gokeefe wrote:I would add the MA branch lines to the list ... It wasn't clear to me from the denial that they were being excluded as well. The original report was "B&A along with MA branches". We know the main line supposedly isn't for sale but I thought the omission of the branch lines from the denial was significant.
There's no mechanism for completely 100% expunging all Eastern MA locals. Worcester continuing to exist at all as a major CSX yard necessitates that Framingham continue to exist as a major CSX yard, because Worcester is all-IM with zero capacity on its limited acreage set aside for any other functions. To interchange at all with P&W and PAR right across the street in downtown Worcester requires the use of Framingham as their primary classification yard. Palmer's too far away over too many steep hills to absorb that job, and there's literally nowhere else in Worcester County to build a yard that fans out into enough parallel tracks to do the shunting work for the carloads in question. If/when PAR is partitioned from NS/PAS, Worcester interchange is going to get way busier too as anything heading east-of-Ayer for PAR that isn't running all the way to Portland on SEPO/POSE starts getting exchanged in Worcester instead of Rotterdam. So Framingham classification is needed as a growth vector, too.
They're already anchored half the distance between Worcester and Boston hell or high water by yard division of labor, and the yards in Framingham that are halfway to Boston just so happen to be sitting on top of a nice 4-way junction of diverging routes pointing due north-south-east-west on the compass hitting all 6 of their Eastern MA interchange partners. Some of the daily locals that they run along those compass points are indeed lucrative enough with anchor customers to be keepers even with chainsaw cuts to every non-core company business, and it costs them such a pittance to run such a small roster of not-very-long distance jobs out of a conveniently centralized node like Framingham that some Eastern MA trackage is simply worth more staying in-house as miscellany than it would value under a different carrier. It's not a mere matter of lopping off every limb from Framingham and bringing in the shortlines to pick 'em up. All 6 of CSX's incumbent Eastern MA interchange partners NEED unbroken direct interchange with the Class I because they can't hack it if their rates are jacked by middlemen carriers standing between them and CSX. Somebody else's freight franchise gets rendered instantly worthless if they find themselves suddenly 2 steps removed from the direct Class I access they once had. And you can't redraw the Eastern MA map in a way that preserves direct access to every single interchange without all the rest of the non-interchange cuts ending up this motley assortment of useless fragments. It's not enough to just set up a shortline on a discontiguous set of track and tape the resulting map back together with overhead rights when most of the local fragments would lack the nooks and crannies for doing even the barest minimal functional staging and yard work. The map just can't be sliced up surgically enough to make it all work.
There's several further trims they can easily put on the table to net the absolute fittest, most zero-fat Boston Div. possible. But it's not an all-or-nothing proposition as if one could infer from the Trains
rebuttal that because CSX didn't specifically name which branchlines were keepers that somehow...none
of them are keepers and literally everything not- Worcester or Framingham is jump-ball. That's way too simplistic. Most likely it breaks out closer to this. . .
The obvious shortline dispersals:
-- Milford Branch + Franklin IT
to Grafton & Upton. Long-planned, if also long-delayed. Abolishes a very small-carload weekly off the schedule, scrapes all crew qualifications off of Walpole-south, and consolidates the same customers to G&U North Grafton interchange. G&U gets direct access to industrial parks on I-495 for its Logistix truck transload division to do some nifty things on a major highway corridor, and they get overhead rights between Franklin and Walpole to use Walpole Yard as a backup interchange.
to Mass Coastal. Encore to the outsource of the South Coast lines to MC 7 years ago. New 286K capacity coming online on a Plate F route between Framingham-Taunton (the Mansfield-Attleboro NEC was weight-uprated 20 years ago, but the connecting branches are only being done now), so lots of room to grow biz at this interchange. If MC absorbs that territory and utilizes the heavier loading capacity well CSX can drive higher profit margins through combo of interchange growth and cost-cutting than it could ever achieve alone. The Framingham-Middleboro-Braintree overnighter would be abolished, pickups at the relocated Attleboro Jct. interchange can be absorbed by the afternoon Walpole-Attleboro NEC local (interchange storage available by the junction on the tri-track portion of the Middleboro Secondary), they shrink down to 1 daily round-trip on the lower Framingham Secondary just in time for real commuter rail schedules to get established there, and MC takes on greater share of interchange sorting duties to help streamline Framingham ops a smidge. MC is still fully landlocked and prevented from interchanging with P&W, and so long as they're kept off the NEC between Attleboro Jct. and East Junction to avoid touching the start of P&W local rights on the East Junction Secondary it stays that way.
to PAR haulage. Not an outsource per se, but the Grand Junction is severely height-restricted so they can move bigger Plate E refrigerator cars to New England Produce by laundering this job out to PAR with a haulage contract. With Houghton Chemical's freight contract ending this summer B721 serves no other purpose than chewing up crew hours pinging between Framingham and Everett while getting gummed up in commuter traffic. If PAR can deliver the produce on-time to Worcester to be picked up on B722 instead they can save a lot of dough never running east of Framingham on the B&A ever again, at only the cost of a few bucks of kickback to PAR for effortlessly tacking CSX's customer cars onto the back of the existing PAR Everett daily. Only now those fridge cars can be more space-efficient Plate E's instead of the cramped Plate B's the Grand Junction forces on them. CSX still retains its customers at the terminal as well as any future sign-on considerations that entails, and can take back the job in-house if they're dissatisfied with PAR service. But they get higher margins out of the same exact business by not running it themselves...while PAR barely incurs any change whatsoever in ops costs for the perk of pocketing a few extra bucks. Win-win.
The obvious low-margin customer dispersals:
There's 1 little zit of a transient building materials customer still taking cars once every week on one of the tiny sidings off Evans Dr. This forces the 3-day-a-week short run from Readville to Home Depot Warehouse on the Westwood IT to triple its mileage for a measly couple carloads and encounter all kinds of nasty passenger congestion through Canton Jct. Prime candidate to play "Let's Make A Deal" to relocate that little customer off Stoughton to scrape that territory and reinstall them at one of the faceless Old Colony lumber sidings one town over in Randolph...then shove them onto MC when they outsource that line.
Outer extent of the 5-day-a-week local on the Fitchburg Secondary is busy Bestway Lumber about 2 miles north of Clinton Jct. just over the Sterling/Lancaster town line. The final 6 miles of track past there to downtown Leominster only gets served twice a week to one remaining on-line customer, Teknor Apex, and nearly vanished setoffs of occasional cars in the downtown yard. The days they run past Bestway they run out of hours-of-service for getting back to Framingham in a single shift and have to can the train overnight at Clinton Jct. Teknor's a costly customer to serve for the extra running miles that induce that outlaw. City of Leominster despises CSX and is more than happy to encourage the slow death of all its thicket of industrial park rail sidings close to downtown if it gets the tracks ripped up sooner. Sad waste of good property, but that's the path they chose. CSX has to be chomping at the bit for Teknor to give up its rail service so they can slap the embargo on everything north of Bestway, get out from under whoever's still spotting the occasional car in the yard, and keep the busier portion of that local safely within HoS all 5 days a week so it actually earns them a decent margin.
That pretty much leaves stuff that's either too profitable to part with, fills some quasi-strategic niche worth holding onto, has competitive protection coattails worth keeping paper-barriered, is too ops-affordable to bother cutting, or simply has no one available to dish it off to. Minimalist network of Eastern MA locals probably looks something like this. . .
, daily local Framingham-Worcester
[G&U, P&W, PAR interchanges]. Mission-critical, esp. when PAR gets partitioned off from NS/PAS sending more Portland main interchange traffic through Worcester.
, daily local Walpole-Attleboro
[relocated MC interchange]. The existing job that works the Mansfield-East Junction stretch of NEC, now absorbing MC interchange duties with the outsourcing of Attleboro-Middleboro-Braintree and abolishment of the overnighter. Maybe beef up the staffing on this job so it can gets its wider set of tasks done more efficiently w/o Amtrak NEC dispatch breathing down their necks.
, daily local Framingham-Sterling-?
. With CSX hoping that Leominster dies out and they can trim the end-of-line flab. It's a podunk branch, but they don't want PAR or P&W worming their way in via Clinton Jct. to one of the rail-accessible industrial parks at I-290, I-495, or the Mass Pike and setting up a competing transload to Westborough Transflo. Protectionism definitely serves their core interests here. And if they could just get rid of the outlaw on Leominster days and keep the whole week's schedule within HoS it actually does earn its keep on the margins.
-- New train
, daily local Readville-Braintree
[Fore River interchange, backup MC interchange]. With the MC outsource, profit margins for the Fore River interchange biz would be too poorly diluted if it took an MC middleman to get those loads to CSX every day, so a new direct pickup from the north is necessary. Braintree Yard can also double as a #2 interchange for MC from the south as needed. This job would repurpose the current Fairmount Line weekly that departs Readville after commuter rail service shuts for the night to hit the cold storage warehouse at Widett Circle, extends it down the Old Colony to scoop Braintree, and expands out the schedule to nightly. If/when Massport builds out rail access from Track 61 to Marine Terminal those Southie pickups can be folded in to flesh out this nocturnal job out to its fullest.
-- ~3 days/wk., Readville-Westwood IT
. Home Depot Warehouse, major anchor customer. Shortie job, now trimmed of superfluous Stoughton miles. Quick enough that if Home Depot's service hours are amenable the nightly Braintree crew can mop this one up before beginning their main shift.
-- ~3 days/wk., Walpole-East Walpole IT
. CertainTeed, major anchor customer. This shortie isn't going anywhere as long as the CT plant on that spur remains stable.
Various and sundry (blended in w/other schedules):
-- Multiple daily, Framingham-Walpole-Readville
yard transfer jobs [incl. BCLR-Medfield interchange]
-- Yard switching shifts, Walpole
-- Run-as-directeds (post-outlaw shifts, extras, etc.)
I think you'd be hard-pressed to boil it down to any more bare-essentials than ^^that^^
. As zero-fat as it can possibly get without cutting a little too much and inadvertently harming the B&A franchise or its shortline partners' direct Class I interchanges.