Posts Tagged ‘CSX locomotives’

C&O ‘Heritage Unit’ Loses its Herald

May 5, 2018

A Chesapeake & Ohio logo no longer adorns a former CSX locomotive that is being leased by Norfolk Southern.

The C&O patches have been removed from SD70Ace No. 4834, after the unit had ranged far and wide on the NS system with that look.

It made at least one trip through Cleveland on the former Nickel Plate Road route to Buffalo, New York.

No. 4834 wore the C&O decals for more than three weeks.

In the meantime, model railroad maker Athearn plans to offer a No. 4834 in HO scale wearing the C&O for progress herald on its nose and long hood.

The company is taking orders and expects to begin delivering the model in April 2019.

No. 4834 is being leased by NS from Progress Rail Locomotive, one of five former CSX SD70Ace units leased to NS. The engines still wear their CSX colors.

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CSX Aims for 60% Operating Ratio by 2020

March 2, 2018

CSX executives told an investor’s conference in New York City this week that the carrier will continue paring its locomotive and rail car fleets, and reducing its employment ranks as it works toward reaching an operating ratio of 60 percent by 2020.

Along the way the railroad expects revenue to grow at a compound annual rate of 4 percent.

The carrier also expects to trim capital expenses over the next three years.

If all goes to plan, the higher revenue, lower costs, and reduced capital expenses will allow CSX to generate $8.5 billion in free cash flow, a $5-billion increase over the previous three-year period, and that cash will be put into the pockets of stockholders through a $5 billion stock buyback program and higher dividends.

“Today marks the beginning of a new chapter for CSX, and we’re confident we have the right plan and the right team in place to achieve our goal of becoming the best railroad in North America,” said CEO James M. Foote. “The foundation of scheduled railroading has been set, and we expect to identify real growth opportunities that will benefit shareholders as our changes take hold.”

CSX said that by offering faster, more dependable service it expects to better compete with trucks, charge higher rates, and grow intermodal and merchandise traffic over the next three years.

Nonetheless, Foot acknowledged that he has had to apologize to shippers for service failures last year that occurred as CSX made rapid changes in its transition to the precision scheduled railroading operating model.

But Foote said the carrier has rebounded and that trains are moving 30 percent faster and freight cars are spending 22 percent less time in yards.

Capital spending will be trimmed to an average of $1.6 billion a year where it had been $2.5 billion three years ago.

“We are not reducing the emphasis on infrastructure and maintenance,” Chief Financial Officer Frank Lonegro said.

He said the railroad will install more miles of rail, replace more ties, and add more ballast this year than in 2017. Most of the decline in capital spending comes from withdrawing from buying locomotives and rolling stock and the completion of installation of positive train control.

Although CSX doesn’t expect this year to make such big changes as converting hump yards to flat switching facilities, the company did not rule out closing additional humps.

CSX expects that operating fewer and longer trains daily will enable it to do more with less.

At the start of 2017, CSX had 3,781 active locomotives. That fell to 3,000 by late last year and is slated to tumble another 20 percent to 2,400 units by 2020.

The railroad will cut its freight car fleet to between 104,000 and 109,000 cars. Officials say that speeding up the network and reducing car cycle times will enable this.

With fewer trains, fewer locomotives, fewer cars, fewer shops and fewer yards, CSX will also get along with fewer workers.

The payroll will be slashed to 21,000 employes by 2020, a 23 percent reduction from the 27,000 workers CSX had in late 2017. The latter number is also significantly less than what the railroad had at the start of the year.

Over the next three years, CSX expects to reap $300 million from selling surplus real estate and $500 million from the sale of rail lines.

CSX Vice President of Strategic Planning Amy Rice described the line sales as a by-product of broader network evaluation but did not provide any information as to how many miles it plans to sell.

She only would say that all lines under review will not necessarily be put up for sale.

CSX plans to add 600,000 units of lift capacity at six intermodal terminals during the next two years as it focuses on point-to-point service.

Lower-density intermodal traffic will be consigned to merchandise trains as CSX implements a balanced train plan with daily service.

CSX does not see a change in the long-term decline of coal traffic, but will work to move its coal traffic faster, more reliably, and more efficiently.

CSX Touts Improving Service Metrics

February 9, 2018

In its latest report to the U.S. Surface Transportation board, CSX continued to trumpet its service metrics, saying that is operating better than it was a year ago.

In the report dated Feb. 6, CSX said on-time performance has averaged 75 percent so far this year, well above the 61 percent posted in the first quarter of 2017

Average velocity for January 2018 was 18 miles per hour, up 19 percent from the 2017 average of 15.1 mph. January’s average terminal dwell of 10.5 hours was 7 percent below 2017 levels.

The carrier said it sidelined 139 road locomotives last month “in concert with network velocity improvement.”

CSX has 2,886 active road locomotives, a decline of 482 units from last year’s average.

At the same time, CSX said it had 8,509 crew members in service last week, down 9 percent from the average of 9,365 in 2017.

The report said its car-order fulfillment rate is averaging 99 percent so far this year. The percentage of cars pulled or placed at customer locations based on daily customer requests, is 84 percent this year, down from 87 percent in 2017.

CSX said it is receiving an average of 236 problem logs per day, with most of the complaints about delayed cars. It averaged 284 problem logs per day last year, which peaked at 570 per day last summer.

Northeast Ohio Memory

February 3, 2018

We don’t usually think of images of CSX as being vintage until they are showing one of its predecessor railroads still wearing a fallen flag livery.

Yet CSX has been around since 1986 and although it remains a major player in the Northeast Ohio railroad scene that you can seen every day, even it has a history worth retelling.

Consider, for example, this image made by Akron Railroad Club member Bob Farkas.

It is early 1999 in Kent and CSX 8185 is passing the ex-Baltimore & Ohio freight station.

The freight station has since been razed and although standard cab locomotives are not extinct at CSX, they are far less common than they used to be, particularly when running in pairs.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

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.

 

Share the Trail With a CSX ET44EH

November 3, 2017

Walkers, joggers and bicyclists are common users of the Portage Hike and Bike trail, but with a little imagination you can pretend that this CSX ET44EH is coming around the curve and continuing down the trail to Kent.

In reality, CSX No. 3343 is going away on Track No. 2 in a light power move.

Note the remains of the foundation of the Erie Railroad roundhouse at the right by the sign that explains some history of the Erie in Kent.

That sign contains a few photographs of the Erie in Kent that were made by the late Robert Redmond, a one-time Akron Railroad Club member.

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.

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.