Posts Tagged ‘Norfolk Southern’

GE Pushing Internet Connectivity in Locomotives

March 22, 2016

General Electric expects that more than 3 million locomotives and other GE-built products will be connected to the Internet by 2020.

The company said in a recently published report that digital interconnectivity plays a critical role in its newer locomotives and industrial vehicles developed and produced by its transportation division.

GE transportation“By the end of 2016, we expect it to have 200,000 assets under management, 100 GE applications and 20,000 developers creating many more applications,” said GE CEO Jeffrey R. Immelt.  “Our aspiration is to offer with every GE product a pathway to greater productivity through sensors, software and big-data analytics.”

GE estimates that more than 700 of its locomotives that meet Environmental Protection Agency Tier 4 emission standards have digital components that have saved their railroad owners $197 million in fuel expenses.

Digital components also have reduced the amount of time needed to make a diagnosis of problems and to make repairs.

Norfolk Southern began to adopt in 2010 GE’s Movement Planner software to streamline train operations.

In its factories, GE uses Predix software, a cloud-based productivity management system that may have applications for the railroad industry.

GE Transportation, which has an assembly plant in Erie, Pennsylvania, produces the majority of locomotives for the North American market.

NS to Expand Norfolk Headquarters

March 22, 2016

As part of its plan to consolidate corporate offices in Atlanta and Norfolk, Virginia, Norfolk Southern will spend $8.2 million to expand its Norfolk offices, which will continue to be the company headquarters.

NS logo 1NS plans to add 165 employees to its Norfolk officers, many of whom are being transferred from officers in Roanoke, Virginia, that the company said last year it would close.

Employees in the railroad’s industrial products, coal marketing, sourcing, tax, treasury and audit and compliance departments are being relocated from Roanoke to Norfolk.

Roanoke remains the headquarters for the NS Pocahontas Division. Once the transfers are completed, NS will employ more than 1,350 NS in Roanoke, many of whom are operating employees and shops workers.

The Fascination of Railroad Infrastucture

March 19, 2016
The surviving leg of the wye leading into the Bald Eagle Branch crosses the Little Juniata River in Tyrone, Pennsylvania.

The surviving leg of the wye leading into the Bald Eagle Branch crosses the Little Juniata River in Tyrone, Pennsylvania.

Mention railroads and most people, including those who call themselves railfans, will think of trains.

But there is more to a railroad than trains. I find nearly as fascinating the intricate details of railroad infrastructure.

When I travel I make it a point to photograph the infrastructure that I see.

Such was the case last December when a friend and I spent time in Tyrone, Pennsylvania, along the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia mainline of the former Pennsylvania Railroad.

In the PRR days, Tyrone was a junction point with a branch that ran up the Bald Eagle Valley.

That branch still exists in the Norfolk Southern era, but it is now operated by a short line railroad, the Nittany & Bald Eagle.

In Tyrone, the Bald Eagle Branch ended at the mainline on a wye. One leg of that wye is gone, but the other is part of the interchange between N&BE and NS.

I like to study infrastructure for clues as to how things might have been. For example, in Tyrone, there is a narrow street that dead ends shortly after it passes beneath the still-active leg of the wye.

It seems likely that at one time this street continued to the PRR passenger station,  which has since been razed.

The narrowness of the streets suggests a time when people would have driven Model T cars to the depot.

Surrounding the tracks in Tyrone are the remains of what probably used to be an active industrial district.

There still may be some small industry in those buildings or perhaps they have been re-purposed for other uses.

Whatever the case, it is a reminder of times past and the people who went before who worked and traveled here.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Where there are railroad tracks there will be industrial buildings in urban areas.

Where there are railroad tracks there will be industrial buildings in urban areas.

Today this is a pedestrian bridge but at one time it may have been the street to the PRR passenger station. It must have been a one lane bridge over the Little Juniata River.

Today this is a pedestrian bridge but at one time it may have been the street to the PRR passenger station. It must have been a one lane bridge over the Little Juniata River.

The tracks have been removed from the other leg of the wye that once led into the Bald Eagle Branch.

