Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

NS Opens New Chicago Locomotive Shop

February 15, 2017

Norfolk Southern has opened a new locomotive shop in Chicago adjacent to its 47th Street intermodal facility.

NS logo 2The $9.5 million facility has 16,300 square feet and comes with a 125-ton drop table to inspect, repair, or replace traction motors; a mobile, 7.5–ton overhead gantry crane, and a 77-foot-long inspection pit.

It can handle four locomotives indoors at once and will employ 25 craft workers around the clock.

“The new facility is strategically located on Norfolk Southern’s primary rail line serving Chicago, and it will allow NS to rapidly make repairs to locomotives moving freight to our major terminals,” said NS vice president mechanical Don Graab in a statement. “The investment is part of NS’s commitment to provide timely and reliable service and will enable us to move goods even more efficiently across the Chicago gateway and benefit intermodal customers shipping freight to East Coast markets.”

With the opening of the shop NS will no longer have to move locomotives requiring extensive maintenance to other shops on its system.

NS also operates a minor repairs shop in Chicago at Calumet Yard. NS has six yards in the Chicago region that handle more than 100 trains a day.

CSX Eyes Building Chicago Intermodal Terminal

February 1, 2017

CSX is planning an intermodal facility near Chicago along the joint line that it uses with Union Pacific.

CSX logo 1The site is on the former Chicago & Eastern Illinois route in Crete, Illinois, 33 miles south of Chicago.

Although CSX has not announced plans for the 1,100 acre site, speculation on public forums has already triggered NIMBY opposition amid support from public officials.

Some residents have objected to the likelihood of CSX building an overpass for Crete-Monee Road.

Opponents appeared at a public hearing last month and signs opposing the intermodal site have sprung up along roads in the largely rural area.

The intermodal site, though, would be within the village of Crete.

“There is substantial support among local, state, and regional officials for the (Crete) concept,” said CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle. “Locating a facility there would enhance the region’s ability to manage the growing volume of intermodal freight moving to and from the Chicago region.”

The area where the intermodal site would be built has seen growth in warehouses and distribution businesses in recent years.

The village has rezoned the property for intermodal terminal use. CSX purchased the land in June 2016.

If CSX develops the intermodal facility it would part of its Southeastern Corridor and become the first Chicago area intermodal facility tied directly to the port of Miami, which is a gateway to Latin American.

CUS Gets Emerging Projects Agreement

January 14, 2017

The City of Chicago is joining with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Amtrak, Metra and the Regional Transportation Authority to create an emerging projects agreement that they hope will be able to land $1 billion in federal funding to modernize Chicago Union Station.

Chicago Union StationBy creating the EmPA, the DOT will be able to provide technical assistance for obtaining federal credit through the Build America Bureau’s innovative programs.

The redevelopment of Union Station is a public-private partnership that is seeking to rehabilitate the depot for passengers as well as foster commercial developments surrounding the station.

Amtrak Opens New Lounge in Chicago

June 25, 2016

Amtrak has opened a new Metropolitan Lounge for sleeping car and business class passengers passing through Chicago Union Station.

The new lounge is two stories, can seat 360 and with 13,500 square feet is more than twice the size of the existing lounge it will replace.

Amtrak 4Access to the lounge is from the station’s Great Hall as well as street level. It is located in a section of the station that has been vacant for more than 40 years.

City officials said that when work began on renovating the space, workers found ticket stubs on the floor from 40 years ago.

Project architect Leonard Koroski of Goeetsch Partners described the new lounge as having five separate “neighborhoods” for passengers including a common entrance area, a business area with computer work stations, a family area with a children’s play space, a “millennial area” featuring high-backed chairs to accommodate those on cell phones and other tech-friendly features, and a pair of “quiet” spaces.

The new lounge was built in just under five months and cost $7 million.

In 2015, Amtrak opened the extra fee Legacy Club in space once used as a men’s lounge.

A former women’s lounge is being transformed into an event space that can accommodate up to 300 people.

The previous Metropolitan Lounge, which opened in 1991, will be gutted and is expected to become a pre-boarding area that will enable Amtrak to expand its crowded concourse level.

NS Won’t Support Chicago Bypass Project

June 1, 2016

Norfolk Southern will not support an effort by a group seeking to construct a railroad bypass around Chicago.

In a letter to the U.S. Surface Board of Transportation, NS said it would not work with Great Lakes Basin Transportation, which has proposed building a 278-mile route linking Indiana and Wisconsin that would run south and west of Chicago.

NS logo 1Great Lakes Basin contends that the line would help alleviate freight congestion in Chicago.

Earlier, Union Pacific had said it, too, is not interested in working with Great Lakes Basin to create the $8 billion rail line.

In its letter to the STB, NS said it would focus on improving its own tracks.

The STB is currently taking public comments as part of an environmental impact statement regarding the project.

“Norfolk Southern has a robust route network, with multiple routes into and out of the Chicago area and also owns its own bypass route that runs directly to Kansas City,” NS wrote. “For this reason, we are not inclined to think that the proposed Great Lakes Basin route would work well with our system or that we would be a user of the route.”

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 atAmtrak.com/ChicagoGateway.

Michigan Passenger Station Goes on the Block

August 4, 2015

A passenger station that once served the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific in Menominee, Michigan, is for sale.

Designed by architect James Nettenstrom in the late Victorian style, the depot was built in 1903 and saw its first train on Dec. 30.

It was designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1977 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Much of the original design of the station has been preserved, including the original windows, storm windows, woodwork and railroad safe. The original platform and brickwork are intact.

Centered on 1.1 acres, the depot has more than 2,000 square feet of interior floor space and about 500 square feet of outdoor area under the passenger pavilion.

For more information, go to www.menomineedepot.com.

