CSX to retain former B&O main over Sand Patch

Route removed from list of lines under review for potential sale
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CSX train Q261 glides through peak fall foliage it climbs the east slope of Sand Patch grade at Foley, Pa., in October 2011. This auto rack train originated at CSX's Curtis Bay facility in Baltimore and will terminate in Lordstown, Ohio.
Alex Mayes
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – CSX Transportation is no longer considering the former Baltimore & Ohio main line between Greenwich, Ohio, and Baltimore as a potential candidate for sale or lease, Trains News Wire has learned.

The route initially was among the 8,000 miles of rail lines under review as CSX aims to cut costs and boost profitability.

But Executive Vice President of Operations Ed Harris, who joined the railroad this month, insisted on its removal from the list of lines under review, according to people familiar with the matter.

The 500-mile line segment, which serves Pittsburgh and includes the Sand Patch grade, is a core main line for CSX. It handles about two dozen trains per day and at Greenwich connects with CSX’s main line linking Chicago and New Jersey.

A CSX spokesman would not confirm the decision and claimed the list of lines under review that Trains News Wire has published was not accurate, without providing further details.

People familiar with the situation do not expect all 8,000 miles to go on the block. But they say the sheer amount of mileage placed under review – more than a third of CSX’s 21,000-mile system – is an indication of management’s desire to prune the railroad to a highly profitable core network.
CSX train Q375 ascends the east slope of Sand Patch grade at Manilla, Pa., milepost 209 in January 2011. This heavy manifest train originated at Cumberland, Md., and will terminate at Queensgate Yard in Cincinnati.
Alex Mayes
Line sales were expected, but extent of the review caught some analysts by surprise.

“Whoa!,” Anthony Hatch of ABH Consulting says of the mileage tally. “Of course, the operative word is ‘potential,’ but that’s some serious stuff.”

It’s likely that CSX will provide greater detail on potential line sales at its investor day, scheduled for March 1 in New York City, Hatch says.

Short line consultant Roy Blanchard says there are likely candidates to operate many of the lines on CSX’s review list.

Pan Am Railways is the logical operator of the Boston cluster of branchlines. Conrail had these routes on the block before line sales were halted in the wake of the agreement between Norfolk Southern and CSX to split Conrail, he notes.

The former Louisville & Nashville between Cincinnati and Atlanta “has R. J. Corman’s name written all over it,” Blanchard says.

Carolina branch lines would be a good fit for Gulf & Ohio Railways, which operates five area short lines.

Pinsly, which operates short lines in Florida, would be a natural for CSX’s Auburndale Subdivision, he says.
CSX train Q394 eases out of the east portal of Sand Patch tunnel as it descends the east slope of Sand Patch in January 2011. This tunnel, along with several others on former B&O lines has since been enlarged to accommodate double stack trains under CSX's National Gateway project.
Alex Mayes

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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