Posts Tagged ‘Norfolk Southern’

Squires Extols Benefits of PTC

May 18, 2018

Positive train control is the backbone of technological advances that are coming to the railroad industry said Norfolk Southern CEO James A. Squires this week at a shippers’ conference.

James Squires

Speaking to the American Rail Shippers’ 2018 meeting in Chicago, Squires said technology and free trade will bring major changes to the rail industry.

“We are on the verge of an exciting new era of innovation,” Squires said. “PTC is a big new communications network we can use for a variety of purposes. We are only just beginning to discover the many uses of data collected through the PTC network.”

Squires also said that a big data wave is already rolling across the industry and it will result in automation that will evolve to reduce human error.“

Automation in transportation is perceived as controversial, yet it happened long ago in aviation. He said a railroad in Australia has already demonstrated the benefits of automation.

Facing a Dec. 31 deadline under federal law to install PTC and its components, Squires said NS has completed 78 percent of locomotive installations, 93 percent of wayside unit installations, 97 percent of radio tower installations, and 87 percent of employee training.

“We’re gonna get it done,” he said.

As for free trade, Squires said the United States must not turn away from the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he said creates jobs for American workers.

“NAFTA remains one of the most successful free trade agreements ever brokered by U.S. lawmakers,” Squires said, adding that international markets “must remain open for business.”

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One Moving, One Waiting

May 16, 2018

An eastbound CSX ethanol train moves right on through Berea while in the distance a Norfolk Southern trains waits for a favorable signal.

The image was made last January and although it was late in the month the ground was bereft of snow.

PUCO Approves Grade Crossing Projects

May 16, 2018

Norfolk Southern and CSX will each upgrade grade crossings with new warning devices following action by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

NS will install flashing lights and roadway gates at the Nelson Street and Church Street rail crossings in Clyde in Sandusky County on the Toledo District.

It will permanently close the crossing at Amanda Street.

CSX will install flashing lights and roadway gates at the Milton Road/Township Road 40 rail crossing in Milton Township in Wood County.

Federal funding channeled through the Ohio Rail Development Commission will used to pay for these projects.

NS Leasing More Locomotives, Reopening Hump Yard

May 16, 2018

Norfolk Southern has continued leasing locomotives to handle traffic surges and alleviate congestion that has occurred in particular in the southern reaches of its network.

The Class 1 carrier leased 90 locomotives in the first quarter and has added another 50 leased units to its fleet

NS CEO James Squires said the additional motive power will help handle traffic growth and enable the carrier to convert 120 older six-axle DC units to like-new AC-traction locomotives as part of its ongoing DC-to-AC conversion program.

It has also hired 400 new conductors to keep its train and engine crew headcount up.

Speaking to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2018 Transportation Conference, Squires said congestion in the South prompted NS to plan to reopen a hump yard in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Squires said the hump at DeButts Yard will be a hybrid operation, meaning it will be used to classify traffic for local customers. Block swapping will continue to be done in the yard as well.

In the past year NS has increased its building of large blocks of cars and swapping them en route to minimize handling and to speed shipments along.

NS had closed the DeButts hump in May 2017. Since them terminal dwell times in Chattanooga have risen sharply.

Dwell times in Chattanooga have increased from an average of 33.5 hours in the second quarter of 2017 to 49.5 hours in April and to 62.7 hours this month.

Squires did not say when the hump would reopen. It remains in place, but workers must re-install the retarders used in hump operations.

Dwell times have also risen in other yards in the South as have average train speeds.

Despite efforts NS has made since last year, the service metrics in that region have not improved.

“We’re holding our own against strong volume growth,” Squires says. “Volume on our network is at a 12-year high.”

The NS CEO said that humps allow resiliency and operational flexibility when traffic rises by absorbing surges in traffic and metering the flow of volume by holding cars until they are ready to be released to customers.

“Customer service is not where we want it to be,” Squires said. “I want our customers to feel fully satisfied with the service they are getting from us, and right now many of them don’t.”

Despite the problems it has experienced, Squires said NS had the strongest volume growth among the Class I railroads for the year to date and that demand for rail service is the strongest he’s ever seen.

Near Miss in the H Unit Lottery

May 15, 2018

National Train Day wasn’t too bad depending on where you were.

Railfans in Rochelle, Illinois, got treated to two of Union Pacific’s heritage units on the same train.

Closer to home something unusual started to unfold. The Lehigh Valley heritage unit was leading an eastbound intermodal spotted at Chesterton, Indiana, early that morning.

That’s isn’t so unusual. We typically get more than our share of heritage engines in Northeast Ohio on Norfolk Southern.

Also that morning the NS Honoring First Responders unit was leading an eastbound CSX freight. This turned out to be the S370 which takes the New Castle Sub through Akron.

As both were still hours away I settled in at Rootstown to railfan Norfolk Southern yet still be close enough to jump over to CSX if need be.

As the day progressed I relocated to Ravenna where the two lines cross on a bridge.

Checking on the progress of both trains, it was going to be close. I began hoping for an over and under meet which is difficult enough but with two special painted engines that’s like hitting the lottery.

Well, the Lehigh Valley arrived first and the 9-1-1 engine came within 10 minutes. I didn’t get an over and under but I did get the two engines at the same location. Not a bad day at all.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

Durfee ‘Pulls the Pin’ on Railroad Career

May 15, 2018

Akron Railroad Club member Roger Durfee recently announced his retirement from Norfolk Southern, bringing to a close a railroad career that begin in early 1998 on Conrail

Roger Durfee

In a post on his Facebook page, Durfee said he worked his last day last month, but his retirement – or what railroaders call “pulling the pin” – did not become final until earlier this month.

In his post, Durfee said he had tried to get hired by the Erie Lackawanna after graduating from his school in 1972, but his favorite railroad didn’t hire him.

He attended the University of Akron and landed a job with UPS. His railroad career began at a Conrail hiring session in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

He started with Conrail in Altoona, Pennsylvania, but eventually transferred to Cleveland.

When Conrail was divided by CSX and NS, he went with NS, where he worked as a conductor until his retirement.

In his recent years at NS, Durfee had enough seniority to hold a yard job or work as a flagman at construction sites.

“I was skeptical in that trying to turn a ‘hobby’ into an avocation doesn’t always work but in this case it was one of the best things I’ve ever done,” Durfee wrote on his Facebook page. “Was it just like any other job some days? You bet, but through it all I never lost the passion for the steel rails.”

Durfee, who is known for his photography work, said he’ll miss railroad work and the yard office camaraderie, but he won’t be completely away from railroading.

He expects to work someday as a volunteer for a tourist railroad, take a trip or two and unwind.

There has also been talk about his mining his vast photo collection to publish books.

That Western Look

May 12, 2018

I caught Norfolk Southern intermodal train 234 three times this spring in Bellevue or on the Sandusky District and all three times it had western railroad motive power.

Two of those times it had Union Pacific locomotives in the lead. The third time the train had BNSF motive power upfront.

Train 234 is an easy one to catch. It originates at Landers Yard in Chicago and follows the former Nickel Plate Road mainline to Bellevue where it turns south onto the Sandusky District.

It’s ultimate destination is Norfolk, Virginia. It tends to reach the Bellevue area in late morning to early afternoon.

In the top photograph, the 234 is on the move off the Fostoria District after getting a new crew. It is making its way through a set of crossovers to get to the connection to the Sandusky District, which can be seen in the lower left-hand corner.

In the middle image, the head end is about to cross Slaughterhouse Road. In the bottom image it is skirting a farm as it rounds the connection to head toward Bucyrus, Marion and Columbus.

NS CEO Squires Gives Upbeat View at Annual Meeting

May 12, 2018

Norfolk Southern CEO James A. Squires gave an upbeat assessment of the railroad’s business prospects this week during the company’s annual meeting in Norfolk, saying it is achieving key financial targets, improving operating efficiencies, and advancing sustainable growth.

“Our business is about movement, and I can tell you that we are moving forward,” Squires said. “The Norfolk Southern team’s continued success in executing our plan is driving long-term value, and that’s a good story for our shareholders.”

Among the achievements that Squires cited were a record best earnings per share and operating ratio last year and productivity savings of $150 million.

Squires said this progress came despite hurricanes and winter storms that disrupted rail operations.

He also singled out use of digital and remote-sensing technologies to enhance operating efficiencies and customer service, which will give NS a competitive edge.

“With them, we are helping customers better manage supply chains in this demanding era of e-commerce, and we are improving the way we monitor and manage things, from locomotive performance to rail wear,” Squires said.

Squires said operating and financial results in 2018 have been strong thus far with year-over-year growth in shipment volumes and revenue, and first quarter records in net income, earnings per share, and operating ratio.

“Favorable economic conditions and market trends point to continued business growth this year and Norfolk Southern is in an excellent position to grow, Squires said.

During the meeting, NS shareholders re-elected 12 directors, including Squires, for terms expiring in 2019.

They include Thomas D. Bell Jr., chairman of Mesa Capital Partners LLC; Wesley G. Bush, chairman and chief executive of Northrop Grumman Corporation; Daniel A. Carp, former chairman and chief executive of Eastman Kodak Company; Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., president of Purdue University; Marcela E. Donadio, former partner and Americas Oil & Gas Sector Leader of Ernst & Young LLP; Steven F. Leer, former chief executive and chairman of Arch Coal Inc.; Michael D. Lockhart, former chairman, president, and chief executive of Armstrong World Industries; Amy E. Miles, former chair and chief executive of Regal Entertainment Group; Martin H. Nesbitt, co-founder of The Vistria Group; Jennifer F. Scanlon, president and chief executive of USG Corporation; and John R. Thompson, former senior vice president and general manager of BestBuy.com LLC.

Out of the Ordinary Sighting in Alliance

May 9, 2018

It was about time to leave after spending a few hours on a Friday afternoon in Alliance.

But the 12V was coming and I decided to stay around for it because it was coming east on the Fort Wayne Line.

I had heard some chatter on the radio from the Cleveland Line dispatcher about a helper set tying on to the head end of the 12V and then going to Conway Yard near Pittsburgh.

The helper set was on the Alliance runner and I figured the 12V could cross the Cleveland Line at the diamond and continue east on the Fort Wayne Line.

Instead, the 12V made the turn and went from the Fort Wayne Line to the Cleveland Line and would be going to Conway by way of Bayard.

Leading the 12V were a pair of Union Pacific locomotives. It is not unheard of for foreign power to lead a train into Alliance.

If the train goes from the Fort Wayne Line to the Cleveland Line and out of town toward Bayard, there is no need for a lead unit with cab signals.

I can only recall seeing a train go around the connection from the Cleveland Line to the Fort Wayne Line and that was during an Akron Railroad Club outing in August 2005 when a work train did it.

Boats and an NS Heritage Unit

May 8, 2018

I thought on Sunday that I would intercept Norfolk Southern train 287 with the Central of Georgia Heritage unit at the Cuyahoga River Bridge.

While I was waiting, the Sam Laud, an ore boat, was heading upriver to the Mittal Steel mill.

As the Sam Laud was clearing a tugboat with a barge left just as the 287 came through.

Photographs by Todd Dillon