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Rail News Home Norfolk Southern Railway

April 2009

Rail News: Norfolk Southern Railway

8th Annual MOW Survey: Class Is


by Jeff Stagl, managing editor

A state of good repair. The term that’s used extensively by passenger railroads has a new meaning for Class Is this year. They’re focusing their maintenance-of-way (MOW) resources on repair needs to ensure track and other infrastructure is in the best-possible condition.

That means large roads will complete quite a few rail, tie, surfacing and bridge projects, but not nearly as many double-track, siding or other capacity expansion projects as they have the past few years. With traffic at five-year-low levels and the recession in full swing, Class Is are trying to be frugal with their MOW spending plans.

Five of the eight large roads are budgeting less compared with last year, and seven cited a need to pour most of their resources into infrastructure maintenance, primarily to prepare for more traffic when the economy rebounds.

“We look at the current economic climate as an opportunity to focus on parameters we control, our costs, efficiencies and operations,” said officials at Canadian Pacific — which has reduced total ’09 capex about $160 million vs. last year — in their survey. “Our ongoing reinvestment in our physical plant ensures the railroad is ready to accept increased volumes when the economy improves.”

To be able to respond quickly to economic changes, BNSF Railway Co. has woven flexibility into its MOW program, says Vice President of Engineering Dave Freeman.

“We can take advantage of available gang capacity and move resources around,” he says. “At the same time, we can take full advantage of reduced traffic levels to minimize our unit costs and maximize the program work we can accomplish with our authorized funding.”

Bend and stretch

Because of the weak economy, BNSF has stretched out the construction schedules for two capacity expansion projects originally expected to be budgeted and completed this year. On its Abo Canyon line southeast of Albuquerque, N.M., the railroad now expects to complete 5.5 miles of double track in early 2011. Crews will complete grading work this year, and bridge and signaling work next year.

And instead of completing more than eight miles of triple track in Missouri in ‘09, BNSF will build a 3.4-mile section near Cement City this year (beginning in August), and a five-mile segment between Congo and Eton next year.

In terms of its overall MOW program, the Class I has budgeted a slightly lower $1.557 billion vs. last year’s $1.561 billion. BNSF will focus maintenance work evenly on rail and ties, says Freeman. If first-quarter track windows and productivity are indications, the railroad should have no problems completing the work.

“In the first quarter, we had the best gang productivity in the eight years that I’ve been here,” says Freeman, adding that rail gang productivity reached 115 percent and tie gang productivity climbed to 118 percent. “Clearly, we are benefiting from [open] windows.”

CSX Transportation is taking advantage of additional track time, too. But the Class I is wringing even more productivity benefits from a Trackworks program implemented last year.

The program calls for implementing industrial engineering techniques and standardizing operating procedures to boost productivity, and offset labor and material cost increases.

“We can do the same amount of work with the same amount of money by keeping total unit costs down,” says CSXT VP of Engineering John West, adding that the Class I’s labor and material costs increased 6 percent compared with last year.


With the help of a consultant, the railroad performed computer simulations to determine how to best operate machinery and map out MOW work, and installed GPS devices on all equipment, he says. The simulations helped eliminate equipment bottlenecks — a frequent problem with tie handlers.

“To me, ‘www’ doesn’t mean World Wide Web, it means work without waiting,” says West.

In addition, crew members, equipment mechanics, and signal and transportation department workers meet frequently each day to discuss what work still needs to be done, what operations went well and what could have been done better, he says.

Overall, CSXT has increased its MOW budget 6 percent year over year to $765 million. The railroad will install 200,000 more ties vs. last year, primarily on spurs and yard tracks. The Class I also will install 100,000 borate-treated ties in its southern region to “see how they work out,” says West.

In addition, CSXT increased its bridge program budget 10 percent to $55 million. Major projects include upgrades to a bridge over the Anacostia River near Washington, D.C., and span replacements on a bridge over the Mahoning River in Youngstown, Ohio.

Crews are rebuilding one track on the double-track D.C. bridge, which was built in the 1970s. CSXT plans to rebuild the second track and fully restore the bridge by fall 2010. The railroad also expects to replace three truss spans on the Youngstown bridge by mid-2010.

2009 MOW Plans (by budget amount)

Union Pacific Railroad

2009 MOW budget: $1.8 billion

2008 MOW budget: $1.725 billion

Reason for increase: UP is maintaining a robust maintenance program.

Rail: Install or replace 907 miles of new or second-hand continuous-welded rail (CWR).

Double track: Continue a reduced plan on the Sunset Route in Arizona with an addition of 14 miles of double track.

Sidings: Construct two sidings in Illinois and one each in Missouri, Nebraska and Wyoming averaging between 9,000 and 15,000 feet in length.

Ties: Replace or install 3.4 million wood, 400,000 concrete and 150,000 composite ties.

Ballast: Install 6.3 million tons.

Grinding/surfacing: Grind 22,200 miles; surface 9,500 miles.

Bridge work: Overall budget is equal to 2008’s at $110 million. Continue to upgrade wooden bridges to concrete/steel, replacing nearly 11,000 feet.

BNSF Railway Co.

2009 MOW budget: $1.557 billion

2008 MOW budget: $1.561 billion

Reason for decrease: Our 2009 capital program maintenance budget is basically the same as in 2008, which will enable us to continue to maintain our infrastructure to appropriate levels of condition.

Rail: Replace or install 847 track miles with CWR.

Double track: Construct 5.3-mile segment in Interbay, Wash., in June ($9.5 million).

Triple track: Construct 3.4-mile segment, Congo-to-Cement City, Mo., in August (BNSF/UP joint project, $14.4 million); and 1.5-mile “Segment 5” in California ($18.2 million, in service in February).

