Posts Tagged ‘Indianapolis’

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.”

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INRD Expanding Container Capacity

September 12, 2017

Representatives of the Indiana Rail Road participated in a ceremony last month to mark the completion of the expansion of an increase in capacity of a West Coast port.

INRD interchanges container with Canadian National that are transported to and from the port at Prince Rupert, British Columbia.

Eric Powell, INRD manager, business development said in statement that “the Port of Prince Rupert can now handle almost 1.4M TEUs per year, double the capacity of just a year ago, thanks to the addition of a second ship berth, four Super Post-Panamax cranes and on-dock rail. For [our customers], this means the same fast, reliable Asian service with room to grow and, soon, more ocean service options.”

Powell said the port is the closest North American port to Asia and has an ice-free, deep-water harbor that can handle ships of any size.

In the meantime, INRD is adding a second crane to its Indianapolis ramp along with new stadium light.

“Our Indiana intermodal business to/from Asia and Europe has grown an average of 37 percent year-over-year since we opened in 2013,” Powell said.

He said the new lights and crane are expected to go into service no later than Nov. 15.

CSX Train Derails in Indianapolis

August 28, 2017

No injuries were reported in a CSX derailment in Indianapolis last week that resulted in a major street being closed.

The accident occurred near the intersection of White River Parkway Drive and West Washington Street.

News reports indicated that a covered hopper car was crumpled between a string of tank cars and locomotives belonging to CSX and Kansas City Southern.

The hopper car spilled grain and one of the tank cars leaked non-hazardous lubricating oil. CSX said the accident was under investigation.

CSX Contends Its Service Metrics Are Improving

August 25, 2017

Information provided by CSX to the Surface Transportation Board this week show just how far its service has fallen since spring but also indicates that the railroad is taking steps to address that.

Train on-time arrivals fell from a record 88 percent in May to 55 percent during the past four weeks. More than a quarter of all carloads failed to make the right train as scheduled, which compounded the delays.

Two derailments, including one at Hydman, Pennsylvania, didn’t help matters, but the statistics show that the operational problems started in mid July as CSX began in earnest to implement major operational changes in a shift toward the precision scheduled railroading model brought in by new CEO E. Hunter Harrison.

The railroad has reversed one change it imposed by resuming hump operations at Avon Yard west of Indianapolis.

CSX reopened the hump at Avon Yard in Indianapolis last week to improve service and prevent congestion at secondary yards. “We might have made a mistake there,” by shutting down the hump, Harrison told The Wall Street Journal.

Reactivating Avon and some other changes reduced terminal dwell time at five terminals in the western regions of the CSX network. Cars spent 33 hours in those terminals last week on average, down from a peak of nearly 53 hours two weeks ago.

CSX has also delayed plans to close hump operations at Selkirk Yard in New York in favor of flat switching.

Last Monday, CSX told the STB that its network metrics have improved in recent weeks. Average train speed is up slightly and overall terminal dwell is down.

The STB has fielded a rash of shipper complaints about CSX service and in response has ordered the carrier to provide more detailed information about it performance.

Some shippers have said erratic service from CSX has triggered plant shutdowns and production slowdowns while forcing them to diverting some shipments to trucks.

In its latest report to the STB, CSX management said it is still seeking a balance between hump yards and flat-switching terminals.

CSX said the “absolute number of humps [is] not ‘good’ or ‘bad’; rather, a different configuration of handling traffic.”

The railroad has sent customer service personnel to locations with significant service problems, including Columbus, Ohio; Russell, Kentucky; Indianapolis; and Memphis, Tennessee.

It also said many of the figures being sought by the STB, including local service metrics and figures for train origination and arrival, do not necessarily mesh with what’s important in precision scheduled railroading.

It cited the example of “holding a train’s origination to allow additional cars to reach a customer on time. [this] would hinder train origination and arrival metrics, but provide better service to the customer.”

CSX also argues that it has an adequate number of locomotives and crews to handle its current traffic levels.

The motive power fleet includes 3,275 units which is 488 units down from the first-quarter average. Some stored locomotives have been removed from storage to handle an increase in coal traffic.

