03/06/2005 Progress Report
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Preparations Begin for Operations on the Shenandoah Division

With the majority of the infrastructure (benchwork, track, and wiring) work done, CSXT Shenandoah Division management authorized CSXT crews to begin the necessary preparations for the first operating session to be held in 2005. As a result, the crews have been working at an accelerated pace to return traffic to this CSXT route through the Shenandoah Valley. While trying to meet management's stretch goal, I haven't had the spare time to update this web site until now.

Challenges of Mountain Railroading

After CSXT management authorized the start of preparations for returning traffic to the division, crews began test running trains out of the Salem Terminal and over the Covington Subdivision. During the course of these test runs, management realized that crews would have some interesting challenges operating trains over this mountainous railroad route.

Management desires to run trains longer than 30 cars in order to efficiently move traffic across the division. Trains of this length provide some interesting handling characteristics. The division has a profile consisting of both uphill and downgrade segments, with a train often stretched across both. The mixture of long trains and track profile will require constant attention to the throttle to avoid disasters on the division.

Rolling stock equipped with metal wheelsets rolls much more freely than cars having plastic wheelsets. This characteristic, combined with truck-mounted couplers, gave management some interesting moments in trying to get trains to operate reliably down the 2.75% grade of Rich Patch Mountain. As a result of the free-rolling characteristics of cars with metal wheelsets, long trains running down the mountain have the slack run in quite a bit. Towards the bottom of the grade, this slack action provides enough force on the  lead car to twist the truck out on a the curve in Bald Knob Tunnel causing the car to derail. Unhappy with the impact this situation would have on moving traffic down Rich Patch Mountain, CSXT management ordered maintenance crews to solve this problem.

The fine crews from the CSXT North Salem Shops determined two different solutions. The first solution which seemed to work was to require a caboose to operate on the rear of each train, provided the caboose was equipped with a Micro-Trains truck restraining spring. One caboose equipped in this manner seems to provide enough drag on the rear of the train to reduce the slack action and prevent the lead car of the train from derailing.

The second solution was to equip the lead car of the train with body mounted couplers. Since the lead car of train is likely shorter than the locomotives powering the train, shop crews hypothesized that the body mounted coupler on even a 60' car doesn't swing out as far on a curve as the coupler on a 70' long locomotive and therefore doesn't derail the next car in the train.

With these solutions in hand, CSXT Shenandoah Division management ordered all cabooses assigned to the division to be equipped with Micro-Trains truck restraining springs. Management also authorized sufficient cars to be converted to body mounted Micro-Trains couplers such that each train operated would have at least one car with body mounted couplers at the head end. The eventual goal is to have a substantial percentage of the rolling stock operating on the Shenandoah Division to be equipped with body mounted couplers to further increase reliability. Applying the "good enough" principle will result in the easy to convert rolling stock, such as some InterMountain covered hoppers, newer Atlas box cars, TrainWorx hoppers, and deLuxe Innovations gons, being converted first while other cars will be upgraded over time.


Mechanical Department Recalled From Furlough

After analyzing the results of initial test running over the division, management authorized the recall of car inspectors and locomotive and car maintenance crews from their almost four year long furlough. The North Salem Shops are once again open for running repairs and heavy overhaul work. Crews have been frantically placing rolling stock back into service, including converting from plastic wheelsets to low profile metal wheelsets for use with the Atlas code 55 trackage installed on the Shenandoah Division. Shop forces have also started body-mounting couplers on a variety of cars in preparation for reliable train handling on the division, and cabooses are being returned to service as well. At the backshop facility of the North Salem Shops, maintenance personnel have been load testing a variety of motive power for hauling traffic over the rugged summits of Rich Patch Mountain and High Meadow.

Backdrop and Fascia

The initial installation and painting of all the backdrop sections on the main portion of the layout has now been completed. After applying several coats of vinyl joint filler and sanding between coats, Cherie finished the curved backdrop section at Pearson Curve by painting it blue.

NS Roanoke Yard

Norfolk Southern signal maintainers have finished all their wiring work in the NS Roanoke Yard. All four tracks in this yard have been activated in preparation for NS CR&E Division trains which will operate over joint trackage with the CSXT Shenandoah Division.


Operating Session Preparations

CSXT Shenandoah Division management has been busy making preparations for the upcoming first operating session later in 2005. Preparations began by authorizing the mechanical department to place rolling stock and locomotives back into service as noted above. Train crews have also been authorized to begin test runs over the division, and maintenance crews have been working on any issues uncovered during these runs.

The Traffic Department has been busy doing traffic capacity analysis in preparation for the return of operations to the division. This analysis work began by doing a study on staging capacity in regards to the desired traffic levels. Once the staging analysis was completed, an initial draft of a sequence of train operations was developed. This sequence currently only has through trains since the yard at North Salem has not been installed. The train sequence will be refined during coming operating sessions as real world input is gathered from actual operations, and the train sequence will likely be further modified once North Salem Yard is placed into service and local operations begin.

Train work messages have been updated to reflect the new traffic patterns on the division. A new version of the Employee Timetable is currently under revision. Temporary station signs (along with direction indicators) have been placed around the layout to assist train crews. Direct Traffic Control (DTC) block boundary boards have also been placed around the layout. These boards will begin to come down once the Shenandoah Division begins to convert to signals and CTC.


Future Plans

The focus of CSXT management and work crews for the early part of 2005 has been on those tasks which are necessary to prepare for the first "real" operating session. Once the first session has been completed, management will turn its attention to deciding what items to accomplish next.


Photos of Progress as of March 6, 2005

Overall view of the Wadesboro staging yard showing trains being staged in preparation for the beginning of operations.

Overall view of the Connellsville/Winchester staging yard show trains awaiting the return of traffic to the Shenandoah Division. Approximately two-thirds of the rolling stock in these two pictures is equipped with metal wheelsets. The remainder are equipped with Atlas and Micro-Trains low profile plastic wheelsets. Eventually, all rolling stock will be equipped with metal wheelsets.


Newly completed curved section of backdrop at Pearson Curve on the upper level.


Another view of the backdrop at Pearson Curve on the upper level.


Here's an example of the temporary station signs placed around the layout.


Temporary DTC block boards at the south end of Catawba. The Catawba DTC block is to the north (left in this view), while the Hanging Rock DTC block is to the south.


This page was last updated on 01/01/11.


All material on the CSXT Shenandoah Division web site is Copyright 2001-2011 by B.L. Faulkner, unless noted otherwise. All rights reserved. None of the material (including text and photographs) on this web site may be reproduced in any form without prior written permission.