Posts Tagged ‘Norfolk Southern’

NS Gets Chemical Shippers Award

May 2, 2018

Norfolk Southern has been awarded the Responsible Care® Partner of the Year Award for Class 1 railroads by the American Chemistry Council.

In a news release, the carrier said the award was for an exemplary performance and safety record in transporting chemicals.

NS was one of the three companies and the only freight railroad to receive the award, which is given to companies involved in the distribution, transportation, storage, use, treatment, disposal, and sales and marketing of chemicals.

Since 1996, NS has participated in the voluntary Responsible Care Partner program, which is the chemical industry’s environmental, health, safety and security performance initiative.

As a program participant, NS must achieve third-party certification of its business management systems every three years, which includes reviews of the railroad’s safety, environmental stewardship and security.

“Our partnership with the council and its member shippers represents a strong commitment across business sectors to ensure the safety and security of our employees, communities and environment while delivering the quality service that our customers expect,” said NS Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Mike Wheeler in a statement.

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Toledo National Train Day is May 5

May 1, 2018

The Ann Arbor Railroad and Norfolk Southern might have equipment displays at this year’s National Train Day event in Toledo on Saturday (May 5).

In an announcement on Facebook, the event organizers said NS and AA participation is contingent on traffic levels at the time of the event.

Although NS did not send a locomotive to the event last year, it has sent in the past heritage and special interest locomotives.

The event will be open between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. and feature more than 40 exhibitors and such activities as handcar and motorcar rides, operating model-train layouts, display booths and other train-themed activities.

Clowns and musicians will perform, there will be children’s activities and food will be available.

A passenger-train advocate from Maine will be the featured guest speaker. Richard Rudolph retired in 1996 as an academic dean at the University of Massachusetts.

He was a founding member and chairman of Amtrak’s Customer Service Committee and is chairman of the Rail Users’ Network, a nationwide advocacy organization.

Rudolph and other local rail advocates and public officials will participate in a panel discussion.

“The goal is to increase community awareness of the critical role of passenger and freight rail in our multimodal transportation system,” event organizers said in a statement.

Although there will be no displays of passenger train equipment, Amtrak tickets will be among the event’s raffle prizes.

This will be the 11th National Train Day in Toledo, which often draws 6,000 to 8,000 attendees. Admission and parking are free, with overflow parking and a free shuttle service provided at the Owens Corning lot.

Ford Action Not Expected to Affect Railroads

April 28, 2018

A decision by Ford Motor Company to end production of most sedans in North America is not expected to have a major affect on Class 1 railroads Trains magazine reported.

Ford plans to stop making  the Fusion, Fiesta, Taurus, and C-Max at assembly plants in the United States and Mexico, but will make other vehicles at those factories.

The automaker based in Dearborn, Michigan, said the models being ended sold  315,400 vehicles last year of the 2.03 million vehicles it sold in North America.

Ford plans to focus more on its more profitable sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks, most notably those in the F series.

Trains said the Taurus is built at the Chicago Assembly Plant served by Norfolk Southern. Ford will begin building the 2020 Lincoln Aviator SUV at the plant.

The C-Max is built at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, jointly served by NS and CSX Transportation. Ford also produces the Focus at the Michigan plant.

The Fusion, which is the best-selling model being discontinued, is built at an assembly and stamping plant in Hermosillo, Mexico, which is served by Kansas City Southern.

KCS also serves the Cuautitlan Stamping and Assembly Plant in Mexico, which churns out the Fiesta.

After phasing out these models, Ford will build just two cars, the Mustang and the Focus, which will debut as a new crossover dubbed the Focus Active.

NS Sets 4 Quarterly Financial Records

April 26, 2018

Norfolk Southern said on Wednesday that it set four quarterly financial records in the first quarter of 2018.

The records included a new first quarter high or low for earnings per share at $1.93, up 30 percent year over year; net income at $552 million, up 27 percent; income from operations at $835 million, up 10 percent; and the operating ratio at 69.3, down 1.3 points.

In a news release, NS said that a lower effective income tax rate helped boost net income.

