Posts Tagged ‘Norfolk Souhern’

All Class 1 Railroads Lost Traffic in 2020

January 5, 2021

All North American Class 1 railroads lost traffic volume in 2020, but some lost more than others.

Weekly carload reports issued by the Association of American Railroads show that Canadian Pacific suffered the least loss of traffic.

CP’s volume fell 2.2 percent compared to the average 6.8 percent decline of the big six systems.

CSX posted a 5.7 percent decline in overall traffic in 2020 but also had the industry’s largest intermodal gain for the year at 1.5 percent.

Canadian National had overall volume decline of 6.1 percent. Other traffic declines posted by Class 1 carriers included Union Pacific, down 7 percent; BNSF, down 7.6 percent; and Norfolk Southern, down 11.9 percent.

NS sustained the steepest declines among Class 1 carriers in intermodal, carload, and coal traffic.

Class 1 Execs Tout Intermodal Growth

September 10, 2020

Class 1 railroad executives speaking this week during an investor’s conference played up the recent growth in intermodal traffic, with one executive comparing it to near-peak season levels.

CSX Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing Mark Wallace said intermodal volume is up 6 percent in the third quarter to date with domestic intermodal volume having risen since late June.

“And that has carried on,” he said. “The volumes have been very, very strong — much to our delight.”

Wallace attributed the rise in intermodal volume to consumer spending, saying e-commerce traffic has been particularly strong.

He and NS Chief Marketing Officer Alan Shaw spoke at the Cowen 2020 Global Transportation & Sustainable Mobility Conference where executives said intermodal traffic generally is now above pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.

Shaw said NS has also benefited from strong consumer spending, but also from a partnership it has launched with BNSF and Union Pacific for traffic moving between the Southwest and the Southeast.

Another factor favoring intermodal has been a tightening of truck capacity.

The railroad executives also cited good rail service helping to spur intermodal volume growth.

The pandemic has accelerated growth in e-commerce. Shaw said retailers will begin keeping inventory closer to consumers, which presents NS with a “huge opportunity” because it operates the largest intermodal network in the East.

Wallace said his railroad’s intermodal on-time performance, measured by trip plan compliance, was in the low 90 percent range in the third quarter to date.

However, it had been in at 95 percent before the pandemic. One reason for the difference, Wallace said, is that CSX is challenged in getting furloughed train crews back to work in an expeditious manner.

The executives noted that imports to East Coast ports have been growing because retailers are looking to get goods inland as quickly as possible.

They expect East Coast ports to gain traffic because of a rise of manufacturing in Southeast Asia, which favors an all-water route to the East Coast via the Suez Canal.

The increase in intermodal volume, though, will not necessarily result in additional trains being operated.

Instead, the executive said the added traffic will be placed on existing trains.

“We’re leveraging the capacity dividend we created,” NS Chief Financial Officer Mark George said.

He was referring to how as part of the railroad’s use of the precision scheduled railroading operating model it is running fewer but longer trains.

The average train weight at NS is up 11 percent since the beginning of 2019 despite coal traffic being down by a third compared to a year ago, George said.

Wallace said CSX has 30 percent additional capacity on its existing train starts and ample road capacity for longer trains.

Wallace said CSX does not anticipate making any further changes in its intermodal network and it doesn’t expect to close any of its eight existing humps operating at classification yards.

“If we see a high-return project where we think we could have — we could spend some capital and get a very, very high return on that project, then we’re looking to do that, we would do that,” he said.

However, Wallace said CSX has nothing on the horizon as far as major capital expenditures beyond what is planned now.

NS to Raze MG Tower Near Altoona

June 28, 2020

MG Tower as seen on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend 2013 during an excursion pulled by Nickel Plate Road 765 trip heading back toward Horseshoe Curve then Altoona for a lunch stop. (Photograph by Edward Ribinskas)

A historic former Pennsylvania Railroad interlocking tower near Altoona, Pennsylvania is set to be razed.

Norfolk Southern is seeking bids to demolish MG Tower two miles west of Horseshoe Curve.

“We have put the demolition out to bid and are awaiting responses,” NS spokesman Jeff DeGraff told the Altoona Mirror.

He said the demolition is for safety reasons because the structure is deteriorating. How soon the tower will be razed will depend on cost estimates the railroad receives.

The tower was built during World War II when the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia mainline boasted four racks.

