Posts Tagged ‘Norfolk Southern’

NS Moving Trains to Lightly-Used Ohio Routes

December 12, 2014

There has been much talk in railfan forums of late about how Norfolk Southern has been shifting traffic around in Ohio in an effort to alleviate congestion on the busy Chicago Line between Cleveland and Chicago.

The need to address congestion on this route became quite clear this summer and fall when Amtrak trains were delayed for hours due to freight trains sitting on the tracks ahead awaiting new crews.

NS routes in Northern Ohio has or will be seeing increased traffic as NS reworks routings to more efficiently move traffic.

The somnolent former Nickel Plate Road route between Vermilion and Cleveland is sleepy no more. NS is now routing 10 to 12 trains daily on average over this line, most of which have been re-routed from the Chicago Line through Cleveland.

This includes trains 145, 14T, 287, 310, 316 and 309, which no longer use the connection at Vermilion to access the Chicago Line.

Instead, these trains run through Cleveland on the ex-NKP through Lakewood, Rocky River and Bay Village.

The pickup and setoffs that were once done by trains 145 and 14T at Rockport Yard are now handled by a Rockport-Bellevue turn job, the 364.

Also operating via the ex-NKP east of Vermilion are Conway (Pittsburgh)-Bellevue trains 14K and 15K. These trains operate between Conway and Ashtabula via the Youngstown Line and then take the southwest connection between that route and the ex-NKP in Ashtabula.

Traditional ex-NKP line trains that continue to reach the Chicago Line in Cleveland via the Cloggsville connection include 22K, 23K, 205 and 206.

Before the latest increase in the use of the ex-NKP on the west side of Cleveland, the route averaged about two trains a day.

To handle the increase in traffic, NS has reinstated the first shift operator at the Lorain drawbridge, which is now open 24/7.

NS also plans to increase traffic on the Fort Wayne Line west of Alliance, Ohio.

The scope of increased NS operations via the Fort Wayne Line remains to be seen, but word is that crude oil and other heavy trains may be shifted to that route all the way to Fort Wayne, Ind.

Reportedly, NS is establishing a crew district between Mansfield and Fort Wayne.

NS currently owns the Fort Wayne Line between Pittsburgh and Crestline. West of Crestline, CSX owns the route to Bucyrus.

Since the Conrail breakup in 1999, NS has continued to route some traffic on the Fort Wayne Line as far west as Bucyrus where it can take connecting tracks to go south to Columbus or north to Bellevue via the Sandusky District.

Between Crestline and Bucyrus, NS has authority to operate eight trains per day and six daily west of Bucyrus. It has not operated west of Bucyrus on a regular basis, though.

The primary user of the route west of Bucyrus is the Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern, which also uses the Fort Wayne Line east to Crestline.

Online reports indicate that although CSX owns the land on which the Fort Wayne Line sits west of Bucyrus, the CF&E owns the rails. NS, though, continues to dispatch the Fort Wayne Line.

CSX has never made much use of the Fort Wayne Line west of Crestline. This is because of a number of factors that also hinder NS’ use of the route.

One of the major operating challenges in using the Fort Wayne Line is the lack of passing sidings. The existing sidings also tend to be short.

The line has just two passing sidings between Bucyrus and Fort Wayne, located at Upper Sandusky and Lima.

The track on the Fort Wayne Line west of Bucyrus has not received much maintenance and speed limits are low.

Another factor is that the railroads is “dark” west of Bucyrus with the only signals being located at interlockings.

Both Penn Central and Conrail saw the Fort Wayne as secondary to other routes when it came to routing traffic between Pittsburgh and the Midwest.

Conrail did make use of the Fort Wayne Line east of Crestline with trains originating in Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and St. Louis that were bound for Pittsburgh and beyond using the route.

But that traffic pretty much ended with the Conrail breakup. The late 1990 rerouting of Amtrak’s Capitol Limited and Broadway Limited off the Fort Wayne Line also resulted in further cutbacks in maintenance, particularly west of Bucyrus.