Railway operating revenue rose 6 percent to $2.7 billion and volume increased 3 percent to 1.9 million units compared with first-quarter 2017 results. The operating ratio was 69.3 percent, also a first-quarter record.

Intermodal revenue jumped 19 percent to a record $678 million and volume rose 8 percent to 1 million units.

NS said its intermodal business benefited from tightening truck capacity, rising truck prices, ongoing e-commerce growth and increasing rail/intermodal rates.

Coal revenue increased 3 percent to $343 million, although volume declined 4 percent to 249,100 units, and merchandise revenue inched up 1 percent to $1.6 billion while volume in the sector decreased 2 percent to 606,100 units.

Railway operating expenses increased by 4 percent to $64 million year over year due to $1.9 billion as higher fuel prices and increased costs associated with lower network velocity were offset by efficiency gains.

Fuel costs jumped 25 percent to $266 million as the price for a gallon of diesel climbed 21 percent in the quarter.

“We are pleased with the continued improvement in our financial performance and the growth in our business,” said NS Chairman, President and CEO James Squires in a statement. “We are focused on improving service for our customers to position us for future growth and efficiency that will benefit both our customers and shareholders.”

Squires said the outlook for the remainder of 2018 is promising.

“We are increasing our expected annual share repurchases to $1.5 billion, confident that we will deliver strong financial performance,” Squires said.

Chasing Steam, Amtrak, NS in Pennsylvania

April 25, 2018

Here are a few are a few highlights from this past weekend. Jeff [Troutman] and myself left about 2:30 p.m. on Friday. Since I drove I made reservations for a Microtel in Clarion, Pennsylvania. We got there about 5:15 p.m.

I wanted to be on the road by 7 a.m. Saturday so we would get to Summerhill to get Amtrak No. 42 since it would depart Johnstown at 9:03 a.m.

Breakfast started at 6:30 a.m., which was perfect. But ice and fogged up windows from overnight delayed our departure by 20 minutes.

Jeff kept checking Julie as we were heading on Pennsylvania Route 219. We were on the far bridge and guess who was about to go under us.

I knew it was P42DC engine No. 86 on head end. And exactly like Agent 86 Maxwell Smart we missed it by that much.

As you can see in photo No. 1 the lighting was perfect of the empty tracks.

Photo No. 2 is of the Everett steam train at Brook Mills on the line heading to Roaring Spring.

Photo No. 3 is at Roaring Spring. There are two photo lines including the road crossing where I shot last September with the station and the Pennsylvania Railroad caboose.

Where I am and looking down to my right I was amazed at what I saw that I never noticed twice last September and last May: A double semaphore turned with slight foliage somewhat hiding it.

Photo 5 shows Everett No. 11 on the return trip from Martinsburg at Route 36 just southeast of Roaring Spring.

After eating lunch we went to Tyrone, Pennsylvania, where we photographed the cabooses located on what used to be the east leg of the wye.

The beautiful stone memorial is in a park between the cabooses and the station.

Saturday afternoon found us in Fostoria, Pennsylvania, along the Pittsburgh Line of Norfolk Southern. This time Amtrak did not elude us.

On Sunday morning it was back to Fostoria to catch Amtrak No. 42 passing beneath the PRR position light signals.

We then spent a little over three hours at Horseshoe Curve before heading home. We saw eight trains and two helper movements.

What was unusual was that the first three trains were two eastbound loaded coal hoppers and one empty hopper train.

Again, the weather was perfect and it was tough to leave.

Article and Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

 

 

Could Brightline be Duplicated in Ohio?

April 23, 2018

The launch of the privately-funded Brightline intercity rail passenger service in Florida has some thinking about visualizing a similar service in Ohio.

Brightline, which currently operates between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach but expects to begin service soon to Miami and, longer term, to Orlando, was the subject of the lead article in Ohio Passenger Rail News, the publication of All Aboard Ohio.

AAO said it would study the concept and its applicability to Ohio, but acknowledged that a private operator would need to step forward. It is not clear if that is likely to happen.

Although much has been made about how Brightline is a private company that does not receive public funding to cover its operating expenses as does Amtrak, AAO noted that Brightline is a public-private venture.

What makes Brightline different, though, is that as a private company it laid out its vision and business plan and then public entities helped it.

