Stupid CSX Abandonments

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Stupid CSX Abandonments

Postby NellieBly » Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:35 pm

Through the 1980s and into the early 1990s, CSX abandoned portions of a number of main lines, hamstringing their operations and leaving them without detour routes. Here is a partial list of the truly stupid actions:

1) Clarksburg to Cincinnati, mid 1980s. This left the railroad without a reasonable route between Baltimore and Cincinnati. They had just completed Queensgate Yard. This abandonment left the yard with no purpose.

2) Cedartown, GA to Birmingham. The line had just been rebuilt, sidings extended, and tunnels undercut to remove height restrictions. Official reason was "CSX didn't need to participate in this market" -- interchange with BNSF at Birmingham. Now all traffic from Birmingham east must move via Cordele and Waycross, a heavily congested route.

3) Petersburg to Raleigh. This abandonment of a fast piece of the former Seaboard main line left CSX without a relief route for north/south traffic. So now, anytime trackwork must be done on the former ACL main, service goes to hell. The supposed reason for the abandonment was the need to replace a long timber trestle over Lake Gaston. But with train delay costs running on the order of $500 per hour, maybe they'd like to think again about that?

4) Savannah to Kingsland, GA. This was the original Seaboard main, at 140 miles the short route from SAV to JAX. Silver Meteor used to cover it at an average speed of 74 MPH, including one stop at Thalman. The remaining route is the Nahunta "cutoff" at 170 miles -- or trains can run via Waycross, which is even longer. So let's see, 30 extra miles for every locomotive, at $1.25 per mile, and for every car, at $0.05. On a busy railroad, those numbers really add up. And CSX didn't abandon 140 miles, either, since the line is still intact from Kingsland to JAX. They saved about 100 miles of track maintenance, at maybe $60,000 per mile per year (average for all US track) or $6,000,000 annually. For an average-sized train, car and loco maintenance run about $7.50 per mile (three locos, 75 cars). With 30 miles of extra distance, that's $225 per train. At 50 trains per day, that's $4 million in extra equipment maintenance alone -- and we haven't dealt with train delay cost.

5) Saved the best for last: Starke to Brooker, FL. This 28-mile segment handled three million tons of coal a year to a power plant at Red Level, FL. There was another line, from Baldwin to Newberry. FL, that could also be used to reach the power plant. So CSX abandoned the Brooker Sub -- not realizing they had also filed to abandon the Burnett's Lake Sub (Baldwin to Newberry). They ended up having to *rebuild* 28 miles of track between Starke and Brooker. Now what was their savings on the Burnett's Lake abandonment?

For a number of years, the running joke in the railroad industry was that you could tell which line CSX planned to abandon because they'd lay welded rail on it first.
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Re: Stupid CSX Abandonments

Postby crazy_nip » Thu Apr 13, 2006 3:55 pm

NellieBly wrote:1) Clarksburg to Cincinnati, mid 1980s. This left the railroad without a reasonable route between Baltimore and Cincinnati. They had just completed Queensgate Yard. This abandonment left the yard with no purpose.


not sure what you mean by this, they have other routes between cinci and the east coast... and this is one of the busiest yards in the country

2) Cedartown, GA to Birmingham. The line had just been rebuilt, sidings extended, and tunnels undercut to remove height restrictions. Official reason was "CSX didn't need to participate in this market" -- interchange with BNSF at Birmingham. Now all traffic from Birmingham east must move via Cordele and Waycross, a heavily congested route.


they have the A&WP and WofA, the SAL was a the highest point on the SCL, and had some pretty good grades, they did not need both lines and the WofA is a much "flatter" route. I dont know how you figure they have to go via cordele or waycross...

3) Petersburg to Raleigh. This abandonment of a fast piece of the former Seaboard main line left CSX without a relief route for north/south traffic. So now, anytime trackwork must be done on the former ACL main, service goes to hell. The supposed reason for the abandonment was the need to replace a long timber trestle over Lake Gaston. But with train delay costs running on the order of $500 per hour, maybe they'd like to think again about that?


they were running virtually NOTHING on this line at the time except amtrak, a local and a through freight or 2, cant really fault them for this

4) Savannah to Kingsland, GA. This was the original Seaboard main, at 140 miles the short route from SAV to JAX. Silver Meteor used to cover it at an average speed of 74 MPH, including one stop at Thalman. The remaining route is the Nahunta "cutoff" at 170 miles -- or trains can run via Waycross, which is even longer. So let's see, 30 extra miles for every locomotive, at $1.25 per mile, and for every car, at $0.05. On a busy railroad, those numbers really add up. And CSX didn't abandon 140 miles, either, since the line is still intact from Kingsland to JAX. They saved about 100 miles of track maintenance, at maybe $60,000 per mile per year (average for all US track) or $6,000,000 annually. For an average-sized train, car and loco maintenance run about $7.50 per mile (three locos, 75 cars). With 30 miles of extra distance, that's $225 per train. At 50 trains per day, that's $4 million in extra equipment maintenance alone -- and we haven't dealt with train delay cost.


A mostly single track railroad which runs through coastal marshes and had several large bridges in need of replacement. The ACL was (is) mostly double track signaled both ways. It is a little longer however, but most freight goes via waycross anyway. The line was used primarily for passenger trains. Note: most through freight goes via waycross anyway, the only thing that goes directly between jacksonville and savannah is a few coal trains, and a handful of intermodals, and amtrak. The rest comes out of waycross. And the interchange at jacksonville (grand crossing) was problematic for freights. Again, I cant fault them for doing this. The only reason they kept what they did, is because they were FORCED to by the STB because of interchange with the st. mary's railroad, which is now filed for abandonment and this CSX kingsland sub has been sold to a shortline.

5) Saved the best for last: Starke to Brooker, FL. This 28-mile segment handled three million tons of coal a year to a power plant at Red Level, FL. There was another line, from Baldwin to Newberry. FL, that could also be used to reach the power plant. So CSX abandoned the Brooker Sub -- not realizing they had also filed to abandon the Burnett's Lake Sub (Baldwin to Newberry). They ended up having to *rebuild* 28 miles of track between Starke and Brooker. Now what was their savings on the Burnett's Lake abandonment?


You have this one all wrong. What is known as the brooker sub was abandoned in the 1970's. The section of the west coast sub between burnetts lake and baldwin was abandoned in the early 90's when they tore out south of gulf junction. They did have to rebuild some track, but they have absolutely NO customers (still dont) on the brooker sub, and current traffic is one local as needed, about 3 times a week, plus an every other day coal train to red level and every other day to gainesville. They were not done at the same time. They have since sold the west coast sub to a shortline rr.

Fact is, most railroads would like to have had some trackage they cut in the 70's and 80's back, but they cant. And at the time, it was not cost effective to keep the track open

The only one you mentioned that has any merrit is the SAL between petersburg and norlina, and considering the circumstances at the time, I can understand why they did it.
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Re: Stupid CSX Abandonments

Postby orulz » Thu Apr 13, 2006 6:32 pm

NellieBly wrote:The only one you mentioned that has any merrit is the SAL between petersburg and norlina, and considering the circumstances at the time, I can understand why they did it.
At least CSX never formally abandoned the right-of-way. The tracks have been pulled, but most structures are still in place (even the bridge over Lake Gaston, though it's not fit for use.)

The fact that this line is entirely unused and traverses a lightly populated rural area makes it an excellent candidate for conversion to a high-speed line. The SEHSR planning documents call for a couple major realignments and a bunch of minor ones, but that leaves a bunch of speed restrictions in the 75-90mph range.

Rather than just picking the low-hanging fruit, however, I wish they'd think big. They should massively straighten the line and separate/consolidate some small-town crossings to allow long, unrestricted sections at 110 or 125mph. Dream on, dream on!
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Re: Stupid CSX Abandonments

Postby Noel Weaver » Thu Apr 13, 2006 9:13 pm

NellieBly wrote:Through the 1980s and into the early 1990s, CSX abandoned portions of a number of main lines, hamstringing their operations and leaving them without detour routes. Here is a partial list of the truly stupid actions:

1) Clarksburg to Cincinnati, mid 1980s. This left the railroad without a reasonable route between Baltimore and Cincinnati. They had just completed Queensgate Yard. This abandonment left the yard with no purpose.

2) Cedartown, GA to Birmingham. The line had just been rebuilt, sidings extended, and tunnels undercut to remove height restrictions. Official reason was "CSX didn't need to participate in this market" -- interchange with BNSF at Birmingham. Now all traffic from Birmingham east must move via Cordele and Waycross, a heavily congested route.

3) Petersburg to Raleigh. This abandonment of a fast piece of the former Seaboard main line left CSX without a relief route for north/south traffic. So now, anytime trackwork must be done on the former ACL main, service goes to hell. The supposed reason for the abandonment was the need to replace a long timber trestle over Lake Gaston. But with train delay costs running on the order of $500 per hour, maybe they'd like to think again about that?

4) Savannah to Kingsland, GA. This was the original Seaboard main, at 140 miles the short route from SAV to JAX. Silver Meteor used to cover it at an average speed of 74 MPH, including one stop at Thalman. The remaining route is the Nahunta "cutoff" at 170 miles -- or trains can run via Waycross, which is even longer. So let's see, 30 extra miles for every locomotive, at $1.25 per mile, and for every car, at $0.05. On a busy railroad, those numbers really add up. And CSX didn't abandon 140 miles, either, since the line is still intact from Kingsland to JAX. They saved about 100 miles of track maintenance, at maybe $60,000 per mile per year (average for all US track) or $6,000,000 annually. For an average-sized train, car and loco maintenance run about $7.50 per mile (three locos, 75 cars). With 30 miles of extra distance, that's $225 per train. At 50 trains per day, that's $4 million in extra equipment maintenance alone -- and we haven't dealt with train delay cost.

5) Saved the best for last: Starke to Brooker, FL. This 28-mile segment handled three million tons of coal a year to a power plant at Red Level, FL. There was another line, from Baldwin to Newberry. FL, that could also be used to reach the power plant. So CSX abandoned the Brooker Sub -- not realizing they had also filed to abandon the Burnett's Lake Sub (Baldwin to Newberry). They ended up having to *rebuild* 28 miles of track between Starke and Brooker. Now what was their savings on the Burnett's Lake abandonment?

For a number of years, the running joke in the railroad industry was that you could tell which line CSX planned to abandon because they'd lay welded rail on it first.


I agree with you on all of these, especially Norlina - Petersburg and
Savannah - Kingsland.
CSX seems to prefer to run on a "shoestring".
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Postby RailBus63 » Fri Apr 14, 2006 9:13 am

I'm not defending CSX's actions here per se, but I'm going to play devil's advocate. There is a cost associated with each of these decisions. What would it have cost CSX to have upgraded those routes to FRA standards and then kept those routes properly maintained over the past two decades? And more importantly, where would that money have come from? If there is a finite amount of money available (which there was, realistically speaking), what other routes or operations should have been downgraded to keep these routes alive?

Let's try to keep the discussion intelligent here and avoid pat answers like 'Oh, they should have paid the executives less'. And it would be misleading to suggest something like 'They shouldn't have messed around with Sea-Land'. Non-diversified railroad companies were not held in high reagrd by the investment community back then, so money not expended in other areas would not have automtically translated to more funds for the railroad.

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Postby Noel Weaver » Sat Apr 15, 2006 4:01 am

Upgrade?, these lines did not need any upgrading. The line north out of
Raleigh had the Silver Star running on it right up to the end and the line
here in Florida was well maintained too at the time. A lot of money was
spent by the C&O/B&O back in the 1960's to upgrade the B. & O. line
between Clarksburg and Parkersburg, money out the window by the
abandonment. The old Seaboard line between Savannah and Jacksonville
was another line with Amtrak trains on it right up to the end and this line,
too, was maintained to 79 MPH standards.
It seems to me that the CSX system at least between the southeast and
the northeast is stretched pretty thin now. I have seen the massive
number of trains going through Folkston, Georga one Tuesday afternoon
last fall and indeed it was quite impressive. My biggest problem with
something like this is what happens when something goes wrong which
happens all to often. If this line were out of commission, a long and
difficult detour on CSX and/or NS would result.
I hope that I am wrong but I predict a very rough road for CSX in the not
too far distant future.
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Postby crazy_nip » Sat Apr 15, 2006 8:03 am

you are right, they had amtrak running on them up to the end

amtrak and just about nothing else

(see: coleman to auburndale)

it does not make sense for csx (or any other railroad) to maintain a 79mph ctc mainline for amtrak only

look at what the UP did to the ex-SP line through phoenix, they cut it off as a through route and kicked amtrak off of it

similiar circumstances, as just about the ONLY thing running on that line was the sunset limited

as I have said before, norlina to petersburg was mostly in good shape except the big bridge over lake gaston, but the traffic just was not there to justify it, this was the mid 80's, and the ACL wasnt wall to wall backed up freights like it is now, things were still DECLINING with no end in sight

jacksonville to savannah was a very inadequate line for freight due to the lack of sidings, expensive bridges to maintain and the very inferior interchange at grand junction jacksonville which really fouled things up when a long train came though, basically tied up things coming in and out of moncrief. it was the most direct line for amtrak, but again, you cant maintain a 79mph ctc mainline for a passenger train which does not pay the bills
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Postby D.Carleton » Sat Apr 15, 2006 11:18 am

Maury Klein once wrote:"Regulatory policy, like old generals, seems doomed always to fight the last war, partly because in our system it takes so long to recognize new problems and then build a consensus for change." Unfinished Business: The Railroad in American Life


The above could easily be applied to CSX of the 1980's. Stagger's was signed into law in 1980 but CSX didn't wait for the outcome. Instead the prevailing attitude was the business-as-usual stance of continuously trimming back the decaying limbs of a dying industry. Conversely, Norfolk Southern systematically rail-banked lightly used trunk lines, some of which have seen a return to service. To this day, the rails are still in place over Saluda and may see trains again. The examples cited at the outset of this thread will never have that chance.

I can speak as an eyewitness to one of the cited examples, that of the West Coast subdivision in Florida. It split off the mainline west of Waycross, GA at Dupont and headed south through High Springs and Dunnellon, FL until connecting with the Wildwood sub at Owensboro. In 1983 the line hosted a daily except Sunday local based out of High Springs which served industries down the line to Inverness. There was also a daily merchandise and trailer train in each direction. But the big show was the coal trains. The Crystal River generation site received about five trains a week. Coal trains for Tampa and Lakeland also used the line. Since the West Coast sub bypassed Jacksonville this meant at least 20 Million annual ton-miles which could avoid the Jax bottleneck. Then in 1986 the previously abandoned/downgraded branch from Starke to Newberry was rebuilt for coal trains to Gainesville and Crystal River. The West Coast sub from Inverness to Owensboro was abandoned and torn out as soon as the last train passed. Then Dupont to High Springs was abandoned. Then the line was pared back from Inverness to Gulf Jct. Today, all of those coal trains must traverse Jax and the Wildwood sub for all or part of their journey.

It all happened so quickly. At least one shortline operator was interested in running to Inverness calling CSX while the track was being removed only to be told, 'We don’t handle that. You'll have to call another department.' Today the High Springs to Gulf Jct. remnant has been leased to Florida Northern for harvesting what little may be left of local traffic. I wish them success.

CSX will not suffer because of all this. As the fundamental efficiency of steel wheel on steel rail overtakes the thermodynamic waste of rubber tire on asphalt the railroads' business will continue to grow. Coal trains will have to vie for space on cramped mainlines with merchandise and other trains. This will mean higher rates for haulage, which in turn means higher electric rates for the consumer. CSX will not suffer from their shortsightedness but the consumer will.
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Postby Tadman » Sat Apr 15, 2006 1:54 pm

This is why Don Phillips labeled NS as one of the best railroads around this month in "Trains" while you don't see CSX mentioned anywhere.

A special salute to CSX for recently screwing up my travel plans due to abandoning any alternate to the bridge that was out.
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Postby Noel Weaver » Sat Apr 15, 2006 4:32 pm

I would be willing to bet that among the major railroads the physical plant
of CSX is in the worst shape of any in the industry. The management
also seems to be to be about the worst too.
Some years ago, I witnessed FIRST HAND what bad management could
accomplish on Penn Central and its collapse came much sooner than
anyone could have expected.
As CSX lets their property go downhill, it will end up costing more and
more to provide transportation and many more capacity issues will also
develop at the same time. I hope I do not see this happen but I fully
expect it will in time. I hope I am wrong but I don't think I am.
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Postby crazy_nip » Sat Apr 15, 2006 5:00 pm

There are no more coal trains to tampa or lakeland, those plants have converted to other fuel sources (natural gas) or get their coal via barge (big bend). The only coal train in the tampa area any more is about a once or twice a week coal train up the brooksville sub. Coal trains are not routed via jacksonville, they are run down the nahunta sub to callahan, then down to baldwin and starke.

The dupont sub and west coast subs were good for 40mph, was mostly fairly light stick rail, was unsignaled (north of inverness) and was really nothing more than "back door" into waycross. Even in the years before it was abandoned, most of the traffic was diverted off of it onto the wildwood sub. The last couple years timetables which list it as active have notes which have something to the extent of "Account rusty rail conditions, flag all crossings between owensboro and Gulf Junction" and "TCS system is out of service between owensboro and Inverness". I forget the exact verbage, but it was due to lack of use.

There is excess capacity on the S-Line even to this day, so I cant fault them for this.
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Postby crazy_nip » Sat Apr 15, 2006 5:16 pm

one more thing about the west coast/gulf coast subdivisions. From about the mid 70's on, most all of the (signaled) sidings on this line (all over 10,000, all but ONE over 13,000) were used as storage tracks. thousands of feet of old hopper cars, gons, and TONS of FGE mechanical reefers and boxcars. Not to mention the yard at high springs, it was mostly where bad order cars on the SCL and CSX went to die, it wasnt much of a real yard, even though it was huge. So dont make it sound like it was a hopping rail line, it was not.
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Stupid CSX Abandonments

Postby NellieBly » Fri Apr 21, 2006 2:42 pm

Since I started this one, maybe I can get in a last word. Crazy Nip, you're right -- in part. If particular pieces of railroad need capital investment, and it isn't available, and they aren't NOW carrying lots of traffic, it may make sense to abandon/downgrade them. However...none of us see the future very clearly, and the NS strategy of "railbanking', mentioned by another poster, has served them well.

As it happens, I just returned from Ft. Worth, where I hi-railed the former ATSF Dublin Sub, now owned by the Ft. Worth & Western, a shortline. In 1989, ATSF decided they didn't need the Dublin Sub (Ft. Worth to Brownwood, TX) and put it up for sale. They arranged trackage rights over UP's Baird Sub from FTW to Sweetwater, TX. At that time, the Baird Sub had about 4 trains a day over it.

Today, the Baird Sub is completely plugged with traffic and it takes two crews to move a train the 150 miles from FTW to Sweetwater. But...the Dublin Sub, once CTC and 60 MPH, is now 40 MPH and "dark' -- and no longer a viable main-line railroad.

All that's required is for railroad managers to think longer-term than the next calendar quarter.
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Postby crazy_nip » Fri Apr 21, 2006 5:12 pm

who could have foresaw US corporations completely selling out and shutting down business in the U.S. and buying all goods directly from overseas

all of this increase in traffic on the mainlines can be attributed 1000% to the increase in imports from the far east (china, taiwan, etc.).

It is all container and pig traffic.

Coal and grain production have gone down, auto traffic (parts and completed vehicles) has gone down, carload freight is virtually nonexistant anymore

It is all intermodal. Every single route you mentioned in your first post, with the exception of norlina to petersburg would have no bearing on helping free up mainline congestion

Which lines are you talking about that NS has "railbanked"?

The only one I can think of is the saluda grade trackage, which really I cant ever see re-opening.

Give some specific examples of this NS foresight. I cant think of any.

Are there any instances of any significant trackage being "railbanked" and then restored to service?

Some of these decisions, especially the west coast sub (NS) and the SAL birmingham to atlanta (BN) were done strategically to keep other railroads from acquiring the lines and entering the market, can you fault them for doing that? Protecting their own interests
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Postby Noel Weaver » Sat Apr 22, 2006 1:09 pm

The question regarding lines that had been "railbanked" then later returned to service, three examples come to my mind at the moment:
1. Stampede Pass on the BNSF in Washington (State)
2. New York, Susquehanna and Western in New Jersey, the line over
Sparta Mountain between Butler and Sparta Junction.
3. The line between Canaan, Connecticut and New Milford, Connecticut
which is operated by the Housatonic Railroad.
All three of the above lines had been idle for several years and today get
daily use.
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