Posts Tagged ‘CSX locomotives’

CSX Storing Wide Range of Locomotive Types

August 31, 2017

CSX has been sending hundreds of locomotives into storage in recent months and a Trains magazine analysis shows that the mothballed fleet is a mixture of older and newer units.

Among the most common types Electro-Motive locomotives that have been parked are SD50-2, SD60, SD60M, SD70MAC and SD70AC locomotives.

SD40-2s not rebuilt to SD40-3 specifications or in the rebuilding queue are also being stored.

GE-built C40-8W locomotives in the 7000 and 9000 numbering series can be found stored and some AC6000CW locomotives have been idle since early 2017.

You can’t attribute the shrinking active locomotive fleet solely to new CEO E. Hunter Harrison.

CSX began removing locomotives from service in 2016, although the process has accelerated since Harrison arrived in March of this year.

Much of the AC4400CW fleet is still active and new locomotives such as the Evolution series ES40DCs, ES44AHs, and the EPA Tier-4 equivalent models are dominating motive power assignments in mainline service.

Yard service and locals are being pulled by SD40-3s and their four axle equivalents, the GP38-3 and GP40-3s.  Also active are GP38-2s, GP40-2s, road slugs, MP15AC and MP15T locomotives. CSX has parked many newer and low-emission Gensets.

Trains estimated that CSX at one point had stored more than 900 locomotives, but that number has fallen as some units have been returned to service amid a locomotive shortage.

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34 Enjoy ARRC Picnic at Warwick Park

August 1, 2017

Chef Martè places the first burgers on the grill.

Thirty-four Akron Railroad Club members and guests munched on picnic food Sunday at Warwick Park in Clinton while watching CSX trains on the adjacent New Castle Subdivision.

A few brave souls risked getting a food-borne illness by eating the unrefrigerated potato salad that someone brought.

In the approximately 12 hours that at least one club member was at the park, CSX sent 12 trains through town.

That was more than the record low of nine but far short of the record high of 21. But it’s the CSX New Castle Sub and long lulls are synonymous with that route.

The train count included two sightings of local D750 which left the yard for Akron at 2:40 p.m. and returned at 6:45 p.m. The crew had gone to work in late morning switching cars in the Warwick yard.

The train count also included two eastbound empty coal trains, two westbound auto rack trains, two westbound intermodal trains, a westbound coke train, an eastbound steel train and one manifest freight in each direction.

Aside from a Norfolk Southern unit trailing in the motive power consist of the Q352, we didn’t see any foreign power.

The highlight or lowlight of the day, depending on your perspective was the Q299 going into emergency a short distance east of Warwick.

That tied up the mainline for a good hour. The culprit was a broken air hose six cars from the rear of a very long empty auto rack train.

A trainmaster came out to check on the stalled train and the IO dispatcher informed the crew that three departments, mechanical, engineering and transportation, were interested in the incident.

At one point the trainmaster asked the conductor over the radio if the engineer had done any damage to “my train.”

No, the conductor said in response. It was just a separated air hose. Still, there was something threatening in the tone of voice of the trainmaster.

As the conductor was walking back to the head end, he encountered a skunk and asked his engineer for advice. The response was that if riled up a skunk will spray you.

Back at the park, master grill chef Martè fired up the grill around noon. Don Woods received the first burger. As in the past there were a variety of chips, salads and desserts.

The weather was as good as it’s ever been for an ARRC picnic and quite a contrast with last year when a thunderstorm rolled through as we were getting ready to eat.

The picnic wrapped up with a game of H-O-R-S-E on the basketball court involving Marty, Richard Antibus and Paul Havasi.

Marty won the game, but none of the three contestants will ever be confused with a more famous Akron basketball player, a guy by the name of James.

By the time the game mercifully ended the players had put up enough bricks to earn a union card and start a second career and enough air balls to leave a crowd horse from chanting “air ball, air ball, air ball” had this been an actual game.

But it was great fun, which is what the annual picnic is all about.

James Leasure (left) scoops up, gasp, potato salad as Dave Shepherd dresses his burger at the condiments table. In the background Bill Kubas ponders the offerings.

Rich Antibus (center) explains to chef Martè and Jim Mastromatteo how many CSX trains we can expect to see once the late afternoon flurry gets underway on the New Castle Sub.

The photo line is in place in the shade of a large tree to photograph D750 as it heads to Akron.

Ron McElrath (left) and Tom Kendra made video of CSX manifest freight Q352.

CSX Extolls Benefits of Precision Scheduled Railroading Even as the Benefits of it Have Not Helped All Shippers

July 20, 2017

Even as CSX CEO E. Hunter Harrison was extolling the virtues of his precision scheduled railroading model in an earnings call with investors and analysts, the railroad’s management was acknowledging that it was having some service issues.

Harrison said there would be some inevitable pain and suffering before operations are running smoothly.

“I thought we had a hell of a quarter,” Harrison said in the wake of the railroad’s announcement earlier this week that during the second quarter of this year profits rose, the operating ratio improved, and traffic and revenue were on the rise.

CSX Chief Marketing Officer Fredrik Eliasson said that such important service metrics as terminal dwell time, average train speed, and on-time performance were better during the second quarter.

Eliasson conceded that service improvements have not been felt everywhere on the railroad. “There are certain places where we are not there yet,” he said while declining to provide customer satisfaction metrics.

A report published on the Trains magazine website said that not all shippers have felt those benefits.

“A large number of our members have said they are experiencing serious problems with their service from CSX,” Scott Jensen, a spokesman for the American Chemistry Council, told the magazine. “Some have even reported that it has caused their customers to temporarily shut down operations.”

Trains reported that the scope of the service problems appear to be growing and quoted an unnamed chemical shipper as saying that transit times have increased by 48 hours in several key lanes.

Jay Roman, president of Escalation Consultants, a Maryland-based firm that helps merchandise and bulk shippers negotiate contracts with railroads, told Trains that what the CSX metrics show is not what he has been hearing from shippers.

“There seems to be a disconnect between the data and what shippers are running into,” he said, noting that some shippers have experienced a reduction in local service and report having problems with car supply.

A survey of rail shippers conducted by Cowen & Company this month found that 24 percent of them ranked CSX service as “poor.”

Nonetheless, another unidentified shipper told Trains that there has been significant transit time improvement  and that his company’s car cycle times dropped by eight days over the span of a month.

“We are asking our customers to hang with us,” Ellison said. He said that he talks with shippers every day to assure them that conditions will improve.

CSX managers contend that no shippers have taken their business to Norfolk Southern or put it on the highway due to service issues.

“This service disruption has been way overplayed,” Harrison said. He said approximately 500 customers account for 90 percent of CSX’s traffic and two could make a case that they have experienced a “major disruption.”

In one of those cases, Harrison said service slid back to previous levels, which he attributed to a labor slowdown that he described as “pushback by some of the troops.”

CSX has stored nearly 900 locomotives and expects to put another 100 units in mothballs. The active car fleet has been reduced by 60,000 as CSX seeks to move the same level of tonnage on fewer trains.

Train length has averaged 6,500 feet and most trains now operate daily rather than five or six days a week as had been the case before Harrison arrived.

Chief Financial Officer Frank Lonegro said train length will continue to grow as CSX continues to move unit train traffic into its merchandise train network.

During the second quarter, terminal dwell time improved 2 percent to 24.4 hours, although dwell time is up significantly at some terminals since CSX ceased humping operations at seven yards.

CSX management is studying why dwell time has increased to 40 or 50 hours at some yards.

Train velocity improved 3 percent, to 21.7 mph and and fuel efficiency improved 5 percent as the railroad stored older, less-efficient locomotives.

In response to a question, Harrison said CSX will shift from a cost-cutting mode to a growth strategy if it continues to control its costs.

“A lot of this will happen in the post-Harrison era. If we do our job today in laying the foundation, there will be a lot of opportunity for growth,” he said.

Harrison described what CSX is doing as balancing cost and service. The railroad will need to bring in more revenue and not just cut costs.

The CSX head also said that just because the railroad is closing hump operations doesn’t mean it plans to sell the land they use.

“We’re not having a garage sale here,” Harrison said. If traffic continue to grow, that yard capacity may be needed again.

As for the short-term future, CSX management expressed a favorable third-quarter outlook for two-thirds of its traffic, including export coal, intermodal, agriculture and food, metals and equipment, and minerals.

CSX managers have a neutral outlook for fertilizers and forest products, which account for 8 percent of the railroad’s traffic.

The outlook is seen as unfavorable for 26 percent of traffic, including automotive, chemicals, and domestic coal.

CSX plans to discuss its long-term strategy and outlook during an investor conference scheduled for Oct. 29 and 30 in Palm Beach, Florida.