One recent online report cited unnamed sources as saying that the Fort Wayne Line would be seeing as many as 30 trains a day west of Alliance within three months.

Some raised questions about that number, but from outward appearances, there is reason to believe that NS will be increasing its use of the Fort Wayne Line.

In late fall, the NS executive train made a trip over the Fort Wayne Line and online postings have reported seeing an increase in track work on the Fort Wayne Line in western Ohio.

In the meantime, NS has increased the number of coal trains that it routes over the Ohio Central between Columbus and Mingo Junction.

Until this fall, NS has exercised its right to use the former Pennsylvania mainline east of Columbus on an as needed basis.

One report has it that by routing coal trains over the OC, NS saves two NS crews per trip. As NS adds additional crews in Mansfield, it may make less use of the OC route for coal traffic.

Finally, there is a report that NS is eyeing the Peavine route between Cincinnati and Portsmouth, Ohio.

A short line operator, Frontier Rail, has been serving customers in the Cincinnati area after NS ceased using the former Norfolk & Western route.

The coming months are going to be interesting ones in which to observe how NS operations in Ohio continue to shake out.

Photographers who have forsaken the Fort Wayne due to lack of action may have to re-evaluate their plans.

It also might be time to make a trip south to the stretch of the ex-Pennsy Pittsburgh-St. Louis line that is jointly used by Ohio Central and the Wheeling & Lake Erie.

To be sure, none of the traffic moves have transformed these light- to moderately-used routes into busy mainlines hosting trains at streetcar frequencies. It does mean, though, that the odds of finding a train in daylight have been enhanced.

Although the route changes mean fewer NS trains rolling through Berea, there still promises to be plenty of action there to satisfy train watchers.

The Sun and I Found the NS Veterans Unit

December 2, 2014
NS 6920 was sitting in the Avery siding when I first encountered it.

NS 6920 was sitting in the Avery siding when I first encountered it.

With a few sucker holes hypnotizing me I headed west last Friday in hopes that I might run into NS 6920, the Honoring Our Veterans unit.

I found it parked with no crew in the Avery siding. That’s very close to the Route 250-Ohio Turnpike interchange just north of Milan.

In short order a crew showed up to drag that empty grainer into Bellevue. I still had sun at Strecker Road but after that the clouds rolled in, so I did a few more photos around Bellevue then called it a day.

Photographs by Roger Durfee

Catching it again, this time at Strecker Road.

Catching it again, this time at Strecker Road.

At the Route 99 crossing at the east end of Bellevue yard.

At the Route 99 crossing at the east end of Bellevue yard.

Pulling through the yard as seen from the Ohio Route 4 bridge.

Pulling through the yard as seen from the Ohio Route 4 bridge.

Wide shot after it cut away with the old NKP roundhouse in the background.

Wide shot after it cut away with the old NKP roundhouse in the background.

Remembering a 2008 Sandusky District Outing

November 22, 2014
Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

My favorite photograph made on a day on the NS Sandusky District in July 2008. The train appears to be coming out of the corn field.

If you saw Marty Surdyk’s program Friday night in which he reviewed his railroad photography work of 2014, you might have guesses that he has a fondness for traveling to north central Ohio to photograph trains.

In particular, he likes to patrol the Sandusky District of Norfolk Southern between Bellevue and Bucyrus. Seeing his images taken there from the past summer brought back some memories or a 2008 journey I made with Marty and his brother Robert to the Sandusky District.

Until I joined the Akron Railroad Club in summer 2003 most of my railfanning had been confined to Berea.

I made periodic trips to Marion and got in some railfanning in Orrville during that town’s annual railroad days celebration. But more often than not I went to Berea on Saturday or Sunday and sat there all day.

Some of the guys I met would talk about places like Willard, Bellevue and Fostoria, but I had never seen them.

