Posts Tagged ‘Norfolk Southern’

Look Ma, No Wide Cabs

November 21, 2017

Wide cab locomotives are ubiquitous on North America’s Class 1 Railroads. It is not necessarily rare to see a motive power consist with one or more narrow-cab locomotives, but it is not common either.

Hence, I stood up and took notice when NS C80 showed up in Alliance with three narrow cab units. It was a light power move and I’m not sure why this power was in town.

The locomotives came in on Track 2, stopped west of the home signal for CP Alliance, and then moved onto the runner before vanishing off to the east.

After the crew tied the units down, it was picked up by a crew van whose driver had a tough time finding the crew even with the assistance of a GPS.

The individual units have some interesting history behind them. All three were on the Conrail motive power roster with two of them having been built for CR.

RP-E4C No. 712 was rebuilt by NS from a GP38 that was built for Penn Central. SD40E No. 6347 was rebuilt from an SD50 built for Conrail. In the middle of the consist was GP40-2 No. 3014.



NS Painesville Bridge to Open late Summer 2018

November 17, 2017

The new Norfolk Southern bridge over the Grand River in Painesville is expected to open in late summer 2018.

An NS spokesman told the News-Herald of Willoughby that when completed the single-track bridge will be 1,318 feet in length and supported by seven concrete support structures.

The existing bridge, which was built in 1905 by the Nickel Plate Road, has 14 support structures. That bridge was strengthened in the 1940s, but NS has decided it needs to be replaced.

Designed by HDR Engineering of Cincinnati, the bridge is being constructed by Great Lakes Construction of Hinckley.

Work began last March and trains on the NS line between Cleveland and Buffalo, New York, have continued to use the existing bridge, which sees 10 to 15 trains a day.

“Work crews now are constructing the foundations and concrete towers that will support the bridge,” said NS spokesman Jon Glass. “The bridge foundations are being drilled down to bedrock, a distance that ranges from 30 to 100 feet below ground surface.”

The foundations will have steel-reinforced concrete and the steel bridge spans that carry the track will be outfitted with a precast concrete deck. Crossties, rail, and ballast will be laid atop the concrete deck.

Glass said the new bridge will be less costly to maintain and have less of a footprint in the Grand River, thereby improving the flow of the river in that location.

NS has not disclosed how much the bridge will cost.

Traces of Conrail

November 15, 2017

Conrail ceased operating as an independent railroad on June 1, 1999, when its assets were acquired by Norfolk Southern and CSX.

There remains the Conrail shared assets in New Jersey and Detroit, but those are operated by the two railroads that carved up Conrail more than 18 years ago.

Traces of Conrail can be found here there with the most notable being rolling stock still wearing Conrail markings.

But Conrail can also be found in other ways as well. This marker is affixed to a grade crossing signal at Joppa Road west of Vermilion on the Chicago Line.

Maple Grove Park on the NS Cleveland Line

November 14, 2017

A couple of weeks ago, I had a few minutes to kill before leaving for work. I checked out former Akron Railroad Club member Richard Thompson’s Flickr page. A couple of photos on Rich’s page intrigued me.

The captions said they were in a park between Hudson and Macedonia. I quickly visited Google Maps to see if I could find the spot.

Indeed I did. Railroad west of Hudson on the Cleveland Line of Norfolk Southern between the Hines Hill and Twinsburg Road crossing is a hiking trail that comes up next to the tracks for about a quarter of a mile. The identifier on the park said “Maple Grove Park.”

I had to leave for work, so when I got home I googled “Maple Grove Park” and found it listed in the Hudson Park District’s site.

It features a hiking trail of just over a mile in a triangular shaped piece of land and not much else.

Since the trail is west of the tracks, I figured afternoon light would be best. On a recent sunny Sunday afternoon, I headed to the park to see what it was all about.

Maple Grove Park is located at the end of a dead end street called Farnham Way. I parked at the cul-de-sac at the end of the street and walked into the park.

The hiking trail is a loop and the shortest distance back to the tracks is to take the trail going to your left. It is about a quarter of a mile from your car to the tracks.

When I got to the tracks, I found the spot to be just as Rich had it in his photos.

A split-rail fence separates the trail from the tracks for a short distance then the trail dips down into a low area and rises back to track level before turning back into the woods.

Within 10 minutes of my arrival, NS ran two trains. The 24M went east and the 21Q went west.

It was now about 2:45 in the afternoon. The lighting was great for these trains, but the tall trees that surround the area combined with the low sun of October meant it wouldn’t last very much longer.