Sidings: Total of 16 projects, including 10.3-mile siding at Memphis, Tenn., yard; 3.9-mile siding at Everett, Wash., yard; 2-mile siding at Casper, Wyo., yard; 1.8-mile siding at Turrell connection in Arkansas; and 1.7-mile Stanwood siding extension in California.

Ties: Replace or install 2.94 million wood, 130,000 concrete and 12,058 plastic ties.

Ballast: Install 3.3 million tons.

Grinding/surfacing: Grind 31,868 pass miles; surface 13,943 miles.

Bridge work: Total $91.3 million structures budget, includes routine capital maintenance ($57.3 million) and heavy (major) work ($34 million). Replace all or portions of 63 bridges, install 24 open decks and 10 ballasted decks, upgrade machinery on two moveable bridges, and complete various culvert and retaining-wall work. Replace substructure and 16 52-foot spans of 4,769-foot bridge over Lake Pend Oreille near Sandpoint, Idaho; replace entire 693-foot bridge, including a 150-foot swing span, over Bayou Bouef in Amelia, La.; and design and plan replacement of 1,582 feet of approach spans and substructure of Mississippi River bridge in Burlington, Iowa, in conjunction with replacement of 362-foot swing span.

Signal projects: Major poleline elimination projects ($65 million) and classification yard maintenance ($6.8 million), including replacement of master retarder in Barstow, Calif., and retarder replacements in Minneapolis and Galesburg, Ill.


2009 MOW budget: $705 million

2008 MOW budget: $880 million

Rail: Install 395 track miles of new CWR and 30 track miles of secondhand rail.

Double track: Joint venture with VIA Rail Canada Inc., install 40 track miles in Kingston Subdivision between 2009 and 2010.

Ties: Replace or install 1.79 million wood and 66,500 concrete ties.

Ballast: Install 1.6 million tons.

Grinding/surfacing: Grind 12,500 miles; surface 7,500 track miles.

CSX Transportation

2009 MOW budget: $765 million

2008 MOW budget: $721 million

Reason for increase: An additional 200,000 ties and, even in this weak economy, labor and material inflation will be key drivers of our increased budget for 2009.

Rail: Replace or install 525 miles with CWR.

Ties: Replace or install 3.2 million wood ties.

Ballast: Install 3.7 million tons.

Grinding/surfacing: Grind 18,000 miles; surface 6,100 miles.

Bridge work: Total budget of $55 million to rehabilitate existing structures.

Norfolk Southern Railway

2009 MOW budget: $712 million

2008 MOW budget: $643 million

Reason for increase: Cost variances play some part. Will perform some additional surfacing, bridge tie installation and bridge rebuild work that we view as critical. This will allow us to prepare for additional traffic volumes when they return after the economy rebounds. We also have slightly increased our equipment replacement budget.

Rail: Replace or install 244 track miles with CWR and 92 miles of relay rail.

Double or triple track: 10-mile second main, Cox to Hoskins, N.C. (NCRR); 8.8-mile second main, Jamestown, N.C.; 5-mile second main, Front Royal, Va.; and 3-mile third main, Atlanta.

Sidings: New 2-mile siding in Gainesville, Va.; and extensions to sidings in Jacksonville., Fla., and Noell, Ind.

Ties: Replace or install 2.3 million wood ties, including 265,000 borates.

Ballast: Install 3 million tons.

Grinding/surfacing: Grind 13,200 miles; surface 2,280 miles.

Bridge work: 2009 bridge program calls for 74 new rebuild and/or rehabilitation projects, and 21 carryover projects from prior years.

Canadian Pacific
(Includes DM&E subsidiary)

2009 MOW budget: Total capital spending, including MOW, will range between $647 million and $663 million

2008 MOW budget: Total capex (CP/DM&E) between about $807 million and $823 million

Reason for decrease: As everyone must do with their own families in the current economic reality, you make decisions on what MUST be done now and what are items that could wait. This is what CP is also doing. However, despite the weak economy, CP’s capital spending will continue to enhance our industry leading safety record. Our ongoing reinvestment in our physical plant ensures the railroad is ready to accept an increase in volumes when the economy improves, while still providing safe and efficient service.
(Note: CP declined to provide details on its MOW program.)

Kansas City Southern Railway Co./Kansas City Southern De México s.a. de c.v. (Combined data)

2009 MOW budget: $330 million

2008 MOW budget: $429 million

Reason for decrease: About $40 million less expenditure is planned on the Rosenberg, Texas, mainline project for 2009, as a majority of this project spend was incurred in 2008. We have made year-over-year reductions in transportation capacity projects of $20 million to align with anticipated traffic levels. Cost efficiencies, increased production and economic conditions contribute to the remaining year-over-year reduction in the maintenance program spend.

Rail: Replace or install 172 miles with CWR.Sidings: Complete sidings in Greenfield and Rankin, Miss., and Simsboro, La.

Ties: Replace or install 555,000 wood and 325,000 concrete ties.

Grinding/surfacing: Grind 2,500 track miles.

Bridge work: Total expenditure of $16 million for bridge improvements and rebuilds across the system.

Ferrocarril Mexicano S.A. de C.V.

2009 MOW budget: $49 million

2008 MOW budget: $82 million

Reason for decrease: World financial crisis.

Rail: Replace or install 68.5 miles with CWR.

Ties: Replace or install 171,000 ties.

Ballast: Install 560,000 tons.

Grinding/surfacing: 1,000 miles.

Bridge work: Involves 56 small bridges.

Additional project: Complete the strengthening of the Salsipuedes viaduct (870 feet long, 230 feet high).


MOW ’09 Contents


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