Saugatuck Hill coal train questions and speculation

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TSS
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Saugatuck Hill coal train questions and speculation

Unread post by TSS »

In recent days, we are finally seeing Q326 operating regularly with mid- or end-of-train Distributed Power. It just makes sense—DP is a way of life everywhere else, so it makes sense that it is finally here. I’m surprised it took so long.

But the one thing that has always confounded me is CSX’s haphazard approach to getting coal trains over the hill. Sometimes it’s helpers. Sometimes self-service DP from the nearest siding. Sometimes they have to double the hill.

It seems to me that inconsistency is the enemy of efficiency. Why not find one operating plan and stick with it?

In my mind, that would be DP Power placed on the train at Chicago, idling until it gets to the hill. Sure, that’s an inefficient use of locomotives and fuel, but how much worse can it be than helpers with driver and crew or no helpers/vans/confusion/DP-ing at Wells/doubling the hill/Etc?

If not that, then why not resurrect a few tracks at New Buffalo yard? Park the loads there and have a D-job drag them north half a train at a time. The road crews could probably do a turn—loads from the city to New Buffalo, empties immediately back.

Thoughts?

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SD80MAC
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Re: Saugatuck Hill coal train questions and speculation

Unread post by SD80MAC »

The reason why the coal trains do not come out of Chicago with DPU is that BNSF will not put a pair of DPUs on the train, only 1. The coal trains need 4 units to make it over the hill. Doesn't make sense to run with 3 and still have to stop to pick one up anyway, so they just run with the 2 out of Chicago. I'm not sure if it's a case of CSX and Consumers don't want to pay for it, or if BNSF simply won't, but either way that's why!

Stopping to add the DPUs is a drop in the bucket, $-wise.
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dave989
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Re: Saugatuck Hill coal train questions and speculation

Unread post by dave989 »

On the subject of the hill, what's the status of the big MOW project in this area. I know they were working around New Richmond but haven't seen any updates.

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trnwatcher
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Re: Saugatuck Hill coal train questions and speculation

Unread post by trnwatcher »

dave989 wrote:On the subject of the hill, what's the status of the big MOW project in this area. I know they were working around New Richmond but haven't seen any updates.
MoW is still working on bridge ties I believe. MoW is also working south of Wells. Not sure if it is crossing work or tie\ballast replacement. Supposed to be replacing rail on the hill sometime this year too.
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justalurker66
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Re: Saugatuck Hill coal train questions and speculation

Unread post by justalurker66 »

TSS wrote:But the one thing that has always confounded me is CSX’s haphazard approach to getting coal trains over the hill. Sometimes it’s helpers. Sometimes self-service DP from the nearest siding. Sometimes they have to double the hill.

It seems to me that inconsistency is the enemy of efficiency. Why not find one operating plan and stick with it?
One plan makes sense. From your description it sounds like they are not planning and are working out what to do when they reach the hill based on what is available at that moment. Each solution has its own costs and challenges. (Is a crew available for helpers? Did self-service DP get returned from the last use?) Doubling would seem to be the most cumbersome.

The alternatives are probably why you were seeing a variety of solutions. Rank each solution and choose one that is best - if that is not available choose the next one down the line until one runs out of options. Choosing a low preference option as the "one plan" just because it can always be done would eliminate the better options on days they were available.

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trnwatcher
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Re: Saugatuck Hill coal train questions and speculation

Unread post by trnwatcher »

TSS wrote:In recent days, we are finally seeing Q326 operating regularly with mid- or end-of-train Distributed Power. It just makes sense—DP is a way of life everywhere else, so it makes sense that it is finally here. I’m surprised it took so long.

Thoughts?
The biggest issue was getting crews qualified to run the DPU's. With the shortage of crews it was hard to put 2 engineers on the same train just so one could get training done. They sent the first ones to training last summer. It's taken them this long to get most everyone in the pool trained. Toss ontop of that retirements and people bidding on other jobs as they became open it's taken several months to get most of the them trained. One thing most non-railroad workers do not understand is that most changed come to the RR slowly. They are always things that have to be taken into consideration when implementing any change that most non-railroaders do not understand. It may look simple in foamerland but it rarely is as simple as it appears.
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