NS “blitz” upgrades major coal-haul line in Pennsylvania

Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC) said July 30 that it recently completed $20.5m of track, bridge, and signal improvements along its major coal line through the Monongahela Valley in a record seven days.

That system runs a lot of coal out of big Pittsburgh-seam longwall mines of CONSOL Energy (NYSE: CNX) and Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR).

To ensure coal customers in southwest Pennsylvania continue to receive consistent and reliable rail service, Norfolk Southern schedules a maintenance blitz each July to coincide with the coal miners’ annual weeklong summer break. The “Mon” Line extends 85 miles south from Pittsburgh to serve five coal mines in Washington and Greene counties, Pa. In 2011, nearly 37 million tons of coal were shipped over the line – most of it delivered to utility customers. About 30 trains daily use the line.

“The Mon line is critical to meeting the energy needs of businesses and homes in the Northeast and Midwest,” said Tim Drake, NS vice president engineering. “Our work keeps this rail network safe and performing at peak level.”

This year, 500 Norfolk Southern engineering department employees from across the railroad’s 22-state system installed more than 44,600 crossties, laid 10 miles of new rail, resurfaced 67 miles of track, replaced 1,091 bridge ties, and installed 18 culverts. Additionally, the crews finished maintenance projects on 28 road crossings, four bridges, and one tunnel.

Fifty-six work trains, along with 32 pieces of track equipment, were utilized.  Under normal conditions it would take about three months to accomplish this work, with disruptions in service.

The maintenance work on the Mon Valley line is part of Norfolk Southern’s planned $2.4bn investment in its rail network during 2012.

The company’s Norfolk Southern Railway subsidiary operates approximately 20,000 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia, serves every major container port in the eastern U.S., and provides efficient connections to other rail carriers. Norfolk Southern operates the most extensive intermodal network in the East and is a major transporter of coal and industrial products.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.