Archive for the ‘Railroad News’ Category

NS 9-1-1, Safety Train to Visit NE Ohio Thursday

August 3, 2015

The Whistle-Stop Safety Train of Norfolk Southern will made stops this week in Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, Bellevue, Cleveland and Alliance.

Pulling the train will be NS SD60E No. 9-1-1, which honors first responders across the railroad’s 22-state network.

The train consist has two restored Pullman passenger rail cars with television monitors showing a live video feed from a camera mounted on the lead locomotive. Passengers see firsthand what engineers see from the locomotive cab.

“Ohio had a 21 percent increase in the number of grade crossing collisions in 2014, which underscores why this train and its message are so important for Ohioans to hear,” said Cayela Wimberly, grade crossing safety director at NS. “We will be talking this week to motorists, parents, school officials, photographers, rail fans, public safety officers, and others about a common sense safety message – when you see tracks, think train.”

“This Ohio Whistle-Stop tour is about building partnerships in our communities with people who can become safety advocates,” said Gena Shelton, state coordinator for Operation Lifesaver Ohio. “Have a conversation with your neighbors, your friends, your children about why you should obey traffic signals at grade crossings and stay away from railroad property. It could save a life.”

With 86 grade crossing accident in 2014, Ohio had the eighth highest number of grade crossing collisions in the nation compared with 71 in 2013.

There were four fatalities in 2014 in Ohio. Trespassing on railroad property accounted for 13 people killed in 2014, a 38 percent drop compared with 21 fatalities in 2013.

“We will remain vigilant and promote safety until that number is zero,” Wimberly said. “Trespassing on railroad property is not only illegal, it puts your life at risk. It’s not worth it.”

The Whistle-Stop Safety Train Schedule is:

  • Tuesday, Aug. 4: Cincinnati-Dayton-Columbus
  • Wednesday, Aug. 5: Columbus-Bellevue
  • Thursday, Aug. 6: Bellevue-Cleveland-Alliance

Invited guests on the train will include county and municipal leaders, state and local transportation officials, law enforcement officers, emergency responders, school transportation directors, trucking officials, news media, and others who have a vested interest in public safety.

Bus Replacing Amtrak 448/449 This Week

August 3, 2015

The Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited is not operating between Albany-Rensselaer, New York, and Boston through Wednesday due to track work being performed by CSX.

Passengers will be transported by bus to and from Albany-Rensselaer, Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, Framingham and Boston South Station.

No bus transportation is being provided to Boston Back Bay Station. Amtrak is advising passengers to contact MBTA for travel options to and from the Back Bay station.

Freight Car Repair Shop Opens near Toledo

August 3, 2015

Midwest Terminals has opened a freight car repair facility in Ironville near the Port of Toledo.

The MWT Reaircar Repair Shop, is located on 175 acres and served by Norfolk Southern. Midwest also has terminals in Toledo and Cadiz.

Services provided in Ironville include railcar inspection and assessment, slack adjusters (MA156), unit train inspections and repairs, railcar general repair, off-lease inspection, overcoating and stenciling, and on-site car scrapping.

The facility is served by two GP-9 locomotives and a Plymouth yard engine. It has 20,000 feet of track, 18,000 square feet of shop space with 40 feet of clear height and a 25-ton overhead crane.

The shop features AWS D15.1-certified welders, in-house certified welding inspectors and NDT (non-destructive testing) Level II technicians, electronic estimate submittals, AAR electronic billing, and air brake testing.

Iowa Pacific Make First Runs of Hoosier State

August 3, 2015

Iowa Pacific operated its first trips of the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State on Sunday, Aug. 2, taking over the train from Amtrak.

Trains magazine reported that the only potential snag might be completion of a switch relocation project on CSX in Indianapolis. The switch leads to a Iowa Pacific operated service facility.

Amtrak’s contract to operate the Hoosier State was to expire on July 31. Because the Hoosier State operations on the four days a week that the Chicago-New York Cardinal does not operate, it was not scheduled to run on Saturday, Aug. 1.

The Cardinal operated to and from Chicago from Indianapolis on Saturdays.

Iowa Pacific will furnish motive power and rolling stock for the train as well as marketing and on-board service support.

The operating crews will continue to be Amtrak employees.

Since March, there have been a series of inspections of the GP40FH-2 locomotives and passengers cars that Iowa Pacific plans to use. A test train traveled the route on June 28.

Iowa Pacific plans to offer onboard Wi-Fi service, a dome with café service downstairs, and leg-rest seating in heritage coaches.

Amtrak had coach-only service aside from a three-month period between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2014, when it offered Wi-Fi and business class seating, but no café service.

Trains noted that the Cardinal operates with a “Diner-lite” Amfleet II café car that also serves breakfast and dinner as well as snack bar food.

Full meal table seating preference goes to sleeping car passengers and accommodating those patrons can be a challenge when Nos. 50 and 51 operates with two sleeping cars as it does through the spring, summer and fall months.

The Cardinal does not offer Wi-Fi to coach passengers.

