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T O P I C     R E V I E W
Member # 3071
 - posted
This is a bit off-topic but will be of interest to some of our regulars I believe -

After several weeks of rumors, CSX yesterday announced due to the decline in coal traffic the immediate closure of the former Clinchfield Railroad Engine and Car Shops in Erwin, TN. 300 jobs will be lost, severance packages average about 60 days pay for affected employees.

Moreover, all through rail traffic is rerouted to other CSX lines. The last loaded unit coal train ran down the former Clinchfield last night and available locomotive power in the Erwin yard was transferred to either Russell, KY or Spartanburg, SC in light engine moves.

The only remaining rail traffic on the former Clinchfield will be unit coal traffic to Bostic, NC BUT coming via Corbin, KY, Atlanta, and Spartanburg, an as needed merchandise freight operating between Hamlet, NC and Kingsport, TN, and periodic (ie: once or twice a week) moves between Kingsport, TN and St. Paul, VA. NS has some overhead rights to CSX in the Speers Ferry, VA area which may continue to be exercised. The line north of St. Paul, VA to Elkhorn City, KY will be embargoed. Work on PTC installation on former Clinchfield lines is halted.

Up in the air - will the annual Clinchfield Santa Train operate this year? If so, will it ever operate again?

Of concern to us - how will rerouted traffic impact freight congestion on CSX lines which host Amtrak..... the Cardinal predominantly..... but what about in the former ACL and SAL territory? The freight that used to move on the Clinchfield has to go somewhere.
Member # 4344
 - posted
David, I doubt if it will have any appreciable effect on that sad little three day a week train.

With a 20% decline overall in coal revenue, I'm sure there is plenty of capacity on both the C&O route and, to a lesser extent, the route via Cinci-Atlanta. Too bad CSX didn't retain the old C&O line from Huntington to Louisville which would have shorten that routing considerably. Capacity has been further helped by increased tonnage on all trains through consolidations.

Somehow CSX has transformed itself in recent years and is now remarkably efficient in its management. It wasn't long ago that the operating ration was very close to 100. The recent quarter it was down to 68%. I think a good deal of the credit goes to their very sharp VP of operations, Cindy Sanborn, daughter of former Seaboard System and Conrail president, Dick Sanborn who died prematurely in office.
Member # 3071
 - posted
Hey Palmland -

Actually I agree that the Cardinal won't be impacted much at this stage...... but what if there is an uptick in traffic down the road?

I'll admit to be stunned that the Erwin shutdowns were so immediate once officially announced. Is this typical now or is CSX writing a new playbook?

Coverage in the Johnson City, TN media has been more decent than I would have expected in this area.

Article from Johnson City, TN media
Member # 4344
 - posted
David, a resurgence of traffic would make things difficult but if sustained presumably the Clinchfield could come out of mothballs.

Some anecdotal observations. Took 89/90 to Homecoming this year. What a difference in Florence yard. It's usually pretty quiet with just a yard crew working and maybe a through train changing crews. This time there were 3 or 4 sets of power in the yard with several coal trains. And more coal train were operating -even through Ashland.

The bad old days of the Bermuda triangle seem to have faded. On time both ways - until a medical emergency delayed us about 40 min. on the return. I think dispatching is much improved - at least from a passenger train standpoint. After leaving Petersburg northbound we met two freights on a long siding. They were nose to nose (but with a double crossover between them). Shortly after we met another freight and then held briefly for the Silver Star to clear RVR. As we pulled in, Auto train was waiting for us to duck into the station track. Although the coach passengers were fewer than during the summer, BC continues to do well - counted 38 south of Petersburg on the return, a new high. But it's getting less attractive as it's less likely now to have a seat to yourself. Terrific LSA northbound, not so on the return. The employees really make the difference between an ok trip and a good one.

The Henry Clay has new owners. They will be overhauling the interior this winter (much needed) and also raising rates. They hope to reopen their restaurant. But, can't beat the Ironhorse for the view.
Member # 3071
 - posted
Good to know Palmland....

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