Posts Tagged ‘CSX Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal’

Harrison Says CSX is Doing Just Fine

November 30, 2017

CSX CEO E. Hunter Harrison told an investor’s conference on Wednesday that concerns about his railroad’s service are overblown and they are in part an attempt by shipping lobby groups to seek regulatory changes that would hurt the railroad industry.

E. Hunter Harrison

Harrison expressed pride in the job that CSX is doing. “The network is good,” Harrison said at the Credit Suisse Industrials Conference,

He cited improvements in terminal dwell time and average train speed figures that exceed what CSX posted last year.

Touching on a management shakeup that saw three high-level CSX executives leave earlier this month, Harrison said the CSX’s management team did not have the right chemistry.

Harrison has brought in James Foote, who worked with him at Canadian National about a decade ago, to oversee operations, and sales and marketing.

“Jim knows a helluva lot more about operating and precision scheduled railroading than some have given him credit for,” Harrison said. “At the same time, he’s got a unique talent on the marketing-sales side and happens to be a team builder. And that’s one of the things we really need.”

Foote is likely to become the CEO of CSX after Harrison retires. Harrison said he’s stepping back a bit to let Foote and his operating and marketing teams develop.

Speaking to the same conference, Foote said the challenge facing CSX is to get operations and sales to see the world in the same way.

He said both need to understand that precision scheduled railroading is about efficiency and improving customer service.

“This is not a plan to shrink the railroad into profitability, but to grow the business,” Foote said.

One area in which CSX has been making major changes is in its intermodal business.

It earlier closed its Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal and has eliminated numerous intermodal service lanes.

Noting that intermodal traffic has razor-thin profit margins, Harrison said he’s never been enthusiastic about the business and was critical of the hub-and-spoke intermodal strategy that sought to build density in low-volume lanes.

The railroad also has folded some intermodal traffic into manifest freights.

“We were doing some things that if you know anything about intermodal you don’t do,” Harrison said in reference to the Northwest Ohio terminal.

“You don’t switch intermodal stuff. That’s why intermodal stuff came about,” he said.

In some instances, Harrison said trains ran as much as 140 miles out of route to get to the Northwest Ohio terminal near North Baltimore. “That’s not smart to me,” Harrison said, adding that some traffic could be handled more directly on merchandise trains.

Harrison hinted that major changes are coming to the North Baltimore terminal, saying it might involve a western railroad looking to extend its reach into the East.

For now, CSX is using the Northwest Ohio terminal for block-swapping and is still handling some local intermodal containers there.

CSX also recently pulled out of a public-private partnership to increase clearances in the Howard Street Tunnel in Baltimore so that double-stacked container trains could use it to serve the Port of Baltimore.

In Harrison’s view, the East has too many ports seeking traffic. He also expressed a philosophical opposition to receiving government money.

Foote contended that CSX remains committed to intermodal traffic and will seek creative ways to profitably grow that business.

CSX has some underused routes that Harrison said will be sold or spun off. This includes all CSX trackage in Canada and related lines in the U.S.

Harrison said the CSX routes in Canada are not successful. In particular, a $100 million terminal near Montreal that CSX opened in December 2014 has underperformed, handling just a dozen containers per day.

“Everything we’ve got out there is going to go through some scrutiny,” Harrison said. “If it creates shareholder value to sell it, we’re going to sell it. If it creates shareholder value to keep it, we’re going to keep it.”

Harrison said he isn’t concerned if CSX competitors buy routes that it wants to sell.

“We’re not going to keep railroads for defensive purposes. I don’t believe in that,” Harrison said. “You’ve got a real weakness if you do that.”

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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.

North Baltimore Said to be Closing as Intermodal Facility, Will be Converted to Flat Switching Yard

November 2, 2017

A report posted on TrainOrders.com said CSX will end intermodal sorting operations at its Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal at North Baltimore on Nov. 11.

Citing unnamed CSX employees, a poster said the wide-span overhead cranes now used to move containers at North Baltimore will be removed and sent elsewhere.