Fares for the Chicago-Indianapolis market have varied widely. On the Cardinal, Amtrak seeks to maximize long-distance revenue over the Chicago-Indianapolis market.

The top-priced “flexible” Indianapolis-Chicago adult coach fare is $48. Most seats aboard for Amtrak’s Hoosier State have sold at the “Saver” price of $24.

For the first month of its operation of the Hoosier State, Iowa Pacific plans to allow passengers to sit in the dome and to pay for meals and beverages served there instead of having food included in the ticket price.

“We want to give people a chance to sample our version of business class,” which will be similar to breakfasts and dinners served on Pullman Rail Journeys excursions from Chicago to New Orleans and other destinations,” said Iowa Pacific President Ed Ellis. “It will be quite different than other Midwest business class service, which only includes a newspaper and a soft drink or coffee.”

Amtrak 6 Months Late Getting Bicycle Racks Installed On Board the Capitol Limited

July 30, 2015

Want to take your bike aboard Amtrak? No problem says the nation’s rail passenger carrier. Bike racks will be ready by the end of the year.

Uh, that was supposed to be the end of last year. Amtrak had announced in June 2014 that baggage cars “equipped with built-in luggage racks that will be able to secure unboxed bicycles” would be available by year’s end.

But six months after that deadline passed, Amtrak is still working to install the bike racks.

Among the trains that were slated to get them were the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited.

Although it won’t commit to a new deadline, Amtrak says that is aiming to get the racks installed and ready to use by the end of summer.

“That’s a process we’ve been working on for quite some time,” said Craig Schultz, an Amtrak spokesman. “We’re very eager to get it off the ground.”

Schultz said that finding the right racks and figuring out how they can fit in a baggage car while also keeping a train on schedule has taken longer than expected.

He said Amtrak wants to ensure that loading and unloading bikes doesn’t add time to boarding or de-boarding process and that the baggage cars fit with varying platform heights at en route stations.

The bike racks were to be tested on the Capitol Limited and the Vermonter between New York and St. Albans, Vermont.

Amtrak will solicit feedback from riders who use the service, Schultz said.

Nos. 29 and 39 are expected to have racks to fit eight bikes, something that some bicycle advocates say won’t be enough.

Boy Admits Playing on Car That Struck Station

July 28, 2015

Utica, New York, police said that a 13-year-old-boy has admitted to playing on a freight car that was set free, struck a restored steam locomotive and damaged the Amtrak station on July 21.

Police had said earlier that there was evidence that the brakes on the car, which was sitting on the tracks of the New York, Susquehanna & Western had had its brakes tampered with.

The car, a covered hopper, rolled through downtown Utica, hitting a vehicle, and striking New York Central 0-6-0 No. 6721

The Utica & Mohawk Valley Chapter of the NRHS owns the locomotive.

Contractors have started repair work to Utica Union Station to ensure the structure is stable before they removed the freight car.

The 13-year-old may face charges in connection with the incident, which is still under investigation.

Amtrak service was unaffected by the damage to the station, which serves the Lake Shore Limited, Maple Leaf and Empire Service trains.

Also unaffected are operations of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, which uses the station.

NS Posts 2nd Quarter Drop in Operating Revenue

July 27, 2015

Norfolk Southern Corporation reported that its second quarter operating revenue fell 11 percent to $2.7 billion. The railroad company attributed the drop to weak coal demand and lower fuel surcharges revenues.

Income from railway operations was $814 million, a drop of percent.

Nonetheless, NS reported that it posted a net income of $433 million, even though it was a drop of 23 percent, and diluted earnings of $1.41 per share, a drop of down 21 percent.

The company’s volume was 1.9 million units, down 2 percent, and its operating ratio was 70 percent, a gain of 3.5 points compared with the second quarter of 2014 results.

NS also said that its operating expenses declined 6 percent to $1.9 billion because fuel costs plunged 38 percent to $519 million and materials and other supply costs dropped 5 percent to $235 million.

In a news release, the company said its financial performance was affected by falling natural gas prices, declining fuel surcharges and growing oversupply globally.

Domestic utility coal volume fell 23 percent to 175,400 units and export coal volume plunged 38 percent to 36,600 units. Total coal revenue fell 33 percent to $453 million while volume declined 21 percent to 275,700 units.
General merchandise revenue decreased 5 percent to $1.6 billion but volume inched up 1 percent to 661,500 units.

Volume growth in chemicals, automotive and paper shipments helped to offset traffic declines in steel, fertilizers and wheat. Chemicals volume rose 13 percent to 137,300 units primarily due to traffic gains in crude oil and natural gas liquids.
Intermodal revenue slipped 3 percent to $633 million, but volume rose by 2 percent to 999,900 units.

NS President and Chief Executive Officer James Squires said the volume growth in intermodal and merchandise was encouraging as were significant service improvements.

He said there remain good prospects for volume growth in the near and long term in the intermodal, energy, manufacturing and housing markets.

“We are confident in our long-term strategy,” Squires said. “Norfolk Southern is well positioned to continue improving service, which will reduce costs and add value to our customers. We have a strong legacy of success, and we are taking the right steps to continue value creation.”

Executive Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer Marta Stewart said that NS has scaled back its capital spending budget for 2015 by $130 million or 5 percent. Earlier this year, NS had projected 2015 capital expenditures of about $2.4 billion.

Special Boarding Platform Testing in Ann Arbor

July 26, 2015

A first-of-its-kind boarding platform designed to serve rail passengers with disabilities is undergoing a trial in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The platform is designed to help passengers more easily board trains at stations that have low-level platforms that are well below the floor level of most single-level passenger cars.

Otherwise, passengers must be carried aboard up the stairs or raised to floor level by a lift device.

The new platform is located at the west end of the existing low-level platform at the Ann Arbor Amtrak station.

It has a ramp that leads to a concrete platform that stands 38 inches above the top of the rails. That is the same height as the floor of the Amfleet and Horizon cars commonly used on Wolverine Service trains that serve Ann Arbor.

A wall facing the tracks sits 9 feet back from the center line of the track, thus allowing ample clearance space for passing freight trains.

A 20-foot motorized concrete platform, or shuttle, deploys to the 5-foot, 7-inch distance from the center line to facilitate level boarding at two adjacent doors.

A conductor or station agent can use a cell phone app to activate the shuttle, which takes just over 10 seconds to move into position.

There remains a gap of several inches between the movable section and a passenger car, so a bridge plate is necessary for wheelchair travelers. That plate has guardrails and is made of lightweight carbon fiber. It is 18 inches longer and 30 pounds lighter than the 87-pound aluminum ramps used at most Amtrak stations.

Superliner equipment has a lower boarding level floor and the fiber ramp can be adapted those cars.

Amtrak’s Superliners as well as the bi-level Midwest and California fleet now being built by Nippon Sharyo, have doors that are slightly over 15 inches above top-of-rail.

The Ann Arbor special platform cost about $1.9 million with the funds coming from the Accessible Boarding Technologies portion of the $50 million designated by Congress in the current Amtrak appropriation to make stations accessible to passengers with disabilities.

A similar platform is being planned for the Amtrak station in East Lansing, Michigan, on the Blue Water line. Another may be built at an undisclosed location on the Wolverine Service line.

Although designed to help those with disabilities, the special platform is available for use by any passengers, including seniors, young families with strollers and those traveling with big rolling suitcases.

Amtrak collaborated with a Michigan engineering firm, RLE International, to design the prototype platform.

It was unveiled at a ceremony on July 23, the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

CSX Sponsors 2 Cars in Brickyard 400

July 25, 2015
The car that CSX has been sponsoring.

The car that CSX has been sponsoring.

The second car that CSX has sponsored that displays the logo on the top of the hood of the Future Farmers of America.

The second car that CSX has sponsored that displays the logo on the top of the hood of the Future Farmers of America.

CSX is sponsoring two cars in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The cars include the blue and gold “Play It Safe Around Railroad Tracks” No. 34, driven by 22-year-old Brett Moffitt and the new “FFA (Future Farmers of America) + CSX Living to Serve” No. 38, with David Gilliland at the wheel.

Brett Moffitt’s Play It Safe Ford continues CSX’s ongoing partnership with Front Row Motorsports and NASCAR to emphasize the importance of safety around railroad tracks, through car sponsorship, guest and employee events and social media messages,” said CSX Vice President Corporate Communications Gary Sease. “CSX urges drivers and pedestrians to follow safety tips around railroad tracks, including looking both ways at railroad crossings—trains can come from either direction; never race a train—it can take a train more than a mile to come to a stop; never walk on tracks and avoid wearing headphones around railroad property; never drive around lowered gates; and always expect a train.”

CSX will be hosting a large group of FFA members at one of its railroad yards in Indianapolis. Having contributed more than $1 million annual since 2011, CSX is one of six Platinum Sponsors for the National FFA Foundation.

The FFA is a national youth organization of 610,240 student members that has 7,665 chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

The FFA Foundation builds partnerships with industry, education, government, other foundations and individuals to secure financial resources that recognize FFA member achievements, develop student leaders and support the future of agricultural education.

Sease said that the car emblazoned with the FFA name in Sunday’s race will be the first to represent the 87-year history of the FFA.

It will feature a blue, gold and white paint scheme with the FFA emblem on the hood.

PUCO Approves 6 Grade Crossing Upgrades

July 25, 2015

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has approved a construction authorization from the Ohio Rail Development Commission directing three railroads to install mast-mounted flashing lights and gates at six crossings in five counties.

Norfolk Southern will upgrade crossings in Avon Lake, Denmark Township and Washington; CSX will improve a crossing in Washington Township; and the Indiana & Ohio Railway will upgrade two crossings in Mason.

NS and CSX must complete their work by April 22, 2016, while the I&O has until Oct. 22, 2016. The projects will receive federal funding through the ORDC.


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