Posts Tagged ‘NS intermodal trains’

NS Expands Capacity of Chicago Terminal

July 22, 2021

In the wake of record intermodal volume, Norfolk Southern has expanded capacity at its Landers international intermodal terminal in Chicago.

In a customer service advisory issued this week, NS said it has increased stacked container capacity by 60 percent by reconfiguring terminal operations.

NS said it added three reach-stackers, and has three more on the way, to increase lift capacity by 40 percent per hour, which will reduce dray driver dwell for container pickups.

The terminal has been reconfigured so that it is now subdivided into 10 stacks to reduce handling and dwell times.

Landers handles containers for 11 inbound and outbound trains.

Some D&RGW Came to Me

July 17, 2021

I had planned a visit to Colorado last summer that would have been to Denver & Rio Grande Western territory. That got scrubbed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I still felt uneasy this year about making that trip.

Then on Tuesday the D&RGW heritage unit of Union Pacific passed through Painesville on the point of Norfolk Southern train 206.

Here is my catch passing over the Grand River at 11:45 a.m.

The same locomotive came back west Friday morning on the point of NS 205. A week earlier, the UP’s Missouri Pacific heritage unit led NS trains 22K and 23K through Northeast Ohio.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

NS to Try Expedited L-T-C Service

July 17, 2021

Norfolk Southern plans to offer an expedited less-than-carload service between Chicago and Miami via Atlanta.

The door-to-door service involves having trucks pick up small loads and deliver them to a rail-served warehouse for loading aboard boxcars that will be moved via intermodal trains. Trucks will also make the “last mile” delivery to the shipment’s destination.

Ed Elkins, NS vice president of industrial products, said the service is boxcars with pallets of freight moving inside.

The service, to be known as Thoroughbred Freight Transfer service, is experimental and involves  Chicago, Atlanta, and Miami. Elkins said it will test whether NS can convert highway traffic to rail.

NS plans to forward the boxcars on trains 215/216 between Chicago and Atlanta, and trains 209/214 between Atlanta and Jacksonville.

In Jacksonville the cars are interchanged with Florida East Coast, which takes them to Miami.

“It’s really an old product … a long time ago railroads did all kinds of this business. Millions of carloads of this business,” Elkins said. “The key is can we find a niche that delivers value to customers that they’re willing to pay for, that solves their problems. And in the current environment, where there’s not a great deal of excess capacity on the highway, this is an experiment that’s very interesting to us.”

Pole Line Remnants

June 3, 2021

There was a time when major railroad lines had poles carrying code lines used in communications systems. Newer forms of technology did in pole lines and many railroads have removed the poles and wires.

The latter in particular were often targeted by thieves seeking to steal the copper wire to sell at a salvage yard.

When pole lines were common, some railroad photographers disliked them, seeing them as clutter. But I’ve come to view pole lines or what is left of them in a different way.

Where they exist they add a sense of railroad history to a scene.

The photographs above were made on May 29 on the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern just west of Brimfield, Indiana.

I had heard the eastbound 20E calling signals over the radio and looked for a grade crossing at which to catch it. When I saw the remnants of a pole line here I knew this was the place.

It also was nice to have some adjacent farm fields in which the corn is coming up for another harvest season.

Sunday Spent Watching Trains, Baseball

May 17, 2021

I had a great outing with Marty Surdyk on Sunday. We left Painesville shortly after 9 a.m. and railfanned our way to Erie.

Our first photo was of an eastbound CSX stack train at County Line Road in Unionville.  Shortly after that a westbound CSX train came past at the same location.

Photograph 3 shows what in the past would have been two trains now run as one. In this case it is double-stacked containers and auto racks.

We then motored on to Geneva where we caught an eastbound intermodal at Geneva.

We made our way to Lake City, Pennsylvania, where we caught a manifest freight passing the former New York Central passenger station there.

At nearby Girard, Pennsylvania, we caught a eastbound Norfolk Southern intermodal train, either the 22K or 206 about a half-mile  west of Wallace Junction.

You can see the relocated former Nickel Plate Plate station perpendicular to the tracks.

Afterwards we worked our way toward Erie and UPMC Park where we watched the Erie Seawolves beat the Akron Rubber Ducks 7-6 in an action-packed game that lasted 3 hours, 29 minutes.

We had no luck finding a train on the former Bessemer & Lake Erie in Northeast Ohio. Will be back there on another day to try again.

Article and Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

More Than a Stack Train

March 17, 2021

Norfolk Southern train 200 originates in Danville, Kentucky, and is goes to the Global 2 facility on the Union Pacific in Chicago.

At first glance it might appear to be a stack train. But in an era of precision scheduled railroading you might find intermodal trains carrying a variety of freight. Behind the containers was a long string of mixed freight.

The westbound train is shown running parallel to Indiana Avenue in New Castle, Indiana, on the New Castle District.

