Posts Tagged ‘CSX hump yards’

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.

CSX Converts Cumberland Hump to Flat Switching

May 22, 2017

As expected, CSX last week converted its hump yard in Cumberland, Maryland, to flat switching.

It is the fifth such yard to have its hump closed since E. Hunter Harrison became CEO in March and implemented his precision scheduled railroading operating philosophy.

Among other things, that approach looks with disfavor upon hump yards in the belief that they add cost and transit time to freight movements.

Other hump yards that have been converted to flat switching are located in Toledo, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky.; Hamlet, North Carolina; and Atlanta.

A memo sent to CSX employees last week indicated that the hump at Selkirk, New York, will also be closed in favor of flat switching.

The remaining CSX hump yards are in Waycross, Georgia; Birmingham, Alabama; Nashville, Tennessee; Cincinnati; Avon, Indiana (Indianapolis); and Willard, Ohio.

CSX managers have indicated that those yards are being evaluated and that the railroad expects it could have between two to four hump yards left in its system once that review is completed later this year.

Trains magazine reported that when CSX closes a hump, it does the flat switching on the receiving and departure tracks. The classification bowl tracks stand empty.

The railroad said track and switches from the classification bowls will in time be used elsewhere.

2 More CSX Humps Set to Close

May 16, 2017

Add Selkirk and Cumberland to the list of humps that CSX plans to close.

An online report said the Cumberland hump will close on May 16. Five of the bowl tracks will be kept, but the other tracks will be out of service or used for storage.

The changes will mean that only Q372, Q398 and Q401 will originate in Cumberland. Terminating in Cumberland will be Q236, Q352 and Q400.

Other trains will make pickups or setoffs, including Q236, Q353, Q375, Q389 and Q416. Some trains will merely change crews in Cumberland.

The Times Union of Albany, New York, reported that members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen received a memo about the hump closing at Selkirk, New York.

The memo said that CSX management believes the yard costs too much to operate and some of its work will be shifted to other yards, including Syracuse, New York.

The news report did not indicate how many employees would lose their jobs but Mark Krajewski, chairman of the union local, called the move “heartbreaking.”

CSX has been closing humps at yards in the wake of E. Hunter Harrison taking over as the railroad’s CEO and implementing his precision scheduled railroad operating philosophy.

The railroad earlier said it would close humps in Atlanta; Louisville, Kentucky; and Toledo, Ohio. CSX officials have yet to confirm the closure of the Selkirk hump.

The Times-Union said Selkirk yard was the largest in the New York Central system.

Harrison views hump yards as inefficient and closed at least four of them during his time as CEO of Canadian Pacific.

Harrison Gives Preview of What’s in Store at CSX

April 21, 2017

CSX CEO E. Hunter Harrison gave a preview on Thursday about what is in store at the railroad in the coming months and years.

Speaking during a conference call with Wall Street investors, Harrison called the CSX network a bowl of spaghetti when compared to the linear-oriented systems he oversaw at Canadian Pacific, Canadian National and Illinois Central.

E. Hunter Harrison

Although he thinks that CSX does well in moving intermodal trains, Harrison believes merchandise freight needs to move faster.

The average speed of CSX merchandise freight is now 18 mph between terminals, but Harrison believes it could be boosted to 27 to 28 mph.

One way to boost transit times is by skipping terminals. Ultimately, Harrison wants to see CSX provide merchandise service that is on a par with trucks.

CSX Chief Operating Officer Cindy Sanborn said CSX has made two significant operating changes since Harrison arrived.

Some traffic that had been moving in unit trains has been merged into merchandise trains and four of the railroad’s 12 hump yards have been converted to flat switching.

Sanborn said the changes will allow CSX to provide seven-day-a-week service, bring balance to the system, increase train length, cut terminal dwell time and reduce the time that freight spends in transit.

CSX is expected to continue closing humps although Sanborn said she doesn’t know by how many because management is studying each yard individually.

