Posts Tagged ‘CSX’

Changes in Railfanning in Sterling

May 25, 2017

Many moons ago, I wrote a hot spot report for the Akron Railroad Club Bulletin on Sterling.  Much has changed since then and I thought an update was in order.

Sterling for the newcomers is a spot on the former Baltimore & Ohio, now the CSX New Castle Subdivision, where the CL&W Sub turns off and heads to Cleveland and Lorain via Lester.

CSX is trying to stop using the CL&W from Sterling to Lester, servicing Lorain and the yard at West Third Street in Cleveland via their ex-Conrail trackage in Cleveland.

Sterling has lost a couple of trains due to this change, but that is nothing new for fans of the New Castle Sub.

CSX has been adding and subtracting trains on this line for many years. It always seems to be in a state of flux. What has changed the most since I wrote the last article is where you hang out to watch trains at Sterling and what photo spots have come and gone.

Sterling is at MP 155.5 of the New Castle Sub. Besides the junction with the CL&W, the B&O used to cross the Erie at a sharp-angled diamond that was guarded by RU tower. The tower sat between the mains west of the diamonds.

Visiting railfans used to gather in the dirt/gravel area across the B&O from where the tower used to be. The driveway into the gravel area looped around and headed back out to the street.

This led the Sterling railfan group to call themselves the “Sterling Loop.”

Today, the visiting railfan will find a paved parking lot for the hiking and biking trail that is on the former right-of-way of the Erie on the southwest side of the Kauffman Avenue crossing with CSX.

This spot allows for good side views of passing CSX trains. No signals are visible at this spot, so to get advance warning of a train, you will have to monitor the scanner.

CSX still uses 160.230 (road channel) and 160.320 (dispatcher channel) for communications on the New Castle Sub.

The signals that are facing away from you at the parking lot can be shot with a westbound by walking a short ways west on the former Erie and looking for the clearing just after the bridge over Chippewa Creek.

I haven’t actually done a photo here yet, but a normal to wide-angle lens should work.

If you like to hike/bike, the trail continues west to Creston, where the tracks of the Wheeling & Lake Erie come up next to CSX.

To the east, the trail stays close to CSX as far as the outskirts of Rittman.

While Sterling is not as busy as Greenwich or other CSX hot spots, it can provide some quality time trackside. Plus you could use it as a starting point for a W&LE chase if you get wind of an imminent move on that railroad.

On weekends, for food it may be best to head for Creston, which is a short drive or bike ride from Sterling.

Creston has a Subway sandwich shop in the Circle K convenience store and gas station just south on Ohio Route 3 from the downtown area.

Article by Marty Surdyk

Behind the Closing of CSX Hump Yards

May 24, 2017

CSX has acknowledged that it plans to close its hump operations at Selkirk, New York, and that it also plans to close its hump in Birmingham, Alabama

Both yards will continue in operation as flat-switching facilities. Five other hump yards, including Stanley Yard in Toledo, have already been converted to flat switching.

CSX will still have five active humps, including Queensgate Yard in Cincinnati and Willard Yard. In 2016, Selkirk was the second-busiest hump yard in the CSX system.

Speaking to the Wolfe Research conference this week, CSX Chief Operating Officer Cindy Sanborn said the hump closings are not being implemented just to change switching operations.

“It is part of the larger plan of making transit across the network faster,” she said.

CSX is seeking to bypass intermediate terminals because it believes that doing so will enable it to move freight more efficiently, quickly and reliably.

An analysis by Trains magazine noted that CSX CEO E. Hunter Harrison has said hump yards are only viable when they classify more than 1,400 to 1,500 cars per day.

Of the 12 hump yards in existence when Harrison was hired at CSX last March, only Waycross, Georgia, meets that threshold.

Three yards, Selkirk; Nashville, Tennessee; and Willard handled more than 1,400 cars per day in 2016.

The Trains analysis said those humps were likely to handle less traffic under Harrison’s precision scheduled railroading operating philosophy.

“If there’s not enough cars that want to go there to support the infrastructure needed to maintain and utilize the hump, then we simply don’t need it,” Sanborn said at the investor’s conference. “We can move over into flat-switching operations.”

Sanborn reiterated at the conference that CSX expects to only have two to three humps left by late this year.

Another driving force behind closing the humps is that carload traffic at CSX is in a long-term decline.

