• CSX Boston and Albany Line

  • Discussion of the operations of CSX Transportation, from 1980 to the present. Official site can be found here: CSXT.COM.
Discussion of the operations of CSX Transportation, from 1980 to the present. Official site can be found here: CSXT.COM.

Moderator: MBTA F40PH-2C 1050

  by Gilbert B Norman
QB 52.32 wrote: Thu Feb 02, 2023 7:50 pm C'mon, now. What else do you want to blame PSR for? Just look around.

Beyond what I have offered, we'll just have to agree to disagree.
"Saint Elwood's latter-day disciples" are starting to realize that "The Gospel" needs to be perfected.

At some point, the customers that have high-value traffic - autos and containers - to ship, will start to find other means - such as I-90 and 95 - to move such to market. It would appear that "The Gospel" is first and foremost about the Operating Ratio - well and good if your customer base is comprised of "Products of Mines and Products of Agriculture". And on that point, lest we forget that Saint Elwood entered the railroad industry on a road where those commodity groups comprised the greatest component of their traffic (the IC). Furthermore, the IC's profile of "from the Mississippi Delta rolling on down to the sea" makes for mighty efficient railroading.

Auto makers "don't exactly see things that way". They see assembly lines that rely on the timely arrival of parts; lest they must "shut down the line" and are looking at workers "smokin' and jokin'" @ $70 a man-hour. Overseas producers have like issues. Now that the Port backlogs are "yesterday's news" (was at the car dealer yesterday for a new battery in a 5yo auto, and they had plenty of autos on the floor - not so maybe three months age when there were simply none), those producers with their high-end products do not exactly want to hear from a railroad that they have no crews to move such.
  by johnpbarlow
I'm also guessing that 40 daily Worcester-Boston MBTA trains M-F plus 2 Amtraks would also complicate M436's work at G&U, Westborough, and Framingham, as well as the return to Worcester.
  by type 7 3704
In reality M436 actually terminates in Worcester west of CP45, although it still says it goes to Framingham. L002 and L003 bring the cars over to the G&U, Westborough, and Framingham.
  by copcars
MR QB We are at the end of the CSX pipeline.All the car load fright goes to Selkirk,except with CSX owning Pan Am some Mts to lumber mills in New Brunswick.Off the topic ,Irving in Atlantic Canada,is a real monopoly,owning oil refineries, lumber mills, trucking bumble bee, now railroads NB Southern and is it Maine NORTHERN.,Oil tankers, that come to Boston etc.My point is what applies to CSX in other locations ,may not apply here since were at the end of the pipeline.With CSX owning Pan am I think there is going to be major changes in eastern, ma that will shock some people.I have been self employed 35 years and I look at things from a perspective of what can be done to save money and time.The most obvious simple thing to do is tie the pan am at Clinton,ma with the Fitchburg secondary.At one time there was a connecting track that is still partially still there.I am not sure when it was eliminated, but the grade is still there with some medium size trees.With this they could eliminate track south of Marlboro,Also Fitch secondary has double track above Wor sec and concrete arch bridge with room for 4 tracks.The pan am wor sec had 3 tracks here at one time.426 could drop and pickup cars, and switcher based here could go north and south which they do now without going all the way back to Fram.This is just a small change coming and much more major changes I see coming. STAY TUNED
  by copcars
QB. one more thought. You sometimes need to spend money to make money.CSX is upgrading Pan am track that has been neglected for years, which is why the state of maine supported it.Pan Am track upgrades,occured only where govt money paid for it.Amtrak Downeaster route, haverhill,ma to Brunswick,me and MBTA track and NS upgrading track from fitchburg to NY.Also,you need to take care of your employees to have a positive result.Change is hard for people, especially older workers ,but we all can still learn new ideas and things.Eliminating trained Train crews seems shortsighted..A good example is the Selkirk hump.CSX shut it down for awhile,but reactivated it after they realized it was more efficient to have it.CSX will go after new business in Atlantic Canada and maybe Chelsea produce terminal which use to get alot of cars out of Beacon Park etc. STAY TUNED STAY WARM
  by QB 52.32
Thank you, copcars, for your comments and I appreciate your perspective. Like yourself, I've been around awhile and share some of your thoughts about investment, the big changes we may see over the next 20 years, and, how to treat the folks who get the job done. Though my points could easily be misconstrued, I'm not pro- or anti-labor, management, shipper, owner, government, I'm pro rail and look at it as a system. Having seen and been affected over the years by the great deal of change that will only accelerate moving forward, good and bad, I don't take anything for granted. I"M STAYING TUNED. YOU STAY WARM AS WELL!
  by QB 52.32
Gilbert B Norman wrote: Fri Feb 03, 2023 8:22 am "Saint Elwood's latter-day disciples" are starting to realize that "The Gospel" needs to be perfected.

