CSX's Plymouth Subdivision

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David Collins
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CSX's Plymouth Subdivision

Unread post by David Collins »

So I remember looking at the CSX OCS heads up thread and seeing Saturnalia saying this: [insert obligatory comment about CP reviewing the line here]

I did hear something that CP was backing out of a contract to run their trains on NS' Wabash line, But this is where things get confusing for me, I have the worst sources in the world other than this website, so please don't get mad at me for asking this question that you all probably know the answer to, because I don't.

I'd like to know if CSX is dumping the Plymouth Sub, there's been word about this possibly happening for a while now, or is this just CP running as trackage rights, IMO it wouldn't seem practical to get rid of it judging by how much traffic 705/706 have been carrying, as well as 708 and GLC. Also, why did CP ditch NS?

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amessmann
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Re: CSX's Plymouth Subdivision

Unread post by amessmann »

I had heard that NS likes to bully CP and cause massive delays, but my sources are as good as yours on both that information and anything else I say. I was in Plymouth in early Summer of 2020, a railfan mentioned to me that CP was nearing the end of their contract with NS and may start using the Plymouth Sub again, but that was a year and a half ago at this point. I had done more research and from what I could find, the contract was supposed to end January of 2020, then I was told by him that it was "near the end", and now everything I hear just says "near the end" or "may happen" or something else similarly ambiguous.

Whenever I hear about CP using the Plymouth Sub again, it's either a speculation or opinion, a joke, or someone mentioning that there apparently are conflicts with NS. I've decided to ignore basically everything I hear about it until an official source like Trains Magazine brings it up, or we get some other concrete evidence that it is happening.

In addition, whenever I bring up CP and the Plymouth Sub with my friends, they mention to me how it is less efficient routing wise, among other issues that I don't remember off the top of my head. As far as I'm concerned, unfortunately, CP is no closer than they were when they pulled out of the Plymouth Sub.

"so please don't get mad at me for asking this question that you all probably know the answer to, because I don't"
I'm glad someone finally brought it up. I know it is a sensitive issue here but I think it's time we sort out the rumors and have a proper discussion, even to see if it would be a smart business move on CP's part to come back.

Over summer, it was nice to see work trains headed through here, just a glimmer of hope that this line will return to its former glory.
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Re: CSX's Plymouth Subdivision

Unread post by fmilhaupt »

Even if CP re-routed over the Plymouth Sub, they'd still be at the mercy of NS once they got to Porter.
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Doktor No
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Re: CSX's Plymouth Subdivision

Unread post by Doktor No »

Not if they build a crossover to the Lake Sub that belongs to CSX right across the tracks in Porter...AKA the old MC main. Then they would have a myriad ways and routes into Chitown.
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Re: CSX's Plymouth Subdivision

Unread post by Steve B »

Buy KCS, build a new Detroit River tunnel for domestic doublestacks, double track the Plymouth Sub and run 80 trains a day from Montreal to Mexico! Let the good times roll!
Last edited by Steve B on Sun Sep 12, 2021 9:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Saturnalia
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Re: CSX's Plymouth Subdivision

Unread post by Saturnalia »

CP is definitely not given top priority on the Chicago Line, but it's still all double-track, it's the most direct route from NW Indiana to Detroit, and it is flat, too.

The PM is limited by siding length, is not very direct, and is not very flat.

So CP is likely just biting the bullet and going with the flow on the NS, given that it probably makes more sense to use less motive power and not be limited by siding length or the myriad of hills on the Pere Marquette.

