Posts Tagged ‘CSX intermodal trains’

Did They Know the Train Was There?

November 20, 2017

CSX westbound stack train Q015 was coming into Kent so I made my way to an overlook on the dam on the Cuyahoga River that has since been transformed into a giant water fountain.

My plan was to get the train passing the former Erie Railroad station located on the bluff above the river.

It would be nothing special, nothing I had not done before. What is different is that since I last made an image here of CSX and the Erie depot the latter has been transformed into an Italian restaurant named Treno.

As I waited for the Q015 I noticed a couple on the observation deck having photographs made.

They must have heard the train passing by. But it was just so much noise in the city. They had other things to do than watch a train pass by.

On second thought, maybe one of them is a rail buff and wanted a photograph made of the couple with a passing train.

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CSX Acknowledges Taking New Approach to Intermodal

November 9, 2017

Intermodal business is not the only thing that CSX is looking to downsize. Appearing at two investor conferences this week, CSX Chief Financial Officer Frank Lonegro said the railroad is also looking at shedding some lines and curtailing capital expenditures and expansion projects.

“We are in the evaluation phase,” Lonegro said, noting that CEO E. Hunter Harrison has said everything is for sale at the right price.

“Things that are non-core to the long-term business that we have and the long-term success of CSX, those things will ultimately be for sale,” Lonegro told the Stephens Fall Investor Conference.

Lonegro stopped short of acknowledging that CSX is ending the hub and spoke model on which intermodal operations at its Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal near North Baltimore are based.

Lonegro said Harrison wants to emphasize intermodal service to higher-volume, point-to-point markets.

As for reports that CSX has canceled plans to build a similar intermodal terminal in North Carolina, he would only say that plans for that terminal are under review.

However, speaking to the Baird Global Industrial Conference this week, Lonegro did say that CSX plans to reduce its capital spending next year and beyond.

This includes storing locomotives and freight cars and putting on hold expansion projects as the railroad transitions into a precision scheduled railroading operating model.

Lonegro said CSX  is likely to hold off on intermodal terminal investments in favor of leveraging the investments the railroad has made over the past decade.

Lonegro’s comments were the first made by a high-ranking CSX executive since a management shakeup in late October that will send three top executives out the door on Nov. 15.

The management changes also led to the cancellation of an investor’s conference that was to have been hosted by CSX in Florida on Oct. 30.

Instead, Lonegro said, Harrison gathered about 30 high-level managers in the Sunshine State and spoke for about six hours during what was billed as a “restart meeting.”

Some railroad industry analysts believe the investor conference that was canceled will be held during the first quarter of 2018.

During his remarks this past week, Lonegro said the North Baltimore terminal was being used by CSX to funnel traffic to and from smaller intermodal markets.

However, CSX has now decided to shut it down because its handling cost reduce profit in a line of business with razor-thin profit margins.

Lonegro said intermodal is all about creating traffic density. “If it costs you more to create the density, then you shouldn’t artificially create the density,” he said.

CSX plans to adopt a different approach to what Lonegro described as “ultra-low density lanes” but did not elaborate on what that will be.

“Hunter’s driving force around the intermodal strategy is to improve the profitability of that segment of the business,” Lonegro said.

Thus far CSX had ended intermodal service in scores of low-volume origins-destination pairs and moved light intermodal traffic in other lanes into its merchandise network.

Changing Operations Killed North Baltimore, Carolina Terminal, Baltimore Tunnel Project

November 3, 2017

The Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal near North Baltimore is not the only victim of changing priorities at CSX.

The railroad reportedly has decided not to build a new intermodal terminal at Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and is pulling out of a plan to enlarge the Howard Street Tunnel in Baltimore.

All three decisions resulted from the railroad’s shift to the precision scheduled railroading model favored by CEO E. Hunter Harrison.

The North Baltimore terminal and the planned Carolina Connector were conceived by previous management and premised on a hub-and-spoke intermodal strategy.

The Northwest Ohio terminal, which opened in June 2011 and cost $175 million to build, was CSX’s second-busiest in 2016, handling more than 809,000 containers, which was 29 percent of all intermodal moves on the railroad.

Workers at North Baltimore moved containers from train to train and did some block-swapping.

The hub-and-spoke concept was unique to CSX and created in an effort to build traffic between lesser volume points such as Columbus, Detroit, and Louisville, Kentucky.

It was similar to the way that airlines build connecting traffic at hub airports and how FedEx and UPS sort parcels at their hub airports.