The tracks have been removed from the other leg of the wye that once led into the Bald Eagle Branch.

InDOT Awards Crossing Work Contract

March 19, 2016

A $530,000 contract has been awarded by the Indiana Department of Transportation for grade crossing improvements in Anderson and Muncie.

E&B Paving, Inc. was awarded the contract, which involves work at four locations. Construction will begin in June and be completed by October.

InDOTThe crossing work is being done to prepare for additional improvements that the railroads will undertake as part of InDOT’s Office of Public Safety Highway-Rail Crossing Program.

Planned improvements include:
• Installing new sidewalks and curb ramps at the Norfolk Southern Railway crossing at Indiana Route 32 near the intersection of John Street in Anderson.
• Constructing concrete center median on Indiana Route 9/Scatterfield Road near two CSX crossings south of Indiana Route 232/Mounds Road in Anderson;
• Installing advanced warning signage near the NS crossing the Muncie bypass (Indiana Route 67) between Cowan Road and Walnut Street.

  • Installing new traffic signals, lengthening left-turn lanes and center median on Indiana Route 9/Scatterfield Road at the intersection of Indiana Route 236/53rd Street in Anderson.

NS Dash 8.5 Units Seen in Revenue Service

March 17, 2016

Norfolk Southern has placed into revenue service rebuilt CW40-8 locomotives that have been dubbed “Dash 8.5s.”

Trains magazine reported that two of the former Conrail units were spotted recently in West Virginia in coal service.

NS logo 2NS is rebuilding the 30-year-old locomotives and numbering them in the 8500 series.

After being rebuilt, a Dash 8.5 unit will have its original frame but feature new cabs similar to those placed on SD60E locomotives.

Each Dash 8.5 will receive engine modifications to make them more fuel efficient. A Dash 8.5 is rated at 4,000 horsepower.

Trains said reports of Nos. 8507 and 8508 working on the road indicated that they had gray primer paint on their cabs.

NS Retiring Fleet of Dash 32-8 Locomotives

March 16, 2016

Norfolk Southern plans to retire its fleet of GE Dash B32-8 locomotives with many of them destined to be scrapped.

Three of them, Nos. 523, 524 and 544, have already been cut up in Roanoke, Virginia, by Progress Rail.

NS logo 1GE built 49 units in the B32-8 class and NS acquired 45 of them, beginning in November 1989.

The four-axle locomotives could generate 3,200 horsepower and were assigned to intermodal, freight and coal service.

In recent years, though, the units have most often been in local and work train service.

NS initially assigned the locomotives to the 3500 series before renumbering them in October 2013 to the 500 series.

At least one B32-8 has been saved. In 2014, NS donated No. 3563 to the Lake Shore Railway Historical Society in North East, Pennsylvania.

West Virginia and its Railroads Pondering Next Moves in a World of Declining Coal Production

March 16, 2016

The news over the past year for railroads that serve West Virginia has been bleak. Coal mines have closed and Norfolk Southern and CSX have mothballed routes that primarily serve as conduits to move coal to market.

CSX is in the process of closing its division headquarter in Huntington, West Virginia, and transferring its staff to other division offices.

In an analysis published by Trains magazine, railroaders based based in the Mountain State said they continue to brace for further cutbacks.

West VirginiaThe slippage of coal business has other worried in West Virginia, too, because so much of the state’s economy is built on black diamonds.

State officials are talking about the need to diversify the West Virginia economy. Railroads are expected to play a role in that process.

“While we diversity our state’s economy, we must take advantage of our location and existing infrastructure to recruit and develop businesses that rely on rail transportation to move their products,” West Virginia state Senator Bill Cole told Trains. “This includes a manufacturing strategy to revitalize our product output and making our state a warehouse hub for distribution.”

That means that during the current session of the state legislature lawmakers are considering adopting laws to make their state more attractive to businesses. The measures being considered include regulatory reform and right-to-work law changes.

NS and CSX each have taken steps to diversity their traffic bases in West Virginia.