Also, with NS adopting PSR, their train counts have dropped and this has likely improved CP's time performance, at least east of Porter. At times pre-pandemic and pre-PSR, the NS was stuffed with trains and it could definitely be said that CP trains would at times sit, especially at Elkhart, to allow home-road trains the right-of-way.
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Re: CSX's Plymouth Subdivision

Unread post by DaveO »

Steve B wrote:
Sun Sep 12, 2021 9:16 pm
Buy KCS, enlarge the MC tunnel for domestic doublestacks, double track the Plymouth Sub and run 80 trains a day from Montreal to Mexico! Let the good times roll!
The MC tunnel can handle 8'6" double stacks.
Grind any more out of the concrete tunnel liner and you're going to need some really strong sump-pumps :shock:
Maybe replace the signal system when adding that second main track :?: 8)

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Re: CSX's Plymouth Subdivision

Unread post by Steve B »

DaveO wrote:
Sun Sep 12, 2021 9:24 pm
Steve B wrote:
Sun Sep 12, 2021 9:16 pm
Buy KCS, enlarge the MC tunnel for domestic doublestacks, double track the Plymouth Sub and run 80 trains a day from Montreal to Mexico! Let the good times roll!
The MC tunnel can handle 8'6" double stacks.
Grind any more out of the concrete tunnel liner and you're going to need some really strong sump-pumps :shock:
Maybe replace the signal system when adding that second main track :?: 8)
Ha, yeah I remembered and edited my post about having to build new tunnel. Definitely, replace all the signals. Better build some passenger depots for that AA-GR-Kaleva-TC commuter train too.

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Re: CSX's Plymouth Subdivision

Unread post by David Lang »

While this topic is certainly interesting, it definitely generates more questions than answers and ultimately we will not know for sure until something official comes out. Given that fact, here are a few options that can add to the discussion in terms of pros and cons "IF" the CP-KCS merger happens.

1. CP continues to run on NS.
Pro: Very direct route into Chicago.
Pro: Current train crews are established and available. Cost for this = 0 (unless more trains are needed from the merger). Options 2 and 3 below would require new crews and new qualifications.
Con: Assuming additional traffic would be generated from the merger, additional trains on an already busy NS main would likely incur additional delays. I think of it this way...if I'm NS and I'm now running transcontinental CP trains, an advantage that NS does not have, what motivation/incentive would NS have to keep those trains running at a reasonable schedule? I see this as a big disadvantage for CP.
Con: CP continues to have to rely on someone else, i.e. NS, to run their trains and not have their own route to Chicago.

2. CP runs on CSX through Michigan (Plymouth and Grand Rapids Subs).
Pro: CP gets off NS and has its own route across Michigan, but....
Con: Cost of establishing new train crews and qualifications
Con: Not as direct as current routing.
Con: As mentioned earlier, current passing siding upgrades and possible additional infrastructure upgrades would be needed.
Con: Once you get to Porter, you are still at the mercy of NS
Potential Con: Hilly, and likely helpers would be needed over the hill at East Saugatuck (not really a big deal these days as DPU trains are becoming more common).
Solution/Con: As stated already by Doc, you put in a connection at Porter to the CSX Lake Sub and continue to have your own route to Chicago. From a cost standpoint, over the long term, I would think a connection here would be worth the investment over continued and likely delays if the current routing doesn't change. Keep in mind if a connection was made, NS still would control Porter, and CP would likely wait there a lot to get through.
General Comment: From a cost standpoint, at what cost is CP currently paying now to run on NS vs. the cost of getting off NS and leasing/buying the CSX line. From a business standpoint, cost is of critical importance, and must (and will be) factored into the equation, and of course, what option would be the best for the shareholders.

3. CP runs on Amtrak to Porter with a Connection at Porter to CSX. Now I know this one is highly unlikely, but I'll throw it out there anyway.
Pro: the Amtrak line is really underutilized in terms of capacity and additional traffic, in my opinion, would pose no problem in this regard as there are several double track sections along with way for meets, i.e. - Chelsea, Albion, Jackson, Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Dowagiac, Niles, Three Oaks, and Michigan City (I think I got them all).
Pro: Very direct route to Porter from Detroit.
Pro: "IF" all current double track sections are good for meets, and "IF" signal upgrades would not be needed, then there would be very little if any infrastructure upgrades needed from a cost perspective.
BIG Con: CP would probably have to fork over funding to help maintain Amtrak track speed standards which would likely be expensive. I assume this would be true if they would either buy or lease the line.
Con: Cost of putting in a connection at Porter as outlined above, based on the assumption that CP would not want to run on NS from Porter to Chicago.
Potential Con: The cost of running lots of freight on the Amtrak line might be a show stopper right out of the gate, that I do not know. (Cost in terms of maintaining track for Amtrak train speeds and cost as payments to the State of Michigan if the line was leased. I do not think the line would be for sale out right from the state, but not sure).
Con: CP would need to deal with Amtrak Trains. Amtrak Trains would need priority, however running freight at night combined with meets on double track sections during the day would mitigate some of that concern.
Con: Cost of establishing new train crews and qualifications.