That began to change after I joined the ARRC and got to know Marty. He volunteered to take me out and show me places I had heard other railfans talk about.

Most of our travels involved going out on the CSX mainlines leading west of Cleveland and Akron as well as the NS Chicago Line.

Of all the places I visited with Marty the one that intrigued me the most was the NS Sandusky District.

I had seen Sandusky District trains in Marion, but never pursued them beyond there.

Unlike the other railroad routes we visited, the Sandusky District had a north-south orientation.

I was struck by how much of a rolling profile that this piece of railroad had. No, it wasn’t hills or rugged terrain. But it was enough up and down to make for some interesting photographs.

I also liked how the Sandusky District cut through farmlands that reminded me a lot of where I grew up in east central Illinois.

One Sunday visit to the Sandusky District that I made with Marty was particularly memorable.

It was July 13, 2008, on a sunny day with just enough white puffy clouds to make the sky interesting. We spent all afternoon and part of the evening chasing trains between Frank and Ridgeton.

I was a committed slide film shooter then, usually using Kodak Ektachrome 200 or Fuji Provia film. Sometimes I’d stick a roll of Fuji Velvia into my Canon Rebel G.

I had just begun having Dodd Camera copy my images onto a CD when they were processed which I thought gave me the best of both worlds of film and digital.

All images that you see with this article came from that CD and they are not of the same quality as digital images made with a digital camera. But they are adequate.

Marty was familiar with the Sandusky District having been on it many times. So he knew the best places to photograph.

Much of what we did and talked about that day has been lost in the fog of time.

We probably found a Subway, which is Marty’s go-to place for lunch. Much of our day likely was spent on the highways and rural roads looking for NS trains.

My favorite image of the day is the one that leads off this photo essay. It shows a southbound (railroad eastbound) train appearing to rise out of a corn field. In fact it is one of my all-time favorite Sandusky District images.

My second favorite images were made of the last train that we photographed on NS. Back then there was a late afternoon manifest freight out of Bellevue that usually had Canadian National motive power.

Today’s train was no exception. We intercepted it just south of Attica Junction and may have chased it a short distance.

By now we had late day light and those red and black CN locomotives looked great.

Although NS had been our primary objective, we went to Scipio to bag a pair of CSX trains, one in each direction, as the sun was setting.

I pushed the limits of what my camera could do to capture the second of those trains. The resulting image won’t win any photography awards, but reminds me of one of my most pleasant outings.

Marty, Robert and I made one more foray to the Sandusky District during which we focused on the territory between Bucyrus and Marion in an effort to photograph some of the surviving Pennsylvania Railroad position light signals.

I haven’t been back to the Sandusky District with Marty since then. I know Marty still has an affinity for the Sandusky District and gets there now and then.

I’ve since explored the territory on my own and with others, particularly in 2012 when the Nickel Plate Road 765 pulled a series of employee appreciation specials between Bellevue and Bucyrus.

I recently ran across that CD with the images that I made on that July 2008 day with Marty on the Sandusky District. Seeing them brought a smile to my face and a lot of warm memories to mind.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

There are plenty of farm fields lining the tracks of the Sandusky District. That helps keep the growth of trees in check.

There are plenty of farm fields lining the tracks of the Sandusky District. That helps keep the growth of trees in check.

The gentle roller coast profile of the Sandusky District helped endear me to this stretch of railroad.

The gentle roller coast profile of the Sandusky District helped endear me to this stretch of railroad.

Splitting the signals at, I think, a location south of Attica.

Splitting the signals at, I think, a location south of Attica.

Coal dust is flying off this northbound coal train. Note the ex-Conrail unit trailing.

Coal dust is flying off this northbound coal train. Note the ex-Conrail unit trailing.

A day our with Marty isn't complete unless you get a train next to a grain elevator. This one is at Ridgeton and the sunlight was vanishing fast.

A day our with Marty isn’t complete unless you get a train next to a grain elevator. This one is at Ridgeton and the sunlight was vanishing fast.

