Posts Tagged ‘Norfolk Southern’

Working on the New Painesville Trestle

May 24, 2017

Preparation work has begun for construction of a new bridge to carry the Lake Erie District of Norfolk Southern over the Grand River in Painesville.

During a recent visit, construction workers were working below the current trestle and at track level on both sides of the bridge preparing the site.

It appears that the new bridge will be built just south of the existing structure.

Railfans watching the work and waiting for a train said that the NS police have been patrolling  the area and making sure that “visitors” don’t get on the property.

The project is expected to take two years to complete. Shown is westbound intermodal train train 23K.

NS to Close Chattanooga Hump Operation

May 23, 2017

Now it is Norfolk Southern that is closing hump operations. A Tennessee newspaper reported that hump operations will be ended at DeButts yard in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The jobs of 42 car repair employees, 23 conductors and engineers, and nine engineering track workers will be cut. The yard employs 495.

An NS spokesperson told the newspaper that the yard will remain in operation.

Just over a year ago, NS reduced hump operations at John Sevier Yard in Knoxville, Tennessee, which led to the loss of 135 jobs.

DeButts yard is named after after former Southern Railway President Harry A. deButts.

N&W 611 Trip Changed for May 29

May 22, 2017

The Virginia Museum of Transportation has changed the operating schedule for excursions on May 29 behind Norfolk & Western J-Class No. 611.

The trip between Roanoke and Lynchburg, Virginia, has been canceled in favor of a trip between Roanoke and Walton, Virginia, via Radford.

The new trip will depart Roanoke at 7 a.m. and return at about 12:30 p.m. It will be the first time that a 611-pulled excursion has departed Roanoke westbound in the morning.

Other scheduled excursions will operate as announced.

This includes excursions between Roanoke and Radford on May 27, 28 and 29, all of which have 1 p.m. departure times.

There will be Roanoke-Lynchburg trips on May 27 and May 28, leaving at 7 a.m. and returning at 12:30 p.m.

All excursions will use Norfolk Southern routes that were originally owned by the N&W.

NS Watching CSX Changes, But Also Working With its Customers to Improve its Service Metrics

May 19, 2017

When it was his turn to speak at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2017 Transportation Conference, Norfolk Southern CEO James Squires did not shy from acknowledging the elephant in the room.

Squires said NS is closely watching how chief competitor CSX is reshaping its operating plans. At the same time, NS has its own operating changes to make and it feels good about its performance thus far.

“We’re extremely focused on industry developments right now and watching what’s going on carefully, all the while focused on executing our plan,” Squires said.

He spoke to the conference shortly after CSX Chief Financial Officer Frank Lonegro raved about the improvements CSX has made in its operating metrics nearly two months since its new CEO, E. Hunter Harrison, came aboard and began implementing his precision scheduled railroading philosophy.

Squires said there is a difference between network performance and customer service.

The former measures such things as train speeds and terminal dwell time, which Squires said may be important to railroad managers.

“But our real focus these days is on customer-facing metrics,” he said, adding that NS is working with its customers to define joint service metrics.

He said this would include such things as getting containers off intermodal trains when promised and providing shipment consistency for merchandise shippers.

“What we’re trying to do with our customers is measure performance in the entire supply chain,” Squires said. “That’s different than merely measuring terminal-to-terminal train performance.”

Squires said NS might borrow some operating ideas from CSX if they makes sense.

“Operations best practices are operations best practices and we all operate out in the open,” he said. “I’ve been very clear with our operations team that if they see the other guy doing something smart, then don’t let your pride get in the way of the right thing for the customer. And by smart, I mean better use of the assets and good for the customer and the business long term. If those two things are present, then we’re all over it.”

One area where NS might follow CSX’s lead is with hump yards. NS has 10 hump yards and has closed three humps during the past two years.

“And others are under review. That may make sense, it may not,” Squires said.

NS is seeking to reduce its operating ratio below 65 percent by 2020, but the railroad’s board of directors has sought an acceleration of that plan by offering management incentives to hit operating ratio and earnings per share targets by 2018.

“We’re pushing as hard as we can,” Squires said.

NS CEO Squires Cites Improving Performance

May 12, 2017

Norfolk Southern is touting its improving performance through a “successful execution” of the railroad’s five-year strategic plan.