CSX Touts Improved Transit Times

June 16, 2017

A CSX executive said this week that by closing hump yards, reducing car handlings, and adjusting its operating plan, the railroad has been able to reduce the transit time of merchandise carloads by nearly a day.

Speaking at the Citi 2017 Industrials Conference, CSX Chief Marketing Officer Fredrik Eliasson said the decrease in average transit time is a 15-percent improvement. It had been 5.9 days.

Eliasson said CSX also cut coal train cycle times by reducing loaded transit time to 2.3 days, down from three days in March.

The executive attributed the improvements to the implementation of the scheduled precision railroading operating plan of CEO E. Hunter Harrison, who presumed his position on March 6.

On-time originations have improved 12 percent, while on-time arrivals have improved 36 percent, Eliasson said, noting that premium intermodal trains have arrived on time 97 percent of the time in the second quarter.

“For our customers this is a big deal,” Eliasson said. CSX management believes that reduced transit times and more consistent service will enable the railroad to capture business from trucks.

Eliasson said there have been some problem spots in the wake of the conversion of seven 12 hump yards to flat switching.

And the pace of the changes has meant that despite a commitment to communicate with customers about service changes and seek their views that it has not always been possible to touch base with shippers before operational changes are implemented.

Eliasson said that earlier this year about 25 percent of intermodal trains operated daily. Now, half of them do, which he said reflects Harrison’s belief in operating a balanced network.

In some instances trains have been combined due to volume and scheduling reasons.

CSX also is continue to reduce the number of trains it operates but is still moving roughly the same amount of tonnage.

It has stored 700 locomotives stored — up from 551 in May — and retired more than 24,000 freight cars through storage, scrapping or returning them to lessors.

Eliasson  said CSX doesn’t expect to order new locomotives anytime soon. “Overall, we are good on locomotives,” he said.

CSX second-quarter volumes have increased 1 percent in the second quarter, which is slightly lower than expected. The company expects volume to improve later this year as trucking capacity tightens.

CSX Repaints Locomotive to C&O Livery

June 7, 2017

CSX shop workers in Huntington, West Virginia, have repainted another diesel into heritage colors.

The Huntington Locomotive Shops has adored former Chesapeake & Ohio SD40 No. 7534 into the livery it wore when it left the Electro-Motive diesel assembly plant.

The locomotive was repainted on behalf of the Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society, which plans to display it at its museum in Clifton Forge, Virginia.

The unit was previously CSX No. 4617 and was the last locomotive in the CSX fleet to wear C&O colors.

The C&O group might use the locomotive to pull trains on the Buckingham Branch Railroad.

Rob Catlin, project manager at the C&O Historical Society, told Trains magazine that although the locomotive is serviceable, it is missing six traction motors.

Earlier this year, the Huntington shops repainted a locomotive in Chessie System colors. That unit is currently in Erie, Pennsylvania, waiting to be moved to the Lake Shore Railway Museum in North East, Pennsylvania.

Get Hunter on the Phone

June 6, 2017

What in the name of precision scheduled railroading is going on with this CSX train? It has two locomotives and a mere three cars, two tank cars and a cover hopper.

And here we thought the operating plan at CSX since E. Hunter Harrison took over is to expand train length and not shrink it.

Of course this train, show passing through North East, Pennsylvania, en route to Buffalo, New York, after working the yard in Erie is a local and those are usually short.

CSX manifest freights had been growing in length long before Harrison arrived on the scene.

Yet it seems only a matter of time before someone in Jacksonville gets the idea that one of those monster manifests could have dropped off the cars in Erie and another could have picked up the outbound traffic.

For now, it would seem that locals continue to have a place at CSX and perhaps in the foreseeable future. But the railroad is still working out its operating plan and more changes are likely to occur.

Perhaps overlooked in Harrison’s philosophy is his belief that cars should not sit idle in yards. He likes to see freight moving, not sitting still until the next train can be made up sometime in the next 24 hours or the next few days.

That is why we are now seeing cuts of cars tacked onto the rear of auto rack trains.

These are, to say the least, interesting times for those who enjoy watching how railroads operate.

May ARRC Program to Highlight CSX Locomotives

May 22, 2017

The program at the Akron Railroad Club meeting on May 26 will be a slide show by Jim Mastromatteo focusing on CSX locomotives of the early 1990s.

At the time, CSX was less than a decade removed from the merger of the Chessie System and Seaboard Systems and a lot of “heritage” motive power was still moving around the systems.