Joe DeFrancesco, executive director of the Railroaders Memorial Museum of Altoona, said MG was not a viable candidate for preservation because it is far from a public road.

Moving the structure would be difficult and expensive, he said.

“You preserve what you can preserve,” DeFrancesco said. “Some things are beyond reach.”

Railroads Eye Traffic Gains As Auto Plants Restart

May 23, 2020

With North American automotive production plants restarting operations in the past week, Class 1 railroads are hoping for a boost in freight traffic.

Aside from carrying finished automobiles and trucks, railroads hope to cash in on carrying automotive parts and supplies.

However, railroad executives say the wild card is whether consumer demand will be enough to prompt growth in automotive traffic volume.

Falling automotive traffic has been a significant contributor to falling freight volume in the past two months.

The Association of American Railroads said North American traffic for motor vehicles and parts fell 36.4 percent year-to-date to 335,839 carloads in data reported at the end of the week ending May 16.

Automotive production also is expected to ramp up slowly. Automotive production in the U.S. and Canada restarted on May 18 while Mexico plants are scheduled to resume work on June 1.

“Our auto plants reopened this week with very limited production,” said Norfolk Southern Chief Marketing Officer Alan Shaw. “The sustainability of that production is going to be highly dependent on consumer demand and consumer confidence to go out there and buy automobiles.”

Shaw said the deliberate pace that auto makers plan to follow would also likely result in “puts and takes” for auto suppliers since some supplies, such as steel, are already at the plants.

He said auto industry suppliers might not see demand recovery until auto production has been up and running for some time.

Mark Wallace, CSX executive vice president of sales and marketing, said the restarting of automotive production might help the railroad gain clarity on merchandise volumes for the remainder of the second quarter and into the third quarter.

CSX Chief Financial Officer Kevin Boone said the carrier was starting to see some “very small car orders” coming through the auto manufacturing plants.

But Boone said it would be a couple of weeks before any sizable volumes appeared.

“This will be a slow ramp-up, and they’re focused on protecting their workforce as well,” Boone said adding that “certainly going zero to something is helpful.”

Canadian Pacific CEO Keith Creel sees volume growth from automotive traffic rising in the third quarter but expects it to be flat in the fourth quarter.

However, he said the return of automotive production will give CP some lift in the second quarter with traffic declines linked to the economic downturn triggered in part by the COVID-19 pandemic bottoming out in May.

Federal Court Overrules Kentucky Blocked Crossing Law

February 1, 2020

State laws designed to discourage railroads from blocking grade crossings that have the effect of regulating railroad operations are impermissible under federal law, a judge has ruled.

The case involved a Kentucky law that was challenged by the Association of American Railroads.

A federal court in rendering the ruling in favor of AAR acknowledged that states have historically had a role in regulating local highways.

But the Kentucky law has the effect of regulating railroads and that is the province of federal law, the court ruled.

“ . . . the state does not have the authority to regulate highway safety to the extent that its laws require the railroad to effect such substantial changes,” the ruling said.

At issue was a case that began with police in Pulaski and McCreary counties issuing citations to Norfolk Southern under a state law that stated trains cannot block roadways for more than five minutes.

The Pulaski citations were issued for blocking Richardson Lane near a depot in Burnside.

Most of the citations said trains were stopped for between 15 to 20 minutes.

NS contended in court that five minutes is not long enough to perform all of the safety checks needed following a crew change.

An NS manager said that those checks can take 15 to 20 minutes if everything goes well.

Although NS entered pleas of guilty to 11 misdemeanor citations, the AAR filed a lawsuit on the railroad’s behalf in a federal court against Pulaski County Attorney Martin Hatfield and Pulaski Sheriff Greg Speck in their official capacities, as well as the Sheriff and County Attorney for McCreary County.

After the court ruled against him, Hatfield issued a statement saying that although he was disappointed in the ruling, local authorities would obey it as they review their options for an appeal.

He said the state court cases should not be affected “until we have either exhausted our appeals, or made the decision not to appeal.”

Chasing Down the NS OCS Train

July 16, 2019

Back in May Norfolk Southern ran its executive train on the Fort Wayne Line through Northeast Ohio.

I chased it to get some new views and as many old Pennsylvania Railroad position light signals as I could.

I also went out because NS has repainted and renumbered the engines so they wouldn’t conflict with new diesels they had bought.

My first photo location was the curved bridge in Massillon.  It’s probably the most famous spot on the line and a must have photo.

