• States Reinvest in Once Abandoned Freight Lines

  • For topics on Class I and II passenger and freight operations more general in nature and not specifically related to a specific railroad with its own forum.
For topics on Class I and II passenger and freight operations more general in nature and not specifically related to a specific railroad with its own forum.

Moderator: Jeff Smith

  by Jeff Smith
I'm going to cross-post this across a couple forums, but ultimately post it in Class I General. Really interesting look at the evolution of rail post WWII.

It is 6 o’clock on a recent morning and the thrum of Housatonic Railroad freight train NX-13’s twin diesels is deepening. Engineer P.J. Bailly releases the air brakes and eases the early morning train south down the railroad’s main line. It is hauling a variety of materials, from ethanol and lumber, to paper goods, construction and demolition debris. In all, the Housatonic Railroad hauls some 6,000 cars’ worth of freight a year between its southern end in Danbury, Conn., and its northern terminus in Pittsfield, Mass. There, it exchanges cars with the major East Coast railroad, CSX.

While there’s no definitive data on the railroad’s economic impact on the two states in which it operates, the businesses served by the Housatonic employ 3,000 people. The companies served by the railroad, in turn, do millions of dollars’ worth of business in products and services annually, adding to secondary employment numbers.

That the train is on the tracks at all this morning, though, is something of a miracle—a miracle for which the state of Connecticut is directly responsible. Connecticut was one of a group of states with the foresight in the 1970s and 1980s to step in and snap up abandoned rail lines at a time when railroads nationally were jettisoning thousands of miles of right of way in the face of an epidemic of railroad bankruptcies. “Back then,” says John Hanlon, president of the Housatonic Railroad, “railroads were almost viewed as irrelevant.”
  by Jeff Smith
Indeed, a growing number of states are beginning to look to rail. Projects being supported in part by government now range from the modest—a $207,000 grant from the New York state Passenger and Freight Rail Assistance Program to rehabilitate a paper company at the Port of Albany in New York—to the hugely ambitious, such as one in the Chicago area. This particular project is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the state of Illinois, the city of Chicago, Metra (Chicago’s regional commuter rail line), Amtrak and numerous private freight railroads. Known as CREATE (Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency), billions of dollars are being invested in rail and road infrastructure improvements in and around Chicago aimed at opening up what railroaders and transportation officials alike regard as the country’s worst rail bottleneck.
  by Jeff Smith
The emphasis is on strategy because Wise has his eye on the newly widened Panama Canal, which has set off a national and international arms race to upgrade the capacity of ports. Florida has invested millions along with private railroads to improve rail access to its ports, including tracks to the Port of Miami. It’s a $500 million investment in rail freight capacity statewide by CSX Transportation, using $432 million from the proceeds of a Central Florida rail corridor purchase by the state for commuter rail service in the Orlando area. Additionally, the Florida DOT partnered with the Florida East Coast Railway, Port of Miami and U.S. DOT in a $49 million project to restore on-dock rail service to the port.
  by DutchRailnut
In April the newly widened and otherwise enlarged panama canal will be loss for railroads, for example containers now unloaded at west coast will now continue per ship to ports on east coast and gulf coast.
making it easier for trucks to grab the shorter land transportation.
previously those container ships could not pass the canal as ships became to big for locks.
same with tankers and bulk cargo.
  by Matt Langworthy
In some cases, trucks will grab the short haul from the East Coast. With that being said, the rest of those containers will still travel by rail. This may be a boon for CSX and NS. I think we could see new stack trains passing thru upstate NY.
  by Jeff Smith
Whichever coast it is, you've still got to get from the port to the interior. Sometimes that will be rail; sometimes truck. In Georgia's case, there are a couple of large ports with good rail connections. Yes, the containers could go on trucks and get right on 95. But if they're going inland, they may want to bypass the bad traffic that accompanies I95 or 75. Georgia even has a couple of "inland" ports, where the containers can transload or continue on. So it is entirely possible that CSX and NS can pick up traffic, while UP and BNSF lose. Then there's the Mississippi, which an enlarged canal will allow access to (provided of course the ships can navigate that river).
  by DutchRailnut
mark my words on decrease of traffic in April ;-)
  by hojack

Would you be so kind to forward some of this over to the Adirondack Railroad discussion thread, in as much as is a relevant related topic in that war with the bike elite's ? Thanks
  by SemperFidelis
Without professing any great knowledge of the situation, i'm going to go ahead and posit that the effects of the upgraded canal, while definite, will not be as great as everyone thinks.

Container ships are multi million dollar assets that need to be utilized as much as possible (loaded trips) in order to justify thier existence and investment in thier upkeep. Adding another week or two to the schedule of one of those Post Panamax monsters will be a matter of how many containers are aboard that can be more cheaply delivered vs. the reduced asset utilization caused by the extra time, cost, and canal access fee. No doubt a shift of traffic patterns will occur, but I'd be willing to bet that it won't be as pronounced as we might think.

And I just realized that this isn't a Panama Canal expansion topic. My bad for being off topic.
  by DutchRailnut
you are aware, almost 20% of containerships are laid up at this time , due to overcapacity ?? one of biggest constraints was size of locks, in April that will be gone.
  by SemperFidelis
Nope, had no idea. Thanks for the info. Maybe one day the economy will pick back up and my thoughts will be a little more valid on this topic. We can all hope.
  by DutchRailnut
sugest you read this : https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/20 ... story.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
and it is only tip of iceberg, as this article is from nearly 2 years ago
  by SemperFidelis
Hey, thank you very much. I'll read it right now.

Good article. Everyone should read it. I'll still stick by my original statement but downgrade the level of my confidence in it. I'm not nearly as sure as other folks that this will be a very good thing for eastern railroads. A Lot of destinations on this coast aren't very rail competetive until you hit the midwest with the obvious furthest reach being Chicago and the other major East road meets West road interchange points.

I guess we'll see.
  by Flat-Wheeler
It will certainly be interesting how the traffic tonnage routes will shift accordingly. Especially with the downturn in coal and oil traffic. Now the whole economy is slowing down on it's usual 7 ~ 8 yr cycle, combined with seasonal traditions, and China's problems.
  by FLRailFan1
Connecticut Railbanked old rail lines, so I hope more lines would reactivate. I would love to see the old Mountain subdivision in Maine reactivated from Portland to North Conway...