CSX closes Willard hump

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Willard, Ohio
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — CSX Transportation has shut down the hump at Willard Yard in Ohio, the latest terminal to be converted to a flat-switching facility under CEO E. Hunter Harrison and his Precision Scheduled Railroading operating plan.

Last year, Willard was the fourth-busiest hump yard on the railroad, when it processed an average of 1,411 cars per day, according to the CSX 2016 annual report. Last week, the former Baltimore & Ohio hump classified fewer than half that number, CSX officials told the Surface Transportation Board.

The hump was closed on Oct. 19, CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle says.

The move leaves CSX with four active yard humps in: Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Selkirk, N.Y., and Waycross, Ga. Those are likely to remain core humps, Harrison said on last week’s quarterly earnings call with investors and analysts.

CSX has idled eight humps, including ones in Atlanta; Birmingham, Ala.; Cumberland, Md.; Hamlet, N.C.; Louisville, Ky.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Toledo and Willard, Ohio.

Avon, Ind., was idled briefly, only to be reopened in August to relieve congestion on CSX’s western corridor. And in the spring CSX officials had announced the transition of Selkirk to flat-switching, but later decided to continue hump operations.

Hump yards are expensive to operate and maintain and can be justified only when they handle sufficient volume, Harrison has said.

Humps date to an era when a much higher percentage of traffic moved in merchandise service than it does today. Just since 2000 CSX’s carload traffic has declined by 20 percent, or the equivalent of 22 fewer 75-car trains per day.

Precision Scheduled Railroading aims to minimize car handling en route, including bypassing intermediate terminals to move traffic as efficiently, quickly, and reliably as possible. Train plan changes that have accompanied hump closures diverted traffic that did not need to be classified at each yard.

As flat-switching facilities, the yards process cars for local pickup and delivery, as well as handle block-swapping among road trains.
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