NS recently opened an intermodal complex near Huntington as part of its Heartland Corridor route.

CSX has being routing intermodal trains over its former Chesapeake & Ohio main line between North Baltimore, Ohio, and Portsmouth, Virginia

However, Trains noted, these trains may be rerouted over the CSX New Castle Subdivision once the railroad finishes its National Gateway Project. Clearance restrictions in Washington are keeping double-stacked container trains from moving through the nation’s capital.

Justin Gaull is the vice president of economic development for the Charleston Area Alliance.

As he sees it, the new NS intermodal center at Prichard represents an opportunity for southern West Virginia to connect its manufacturing and distribution businesses  . . . and perhaps a few businesses could be linked to the facility exclusively via rail using existing rail infrastructure.”

Gaull told Trains that the decline of coal has opened an opportunity for West Virginia economic development officials to analyze the state’s inventory of available rail and land assets that can be offered to attract manufacturing and distribution locations.

But not all of West Virginia’s rail lines are suitable for such activities and some of the coal branches are likely to wind up becoming hiking and biking trails.

In some instances, the rails might remain in place and opened for use by foot-pedaled rail carts, which are quite popular in Austria and Germany.

However, few rail lines in America have been used for those carts. But that may soon change in West Virginia.

Christine Kindern is an extension agent in Raleigh County, which is seeking to convert 15.2 miles of an abandoned CSX route into recreational use.

The line in question is the Jarrolds Valley Subdivision from between Whitesville and Clear Creek.

The Raleigh County Commission and National Coal Heritage Area funded a study that found that converting the rail line to recreational use would boost tourism.

The New River Gorge Regional Development Authority might convert a former C&O coal branch to a museum that would celebrate the state’s coal heritage.

West Virginia has more than 500 miles of branch-line routes that are used exclusively to haul coal.

Many of those miles are facing abandonment although local officials have not given upon converting some of them into other uses to be served by rail.

Support to STB in Favor of CP-NS Merger is Mostly Form Letters from Small Canadian Shippers

March 15, 2016

A survey conducted by Stephens, Inc., has found that 70 percent of shippers are opposed to any merger of Class 1 railroads in North America.

Those findings by the Little Rock, Arkansas, company are similar to the results of a survey conducted last year by investment banking and research firm Cowen & Company that found 71 percent of shippers oppose a merger of Canadian Pacific and Norfolk Southern.

Those findings fly in the face of assertions by CP that its proposed takeover of NS enjoyed widespread shipper support.

STBAn analysis by Trains magazine of letters written to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board found that most of the letters in support of the merger appear to be form letters that were written by small Canadian shippers.

Although the letters contained some variations, in many instances the letters are identical with the only change being the name of the shipper.

In at least two cases, the shipper failed to change the basic form of the letter and included the wording “Our ORGANIZATION/COMPANY” in the letter that it sent to the STB.

The Trains analysis said that of the 65 letters that the STB has posted on its website, 65 support the merger while 57 are against it.

Notable opponents of the merger include major shippers and trade groups. More than half of the shippers who wrote to support the merger are based in Canada.

The findings of the Trains analysis belie comments made by a CP spokesman in response to the findings of the Arkansas company about widespread shipper opposition to a merger.

“I cannot comment on someone else’s survey, but I can tell you that letters posted to the STB website from shippers in favor of the transaction outnumber shippers opposing the combination by three to one,” said Martin Cej.
CP said it has received letters from 80 shippers in support of the transaction.

Among those who have written in opposition to the merger are the Automakers Alliance, UPS, FedEx and Consol Energy.

Public officials who have written to the STB are united in their opposition and most short line railroad that have written are likewise opposed.

The STB has received four letters of opposition from four labor unions and from 52 groups that include port authorities and economic development officials.

Common concerns expressed by opponents include pricing, service quality and further consolidation of the railroad industry.

Although they have expressed public opposition to further mergers, none of the other Class 1 railroads have written to the STB in regards to the proposed CP-NS merger.

