NS Fort Wayne Chicago Line Question

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NS Fort Wayne Chicago Line Question

Post by cspirit » Sat Jun 07, 2014 3:12 pm

Past couple weeks I have seen a lot of trains heading into Fort Wayne going east and out towards Chicago with a lot of non-NS engines. BNSF, CP , UP power etc. Any reason why so much non-NS units lately? Why do you think NS would use so much non-NS units or is it easier to just pay NS crews to drive forward power?

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Re: NS Fort Wayne Chicago Line Question

Post by Notch 8 » Mon Jun 09, 2014 6:02 am

At one point in time, many moons ago, motive power mainly stayed on 'home' rails, leaving only as part of run-through and dedicated pool service agreements. Today, motive power from every railroad imaginable roams all over the country, changing railroads on an almost daily basis.

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Conrail Mail-3 Swatara, PA with BN SD40-2 and B30-7A in consist. by Kevin Burkholder

How and why does it seem that motive power roams so freely, when just ten years ago, the reigns were held pretty tightly on these horses? It all comes down to efficiency. Railroads in the late 1980's learned that operations were more efficient if agreements were reached to expedite trains through terminals, by keeping motive power intact.

This concept often resulted in agreements that would reciprocate horsepower hours to the railroad whose motive power became 'foreign power' on another road. While the concept of foreign power is not new, some of the players involved in today's power swaps are new!

What happens when that BNSF unit leaves home rails and travels onto Norfolk Southern to handle that Powder River Basin (PRB) coal train? We'll take a look at a hypothetical situation that actually does occur, maybe just not from the mines or to the power plants really named.

BNSF train C-SCMALA0-10 departs Spring Creek Mine in the Powder River Basin on Day 1. This train is ultimately bound for Alabama Power in Eastern Alabama. This train will be given normal routings to make the best time possible for its trip. The train is routed to Birmingham, AL on the BNSF, even though it may be quicker to interchange it to NS in Kansas City, MO. BNSF is then able to keep the motive power on home rails for much of the trip. At Birmingham, the train will be handed off to the NS, becoming train 796. The BNSF power is left on the train, expediting the move to the power plant. The minute that the BNSF power enters NS rails, the clock starts running, adding up BNSF horsepower hours (HHPH) used by NS. This counter or clock is kept by the operations centers and published on daily reports, indicating who owes who, how many hours.

Our coal train heads for the power plant and runs through the dumpers, keeping the BNSF power intact through the night. When empty, the train will be routed back to BNSF, likely from the same route that it was interchanged. When the BNSF power hits home rails, the clock is stopped and th process for this power is complete until the next trip.

Was this power foreign? Well by industry standards, anything that is not the home railroad's power is considered foreign.

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In this sequence of shots, at first glance, you would think that the Mill Creek Bridge was owned by GTW, or maybe NS, but this structure, just north of Cincinnati is a CSXT line and home colors prevail!

Is it foreign power if the train is running on trackage rights or haulage rights? Well, again, technically the power is foreign, however this motive power will not accrue HPH for the railroad that they are operating over. These bring about circumstances different from those encountered on borrowed or run-through power. In run-through or borrowed power, as described above, the BNSF units are actually being utilized by Norfolk Southern to power a train for their railroad. In the case of trackage rights trains, such as a Wheeling & Lake Erie grain train operating over CSXT from Connelsville, PA to Hagerstown, MD, the motive power will not gain the W&LE and horsepower hours from CSXT.

Trackage right and haulage right trains are often not even kept track of by the host railroad, except maybe their on-time performance. The motive power is usually not recorded and often never makes the host road computer system. This scenario is played out all over the country, as many roads are negotiating for moves over other railroads. It is foreign power but not the kind that gains the host railroad any horsepower hours.

On any given day, foreign power can be seen on many of the lines across the United States and Canada. A minority in the foreign power agreements is the mighty Florida East Coast Railway. The FEC, a fully cab signal compliant railroad, often shunned foreign power due the requirements of the cab signal system. In this instance, foreign power could still feasibly be placed in a trailing position, but was often thought to be more trouble than it was worth. Today, FEC allows haulage trains from Norfolk Southern to operate over the line, following a special rule to facilitate the NS units lack of cab signals.

Conrail and Union Pacific experience similar situations on territory that is cab signal equipped. Foreign power still sneaks onto these lines, normally, almost always, finding itself in a trailing position. Rare circumstances have occurred, where non home-road power gets the call to lead. These circumstances are either covered by special rules on the home road or the foreign units are equipped with compatible cab signal or train control equipment.

Placement of foreign power, is usually by chance, as locomotive planners at most roads set power up based on availability vs. need at certain terminals. Often, situations as described with the cab signals will limit planning abilities. Other situations often limit placement of foreign power. Ironically, new Conrail owner, Norfolk Southern, is restricted from having non-toilet equipped units leading in much of Pennsylvania. PA Law does not allow the use of the throw-away bags that are used on many of the NS fleet. Exceptions have been made for NS to run through the upper Northwest corner without those restrictions. Also in the case of Norfolk Southern and Conrail, many of the newer C40-9W's are equipped with the necessary equipment to lead on cab signal territory.

Back to the foreign power! Why do you see that BN unit travel eastbound across Conrail's Chicago Line to Jersey, then head west over the Penn Route to Pittsburgh, turn back east to Jersey, make a trip to Allentown, then to Harrisburg, and so forth. This is often the case of HPH being repaid by the foreign railroad. Units are often designated by each railroad to run off horsepower hours on other roads. In rare instances, those horsepower hours are made up by one roads foreign power being sent to another foreign road to make up hours. This was the case in 1998, when CSXT leased Canadian National units. CSXT in turn sent about half of the leased units to Union Pacific to pay off HPH owed to UP.

Another item to note is that motive power often set aside to send out to pay off HPH, is often power that is ready for retirement or will be stored if back on the home road.

This should explain what happens for one to see all of that foreign power.

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Re: NS Fort Wayne Chicago Line Question

Post by rrnut282 » Mon Jun 09, 2014 9:30 am

For an example that hits close to home, Triple Crown trains run to MSP (Minneapolis/StPaul MN) and DFW (Dallas Ft Worth) travle on other railroads. When they are handed off, the tight schedules doesn't allow enough time to change locomotives, so they keep their NS power and the other railroads end up owing NS. Lately, NS has been collecting HPH owed to them by running 'foreign' power on their trains.

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Re: NS Fort Wayne Chicago Line Question

Post by Ibflattop » Wed Jun 11, 2014 12:03 pm

You see other engines on NS but they are still NS Crews. A Engineer that is from BNSF out of the west coast isn't qualified to run in the Chicago District of NS. I mean its not impossiable but due to contracts its not highly possible Kevin
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