Posts Tagged ‘NS motive power’

Planes Were the Objective Along With the Trains

May 1, 2017

Having picked up a third unit, the motive power set of the 20R is returning to its train, which was parked east of CP 194.

When I saw the weather forecast for Sunday, April 23, I knew I just had to get out someplace trackside.

The winds were going to be northeasterly, which sealed the deal on going to Olmsted Falls. Why? Because aircraft landing at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport would be landing on runway 6 left and that would put their final approach path just to the west of the depot.

I could photograph trains and planes. Maybe I would get lucky and get a heritage plane as well as an NS heritage unit.

It turned out that I got neither. All of the motive power was standard NS black. All of the planes were in their usual colors and markings.

Not a single foreign unit led a single train during my nearly nine hours there.

I did succeed, though, in photographing for the first time Allegiant Air, which began flying into Hopkins in February. That same month Allegiant stopped serving the Akron-Canton Airport.

I also got an American Airlines MD80 in its original livery. American plans to phase the MD80 out of its fleet later this year so those planes are flying on short time.

This outing had something in common with the ARRC’s Dave McKay Day back on April 1.

On McKay Day, NS train 20R had to pick up another locomotive. The same thing happened on this day, too.

The 17N cut off its power and dropped a spare unit at the far west end of the Berea siding. The 20R power set ran light through the Falls to pick it up.

Otherwise, it was a pretty routine day, but even a routine day can be a good day when you are trackside on a nice spring day.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Eastbound 22K passing a budding tree by the depot.

The crew of NS train 17N returns to its train after dropping off a unit for the 20R in the Berea siding.

A stack train with a colorful set of containers approaches the Olmsted Falls depot.

I believe this is NS train 206.

Big wheels keep on turning. Tractors hitch a ride on eastbound NS train 14A.

An Allegiant MD80 is lined up to land on at Cleveland Hopkins Airport. Catching Allegiant for the first time was at the top of my objective list for this outing. This flight is inbound from Orlando Sanford Airport.

NS 1st Quarter Net Income Up 12%

April 27, 2017

Norfolk Southern said on Wednesday that its first quarter 2017 net income rose by 12 percent to $433 million compared with the same period in 2016.

The railroad said it set records for operating ratio, income from operations and earnings per share.

The increase in net income was attributed to a 7 percent rise in income from railway operations, as well as a lower effective income tax rate.
Diluted earnings per share climbed 15 percent to $1.48 compared with the EPS for the first quarter of 2016.

Railway operating revenue rose 6 percent to $2.6 billion compared with 2016 as overall volume rose 5 percent due to growth in coal, intermodal and merchandise. Income from railway operations was a record $773 million, up 7 percent year over last year.

The operating ratio of 70.0 percent was a first quarter record, compared with 70.1 percent in 2016.

Operating expenses increased 6 percent to $1.8 billion compared with 2016. NS said that targeted expense cuts were offset by inflation, particularly related to fuel expenses, which were higher by $64 million.

Chief Marketing Officer Alan Shaw said overall traffic volume increased 5 percent. Merchandise traffic grew 1 percent, intermodal rose 4 percent, and coal was up by 21 percent.

A 71 percent spike in export coal was an aberration, Shaw said, due to the effect of cyclone damage in coal-producing regions of Australia. That tightened the global supply and created demand for U.S. coal.

Shaw said NS expects demand to remain strong in the second quarter before returning to more normal levels in the second half of the year.

Utility coal shipments grew 14 percent in the quarter thanks in part to higher natural gas prices.

“Norfolk Southern’s record results for the first quarter demonstrate the efficacy of our strategic plan, under which we are enhancing our service quality and network performance while driving significant efficiency improvements,” said Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer James Squires in a statement. “Our focus on providing a superior service product has positioned us for growth and, coupled with our cost discipline, has contributed to a solid start to the year. Our strategy provides a strong foundation for growth at low incremental costs, a powerful formula for enhanced shareholder value.”

During a conference call with in analysts, Squires said NS is watching closely what is happening in the railroad industry, particularly at competitor CSX.

Squires said NS still plans to cut its operating ratio below 65 percent and continue to boost productivity while reducing costs by $650 million by 2020.

In 2017, Squires said NS expects to save $100 million in expenses.

