Archive for April, 2017

Chasing the N&W 611

April 29, 2017

Last Sunday morning I chased the Norfolk & Western No. 611 trip from Greensboro, North Carolina, to Roanoke Virginia.

The first two photos are from Reidsville, North Carolina. Strangely enough, I had this overpass all to myself not another railfan in sight.

Next is a rural overpass east of Chatham, North Carolina. Picture four is at Danville, Virginia.

The last one is near Hurt, Virginia, where the trip gets off the Southern mainline and takes the old Virginian route to get to Roanoke. From there I was unable to chase due to not being familiar with the roads.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

Hickory Creek to run on NKP 765 Excursions

April 29, 2017

Former New York Central observation car Hickory Creek will be part of the consist of the Joliet Rocket, the excursion train to be pulled by Nickel Plate Road No. 765  on June 17 and 18 between Joliet and Chicago.

Tickets to ride in the Hickory Creek are limited and are priced at $219.

The Hickory Creek once operated on the Chicago-New York 20th Century Limited.

The car is being made available through a special charter by Headwaters Junction, Inc.

The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society said some tickets remain in economy coach, deluxe coach and first class on select dates and times for the excursions.

Harris Tower Gets Additions, Makeover

April 29, 2017

The Harris Tower Railroad Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, will have a slightly new look when it reopens on May 27.

The structure has been rehabilitated and expanded displays created.

The Harrisburg Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, which owns the tower, has restored 40 windows, power-washed the interior, upgraded one bathroom with period-appropriate fixtures, re-painted the second floor, and installed replica lighting fixtures. The tower’s electro-pneumatic switching machine is to have its covers sand blasted and re-painted.

On the tower’s ground floor are three new display cases showing recently-acquired memorabilia pertinent to the structure’s history.

The museum is open on Saturdays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. There is no admission charge.

Neither Flipping nor Flopping in Bellevue

April 28, 2017

Of course the highlight of the day, or any day for that matter, for me is catching an Illinois Central unit. It is leading train W08 on the Toledo District into the mini plant.

OK, so what did my trip to Bellevue in early April have in common with Marty Surdyk’s venture there last winter that he wrote about this week in the Akron Railroad Club Bulletin and the ARRC blog?

Actually, very little. The soles on both of my shoes stayed firmed in place and I did not do any flipping or flopping while waiting for trains. I’m still laughing about that story.

I didn’t get any NS heritage units as Marty did in catching the Lehigh Valley H unit on northbound train No. 174.

But I did chase No. 194 southward (railroad eastbound) and my catch of the day was a former Illinois Central SD70 leading a train into town on the Toledo District.

I posted a photograph earlier of the IC unit along with a few other highlights of my day, so here are a few more images from my day in Belleveue, which also involved a chase down the Sandusky District.

The first train that I saw was a monster Wheeling & Lake Erie manifest freight sitting outside of town.

A railfan who goes by the screen name of Camcorder Sam on Trainorders.com, said that the W&LE didn’t come into Bellevue on Saturday so the Sunday train was extra long.

I would get it creeping around the Brewster Connection at Center Street.

If it wasn’t such a great day for heritage locomotives, it was a good day for western foreign power. Two trains had Union Pacific power sets leading them. BNSF power led the 44G, a grain train that came in on the Fostoria District and west south on the Sandusky District.

The crew putting together the 12V had the mini plant tied up for a good half-hour to 45 minutes, causing three trains to have to sit and wait before they could leave town or come into town.

The dispatcher used a term to describe this that I’ve never heard before. It sound like “shopping” but it could have been “chopping.” Whatever work it was had an “op” sound to it.

The crew of L14 toured the mini plant as they spun their motive power set because the original lead unit had some type of issue.

ARRC members will be going to Bellevue in June for our annual longest day outing and Bellevue will be the subject of the cover story in the June ARRC eBulletin.

Just remember to wear a good pair of shoes that day.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Union Pacific No. 4012 leads train into town as another one leaves town. They are passing at Southwest Street.

A trio of UP units leads a train out of town.

The W&LE always seems to have to wait before it gets into the NS yard in Bellevue. An inbound train is shown on the Brewster Connection.

