JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — CSX Transportation has announced facility expansions and enhancements at its Erwin, Tenn., facility as the railroad moves forward with an initiative to further improve the delivery of coal and other freight.
Erwin, the former headquarters of the CSXT predecessor Clinchfield Railroad, is an important gateway for coal trains operating from Appalachia to receivers such as electrical power utilities.
As part of an expanded project focused on improving bulk freight service including coal and grain, approximately $6 million in track and structure work will be performed at the Erwin terminal during 2008. This work will accommodate a growing volume of coal and some grain trains that will be using distributed power at the rear of those trains.
In addition, about $3 million will be spent on communications and technology upgrades in the region to support distributed power, and eight additional employees will join the Erwin locomotive team.
Distributed power refers to locomotives placed in the middle or rear of the train and controlled by the engineer from the lead locomotive. By “distributing” the power through the train, handling over mountainous territory is improved, more rail cars can be added, and fuel efficiency is increased. Those longer trains require the construction of longer yard tracks.
Later this month, demolition of the current car inspector facility will begin to make way for extended yard tracks and a new car inspector facility. In addition, several power switches will be installed in the terminal, which enable trains to move through the yard more fluidly and don’t require workers to get off to manipulate them.
The locomotive servicing facility also will receive upgrades to expedite its work. CSXT’s purchase of new locomotives this year includes a specification for equipping them for distributed power.
“We are proud of the long and consistent record of safety and service provided by our Erwin terminal and its employees,” said Mike Pendergrass, vice president-Southern region. “We look forward to these facility improvements to support distributed power, which in turn will provide more efficient service to our customers.”
Locomotive engineers who operate from Erwin and other southeastern points are undergoing classroom and hands-on training to prepare to operate distributed power trains, joining those who are already certified for those operations.
Distributed power trains will eventually replace the practice today of adding “helper” locomotives at certain points to push trains over grades, increasing efficiency and further improving customer service.