CSX has not confirmed that it plans to end intermodal sorting operations at North Baltimore or that it has scuttled the planned North Caroline intermodal terminal.

It has acknowledged that for now it will not help fund the $425 million tunnel project in Baltimore.

That decision is curious because the Howard Street Tunnel is an impediment that prevents CSX from operating double-stack containers on its Interstate 95 Corridor between New Jersey and Florida.

What CSX has planned for its intermodal traffic remain shrouded in mystery.

The company had indicated it planned to discuss that at an investor’s conference in late October, but that was canceled after a top-level management shakeup. The conference has not yet been rescheduled.

Trains magazine reported that some intermodal traffic is being routed into the railroad’s merchandise traffic network and that high-volume traffic lanes are being moved away from North Baltimore.

The planned North Carolina terminal was to have served the Mid-Atlantic market. Unlike North Baltimore, which did not rely as much on local traffic, some 60 percent of the traffic at the Rocky Mount terminal was expected to be local traffic.

CSX has not yet closed any intermodal terminals that originate traffic, but is  relying more on intermodal block-swapping.

To illustrate how block-swapping works, Trains cited the example of recently created trains Q354 and Q355.

They operate between Portsmouth, Virginia, and Ashtabula, Ohio, using Norfolk Southern trackage rights west of New Castle, Pennsylvania.

These trains replaced Q135 and Q136, which previously operated through Akron between Portsmouth and North Baltimore.

Q355 sets off its Louisville and Chicago traffic at Connellsville, Pennsylvania, where it is picked up by another intermodal train. It also sets out cars at an intermodal terminal near Pittsburgh.

All other traffic, including containers bound for Cleveland, Columbus and Detroit are picked up in Ashtabula by the Q391, a manifest freight running from Buffalo, New York, Columbus.

The Q391 drops off its Cleveland and Detroit blocks in Cleveland and picks up Columbus-bound traffic at Willard.

Any traffic not bound for the Columbus intermodal terminal is left in Willard.

Trains said that containers might sit in Ashtabula for up to 20 hours, but the overall transit time remains the same as the old schedule via North Baltimore.

What Was That Doing on CSX?

October 23, 2017

For nearly two hours the CSX New Castle Subdivision through Kent had been quiet. That is not necessarily a rare occurrence as that line can have some long dry spells.

From what I could tell it didn’t help that train Q299 had suffered a locomotive failure, which had Track No. 1 tied up.

Finally, I heard the Q137 call the signal at Davey Tree northeast of town. I got into position on an observation platform that is part of the now decorative dam on the Cuyahoga River just south of the Main Street bridge.

I couldn’t see the train until it emerged from beneath the bridge. Imagine my surprise to see a Norfolk Southern unit leading the train.

Now that’s something you don’t see every day on the New Castle Sub.

At first glance, the trailing unit, though, didn’t look anything like NS or CSX.

What is this? As the train continued its westward trek on Track 2, I recognized that it was the Virginian heritage locomotive of NS.

A check of the unit’s spotting history on HeritageUnits.com found that No. 1069 has been on CSX since at least Oct. 17 when BNSF handed it off in Chicago.

No. 1069 led Q138 eastbound through Akron on Oct. 18 at 7:30 a.m. and when I saw it last Friday it was returning westward.

As of this morning, NS 1069 was still on CSX, having been spotted on two trains in Michigan over the weekend.

CSX Announces More Intermodal Cuts

October 19, 2017

The cuts just keep on coming. CSX this week outlined intermodal service lanes that it is closing in the Southeast and Northeast.

It plans to end outbound service from nine Southeast terminals to 20 destinations on and off the CSX network.

These include but are not limited to smaller markets in the Northeast, including Cleveland; Buffalo, New York; Syracuse, New York; and Montreal.

It will discontinue inbound service to those terminals from 11 originating points on and off its network.

Also being pruned is an interline service arrangement with Union Pacific. This includes service with UP to and from such points as Portland, Oregon; Oakland, California; Denver; Phoenix and points in Mexico.

The affected terminals include five in Florida; Atlanta; Charleston, South Carolina; Savannah, Georgia.; and Memphis, Tennessee.

These terminals will continue to have intermodal service to more than 110 lanes and receive containers from more than 160 lanes.

In a notice to shippers, CSX described the changes as an effort “to improve service, efficiency, and better align product demand.”

CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle acknowledged that the changes have come about due to a review of intermodal operations as the carrier moves to a precision scheduled railroading model.

