Rail News from Central Virginia, by Paul Wilson
Mid-week Report: issued on July 11th, 1997
CSX Dispatcher realignment
Dispatcher territories on the C&O Business Unit were realigned effective June 22nd. Speculation is that this move comes in advance of increased traffic on the old C&O, as CSX begins diverting low priority trains off Sand Patch in advance of the Conrail merger. As part of the new Jacksonville console configuration CSX established the new CR desk handling the Cincinnati, Columbus, Northern and Athens Subs. Consequently, the AN desk's territory was moved east to include the Kanawha and New River Subs. Closer to home, the AM desk now controls the Alleghany, No. Mountain, Washington and Piedmont subs, while the AL takes the James River, Rivanna and Peninsula.
Conrail Merger Plans
The Conrail transaction is expected to have a profound effect on Virginia's Class 1 Railroads. As part of the joint merger plan filed in late June, Norfolk Southern plans to upgrade the Valley Line with $33 million in signal, track and clearance improvements. This line is intended to carry more traffic between the Northeast and points in Tennessee, Alabama and points west. Part of the NS filing also includes proposals for the Manassas to Alexandria line, which now only carries four freights per day. This line is to see increased traffic as a result of an NS plan to run roadrailers over Amtrak's NEC. In part to placate local opposition, NS has no plans to significantly increase B-Line traffic. For its part, CSX plans to improve clearances between Alexandria and Philadelphia for double-stack service. In its merger information, CSX also identified what it calls the "Central Corridor" consisting of former C&O lines. After the merger realignment, the C&O lines may carry a wider variety of traffic than they now do.
It remains to be seen what sort of impact the merger will have on passenger operations. Norfolk Southern will now be in a position requiring greater cooperation with Amtrak, owing to the use of NEC trackage rights for fast freight trains. CSX, on the other hand, has been sending mixed signals. One positive step was its announcement that former Amtrak President Paul Reistrup has joined the company as VP-Passenger Integration. According to CSX, "Reistrup will be responsible for integrating passenger/commuter and freight operations across CSXT's system, with a particular focus on the lines north of Philadelphia that CSXT will be acquiring from Conrail Inc." On the down side, an internal memo leaked to the press indicates that CSX plans to continue its antipathy towards MARC service on the Capital and Metropolitan Subs.
Roadrailers on the Crescent
As part of the aforementioned greater cooperation between NS and Amtrak, this summer the Crescent will begin carrying roadrailers of perishable goods to Charlotte. There's no word about what sort of revenue-sharing agreement, if any, has been worked out between NS and Amtrak.
At about 6PM on July 8 CSXT intermodal train Q176 derailed at RO interlocking (Arlington, Va.), in the process sideswiping Amtrak #93, bound for Richmond. Four intermodal cars overturned and separated the last two cars of the passenger train, causing three minor injuries among the crew. The Amtrak cars did not overturn. The derailment blocked the double track line for more than five hours, causing the annulment of the remainder of the evening's VRE service, as well as halting all Amtrak service to the south. Amtrak #19 was held at Union Station and finally reached Lynchburg at 4:55am, more than six hours off schedule. VRE ran a reduced schedule for two days as a result of the accident.