NS completes maintenance blitz on coal-hauling rail line

Norfolk Southern Corp. (NYSE: NSC) has completed $22.6m in track, bridge, and signal improvements along its major coal line through Pennsylvania’s Monongahela Valley, serving coal mines that include longwall operations of CONSOL Energy (NYSE: CNX).

The “Mon Line” (short for the old Monongahela Railway) extends 85 miles south from Pittsburgh to serve five coal mines in Washington and Greene counties in Pennsylvania, and Marion and Monongalia counties in northern West Virginia, NS noted in a July 17 statement. During 2012, nearly 36.4 million tons of coal moved over the line, delivered to electric utility plants and east coast export terminals. NS got rights to the line in a 1990s buy of part of the assets of Conrail.

NS didn’t name the mines on the line, but they include CONSOL’s Bailey and Enlow Fork operations, two of the biggest deep coal mines in the U.S., with Bailey about to be expanded through a third longwall called the BMX project.

“Jobs, both railroad and non-railroad, depend on the vitality of the Mon Line,” said Mike Wheeler, NS’ vice president engineering. “The work completed here will help keep this line safe and help us serve customers efficiently.”

The annual maintenance blitz started with a partial shutdown of train traffic on June 24 before kicking into high gear with a full shutdown on June 29. Some 400 Norfolk Southern employees from across the railroad’s 22-state system installed 26,904 ties and 75,000 tons of ballast; laid 13 miles of new rail; resurfaced another 110 miles of rail; added 961 new bridge ties; replaced 22 culverts and cleaned 110; and upgraded 40 road crossings. The crews also replaced a retaining wall and a 140-foot timber bridge with a ballast deck over the Pigeon Creek in Monongahela.

NS crews also installed new signals in West Brownsville, Pa., the first step in expanding the rail yard there so that 130-car coal trains – an industry standard – are handled more efficiently. The project also calls for lengthening two mainlines and two yard lines so NS can efficiently stage 130-car coal trains. The yard also is a crew change point.

The company’s Norfolk Southern Railway subsidiary operates about 20,000 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia, serves every major container port in the eastern United States, and provides efficient connections to other rail carriers. Norfolk Southern is a major transporter of coal, automotive, 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.