At some point, the customers that have high-value traffic - autos and containers - to ship, will start to find other means - such as I-90 and 95 - to move such to market. It would appear that "The Gospel" is first and foremost about the Operating Ratio - well and good if your customer base is comprised of "Products of Mines and Products of Agriculture".
I think the disciples are realizing how historic carrier/labor behavior during economic downturns and in meeting Wall Street's reasonable skepticism about railroad growth needs to be perfected.

The OR has long been an important management measuring tool since deregulation and PSR a tool used to varying degrees including, importantly, carriers' earning their cost of capital and/or for growth sustainably leveraging franchise strengths, including beyond only products of mines and agriculture.

For CSX that meant getting over their cost of capital returns hurdle pivoting to merchandise carload growth where they have franchise strength and in intermodal as well where they have capacity.

Importantly, to your point, on the B&A they have only gained said high-value intermodal and finished vehicle traffic since PSR introduction and coming out of the pandemic, having kept intermodal service in reasonable shape and with finished vehicle service in recovery after a severe and serious July-October trough arising from crew shortage congestion seen across the US industry, including at heretic BNSF.
  by QB 52.32
On the recent new traffic front for those tuned-in, of note is new waste traffic in the form of dirty-dirt and municipal solid waste. G&U is now originating dirty-dirt at Hopedale with at least one contract that'll keep the traffic moving for at least the next 4 years and CSX is originating dirty-dirt and municipal solid waste at its Westborough transload site.
  by jwhite07
Any idea what is the source of the dirty dirt being loaded in Hopedale? Seems significant if it'll provide four years' worth of traffic.
  by QB 52.32
Nuclear Metals superfund site in Concord, MA, 120-180 tons/day over 4 years, to a Michigan landfill.
  by jwhite07
Oh joy. Concord's not that close to Hopedale, but traffic is traffic. Thanks for that info.
  by QB 52.32
You're welcome. As I see it, it's one indication of many that goes to how, since PSR-implementation-to-pivot, CSX is now pulling traffic to their network in the early and pandemic-interrupted stages to grow.

It actually contrasts with what had been occurring previously under the Baltimore street fighter, Michael Ward's, 2003-2017 valiant efforts in transforming the railroad to earn its cost of capital that fell short. Instead, in that attempt, as evidenced on the B&A and in its yards, there was a shift of traffic away from CSX, including having a part to play in NS making a strategic move with the creation of Pan Am Southern.

In terms of judging PSR for better and worse, inspired by the Adventure/Sci Fi movie "Everything, Everywhere, All At Once" and the above, the alternative reality as to what might be instead for CSX and its employees in Selkirk, on the B&A, and including, as well as rail in general, in the region ultimately could be quite different.
  by QB 52.32
The other day while rummaging around, I came across a 1977 Conrail consist of B&A Selkirk-Providence/Northrup Ave. train VP-4. While it's a minute part of the B&A's history, at the current start of a new period of change it tells a story of another time on the threshold of significant change that rapidly left the B&A and its traffic, trains and role within the railroad network, as well as its owner, completely transformed.

On that day, Sunday, July 17th, VP-4 consisted of 77 loads and 6 empties, 5139' in length, 6062 gross tons; powered by a U33B, a couple of U25B's as well as U33C's of ex-PC and EL heritage, trailing 53 boxcars, 11 tank cars, 8 refrigerated cars, 6 covered hoppers, 4 empty gondolas, and a caboose; blocked for the E. Worcester (21/1 1244', 1729t), Readville (29/0 1709', 2127t) and Northrup Avenue (27/5 1748', 2206t) yards; and, worked by a 4-member crew with a scheduled 1400 departure out of Selkirk.

The E. Worcester block included 19 P&W's (9 RI; 6 CT; 4 MA), 1 G&U, and 2 local cars (Worcester and Jamesville) for switching, interchange and delivery by E. Worcester yard and local train crews. The Readville block included 13 Readvilles, 9 Bostons, 3 Norwoods, 2 Dedhams, 1 Dorchester and 1 S. Boston. The Northrup Ave. block included 2 Mansfields, 1 Stoughton and 7 Providences as well as 6 Pawtuckets among other various Rhode Island station destinations.

VP-4's traffic arrived and was classified by Selkirk from trains originating as follows:

MC-4 Detroit (0100) 13 cars Flour, feed, mt gons, cereal, tissue paper products, abrasives
NE-2 Potomac Yard, VA (1500) 6 cars Textiles, pulpboard, furniture, clay
NY-6 E. St Louis (1215) 11 cars Lube oil, beer, wine, mfg goods, salt, soda ash
NY-2 Chicago (1230) 11 cars Soda ash; furniture, canned goods, fruit, frozen food, pulpboard, lettuce, flour, potatoes
OV-8 Columbus, OH (1840) 5 cars Refrigerators, feed, lumber, sugar
EV-4 Enola, PA (0135) 8 cars Limestone, scrap paper, feed, canned goods, sand
SLX-1 New York City (0030) 3 cars Liquid sugar, mt gons
WM-4 "The Montrealer" Potomac Yard, VA (0345) 9 cars Cabinets, cigarettes, tobacco products, pulpboard, tissue paper products, chemicals, clay, plywood, scrap cloth
AV-2 Allentown (0800) 3 cars Plastic products, sand, brick
NY-4 Chicago (0030) 3 cars Lettuce, cantaloupes, potatoes
MW-1 heading to Potomac Yard, VA (1900) 1 car Newsprint
BV-2 Buffalo (1700) 9 cars Cereal, liquid CO2, plywood, tallow
BW-10 Niagara Falls (1300) 1 car Cereal

10 years later Conrail, having been set free by deregulation and labor reforms, would be part of the private sector, its annual net earnings swung by over $600 million from red to black, and setting the stage for continued pursuit of greater productivity within the challenge of earning the cost of capital and marketplace relevance and growth.

46 years later the B&A remains part of a CSX finally earning its cost of capital where Conrail could not and pursuing growth under PSR principles.

Today, only the heaviest freight remains in rail cars that accommodate what would take 3 or more trailer/container-loads with the rest transitioned to 53-foot containers; dry bulk commodities once moving in boxcar now move exclusively in covered hoppers; and, shorter-hauls and claims-sensitive traffic now moves via truck. Retail grocery foodstuffs moving in railcars have been culled to longer-hauled bagged flour, bagged sugar, canned goods, frozen foods, and potatoes handled through intermediate distribution centers. Waste now joins consumables as a major driver of traffic. Plastic pellets have replaced sand and soda ash for liquid container-making, less than half of newspaper readership remains in print, and retailers like Sears and Almacs as well as remnant textile-industry businesses are all but gone. The P&W now serves all RI and ex-Norwich & Worcester CT traffic.

Multiple daily train departures now occur in lanes within intermodal instead of freight train service. The service network of blocks and trains is now based on and managed by the cars moving door-to-door instead of simply trains. Where the B&A once hosted 8 eastbound non-auto/intermodal road freight trains connecting from 14 inbound and classified by Selkirk now there are 3 connecting from 10. Train crews consist of 2 members instead of 4 who are now not restricted by labor rule between road and yard work. Fewer longer, heavier, and doublestacked trains of 110- and 125-ton capacity cars utilizing AC traction, DPU, TO/PTC, and EOT technologies ply today's B&A instead of shorter, lighter trains of 50- and 70-ton capacity cars pulled by less environmentally-friendly and fuel-guzzling DC traction locomotives that might need a manned-helper across the Berkshires and punctuated by a caboose. Equipment is now predominantly owned and managed by pools and third parties instead of railroads.

East Worcester yard no longer serves to individually classify cars, circus-style un/load low volume piggyback trailers, and provide team track freight house access, but instead serves high-volume mechanized un/loading of intermodal containers and trailers as well as a part in handling blocks of cars within a Worcester hub. Readville yard traffic is now blocked for and classified at North Yard in Framingham with Northrup Ave. yard no longer a destination for trains or blocks with traffic now interchanged to the P&W at Worcester or handled via Readville or Walpole yards..

This next chapter on the B&A brings not only investment in CSX's Pan Am purchase and added East-West passenger rail. It also includes a larger emerging threat of trucking labor and fuel/emissions productivity advancement directly targeting intermodal traffic amongst calls for government to hold back railroad productivity and curb market flexibility. How this all plays out on the B&A within the longer story of railroading's struggles with capital-intensity, relevance, and growth should be no less interesting than what's occurred during these past 50 years.
  by Jedijk88
The E. Worcester block included 19 P&W's (9 RI; 6 CT; 4 MA), 1 G&U,
It's good to see that G&U's traffic is much healthier now than that one car that was interchanged in 1977.
  by type 7 3704
Looks like M437 (Framingham to Selkirk) is back from the dead in some form, according to the B&M Live Railcam tracker for today (May 1st). Apparently the train crew called itself M437 over the radio at CP123, and I counted 70 cars being pulled by 3 locos on the Chester live cam. It's unclear if it'll be a regular scheduled job or if this was a one-off, and if this train actually originated from Framingham (unlikely as the leader, ES44AH #849, does not have the ACSES PTC which is needed to lead between Framingham and Worcester).

Q437 was abolished a while back under PSR, as the cars from Framingham to Selkirk are mostly empties (aside from the C&D gondolas), so it usually gets tacked onto the back of I115, M427, or M205 for the return trip to Selkirk.
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