It’s all about steel wheels on steel rails. Shown are the wheels of a car on the W&LE train.

The L14 maneuvers around the Mad River Connection in the background as seen between two auto rack cars on an inbound train coming off the Fostoria District.

After spinning its power the L14 finally got underway. It is passing the Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum on the Mad River Connection.

As the 12V was being assembled and had the mini plant tied up, it operated as symbol L07.

Train 194 had to wait for the 12V to finish its assembly work before it could leave town. The 12V picked up a Mansfield Crew near Flat Rock and the 194 went around and out ahead of it. The 194 is leaving Bellevue with a CSX unit tucked behind lead locomotive 2661.

The 194 had to wait for a CSX intermodal train at Attica Junction before it could resume its journey. It is shown on the south edge of Siam (Attica Junction)

The 12V saunters through Attica in a view made from the cemetery along the tracks.

Tank cars bring up the rear of NS train 188 as it crosses the Fort Wayne Line at Colson in Bucyrus. The 44G was waiting for it to clear.

 

NS to Create Second Stack Route in Pittsburgh

April 28, 2017

Norfolk Southern plans to use a grant from the Pennsylvania State Transportation Commission to create a second route through Pittsburgh for double-stacked container trains.

The railroad sought the funding after a landslide on Mount Washington last June adversely affected traffic between Cleveland and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for 11 days.

The grant will fund $22.7 million of the $28.6-million project, which will involve 14 bridges. Many of those bridges were already in need of renovation. Crews will lower tracks or raise roadways to create additional clearances for stack trains.

The route to be upgraded involves the Fort Wayne Line and Pittsburgh Line, which cross the Allegheny River north of its confluence with the Monongahela River and travels through Pittsburgh, Swissvale, and Braddock, Pennsylvania.

Currently, stack trains must take the Mon Line, which bypasses downtown Pittsburgh.

Cardinal, Hoosier State to be Rescheduled

April 28, 2017

Amtrak plans to reschedule the Cardinal and Hoosier State between Chicago and Indianapolis on May 1.

Trains 50 and 850 will operate 11 minutes earlier at all stations from Dyer to Indianapolis, departing Dyer at 6:44 p.m., Rensselaer at 7:35 p.m., Lafayette at 9:46 p.m. and Crawfordsville at 10:20 p.m. The arrival at Indianapolis will be 11:39 pm. All times shown are local.

Nos. 51 and 851 will be scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 10 a.m., five minutes earlier than the current schedule.

The Chicago to New York No. 50 originates in Chicago on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Train 850 originates in Chicago on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Train 51 runs between Indianapolis and Chicago on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Train 851 will originate in Indianapolis on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

1309 Restoration Work Halted for Lack of Funds

April 28, 2017

Financial issues are preventing the completion of restoration of Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 to operating conditions.

The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad had said No. 1309 would make its maiden journey after restoration on July 1.

But slow reimbursements from the State of Maryland have jeopardized that. John Garner, superintendent of the WMSR, said all restoration work was halted in early March due to lack of funding.

Last year the Maryland governor’s office earmarked $400,000 in a matching grant to help with the restoration of No. 1309.

Garner says that the WMSR must spend its own capital dollars before reimbursement can be processed by the state.

Seeking to raise the railroad’s matching share of $400,000 while trying to continue regular operations has proven difficult for the WMSR.

Garner said state officials are working to give railroad vendors the status of approved state contractors and to also approve vendors’ invoices.

“It’s all up to the state now; if [the state] cuts a check loose tomorrow, we go back to work,” he said, adding that he can’t predict when the 1309 restoration will be completed and when the locomotive will operate.

He did say that another eight weeks of work is needed to get No. 1309 operational.

Among the remaining work to be completed is a hydrostatic test for the boiler and reassembly work if the test shows the locomotive will safely hold steam and water under pressure.

Those who have purchased tickets for the planned July 1 runs are being given refunds or re-booked on a July 4 weekend excursion. The WMSR is offering $10 vouchers good for train rides, gift shop purchases or on-board services.

Newburgh & South Shore Lauded for Hiring Vets

April 28, 2017

The Newburgh & South Shore Railroad has been honored by the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association for its efforts to recruit and support military veterans.

