Posts Tagged ‘Norfolk Southern’

Wabash Heritage Unit Makes Appearance

March 23, 2017

The Wabash H-unit made a pass through Cleveland on Tuesday leading the 21Q. I was lucky enough to be able to get off work in time to catch it. As luck would have it, 21Q was held up near where I had set up to photograph it. Both scenes are in Olmsted Falls, the first one at Milepost 196 (Lewis Road) and then near the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern depot.

Photographs by Roger Durfee

NS Cites 2016 Progress in Meeting Strategic Goals

March 23, 2017

Norfolk Southern released it 2016 annual report this week and claims to be well on its way to achieving goals that it hopes to reach by 2020.

NS CEO James Squires said in a news release that the railroad is in the midst of implementing a five-year strategic plan to streamline operations and drive profitability and growth.

Squires told NS stockholders that the railroad in 2016  met or exceeded its targets to lower operating costs, increase profitability and improve customer service.

In a news release, NS said that during 2016 it:

• Achieved an all-time best operating ratio of 68.9 percent.
• Reduced expenses in all areas of operations to generate $250 million worth of savings, surpassing a targeted $130 million.
• Increased income from railway operations and net income by 7 percent each, driven by an 11 percent decrease in operating costs.
• Disposed of 1,000 miles of secondary rail lines.

Squires said NS also made progress in its efforts to improve locomotive fuel-efficiency, reliability and emissions reduction continued as a cornerstone of the company’s sustainability and business strategy, he said.

NS is seeking to be “more focused than ever on services that will help convert freight from highway to rail,” Squires said.

This means focusing on customer-service initiatives that range from modernizing its e-commerce platforms to developing shared performance indicators for measuring service.

“We are changing the way we do business in order to meet and exceed our customers’ expectations and to drive superior value creation for shareholders,” Squires said.

NS Safety Train to Visit Canton, Columbus

March 22, 2017

The Norfolk Southern safety train will visit 23 cities this year including Canton and Columbus.

The train is part of the railroad’s Operation Awareness & Response program that provides free training to first responders about how to respond to a railroad incident.

The train will begin its 2017 travels on March 21 in Hagerstown, Maryland, and  visit cities in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina.

The schedule includes visits to Cresson, Pennsylvania, on April 7-9; Canton on June 15-17; South Bend, Indiana, on June 27-29; Columbus on July 11-13; and Louisville, Kentucky, on July 25-27.

The safety train is pulled by a GP38-2 in a first responders livery that honors fire, police and emergency personnel.

The consist includes two boxcars converted into 30-seat classrooms; four styles of tank cars: DOT-105, DOT-111, DOT-112, and DOT-117; and two 89-foot flatcars used to transport intermodal containers.

Emergency personnel receive four-hour classroom training sessions as well as hands-on training inside a locomotive and on rail cars.

NS said in a news release that it provided training in 2016 for about 5,600 emergency responders, government officials and others in 18 states.

Steel Construction Begins on New NS Bridge

March 22, 2017

In a progress report Norfolk Southern said that steel construction has begun on the main arch span of the Portageville Rail Bridge that crosses the Genesee River in Letchworth State Park in Portageville, New York.

Replacement of the 152-year-old iconic structure that has long captivated railroad photographers began in 2015 and thus far has focused on building the foundations and approach piers.

Work also has been done in blasting the gorge walls.

In a news release, the engineering firm Modjeski and Masters described the project as one of the largest to be undertaken by NS.

The bridge is located on the Southern Tier Line of the former Erie Railroad between Buffalo and Binghamton, New York.

NS has said that the 820-foot steel viaduct no longer is adequate for heavy freight traffic.

“The existing railroad bridge has defined the viewshed of the gorge and waterfalls since 1875,” said project manager Kevin Johns. “The erection of the first steel members of the new arch bridge marks the start of what will be the new viewshed for at least the next 100 years.”

Bellevue Residents Sue NS Over Noise

March 21, 2017

Two Bellevue residents think Norfolk Southern is making too much noise and they’ve gone to court to try to stop it.

They filed a class-action lawsuit against NS on March 16 seeking to stop what the suit described as a piercing noise created by the hump at the Moorman Yard.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit live near the yard and cited what they termed an “unbearable” noise from the hump retarders at all hours of the day.

The suit said that NS failed to include any noise abatement procedures when it expanded the yard two years ago.

The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, said Federal Railroad Administration regulations limited noise from retarders to 83 decibels.

The noise from the retarders in the NS yard is said in the suit to exceed 100 decibels.

“Residents are unable to hold conversations, open windows or hear their televisions,” the lawsuit stated. “This has resulted in a nuisance, which has, in turn, decreased property values as well as in stress, adverse health impacts and loss of the enjoyment of life. None of this is necessary because Norfolk Southern has available to it sound-dampening (sic) options at a fraction of the cost of its investment.”

The plaintiffs in the case are being represented by the law firm of Murray & Murray. NS declined to comment on the suit.

EOT at End of the Day

March 17, 2017

It was already starting to get dark when I arrived in Olmsted Falls. It has been an unusually warm January day and traffic on the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern was unusually heavy. Almost all of it was going westbound.

