal system, station improvements, and new stations at Mount Joy and Middletown.

The bridge, built at a cost of $7.86 million, is expected to open in late September. The last crossing, which is not protected by gates and flashing lights, will become a dead-end with cul-de-sacs on each side of the tracks.



NS Acquires 7 Stored Santa Fe Warbonnets

September 13, 2014

Santa Fe red, yellow and silver is about to turn into Norfolk Southern black and white. NS has acquired seven former Santa Fe EMD SD75Ms wearing the warbonnet livery. The first two of these units has been removed from storage at National Railway Equipment in Silvis, Ill., and will be interchanged to NS at East Peoria, Ill.

The locomotives have been given temporary spray painted reporting marks and numbers (2803 and 2801). They are among the last new locomotives delivered in the warbonnet livery befefore the BNSF merger. The ex-AT&SF units will be moved to the NS Juniata locomotive shop at Altoona, Pa., to be prepared for service.

Allen Rider, Norfolk Southern’s manager of locomotive engineering says the locomotives may or may not be repainted before hitting the road. It will depend on the workload at the paint shop.

NS does not plan any major upgrades of the SD75Ms, which the AT&SF acquired to haul stack trains between Chicago and Southern California.

The locomotives along with the current BNSF numbers and projected NS numbers are:

  • BNSF 8202, to become­ NS 2800
  • BNSF 8209, to become NS 2801
  • BNSF 8218, to become­ NS 2802
  • BNSF 8222, to become­ NS 2803
  • BNSF 8225, to become­ NS 2804
  • BNSF 8229, to become­ NS 2805
  • BNSF 8230, to become­ NS 2806

BO Tower Interlocking Machine Shut Down

September 12, 2014


Operators are still lining signals and switches at BO Tower in Kalamzoo, Mich., but not for much longer.

This past Tuesday the 44-level Saxby & Farmer interlocking machine inside of the tower was taken out of service. The tower remains open 24 hours a day with operators using a control panel to authorize movements.

But in the not too distant future an Amtrak train director in Chicago will be handed the responsibility to control the junction of Amtrak’s Michigan Line (former Michigan Central) and the Grand Elk Railroad.

The Michigan Department of Transportation is acquired the former MC line east of Kalamazoo from Norfolk Southern. NS will eventually relinquish to Amtrak the dispatching of the route.

The Michigan Railroad Commission approved the now decommissioned interlocking by New York Central affiliate MC in January 1915

BO tower once controlled lines affiliated with the Grand Trunk Western, NYC and Pennsylvania, along with interurban Michigan Railway

The ex-MC was divided between Amtrak and Conrail in 1976. Conrail also acquired the ex-PRR line.

Norfolk Southern got the two Conrail routes in 1999 and sold the ex-PRR line to the Grand Elk in 2009. The ex-MC east of Kalamazoo was sold to the Michigan Department of Transportation in 2013 with NS retaining freight rights.

Amtrak and the state of Michigan are rebuilding the Kalamazoo-Dearborn corridor for 110 mph speeds, which includes major track upgrades along with a complete replacement of the signal system to modern hardware that provides positive train control.

The route is used by the Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service and the Chicago-Port Huron, Mich., Blue Water.




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