NS President and CEO James Squires said at the company’s annual meeting this week that 2016 was the first full year of the company’s strategic plan to operate a faster, lower-cost and more profitable railroad.

He said NS achieved an “all-time best” operating ratio of 68.9 percent, productivity savings of $250 million, near record levels of network service performance and record locomotive fuel efficiency.

“Through successful execution of our plan, we achieved our key first-year financial and operational targets and we are well on pace to achieve our 2020 performance goals,” Squires said in a statement.

During the first quarter of 2017, Squires said, NS set records in operating ratio, operations income and earnings per share (EPS).

Among the company’s 2020 goals are annual expense savings of more than $650 million, double-digit percentage compound annual growth rate in earnings per share and an operating ratio below 65 percent.

“We are driving growth by providing superior service that optimizes pricing and increases volume and top-line revenue,” Squires said. “We are relentlessly focused on meeting the unique needs of our customers – and we are measuring service excellence as they define it.”

Squires said that in the longer term service will be NS’ competitive differentiator and will propel shareholder value.

NS, CSX to Upgrade Railroad Crossings

May 10, 2017

CSX and Norfolk Southern have been authorized by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to improve grade crossings in Marion and Miami counties.

NS will upgrade the Bellefontaine Avenue/ State Route 739 grade crossing in the city of Marion, Marion County.

CSX will renovate the Piqua Sidney Road/ County Road 25A grade crossing in Piqua.

Both projects must be completed by Feb. 3, 2018, and will paid for with federal funding provided through the Ohio Rail Development Commission.

Pa. Short Line Move Draws Opposition

May 9, 2017

NIMBY opposition has arisen to a plan by a Pennsylvania short-line railroad to move its interchange point with Norfolk Southern.

The 6-5-mile Middletown & Hummelstown Railroad now interchanges with NS in Middletown, but wants to move that to Hummelstown.

Most of the opposition has centered on how the additional rail traffic will affect a major highway crossing just outside the town. Others are concerns about hazardous materials being shipped through the region.

More than 50 people attended a public meeting held recently to hear more information about the plan.

M&H officials said moving the interchange point would mean better service for its customers, all of which are in Middletown.

Railroad officials said the train to Hummelstown will operate two to three times a week and consist of a locomotive and three or four cars.

The M&H uses a former Reading branch line and also operates a tourist train during the summer.

IC, CP and an All Day Wait for NS 1074

May 6, 2017

Achieving my first objective of the day was easy. A Canadian National train with three Illinois Central locomotives showed up shortly after I arrived in Conneaut.

Last Sunday didn’t get off to a good start. I got up later than I expected or wanted.

I had toyed with the idea of leaving at 5 a.m. and trying to catch the eastbound Lake Shore Limited in Conneaut or North East, Pennsylvania.

But with the weather looking iffy, I didn’t want to get an early start only to have mostly cloudy skies. Catching No. 48 can wait for a better day.

Shortly before 7 a.m. someone posted on Heritageunits.com that the Lackawanna heritage locomotive of Norfolk Southern was leading the 14M at Wampum, Pennsylvania.

A quick online check of NS train symbols showed the 14M to be a Conway to Buffalo, New York, train.

How long would it take to get to Conneaut? I figured it to be a manifest freight that might work in Youngstown and even in Conneaut. Somewhere along the way it would need to change crews.

I didn’t get away until about 8:30. As I drove on I-90 past Carson Yard on the NS Youngstown Line south of Ashtabula I looked to see if the 14M was there. It wasn’t.

Once in Conneaut I headed north on Mill Street but nothing was sitting in the yard other than the usual yard power.

I got stopped at the CSX crossing by an eastbound ballast train. I parked in the lot for the Conneaut Historical Society across from the CSX Erie West Subdivision tracks.

I had three objectives for the day. Catch a train on Canadian National – the former Bessemer & Lake Erie – get the 14M and bag a pair of those Citirail units that CSX has been leasing of late.

There was no guarantee the Bessemer would be operating today from Conneaut, but there was  a good chance that it would and that it would have Illinois Central motive power.

The 14M looked like a good bet but bagging the Citirail units would be a long shot.

