NS to Change Operations at Moorman Yard

NS trains classify cars at the hump in Bellevue in August 2015.

Norfolk Southern is planning to change operations later this month at Moorman Yard in Bellevue but has yet to say what those changes will entail.

The changes are part of a larger review the railroad is undertaking of yard operations throughout its system Chief Marketing Officer Alan Shaw said in a letter to shippers.

The letter indicated that NS has completed its review of Moorman Yard, which is the largest classification yard in the East and second largest in the country behind Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard in North Platte, Nebraska.

NS may idle hump operations in Bellevue and convert it to flat switching.

Since 2008, NS has closed five humps including two in the past year as part of its transformation to the precision scheduled railroading operating model.

Closed were humps in Sheffield, Alabama, and Allentown, Pennsylvania. More recently, NS changed operations at Linwood Yard in North Carolina by taking the hump out of service and furloughing 85 workers.

NS Chief Financial Officer Mark George said during an investor conference last month that those moves would save $10 million to $15 million annually.

Aside from the move to PSR, NS is also being motivated by falling carload traffic, which has declined 33 percent to date in the second quarter.

In his message to shippers, Shaw said there will be service modifications later this month pertaining to Bellevue and that shippers would be notified of those changes.

“We are reaching out to affected customers directly over the next two weeks to discuss the planned changes,” Shaw wrote.

“We are especially mindful of first- and last-mile changes, and we plan on working closely with you as we implement these steps.”

Bellevue was a major terminal for the former Nickel Plate Road and its successor, Norfolk & Western, built a larger classification yard there in 1967.

NS expanded the yard in 2014 to add a second hump and classification bowl that doubled the yard’s maximum classification capacity to 3,600 cars a day.

Earlier this year NS Chief Operating Officer Mike Wheeler said NS was looking at its yard and terminal network with an eye toward determining what it can live without.

He did not officer specifics as to which terminals and yards must be closed or trimmed in size.

Although NS has suffered the largest decline in carload traffic among Class 1 railroads, its management has said that was because it is more closely tied to industrial sectors that have been hard hit by the economic downturn, including the auto industry and steel mills.

Shaw noted in his letter that NS was conducting a review of its network before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

“The current economic disruption is a challenge for all of us, but we are using this time to find additional ways to streamline our operations,” Shaw said.

He said NS is seeking to make its network more efficient while “providing a platform for growth.”

This includes routing shipments more directly to their destinations with fewer handlings and classifications along the way.

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