Harrison described hump yards as a relic of an era when a much higher percentage of rail freight traffic was merchandise service.

In a related matter, Harrison said CSX will consolidate yards in areas where multiple yards now exist and sell the land used by yards that are closed.

There was speculation earlier that CSX would sell some secondary lines, but Harrison said he doesn’t expect any major line sales in 2017 because management is focusing on improving operations of the current network.

Other steps CSX plans to make, Harrison said, include having fewer train sets devoted to unit coal train service, but having faster cyling of cars between mines and customers.

CSX is not looking to drop some of its less-profitable merchandise traffic as Canadian Pacific did while Harrison was that railroad’s CEO.

“No, we’re not looking at demarketing,” he said. “We’re looking at marketing.”

As predicted, Harrison will trim the CSX work force. The railroad now has a hiring freeze in place and expects to lose 9 percent of its work force through attrition.

He added, though, that management does not have a target for work force cuts.

Another labor-related change may see CSX pull out of national negotiations with labor unions and instead bargain directly with the unions.

Harrison would like to see train and engine crews paid by the hour in return for the company offering job guarantees. Ultimately, Harrison said he wants to lower T&E costs by 30 to 35 percent.

One area in which Harrison does not expect change is the number of crew members on each train. “I’m not a one-man crew advocate,” he said. “ . . . to take a 20,000 ton train on line of road, with one person, I don’t think it’s good business,”

Sounding like a union officer, Harrison said there are safety issues with one-person crews and he sees the value of having extra set of eyes and ears in the cab.

If one crew member had to deal with such things as a broken air hose or a knuckle failure, that could result in delays.

Harrison said one-person crews might make sense in some situation, citing switching at mines.

CSX Closing Stanley Yard Hump in Toledo

March 29, 2017

CSX plans to close the hump at Stanley Yard in Toledo, rearrange the schedules of trains originating there and convert the facility to flat switching.

The changes were to begin this week and be phased in over a period o f weeks.

A CSX spokeswoman told Trains magazine that the move will result in the elimination of 34 jobs. The yard will still have 40 workers once the restructuring is completed.

The laid off employees will be train service and maintenance employees, the Toledo Blade reported. CSX employs 360 workers in the Toledo area.

It will be the second time that CSX has reduced operations at Stanley.

It closed in spring 2004 but within days the railroad had resumed flat switching there and it reopened the hump that July due to freight congestion in neighboring rail yards.

Stanley Yard is a former Toledo & Ohio Central (later part of the New York Central) yard and one of two hump yards on CSX in Toledo.

Walbridge Yard, a former Chesapeake & Ohio facility, but its hump is no longer used.

Instead, Walbridge is used to sort auto rack cars and store unit trains of coal, grain and other bulk commodities that do not require en route sorting.

Stanley is the second CSX hump yard to be closed since E. Hunter Harrison became CEO on March 6.

The railroad also plans to cease hump operations at Tilford Yard in Atlanta.

CSX will have two hump yards left in Ohio at Willard and Queensgate Yard in Cincinnati.

CSX is framing the closing of the Tilford and Stanley hump yards as a cost cutting move that will make the railroad more efficient.

Among the trains that originate at Stanley are Q319 to Indianapolis; Q322 to Flint, Michigan; Q392 to Detroit; Q394 to Cumberland, Maryland (via Willard);  Q507 to Cincinnati; Q509 to Chicago; and Q511 to Louisville, Kentucky

It is not yet clear if these trains will now be handled at Willard or continue to be classified in Stanley by flat switching.

The Blade reported that another recent CSX practice, operating symbol trains every 28 hours, ended shortly after Harrison became head of CSX. The every 28 hours starts resulted in trains operating six days a week rather than seven.

The practice had been implemented more than a year ago. At the time, CSX had also combined the operation of some symbol freights.

Harrison is known for his operating philosophy of precision scheduled railroading, which seeks to reduce if not eliminate the number of times that a train is reclassified en route.