Posts Tagged ‘CSX intermodal trains’

One More for the Road

January 15, 2018

The daylight is sliding away fast. It’s funny how quickly the sun seems to sink. All day it’s been hanging up there in the sky and then just like that it’s gone.

You’ve been out all day chasing trains and anything else that caught your eye, but now it is time to head for home.

But you cant’ help but keep your eye on the tracks and your ear to your scanner as you drive along hoping to get just one more — one for the road. Maybe you’ll get lucky.

Fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler and I were driving toward home on U.S. Route 20. Daylight was going fast.

But I had heard a train crew talking to the dispatcher about bulletin orders and the like and maybe, we could catch a westbound at the far west end of the yard along the Erie West Subdivision.

We turned down North Bend Road and much to our delight the light for a westbound was absolutely prime. We parked at a closed business and walked along the snowy road to the grade crossing.

We thought we had seen a headlight of a westbound when we had driven over the crossing, but it wasn’t what we thought it was. The train I had heard talking with the dispatch was in the yard and working.

An eastbound train was stopped on main track No. 2 for whatever reason. The eastbound signal for Track 1 displayed an approach aspect that soon went to clear. So much for getting a westbound.

To the west the sun was still hovering over the horizon, but not for long. As it set the sky turned to a brilliant orange and gold.

We spotted a headlight in the distance and it seemed to take an agonizingly long time to reach us. We were hoping to get a glint shot, but that was now out of the question.

We stayed with it and captured either the Q008 or Q010 rushing by, kicking up a little snow in its wake. It was a good way to end the day.

Advertisements

Consolation Prizes on a Frustrating Day

January 5, 2018

I found the three images posted here in a folder while going through another folder in which I store images that I want to post online.

Like so many images that get sideline, I had forgotten what I had until I opened this folder during a house-cleaning operation.

All three images were made in Perry during an outing I had with Peter Bowler last May.

It had been a frustrating day. We missed an opportunity to photograph a late running eastbound Lake Shore Limited because we neglected to check if No. 48 was running on time or late.

Then we heard on the radio that the Norfolk Southern local to Fairport Harbor was operating today. Despite multiple efforts, we never could find it in a place where we could photograph it.

Our last “failure” occurred in Perry while waiting for it to return to home rails and go back to Conneaut.

We ran out of time. The consolation prize was getting a few CSX and NS trains on the mainlines that run through Perry.

Although you have to look for it, in the middle photograph, CSX locomotive 5327 has the Western Maryland “fireball” emblem.

Across the Vineyards

January 3, 2018

I was driving along U.S. Route 20 east of North East, Pennsylvania, when it occurred to me that this area might make for a nice across-the-vineyards photograph of a CSX train.

I didn’t attempt that on this trip, but kept the idea in mind for the next time I got over to North East.

That turned out to be about two weeks later when the Forest City Division of the Railroad Enthusiasts held an outing to the depot museums in Conneaut and North East.

As it got to be late afternoon, our small but dedicated band, which also included Akron Railroad Club members Marty Surdyk, Bill Kubas and Tom Kendra, decided to relocate to Bort Road.

We caught a few trains there on both CSX and Norfolk Southern. Bill and Tom had to get going toward home, but Marty and I stuck it out a while longer.

Marty had agreed that the across-the-vineyard shot had possibilities. The shot works best in the late evening light of mid summer.

We heard CSX stack train Q008 calling signals on the radio and knew this was our opportunity.

We had scouted for a location earlier in the day as we drove from North East to Bort Road. We sought an area that was open and slightly higher than the tracks.

The challenge was to find a place where the tracks could be seen rather than being blocked by the grape vines.

We had found it and made out way back there in plenty of time to catch the Q008, which had the usual consist of a CSX stack train of two wide-cab locomotives and a rainbow of colors in its containers.

I tried different angles and zoomed in and out for varying compositions. You can see the results in this galley of images.

 

One August Day in New London

December 28, 2017

The weather wasn’t the greatest. Mostly cloudy skies and the threat of rain hung over us although the wet stuff didn’t come until later in the day.

I was out with fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler and we didn’t have any concrete objective other than to get out and photograph some trains.

We headed out on the CSX Greenwich Subdivision and eventually would work our way west to the Sandusky District of Norfolk Southern.

It had been six years since I had been on the bridge in New London carrying Biglow Parkway over the CSX tracks. The last time I’d been here I was making photographs with slide film.

As I reported in an earlier post this year, we found that someone had cut holes in the fence on  the north side of the bridge. We used those to our advantage.

CSX was single tracking west of CP 47, where the Wheeling & Lake Erie tracks join CSX on the north side of New London. There is also a set of crossover switches there.

We would see four trains pass through CP 47 before we moved on after about an hour. First up was the Q158 which was closely followed by the Q166. The latter was to meet a westbound stack train waiting north of CP 47.

After the Q166 cleared the interlocking plant, the westbound stacker, whose symbol I didn’t record, crossed over from Track 2 to Track 1 to continue its westbound trek.

Shortly after the westbound stack train cleared the crossovers, I spotted a westbound headlight in the distance.

It was manifest freight whose symbol I also didn’t record or understand but it might have been the Q363. It had a long string of auto racks on the rear and I had earlier seen the Q363 with such a consist.

It took the Q363 quite a while to get to CP 47. It, too, crossed over from Track 2 to Track 1.

There didn’t seem to be any more traffic in the vicinity, so after the last of the auto rack cars had cleared the crossovers, we moved on. Four trains in an hour isn’t too bad these days when railfanning CSX.

CP 166 comes through the interlocking with an assortment of Canadian Pacific motive power.

Q166 is about to meet a westbound stack train waiting north of the westbound home signals for CP 47 at New London.