I set up my antenna, checked the frequencies on my scanner and waited. Less than two minutes later I heard a transmission on the B&LE channel. A train was working in the yard.

Over to the Main Street crossing I went. The B&LE channel got quiet for about 10 to 15 minutes before the switching moves resumed.

By now NS 316 had arrived in town and was working the yard. In the process they discovered they had a loaded car destined for Bellevue. Should they leave it in Conneaut or take it to Buffalo?

“Take it with you,” was the response of the Youngstown Line dispatcher.

It was getting to be late morning when Illinois Central 1034 and two sister IC units came out of the yard and poked their noses out beyond the NS trestle over Conneaut Creek.

The crew was wrapping up putting together its train. I was hoping to get the lead unit of the NS 316 crossing the trestle above IC 1034, but it was not to be.

The CN train had left town by the time the 316 ambled eastbound with Canadian Pacific No. 8917 on the point.

Under normal circumstances, I would have chased the CN train into Pennsylvania. But today I still had unfinished business. I returned to the historical society parking lot next to the CSX tracks.

It was about noon when I heard the Youngstown Line dispatcher make radio contact with the 14M.

The discussion occurred on the Youngstown Line frequency so 14M still had yet to reach Ashtabula.

Eastbound traffic on the former Nickel Plate Road mainline through Ashtabula was heavy, so the dispatcher agreed to recrew the 14M at Carson.

In the eastbound parade were intermodal trains 22K and 206 along with auto rack train 28N.

I didn’t bother to seek out the 22K or 206. Instead I focused on CSX for awhile.

An eastbound rail train came through around 12:30 p.m. that was followed by an eastbound stack train.

Shortly thereafter, a westbound monster freight, the Q393, slowly made its way through town with all 15,000 feet of it making all of 30 mph.

Welcome to the world of E. Hunter Harrison’s precision scheduled railroading.

I later heard the IH dispatcher tell another train he would do his best to get that train around the Q393, but it would be difficult.

Around 1:38 p.m. the Youngstown Line dispatcher talked with the 14M again. The new crew was on board and the train was on the move.

It must have moved slowly because by mid-afternoon it still wasn’t out of Ashtabula. It would follow train 310.

In the meantime, another story began playing out on NS. I had heard the dispatcher periodically tell the crew of westbound 287, an auto rack train, that it would be waiting in yet another siding for yet another eastbound.

The 287 must have been in and out of every siding between here and Buffalo.

Around 3 p.m. the dispatcher told the 287 it would have to go into the siding at PA for the 310 and the 14M. The latter was just now coming around the Buffalo connection in Ashtabula.

The 287 crew reminded the dispatcher it had been on duty since 5 a.m. But his brushed that aside saying they needed to take that up with the first trick dispatcher who was on duty “when that baby was born.”

I also learned that the 14M would be dropping off a locomotive at Conneaut. Less than 15 minutes later the dispatcher, his supervisor or the NS computer program that makes train dispatching decisions had a change of heart.

The 287 would come into Conneaut for a recrew. But the new crew would have the same experience the old crew old had, having to wait for opposing traffic. In this case it would mean waiting at the west end of Parish siding for the 310 and 14M.

It was getting to be late afternoon and I was getting impatient. Where was the 14M?

I decided to go look for it. I drove out to Parish Road on the west side of Conneaut, parked and walked up onto the bridge.

But there was no sign of the 14M and the signal at the west end of the yard for eastbounds was red. A CSX westbound passed by but I didn’t pay it much mind.

I noticed that the connecting track from NS to CSX, which I’ve been told was put in during the Conrail era and once hosted a detour of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited, is still in place, but overgrown with weeds.

NS has altered the switch so that it now appears to act as a derail yet it is no longer possible to move a train into the connection track to CSX.

As I waited for the 14M, a large bank of clouds moved in and covered the sun. It had been sun and clouds for most of the day, but the weather was taking a turn.

I was about to give up and go back into town when I heard a horn to the west. Maybe that was the 14M.

Soon a headlight popped up on the horizon. The signal at the west end of the yard was still red and the train was moving slowly.

A glimpse through my telephoto lens confirmed that the Lackawanna H unit was on the point.

The 14M stopped but it didn’t last long because the signal turned to an approach indication.