I was right and by 4 p.m. I gave up my vigil at the park because shadows now enveloped the area. Summertime may offer a longer window to shoot here. It didn’t help matters that NS did not have any more trains to run from 21Q’s passage until I left.

If you check out the park, eastbound trains can be heard calling the signal at CP 102. They do not blow for Twinsburg Road crossing; it is a quiet zone. Westbounds blow for Hines Hill Road, so you get some warning that they are coming.

The parking area for the park is on a cul-de-sac, with houses on both sides. Respect the residents’ property and we should be able to railfan at Maple Grove Park for many years to come.

Article by Marty Surdyk

NS to Serve Indiana Coal Loading Facility

November 11, 2017

Norfolk Southern will serve an Indiana coal loading facility in southwestern Indiana.

NS will build a spur to the truck-to-rail coal loading facility of Sunrise Coal, a subsidiary of Hallador Energy.

The terminal is located 6 miles west of Princeton  and when completed next spring will primarily serve utility coal plants that NS serves.

The Princeton Loop will be capable of unloading trucks, blending coal, loading 135-car unit trains in four hours and storing more than 4 million tons of coal.

The coal comes from the Illinois Basin and is used by the electric power generation industry.

1 If by Rail, 2 If by Boat

November 10, 2017

The Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern was quiet. That was not good news given that I was standing in Wendy Park alongside fellow Akron Railroad Club member Marty Surdyk hoping to get a photograph of a train crossing the Cuyahoga River in downtown Cleveland.

But we did catch an NS track car crossing the bridge at the same time that a boat with a small profile was cruising beneath the bridge. Most pleasure craft are now small enough to fit through here when the bridge is down.

One of those boats can be seen on the other side waiting for the bridge to be lifted.

Indiana Short Line Applying Heritage Liveries

November 9, 2017

An Indiana short-line railroad company is not done creating heritage units.

Indiana Boxcar Corporation has debuted an F8 wearing the colors and markings of Erie Mining, as well as a high-hood GP38 in Southern Railway inspired markings and a GP9R in a Grand Trunk Western style livery.

The F9 is being used on the Vermilion Valley Railroad, the GP38 has been assigned to the Chesapeake & Indiana Railroad and the GP9 went to the Camp Chase Railway in Columbus, Ohio.

Indiana Boxcar recently purchased three high-hood locomotives from Norfolk Southern and plans to keep them for now in their NS roster numbers of 5093, 5115, and 5152.

In time, all three of the units will wear the Southern-inspired livery and retain their controls for long-hood forward operation.

Making a Mad Dash For the Bridge

November 8, 2017

I’m told that federal regulations give commercial traffic priority on the Cuyahoga River at the Drawbridge carrying the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern over the waterway in Cleveland.

But during warm weather months, most boats on the river are pleasure craft and the bridge tender does not have to lift the bridge to accommodate them until rail traffic is out of the way.

Sept. 24 saw temperatures soar into lower 90s, breaking a record for the date of 88 degrees set in 2007.

Needless to say, the onset of summer weather in the early days of what is officially autumn has boaters out in droves.

But NS had trains to run and all the boaters could do was idle in place or run around in circles as four trains went by.  But once rail traffic cleared and the bridge began going up, the boaters didn’t wait for it to reach its peak position.

As soon as clearances allowed, the boaters began making a mad dash toward the lake or from the lake as seen here.

Is CSX Trying to Eat its Seed Corn?

November 6, 2017

Under normal circumstances, I don’t cover news beyond the states that surround Ohio, but there is a story out of Baltimore that is worth following because it may say much about what is going on with CSX these days.

Last week CSX said it would not contribute $145 million to a public-private partnership to enlarge the Howard Street Tunnel in Baltimore to accommodate double-stacked container trains.

When the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad built the tunnel 122 years ago, no one could have envisioned stack trains, let alone intermodal trains carrying containers and truck trailers.

Howard Street is just one example of the aging infrastructure in the Northeast transportation corridor between New York and Washington that needs to upgraded, rebuilt or replaced. It won’t be inexpensive.

You might think that CSX would be keen on modernizing the Howard Street Tunnel because it is an impediment to developing the I-95 corridor between New Jersey and Florida. And for a time it was.

Enlarging the Howard Street Tunnel would have benefited the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore, which has seen an increase in container traffic since the expansion of the Panama Canal.

