Norfolk Southern recently completed $20.5 million of track, bridge, and signal improvements along its major coal line through the Monongahela Valley in a record seven days. 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. In 2011, nearly 37 million tons of coal were shipped over the line -- most of it delivered to utility customers. Approximately 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."
The blitz is a logistical achievement. Crews labor through long summer days, with afternoon temperatures reaching close to 100 degrees, and they don't quit until after sundown. 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 approximately three months to accomplish this work, with disruptions in service.
Our engineering crews blitz this rail network under some challenging conditions - heat, a one-week deadline, a lot of moving parts," said Phil Merilli, chief engineer for NS' Northern Region. "What we accomplish will keep trains running safely all year long, and it shows our commitment to keeping these tracks in top condition."
The maintenance work on the Mon Valley line is part of Norfolk Southern's planned $2.4 billion investment in its rail network during 2012.
Norfolk Southern Corporation is one of the nation’s premier transportation companies. Its 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 United States, 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.
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