Next was Wooster but the train was going through just as I pulled up.  I then went to Lucas, which is just east of Mansfield.

After a crew change I got it passing under a signal bridge in town.

My final stop was North Robinson passing an intermediate signal.  This ended the chase as it was getting dark then.

Photographs by Todd Dillon


Definitely Not Black

November 8, 2018
Norfolk Southern No. 1800, the first of the SD70 rebuilds turned out by the NS shops in Roanoke, Virginia, led 25V today. I caught it at East Conway near Pittsburgh and at New Galilee, Pennsylvania

Photographs by Todd Dillon

Catching a Few Trains After Sunrise at Bort Road

October 6, 2015

NS train 205 emerges from the rising sunlight with a pair of Union Pacific wings on the nose.

NS train 205 emerges from the rising sunlight with a pair of Union Pacific wings on the nose.

The objective was to catch Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited at Bort Road in North East, Pennsylvania. That meant a very early morning departure from Cleveland.

We would have needed to leave early anyway because we were out to intercept the ferry move of the Nickel Plate Road 765 and we didn’t know what time it would be leaving Buffalo, New York. Better to be too early than too late. So Amtrak and anything that came our way was really just a bonus.

The Cleveland-Buffalo mainlines of Norfolk Southern and CSX are several yards apart at Bort Road. The road crosses over the former New York Central tracks on a single-lane wood bridge while it crosses the former Nickel Plate tracks at grade.

It is just one of the many charms and quirks that make Bort Road one of my favorite places to photograph.

The last time I was here, the bridge was closed. It has since been strengthened and re-opened. We were amazed at how much vehicle traffic there was during our two-hour stay.

We had scarcely parked and gotten settled when NS ran the 205 past us with a Union Pacific leader. It was followed in short order by the 27R, another stack train.

We would also later see the eastbound NS 316, which had a pair of Canadian Pacific units on the point. That would be the last train that we saw for the day in sunlight.

Under ordinary circumstances, CSX has the most trains past here in any 24-hour period. But on this day, it was a 3-3 tie that is actually generous to CSX because it counts Amtrak and a piece of maintenance of way equipment.

A tie replacement program had CSX track No. 2 out of service for several miles and trains were being fleeted by direction.

After Amtrak 48 ran, the dispatcher sent the Q004. All trains on CSX had to use Track No. 1 and get permission from a foreman to proceed through the work zone, which extended from North East into New York state.

For a few miles in North East trains were restricted to 25 miles per hour.

Norfolk Southern also had track gangs at work, but its traffic appeared to be less affected than was the case with CSX.

By the time that the Q004 arrived, a massive cloud bank had rolled in off Lake Erie. By now, though, it was time to move on to Westfield.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Not all of the well cars on the NS 205 were filled.

Not all of the well cars on the NS 205 were filled.

Trailers behind the containers on the 205.

Trailers behind the containers on the 205.

Here comes the 27R beneath Interstate 90.

Here comes the 27R beneath Interstate 90.

The 27R had a lone unit for motive power and, for now, a clear track ahead. The latter would soon change.

The 27R had a lone unit for motive power and, for now, a clear track ahead. The latter would soon change.

A cut of JB Hunt containers bring up the rear of NS train 27R.

A cut of JB Hunt containers bring up the rear of NS train 27R.

The first of a two-shot sequence of a lone piece of CSX MOW equipment moving on to its next assignment.

The first of a two-shot sequence of a lone piece of CSX MOW equipment moving on to its next assignment.

CSX Bort 02-x

A pair of Canadian Pacific locomotives lead the NS 316 at North East, Pennsylvania.

A pair of Canadian Pacific locomotives lead the NS 316 at North East, Pennsylvania.

NS train 316 was the last movement we saw in sunshine. We would see this train again more than an hour later and the skies were anything but blue.

NS train 316 was the last movement we saw in sunshine. We would see this train again more than an hour later and the skies were anything but blue. Note the bank of clouds gathering behind the front end of the train to the right.

The Q004 is accelerating out of a 25 mph speed restriction that ended about a mile north of here.

The Q004 is accelerating out of a 25 mph speed restriction that ended about a mile north of here.

The one-lane wood bridge carrying Bort Road over the CSX tracks has been strengthened since my last visit.

The one-lane wood bridge carrying Bort Road over the CSX tracks has been strengthened since my last visit.

More than a hour after seeing NS 316 at Bort Road we caught it again, this time in Westfeld. By now the sunshine had been replaced by rain and gloomy skies.