What had brought me there was the promise of seeing the Lehigh Valley heritage unit. I had seen it just once before, back in 2012, in Olmsted Falls. But it had been trailing.

I got the LV H unit and waited for the train to pass. There was some sunset color to the west so I decided to see what I could do with it.

To my surprise and delight, I caught the blinking red light of the EOT just at the right time.

It created a starburst effect that provided a nice contrast with the shadows of the train against the last light of day.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

Funding Hurdles Face Expanded Pa. Service

March 6, 2017

Although they continue to push for expanded Amtrak service, public officials in western Pennsylvania acknowledge that finding money for that service is a significant challenge.

“You’ve got a tight budget, so any additional money to expand rail service is tough to come by,” said State Rep. Bryan Babin, a former member of the Pennsylvania House Transportation Committee.

pennsylvaniaBabin said the proposed service expansion is likely to take time to realize because other projects are high on the state’s list of priorities.

He said the potential hurdles include the state budget, cooperation with Amtrak and negotiations with Norfolk Southern, which own the tracks used by the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.

The state-funded Pennsylvanian is the only intercity rail service on the NS line between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Support for additional service has been particularly strong in the Johnstown area. Officials from Cambria County and Johnstown testified last year in favor of the service at a meeting of the Pennsylvania House Transportation Committee.

Support has also come from public officials in Pittsburgh and Altoona.

Babin said that other projects are higher on the state’s list of priorities so, “It’s going to be a while.”

Pennsylvanian Congressman Bill Shuster has also expressed support for the expansion.

“I believe these new investments will bring new economic growth to our communities,” said Shuster, who is chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “Passenger rail service provides an important link for southwestern Pennsylvania to the rest of the country, and anytime there’s a market demand for new service, it’s something that should be looked at.”

Babin observed that Pennsylvania is operating at a deficit and the legislature is looking at the possibilities of raising taxes, cutting spending and closing loopholes in the state budget.

However, he noted that Pennsylvania spends $18 million per year on passenger rail of which $17 million goes to support trains in the eastern third of the state.

“We need to do the same thing if we’re going to connect the whole state,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s the biggest transportation issue for the western part of the state.”

House Transportation Committee Chairman state Rep. John Taylor, of Philadelphia, said he is still committed to expanding rail service in the western part of the state.

“It’s just a matter of putting the pieces together,” said Eric Bugaile, the committee’s executive director. That would mean reaching an agreement among PennDOT, Amtrak and Norfolk Southern officials on the same page.

Aside from state budget challenges, another sticking point is the fact that the NS route to be used by the service is a busy freight corridor.

NS spokesman David Pidgeon said any expanded Amtrak service should not adversely affect NS freight customers.

Pidgeon said NS was amendable to what he termed “viable plans” for expansion, which would take the carrier’s concerns into account.

Amtrak spokesman Mike Tolbert said the carrier continues to work with PennDOT “to provide a thorough evaluation of additional service between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. Due to the nature of these requests, which often include multiple stakeholders, extensive research and negotiations, they can require a significant amount of time to finalize.”

How Soon We Forget What Might Have Been

March 2, 2017

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It was about this time a year ago that E. Hunter Harrison and Canadian Pacific were making a play to acquire Norfolk Southern.

Harrison came at NS hard, but came up short. The NS board of directors opposed the merger and Harrison ran into a buzz saw of opposition from shippers, labor unions and political figures.

The time was not ripe to institute what some see coming as the final round of Class 1 mergers in North America.

Since failing to acquire NS, Harrison has retired (again) and the financier Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital has also left the CP board.

Now Harrison has teamed up with hedge fund Mantle Ridge to try to shakeup CSX management and install Harrison  as CEO.

While railfanning in Berea back in November I photographed a CP unit trailing on a westbound NS train as a reminder of what might have been had Harrison prevailed.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

Railroads Want W.Va. Taxi Law Modified

March 2, 2017

Railroaders and their employers are taking aim at a West Virginia law that mandates that  only taxi companies regulated by the state’s Public Service Commission may haul train crews.

West VirginiaCSX, Norfolk Southern and railroad labor unions want the state to allow contractors to do the work of moving crews when they are deadheading.

CSX vice president Randy Cheetham told a state legislative committee that railroad crews have safety concerns due to the condition of the taxis and noted that the Mountain State is the only one of 23 served by CSX that does not allow the railroad to contract with companies to provide transportation for its employees.

The legislation that the railroads and union are supporting was passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee this week.

Cheetham said that his company’s contract carriers have newer and safer vehicles.

But a Charleston taxi company, C&H Taxi, said that although transporting railroad crews is just one part of its business, it is the primary revenue for some smaller companies that would lose money if the bill is approved.

Crossing the Beaver River

February 23, 2017

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The Fort Wayne Line of Norfolk Southern crosses the Beaver River in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.

For those unfamiliar with the area, this is north of Conway Yard near Pittsburgh and even north of Rochester, Pennsylvania.

For those who may be wondering what motive power was pulling this westbound intermodal train, if you regularly follow this blog  you’ve seen it already.

It was the Pennsylvania Railroad heritage unit. Now here is the rest of the train crossing the river.

Photographs by Craig Sanders