Spending Time on the NS Cleveland Line

March 12, 2016

Feb20 NS 03-x

Some of my more memorable early-in-the-year outings have been on days when it still looked like winter but felt like the onset of spring.

There is some residual snow still on the ground in places to add a touch of winter to your photographs.

Typically, those days fall in March, but Northeast Ohio this year experienced a rare spring-like day in the middle of February.

The skies were mostly sunny and the temperatures soared into the high 50s. I heard bird singing and the air just had a feel of spring about it as I left home.

I thought about traveling to some distant hot spot such as Alliance, Bellevue, Conneaut or Marion, but elected to stay close to home.

One of my stops was at Towner’s Woods Park in Brady Lake. It’s a place where I’ve enjoyed hanging out on similar days in past years when the weather was transitioning from winter into spring.

I was surprised at how much snow was still piled up along the edge of the Norfolk Southern right of way. But that snow was in the shade and would take a while to melt.

I passed the time reading the latest issue of Trains magazine while monitoring a mostly silent scanner.

After a while, the detector at Rootstown went off, announcing the approach of a westbound.

Not long after that, I got an eastbound stack train. Another eastbound intermodal train followed shortly behind, but I was unable to photograph it because I didn’t have enough warning.

For eastbound traffic, you have to hope that you hear the crew call the signal at CP 94 in Hudson.

Sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t. Otherwise, your only other option is to stand on the bridge over the tracks and wait.

My time along NS was relatively brief. I wanted to walk the Portage Hike and Bike trail and, maybe, get some CSX New Castle Subdivision action.

It turned out to be a good all-around day to be out and about.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Feb20 NS 01-x

FEb20 NS 02-x

Feb20 NS 04-x

 

CP tells SEC About Plans for Resolution to be Presented at Annual NS Shareholders’ Meeting

March 11, 2016

Canadian Pacific has told the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission about its plans to ask Norfolk Southern shareholders to instruct the NS board of directors to “promptly engage in good faith discussions with CP regarding a business combination.”

In its filing, CP  justified its desire for the merger with NS by saying it would create an integrated transcontinental railroad with the scale and reach to deliver unsurpassed levels of safety and service to the customers and communities of both companies.

E. Hunter Harrison

E. Hunter Harrison

CP contends that some NS shareholders have expressed support for the merger since it was proposed last year and the resolution is an opportunity for those shareholders to be heard by the NS board.

The NS board has rebuffed three offers from CP to acquire NS stock.

“We are not asking NS shareholders to vote on the business proposal itself, but to vote in favor of the shareholder resolution calling for NS to engage in good faith discussions with CP regarding a potential combination,” said CP head E. Hunter Harrison.

NS has indicated a conditional willingness to talk with CP, but said it would only do so after CP addresses some concerns by the NS board about whether a proposed voting trust for CP would receive the approval of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.

CP has since asked the STB to issue a declaratory order pertaining to the trust, which would remain in effect during the time that a CP-NS merger undergoes regulatory review. NS also has called on CP to increase the value of the acquisition.

“CP is seeking a declaratory order from the Surface Transportation Board and we have consistently indicated that we are open to discussing the terms of our previous offers,” Harrison said. “With a vote ‘for’ the shareholder resolution, we hope to get NS to the table to discuss all the elements of the proposed business combination in an open and constructive manner.”

NS has yet to set a date for its annual shareholders’ meeting.

In the meantime, Harrison said he wants to meet with shippers who have expressed public opposition to the merger after package delivery giant FedEx became the latest shipper to come out against the combination.

“My friends at Federal Express that I grew up with in Memphis, I don’t know where they gained all this knowledge on railroads,” Harrison told the Business News Network of Canada. “I was a little disappointed. I don’t mind people objecting to transactions but let’s discuss it first. There was no discussion and I would imagine someone asked them to object.”

FedEx has written a letter to the STB to express “significant concerns” about the proposed merger, including higher shipping costs, fewer services and “such an erosion of competition [that] would ultimately adversely impact the American consumer and our still somewhat fragile economy.”

Business News reported that Harrison believes “there is a strong possibility” that a deal will be made within a year.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 83 other followers