“We are working to identify opportunities where we can improve service to our intermodal customers by leveraging other parts of our scheduled network to provide faster and more efficient service,” Doolittle said. “In some cases, this may mean using scheduled merchandise trains to support some intermodal customers’ requirements, and reducing the intermediate handling of intermodal traffic when possible, creating more reliable service and faster transit times.”

The changes mean that the Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal near North Baltimore, will have fewer containers to handle. Last year North Baltimore  handled 809,254 lifts, making it the second-busiest terminal on CSX.

More information about the markets that CSX is exiting can be found at

http://intermodal.com/share/wwwintermodal/assets/File/FF/CSXT%20Intermodal%20Domestic%20Fast%20Facts%2010-17-2017.pdf

Whole Lot of Orange Rolling By

October 18, 2017

You might find yourself in an argument if you asked what the dominant color of October might be. Some might say orange for pumpkins and fall foliage, but others might say gold, which tends to be the dominant fall foliage color in Northeast Ohio. A case might be made for red as well.

Whatever the answer, I thought this image of a long cut of Schneider National containers on CSX train Q015 passing through Kent was a nice seasonal image. Bring on the orange and the gold and the red.

Pair of Pumpkins to Kick Off October

October 2, 2017

October is the month of Halloween, fall foliage and some really nice days to be out photographing trains. And, of course, it is the month of the pumpkin.

I went to Kent on Sunday, a place that has long been one of my favorites but which I’ve neglected in the past year or so.

It being the first day of October, I was pleased to see a pair of pumpkins leading CSX westbound intermodal train Q137.

They are shown along the Portage County Hike and Bike Trail on Sunday afternoon.

The North Side is Nice, Too

September 29, 2017

The book on photographing CSX in Conneaut during the morning hours is to be on the south side of the tracks.

The classic image features the town’s water tank with an eastbound train coming around a curve.

I’ve done that before and was looking to do it again earlier this month on a Sunday morning that featured sunny skies.

I parked by the historical society, which is housed in the former New York Central freight depot on the north side of the tracks and turned my scanner on.

I figured to get enough warning to get out, walk to the other side of the tracks and to get into position in advance of a train.

However, I forgot to bring my railroad employee timetable pages for that area and couldn’t remember the mileposts on the CSX Erie West Subdivision.

That was how I got caught flat footed as I was sitting in my car and the gates started to go down. I had heard the eastbound Q116 calling signals but it was not as far west as I thought it was.

So I got out and did the best I could on the north side of the tracks. Shown in the top photograph, that photo op turned out better than I expected.

There was ample nose light and the sides of the containers were not as much in shadows as I feared they would be.  One reason for being on the south side of the tracks is to get sunlight bathing the entire train.

When an eastbound ethanol train came along about half-hour later, I deliberately stood on the north side of the tracks.

Shown in the middle, this image of a train that identified itself on the radio with symbol number 452, had some side shadows, but in the past year I’ve grown to like those because it gives an image some contrast, which in turn creates visual tension.

As much as I liked what I was getting on the north side, I still wanted to get the classic view, so when the Q388 was nearing town, I moved to the south side. The result can be seen in the bottom image, which has a BNSF unit trailing the lead CSX locomotive.

The Conneaut water tank is better positioned in this image than it is in the middle photograph. Also, standing on the south side puts the photographer on the inside of the curve.

There are multiple advantages of being on the south side of the rails when in Conneaut at the Mill Street crossing. But you can get some pleasing results on the other of the tracks, too.

New Train Serving Pittsburgh Intermodal Terminal

September 22, 2017

A new daily intermodal train is now operating between Norfolk, Virginia, and the just-opened CSX intermodal terminal in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania.

The train is carrying double-stacked containers between the Port of Virginia to Richmond, where it gets onto the former Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad.

The train passes through Washington, using the newly completed Virginia Avenue tunnel, before heading west on the former Baltimore & Ohio mainline.

The Tables Were Bare

September 7, 2017

In my experience, you can count on a CSX intermodal train to roll through Marion anywhere between late morning, say after 11 a.m., to very early afternoon, say by 1 p.m.

With its UPS trailers train Q008 is one of the hottest things on rails. Typically, the Q008 and the Q010, a train from Chicago with a similar consist, will come through Berea in late afternoon.

But on a Sunday visit to Marion in early July, the Q008 seemed to be uncharacteristically late. Furthermore, it was following the Q254, an auto rack train

The Q008 finally got to Marion shortly after 3 p.m. There was nothing out of the ordinary about its passage.

But on the end was a long string of bare tables. I’m not sure if “bare table” is a railroad jargon term or something that railfans made up. More to the point, these are empty well cars.