The N&SS won in the small railroad category. Other railroads honored for hiring veterans were the Louisville & Indiana Railroad (mid-sized railroad), Magnus LLC (small supplier category) and GE Transportation (large company category).

The awards were presented at the recent ASLRRA convention held in Grapevine, Texas.

The winners have the highest ratio of veterans in their workforces while GE employs the highest number of vets among association members.

A quarter of the L&I’s 47 employees are military veterans, active duty reservists or National Guard members.

Flordia East Coast Family Days

April 27, 2017

Last week I flew to Florida to help a friend drive back to Ohio. The first stop Saturday morning was the FEC family days train at St Augustine Florida.

Power was the two engines painted in the Susan G Komen find the cure for breast cancer scheme. The recently repainted St Augustine, an unnamed Observervation car and a generator car rounded out the consist.

Unfortunately due to time constraints I was only able to get some roster photos and not the train running.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon 

NS 1st Quarter Net Income Up 12%

April 27, 2017

Norfolk Southern said on Wednesday that its first quarter 2017 net income rose by 12 percent to $433 million compared with the same period in 2016.

The railroad said it set records for operating ratio, income from operations and earnings per share.

The increase in net income was attributed to a 7 percent rise in income from railway operations, as well as a lower effective income tax rate.
Diluted earnings per share climbed 15 percent to $1.48 compared with the EPS for the first quarter of 2016.

Railway operating revenue rose 6 percent to $2.6 billion compared with 2016 as overall volume rose 5 percent due to growth in coal, intermodal and merchandise. Income from railway operations was a record $773 million, up 7 percent year over last year.

The operating ratio of 70.0 percent was a first quarter record, compared with 70.1 percent in 2016.

Operating expenses increased 6 percent to $1.8 billion compared with 2016. NS said that targeted expense cuts were offset by inflation, particularly related to fuel expenses, which were higher by $64 million.

Chief Marketing Officer Alan Shaw said overall traffic volume increased 5 percent. Merchandise traffic grew 1 percent, intermodal rose 4 percent, and coal was up by 21 percent.

A 71 percent spike in export coal was an aberration, Shaw said, due to the effect of cyclone damage in coal-producing regions of Australia. That tightened the global supply and created demand for U.S. coal.

Shaw said NS expects demand to remain strong in the second quarter before returning to more normal levels in the second half of the year.

Utility coal shipments grew 14 percent in the quarter thanks in part to higher natural gas prices.

“Norfolk Southern’s record results for the first quarter demonstrate the efficacy of our strategic plan, under which we are enhancing our service quality and network performance while driving significant efficiency improvements,” said Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer James Squires in a statement. “Our focus on providing a superior service product has positioned us for growth and, coupled with our cost discipline, has contributed to a solid start to the year. Our strategy provides a strong foundation for growth at low incremental costs, a powerful formula for enhanced shareholder value.”

During a conference call with in analysts, Squires said NS is watching closely what is happening in the railroad industry, particularly at competitor CSX.

Squires said NS still plans to cut its operating ratio below 65 percent and continue to boost productivity while reducing costs by $650 million by 2020.

In 2017, Squires said NS expects to save $100 million in expenses.

When asked if NS expects to gain market share if CSX suffers service disruptions as it streamlines operations, Squires said, “We’re always looking for good revenue growth opportunities.”

NS Chief Operating Officer Mike Wheeler said that although the railroad has ceased yard humping operations at three yards in the past couple years its 10 hump yards are a vital part of the network and are key to providing good service to merchandise customers

Wheeler said NS will rationalize terminals if it can do so without affecting service.

He said NS has made improvements in key service metrics, including train length and locomotive productivity.

Train lengths grew for the sixth straight quarter largely due to an “aggressively accelerating use of distributed power.”

NS has mothballed 50 locomotives from its switching and local service operations and is eyeing the retirement of another 100 engines in the second quarter. Since early 2016, NS has sidelined 300 locomotives.

Wheeler said a smaller locomotive fleet reduces maintenance costs and improves fuel efficiency, noting that the railroad realized a 6 percent improvement in fuel efficiency in the first quarter of 2017.