Rail News from Central Virginia, by Paul Wilson
"Mid-Week Report" for Week of October 13.
Posted October 14
Back Issues of the "Mid-week Report" are available
Crews have completed still more work as part of the ongoing upgrading of the Shenandoah Valley Line. The spring switches have been removed at the south ends of Sampson and Lynnwood sidings, as they are now fully controlled by the dispatcher. As part of the same upgrade the position light signals have been replaced. Evidence of the ongoing signal work is readily apparent at Glasgow. Surplus position light heads, masts and relay cases are stacked up next to the tracks there.
Following the Conrail merger NS will likely receive large shipments of beer from the Coors brewery near Elkton, Va., on the Shenandoah Valley Line. Coors had approached the railroad about moving beer to Northeastern points in the past, but Conrail had showed little interest in the traffic and the plan was scuttled.
On the B Line the construction of the siding at Happy Creek is proceeding at a slow pace. At the west end of the siding the switch and some panel track have been installed and the concrete bases for the signal masts are in position. The siding is graded to the east of Happy Creek Road and welded rail has been set off adjacent to the existing main track. The siding will be signaled in a similar fashion to Allison. Signals will display switch position only, not block occupancy.
Two weeks ago a CSX rail train deposited the welded rail for the track realignment between JC Cabin and Jefferson Park Avenue in Charlottesville. Signal forces have repositioned the crossing signal and bungalow at 11th Street as part of the same project. The bridge over the 9th-10th Connector awaits its concrete deck, so the installation of the track is still a month or so away at the earliest. Signal crews also installed the base for the new eastward absolute signal for JC Cabin. It will lie just west of the present 9th Street.
Sulfur trains off CP have been making regular appearances on the North Mountain and James River subdivisions in recent months. The unit trains come off CP Rail at Chicago, bound for Lee Creek, NC and they follow a C&O Business Unit routing between Fostoria, Ohio and Richmond. The trains usually run with a mixture of CP and Soo Line power. A K898 empty set ran west over the North Mountain on Oct. 9th and a loaded train (K895) traveled east on the James River on Oct. 11th. Saturday's loaded run featured the CP 5403, EMD leaser 188 and a Soo Line unit. While the trains are unloaded at Lee Creek, the power holds down other assignments out of Rocky Mount.
Shenandoah Valley RR
The Shenandoah Valley Railroad is gearing up for increased traffic. Installation of new rail and storage tracks is proceeding in order to serve a new feed mill. The new facility will receive large consignments of grain, boosting the railroad's bottom line. The SV is in an enviable position for a short line, since it is not captive to a single Class One. It can receive interchange traffic either from CSX at Staunton or from NS at Pleasant Valley.
Stations in the News
The renovation of Charlottesville's Union Station is once again inching toward a start after years of delays. Charlottesville City Council last week approved a series of easements which will allow construction to proceed, once other contractual matters are resolved. The ball is now in Amtrak's court to approve a twenty-year lease on the part of the property that will house the passenger station.
The Town of Orange dedicated its newly-renovated station last week. Local officials are now eying the return of passenger service to the former Southern Railway facility. Due to the close proximity of an existing stop at Culpeper, one wonders if Amtrak's reception of the idea will be positive.
There are also moves afoot to renovate the station at Culpeper. The town is purchasing the property and the NS signal department office now housed in the building is being relocated.
North Carolina Passenger News
Financial results from the fiscal year ending June 30th are in and ridership figures on both the Piedmont and Carolinian have improved over the previous fiscal year, while the financial performance of the trains lags behind.
On the Piedmont ridership increased 50% to more than 38,000 riders. The ridership gains boosted revenue by 38%. The recovery ratio dipped from 20% to 17% due to a 76% increase in the cost of providing the service.
On the Carolinian's balance sheet, ridership stood at 170,000, which amounted to 1% over FY 1996. Over the same period revenue increased 9%. Costs jumped 30%, which led to a slump in the recovery ratio from 75% to 63%. The figures for the Carolinian comprise only the state-sponsored part of the run between Charlotte and Rocky Mount.
In sum, North Carolina spent $4.7 million to cover operating expenses, which is about $22 per passenger.
In other North Carolina news, station renovations are underway at Wilson, Rocky Mount and Selma.
Union Pacific is leasing up to 100 surplus Amtrak F40s in order to address chronic power shortages.
On October 9th Amtrak train 91, the southbound Silver Star, plowed into a lowboy trailer which had become stuck on the tracks at Garden City, Ga., just north of Savannah. Despite twenty minutes of warning and two calls from local officials, the CSX dispatcher in Jacksonville failed to stop the train. Apparently the mixup occurred because CSX officials routed the information to the AD dispatcher who controls the parallel "A Line." The blockage was on the "S Line" controlled by the BB dispatcher. Fortunately, there were no fatalities.
Wisconsin Central SD45s 6580 and 6498 at Gladstone on Oct. 3rd. These engines returned west on a Hamlet to Cumberland Q400 several days later.
EMD lease unit 7015 at JN Cabin on the James River SD, Oct. 11th.
Amtrak "hospital" train P97511 through Charlottesville on Sat. Oct 11th, traveling from Washington to Beech Grove shops.