NS Intermodal Train Derails in Pennsylvania

February 25, 2021

No injuries were reported after 15 cars of an eastbound Norfolk Southern intermodal train derailed on Monday night near Newport, Pennsylvania.

The derailment blocked both tracks and led to Amtrak cancelling its New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian in both directions on Tuesday.

News reports said the derailment occurred about 6:30 p.m. on the west side of the Juniata River near Old Ferry Road.

The train was reported in an online report to be the IOW, an extra section of train 20W. It was traveling from Chicago to Croxton, New Jersey.

NS officials said no hazardous materials were involved. The railroad also advised shippers that movements between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, are subject to delays of 24 to 48 hours.

“The cause of the derailment is under investigation,” NS said in a statement that also noted that its workers as well as personnel employed by contractors were working to clear the derailed cars and repair track damage.

NS CEO Extols the Virtues of PSR

September 18, 2020

Norfolk Southern CEO touted the virtues of precision scheduled railroading this week during a presentation to investors, crowing about how the railroad is doing more with less.

That includes fewer trains, fewer employees and maybe soon fewer hump yard operations.

Squires said during the Morgan Stanley investor conference on Thursday morning that NS may idle more hump yards after closing humps at four classification yards this year.

NS has labeled its PSR plan as TOP21 and before it was implemented last year NS had 10 active hump yards.

But this year it has ceased hump operations in Bellevue; Sheffield, Alabama, Linwood, North Carolina, and Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Squires said that under the TOP21 operating plan NS has substantially reduced its dependence on major classification yards.

“Over the past year we’ve fundamentally changed the way we run our railroad to ensure the greatest efficiency across our operations,” Squires said.

“Step change is hardly adequate to describe the pace at which we’ve reduced resources and assets. And yet we’ve dramatically improved the service we’re providing to our customers and have created new capacity in the process.”

He said the potential exists for curtailing more hump operations.

NS has six hump yards still in operation including Elkhart, Indiana; Conway Yard near Pittsburgh; Enola Yard near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; and Macon, Georgia.

Some changes NS has implemented were a response to falling traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the end of dedicated auto rack trains due to auto assembly plants shutting down.

But once those plants resumed production, NS did not return to running auto rack trains but instead began carrying finished vehicles in the consists of general merchandise trains.

However, not all of the lost traffic is due to the pandemic. NS has seen its daily carloads fall 4 percent since TOP21 was fully implemented in July 2019.

Crew starts are 19 percent lower, train weight has increased 6 percent compared with last year, and the average train length has risen 11 percent.

NS has reduced its workforce by 24 percent since early 2019 and the active locomotive fleet is down 27 percent to 2,561 units as of July 31.

A surge in domestic containers has pushed NS intermodal volumes in recent weeks to fall peak levels as retailers seek to restock low inventories and e-commerce business and related parcel traffic has risen.

The carrier is working with such freight companies as J.B. Hunt, Hub Group, FedEx, and UPS to bring increase intermodal volume.

Class 1 Execs Tout Intermodal Growth

September 10, 2020

Class 1 railroad executives speaking this week during an investor’s conference played up the recent growth in intermodal traffic, with one executive comparing it to near-peak season levels.

CSX Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing Mark Wallace said intermodal volume is up 6 percent in the third quarter to date with domestic intermodal volume having risen since late June.

“And that has carried on,” he said. “The volumes have been very, very strong — much to our delight.”

Wallace attributed the rise in intermodal volume to consumer spending, saying e-commerce traffic has been particularly strong.

He and NS Chief Marketing Officer Alan Shaw spoke at the Cowen 2020 Global Transportation & Sustainable Mobility Conference where executives said intermodal traffic generally is now above pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.

Shaw said NS has also benefited from strong consumer spending, but also from a partnership it has launched with BNSF and Union Pacific for traffic moving between the Southwest and the Southeast.

Another factor favoring intermodal has been a tightening of truck capacity.

The railroad executives also cited good rail service helping to spur intermodal volume growth.

The pandemic has accelerated growth in e-commerce. Shaw said retailers will begin keeping inventory closer to consumers, which presents NS with a “huge opportunity” because it operates the largest intermodal network in the East.

Wallace said his railroad’s intermodal on-time performance, measured by trip plan compliance, was in the low 90 percent range in the third quarter to date.

However, it had been in at 95 percent before the pandemic. One reason for the difference, Wallace said, is that CSX is challenged in getting furloughed train crews back to work in an expeditious manner.

The executives noted that imports to East Coast ports have been growing because retailers are looking to get goods inland as quickly as possible.

They expect East Coast ports to gain traffic because of a rise of manufacturing in Southeast Asia, which favors an all-water route to the East Coast via the Suez Canal.

The increase in intermodal volume, though, will not necessarily result in additional trains being operated.