Brightline benefited from millions in state and local funds plus a $1 billion federal loan.

But what makes Brightline move is that it is as much a real estate venture as it is a transportation mode.

The genesis of Brightline began with the Florida East Coast Railway establishing a subsidiary, All Aboard Florida, which operates under the Brightline trade name.

FEC owns a freight line between Miami and Orlando that hosts Brightline trains. However, Brightline plans to build a new 40-mile stretch of high-speed track west of Cocoa, Florida, on a state-granted right of way to serve the Orlando airport.

Based on cell-phone data, Brightline projects that 500 million trips are made each year between South Florida and Orlando.

The company said if it can divert 2, 3, 4 or 5 percent of that traffic off the highways it will make a meaningful difference.

Brightline didn’t always have a clear block to implement its service, which began in January.

It was bombarded by attempts by public officials, NIMBYs and Astroturf groups seeking to derail it before it got started.

It is still fighting lawsuits from opponents of the Orlando extension.

Although the FEC has since been sold to Mexican industrial conglomerate Grupo Mexico, All Aboard Florida still has access to FEC tracks and has real estate to market.

The concept of pairing real estate development with public transportation is not limited to Florida. Numerous studies  and articles have described how public transportation arteries have stimulated commercial and residential development.

Brightline Chief Operating Officer Patrick Goddard told The Blade of Toledo that decades of studies showed the potential for rail service in a region that is experiencing population growth and is hemmed in by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Everglades on the other.

“There’s nowhere to go and no room for more roads,” Goddard said.

That is not, though, the situation in Ohio. Nonetheless, Goodard said the potential for a Brightline-type service exists in “any city pairs that are too far to drive and too short to fly.”

Goodard sees a high level of interest in trying the Brightline concept elsewhere where “there’s the possibility for government to intercede for mobility in the region.”

Efforts to institute corridor rail service in Ohio have fallen short.

In 1982 Ohio voters rejected a penny increase in the state sales tax to pay for development of a high-speed rail program in the state.

In 2010, Ohio won $400 million in federal funding for capital outlays associated with developing rail service in the Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Corridor.

The funding would have paid for track, signals, station construction and the purchase of train sets.

After defeating Gov. Ted Strickland in the November 2010 gubernatorial election, John Kasich killed the project and returned the money to the federal government.

Kasich had actively campaigned against the 3-C corridor trains, saying he didn’t want to see the state underwriting the operating costs of the service.

The same criticism was leveled in earlier years against other proposals that never came to fruition that were promoted by the Ohio Rail Development Commission and Ohio Department of Transportation to launch 3-C service, including a proposal in April 1998 to mitigate traffic congestion on Interstate 71 between Cleveland and Columbus during a 10-year rebuilding of the highway.

At the same time that Ohio was moving forward with the 3-C Quick Start project under Gov. Strickland, Florida was also planning an intrastate rail network linking Miami with Tampa vial Orlando and received federal funds to help develop it.

But newly-elected Gov. Rick Scott killed the project and returned the federal money just as Kasich had done in Ohio.

Like Kasich, Scott didn’t want the state paying for the operating costs of the service.

All of this has left Ohio with just three intercity trains, all of which operate through the state primarily between midnight and 7 a.m.

Until Brightline came along, Florida was served by two New York-Miami Amtrak trains, and the Auto Train operating between Lorton, Virginia, and Sanford, Florida.

But the Sunshine State also had commuter rail service in Miami and a new service in Orlando.

AAO sees Brightline as a potential template to kick start the long-stalled efforts to revive 3-C and promote development of other routes.

“Brightline takes us back to the past in some ways  . . . [to] the notion that transportation and real estate go hand-in-hand,” said AAO CEO Ken Prendergast in an interview with The Blade. “It has changed the dialogue about how passenger rail in this country should be going forward.”

Prendergast said transit-oriented development in several cities should encourage the belief that trains and real estate can grow symbiotically in Ohio.

He said that some “pretty remarkable development” is occurring near a bus rapid-transit corridor in Columbus, along the HealthLine busway in Cleveland, and next to the Cleveland RTA Blue Line rail station in Shaker Heights at the site of the former Van Aken shopping center.

Of course, Brightline benefited from being birthed by a railroad. There is little likelihood that either Norfolk Southern or CSX, which make up large segments of the 3-C corridor, would be as receptive to intercity rail passenger service as is the FEC.

Closer to Ohio, the Michigan Department of Transportation acquired from NS the route used by Amtrak’s Chicago-Detroit Wolverine Service trains.

MDOT owns the tracks between Dearborn and Kalamazoo while Amtrak owns the rails between Kalamazoo and Porter, Indiana.

The two agencies have been cooperating in the past few years to upgrade the line for higher speed service with a top speed of 110 mph.

Michigan’s efforts could benefit Ohio, Prendergast said, by creating a dedicated passenger corridor between Detroit and Toledo

CSX, Norfolk Southern and Canadian National have parallel routes between the two cities and consolidation of those routes would leave a line available for passenger use.

Prendergast said it is unlikely that NS would agree to allow additional passenger trains between Cleveland and Toledo so a new line for passenger trains would be needed for high-speed rail service.

He speculated that this would be an opportunity for the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission to get involved, “now that it has the legal authority to do things other than highways along the highway corridor.”

AAO also sees potential for combining various existing underused rail lines that railroads might be willing to sell that could lead to a Columbus-Fort Wayne-Chicago corridor.

Prendergast said ORDC is soliciting public comments for a 2020 update to an Ohio rail plan, but has no funds have been set aside for passenger train startup projects.

ORDC created a plan in 2002 that it updated in 2007 for a statewide passenger rail network known as the Ohio Hub. It has never gotten beyond paper and public hearings.

As AAO looks for a private sector initiative to materialize in Ohio, Prendergast warned not to expect any help from Amtrak, which he said “only reacts in response” the efforts of others.

Aside from questions of whether a private developer is interested in a Brightline style project in Ohio – and that is a big IF – there is also the question of whether Ohio units of government would respond as they did in Florida.

“If they, or someone like Brightline, came in with a similar message, I think it would resonate,” Prendergast said.

Planned Pennsylvania Excursion Canceled

April 23, 2018

A planned excursion train in Pennsylvania in conjunction with the 50th anniversary celebration of the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society has been canceled, a victim of a recent Amtrak policy change banning most special moves and charters.

The train, which would have featured the PRR E8A passenger locomotives and former Pennsy passenger cars owned by Bennett Levin, had initially been approved by Amtrak.

But Levin received a phone call from an Amtrak official saying Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson had ordered an end to special trains.

Although the Amtrak policy change had allowed for exceptions in narrow circumstances, a recent clarification of the policy indicated that Amtrak will not approve excursions that operate on lines not used by the carrier’s scheduled trains.

The PRRT&HS excursion was to operate from Philadelphia to Altoona, Pennsylvania, on May 9 via the Buffalo Line of Norfolk Southern and the Nittany & Bald Eagle short line railroad using former PRR routes via Williamsport and Tyrone.

Levin had submitted a detailed request to Amtrak in December to operate the excursion and he agreed to Amtrak’s price for the trip in early February.

As late as early April Amtrak was still agreeing to operate the trip before backing out in mid April.

NS Honors 52 Chemical Shippers

April 20, 2018

Norfolk Southern recognized 52 chemical shippers with its 2017 Thoroughbred Chemical Safety Award for safely handling rail-shipped products.

The shippers who received the award collectively shipped 153,213 carloads of chemical products regulated as hazardous material on NS rail lines without incident.

In a news release, NS said it began the awards in 1995 to recognize chemical manufacturers and plants that ship 1,000 carloads or more of hazardous products without a single incident.

Forty-five corporations and seven plants attained the benchmark for 2017. Six of these customers shipped more than 5,000 carloads each.

In 2017, hazardous materials shipped by customers on NS lines included industrial chemicals used to manufacture consumer goods, crude petroleum, ethanol and fertilizers.

NS usually moves these products in tank cars owned or leased by customers, who are responsible for maintaining the cars and ensuring that valves and caps and other components are in good working condition and properly secured for transit.

