Posts Tagged ‘railroad hump yards’

NS to Close Enola Hump

September 24, 2020

Norfolk Southern will end hump operations on Sept. 25 at Enola Yard near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The carrier said Enola will change to flat switching. A railroad spokesman said some jobs will be curtailed by the change, but no jobs will be lost in the diesel shop.

The closing of the Enola hump is the fifth hump that NS has closed this year. Earlier it shut down the hump in Bellevue, which is NS’s largest railroad classification yard in the East.

NS also shut down hump operations in Allentown, Pennsylvania; Sheffield, Alabama; and Linwood, North Carolina.

The NS spokesman sought to frame closing the Enola hump as a service improvement, saying it would reduced the amount of time that rail cars wait to be processed.

Shuttering humps has been a part of NS adopting the precision scheduled railroading operating model in which use of hump yards is de-emphasized in favor of pre-blocking more traffic at point of origin and engaging in block swapping en route.

NS Acknowledges Closing Hump in Bellevue

June 18, 2020

Norfolk Southern acknowledged this week that it is ending hump operations in its Bellevue yard and will use the facility for flat switching.

The move comes as NS continues to see a slump in its carload traffic.

An NS spokesman told The Blade of Toledo that some workers would be furloughed but did not say how many.

“This alteration will allow for greater efficiencies and customer service that achieves the goals set forth in the company’s strategic plan,” said NS spokesman Jeff DeGraff.

DeGraff said those furloughed would be given the opportunity to apply for positions elsewhere at NS.

NS had told shippers recently that it was reviewing operations at yards throughout its system in part in response to lower traffic volume and in part as it moves to the precision scheduled railroading operating model.

Thus far in the second quarter of 2020 NS merchandise traffic volume is down 32 percent.

The carrier had earlier closed the hump at its Linwood yard in North Carolina.

The yard in Bellevue, which is named for retired NS CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman, was expanded in eight years ago during a $160 million project that added another hump and classification bowl.

Moorman was the head of NS when the yard was expanded.

The hump in Bellevue was built in 1966 by Norfolk & Western.

Although NS has declined to say how many workers in Bellevue will lose their jobs, a social-media post from a private Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen said it was 26 carmen.

Moorman Yard is the largest classification yard on the NS network and second largest classification yard in the United States behind Bailey Yard on Union Pacific in North Platte, Nebraska.

For now NS will continue to operate hump yards in Elkhart, Indiana, and at Conway Yard north of Pittsburgh.

Report Says Bellevue Hump to Close on Tuesday

June 14, 2020

Hump operations in Bellevue will cease on Tuesday said a report published by Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports, a publication that covers railroads, ports and the shipping industry.

The news outlet posted on its Facebook page on Saturday that some block swapping and flat switching may continue at Moorman Yard.

Some switching and classification work now being done in Bellevue will reportedly move to Airline Junction in Toledo and Rockport Yard in Cleveland.

The report said 26 carmen positions will be abolished but six yardmasters will reportedly be retained.

The development comes five years after NS completed a $160 million expansion of Moorman Yard that included construction of a second hump and classification bowl.

Moorman Yard is the largest NS classification yard and the second largest in the country.

NS to Change Operations at Moorman Yard

June 5, 2020

NS trains classify cars at the hump in Bellevue in August 2015.

Norfolk Southern is planning to change operations later this month at Moorman Yard in Bellevue but has yet to say what those changes will entail.

The changes are part of a larger review the railroad is undertaking of yard operations throughout its system Chief Marketing Officer Alan Shaw said in a letter to shippers.

The letter indicated that NS has completed its review of Moorman Yard, which is the largest classification yard in the East and second largest in the country behind Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard in North Platte, Nebraska.

NS may idle hump operations in Bellevue and convert it to flat switching.

Since 2008, NS has closed five humps including two in the past year as part of its transformation to the precision scheduled railroading operating model.

Closed were humps in Sheffield, Alabama, and Allentown, Pennsylvania. More recently, NS changed operations at Linwood Yard in North Carolina by taking the hump out of service and furloughing 85 workers.

NS Chief Financial Officer Mark George said during an investor conference last month that those moves would save $10 million to $15 million annually.

Aside from the move to PSR, NS is also being motivated by falling carload traffic, which has declined 33 percent to date in the second quarter.

In his message to shippers, Shaw said there will be service modifications later this month pertaining to Bellevue and that shippers would be notified of those changes.

“We are reaching out to affected customers directly over the next two weeks to discuss the planned changes,” Shaw wrote.

“We are especially mindful of first- and last-mile changes, and we plan on working closely with you as we implement these steps.”

Bellevue was a major terminal for the former Nickel Plate Road and its successor, Norfolk & Western, built a larger classification yard there in 1967.

NS expanded the yard in 2014 to add a second hump and classification bowl that doubled the yard’s maximum classification capacity to 3,600 cars a day.

Earlier this year NS Chief Operating Officer Mike Wheeler said NS was looking at its yard and terminal network with an eye toward determining what it can live without.

He did not officer specifics as to which terminals and yards must be closed or trimmed in size.

Although NS has suffered the largest decline in carload traffic among Class 1 railroads, its management has said that was because it is more closely tied to industrial sectors that have been hard hit by the economic downturn, including the auto industry and steel mills.

Shaw noted in his letter that NS was conducting a review of its network before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

“The current economic disruption is a challenge for all of us, but we are using this time to find additional ways to streamline our operations,” Shaw said.

He said NS is seeking to make its network more efficient while “providing a platform for growth.”

This includes routing shipments more directly to their destinations with fewer handlings and classifications along the way.

NS Closes Linwood Yard Hump

May 2, 2020

Falling traffic at Norfolk Southern has led the carrier to temporary close the hump at Linwood Yard in North Carolina.

In a statement, NS said the yard will continue to provide switching for local customers but that 85 jobs will be eliminated.

However, some employees used their seniority rights to obtain positions elsewhere at NS.

NS has said that its freight traffic has fallen 30 percent in April.

The carrier may close other yards during the pandemic but the advent of the precision scheduled railroading model had already resulted in some closures, including hump operations in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Sheffield, Alabama.

“We are taking hard looks at our yard and terminal network, testing what we can live without,” Chief Operating Officer Mike Wheeler said earlier this week.

Linwood Yard was opened in 1979 by the Southern Railway.

When Stanley Yard Still Had a Hump

January 23, 2020

I’ve only photographed Stanley Yard in Toledo once and that was one of those outings where I was out to get one thing and happened to get a few others along the way.

Stanley was built by the Toledo & Ohio Central in the early 1900s and later served New York Central, Penn Central, Conrail. It is now owned by CSX.

CSX tried closing Stanley in early 2004 but had to reopen it when the freight congestion in nearby yards became too much.

In March 2017 CSX closed the hump at Stanley, which can be seen above although at the time I was there it was idle.

At right is a Canadian National transfer run that is arriving off the former Toledo Terminal on May 13 2012.

CSX to Keep 4 Humps, Unload Some Trackage

May 24, 2018

CSX plans to keep four hump yards but is reviewing other “underused” facilities, including 8,000 miles of trackage that may be abandoned or sold.

CEO James Foote disclosed the plans during a speech to the Wolfe Research Global Transportation Conference.

“We’re doing a good job of analyzing about 8,000 miles of railroad and trying to determine what segments fit into  . . . three baskets,” Foote said.

He identified those are core and non-core routes, and lines that are somewhere in the middle and need further analysis to determine whether they should be retained or spun off.

The hump yards that CSX plans to keep open for now are located in Waycross, Georgia.; Selkirk, New York; Indianapolis (Avon); and Cincinnati (Queensgate).

Foote said Waycross and Selkirk are anchors in their regions of the CSX network.

Avon and Queesgate have been processing cars at record levels. CSX briefly closed Avon Yard as a hump and talked about moving its yarding duties to smaller yards in Indianapolis but backed away from those plans after its network became congested.

CSX will continue to seek to consolidate underused local switching and support yards in an effort to find more efficiency gains.

Foote contended that railroad’s financial goals for the next three years are not necessarily contingent on selling off routes.

One of those objectives is to have a 60 percent operating ratio which is the percent of revenue that is being devoted to operating expenses.

“This is not something that was in the plan that says if we don’t do this we can’t hit a 60 operating ratio,” Foote said. “This is totally separate and independent. And again to a large degree, it goes back to learning, understanding the complete footprint of the CSX network and how it should be most efficiently and effectively run.”

The financial plan, which governs operations through 2020, calls for cost-cutting, efficiency gains and revenue increases.

This include selling real estate, which is expected to net $300 million. The plan also identified $500 million in potential line sales.

CSX said it is talking with numerous would-be buyers who have expressed interest in routes the Class 1 carrier might be willing to sell.

The carrier has said it doesn’t have a target number for how many miles it wants to sell or abandon.

Chief Financial Officer Frank Lonegro said that management recently held an “intense dialogue” about core and non-core routes with the company’s board or directors.

Lonegro said management outlined what routes were considered part of the core and which lines no longer fit into CSX’s plans.

“Precision scheduled railroading has clearly given us the opportunity to look more at redundant routes and branch lines that don’t carry very much traffic,” he said.

NS Leasing More Locomotives, Reopening Hump Yard

May 16, 2018

Norfolk Southern has continued leasing locomotives to handle traffic surges and alleviate congestion that has occurred in particular in the southern reaches of its network.

The Class 1 carrier leased 90 locomotives in the first quarter and has added another 50 leased units to its fleet

NS CEO James Squires said the additional motive power will help handle traffic growth and enable the carrier to convert 120 older six-axle DC units to like-new AC-traction locomotives as part of its ongoing DC-to-AC conversion program.

It has also hired 400 new conductors to keep its train and engine crew headcount up.

Speaking to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2018 Transportation Conference, Squires said congestion in the South prompted NS to plan to reopen a hump yard in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Squires said the hump at DeButts Yard will be a hybrid operation, meaning it will be used to classify traffic for local customers. Block swapping will continue to be done in the yard as well.

In the past year NS has increased its building of large blocks of cars and swapping them en route to minimize handling and to speed shipments along.

NS had closed the DeButts hump in May 2017. Since them terminal dwell times in Chattanooga have risen sharply.

Dwell times in Chattanooga have increased from an average of 33.5 hours in the second quarter of 2017 to 49.5 hours in April and to 62.7 hours this month.

Squires did not say when the hump would reopen. It remains in place, but workers must re-install the retarders used in hump operations.

Dwell times have also risen in other yards in the South as have average train speeds.

Despite efforts NS has made since last year, the service metrics in that region have not improved.

“We’re holding our own against strong volume growth,” Squires says. “Volume on our network is at a 12-year high.”

The NS CEO said that humps allow resiliency and operational flexibility when traffic rises by absorbing surges in traffic and metering the flow of volume by holding cars until they are ready to be released to customers.

“Customer service is not where we want it to be,” Squires said. “I want our customers to feel fully satisfied with the service they are getting from us, and right now many of them don’t.”

Despite the problems it has experienced, Squires said NS had the strongest volume growth among the Class I railroads for the year to date and that demand for rail service is the strongest he’s ever seen.