The Incredible Shrinking Fort Wayne Line

June 8, 2009

Mergers and acquisitions can be tough on a railroad line. Many a line has been wiped off the map after being deemed surplus as a result of a merger. While that fate has not befallen the Fort Wayne line that passes through Alliance, Canton, Massillon, Orrville, Wooster and Mansfield, the former Chicago-Pittsburgh mainline of the Pennsylvania Railroad isn’t what it used to be.

After the Conrail breakup, which resulted in the Fort Wayne line east of Crestline becoming Norfolk Southern property, traffic diminished preciptiously. Now the Fort Wayne line has just one pair of daily manifest freights that travel the route daily through northeast Ohio.

Until early May, 12V and 15V operated between Columbus (Buckeye Yard) and Pittsburgh (Conway Yard), using the Sandusky District between Columbus and Bucyrus and the Fort Wayne line east of there.

But NS temporarily closed Buckeye Yard on May 4, citing the downturn in traffic resulting from the current recession. Columbus area traffic will be marshaled at Watkins Yard, a former Norfolk & Western facility on the southeast side of Columbus. NS expects to reopen Buckeye Yard once the economy and its business picks up.

The 12V and 15V now operate between Pittsburgh and Bellevue. The trains continue to use the Sandusky District and to make the turn onto and off of the Fort Wayne line at Bucyrus.

The trains also have a new schedule. The 12V is now slated for a middle of the night departure from Bellevue and should reach the Canton-Alliance area by 8 a.m. The 15V is set to leave Conway at approximately midnight with a mid-morning arrival in Bellevue. The new schedule means that the trains are less likely to operate over the Fort Wayne line west of Canton in daylight hours.

Another change in recent weeks on the Fort Wayne line was the abolition of a pair of locals that operated between Mansfield and Bellevue. Local C37 had originated at Mansfield and hauled auto parts that were made at a General Motors stamping plant near Mansfield and taken to Belleveue for forwarding to GM plants via other trains. For now, this traffic will be handled by the 12V and 15V. However, the future of the GM plant in Mansfield does not look good as the company restructures and downsizes in bankruptcy proceedings.

NS continues to opeate a local between Canton and Massillon that runs during daylight hours, and a local that originates in Mansfield and runs to Wooster before returning. This train does work in Orrville, dropping off tank cars for the J.M. Smucker plant that is located on the former Cleveland, Akron & Columbus branch on the north side of Orrville.

Otherwise the only traffic on the Fort Wayne line is the occasional coal train or load of empty cars.

Two ARRC members inspected the Fort Wayne line between Bucyrus and Upper Sandusky last Saturday.  While in Bucyrus we were told that the Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern, which operates over the line west of Crestline, hopes to build traffic over the next few years and even land some bridge traffic coming out of Chicago. A connection from the Fort Wayne line to the Sandusky District in the southwest quandrant of Colsan might be built.

The CF&E was fairly quiet last weekend. The only “train” we saw was a pair of CSX locomotives that CF&E reportedly uses to haul grain trains. Those ran light from Crestline to Lima in late morning.

The Fort Wayne line is mostly a single track railroad west of Crestline and looks more like a branch line than a mainline that once hosted such fabled trains as the Broadway Limited, Pennsylvania Limited, Admiral, General, Trail Blazer and Manhattan Limited.

The line still has Pennsy style position light signals and the defect detector is  still in operation at Robinson (“Robbins”) east of Bucyrus. The train called signals over the radio as it made its way westward.

The Fort Wayne Line remains an intriguing line to photograph even if traffic is slight. The position light signals are still intact on the NS portion of the line west of Alliance. There is the famous Tuscarawas bridge at Massillon that is built on a curve. Just west of the bridge, there is nice photo vantage point of the former Mace interlocking from the bridge carrying Cherry Road NW over the tracks. Although the tower is long gone, this junction sees trains of NS, R.J. Corman and Ohio Central (using trackages rights over the Corman).

There is a nice restored depot and block tower at Orrville. At Bucyrus, work is well underway to restore the former Toledo & Ohio Central station, which is located just south of the junction of the Fort Wayne line with the NS Sandusky District. The group restoring the station has opened a souvenir shop adjacent to the T&OC depot. There is ample parking there.

Given the paucity of traffic on the Fort Wayne line, its future in the NS system would seem to be uncertain. NS probably only kept the route because of its on-line traffic at Mansfield, Wooster, Orrville, Massillon and Canton. The line certainly has little other reason to exist in NS’s eyes other than perhaps serving as a safety value or backup route for traffic moving between Bellevue and Pittsburgh that now goes via Cleveland.  At some point NS might decide that it has more to gain by turning the route over to a short line or regional railroad.

Indeed NS is doing just that this summer with a lightly used branch in Cleveland.  The former Erie line that once ran between Cleveland and Leavittsburg, Ohio, is being leased to the Cleveland Commercial Railroad on or about June 15.

The Cleveland Commercial, which currently leases a Wheeling & Lake Erie branch between Falls Junction and Cleveland, will operate the NS Randall Secondary between Broadway Avenue in Cleveland and milepost 27.5 in Aurora Township — a distance of 25 miles. Currently, the line is out of service east of Harper Road in Solon.

The agreement calls for the Cleveland Commercial to use the former Erie Van Willer Yard in Cleveland. Interchange with NS will occur on a connecting track between East 65th Street in Cleveland and Erie crossing, where the NS Cleveland line (former Pennsyslvania Railroad) crosses the former Erie route.

The Cleveland Commercial can access the Randall Secondary directly without having to use NS trackage by using a connection that passes through the Ferrous Metals scrapyard. This will enable the Cleveland Commercial to offer its customers on the Randall Secondary an interchange with the W&LE