More than a hour after seeing NS 316 at Bort Road we caught it again, this time in Westfeld. By now the sunshine had been replaced by rain and gloomy skies.



N&W 611 to Make Test Run in North Carolina

May 21, 2015

In preparation for a test run today, Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 No. 611 ran under its own power on Wednesday into the roundhouse of the Spencer, North Carolina, Shops.

The Class J locomotive is to pull a train of eight cars over Norfolk Southern tracks on an 88-mile round-trip jaunt to Greensboro, North Carolina.

The 611 eased its way into the Bob Julian Roundhouse late Wednesday afternoon so that workers could take a look at its running gear from the inspection pit.

The roundhouse was built in 1924 by the Southern Railway and is now owned by the North Carolina Transportation Museum.

It is thought that the 611 is the largest steam locomotive ever to sit in the roundhouse. The largest Southern locomotives that would have used it were a 2-10-2 or a 4-8-2 during the railroad’s steam service era and Texas & Pacific 2-10-4 No. 610 during the excursion era of the 1970s.

Other chores executed by 611 crew members on Wednesday included adjusting the power reverse, touching up a scratch on the bullet nose, and painting slip marks on the driver tires as a way of checking for slippage of the tires while the engine is running.

On Saturday, the museum will host an all-day 611 send-off party. The 611 will leave on May 30 to return home to Roanoke, Virginia.

In This Case, Trail Equaled Triumph

December 23, 2014




Of the thousands of photographs that have been made of the Erie heritage locomotive of Norfolk Southern, the three appearing on this page will not rank among the best.

In fact, they are likely to rank in the bottom quartile because they violate the cardinal rule of photographing NS H units: Trail Equals Fail.

Not only is NS 1068 trailing it is the middle of three units. That is about as desirable as sitting in middle seat on a long flight between two burly men on each side of you.

No way would I post these images on

About the only thing these images have going for them is that they are sharp, exposed well, feature nice composition and were made on a sunny day.

But these images having something that no other images of NS 1068 have. They are mine. They are the first images I’ve ever made of the Erie heritage unit.

Until this past Monday, NS 1068 was one of three NS heritage units I had not photographed and one of two that I had not seen.

The closest I’ve come to seeing the Erie H unit was an HO model pulling a train on a layout at the Berea train show this past October.

I don’t know how many times the Erie H unit has been through Northeast Ohio, but it is several. On none of those occasions was I able to get out to photograph or even watch it.

I never lost hope that someday I’d be in the right place at the right time and/or be able to get there.

But having hope and seeing what you wish for come to fruition are not the same thing.

My breakthrough came in an email message this past Monday saying that the NS 1068 was at Toledo at 7:30 a.m. on the 206, an intermodal train that takes the ex-Nickel Plate route east of Cleveland to Buffalo, N.Y.

It was a rare sunny day and I had time to get out. So off to Olmsted Falls I went.

It took the 206 a while to show up. Around 11 a.m. I thought I heard a radio transmission that said in part “NS 206.”

I made my way to the other side of the tracks and waited.

Until I actually saw it I couldn’t know for sure that I hadn’t missed it.

Like so many things in life, you want something for a long time and it seems as though it will never come or is out of reach.

Then one day when you are not expecting it the opportunity comes along.

I kept glancing down the tracks until finally a headlight appeared. Minutes later I could see green between the two black NS units. I was not going to be denied.

Months of frustration vanished into thin air. I saw and photographed the Erie heritage unit.

I wasn’t expecting to get a great shot. There is a reason for the “trail equals fail” bromide and there wasn’t anything I could do in Olmsted Falls to transform an average photo into a stellar one short of taking extraordinary methods that would require resources that I don’t have.

The 206 was really moving so my glimpse of the NS 1068 was brief.  I only saw it through my camera’s viewfinder.

Of course, I now want to get this thing leading a train. But who knows when that opportunity will come if it comes at all.

But I now have the NS 1068 in my collection. That leaves just the Central of Georgia and Conrail H units on my list of “yet to photograph.”  I’ve seen the former, but not the latter.

Five of the 18 H units that I’ve photographed were trailing so I only sort of have them.

There will be more missed opportunities and frustration in the pursuit of the final two and getting all of the “trailing 5” onto the lead.

But that is for another day. I want to savor the sweet taste of success at finally corralling the Erie H unit.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders