Bulletin Board


Main Page

May 2004


CSXT Constructing New Operating Plan

CSX Transportation has unveiled a new operating plan involving its merchandise and automotive traffic. Known as the 'One Plan,' it is being adopted using computer models with assistance from transportation planning consultant MultiModal. According to a company report quoting Alan Blumenfeld, senior vice president service design, "We will rely heavily on our field managers' input in our preliminary blocking plan. In April and May, we will rely heavily on them, as well, to develop the best train plan." The goal is to identify the most efficient, cost-effective routes for CSXT customers' traffic, and to provide timely service with the fewest handlings and car miles possible. The first phase of the plan, which will affect line-of-road trains between yards, is slated to begin in July, according to the report.


Sunset Scramble Rides Again

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

Last spring and summer it was my pleasure to join two different evening biking programs to explore the 41-mile length of the trail using the roadbed of the old Northern Central Railway in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The one in Maryland, calling itself 'Bike Through History,' met on Wednesdays; and the one in Pennsylvania, called 'Sunset Scramble,' met on Tuesdays. I attended both as frequently as I could.

On April 20 of this year I began my second season with the Sunset Scramble program in Pennsylvania. Thirteen of us met at Glatfelters for a delightful evening as we headed south in the direction of Glen Rock, returning just as it was getting dark. Along the way we saw two additional attractions that had not been there last year. First, at Glatfelters, a bridge has been erected spanning Codorus Creek, and it allows easier and more direct access from the parking lot to the trail. Second, at Hanover Junction, a short section of track has been laid on the alignment of the long-abandoned Hanover Branch Railroad, noted as the spot where President Lincoln posed with a delegation for a Matthew Brady photograph in 1863.


An Empire Builder (mis) Adventure

Or Some People Have All the Fun!

[From an article entitled "City of San Francisco Deju Vu?" by Jim Bergant]...

Some background: The article "By Amtrak on a Great Circle Adventure," published in the March 2004 issue, recounts the aftermath of a severe blizzard in the Great Plains that had occurred the day before my train went through the same area. At Minot, North Dakota, we picked up the passengers who had been stranded there when their train could go no further. Jim Bergant, whom I did not know at the time, was one of the passengers on the train affected by the blizzard, and was one of those who boarded my train to continue his delayed trip eastward. He, too, was writing a trip report, and it was published to the members of the Louisville Chapter NRHS, of which he is president. Later, he read my article on-line, and he decided to send me a copy of the article he had written.. The portion included here begins on the Empire Builder the afternoon of February 10, 2004 ... [A.B.]

The train continued on schedule as we arrived into Havre, Montana, for an extended stop for refueling. Starting with a half hour delay getting out of Havre, things started going down hill as the weather took a turn for the worse with extremely strong winds out of the North. Not too far out of Havre we were put in the hole to meet our westbound counterpart. After a fairly long wait the train passed and we still continued to sit. I put on my scanner and picked up that the switch had frozen and the switch heaters had blown out. After unsuccessful attempts to throw the switch by hand, they had us do a reverse move to back out the other end of the siding. This was slow but eventually we got back on the main and everything looked good to go.


When the crew had tried to move the switch on the east end, they actually had moved it slightly and now it wasn't lined for the main either. We had to wait for a crew to drive out from Havre to clean the switch and get it lined for our movement. By now we are about two hours late. I'm not sure what time we arrived in Williston, North Dakota, but I had been asleep and woke up just enough to find out where we were and then I returned to sleep.

Sometime later, I along with others were jolted awake by a sudden stopping of the train as the slack quickly reduced. I looked out the window to see blizzard conditions that they call "white-outs" in the area. You could hardly see but a few feet. So I put on the scanner to hear conversations between the crew and the BNSF dispatcher. The engineer was telling the dispatcher that we had hit a snow bank and had become stuck, but he had managed to break free and move us back. The engineer was telling the dispatcher that he didn't think the drift was very large and that he thought he could break through it.

This was when thoughts of the Southern Pacific's "City of San Francisco" began to come to mind. If you recall, this train was stuck in a snow drift in the Sierra Nevadas for several days in the early 1950s.

After consultation with the chief dispatcher came the directive to reverse move back to Williston and a snow removal train would be sent out from Minot. It turned out that we were about 21 miles out of Williston so we had to very slowly back up as the conductor with only a flashlight viewed out the rear of the train. As you can imagine, this took forever, and finally we arrived back in Williston. After about six hours the work train detail dispatched out of Minot had broken through the drift and arrived in Williston. Several of the crew boarded our train to deadhead back to Minot. They told us the drift was over 400 yards long and as high as 12 to 14 feet deep.

Our train finally departed and when we got to the location of the drift, I noticed there was a long stretch where I could only see a wall of snow out my window. On a Superliner, this would be at least 12 feet.

After we finally got to Minot, conditions had worsened, and they terminated our train. By then it was over nine hours late. Amtrak did, however, taxi all of us and put us in motels for the day at their expense.

Later that day they taxied all of us back to the station to catch the next eastbound Empire Builder. This train was coming into Minot on time but this is where Mother Nature and some dumb dispatching put a freight in the hole which also happened to be our loading track at the station. So when our train arrived, he had to take the main on the opposite side of the freight from us. Then after the freight left, the Amtrak reversed back to the turnout and then proceeded to our loading area. All of these maneuvers plus frozen switches delayed us by over an hour and a half.


A Ride into History

[By Rick Maguire] . . .

NA Tower in Martinsburg, West Virginia, closed in July 2003. The author of this report is a CSXT locomotive engineer.

On Saturday, July 19, 2003, at 0900 (9:00 a.m.) a signal suspension on a portion of CSX's Cumberland Subdivision was due to become effective. This signal suspension was between Weverton and West Cumbo. It was to allow the new color-light signals, which included reverse (bidirectional) signaling on both main tracks, to be completed. This would also include the closing of NA Tower in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

In addition to controlling the interlocking at Martinsburg, the operator at NA Tower also controlled a remote interlocking at Hobbs, located about seven miles east of Martinsburg. Both of these locations had crossovers between the two main tracks that would later be removed.

Earlier that morning, I reported for work at 0001 at CSX's East Side Yard in Philadelphia. I was the engineer on my regular assignment, Q135. This train originates at the intermodal facility in South Philadelphia. Before CSX changed the train designations to symbols, on the B&O Railroad it was known as the Chicago Trailer Jet. Later, on the Chessie System, it was known as the Philadelphia/Chicago Trailer Train. This morning it was Q13519.

Our locomotive consist today included three units: CSXT-7717, FURX-3010 and CSXT-8155. The train's consist was 38 loads, 0 empties, 3932 tons, and 6540 feet in length. We departed at 0140 for the non-stop trip to Cumberland, Maryland, where we would change crews.

We passed WB Tower in Brunswick, Maryland, at approximately 0750. The next interlocking, Weverton, which is also controlled by the operator at WB Tower, was to be the beginning of the signal suspension in a little over an hour from now.

I looked over to my conductor, M.J. (Mark) Riesett, and said we should be able to get past West Cumbo before the 0900 deadline. By doing this, we would avoid having to copy all the direct traffic control (DTC) block authorities and just run by signal indication. We would also be the very last train to receive signal indications on the old B&O color position-light signals on this portion of the railroad.

After passing the absolute signal at Hobbs, Q135 began to pick up speed as we began the long downhill grade towards Martinsburg. Meanwhile, the first-trick operator at NA Tower was busy lining up the railroad for our train. This was to be the last time a route would be lined and a signal displayed at NA Tower.

At approximately 0850, on Q13519, I took the last signal that would be displayed by an operator at NA Tower.

In a few short minutes the signal suspension would take effect. When the signal system was restored, there would no longer be a working tower at Martinsburg.

Yet one more piece of the old Baltimore & Ohio Railroad gone forever!


CSX Reports First-Quarter Earnings

CSX Corporation has reported first-quarter net earnings of $30-million or 14 cents per share, versus $99-million or 46 cents per share a year ago, including the favorable cumulative effect of a 2003 accounting change of $57-million after tax or 26 cents per share. First quarter 2004 included an after-tax charge of $37-million or 17 cents per share related to the company's management restructuring initiatives.


CSX Intermodal's Savannah Terminal Hit by Fire

CSX Intermodal's Savannah Terminal was hit by an early-morning fire April 23 that heavily damaged the terminal building, according to a company report. Telephone and computer systems were down for just over eight hours until they were brought back on line. Workers ensured that the terminal was in continuous operation during the recovery phase, and a temporary headquarters building was put in place.


California Zephyr Using Temporary Track in Reno

The California Zephyr has begun using a temporary track in downtown Reno, Nevada, placed for construction of a trench for the Union Pacific main line. A temporary Amtrak station is now located a block east of the previous location. The project is expected to be completed in 2005.


Amtrak Over-the-Road Train Performance

How the host carriers compare - April 2004

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

The fundamentals remained the same for the April 2004 survey as had been applied the previous month. It was conducted over a four-week period beginning April 1 and ending April 28, but there was no survey conducted on the day of the time change (April 4) or the days of the spring schedule change (April 25 and 26) to avoid contaminating the analysis with eccentric schedule overlapping.

Amtrak, for areas where it serves as its own host carrier, took first place in April with a computed 65.4 minutes of delay per 1,000 train miles. Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which was in first place in March, dropped to second place in April with a figure of 66.3. CSX, which had been in last place in March, moved up one notch, with Union Pacific dropping into last place with a rather dismal figure of 186.8. The position standings for the other carriers remained the same.

Overall, the composite figure of 107.8 minutes of delay per 1,000 train miles was slightly worse in April than it was in March. Then it was 103.6. The figures for four of the host carriers did show improvement in April, however.

This survey is offered as a guide to how each of the host carriers compare with the others in their performance reliability in the movement of Amtrak trains. It could also be an indicator as to each railroad's fluidity in its overall operating plan.

The figures (minutes of delay per 1,000 train miles) for the seven major host carriers in April were as follows: