Amtrak goes straight to STB to restore Gulf Coast service.

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

neroden

Engineer
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
9,506
Location
Ithaca, NY
Someone posted elsewhere that what would happen to any shipper who did not send a letter. Rank intimation!
CSX already has most of its shippers angry at it over other issues -- I wonder if this is going to backfire and lead shippers to send letters asking for CSX to be put in its place
 

George Harris

Engineer
Joined
Apr 6, 2006
Messages
5,322
Location
finally! Back in Mississippi
The roundabout routing between Mobile and Pensacola is because there never was any intent to build a railroad between these points. Both the original line into Mobile from Montgomery and points north and the branch from Flomaton AL to Pensacola were built with the intent of providing hauling of material between inland and ports. The Pensacola to points east came along later and was never more than a branch line in L&N days. This included most of the life of the operation of the Gulf Wind, which was actually a fairly nice train for most of its life and lasted, although probably with only one coach in its last years, until Amtrak.

As to track condition: The track between Mobile and Flomaton should be a good as any on the CSX system, as it definitely main line. Flomaton and east was given considerable upgrades after the takeover of L&N by SCL. Most of the line was relaid with welded rail, although probably second hand rather than new, and some sidings were extended and made into CTC signaled islands in the otherwise unsignalled line. The low level wood trestle with swing span across Escambia Bay was replaced with a high level concrete bridge, and these are just the changes I know about. How much this has been allowed to deteriorate I don't know, although I do know that CSX sent a letter to Amtrak at completion of the restoration of the line following the hurricane that the Sunset East could be restored. Amtrak chose not to. The Sunset East's poor timekeeping was due as much to the absolutely sorry timekeeping of the train west of New Orleans.

Why CSX chose to sell of Pensacola to the east I have no idea. It really makes no sense to me. All alternatives to freight carried on this line are much longer and have much greater rise and fall in profile. While talking profile, New Orleans to Mobile is about as dead flat as any railroad in the country. The is the primary reason that "land barge" freights are practical. It is also why the issue of causing delay to passenger trains by being caught by very slow upgrade freight trains does not exist. CSX does not want to put one of these land barges in a siding, even if it were to be long enough because they are so underpowered it takes just short of forever to get the thing back up to 40 to 50 mph.

Quite a few years past there was a study about relocating the Mississippi Gulf portion of the line inland. It was, in my opinion, a fairly poorly done study. To do so is relatively pointless. If a relocation were to be considered, it should be by about 25 to 30 feet, straight up. This would eliminate the multiple grade crossing issues, and with minor bumps in profile should also be able to eliminate drawbridges.
 

neroden

Engineer
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
9,506
Location
Ithaca, NY
Hmm. New Orleans to Mobile is about 128 miles (or so). At 40 mph that is 3.2 hours. Even at 30 mph that's 4.3 hours. According to all reports, CSX is only running four trains a day -- two each way -- along the length of the line, plus a few shorter locals which should be much less underpowered.

CSX can easily fit some passenger trains into the schedule even if they blocked off the entire railroad for 17.2 hours a day for extremely slow, underpowered freight trains. That still leaves 6.4 hours to run passenger trains in, and the passenger trains are faster. Swap a pair in the morning (one east, one west); swap a pair in the evening (one east, one west). Shouldn't take up more than 4.4 hours if the passenger trains averaged 60mph. I made very pessimistic assumptions here.

I wish CSX were negotiating in good faith.

Drawbridges may be an actual issue requiring regulatory petitions and changes, because of the Coast Guard's default "open whenever a yacht comes by at random" rule, but CSX and Amtrak could work cooperatively to get a special rule if they were a real issue -- and if CSX were willing to negotiate in good faith.
 

DSS&A

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Aug 21, 2015
Messages
413
Trains just posted information about some of the discussions at the Feb. 16th STB meeting. Scheduling bridge openings was suggested by the STB. An interesting quote from the article is:

" .... A 3-minute response from CSX CEO Jim Foote, which began, “It’s called a pandemic,” clearly didn’t sit well with (STB member) Mr. Oberman, who responded, “You’ve spent $6 billion less on capital than stock buybacks over the past 11 years.”. This conversation appears to be pointed as to where CSX priorities have been and complaining about capacity problems that prevent better operating ratios and using more money to increase stock prices instead of increasing capacity, which is an interesting observation.

Here is the link:
 
Last edited:

joelkfla

Conductor
Joined
Oct 16, 2018
Messages
1,777
Location
12 miles from Walt Disney World
Trains just posted information about some of the discussions at the Feb. 16th STB meeting. Scheduling bridge openings was suggested by the STB. An interesting quote from the article is:

" .... A 3-minute response from CSX CEO Jim Foote, which began, “It’s called a pandemic,” clearly didn’t sit well with (STB member) Mr. Oberman, who responded, “You’ve spent $6 billion less on capital than stock buybacks over the past 11 years.”. This conversation appears to be pointed as to where CSX priorities have been and complaining about capacity problems that prevent better operating ratios and using more money to increase stock prices instead of increasing capacity is an interesting observation.

Here is the link:
Read the comments, too; particularly the one by Chris Thompson.
 

neroden

Engineer
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
9,506
Location
Ithaca, NY
Trains just posted information about some of the discussions at the Feb. 16th STB meeting. Scheduling bridge openings was suggested by the STB.
Nice. STB seems alert.

An interesting quote from the article is:

" .... A 3-minute response from CSX CEO Jim Foote, which began, “It’s called a pandemic,” clearly didn’t sit well with (STB member) Mr. Oberman, who responded, “You’ve spent $6 billion less on capital than stock buybacks over the past 11 years.”. This conversation appears to be pointed as to where CSX priorities have been and complaining about capacity problems that prevent better operating ratios and using more money to increase stock prices instead of increasing capacity, which is an interesting observation.

Excellent. Oberman is onto CSX's lies. The board has *five members*. Another couple of quotes:

Board member Robert Primus added, “I want direct answers, and I don’t think we’ve got them.” The newest board member, Karen Hedlund, asked that CSX analyze in the March hearing “the additional benefits to the fluidity of your system from the improvements you are requesting that be made on behalf of Amtrak.”

Schultz came to the STB from SEPTA. That's four out of the five members of STB who I expect to be on the side of Amtrak... minimum. I don't know about Fuchs, but I do know Oberman prefers unanimous rulings.

Then there's Moorman's quote, which should have great impact since he was a freight railroad CEO *and* an Amtrak CEO:

When he was at Amtrak in 2016, “and CSX said it was $2.4 billion [for the improvements necessary for passenger service] to go from New Orleans to Jacksonville — I say this with all due respect to my CSX friends — that was laughable.”

So, CSX is very likely to lose at the STB -- as they well should. They *should* just start cooperating.

But since the CSX CEO has proven himself to be (a) dishonest and (b) a jackass, I fully expect CSX to attempt to attack the STB's authority in federal court.

This would be a bad move; CSX & pals tried this with regard to on-time performance and lost decisively -- but more importantly, it would be openly picking a fight with their primary regulator, and the STB would hold a grudge. If CSX did that, then a request by the STB to Biden to include provisions in the next federal budget to crush CSX like a bug would, at that point, be received favorably and would probably get passed by Congress. And in the meantime, CSX's other pending cases at STB? Not likely to proceed once they're recognized as attacking the STB.

So CSX SHOULD start cooperating. I still bet they won't.
 

neroden

Engineer
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
9,506
Location
Ithaca, NY
Neroden. Can it be that CSX will come close to breaking even having Amtrak? But would it have effect on the OR negatively?
The New Orleans - Mobile Amtrak trains? They wouldn't have any material impact on CSX's financial statements. At all. It might, in the end, increase CSX's operating ratio by something in the fourth decimal place, invisible due to rounding.

If Amtrak started hundreds of new services all over CSX territory, I suppose it might have an impact on their operating ratio. Even the entire Amtrak Connects plan wouldn't come close to having a noticeable impact though.

What we're looking at is an attitude problem. BNSF and CP currently have good attitudes. CSX has a bad attitude. It has nothing to do with financial realities, which are very similar for all the railroads.
 

Amtrak25

Service Attendant
Joined
Dec 7, 2021
Messages
228
Location
New Jersey
I just watched the You Tube for 3+ hours of Day 2/Feb 16.

The best Moorman-ism was "I have studied CSX for 40 years, and not fully understood them".

After Foote and his pandemic ramblings, and nobody wants to work anymore (you laid off how thousands of people ?) , Oberman pretty well refuted him by saying they are delaying their own CSX trains for hours on end as well as the other Class I's right on the main line with Gentilly yard issues. Nobody throughout ever mentioned the term "PSR" and how it is gunking up freight operations, rendering the sidings they have as useless.

Gardner was good in pointing out the GIGO concept of the PCT capacity modeling, inputting freight trains that do not exist (and probably would not until 2039) as data to force outcomes of capacity issues. CSX also does not use such models where they do not want to, such as Albany-Worcester, on a line they would not allow Amtrak another frequency unless paid a ransom, but just added a pair of stack trains..

The freight industry groups obviously drank CSX's Kool-aide and carried on and on about the supply chain issues and how Amtrak would make it worse. Funny, we never heard that term until the pandemic hit. One fellow from the NEC actually said it makes a profit (it doesn't), the subsidy per passenger ranges everywhere else (that is not an efficieny metric), and ideally public transit should get no subsidies.
 
Last edited:

jis

Chief Dispatcher
Staff member
Administator
Moderator
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
32,326
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
Apparently the NEC fellow has not seen the latest from Amtrak on avoidable costs and ticket revenues. 🤷‍♂️

It would certainly appear to be time to bring a few of our misinformed NEC friends off their high horse and join the unwashed masses in the rest of the country on this matter.
 

DonNewcomb

Service Attendant
Joined
Jun 11, 2019
Messages
102
The roundabout routing between Mobile and Pensacola is because there never was any intent to build a railroad between these points.
That and geography. Mobile Bay is a big indentation in the coastline and a major seaport. Bridges needed to be placed above the head of navigation for oceangoing ships. The highways take shortcuts via tunnels that are not available to trains. However, there should have been a rail shortcut from Bay Minette to P'cola rather than having to make a hard right turn a Flomaton.

Growing up in P'cola, my family would normally drive to Flomaton to catch the L&N Humming Bird to Chicago because the connection at P'cola was so bad.
 
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
4,623
Location
Baltimore. MD
The highways take shortcuts via tunnels that are not available to trains.
That's not for any technical reason. After all, there are quite a few rail tunnels under estuaries and even open sea in operation -- under the Hudson and East Rivers in New York, under the Severn River north of Bristol, UK, the Channel Tunnel, and tunnels connecting the major Japanese Islands. There are also big long rail bridges that have clearance for oceangoing ships -- the Hell Gate Bridge over the East River, the Bencia-Marinez Railroad Bridge over the Carquinez Strait in California, the Oresmund Bridge connecting Denmark and Sweden, and the Storebaelt Bridge over the Great Belt in Denmark.
 

west point

Engineer
Joined
Jun 9, 2015
Messages
3,346
Location
SW ATL airport
CSX may not want to disclose this. What are the openings for each month of the year for each bridge? How is each bridge operated? What kind of bridge is each of them - Swing, Bascule, Lift? I know the coast guard does not like swing bridges anymore. What is the operating time of each bridge both opening and closing? Does any bridge have closing problems much like the present Amtrak Portal bridge? Does CSX have recurring closing problems on one or more bridges that may need some resolution? It could be miter rails for some bridges may need improvements?

Not likely but maybe the Senators from LA, MS, & AL could get an earmark to build a parallel high bridge over the water crossing of the most difficult bridge. Make it Amtrak owned that would be too steep of grade for freight trains. Now if CSX wanted it more gentle=======
 

George Harris

Engineer
Joined
Apr 6, 2006
Messages
5,322
Location
finally! Back in Mississippi
That and geography. Mobile Bay is a big indentation in the coastline and a major seaport. Bridges needed to be placed above the head of navigation for oceangoing ships. The highways take shortcuts via tunnels that are not available to trains. However, there should have been a rail shortcut from Bay Minette to P'cola rather than having to make a hard right turn a Flomaton.

Growing up in P'cola, my family would normally drive to Flomaton to catch the L&N Humming Bird to Chicago because the connection at P'cola was so bad.
Well, my wife is from Pensacola, I have one child, two grandchildren, one great grandchild and some in-laws in Pensacola, so I have been going to the place regularly for the last 50 years and was recently there to see the other grandchild there get married, so I do know a little about the area.

If we wanted a high speed passenger link it should make a hard right turn just out of Mobile station wherever that happens to be and go into a tunnel under the Mobile River, pop up onto a low level bridge more or less parallel to I-10 and follow I-10 the rest of the way to Pensacola. If we want to simply provide a more direct railway line, then it should start from the east end of the current CSX series of bridges across the streams and rivers flowing into Mobile Bay. This would be at just east of the Tensas River bridge, at about Perkins Hurricane Landing. There are two drawbridges in this section, a vertical lift in the bridge over the Mobile River and a swing span in the significantly longer bridge over the Tensas River. The line would go in a generally ESE direction, passing south of Bay Minette AL and meeting the former BNSF former Frisco line into Pensacola just east of the Perdido River crossing which is at about Muscogee FL, near the FL state highway 184 crossing of the Perdido River, which by the way is not a major stream. It would then follow or use the ex Frisco line the rest of the way into town, needing a connection to the CSX line somewhere in the area where these lines are parallel, one on each side of US 29.

I played with these routes on topo maps, but this was something like 40 years ago, so I don't remember the exact distances involved, but the Tensas River to Perdido river line would have about 2/3 the length of new line and be well under half the cost of the more direct line paralleling I-10 because there would be no significant bridge work. Total Mobile to Pensacola distance would be in the range of 5 to 10 miles longer than the shorter line, but still would still be well short of going via Flomaton. The Mobile to Pensacola rail distance could be reduced by about 10 miles by simply going onto the ex-Frisco at Atmore AL and building the connection between the two lines mentioned previously. (The two railroads do not directly connect to each other in Pensacola, itself. Interchange between the two is awkward.)

Back when it looked line SCL / Family Lines was upgrading the P&A route they may have been willing to kick in some serious money for the Tensas to Perdido line.

The tunnel would be little more than the sunken tube type tunnels that are currently in place for I-10 and the older Bankhead tunnel, so there is no technological or engineering stretch to building a rail tunnel, nor the connecting low to mid-level multi-span bridge across the upper end of Mobile Bay parallel to I-10. The tunnel would be short enough that would be no significant ventilation requirements, nor would there be any real structural or technological challenges in the extensive bridge work.

(PS: I thought the Pensacola to Flomaton connection to the Humming Bird was a dedicated bus. The Bird was gone before I had any connection to the place.)
 
Last edited:
Joined
Sep 2, 2021
Messages
685
Location
Lubec, ME
For historical interest here are a couple of photos I took at the Biloxi MS station back in Spring 1972. The L&N passenger service had only quit the year before so the signboard still showed the trains. An attractive little station. I don't know if it is still there as I have never been back.

Station1.jpg Station2.jpg

When I was stationed there me and a couple other officers attending electronics school lived in off base housing located right next to the tracks not far from this station. Our classes ran from 6 AM to Noon and there was a convenient L&N freight that came blasting through town around 5 AM, that was our alarm clock :) One nice thing about the schedule is that it left the whole afternoon free for railfanning.
 

TWA904

Train Attendant
Joined
Apr 9, 2011
Messages
82
I rode the Humming Bird in '68 from Birmingham going to Pensacola and the connection at Flomaton was a Greyhound bus, but not a dedicated one.
 
Joined
May 24, 2012
Messages
14
Location
BYN
Mobile is in the process of moving their main airport to the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley complex which is in the downtown area.
If this Amtrak route is approved many would like to see the station near the airport. This would allow people flying to take Amtrak to the airport and be near the cruise line terminal.
 

joelkfla

Conductor
Joined
Oct 16, 2018
Messages
1,777
Location
12 miles from Walt Disney World
Mobile is in the process of moving their main airport to the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley complex which is in the downtown area.
If this Amtrak route is approved many would like to see the station near the airport. This would allow people flying to take Amtrak to the airport and be near the cruise line terminal.
I can't see how 2 trips a day would be of much use in getting from downtown to the airport.
 
Joined
May 24, 2012
Messages
14
Location
BYN
I can't see how 2 trips a day would be of much use in getting from downtown to the airport.
The Amtrak station would be very close to the airport. I believe more of building a transportation hub with the cruise ship, airport, train and maybe bus station all close together.
 
Top