In its report, CSX said the percentage of trains requiring re-crews is at historically low levels and its car order fulfillment statistics are a case study in what happens when service quality deteriorates.

Customers order more cars than they need, hoping that what is delivered is close to the actual number needed. CSX said orders rose 40 percent in the third quarter compared with the first quarter.

Group Formed to Protest NKP Branch Abandonment

August 8, 2017

A group has formed in Hamilton County, Indiana, to seek to overturn the decision by local officials to convert parts of a former Nickel Plate Road branch line into a hiking and biking trail.

The group, known as Save the Nickel Plate, is seeking to get supporters of keeping the rail line to write to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board in opposition to approval of the line’s abandonment.

Hamilton County along with the cities of Fishers and Noblesville filed a petition with the STB on Aug. 1 to gain regulatory approval to pull up nine miles of the line between Noblesville and Indianapolis.

Through 2015 the line was used by the Indiana Fair Train and other excursions sponsored by the Indiana Transportation Museum.

The Save the Nickel Plate group has raised concerns about what it termed the lack of public input regarding the trail plan, the lack of train service, impediments to rail service caused by the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority’s suspension of rail operation, and concern for the process of selecting a new railroad operator that only runs on the northern portion of the railroad.

The group has established a website at http://www.savethenickelplate.org/

Indiana Fair Train Won’t Be Returning

August 2, 2017

The Indiana Fair Train is no more. The Hamilton County Commissioners along with city officials in Fishers and Noblesville have agree to pull up the rails that the Fair train once used between Noblesville and the fairgrounds in Indianapolis and convert the right of way into a hiking and biking trail.

However, the plans including preserving the rails north of Noblesville and allowing a tourist train operator to use them.

The 37-mile former Nickel Plate Road branch line is owned by the county and the two cities.

Under the recently announced plan, nine miles of the branch will be converted to a trail with 28 miles available for rail operations.

The Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad has been chosen to be the operator of the rail line that is being preserved.

The fair train and other excursions over the NKP branch had been operated until 2016 by the Indiana Transportation Museum, which is currently based in Noblesville but has announced plans to relocate to Logansport, Indiana.

Selection of an operator was recently made by the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority, which manages the line.

The authority received five applications to operate the ex-NKP branch and gave the highest score to Iowa Pacific Holdings, which until early this year operated the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State in conjunction with Amtrak.

However, Iowa Pacific wanted to operate the line south of Noblesville and provide freight service. That was at odds with the desire of the cities to remove the rails there to create a trail.

“The proposal  . . . allows for the preservation of the train going north from Noblesville while providing a year-round recreational trail amenity for our residents,” said Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness. “The Nickel Plate Railroad played an important role in our history as a city and I believe the Nickel Plate Trail will honor that history while creating an amenity that so many of our residents have requested.”

CSX Plans Major Changes for Indianapolis

June 15, 2017

CSX is planning major changes to its operations in Indianapolis, including closing Avon Yard and its dispatching center, and spending millions to rebuild smaller facilities.

The news was reported on Trainorders.com by a poster who reprinted a memorandum from a railroad labor union officer who attended a meeting held in Indianapolis to be briefed on the changes.

The only date given for the changes was Oct. 31, when dispatching operations now based in Indianapolis will be moved to Jacksonville, Florida.

The CSX Indy dispatch office is a former Conrail facility that now oversees former Conrail territories that CSX acquired in 1999. It also dispatches all former B&O lines in Northeast Ohio operated by CSX.

Avon is a former New York Central hump classification yard that opened in June 1960.

Earlier this month CSX said it would close the locomotive shop there, but now it plans to farm out its other activities to the Hawthorne, Transfer and State Street yards. A new intermodal facility is to be constructed at a site to be named.

All of those facilities will be receive track upgrades and new buildings. The operating plan is to base scheduled jobs out of all yards on all three shifts.

Hawthorne will handle road trains while State and Transfer yards will handle the local and industry work.

