CSX to continue major upgrades to former Pan Am system in 2024

The Class I plans to spend more than $100 million to modernize and repair infrastructure on portions of the former Pan Am Railways system. The aim: to boost efficiency, safety and reliability. CSX

By Jeff Stagl, Managing Editor 

Since CSX acquired the former Pan Am Railways in 2022, it’s focused on upgrading much of the infrastructure it procured. The Class I plans to spend more than $100 million to modernize and repair portions of Pan Am’s infrastructure to boost efficiency, safety and reliability.  

Pan Am previously operated a nearly 1,200-mile network in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. Its system — which ran through most of northern New England — included the lines of the former Boston and Maine Corp., Maine Central Railroad, Portland Terminal Co. and Springfield Terminal Railway Co. 

Last year, CSX completed work to enhance capacity and improve fluidity in Pan Am’s former Hill Yard in Ayer, Massachusetts. Crews built two new yard tracks (stretching 2,400 feet each), installed three new crossovers and realigned track to create parallel routes, and constructed a new tail track to facilitate intermodal switching. 

Also in 2023, CSX resumed freight service in December at Pan Am’s former Mattawamkeag, Maine, interchange after completing extensive track upgrades to increase train speed from 10 mph to 25 mph. Workers replaced more than 22 track miles of rail with new continuous-welded rail (CWR), replaced 46,850 ties, surfaced 55 miles of track, and replaced track panels at 34 public grade crossings and 21 private crossings. 

Now called the CSX New England Zone, the former Pan Am system will receive additional investments and extensive work again this year, said Ed Sparks, CSX’s chief engineer-bridges, design and construction, in an email. 

“We have significant work planned in rail, ties, surfacing, track construction and clearance improvements, along with additional minor bridge, drainage, roadbed and facility projects,” he said.

CSX Pan Am In 2024, a majority of work will be concentrated on 75 miles of mainline between Yarmouth and Waterville, Maine. Crews will install new rail, upgrade crossings, replace switches and complete other upgrades. CSX

Much of the work is associated with a $17.5 million Consolidated Rail Infrastructure & Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program grant the Maine Department of Transportation obtained to help CSX fund infrastructure improvements. A majority of the work this year will be focused on 75 miles of mainline track between Yarmouth and Waterville. 

Crews will install 400,000 lineal feet of new CWR; upgrade 47 crossings; replace 25 mainline switches; extend an existing passing siding by 4,800 lineal feet; modernize signal equipment in three existing interlockings; install three new control points; add additional wayside locations to extend a signal system by 16 miles; replace 441 timbers on eight bridge decks; and replace surfaces at 42 private crossings. 

The project’s start is contingent on both weather conditions and the receipt of a final notice to proceed from the CRISI grantee, the Maine DOT, said Sparks.   

“Depending upon when the notice to proceed is received, work could commence late in the first quarter and the trackwork should be largely completed in 2024,” he said. “The crossing signal work has a longer lead time and will likely finish up in 2025.” 

Other work planned in the CSX New England Zone in 2024 is designed to help improve reliability and increase train speed. Crews will construct six additional miles of a second main line track between Wells and North Berwick, Maine; enhance the clearance on the Worcester Subdivision between Worcester and Ayer, Massachusetts; install 13.3 miles of relay CWR on the branch to Portsmouth, New Hampshire; install nine miles of relay CWR in Rigby Yard in South Portland, Maine; and perform tie and surface work in the Portland Subdivision between Lowell Junction and Ayer, Massachusetts. 

Since there is a variety of tasks planned in 2024, the overall infrastructure improvement plan does not favor one type of maintenance-of-way work, said Sparks.

“We have a clear view of the work ahead,” he said. “We expect to achieve our planned infrastructure goals once weather conditions improve and we receive the necessary approvals for the work related to the grant.” 

As for any work progressing in the CSX New England Zone in 2025 or beyond, the railroad expects to do what’s necessary to fulfill the CRISI grant commitments, wrap up projects, and achieve the expected reliability, speed enhancements and service improvements, said Sparks. 

“With the former Pan Am lines already well integrated into the CSX system, new opportunities for growth and efficient interchanges will dictate future projects to meet our customer and operational needs,” he said. “Major work on rail, tie and surfacing will transition to a more normal capital improvement and routine heavy maintenance rhythm.”