Archive for the ‘Railroad News’ Category

Amtrak Panel Recommends Chicago Rail Fixes

October 3, 2015

Amtrak’s Chicago Gateway Blue Ribbon Panel is calling for bringing together rail traffic control dispatchers that are now scattered across the country, improving operating practices by Amtrak and other railroads, and funding for priority projects in northern Illinois and Indiana.

The panel also released a study that concluded that rail congestion in Chicago poses the greatest potential economic vulnerability to the economy of all the major U.S. rail hubs.

Chicago has been dubbed America’s “rail traffic speed bump,” creating an economic vulnerability of up to $799 billion every year.

“The panel interviewed experts with the freight-rail industry, Metra commuter rail, the states of Illinois, Indiana and Michigan and others and the verdict was unanimous: the implications of failing to act are dire for the economy of the nation in general and the Chicago area in particular,” said Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman.

The panel said its recommended fixes are expensive but without actions rail gridlock will only get worse.

The panel recommended:
• Coordinate in real time operations among Chicago’s railroads, including coordinated dispatching.
• Continue efforts to improve operational performance in the Chicago terminal.
• Obtain adequate and sustained public funding for vital projects.
• Give priority to the CREATE 75th Street Corridor and Grand Crossing projects.
• Make additional investments in Chicago-Porter, Indiana, corridor.
• Seek innovative financing through the federal Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan program.
• Provide consistent environmental review requirements among all transportation modes with priorities given to projects of national importance.

The report can be found

NS Now has an Erie Lackawanna H Unit

October 1, 2015


There is an Erie heritage locomotive and a Lackawanna heritage locomotive, but no Erie Lackawanna heritage unit.

That has changed now that Norfolk Southern has repainted SD45-2 No. 1700 into its original EL colors.

An NS news release said No. 1700 recently received cab upgrades at the East End Shops in Roanoke, Virginia, and was then restored to its original yellow, red, and grey Erie Lackawanna colors in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

No. 1700 is being assigned to the fleet of five other 1700-series locomotives in the Conrail Share Assets region in Oak Island, New Jersey.

The locomotive was the first of 13 ordered by the EL, which began in October 1960 when the Erie and Delaware, Lackawanna & Western merged.

The EL declared bankruptcy in 1972 and was folded into Conrail on April 1, 1976.

Locomotive Issues Sideline Hoosier State

October 1, 2015

Locomotive issues forced the cancellation of five trips of the Hoosier State over the past week.

The cancellations resulted after an inspection found defects in one of two GP40FH-2 locomotives used by Iowa Pacific to operate the Chicago-Indianapolis passenger train. The canceled trips occurred between Sept. 23 and 29.

Trains magazine reported that an Amtrak inspector “bad ordered” an IP locomotive because springs on one of the locomotive’s trucks were not seated properly and needed adjustment.

Two other Iowa Pacific units are out of service, one of which has been waiting for a new air compressor for more than a week.

The inspection occurred just before IP No. 4144 was set to deadhead with other Iowa Pacific equipment on the rear of Amtrak’s Cardinal on Sept. 22.

No. 4144 could not be left behind because the head-end power generator wasn’t operable on the other Iowa Pacific engine in the consist.

Amtrak repaired the IP locomotive in Chicago. As the repairs were being made, chartered buses replaced the Hoosier State on the Sept. 23 southbound trip and the Sept. 25 northbound trek.

The Hoosier State made four trips between Sept. 25 and last Monday, but an inspector hired by the State of Indiana found other defects not discovered in previous Amtrak and Federal Railroad Administration inspections.

These included windshield glass that had been installed backwards.

As a result, passengers were back on the bus Monday evening, Tuesday morning and on both Wednesday trips.

The Hoosier State operates on days that Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Cardinal does not operate.

The Cardinal operates in both directions on Thursday so the Hoosier State is slated to next operate on Friday in both directions.

Coal Trains Less Common Sight in West Virginia

October 1, 2015

The once ubiquitous coal train is no longer the common sight in West Virginia that it once was.

The railroad industry has attributed that to a weakening domestic market for coal.

Fewer power plants in the United States are burning coal to generate electricity with some having switched to natural gas. The overseas market for coal also has softened.

Consequently, CSX and Norfolk Southern have instituted changes in their operating patterns to move the remaining coal traffic.

NS has shifted coal traffic off its Princeton-Deepwater District, rerouting the trains over the  Guyandotte River and Gilbert Branch to gain access to the Pocahontas main.