Again, IF the CP-KCS merger takes place, what I'm saying above is going to come down to cost and shareholder value. The older I get and the more I work for a living, the more I'm convinced that's how the game is played.

Anyone please feel free to pick apart my analysis as I value learning from folks much smarter than me.
Last edited by David Lang on Tue Sep 14, 2021 7:01 am, edited 33 times in total.

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Re: CSX's Plymouth Subdivision

Unread post by C&O Dispatcher »

Saturnalia wrote:
Sun Sep 12, 2021 9:19 pm
CP is definitely not given top priority on the Chicago Line, but it's still all double-track, it's the most direct route from NW Indiana to Detroit, and it is flat, too.

The PM is limited by siding length, is not very direct, and is not very flat.

So CP is likely just biting the bullet and going with the flow on the NS, given that it probably makes more sense to use less motive power and not be limited by siding length or the myriad of hills on the Pere Marquette.

Also, with NS adopting PSR, their train counts have dropped and this has likely improved CP's time performance, at least east of Porter. At times pre-pandemic and pre-PSR, the NS was stuffed with trains and it could definitely be said that CP trains would at times sit, especially at Elkhart, to allow home-road trains the right-of-way.
Regarding siding length, it's kind of ironic now that when I was in Saginaw, the passing sidings at Clyde, Wixom, Plymouth and Wayne were all lengthened and signaled sidings were added at Grand Blanc and Novi, and double track extended from Atwood Wye to Atwood Jct. I don't recall any capacity improvements like that on the Plymouth Sub. However, save for Plymouth south pass (and maybe Clyde), even the lengthened sidings could not accommodate the 3-miler trains they like to run today!

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SD80MAC
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Re: CSX's Plymouth Subdivision

Unread post by SD80MAC »

One of the advantages to a Plymouth sub routing (and I'm aware there are just as many if not more cons, I'm just making coversation) is Wyoming yard in Grand Rapids. It's a large yard that can process several hundred cars per day if equipped with enough personnel. I could see CP utilizing it similar to how CN uses Battle Creek; as a large block-swapping yard outside of Chicago that will pre-block trains heading for destinations and eliminate more switching/delays in Chicago.

As far as the hills, CSX has pretty much rendered Saugatuck moot since the advent of DPUs. Even a train running 1x1 can handle more tonnage than a traditional 2x0 freight on the hill based on the topography and location of the grade. The only trains that still require the addition of DPUs are the coal trains, and that's because BNSF and CSX haven't been able to come to an agreement on running those trains 2x2.

As far as sidings, there are several that could be lengthened relatively easily (New Buffalo, Livingston, Kirk, Gross, Wells, East Saugatuck, Fox, Elmdale, Lake Odessa, Grand Ledge, Williamston, South Lyon), but that would obviously require substantial capital investment.
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Re: CSX's Plymouth Subdivision

Unread post by Talk »

Feel free to tell me how this isn't viable, but I could see Waverly Yard in Holland getting torn up and D702 (Or its equivalent local) running out of Wyoming... Wyoming could handle it :o
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Re: CSX's Plymouth Subdivision

Unread post by Typhoon »

The CP was offered the line a couple of years ago. They had no interest in it, however the talks did result in the haulage trains Q166/Q165. Long story short, it is a railfan fantasy.

