Archive for the ‘Railroad News’ Category

Cliffs Moving New Pellet Type by Rail

May 25, 2017

Cleveland-based Cliffs Natural Resources has begun shipping new “Mustang” flux taconite pellets via rail to ArcelorMittal’s Indiana Harbor Mill.

The iron ore is routed from Cliff’s United Taconite facility at Forbes via Canadian National’s foremer Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range dock in Duluth, Minnesota.

The Mustang flux pellets replace Viceroy taconite pellets previously produced at the Empire Mine near Marquette, Michigan, which closed in 2016.

Specially created for ArcelorMittal, the Mustang pellet uses a limestone binder during its production.

CN brings limestone from the Hallett Dock in Duluth to the plant to produce the Mustang pellets.

Cliffs invested $75 million for a new storage facility, silos, and a limestone crusher, conveyors, and rail infrastructure to support production of the Mustang pellet.

Work on the facility began in August 2016. About 40 percent of United Taconite’s production involves the Mustang pellets. About 60 percent of the plant production makes standard iron ore pellets.

Working on the New Painesville Trestle

May 24, 2017

Preparation work has begun for construction of a new bridge to carry the Lake Erie District of Norfolk Southern over the Grand River in Painesville.

During a recent visit, construction workers were working below the current trestle and at track level on both sides of the bridge preparing the site.

It appears that the new bridge will be built just south of the existing structure.

Railfans watching the work and waiting for a train said that the NS police have been patrolling  the area and making sure that “visitors” don’t get on the property.

The project is expected to take two years to complete. Shown is westbound intermodal train train 23K.

Behind the Closing of CSX Hump Yards

May 24, 2017

CSX has acknowledged that it plans to close its hump operations at Selkirk, New York, and that it also plans to close its hump in Birmingham, Alabama

Both yards will continue in operation as flat-switching facilities. Five other hump yards, including Stanley Yard in Toledo, have already been converted to flat switching.

CSX will still have five active humps, including Queensgate Yard in Cincinnati and Willard Yard. In 2016, Selkirk was the second-busiest hump yard in the CSX system.

Speaking to the Wolfe Research conference this week, CSX Chief Operating Officer Cindy Sanborn said the hump closings are not being implemented just to change switching operations.

“It is part of the larger plan of making transit across the network faster,” she said.

CSX is seeking to bypass intermediate terminals because it believes that doing so will enable it to move freight more efficiently, quickly and reliably.

An analysis by Trains magazine noted that CSX CEO E. Hunter Harrison has said hump yards are only viable when they classify more than 1,400 to 1,500 cars per day.

Of the 12 hump yards in existence when Harrison was hired at CSX last March, only Waycross, Georgia, meets that threshold.

Three yards, Selkirk; Nashville, Tennessee; and Willard handled more than 1,400 cars per day in 2016.

The Trains analysis said those humps were likely to handle less traffic under Harrison’s precision scheduled railroading operating philosophy.

“If there’s not enough cars that want to go there to support the infrastructure needed to maintain and utilize the hump, then we simply don’t need it,” Sanborn said at the investor’s conference. “We can move over into flat-switching operations.”

Sanborn reiterated at the conference that CSX expects to only have two to three humps left by late this year.

Another driving force behind closing the humps is that carload traffic at CSX is in a long-term decline.

CSX handled 2.32 million merchandise carloads in 2016, a figure that excludes automotive traffic.

Trains reported that is a decline of 605,000 carloads since 2000 or 22 fewer 75-car trains per day.

Yet merchandise traffic made up two-thirds of CSX freight business in 2016 and Sanborn said the railroad’s new operating plan provided an opportunity to grow that business by providing faster and more reliable service.

“Concurrent with making the changes in the hump network, we also are doing a very detailed deep dive into the overall operation in general,” Sanborn says.

To improve traffic balance and density, some unit train shipments are being carried by merchandise trains that operate daily. In some regions, local service is now operating daily.