CSX has begun to operate coal trains with more than 200 loaded cars pulled by three to five locomotives.

Trains magazine reported this week that CSX successfully operated a 220-car train over Alleghany grade to Clifton Forge, Virginia, from Hinton, West Virginia.

The typical operating patter had been to limit trains to 100 or 150 cars over the grade, using two locomotives on the head end and one pusher unit on the rear.

On Friday, Sept. 25, CSX dispatched just one 150-car coal train between Russell, Kentucky, and Clifton Forge.

The 250-mile former Chesapeake & Ohio route is fed by 10 coal branches that contribute more than 75 percent of the coal traffic on the Huntington Division.

NS has a similar network in the Pocahontas coalfields that feeds traffic to terminals at Williamson and Bluefield, West Virginia.

Photographers were out last weekend to catch the last runs on the Princeton-Deepwater District, including trains ascending Clarks Gap.

CSX Reaches Tentative Pact With 2 Unions

September 30, 2015

Two labor unions and CSX have reached tentative agreement on a new contract that all parties say will provide for more workplace flexibility.

The pact must still be approved in a vote of members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers.

Members of both unions will be able to perform a variety of assigned work beyond the traditional boundaries of craft or union affiliation. The new contract will also provide pay increases through an hourly skill differential, enhanced ability to retain employment, benefits and connection to railroad retirement, and an ability to perform additional locomotive rebuild work in-house with CSX employees.

CSX said in a news release that the agreement builds on a similar work-sharing structure implemented at the company’s Huntington Locomotive Shop in 2013.

“This agreement is part of CSX’s focus on promoting a flexible workforce to meet changing business demands, and developing opportunities to retain and support our highly skilled workforce,” said Cressie Brown, CSX vice president, labor relations.

NS Names Another Yard After Retiring Executive

September 30, 2015

Norfolk Southern is naming another yard after a retiring high-level executive.

A classification and intermodal yard in Memphis, Tennessee, will be named Harris Yard after Executive Vice President Planning and Chief Information Officer Deborah Harris Butler, who is retiring Oct. 1, 2015.

“Consistently during her 37-year career, Deb envisioned and championed systems and technology that keep the freight moving,” said NS President and CEO Jim Squires in a statement. “Her name on a key yard that handles important segments of our business—in her own hometown—is apt and well-deserved recognition. Deb’s contributions in technology, the environment, and employee development have made a lasting difference. Our board, officers and employees are grateful for her vision and leadership.”

Butler joined the Southern Railway in 1978 as a customer account auditor. She was subsequently named assistant vice president transportation customer services (2000) and vice president customer service (2002) before assuming her current post in 2007.

NS said in a news release that Butler has been recognized for her expertise in car management and distribution.

“Early in her career, she oversaw modernization of many of NS’s core transportation systems, such as ITMS for transportation information sharing, TYES for yard management and inventory, RIT for remote work orders, and the Pacesetter customer portal,” NS said. “More recently, her tenure saw implementation of the optimized dispatching system to improve network velocity, significant progress toward installation of Positive Train Control systems, successful negotiation to purchase 282 miles of Delaware & Hudson Railway Co. lines [from Canadian Pacific] to support rail service in the Northeast, and a growing commitment to sustainable business practices.

“Butler also is known for her work in mentoring new railroaders: She helped start WiNS (Women in Norfolk Southern), the railroad’s first official employee resource group.”

Harris Yard is located on the Birmingham-Chattanooga main line near the midtown area of Memphis.

Business Class Set to Launch on Hoosier State

September 29, 2015

Business class service will begin on the Hoosier State on Oct. 2. Iowa Pacific, which oversees the service on the Chicago-Indianapolis train, will also add a third coach to the run.

Business class passengers will receive breakfast to Chicago and dinner to Indianapolis.

The service will be provided in the upper level of the great dome car. Coach passengers will continue to be able to purchase food and beverages in the lower level of the dome car.

The Hoosier State operates quad-weekly on the days that Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Cardinal does not operate.

Finally Finding the CB&Q Lookalike Switcher

September 28, 2015

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I went to the Fostoria trainfest on Saturday and finally got a switcher that I knew of but had not found.  It is a former Illinois Central EMD switcher painted in a Burlington Route inspired paint scheme.

It works the Sunny Farms Landfill a couple miles south of town.  I also discovered that the landfill is expanding with new trackage being built just south of the facility.

The new trackage has yet to be connected to the rest of the facility.  A grade crossing and culvert need to be built.