The series of posts contained speculation that North Baltimore will be converted to a flat switching yard that will perform block swapping.

If this information is accurate, CSX might shift to North Baltimore work that is now done in Garrett, Indiana; Willard, Ohio; and Barr Yard in Chicago.

CSX could make up blocks in North Baltimore to be turned over to western railroads in Chicago and take traffic from western carriers to be sorted in North Baltimore for eastern points on the CSX network.

One poster said that intermodal traffic will no longer be accepted as of Nov. 6 and remote control switches will be converted to hand-throw.

New crew pools will be established to operate from North Baltimore to Detroit; Lima, Ohio; Fostoria, Ohio; Toledo, Ohio; and Garrett.

Until this information is verified and/or announced by CSX, it probably should be considered to be speculation.

CSX Likely to Close Willard Hump, Will Reduce Scope of Intermodal Operations in Columbus

October 18, 2017

CSX is curtailing intermodal service to Columbus and is considering ending humping of freight cars at its yard in Willard.

In a notice to customers, CSX said it would end outbound intermodal service from Columbus to nearly two dozen destinations. However, only a handful of inbound intermodal lanes are being ended.

The curtailments are seen as further evidence of plans to reduce operations at the CSX Northwest Ohio intermodal terminal near North Baltimore.

CSX is also scaling back intermodal service in Detroit and Louisville, Kentucky.

The railroad has not yet made a public announcement on the future of its North Baltimore facility.

However, Trains magazine has cited unnamed sources as saying that its role in sorting containers is facing sharp cutbacks as CSX shifts to an operating model of precision scheduled railroading.

During a conference call to discuss the carrier’s third quarter earnings, CSX CEO E. Hunter Harrison sidestepped a question about the future of the North Baltimore terminal, saying more details would be provided at a meeting of investors and stock analysts on Oct. 29-30 in Palm Beach, Florida.

“Everything we’re doing is under review,” Harrison said. “I can’t tell you what the outcome of that will be. We don’t go in there and look at an issue and have an answer. We go in there to look and develop an answer, and so we’ll see what it brings.”

As for the future of humping operations at Willard, CSX has been shifting to flat switching at most of its dozen hump yards.

It has apparently decided to retain humping operations in Cincinnati; Indianapolis; Selkirk, New York; and Waycross, Georgia.

Earlier this year, CSX said it would close the hump in Selkirk and ceased humping at Avon Yard near Indianapolis. It later reopened the Avon hump after the western end of its network became severely congested.

Harrison said during the conference call that Willard will “probably” be converted to a flat-switching in the near future.

He indicated that the railroad is developing trip plans for every carload that it moves. Those plans are expected to be revealed by the middle of 2018 in order to allow CSX to further refine its operating plan and improve service.

Harrison also said during the conference call that he has resumed his “Hunter Camps,” which are  intensive sessions involving training field operating personnel to teach them the finer points of precision scheduled railroading.

Although Harrison had told the CSX board of directors that he didn’t think he’d have time to continue the camps their response was that he didn’t have time not to run the camps.

Harrison said he has had to rely more on his operating team to develop disciples of precision scheduled railroading, but “we’ll get the same type results.”

CSX Scaling Back North Baltimore Terminal

October 14, 2017

CSX is scaling back operations at its Northwest Ohio intermodal facility near North Baltimore, Trains magazine reported on Friday.

The magazine quoted unnamed sources who said that the facility may survive as a block swapping point but its hub and spoke operation is yet another victim of the railroad’s move to precision scheduled railroading as traffic is diverted away from it.

The $175 million terminal opened in summer 2011. It was based on a concept widely practiced in the airline industry but which is unique in railroad intermodal operations.

Trains would converge on North Baltimore from various cities and exchange containers.

The theory behind this was that it would enable the development of business in cities lacking enough density to justify point-to-point trains.