When asked if NS expects to gain market share if CSX suffers service disruptions as it streamlines operations, Squires said, “We’re always looking for good revenue growth opportunities.”

NS Chief Operating Officer Mike Wheeler said that although the railroad has ceased yard humping operations at three yards in the past couple years its 10 hump yards are a vital part of the network and are key to providing good service to merchandise customers

Wheeler said NS will rationalize terminals if it can do so without affecting service.

He said NS has made improvements in key service metrics, including train length and locomotive productivity.

Train lengths grew for the sixth straight quarter largely due to an “aggressively accelerating use of distributed power.”

NS has mothballed 50 locomotives from its switching and local service operations and is eyeing the retirement of another 100 engines in the second quarter. Since early 2016, NS has sidelined 300 locomotives.

Wheeler said a smaller locomotive fleet reduces maintenance costs and improves fuel efficiency, noting that the railroad realized a 6 percent improvement in fuel efficiency in the first quarter of 2017.

The Paint Was Barely Dry on NS 7328

April 26, 2017

Norfolk Southern 7328 used to be Union Pacific 8263.

There was something that looked different about the Norfolk Southern train of hoppers as it approached Olmsted Falls.

The lead unit of train 547 was gleaming in the mid-morning sunlight and there was a couple of specs of orange behind it.

It turned out that NS 7328 had just been repainted. That was good news and bad news.

The good news is that a freshly-painted locomotive, even one that is black, makes for a nice image. The bad news is that this is one of the former Union Pacific SD9043MACs that NS purchased used a while back.

These units ran around in UP Armour yellow for a while, sans their UP markings, and added a spot of color to the otherwise all black NS world.

Sure, NS has heritage locomotives and special tribute locomotives to break up the black monotony, but it is still good to get some color every now and then.

In the case of this train the two trailing BNSF “pumpkins” helped to provide just enough of that to enhance the interest of this motive power set.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

Let’s Get Behind the Horses

April 19, 2017

Many years ago when I was a kid we were on a family vacation out east. We saw a billboard that read, “let’s get behind the birds,” making a reference to the Baltimore Orioles Major League Baseball team.

The billboard had a team photo that was taken from behind the players, not in front of them.

The vast majority of the time, railroad photographs show the nose of a locomotive approaching the photographer.

This Norfolk Southern light power move — symbol 967 — is headed from Columbus to Bellevue.

With the exception of DPU units, it is not often that the rear of a locomotive is also the rear of the train.

Last Gasp of Winter

April 11, 2017

Where did the winter go? That’s a term more commonly heard about summer, a season  that most people embrace, and not winter, a season that most people dread.

We had snow this winter, but not as much as I remember there being in past winters and for various reasons I didn’t get out when we had it to make any photographs.

It is not that I didn’t make photographs during the winter months, but when I did get out there was little to no snow on the ground.

So here it is April and this is one of the best snow and trains photograph that I have to show for the winter of 2016-2017.

Yeah, I know it is kind of lame, but at least there is snow in the image even if little of it.

There will always be another winter and the next one might have more opportunity than I care to have. But I’ll deal with that then.

NS Opens New Chicago Locomotive Shop

February 15, 2017

Norfolk Southern has opened a new locomotive shop in Chicago adjacent to its 47th Street intermodal facility.

NS logo 2The $9.5 million facility has 16,300 square feet and comes with a 125-ton drop table to inspect, repair, or replace traction motors; a mobile, 7.5–ton overhead gantry crane, and a 77-foot-long inspection pit.

It can handle four locomotives indoors at once and will employ 25 craft workers around the clock.

“The new facility is strategically located on Norfolk Southern’s primary rail line serving Chicago, and it will allow NS to rapidly make repairs to locomotives moving freight to our major terminals,” said NS vice president mechanical Don Graab in a statement. “The investment is part of NS’s commitment to provide timely and reliable service and will enable us to move goods even more efficiently across the Chicago gateway and benefit intermodal customers shipping freight to East Coast markets.”

With the opening of the shop NS will no longer have to move locomotives requiring extensive maintenance to other shops on its system.

NS also operates a minor repairs shop in Chicago at Calumet Yard. NS has six yards in the Chicago region that handle more than 100 trains a day.