Amtrak, Ann Arbor Agree on Tunnel Project

May 24, 2017

While Ann Arbor officials await action on the city’s bid to build a new Amtrak station, it has reached an agreement with the passenger carrier about the first steps in being allowed to build a tunnel beneath the tracks.

The Allen Creek Railroad Berm Opening Project will enable storm water to more easily reach the Huron River and therefore reduce flooding.

The project is expected to allow pedestrians and cyclists to reach riverfront recreation areas.

The tracks used by Amtrak are owned by the Michigan Department of Transportation, but Amtrak is the primary approval agency.

Amtrak is requiring the city to enter into a design-phase agreement and to reimburse the railroad Amtrak for its costs.

By its estimate, Amtrak said work in the design phase of the project will cost $71,940. The Ann Arbor City Council has authorized a reimbursement of up to $97,020.

“The amount being paid to Amtrak at this time is $71,940,” said City Engineer Nick Hutchinson. “As a contingency, we obtained authorization from council for a total amount of $97,000 should more be needed.”

Any unused money for design work will be returned by Amtrak to the city.

“This action by the city of Ann Arbor is another example of our close working relationship with the city, Michigan DOT and Amtrak for improvements to facilities and service at the busiest Amtrak station in the state,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

Ann Arbor officials have said that pedestrians and cyclists will be able to use the tunnel beneath the railroad tracks used by Amtrak’s Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service.

Federal Emergency Management Agency grants are expected to cover 75 percent of the storm water portion of the project. Construction is expected to begin in summer 2018.

Amtrak to Allow All to Get Late Alerts

May 24, 2017

Amtrak said this week that it will allow anyone to subscribe to automated email or text message notifications sent out when Amtrak trains are behind schedule at specific stations.

Until now, only passengers holding holding reservations or tickets could use this service.

In a news release, Amtrak said the messages will be sent at no charge although data and message charges might be imposed by cellular carriers.

“This useful new tool allows anyone – whether you’re traveling on one of our trains, monitoring travel options or just picking up someone from a station – to stay informed,” Amtrak said in the news release.

The alerts will be of particular use to passengers who buy multi-ride tickets because they are not linked to specific train numbers.

Notifications will be provided for up to six trains and stations by either text or email and delivered on a single day, every day, or just certain days of the week.

The notifications schedule can be modified or deleted at any time by creating a subscription at Amtrak.com/delayalerts.

PennDot Might Sponsor Buses Before Pittsburgh-Harrisburg Amtrak Service Can be Expanded

May 24, 2017

As the Pennsylvania Senate considers approving legislation designed to increase Amtrak service to Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is eyeing sponsoring bus service until Amtrak service can be expanded.

The state funds the Pittsburgh-New York Pennsylvanian and is considering funding additional Amtrak service between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The Senate Transportation Committee recently voted unanimously in favor of a nine-month review study of adding two more passenger trains between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. The full Senate is expected to vote on the study proposal by the end of June.

The study would be conducted within nine months by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee.

The resolution also calls for looking at the prospect of adding service between Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

A number of steps would need to be taken before the service could become a reality, including making improvements to the Norfolk Southern tracks that the trains would use and negotiating agreements with Amtrak and NS. The route to be used is a busy NS freight line.

Western Pennsylvania interests have long noted that since 2000, the state has invested $400 million to increase passenger service between Harrisburg and Philadelphia from six trains to 14.

PennDOT spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick said the agency welcomes the review of what it would take to increase passenger service but that earlier studies have shown it would cost $3.75 million to $6 million to add one more passenger train, plus capital improvements estimated at $100 million in 2005.

Kirkpatrick said that in other regions of the country bus service has been paired with Amtrak service.

He said a dedicated bus could connect western Pennsylvania cities with Amtrak’s Keystone Service in Harrisburg to New York and Philadelphia.