CSX handled 2.32 million merchandise carloads in 2016, a figure that excludes automotive traffic.

Trains reported that is a decline of 605,000 carloads since 2000 or 22 fewer 75-car trains per day.

Yet merchandise traffic made up two-thirds of CSX freight business in 2016 and Sanborn said the railroad’s new operating plan provided an opportunity to grow that business by providing faster and more reliable service.

“Concurrent with making the changes in the hump network, we also are doing a very detailed deep dive into the overall operation in general,” Sanborn says.

To improve traffic balance and density, some unit train shipments are being carried by merchandise trains that operate daily. In some regions, local service is now operating daily.

Chessie ‘Heritage’ Unit in Willard

May 22, 2017

Last week Chesapeake & Ohio 8272, which CSX has restored to its Chessie System paint scheme, started its journey to the Lake Shore Railway Museum at Northeast, Pennsylvania.
On Saturday morning it was parked at Willard, where I got these photos. It will arrive at Northeast sometime this week.

Photographs by Todd Dillon

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.

CSX Making Operations Changes to CL&W Sub

May 22, 2017

CSX has made some long anticipated changes to operations on its CL&W Subdivision, the former Cleveland, Lorain & Wheeling line of the Baltimore & Ohio from Sterling to Lorain and Cleveland via Lester.

First, the line from Sterling to Lester is said to be unused. A recent trip to shoot some Wheeling & Lake Erie action took us across the tracks at Seville and there were signs of use.

Could this just be to as far as the lumber yard north of Seville?

In the Cleveland area, CSX is running a yard job, with symbol Y124 from Collinwood to West Third Street Yard. This is often seen in the afternoon at Parma.

It turns west to south at Parma and then picks up a shoving platform (caboose) and backs down to the Cleveland Sub to West Third Street.

I have not seen it come back from West Third Street, but I would assume that they shove up the hill back to Parma, drop their caboose and head back to Collinwood.

The Y124 also brings to Parma cars to/from Lester and the Lorain side of the CL&W.

The local that works out of Lester brings the cars to Parma a couple of days per week. I would imagine that the other days they service the Lorain side and any other customers along the line.

Article by Marty Surdyk

CSX Converts Cumberland Hump to Flat Switching

May 22, 2017

As expected, CSX last week converted its hump yard in Cumberland, Maryland, to flat switching.

It is the fifth such yard to have its hump closed since E. Hunter Harrison became CEO in March and implemented his precision scheduled railroading operating philosophy.

Among other things, that approach looks with disfavor upon hump yards in the belief that they add cost and transit time to freight movements.

Other hump yards that have been converted to flat switching are located in Toledo, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky.; Hamlet, North Carolina; and Atlanta.

A memo sent to CSX employees last week indicated that the hump at Selkirk, New York, will also be closed in favor of flat switching.

The remaining CSX hump yards are in Waycross, Georgia; Birmingham, Alabama; Nashville, Tennessee; Cincinnati; Avon, Indiana (Indianapolis); and Willard, Ohio.

CSX managers have indicated that those yards are being evaluated and that the railroad expects it could have between two to four hump yards left in its system once that review is completed later this year.

Trains magazine reported that when CSX closes a hump, it does the flat switching on the receiving and departure tracks. The classification bowl tracks stand empty.

The railroad said track and switches from the classification bowls will in time be used elsewhere.

NICTD Makes West Short Project Changes

May 22, 2017

The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District has released plans for the proposed West Lake Corridor project of the South Shore Line.

The latest plans include a layover facility at the future Hammond Gateway Station in Hammond, Indiana.

The plan also shows that the platform location and parking lot for the Munster Ridge Road Station in Munster, Indiana, has been moved so that NICTD won’t need to acquire a set of homes south of Ridge Road.

In a news release NICTD President Michael Noland said the changes were based on “extensive community input.”

The West Lake Corridor involves extending the South Shore Line 9 miles between Dyer and Hammond on a former Monon Railroad route, part of which is still used by Amtrak and CSX.

West Shore trains would connect with Metra’s Electric District Line to the north.

The project plans call for four stations and building passenger-only tracks.

The Red Grain Elevator of Wellington

May 19, 2017

A certain member of the Akron Railroad Club is known for his passion for photographing trains and grain elevators.

