Perspective: Bigger Trains = Bigger Problems

The DPU power for today’s Train 11Z glides under the Linden Street overpass at approximately 11:49 a.m.. Air/reservoir problems with the unit caused the nearly 200-car train to go into emergency a few miles up the line and tied up operations on the entire Sunbury and River Lines for hours.

Today (April 9, 2020) one of the biggest Norfolk Southern trains to elbow its way out of Binghamton, NY since NS began their implementation of Precision Scheduled Railroading in July of 2019, went into emergency while coming down the 10-mile hill into Scranton and Taylor and tied up the entire railroad between Bingo-Town and Sunbury for nearly 6 hours..

Train 11Z with three engines NS AC44C6M #4056, NS SD70ACe #1105 and NS SD70ACe #1057 (the first two up front and the #1057 about 120 cars back) went into emergency near milepost 667 sometime after 8 a.m..

Depew, Lancaster and Western #1804 pokes its nose out from behind the Scranton U-Haul company as it waits for two trains to move south on the line just barely visible to the right.

Behind 11Z, empty welded rail train 917 with the NS D9-44CW #9145 leading was waiting at Dalton to come south following behind the Z.. Just ahead of the Z at the Steamtown Wye, a Delaware Lackawanna train, just in from Mount Pocono PA, was waiting to work Taylor with a long string of empties.. Local switcher NS Train K81 was held up in the Yatesville industrial area, while in Taylor, several maintenance-of-way personnel waited for permission to work on various portions of the line..

The worst part of this scenario is that it’s not uncommon.. Back in January, not long after Trains 36T and 37T between Binghamton and Allentown, PA were abolished, a 194-car Train 11Z with four engines (two up front and two DPUs) broke apart around Hop Bottom, PA.. And after tying up the line, the train had to be taken to its Enola, PA destination in two pieces.. Two separate trains to be more specific.. Train 11Z from the head-end power to the DPUs.. And an M1Z Extra from the DPUs to the end of the original train..

These multi-mile megatrains (made largely common by the now deceased Hunter Harrison) are becoming more and more problematic throughout Class 1 railroading.. As trains halt into emergency due to their massive sizes, roadways and mainlines are being blocked, sometimes for hours, towns are literally being cut in half and trains are often separating..

We’ll talk more about this problem in future posts.. For now, know that the bigger the trains, the bigger the problems.

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Author:Railfan AC

AC is a U.S. Air Force Veteran, a long haul trucker, a transportation enthusiast and a lifelong lover of trains. AC's mission is to travel America documenting American railroading in the 21st century while educating those who want to know about the importance the railroads play in our daily lives including, but not limited to, the movement of goods, services and more.

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