Changing Times at Oak Harbor

January 26, 2017

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One in a period series of images I made last summer

I don’t get to Oak Harbor that often. It is just far enough away to discourage a day trip there.

But I did get there last summer during an all-day outing that focused primarily on the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern.

At the far west end of Oak Harbor just east of North Benton Street is a set of intermediate signals.

I remembered photographing NS trains passing those signals during my first visit to Oak Harbor about 10 years ago.

In particular, I set my camera’s shutter speed to 30th of a second so I could create a blur as the train whizzed by with the blur making it seem as though the train was going 500 miles an hour.

During last summer’s visit to Oak Harbor those old type G signals were still in place, but newer signals were standing next to them waiting to be activated.

Given how little I get to Oak Harbor this was likely going to be the last time I’d photograph those old signals.

So I waited for an intermodal train to come, set the shutter speed of 30th of a second and recreated something I had made years earlier on slide film.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

An Hour or So at East Conway

January 7, 2017
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Three trains came out of Conway Yard and then backed up to switch tracks during my time there.

The title of this post notwithstanding, I don’t know how much time I spent at East Conway near Pittsburgh in early December.

Hanging out there was not on our agenda when my friend Adam and I ventured toward Pittsburgh. It just sort of happened.

We thought we might be able to catch westbound train 21Q, which was being led by the Pennsylvania Railroad heritage locomotive.

Earlier in the year we had caught the New York Central H unit at East Conway. Given that the PRR and NYC merged in  1968 to form Penn Central, there was a certain symmetry to photographing the PRR and NYC heritage locomotives in the same place in the same year.

As it turned out, we spent more time at East Conway than expected. The 21Q had to wait for a new crew to arrive and there was opposing traffic coming in and out of Conway Yard.

We had been told by local railfans on another trip to Pittsburgh that it is all right to hang out on the bridge over the East Conway interlocking.

The bridge carries a street into the yard and, we were told, it is a public street.

I’m not sure about that, but during the two times that we spent on that bridge in 2016 no one from NS told us to leave and there were always a number of locals there making photographs.

NS has installed security cameras on the bridge, although that may have more to do with checking who and what is coming in and out of the yard.

Getting images of Conway Yard from this bridge had been on my “to do” list for some time.

So everything seemed to work out during this visit. It would have been nice had it not been overcast, but I can live with that.

Now that I’ve made numerous images at the East Conway bridge, I’m not sure I’m all that motivated to go back there except, perhaps, to photograph something specific, like say, the Penn Central heritage unit. I’ve pretty much documented operations there.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Four movements at one time at East Conway.

Four movements at one time at East Conway.

A light power move comes out of the yard for head room.

A light power move comes out of the yard for head room.

Keeping watch ahead for a light power move returning to the yard.

Keeping watch ahead for a light power move returning to the yard.

Keeping watch from a gondola as a manifest freight backs up at East Conway.

Keeping watch from a gondola as a manifest freight backs up at East Conway.

An eastbound stack train has a new crew and is ready to go east.

An eastbound stack train has a new crew and is ready to go east.

An eastbound stack train passes a manifest freight backing into Conway.

An eastbound stack train passes a manifest freight backing into Conway.

New NS Eco Power Rolls Through Area

December 30, 2016

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Thursday started out gloomy and overcast but by afternoon the sun had come out. I was Railfaning Norfolk Southern at Hudson and caught a few trains.

About 3 p.m. I got word that 15N had left Conway with a brand new eco set in its consist. I figured it would take about two hours to reach me which by then would be dark.

I decided to relocate to Rootstown, which would put me 20 minutes closer to the train. I got a few more trains while waiting but the shadows were creeping in.

At 4:28 p.m. the train arrived and I was able to get a few sunlight photos. In the few minutes it took the train to pass me the sun dipped behind the clouds. Talk about cutting it close.

Article and Photograps by Todd Dillon

NS Marathon: Day in Olmsted Falls (2)

December 27, 2016
This was the only "foreign power" that I saw all day leading an NS train. I wound up seeing CSX after all.

This was the only “foreign power” that I saw all day leading an NS train. I wound up seeing CSX after all.

One in a periodic series of images that I made last summer

The downside to spending so much time railfanning in one location is that you might lack the motivation to move on.