NS to Close Chattanooga Hump Operation

May 23, 2017

Now it is Norfolk Southern that is closing hump operations. A Tennessee newspaper reported that hump operations will be ended at DeButts yard in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The jobs of 42 car repair employees, 23 conductors and engineers, and nine engineering track workers will be cut. The yard employs 495.

An NS spokesperson told the newspaper that the yard will remain in operation.

Just over a year ago, NS reduced hump operations at John Sevier Yard in Knoxville, Tennessee, which led to the loss of 135 jobs.

DeButts yard is named after after former Southern Railway President Harry A. deButts.

Class 1 Rail Employment Down 0.14% in April

May 23, 2017

Employment at U.S. Class 1 railroads fell 0.14 percent in April, the Surface Transportation Board said this week.

Between mid-March and Mid-April there were 149,107 workers on Class 1s. That figure is a drop of 2.64 percent compared with figures from the same period in 2016.

Of the six employment categories, half reported decreases compared with mid-March. This included executives, officials and staff assistants, down 2.5 percent to 8,832 employees; professional and administrative, down 4.04 percent to 12,671; and maintenance of equipment and stores, down 0.28 percent to 27,849.

Rising during the period was employment of maintenance of way and structures, up 0.35 percent to 34,218 workers; transportation (other than train and engine), up 0.09 percent to 5,849; and transportation (train and engine), up 0.84 percent to 59,688.

On a year-over-year basis, executives, officials and staff assistants were down 5.35 percent; professional and administrative, down 8.21 percent; maintenance of way and structures, down 5.45 percent; maintenance of equipment and stores, down 4.19 percent; and transportation (other than train and engine), down 6.15 percent.

Transportation (train and engine) was the only category to post an increase in employment on a year-over-year basis, rising 2 percent.

Ontario to Begin Design Work for High-Speed Rail Passenger Line between Toronto, Windsor

May 23, 2017

Preliminary design work is expected to begin within a year on a high-speed rail line between Toronto and Windsor, Ontario.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said that the province will issue a request for bids for the design needed for an environmental assessment.

Wynee said the province will pay C$15 million for the assessment. A new governing body will be established to oversee the design and implementation of a high-speed rail system.

If built, the line could open as soon as 2015 and serve Windsor, Chatham, London, Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph and Toronto, with a connection to Pearson International Airport.

Top speed would be 158 mph with trains using some existing track was well as a new dedicated right of way.

Currently, VIA Rail Canada trains make the trip in four hours. That would be cut to two hours once the line is operational. Windsor is opposite of Detroit

Ontario recently sponsored a high-speed rail feasibility report that concluded that a business case can be made for high-speed rail in the Toronto-Windsor corridor, as well as opportunities for the private sector to finance and deliver the project.

CSX Making Operations Changes to CL&W Sub

May 22, 2017

CSX has made some long anticipated changes to operations on its CL&W Subdivision, the former Cleveland, Lorain & Wheeling line of the Baltimore & Ohio from Sterling to Lorain and Cleveland via Lester.

First, the line from Sterling to Lester is said to be unused. A recent trip to shoot some Wheeling & Lake Erie action took us across the tracks at Seville and there were signs of use.

Could this just be to as far as the lumber yard north of Seville?

In the Cleveland area, CSX is running a yard job, with symbol Y124 from Collinwood to West Third Street Yard. This is often seen in the afternoon at Parma.

It turns west to south at Parma and then picks up a shoving platform (caboose) and backs down to the Cleveland Sub to West Third Street.

I have not seen it come back from West Third Street, but I would assume that they shove up the hill back to Parma, drop their caboose and head back to Collinwood.

The Y124 also brings to Parma cars to/from Lester and the Lorain side of the CL&W.

The local that works out of Lester brings the cars to Parma a couple of days per week. I would imagine that the other days they service the Lorain side and any other customers along the line.

Article by Marty Surdyk