Instead, the executive said the added traffic will be placed on existing trains.

“We’re leveraging the capacity dividend we created,” NS Chief Financial Officer Mark George said.

He was referring to how as part of the railroad’s use of the precision scheduled railroading operating model it is running fewer but longer trains.

The average train weight at NS is up 11 percent since the beginning of 2019 despite coal traffic being down by a third compared to a year ago, George said.

Wallace said CSX has 30 percent additional capacity on its existing train starts and ample road capacity for longer trains.

Wallace said CSX does not anticipate making any further changes in its intermodal network and it doesn’t expect to close any of its eight existing humps operating at classification yards.

“If we see a high-return project where we think we could have — we could spend some capital and get a very, very high return on that project, then we’re looking to do that, we would do that,” he said.

However, Wallace said CSX has nothing on the horizon as far as major capital expenditures beyond what is planned now.

Waiting for Air on the NS Chicago Line

May 30, 2020

Eastbound intermodal train 20E passes the Amtrak platform in Waterloo to get my day of photographing on the NS Chicago Line started right.

It had been a long time since I’d photographed operations of the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern.

It had been so long that as I made my way to Waterloo, Indiana, last Sunday for my first railfan outing since early March it felt as though I’d been in another state or even another country for a few years and was returning home.

The Chicago Line has always had a mystique about it because of its heavy and diverse traffic.

I wasn’t expecting to find last weekend that same level of traffic of earlier years.

It was a holiday weekend, rail freight volume has been down by double digit numbers in the past several weeks, and NS is running fewer trains generally as it implements its version of precision scheduled railroading.

Still, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I spent six hours on the Chicago Line and saw nine trains. Just as significant was what I didn’t see during those six hours.

I didn’t see a single auto rack car, I didn’t see any foreign motive power and, most surprising, I didn’t see any distributed power units.

There were no Canadian Pacific overhead trains running during the time I was trackside and no tank car trains.

There also were some very long lulls between trains that started in late morning.

The day got off to a promising start. As I reached the Amtrak station the gates at the main crossing in town went down for a westbound stack train.

About 20 minutes later came eastbound 20E followed 15 minutes later by the 24M.

About a half hour later came a westbound manifest freight and five minutes after that came the 18M, an eastbound manifest.

It was looking like the Chicago Line of old. But after that flurry of activity rail traffic died for more than an hour and a half before the lull was broken by an eastbound coal train.

The next train, a westbound manifest, showed up an hour later. Then came another lull of nearly an hour before a westbound intermodal came along. That would be my last train of the day.

Had I arrived an hour earlier I could have caught a 40-minute late westbound Lake Shore Limited led by a Phase III heritage unit.

And speaking of heritage units, various online reports had the Interstate heritage unit leading stack train 21T.

A railfan I talked with briefly said it should arrive in a couple hours. I thought he meant in Waterloo.

I followed the progress of NS 8104 on a Facebook group devoted to the Chicago Line.

I heard a scratchy radio transmission about 11:15 a.m. and thought, “that must be the 21T.”

I got out and hung around the Amtrak platform. I waited and waited and waited. I periodically checked the Facebook page and HeritageUnits.com, but nothing new had been posted since MP 248.

The minutes ticked away and I kept thinking I should be seeing a headlight any minute.

Something must have happened. Maybe the train went into emergency, struck a car at a grade crossing, or who knows what.

It was boiling hot and I feared getting dehydrated. I didn’t dare dash back to my car to get my radio and/or some water for fear of missing the photograph.

On Labor Day weekend 2017 Marty Surdyk and his brother Robert had been in Indiana for a weekend outing and chased a Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern train on the Fort Wayne Line that didn’t exist where they thought it did.

They had, as Marty put it in a trip report, been chasing air for two hours and 40 miles.

I never left Waterloo, but it turned out I was waiting for air for more than an hour.

The 21T goes to Kansas City and not Chicago as I had thought. It had turned left at Butler, Indiana, and gotten on the former Wabash to head to Fort Wayne and points beyond.

There is in Indiana, it seems, a lot of air. On that same Labor Day outing Marty and Robert had “lost” into that same thin air an NS train they had been chasing.

So it meant that I have still not seen or photographed an NS heritage unit since last August when I caught the Illinois Terminal H unit in Marion.

That disappointment aside, it had still been an enjoyable day because I had seen and photographed something which is better than nothing.

With railroad traffic in contraction mode for the foreseeable future my expectations have adjusted accordingly. This is a year to take whatever you can and make the best of it.

The 18M was long but had no DPUs today.

The 24M may be an an afternoon train in Cleveland but it’s a morning train in Waterloo, Indiana.

An eastbound coal train broke a lull of more than an hour and a half.

Some reefer cars are mixed in with the last cut of box cars on this westbound.

My last sighting of the day was a westbound intermodal.