Many, if not all, of the garbage trains through Cleveland on CSX are destined for this facility. These are a few of the photos I took.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

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The current end of track. The one on the left will be extended.

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The unloading facility.

The site is expanding.

The site is expanding.

Railroads Warned About Clandestine Tracking

September 25, 2015

The Association of American Railroads has sent out an alert to its members to be on the lookout for clandestine freight car tracking devices along their tracks.

The alert was sent after Norfolk Southern police found such a device in New Jersey.

An AAR alert included this image of an unauthorized line side freight car tracking device.

An AAR alert included this image of an unauthorized line side freight car tracking device.

The alert, which was obtained by Trains magazine and reported on its website on Thursday, noted that the devices are not authorized by the railroad industry.

Trains said the alert noted that NS police determined that the tracking device was installed by a company known as ClipperData.

The tracking device, known as an automatic equipment identification or AEI reader, tracks the movement of freight cars by monitoring the car’s built-in radio beacons.

According to the Trains report, ClipperData was formed about two years ago and sells comprehensive data regarding the energy industry, including the movement of crude oil and other commodities.

NS police found a copy of a lease agreement between a homeowner living near a Conrail Shared Assets route and ClipperData, which gave the homeowner $500 to use an electrical outlet to power the AEI reader.

ClipperData CEO Sterling Lapinski told Trains that his company’s work is legal and his firm is seeking to sell data to and about the railroad industry.

He said potential customers include government agencies, trade groups and energy companies.

“We do have devices installed but the network isn’t operational yet,” Lapinski told Trains. “We’re not currently selling data, we’re just trying to see if it’s feasible.”

Railroads use AEI readers to track freight cars in trains moving at track speed and typically update their own records before sharing the information with shippers.

Trains cited unnamed sources as saying that many Class I railroad executives are upset with the idea of clandestine tracking of freight cars and are ready to adopt a “scorched earth” approach to dealing with companies that install or are thinking of installing the readers.

The AAR alert noted that a second tracking device was found recently along BNSF tracks in Wyoming. The railroad industry is concerned that those who install the readers may be trespassing on railroad property to do so.

The railroad industry also fears that information gleaned from the tracking devices could be used to “disrupt rail operations through intentional, and potentially destructive, acts.”

In a statement to Trains, AAR spokesperson Ed Greenburg said the railroad trade group is watching the situation closely.

“The AAR was aware of this situation and pleased that local law enforcement and railroad police took steps to address the situation as quickly as possible,” Greenburg said.

NS Announces Additional Management Changes

September 24, 2015

Norfolk Southern President and CEO James A. Squires will become chairman of the board effective Oct. 1.

Squires will replace Charles W. “Wick” Moorman, who announced earlier this week that he would step down as chairman on that date and retire from NS at the end of the year.

James Squires

James Squires

NS also announced a number of other management changes that will take effect over the next few months.

Mark D. Manion, executive vice president and chief operating officer, will retire effective Feb. 1, 2016.

He will be replaced by Vice President Engineering Michael J. Wheeler, who before assuming COO duties will serve as senior vice president operations, effective Oct. 1.

Assistant Vice President Maintenance of Way Philip Merilli will replace Wheeler as vice president engineering.

Cindy C. Earhart will become executive vice president administration and chief information officer on Oct. 1.

She will be oversee the information technology department following the Oct. 1 retirement of Deborah H. Butler.

Squires, 54, joined NS in 1992 and has served in numerous law, finance and administration positions. He was named president in 2013 and CEO in March 2015.

“Jim goes forward with the people, resources, and creativity to take Norfolk Southern to the next level in service to our shareholders, customers and communities,” said Moorman in a statement. “That mandate is clear, and I have the highest confidence that Jim and the entire Norfolk Southern team will succeed admirably.”

Manion joined NS in 1975 as a management trainee and has since held a number of operations positions, including trainmaster, superintendent, general manager, vice president mechanical, and senior vice president transportation operations. He was named executive vice president operations in 2004.

Wheeler joined NS in 1985 as a research engineer and has served as vice president engineering since 2012.

Earhart joined NS in 1985 as supervisor subsidiary accounting. She has since held key accounting and information technology positions before being named vice president human resources in 2007 and executive vice president administration in 2013.

Merilli joined an NS predecessor line in 1981 as an assistant roadmaster. He has served in a variety of engineering positions, including track supervisor, division engineer and chief engineer line maintenance. He has served as assistant vice president maintenance of way and structures since 2013.


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