The train with CN power at Attica Junction (Siam).

The train with CN power at Attica Junction (Siam).

Those CN locomotives were looking sharp as they passed a recently harvested wheat field in late day light.

Those CN locomotives were looking sharp as they passed a recently harvested wheat field in late day light.

This was one of my earliest efforts to try glint photography with a sunset. I liked how it turned out. The view is of an eastbound CSX train at Scipio.

This was one of my earliest efforts to try glint photography with a sunset. I liked how it turned out. The view is of an eastbound CSX train at Scipio.

I pushed the limits of what my camera could do to get this westbound on CSX near Scipio.

I pushed the limits of what my camera could do to get this westbound on CSX near Scipio.

Sunset on the former Baltimore & Ohio at Scipo.

Sunset on the former Baltimore & Ohio at Scipo.



Late Day Norfolk Southern OCS in Cleveland

November 21, 2014



A deadhead move of the Norfolk Southern OCS train occurred last week. By the time it got to me it was well into late afternoon with fading light. I elected to go grayscale to lessen the harshness of the less than stellar lighting. It is shown here at milepost 184 in the Battery Park area of Cleveland. I liked the small reflection of the F unit on that UPS trailer in the wider photo.

Photographs by Roger Durfee

Snowstorm Prompts Amtrak to Cancel Trains

November 20, 2014

Amtrak service in New York State is being restored today after a snowstorm that dumped some 6 feet of snow in the Buffalo, N.Y., area prompted Amtrak to cancel service west of Albany, N.Y., over CSX on Wednesday.

Trains affected include the New York-Niagara Falls Empire Service, New York-Toronto Maple Leaf, and the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited. No alternate transportation is available. Amtrak service north, east, and south of Albany-Rensselaer continues to operate.

Amtrak said today on its website that the Maple Leaf would resume service today although it would be subject to delay to due to freight traffic congestion and weather conditions. The website said the Lake Shore Limited and Empire Service would remain suspended through mid-afternoon, but the train status section of the site did not show No. 49 as being canceled.

The Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited was not affected. Amtrak and CSX said they were working to restore service as soon as possible. Amtrak’s service advisory said snow had blocked the CSX tracks in some places.

“Due to lake effect snow expected to total up to six feet, CSX is experiencing significant operational delays and customers in the Buffalo area should expect traffic delays up to 48 hours,” Amtrak said in a customer service advisory.

Amtrak’s website on Wednesday afternoon reported that the Lake Shore Limited trains scheduled to depart on Wednesday had been canceled. Both trains were also canceled on Tuesday.

Norfolk Southern is advising its customers of service problems in the Buffalo area stemming from the heavy snowfall.

“Record setting snowfall, road conditions, and road closures have curtailed Norfolk Southern operations in and around the Buffalo area,” the railroad said. “Customers with rail traffic destined to or originating in the Buffalo area will see a disruption of service over the next few days.”

NS said shipments normally moving through western New York will be detoured over other routes, likely resulting in additional transit time with 24-48 hour delays.

NS Cites Progress in Latest Service Update

November 19, 2014

If you’re looking for something to do after stuffing yourself during Thanksgiving Day dinner and are tired of watching football, consider going trackside along a Norfolk Southern line.

NS said this week that it plans to operate through the Thanksgiving holiday in order to keep traffic moving.

The revelation was contained in the railroad’s monthly service update for customers that said it has made good progress in hiring conductors and bringing additional locomotives into service.

The report said that more than 90 percent of the scheduled maintenance of way work has been completed on its Northern Region.

NS said that it has recently made the following improvements:

• Increased the number of active train and engine employees by approximately 400 over the past two months of 2014, with most of them concentrated in the Northern Region between Chicago and New Jersey.

• NS expects to increase the number of active train and engine employees by 700 to 800 in 2015, with an emphasis on adding as many employees as possible in the first half of the year.