Last July, I spent the morning in Olmsted Falls next to the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern. My plan was to drive to Berea about noon so that I could catch some CSX action. I wouldn’t miss anything on NS.

But as noon drew near, I found myself putting off heading for Berea. In part that was because I wanted to photograph aircraft landing at nearby Cleveland Hopkins International Airport where making their final approaches over the Falls. I was enjoying photographing aircraft about as much as I was photographing trains.

In looking back at my 2016 railfan activities, I’ve probably spent more time with NS than with CSX. In part that is due to the erratic nature of CSX traffic these days.

An operating plan implanted within the past year has sought to have regular trains leave on a schedule of something like every 26 hours rather than every 24 hours.

Some symbol freights have been combined, others abolished and trains have become much longer.

During my times in Berea this year, it has seemed as though NS traffic – though still subject to lull periods – has been steadier than CSX traffic.

But I haven’t conducted any empirical studies of that so at best I am conveying an impression than a conclusion based on hard evidence.

On this July day, NS did go through some long lulls during the afternoon hours, particularly in late afternoon. But it didn’t seem so empty because I had airplanes to watch.

I kept putting off my time to relocate to Berea until a car pulled in that didn’t look familiar, but the driver did.

It was Marty Surdyk and his brother Robert. The car belonged to the girlfriend of Marty’s brother John.

Once Marty arrived, my plans to move over to Berea vanished because we started visiting and talking trains.

The model railroad club housed in the former Lake Shore & Michigan Southern depot in Olmsted Falls was open and Marty and I spent some time talking with club members and checking out their HO scale layout.

That also effective ended my keeping a log of the trains that we saw because my log book was in my camera bag, which was in my car on the other side of the tracks.

There was shade next to the depot, but not in the parking lot on the north side of the tracks.

The afternoon traffic mix was not as diverse as it had been earlier in the day.

Intermodal trains predominated, but there were two auto rack trains, a couple of tanker trains and a couple of manifest freights.

The auto rack train was a one hit wonder with a CSX locomotive. It might have been the CSX train that uses NS trackage rights between Cleveland and Toledo.

It would be the only train I would see all day that did not have an NS unit leading.

Marty had to take Robert home around 5 or 5:30 p.m. but said he’d be back for the evening.

We ended up sticking around until just after 8 p.m. As luck would have it, the only trains we caught after 5:30 were westbounds.

That was a good thing because the light favored westbounds over eastbounds.

By 8 p.m. the shadows were growing long and I began thinking about getting home to fix dinner.

And so ended my all-day NS marathon in Olmsted Falls. I probably won’t be doing anything like that again until next year’s Dave McKay Day in early April.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Going green with a bit of orange thrown in.

Going green with a bit of orange thrown in.

After sitting in the Berea siding for quite a while, this train got a new crew and headed westward.

After sitting in the Berea siding for quite a while, this train got a new crew and headed westward.

I've always enjoyed stack trains of a nearly uniform consist. All of this train fit into the frame.

I’ve always enjoyed stack trains of a nearly uniform consist. All of this train fit into the frame.

I'm pretty sure this was an NS auto rack train.

I’m pretty sure this was an NS auto rack train.

Train L13 came in from Bellevue running light. Between the time it arrived and departed nearly two hours later, just one train would pass by.

Train L13 came in from Bellevue running light. Between the time it arrived and departed nearly two hours later, just one train would pass by.

Train L13 had a cut of brand new tank cars.

Train L13 had a cut of brand new tank cars.

Bellevue-bound L13 passes the Olmsted Falls depot.

Bellevue-bound L13 passes the Olmsted Falls depot.

I had a pair of tanker trains in the morning and another pair in the late afternoon.

I had a pair of tanker trains in the morning and another pair in the late afternoon.

I managed to work in a landing plane at Hopkins passing over this westbound tanker train. And I got the sun in the image to boot.

I managed to work in a landing plane at Hopkins passing over this westbound tanker train. And I got the sun in the image to boot.

A Union Pacific until in trailing in this consist was the only Western Class 1 unit I saw.

A Union Pacific until that is trailing in this consist was the only Western Class 1 unit I saw.

The late day light was really sweet.

The late day light was really sweet.