I know that in particular he likes the red grain facility in Wellington alongside the Greenwich Subdivision of CSX.

It makes for a dramatic  image in late afternoon sunlight. From what I can see, the facility is no longer served by rail.

I didn’t go there on a recent outing just to capture the red grain elevator. As much as anything I went there because Wellington wasn’t being covered  by clouds.

CSX cooperated beautifully by sending a pair of westbounds through town, a stack train and an ethanol train.

The ethanol train shown at top was the second of the pair and I tend to like that image the best of the two.

CSX Says On-Time Performance is Up 52%

May 19, 2017

A CSX executive this week touted improving performance metrics over the past two months, including a 52 percent improvement in on-time performance.

“We’re at the beginning of an amazing transformation,” CSX Chief Financial Officer Frank Lonegro said at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2017 Transportation Conference.

Lonegro said train velocity has risen by 14 percent and terminal dwell time has fallen by 11 percent.

On-time originations rose 16 percent to 91.6 percent while on-time arrivals jumped to 87.6 percent from just 57.8 percent.

Lonegro largely credited the improving metrics to new CEO E. Hunter Harrison’s precision scheduled railroad operating philosophy.

Harrison has been at CSX for 10 weeks. “He really has hit the ground running and has begun to implement precision scheduled railroading across our railroad,” Lonegro said.

During his presentation, Lonegro said CSX has become more efficient by hauling the same amount of tonnage on fewer trains.

Although its revenue-ton miles have held steady while the active train count has fallen by 15 percent, Lonegro said that will continue to improve.

He said CSX is creating a train plan that keeps terminals fluid and reduces the need for handling en route.

“Hunter’s philosophy is move the freight as far as you can as fast as you can and touch it as few times as you possibly can,” Lonegro said.

One highly visible change at CSX has been a reduction in hump yards. That is at odds with how CSX has operated.

“At CSX historically we have been a big believer that the most efficient way to class[ify] traffic is through a hump yard,” Lonegro said. “Hunter has totally debunked that.”

CSX has converted hump yards in Toledo, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky; Hamlet, North Carolina; and Atlanta to flat-switching.

Reports have surfaced that yards in Cumberland, Maryland; and Selkirk, New York, will also lose their humps.

Lonegro said CSX is evaluating its eight remaining hump yards and expects to convert some to flat switching in the second quarter of this year.

In doing this, CSX has changed is operating plan so that traffic bypasses the yards except for cars destined for that location.

CSX will likely have between two and four active humps by the time the evaluation process is completed.

Lonegro also reported that CSX has stored 551 locomotives and parked, scrapped, or returned more than 22,000 freight cars.

He said the operating changes have thus far not prompted shippers to shift their business to Norfolk Southern.

“We’re really not seeing any market share shifts,” Lonegro says, although he acknowledged that there is a potential for service missteps that could anger some shippers.

Nonetheless, he said CSX expects to satisfy customers by providing faster transit times, improved on-time performance, and better cycle times of freight cars.

The better service and lower costs, he said, should enable CSX to grow its business, particularly at the expense of trucks.

Harrison Has Medical Condition That Often Has Him Working From Home, Not CSX Headquarters

May 19, 2017

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that CSX CEO E. Hunter Harrison has a medical condition that often forces him to work at home.

E. Hunter Harrison

The newspaper gave few specific details about the condition and the 72-year-old executive said that he should not be judged by his medical record.

“I’m having a ball and I’m running on so much adrenaline that no one can stop me,” Harrison told the Journal. “Don’t judge me by my medical record, judge me by my performance.”

Harrison acknowledged that he carries a portable oxygen system, but his doctors cleared him for his position.

“There are times when I get a little shortness of breath so I take oxygen and it helps,”
Harrison said.” Sometimes I get a cough and the oxygen makes it go away.”

CSX Chief Financial Officer Frank Lonegro told an investor conference that Harrison is fully engaged in his job.

“We’re really running to play catch up with him,” Lonegro says. “He’s a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week kind of guy.”

Trains reported that CSX was well aware of Harrison’s medical condition when it hired him.

However, that was a point of contention at one point when CSX demanded that independent physicians review Harrison’s medical records, a request that Harrison refused.

CSX said it would not comment on Harrison’s health.

The Journal said that during his last two years at Canadian Pacific, Harrison frequently worked from home rather than in his CP office in Calgary.