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Re: CSX's Plymouth Subdivision

Unread post by Saturnalia »

Talk wrote:
Mon Sep 13, 2021 1:29 pm
Feel free to tell me how this isn't viable, but I could see Waverly Yard in Holland getting torn up and D702 (Or its equivalent local) running out of Wyoming... Wyoming could handle it :o
This is unlikely due to the shear volume of traffic Waverly handles. You've seen those D702s, they can be quite massive. Preblocking in GR is likely out of the question, as Waverly also acts as a buffer storing cars for days that certain customers are not switched. Plus, there are a couple of transload customers in Waverly and let's not forget the Michigan Shore Interchange, too.
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Re: CSX's Plymouth Subdivision

Unread post by LansingRailFan »

Talk wrote:
Mon Sep 13, 2021 1:29 pm
Feel free to tell me how this isn't viable, but I could see Waverly Yard in Holland getting torn up and D702 (Or its equivalent local) running out of Wyoming... Wyoming could handle it :o
The CSX OCS didn’t stop at a absolutely full Waverly Yard or nothing like a month ago. But sure we will believe your nightmares.

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Re: CSX's Plymouth Subdivision

Unread post by LansingRailFan »

Typhoon wrote:
Mon Sep 13, 2021 2:20 pm
The CP was offered the line a couple of years ago. They had no interest in it, however the talks did result in the haulage trains Q166/Q165. Long story short, it is a railfan fantasy.
Never seen a Q166/Q165

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Re: CSX's Plymouth Subdivision

Unread post by atrainguy60 »

LansingRailFan wrote:
Mon Sep 13, 2021 7:57 pm
Typhoon wrote:
Mon Sep 13, 2021 2:20 pm
The CP was offered the line a couple of years ago. They had no interest in it, however the talks did result in the haulage trains Q166/Q165. Long story short, it is a railfan fantasy.
Never seen a Q166/Q165
Q165/Q166 are the two CP haulage rights trains that run over CSX between Buffalo and Chicago through Indiana and Ohio.

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Re: CSX's Plymouth Subdivision

Unread post by Talk »

Doktor No wrote:
Sun Sep 12, 2021 8:32 pm
Not if they build a crossover to the Lake Sub that belongs to CSX right across the tracks in Porter...AKA the old MC main. Then they would have a myriad ways and routes into Chitown.
This idea has always interested me... Again my 16-year-old brain is very biased... Please give me a reality check :)

Pro's:

- Less Delays (For Both Railroads)
- Trains stay on home rails (further)
- Relies on NS less
- Connects to the IHB
- More Appealing for a sale to another Class One

Con's

- Price
- Diamond Maintenance
- Current Traffic doesn't justify the capital investment.
- Still Relies on NS
- Still Relies on CSX (if a sale occurs)
- Relies on CN
- Relies on IHB
- Diamond would fall in the middle of a road.
- Amtrak P370/P371 would need a new route or an interchange track between NS & the GR
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Re: CSX's Plymouth Subdivision

Unread post by Jetlink »

Talk wrote:
Wed Sep 15, 2021 8:25 am

This idea has always interested me... Again my 16-year-old brain is very biased... Please give me a reality check :)



Con's

- Price
- Diamond Maintenance

- Diamond would fall in the middle of a road.
It has often been mentioned that diamonds likely never go back in at Porter. However a set of two switches/turnouts/crossovers would be more likely and require less maintenance. Might take a little re alignment to match up but certainly possible. Not my idea. I've just heard many folks saying that for years.
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Re: CSX's Plymouth Subdivision

Unread post by Talk »

Jetlink wrote:
Wed Sep 15, 2021 8:41 am
It has often been mentioned that diamonds likely never go back in at Porter. However a set of two switches/turnouts/crossovers would be more likely and require less maintenance. Might take a little re alignment to match up but certainly possible. Not my idea. I've just heard many folks saying that for years.
That seems quite possible too, There is a large farm to the West of the Porter Branch... Buy that and boom lol
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