New NS Train Originates on the W&LE

April 19, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

During an outing to Bellevue earlier this spring I got my first look at a new NS train that originates on the Wheeling & Lake Erie.

NS train 11Q reportedly begins its journey to Eklhart, Indiana, being made up in the yard at Hartland.

Reportedly, some of the freight being hauled by the train had been been turned over to CSX by the Wheeling before CSX service became erratic last year.

It has also been reported that the new train enables the two railroads to bypass Moorman Yard in Bellevue.

The train arrives in Bellevue on the Lake Shore Connection and halts short of Monroe Street. The W&LE power is cut off and moved away from the train.

Some time later another set of motive power comes out of the yard operating light through the mini plant and backs onto the train.

A separate crew is called to take the 11Q west of Bellevue on the former Nickel Plate Road mainline which it uses as far west as Claypool, Indiana.

There the 11Q makes a right turn and runs up the Marion Branch to Goshen, Indiana, where the Marion Branch joins the Chicago Line for the final miles into Elkhart.

In the top photo, the motive power set is coming west past the former Wheeling Tower. It is shown in the next image backing down the Lake Shore Connection toward the waiting train.

In the third image the motive power has coupled to its train and is awaiting a road crew to come out. A van will take the crew that maneuvered the units onto the train back to Moorman Yard.

In the final image, the 11Q has moved onto the New Haven Connection to reach the Fostoria District, but has halted to wait for two other trains to clear.

NS Lawsuit is About Playing for Rules, Not Money

April 14, 2018

Norfolk Southern fired a warning shot last week that it wanted all of its operating employees to hear.

It filed a lawsuit against two crew members who were operating a train in Georgetown, Kentucky, last March that collided with another NS train.

The suit, filed in a federal district court, alleges that the engineer and conductor were negligent in their operation of their train.

When I read about the lawsuit I was reminded of something I learned in an introduction of the legal system class during my undergraduate days. “You can’t get blood from a turnip,” said professor Charles Hollister.

As any trial lawyer knows, winning a judgment is one thing, collecting it can be quite another.

The lawyers in the NS legal department know this. Even if they prevail in the suit against the two crew members, NS lawyers know the company will see very little, if any, of the judgment.

Class 1 railroad operating employees may be paid well, but they don’t have the resources to be able to cover the cost of the damage that NS sustained in that head-on crash.

The defendant crew members might be able to escape the judgment by seeking bankruptcy protection.

NS is not seeking to win money even if that is the ostensible purpose of the suit. Rather, it is playing for rules.

Railroad managers more often than not believe the cause of a major incident that causes property damage, injuries or fatalities is the “fault” of one or more railroad operating employees.

Employees, their unions and even some regulators take a broader view of the cause of incidents.

They look at working conditions, conflicting directives of management, and organizational deficiencies as also playing a role in causation.

A report of the NS lawsuit by Trains magazine indicated that the crew that was sued by NS ran a stop signal.

The magazine reported an unnamed source with railroad operating experience as saying that it used to be that running through stop indication resulted in a 30-day suspension but now it leads to automatic termination.

The fired crew members through their union have a right to appeal that through an arbitration process. Sometimes employees get their jobs back, depending on the facts of the case.

A friend who worked as a Class 1 locomotive engineer says it is easy to get fired on the railroad but hard to stay fired. It is that reality that NS is seeking to change or at least title the scales more to management’s advantage.

NS might not even expect this case to go to trial. Perhaps it will offer to drop the lawsuit if the crew members agree not to go to arbitration and/or agree not to work for NS again.

A union official quoted by Trains correctly expressed doubt as to whether the railroad could win the case. Lawsuits such as this are uncommon and few, if any, railroad employees could afford the judgment NS is seeking.

But NS sees something of greater value at stake. The union official interviewed by Trains said that the lawsuit sets a precedent. Yes, it does, and NS wants its employees to know that.

NS is not necessarily going to sue every employee who is involved in a collision or derailment.

It probably chose this case because it sees the facts as in its favor because it has hard evidence to show a clear violation of company rules.

Ensuring that operating crews follow the rules all of the time regardless of circumstances is what NS is seeking to achieve, even if it means filing a suit seeking money it knows it won’t ever collect.