Specially, CSX cited cities such as Detroit and Louisville, Kentucky. Now CSX plans to pare down how much intermodal business it handles at both cities to points in California, Texas, Mexico, Florida as well as Montreal and Syracuse, New York.

Located on the former Baltimore & Ohio mainline between Chicago and Pittsburgh, the North Baltimore terminal had been handling 30 plus trains a day using state of the art loading and unloading equipment and sorting practices. It employs 300.

CSX has not made public its plans for the terminal. “CSX does not have any plans to discontinue operations at the North Baltimore facility,” said spokesman Rob Doolittle. “We are reviewing our train plan at the North Baltimore terminal to identify opportunities to provide better service to our intermodal customers, and CSX will communicate any changes that may be made directly to affected customers, employees, and other stakeholders.”

Campbell Soup to Build Facility in Findlay

August 11, 2017

CSX got some mmmmm good news from the Campbell Soup Company this week.

Campbell plans to spend $44 million for a 740,000 square-foot distribution center near Findlay.

Company officials said they located the center based on Findlay’s proximity to the Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal that CSX operates at North Baltimore.

Findlay also is located along Interstate 75 and near a Campbell’s factory in Napoleon.

“Because of the transportation lanes available here, we can distribute [products] nationwide via truck or rail from here,” said Mark Cacciatore, vice president of supply chain at Campbell.

Cacciatore said that soup and other products will be sent to the North Baltimore facility for distribution to the West Coast.

The Findlay site, which is expected to employ 200, will receive soup, broth and stock products, along with beverages and other food and organic products.

CSX, Schneider Ink New Contract

March 10, 2017

CSX will continue to serve as a primary rail provider for trucking firm Schneider National.

The two companies announced this week that they have reached a multiyear agreement that enables Schneider to serve the eastern United States as demand for intermodal transportation increases.

“By combining the expertise of one of the country’s largest intermodal providers and one of the country’s major railroads, Schneider has been able to provide creative solutions to more efficiently move intermodal freight with truck-like service,” said Jim Filter, senior vice president and general manager of Schneider Intermodal.

CSX has served as Schneider’s primary Eastern rail provider since 2008. Schneider maintains a terminal in Marion, Ohio, that is served by CSX and uses the railroad’s Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal at North Baltimore, Ohio.

The latest agreement provides Schneider customers with capacity and operational interfaces designed to increase accessibility and efficiency of rail moves.

“There is significant opportunity to optimize modal selection and convert freight from highway to rail in the Eastern U.S. CSX continues to invest in the intermodal growth opportunity, and we are excited to extend our relationship with Schneider as they truly are a premier intermodal provider,” said Dean Piacente, CSX vice president-intermodal, in a statement.

Ohio EPA Recognizes CSX Intermodal Terminal

September 27, 2016

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has awarded gold level recognition to the CSX Northwest Ohio in the Ohio Encouraging Environmental Excellence program.

CSX logo 3The recognition was bestowed for the railroad’s efforts to increase efficiency, lower emissions and conserve resources, the agency said in a news release.

“Through infrastructure redesign and using the most modern equipment, this facility reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 6,000 tons and saves more than 500,000 gallons of diesel fuel annually,” said agency director Craig Butler.

The terminal uses green technology designs, including ultra-efficient, wide-span electric cranes and optical scanners that reduce idling times.

The gold level recognizes comprehensive environmental stewardship programs.

UP OCS Travels to North Baltimore Over CSX

June 30, 2015

It is rare enough when the CSX executive train makes an appearance in Ohio, but on Monday there was an even more unusual sighting.

The Union Pacific office car train ran to the Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal in North Baltimore.

It is not clear why the train was there, but speculation online is that it might have something to do with a possible UP-CSX joint venture. Reportedly, the move to North Baltimore was a deadhead move that originated in Chicago.

Lead by UP ES44AC No. 8154, the train then operated east to Fostoria to turn around. It is scheduled to leave North Baltimore to return to Chicago on Tuesday.

On Monday the UP train operated on CSX as symbol P940.