Here comes the Q363. The track veering off to the right is the Wheeling & Lake Erie. It used to be the Akron, Canton & Youngstown line to Cary and it used to cross the New York Central here at a diamond known as Hiles.

Long strings of auto rack cars appended to manifest freights has become a standard procedure in the E. Hunter Harrison era.

 

 

Vindication of Sorts on the New Castle Sub

November 30, 2017

Yesterday I wrote about an outing I had on the CSX New Castle Subdivision near Kent in which I had hoped in vain to get a westbound train in gloriously warm late-day light. It didn’t happen.

It was the second time I had come up empty hoping for a westbound on the New Castle Sub in the nice late-day sunlight.

With CSX operations still in a state of flux as the precision scheduled railroading operations model is implemented, I’ve treated my recent visits to the New Castle Sub as learning experiences.

Some trains have been annulled while others have been consolidated.

Railfanning the New Castle Sub has always tended to be a feast or famine proposition and now that is even more the case.

But if E. Hunter Harrison is trying to implement train operations that run on a schedule, then with enough observations I should be able to discern a pattern as to when those trains are likely to operate.

Four days after striking out on getting a westbound near Kent in late-day light I decided to try it again.

This time I got an earlier start, arriving at about 1:15 p.m. along the tracks where they run alongside the Portage County Hike and Bike Trail.

Aside from gathering information on how the New Castle Sub is operating these days, another benefit of these outing has been getting exercise. It is a mile walk in and a mile walk out.

This time I bought my scanner and camera bag. I set them down on a bench and began the waiting game.

I had seen trains operating westbound on the New Castle Sub in early afternoon during forays to Kent last October. Those included the Q015, the Q137 and the Q299.

I had been waiting about a half hour when the radio came to life. It was the Q015 calling the signal at “Davey Tree.”

I scrambled to get into position. The sunlight at about 2 p.m. is not as warm as that in late afternoon, but still quite nice.

That’s due to the low sun angles of this time of year and the fact that it provided more side lighting than would be the case in another two hours.

Q015 came rumbling around the curve with CSX ES44AC-H No. 721 on the point and a BNSF “pumpkin” trailing.

I suppose it would have been nice had the order of the locomotives been reversed, but I didn’t want to be too greedy.

I got the westbound that had eluded me a few days earlier, albeit in light that was not as warm as that of the earlier outing.

I debated whether to stay a little longer and hope for another westbound. I had to be home by about 4:30 p.m. so I didn’t have much time to work with.

It would take time to walk the mile back to my car and I also had a hankering to get a Norfolk Southern train crossing the Cuyahoga River by the Akron water treatment plant along Ravenna Road.

I elected to try to get the NS shot on the theory that I had a higher chance because the NS Cleveland Line has far more traffic than the CSX New Castle Sub.

I relocated to Tower’s Woods park and set up my big antenna with my scanner. I continued to monitor the CSX frequencies out of curiosity.

Sure enough, shortly after I arrived at Towner’s Wood, I heard CSX auto rack train Q299 calling signals followed not afterward by a westbound coal train.

However, I also got wind of an NS dimension train coming west and I was able to get the photograph I wanted of that train crossing the Cuyahoga. It was, for once, a win-win afternoon.

Where Was a Westbound When I Needed it?

November 29, 2017

Photographers crave late day light. It casts a golden glow and hence the hour before sunset is often called the golden hour.

Although the golden hour can be found all year around, we are now in a time when there is also a low sun angle as we move toward the December solstice, which this year will occur on Dec. 21.

On a recent walk on the Portage Hike and Bike trail I took my camera in the hopes that CSX would send a train my way when I reached the portion of the trail that runs alongside the CSX New Castle Subdivision just north of Kent.

The light was, indeed, very sweet, and it favored a westbound.

I sat on a bench and waited. It took awhile before I heard what sounded like a CSX locomotive horn. Alas, the sound was coming from town, which suggested an eastbound.

I got into position and sure enough the sound of the locomotives of an approaching train confirmed that I was about to get an eastbound, which turned out to be the Q016.

That is a stack train that runs from Chicago to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and usually passes through Northeast Ohio in daylight hours.

On this particular day, though, it had more bare tables than containers.

I made an image of the last bare table going away and was pleased, overall, with the results.

It was nearly 4 p.m. and I knew that only about an hour of daylight was left and even less time for that light to illuminate a westbound.

I found an open location that was high above the tracks and waited.

I didn’t have my scanner with me so I would have to hope to hear an approaching train in time to be ready to photograph it.

That would be a challenge because across the tracks a worker was doing some work at the Standing Rock Cemetery that involved the use of a loud power tool.

As luck would have it, the worker quit for the day just after 4.

I was hoping to get the Q015, the westbound counterpart to the Q016. I’ve seen it in late afternoon passing through Kent.

The minutes continued to tick by and the sun continued to move. I noticed that it was slowly edging out onto the tracks.

Even if I got a westbound there would be little, if any, light on the side of the train. It would be all nose light.

I was fine with that because that can create an interesting effect of light and shadows.

It was getting to be 4:30 and the temperature was becoming noticeably colder. The wind had an increasing bite to it.

As my “drop dead” time approached, I decided to admit defeat and begin the mile-long walk back to my car.

The trail veers away from the CSX tracks and into a grove of trees. Then the former Erie Railroad mainline comes back alongside the trail to the right.

If a CSX train were to pass I’d be able to hear it but not see it. Yet all I heard was the wind.

I paused on the bridge that carries the trail over the double-track CSX New Castle Sub.

The intermediate signals that the crews refer to as “Davey Tree” were dark. They are approach lighted so nothing was imminent.

I didn’t go home empty handed. I had the going away image of the Q016 and I had the top image of the tracks and my long shadow to remind me that some days all you get is air over the rails.

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.

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.