CSX also had some liveries in that era that have fallen by the wayside. Remember the “gray ghosts?”

The meeting will begin with a short business meeting followed by the program at approximately 8:30 p.m. The club meets at the New Horizons Christian Church, 290 Darrow Road, in Akron.

Following the meeting, some members gather at the Eat ‘n Park restaurant at Howe and Main streets in Cuyahoga Falls for a late dinner, dessert or an early breakfast.

Visitors are always welcome at Akron Railroad Club meetings.

Chessie System Locomotive on the Move

May 18, 2017

The cosmetically restored Chessie System GE B30-7 has been reported to be en route to its new home at the Lake Shore Railway Museum in North East, Pennsylvania.

The locomotive was spotted earlier this week dead-in-tow heading for Russell, Kentucky.

From there it was expected to travel via Columbus, Willard and Cleveland to North East.

The locomotive was repainted into the Chessie livery by the CSX locomotive shops in Huntington, West Virginia.

The unit was built in 1980 as C&O No. 8272 and also was CSX No. 5554.

Stumbling Into a Photograph

May 11, 2017

Nothing about this photograph was planned. At the time that it was made, I was chasing after a Wheeling & Lake Erie train that was leaving the siding at Hiles east of New London.

The case began at the northwest parking lot for the New London reservoir. You can sit there and watch trains on the CSX Greenwich Subdivision.

With a good antenna and radio you can also pick up radio transmissions on the W&LE frequency.

And so that was how I learned that a tank train I had seen earlier in the day in the Hiles siding was reading to go east.

I wasn’t sure that I could catch that train before it got to Spencer. I started to move, then sat back down. There is too much distance.

A moment later I began having second thoughts. The train will be accelerating from a standing start. It won’t be moving all that fast. In a worse case scenario I can catch it at Spencer.

So I drove out of the parking lot and on the spur of the moment decided to take a road that would go south of New London, which I thought would save time as opposed to going through town.

I had been on the road earlier that day when I had a false start trying to chase that Wheeling tank train. In that case, the conversation I heard on the radio was not the crew of the tank train.

I’m racing along eastward on a road I don’t know well but had been on earlier in the day. I make a left turn on a road that I think will lead me to Ohio Route 162.

It did, but it wasn’t the road I wanted. I turned on Chenango Road when what I really needed was Butler Road.

Chenango Road crosses the W&LE tracks, but by the time I reached them the tank train was gone. I also realized that I had the wrong road.

OK, I thought, I’ll go north a short distance and then turn east. Except that there were no crossroads.

Maybe there would be one just beyond the CSX crossing. As I was crossing the CSX tracks, I looked to my right and saw the headlight of a westbound train. That gave me a jolt.

Just as or just after I cleared the tracks, the gates started to come down. That gave me another jolt.

At that point instinct and experience kicked in. Something told me I could get a photograph of this train.

There was a dirt road to the right. I pulled in, grabbed my camera and headed for an opening near the tracks.

There was no time to think through the shot. I spotted a puddle and instinct and experience kicked in again.

In retrospect had I been standing back a little further I might have been able to capture the ditch lights and locomotive nose in the heart of the puddle rather than on the edges.

I also had the misfortune of photographing as a cloud blocked the sun. It was one of five times when that happened.

This, like most of the photographs that I made on this day, turned out to be less than ideal. It was that kind of a day.

But at least I didn’t come away from this photo op empty handed as I had earlier when just as I was catching up to the head end of an eastbound stack train on the New Castle Subdivision, I ran out of highway because U.S. 224 was closed for construction east of Nova.

Both Sides Now

May 9, 2017

I look at this photograph and I think of that Joni Mitchell song Both Sides Now. She sings about how clouds can be rows and flows of angel hair and ice castles in the air.

Clouds can add beauty and drama to an image, but they can also, as the second stanza of Both Sides Now reminds us, block the sun.

And so it was as CSX eastbound intermodal train Q010 came along as I stood atop the reservoir at New London.

My objective in making this image was clouds. I got the clouds all right, but at the crucial moment one of them blocked the sun.

Anyone who has spent time trackside has seen clouds from both sides. It is sometimes called getting cloud skunked.

I made the photograph anyway even though the train was in the shadows.

Of course, shadows can be a wonderful thing, too. But like clouds, they, too, are multifaceted. They can be your friend or they can be your adversary. Sometimes they are both at the same time.

So this image didn’t work out as I had planned, but at least I got some nice clouds.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders