05/21/2005 Operating Session
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Highlights of the May 21, 2005 Operating Session

The CSXT Shenandoah Division came to life once again on May 21, 2005. There were eight members of the crew present at this operating session in addition to Shenandoah Division management. Since the previous operating session, management had instructed shop forces to focus on increasing operating reliability of locomotives and rolling stock. These efforts paid dividends as the May 21 session went much more smoothly, although there still were some minor issues to be resolved.

The session started at 1:00 p.m. as usual with a briefing for the operating crew. Updates to the Employee Timetable since the last session were covered as well as changes to operating procedures indicated in the Superintendent's bulletins. As the crew becomes familiar with the layout and the operating procedures, these pre-session briefings will become shorter.

This session saw the debut of the new Computer Assisted Traffic System (CATS) to control traffic movement across the Shenandoah Division. The dispatchers received some training in the use of this dispatching software, and the fast clock (3:1 ratio) was started at around 2:00 p.m. (real-time) to begin the session. We ran the same "AM session" sequence as at the inaugural session, but without the added "challenge" of the P991 executive train.

Responding to crew suggestions, management assigned a full-time crew to a pusher job out of New Castle, Va. to assist all trains over Rich Patch Mountain. The pusher would shove northbound trains to the summit at Laurel, Va., while providing dynamic braking assistance to southbound trains headed down the mountain. Providing assistance to all trains seemed to help with coupler issues on this grade, but trains often had to wait for the pusher in one direction or the other. At the next session, a second pusher crew will be assigned to try to help make more efficient moves over the mountain.

There had been 20 trains scheduled to be run during this session, but only 12 actually made it out of staging and onto the railroad. Five of the trains tied down on the railroad at the end of the session when we decided to stop at 6:15 p.m. (real time) to go to dinner as a group.

According to the dispatcher's train sheet, the fastest freight operated at this session was once again Q420, which took about 2.75 fast hours to traverse the route; and the slowest train was local B741, the Black Cat, which took about 6 fast hours for its run (and only required 1 crew at this session!). Most of the other freight and coal trains seemed to take 3-5 hours to traverse the division. The pusher grade of Rich Patch Mountain seems to be a bottleneck which adversely affects traffic velocity.

The CATS dispatching software received excellent reviews from the dispatching crews. They especially liked the real-time occupancy reporting of train locations. With CATS installed for the dispatcher's console, management is now working on scoping the effort and expenditure required to begin installing CTC on the Shenandoah Division.

Future Operating Sessions

Future operating sessions have already been planned, as have improvements to equipment, the layout, and operating procedures. Operations on the CSXT Shenandoah Division will continue to get better as these improvements are implemented and as the crews become more proficient, but I'm quite pleased with the fact that the railroad is operating once again!

Photo Credit:

All photos in this operating session report are courtesy of C.R. Main.


May 21, 2005 Operating Session Photos

Marcus copies some blocks on the DTC Block Authority form while the pusher cuts off the rear of the Q420 at Laurel.

Bruce and Chuck are laughing about something as Chuck runs the B264 pusher job.


Larry, on the B741 (Black Cat) holding the mainline [how did that happen? ;-) ]at Ridgemont, watches as Marcus runs the Q420 downgrade in the passing siding "out here in the middle of nowhere."


Jan is running the head end of the Q244 northbound autoracks into Laurel, while his conductor, Al, studies the DTC Block Authority form for their train. Chuck, the B264 pusher crew, is watching the rear end of Q244 as it approaches the summit at Laurel.


Cherie runs the Q695 downgrade at Rich Patch while receiving dynamic braking assistance from Chuck on the B264.


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


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