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