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.
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.