• Will place the remaining 50 of the 75 new locomotives planned for purchase this year into service by the end of December.

• Will have taken delivery of 40 used locomotives by the end of 2014, with an additional 60 used locomotives scheduled to arrive in early 2015.

• The new classification yard in Bellevue will be phased in starting in December with full operations underway in the first quarter of 2015. The expanded yard will provide additional capacity for the Northern Region and improve the fluidity of its network by reducing car handling, car miles and transit times.

• NS will complete this month the rehabilitation of several yard tracks at Conway yard near Pittsburgh, which will provide additional staging capacity across the Northern Region.

• Rerouting some loaded and empty trains via alternative gateways to better manage interchange in Chicago, particularly during the winter months.

Amtrak Seeks STB Probe of Handling of Nos. 29/30

November 18, 2014

Amtrak on Monday asked the Surface Transportation Board to conduct a formal investigation into the on-time performance of the Chicago-Washington, D.C., Capitol Limited and to “award damages and other relief it determines to be reasonable and appropriate” should the agency find in Amtrak’s favor.

The passenger rail carrier cited Section 213 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 as the applicable law underpinning its request.

That law states that “[i]f the on-time performance of any intercity passenger train averages less than 80 percent for any two consecutive calendar quarters … upon the filing of a complaint by Amtrak … the Board shall initiate … an investigation.”

Amtrak said the on-time performance of the Capitol Limited has averaged less than 80 percent for two consecutive quarters.

In the complaint, Amtrak said that if all-stations on-time performance is defined as the percentage of station arrivals (and departure from origin station) that occur within 15 minutes of the published schedule, then in the quarter ending Sept. 30 all-stations on-time performance of the Capitol Limited service was 20.4 percent. It was 27.8 percent in the previous quarter.

If endpoint on-time performance is defined as the percentage of times those trains arrived at their terminal station within 30 minutes of the published arrival time, then in the quarter ending Sept. 30 the endpoint on time performance of Nos. 29 and 30 was 2.7 percent. It was 33.6% in the previous quarter.

Although the term “on-time performance” is not defined by federal law, the STB “has ample authority to construe ‘on-time performance,’” Amtrak’s complaint says. “Amtrak’s definitions of on-time performance are reasonable. . . . [and] Amtrak’s measurement of all-stations on-time performance under section 24308(f), besides being reasonable, also fosters an on-time performance policy goal established by Congress at the inception of Amtrak.”

Amtrak’s 780-mile Capitol Limited route is split between NS (Chicago-Pittsburgh) and CSX (Pittsburgh-Washington).

The complaint is the second that Amtrak had lodged with the STB over on-time performance.

Earlier, Amtrak filed a similar complaint against Canadian National for its handling of trains operating between Chicago and Carbondale, Ill., on the former Illinois Central mainline.

Attorneys Linda J. Morgan, Kevin M. Sheys, and Katherine C. Bourdon of Nossaman, LLP, and Amtrak Managing Deputy General Counsel William H. Herrmann filed the complaint.


NS Wants to Buy ex-D&H Tracks in Pa., N.Y.

November 18, 2014


Norfolk Southern would pay $217 million to buy 282.5 miles of the former Delaware & Hudson in Pennsylvania and New York if the Surface Transportation Board approves.

The track in question runs between Sunbury. Pa., and Schenectady, N.Y., and is now owned by Canadian Pacific.

CP will retain ownership of the tracks north of Schenectady order to hold on to the line’s lucrative crude oil traffic.

“Acquiring this portion of the D&H provides for more efficient rail transportation system by consolidating freight operations with a single carrier,” said NS CEO Wick Moorman in a statement. “Aligning the D&H track with Norfolk Southern’s 22-state network allows us to connect businesses in central Pennsylvania, upstate New York and New England with domestic and international markets while enhancing the region’s competitive rail and surface transportation market.”