CSX Still Eying North Baltimore Hub Expansion

November 8, 2013
A wide-span crane shuffles containers at the CSX North Baltimore intermodal hub in June 2011. (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

A wide-span crane shuffles containers at the CSX North Baltimore intermodal hub in June 2011. (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

CSX is still considering expanding its intermodal hub in North Baltimore, Ohio, despite having been turned down earlier this year for a federal grant that would have helped underwrite the expansion.

The news emerged during a visit this week to the facility by Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.

Rusty Orben, CSX’s director of public affairs, had said last May that without a grant picking up half the cost of the North Baltimore expansion, it wouldn’t be built.  But Carla Groleau, a CSX spokeswoman, said this week that the railroad is “still considering our options” for expanding the North Baltimore facility.

The North Baltimore facility currently handles about 2,000 containers per day and originates, terminates, or swaps blocks on about 30 scheduled trains.

The CSX application for TIGER funding that would have covered half of the expansion project’s $42 million cost did not make the U.S. Department of Transportation’s list of new grants announced in September. CSX began operating full-cube double-stacked trains between North Baltimore and Chambersburg, Pa., this past summer.

The North Baltimore facility, formally known as the Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal, is part of the railroad’s National Gateway.

The next major project in developing the National Gateway will be enlarging the Virginia Avenue Tunnel in Washington to allow doublestacks to travel between CSX’s former Baltimore & Ohio and Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac main lines. That project is in planning and environmental review.

The importance of intermodal traffic to CSX was underscored by the company’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Fredrik Eliasson in a presentation at the Baird Industrials Conference in Chicago this week.

Eliasson called intermodal, “a key driver of growth” that now represents 40 percent of CSX’s overall volume and is expected to increase further, reflecting “the attractive economic value of converting freight from highway to rail.”

Eliasson said there is sustained growth in CSX’s merchandise and intermodal businesses, which now comprises more than 80 percent of the company’s volume. CSX expects that business to continue growing at a rate above the general economy, he said.

“CSX employs a dual intermodal strategy that includes both high-density corridors and a hub-and-spoke philosophy that also creates service density to open new small and medium-sized markets—a strategy the company believes is a differentiator in the intermodal marketplace,” Eliasson said.

CSX recently completed the first phase of doublestack clearances in its National Gateway initiative, which is an effort to create an efficient rail route between Mid-Atlantic ports and Midwestern markets.

When the National Gateway is complete in 2015, roughly 95 percent of the railroad’s intermodal traffic will be moving in doublestack lanes.

CSX is building new terminals to expand its reach in markets such as central Florida, Pittsburgh, and Montreal.

It continues to invest in existing terminals to further increase efficiency throughout its network, such as an expansion of its Northwest Ohio hub, which opened in 2011 and has helped alleviate congestion in Chicago while opening up connectivity to markets in the Midwest.

During his visit to North Baltimore this past week, Vice President Biden noted the imminent enlargement of the Panama Canal will double the potential capacity of container ships using that waterway.

Biden described the National Gateway as “the inland version of widening the Panama Canal.”

Although CSX used no public funds to develop its $175 million, 500-acre Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal, which opened in 2011, $98 million of CSX’s $193 million cost for bridge and tunnel clearance work in eastern Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia to link it with a new terminal at Chambersburg, Pa., came from a federal Transportation Improvements Generating Economic Recovery Act grant.

“Without TIGER, there would be no National Gateway,” Biden said, because without the higher bridges and taller tunnels, CSX would not be able to realize the full benefit of double-stack trains to the North Baltimore terminal.

Biden spoke after briefly touring the North Baltimore terminal, including a visit to its training simulator for crane operators and conversations with Oscar Munoz, CSX’s chief operating officer, and Widby Whitt, president of CSX Intermodal Terminals.

The Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal opened in 2011 and CSX says that it employs 300 full-time workers. It is located on 500 acres in Wood County, Ohio, a mile west of North Baltimore.