I got my photographs and drove back to the historical society. Shortly after arriving, the heavens opened and we had an intense, although brief, shower that produced small hail pellets.

I listened to the 14M on the radio as it worked in the Conneaut Yard. During the process I got a CSX westbound freight that was a mere 300 plus axles. I guess those cars wouldn’t fit on the Q393.

By now it was apparent I wasn’t going to get any Citirail units leading on CSX today.

The 14M finished its work and I drove over to the Main Street crossing of the B&LE to photograph NS 1074 on the trestle over Conneaut Creek.

It was nearly 5:30 p.m. and I needed to head for home. It had taken all day, but I had finally got a heritage unit, the first one I’ve photographed since January.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Looks like it is going to be a nice spring day.

IC 1034 and its train will be leaving town shortly.

Looking west down Main Street.

NS train 316 had a Canadian Pacific leader and a loaded car that was supposed to have been routed to Bellevue.

The W021 has a load of rail bound for some eastern work site.

The ATVs racing along side this eastbound CSX stack train were not part of the original plan for making this image.

Trying to show Q017 along with a pair of flowering trees.

The crew of NS train 287 was relieved to hear the dispatcher say there had been a change of plans and they would come into Conneaut sooner rather than later.

A black locomotive and a bright red garage.

At last the 14M is approaching Conneaut with the feature attraction of the day on NS.

Coming into Conneaut on an approach.

After the rain came a short by today’s CSX standards manifest freight.

The last image of the day was one I waited several hours to get.

NS To Use New Software for Crew Scheduling

May 4, 2017

Norfolk Southern said it is joining with software company PS Technology to develop a new train crew management and payroll system.

In a news release, NS said the goal of the automated system is to improve efficiency, costs and productivity.

“Incorporating PS Technology’s CrewPro software with our operating and data platforms will save costs and streamline Norfolk Southern’s train crew management and payroll processes,” said Fred Ehlers, NS vice president information technology.

Ehlers said that once the system is deployed it will expand the railroad’s digital capabilities to enhance interactions with train crews.

CrewPro will optimize train crew assignments by factoring in an employee’s work schedules and geographical operating credentials, federal regulations and labor contract rules, Ehlers said.

“In effect, the software analyzes data to come up with the best, most efficient match of crew and train,” he said.

The software also will manage payroll, taxi and lodging services, and vacation scheduling for 11,700 NS transportation employees in train and engine service.

NS to Have Loco at Toledo Train Day Event

May 3, 2017

The organizers of the Toledo National Train Day festival have confirmed that a Norfolk Southern locomotive will be on display on Saturday, but it is not clear yet if it will be a heritage unit, tribute unit or just a work-a-day locomotive.

What is certain is that Amtrak will not have any equipment at Toledo Central Union Terminal for the 10th edition of the event.

Amtrak last year announced it would no longer support National Train Day, but did send Phase I livery P42DC heritage locomotive No. 156 to the event along with a baggage car, Viewliner sleeper, café car and an Amfleet coach.

Watco Companies has agreed to display its Ann Arbor heritage unit at the festival.

Also present at Martin Luther King, Jr., Plaza, as the station is now called will be exhibits and programming that will include track car rides, operating model-train layouts, and a drawing for free Amtrak tickets aboard the Lake Shore Limited to a destination east of Toledo.

There are expected to be five model-train layouts and various vendors in the station’s former main concourse.

Operation Lifesaver will sponsor children’s rail-safety workshops and Boy Scouts who pre-register can participate in a railroading merit badge workshop.

Local food trucks and vendors will be on hand selling their wares.

The track car rides are being offered by the Ohio Valley Railcar organization.

The hours of the free event are 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the station at 415 Emerald Ave. Scheduled speakers during the opening ceremony will include:

  • Peter LeCody, chairman of the board for the National Association of Railroad Passengers in Washington.
  • Rick Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association in Chicago.
  • Ken Prendergast, executive director of All Aboard Ohio.
  • Eric Thurlow, commercial manager of the Watco/​Ann Arbor Railroad.
  • Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson.
  • Toledo City Councilman Peter Ujvagi.

Following the opening ceremony there will be roundtable discussion featuring many of the speakers.