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Jamboree shaping up to be a fulfilling function for CSXT


After months of planning, the event appears to be coming to an uneventful conclusion — which is just fine with CSX Transportation officials.
Jamboree 2001, a $17 million southeastern track-maintenance blitz, is set to wrap up July 6, ending five days of nearly round-the-clock work that ordinarily would have taken CSXT three months to complete.
The Jamboree involves nearly 400 track miles on the railroad's Montgomery, Ala.-to-New Orleans, and Flomaton, Ala.-to-Pensacola, Fla., mainlines. CSXT is employing nearly 800 workers and 360 pieces of equipment to install more than 1 million spikes, replace more than 100,000 wood crossties and 18 miles of rail, rebuild or repair 14 bridges and rehabilitate about 50 grade crossings.
So far, the weather has been a pleasant surprise — apart from the expected hot and humid conditions.
"We usually average two hurricanes a year in this area, and there's the potential for a lot of thunderstorms in early July, but we've been lucky that there haven't been many disturbances to the project," says Tom Schmidt, CSXT vice president-engineering.
But the 90-degree temperatures and 70-plus dewpoints are taking a toll on trackworkers, prompting CSXT officials to encourage employees to take a more personal beat-the-heat approach.
"They're telling us to use our own judgement as to when we need to take a break or get a drink," says Terry Ramsey, a CSXT safety chairman and material handling truck operator for the railroad's R1 rail team in Evergreen, Ala., during the Jamboree. "They're also telling us to pace ourselves, to take our time and be safe."
Safety long has been a primary concern for the rail, tie and curve-patch teams and bridge crews conducting the Jamboree, which are averaging anywhere from 252 to 560 injury-free days. And no accidents or injuries have been reported during the blitz — partially due to careful planning.
"We started planning the Jamboree in October and began delivering ties to the site two months ago, and other materials weeks ago," says Schmidt. "That way, everything was in place and the workers were ready to go — and nobody's rushing to make our schedule."
To clear traffic for the Jamboree — about 200 freight trains and three Amtrak trains would have run over the corridor during the blitz's five days — CSXT is diverting trains to other routes under cooperative agreements with Norfolk Southern Railway, Union Pacific Railroad, Burlington Northern Sante Fe and Kansas City Southern Railway. And Amtrak's Sunset Limited passengers are being bused between New Orleans and Pensacola; Amtrak advised passengers of the change when travelers purchased tickets.
"This really shows how railroads can work together," says Al Crown, executive vice president-transportation. "We plan to pay back NS, UP and BNSF for the track and horsepower-hour swaps they've given us, and we're encouraging the other railroads to conduct their major maintenance projects this way — it's the way of the future."
Jamborees certainly are part of CSXT's future: Starting in 2002, the railroad plans to conduct two such blitzes a year, about six months apart, says Mike Cantrell, senior vice president-engineering and mechanical. Although the railroad has employed the blitz approach in the past on smaller-scale maintenance projects, Jamboree 2001 is the first time CSXT has used the approach for a project this size.
Any lessons learned from the Jamboree will be factored into future blitzes; once the project's dust settles, CSXT plans to hold several meetings with employees involved in the Jamboree to gauge successes and failures.
For now, CSXT officials believe the Jamboree's accomplishments far outnumber disappointments.
"The table's been set," says Hugh Hopkins, chief engineer-maintenance of way. "All the hard work was in the planning stages, and we can see how well that was accomplished. All we have to do now is finish the meal."
Jeff Stagl

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/5/2001