As part of the restructuring, the local jobs will be assigned three-person  crews, which CSX management believes will be able to more efficiently handle switching.

Hawthorne, a former Pennsylvania Railroad yard, is a stub-end facility because the ex-PRR mainline on the east side of Indianapolis has been abandoned.

Avon crew pools will change at one of the three yards, although the operating plan is still being worked out.

This will include re-advertising all of the pool jobs to take into account adjustments in mileage and other operating changes.

One report is that some switching now done at Avon will be taken over by the Alton & Southern in the St. Louis region.

In years past, Avon built blocks for Penn Central and Conrail that were interchanged with western railroads in St. Louis and the St. Elmo, Illinois, gateway.

Locomotive fueling now done in Avon will be done throughout the Indianapolis terminal by fuel trucks. Car department repairs will be performed at Hawthorne.

The union memorandum said CSX wants to move quickly on the terminal changes, ideally within the next 45 days.

One impetus for closing Avon might be that the area around it has developed into a busy commercial-residential area and CSX might see an opportunity to sell land to developers.

CSX Closes Locomotive Shop in Indianapolis

June 6, 2017

For now it appears that CSX plans to continue humping operations at Avon Yard near Indianapolis, but the railroad will cease doing locomotive repair work there.

Located on the St. Louis line of CSX, the former New York Central yard and shops are situated west of Indianapolis.

A CSX spokesman said some employees are expected to be furloughed although he wouldn’t say how many. The locomotive repair work will cease immediately.

Avon is one of 12 hump classification yards on the CSX network seven of which have seen their hump operations shuttered this year with more expected to close later.

CN, INRD Continue Cooperative Ventures

June 6, 2017

The Indiana Rail Road and Canadian National continue to work together in moving freight with their latest cooperative venture being construction of a 16,000-foot interchange track in Newton, Illinois, to interchange intermodal and other freight.

The lines of both railroads run parallel west of Newton for three miles. Newton is the eastern terminus of CN’s Effingham District while it is the western end of the INRD line from Indianapolis.

Both rail lines were formerly owned by the Illinois Central.

Before expanding the siding, the only place for the two railroads to interchange freight was a 2,600-foot siding, which has become inadequate due to an increase in intermodal and carload traffic shared by the two railroads.

The expanded siding is also expected to be used by coal and grain traffic as well.

Since launching their joint intermodal service in July 2013, the “direct-to-Indianapolis” intermodal traffic has grown an average of 44 percent a year.

Container moves have grown from 12,500 in 2014 to 17,200 in 2015 to 26,100 units in 2016.

INRD is expanding its Indianapolis intermodal terminal located just south of downtown.

Major improvements at Canadian west coast ports are expected to drive more intermodal traffic growth to Indianapolis.

The Port of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, and the Vancouver Deltaport are currently being expanded.

Prince Rupert is the closest port to Asia and is 2.5  days sailing time closer than Los Angeles. Vancouver is 24 hours closer and is the fourth-largest port in North America.

The average transit time from major Asian ports to Indianapolis is 22 days via Prince Rupert and 24.5 days via Vancouver.

Grant Used to Expand INRD Indianapolis Yard

June 5, 2017

The Indiana Rail Road is using a $300,000 grant from the Indiana Department of Transportation to expand its Senate Avenue Terminal in Indianapolis.

The improvement project, which will cost $1.5 million, includes the installation of two 125-foot light towers and the extension of several yard tracks by 3,249 feet or the equivalent of 59 cars of capacity.

Workers will also install a new drainage system in the rail-truck transload lot, which currently has no drainage system. That results in flooding during heavy rain and creates operational and safety issues through damage to wooden ties and rail.

The high-efficiency LED lights will be placed at the north and south ends of the loading/unloading pad will allow for 24-hour operation. The railroad is looking at adding a second shift.

Railroad officials said the lights will also increase safety and security for the entire yard, which is worked 24 hours a day.

Carload growth is putting pressure on INRD’s infrastructure and the freight yard track extension will provide additional capacity and flexibility for switching and storing products in cars weighing up to the industry-maximum 286,000 pounds.