Figures provided by the Maryland Port Administration show that the port handled a record 10.3 million tons of general freight and nearly 908,000 TEUs (20-foot-equivalent units) of containers in fiscal year 2017, which ended on June 30.

Then along came E. Hunter Harrison of precision scheduled railroading fame.

In announcing the decision to cancel its share of funding for enlarging Howard Street Tunnel, CSX put out a statement that referenced precision scheduled railroading – it has become a buzz phrase used as boilerplate in virtually every CSX statement and news release these days – and made a vague statement that the tunnel project “no longer justifies the level of investment required from CSX and our public partners at this time.”

But as Railway Age magazine pointed out, the statement did not fully explain why CSX decided to bail out on funding the Howard Street project.

When the magazine asked CSX to elaborate, its PR department replied with the same statement it had issued earlier. CSX is not going to explain itself any further.

Railway Age suggested two possible reasons for why CSX backed away from the Howard Street tunnel project.

One is that a fresh set of eyes in CSX management decided that the return on investment wasn’t worth $145 million because the volume of double-stack container traffic likely to use the tunnel would not be as high as the previous CSX management projected.

The other theory is that CSX management is dancing to the tune being played by hedge fund Mantle Ridge, which played a major role in getting Harrison installed as CEO last spring.

This theory is that CSX is diverting cash from infrastructure projects to a $1.5 billion stock buy-back program that will benefit Mantle Ridge, which acquired a sizable block of CSX stock in order to have enough clout to force the company to hire Harrison.

Media outlets have also been reporting that CSX has decided against building a new $270 million intermodal terminal near Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

Designed to develop intermodal business in the middle Atlantic region, the Carolina Connector was to be modeled after the Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal in North Baltimore, Ohio, which opened in 2010.

CSX has begun scaling back operations in North Baltimore and there are reports that it plans to end intermodal operations there on Nov. 11. Last year, North Baltimore handled nearly 30 percent of CSX’s intermodal traffic.

It is not clear yet what strategy CSX has in mind for its intermodal business other than it is abandoning the hub and spoke system of building traffic density at terminals such as North Baltimore and the proposed North Carolina facility.

Railway Age quoted railroad economist Jim Blaze as saying that without enlarging the Howard Street Tunnel, most of the talk about developing the I-95 corridor and diverting traffic from trucks is just talk.

“Stack trains are about 35 percent more efficient than single-level intermodal trains,” Blaze told Railway Age. “Without Baltimore as a double-stack route, other intermodal I-95 projects on CSX’s two-decade-long wish list are likely also now at risk. My questions: Where’s the traffic growth to come from for intermodal east of the Appalachian Mountains? What’s the back-up plan to grow the top line of the CSX income statement? This is a strategic economic issue.”

Blaze predicted that the “winners” of the CSX decision will be truckers as well as Norfolk Southern, which has been working for two decades to develop a double-stack route between the New York City/Northern New Jersey region and Florida.

The NS route is longer and more circuitous than the CSX route, but has clearance to handle stack trains all the way.

If the Mantle Ridge influence theory is true, it suggests that CSX is playing a game that has been played out many times before in corporate America.

In the 19th century, it was common for financiers to “milk” railroads for all the money they could before walking away and leaving the railroad a shadow of its former self.

That might not happen to CSX, but I also wonder if this is replay of another era not that long ago that was described in Rush Loving’s book, The Men Who Loved Trains.

That book described another CSX administration that was focused on expense control of its income statement and balance sheet assets to the detriment of infrastructure development.

It decided that short-term financial gain could be had by squeezing a little more life out of ancient signals and other infrastructure.

In this case, CSX has decided it can get by a little longer with a narrow tunnel in a key intermodal lane.

Rather than spending money to make money, CSX has decided to hoard and eat its seed corn.

PUCO OKs 3 Grade Crossing Projects

November 4, 2017

Grade crossings in Clinton, Hancock and Lake counties will be improved as a result of action by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

The Hancock County project is to be completed by Jan. 25, 2019, while the other projects are to be finished by July 25, 2018. The projects will be funded with federal money being provided through the Ohio Rail Development Commission.

In Lake County, the Grand River Railways will install lights and gates at the Williams Street crossing near the village of Grand River, and at the Richmond Road/State Route 283 crossing near Painesville in Lake County.

In Hancock County, Norfolk Southern will install traffic gates and lights at the Lima Avenue crossing in Findlay.

In Clinton County, the Indiana & Ohio Railway will install new lights and gates at the State Route 123/Broadway Street crossing in Blanchester.