The ex-D&H route connects with the NS Southern Tier route at Binghamton, N.Y., and at Sunbury with its route between Buffalo, N.Y., and Harrisburg, Pa.

The acquisition would give NS single-line routes from Chicago and the southeastern United States to Albany and NS’ recently built Mechanicville, N.Y., intermodal terminal.

NS would also gain an enhanced connection to its joint venture subsidiary Pan Am Southern.

Additionally, NS would acquire D&H’s car shop in Binghamton along with other facilities.

“As we have stated in recent months, we’ve been in the process of negotiating the final details for the potential sale of the southern portion of our D&H line,” said CP CEO E. Hunter Harrison in a statement.

CP acquired the D&H out of bankruptcy proceedings in January 1991.



Late Afternoon on the Fostoria District

November 15, 2014
Just when I needed a westbound to come out of Bellevue on the Fostoria District I got just that. An auto rack train turns into the late day light as it heads for, presumably, Fostoria's mixing center.

Just when I needed a westbound to come out of Bellevue on the Fostoria District I got just that. An auto rack train turns into the late day light as it heads for, presumably, Fostoria’s mixing center.

It was past 4 p.m. and within an hour the sun would be setting. I made my way back to Bellevue in hopes of getting one last photo opportunity. I knew exactly what I wanted.

A few years ago I had caught a Wheeling & Lake Erie train doing the spin move whereby the train goes out the Fostoria District and then backs around the New Haven connection to the Sandusky District before coming back into town and then heading northwest on the Toledo District.

That had been in early November and the late day light had been really super as it illuminated the locomotive nose.

Maybe I could get a Norfolk Southern train coming out of town and heading out the Fostoria District into the late day light.

The window of opportunity was small, though, because the sun was rapidly dropping and soon would be behind the trees.

When I first checked U didn’t see any sign of a train headed out of town. The signals that I could view from Slaughterhouse Road were all red. It wasn’t looking good.

I packed up my stuff but before heading home I took one more look. Out popped an auto rack train from the Mad River Connection. The signals for the Sandusky District were still all red so this train must be going out the Fostoria District.

Sure enough it did and I got what I wanted. The lighting was not as intense as it had been on the W&LE train that I shot. But it was still that sweet late day light and it looked good.

The glint shots in particular were wonderful and I was happy for once to be photographing an auto rack train with the light reflecting on their silvery sides.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders





Bellevue Railfan Shelter Going Up

November 14, 2014

Bellevue shelter1

Bellevue shelter2

Work on constructing a shelter at the railfan park in Bellevue was well underway with the structure expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The $6,000 shelter is being constructed by the Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum courtesy of a $6,000 grant from the Bellevue United Selective fund.

The 24-foot-by-24-foot shelter is being built on Monroe Street at the Kemper Rail Park, which is part of the museum grounds

Bellevue builder John Pocock is building the structure with materials bought at Gordon Lumber in Bellevue.

The railfan park had been benches on a concrete foundation of the building that once occupied the site, which is wedged between the Sandusky and Toledo districts of Norfolk Southern.

Museum board member Dave Robinson said that repairs had to be made to the concrete before the shelter could be errected.

“This was an outright gift to us from them their board, selected through the efforts of Stephen Wasserman with Firelands Federal Credit Union,” Robinson said.

Wasserman, the president and CEO of Firelands Federal Credit Union, is a co-chair of the Bellevue United Selective Fund’s fund drive.

“We had a board meeting and we were going over donation requests and I brought up to them that the railroad museum was putting a roof on their observation platform and that they needed $6,000,” Wasserman told the Bellevue Gazette. “Everybody on the board agreed that the Museum is a great asset for the city and wanted to support it and thought it was a great addition.”

The grant was approved by the funding committee in early August.

“It’s a project to help better the community and be attractive to rail fans to come and visit Bellevue and help the tourist industry here and make us a better place,” Robinson said. “The Museum started as a bicentennial project and in 2016 we will be celebrating our 40th anniversary.”


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