UP confirms shutdown of Proviso yard hump; consolidation of other yards

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OMAHA, Neb. — Union Pacific confirmed today that it has shut down the hump at Proviso Yard in Chicago and curtailed operations at several other yards across its system as the railroad reduces the number of times cars are handled en route.

“Proviso, in particular, was a very old and inefficient hump yard, still using retarder operators to manually flow cars into the bowl tracks,” Chief Operating Officer Jim Vena said on the railroad’s earnings call with analysts and investors. “By moving this work to outlying yards, including one of our most efficient in North Platte, we are not only saving labor dollars but avoiding capital as well.”

Under its shift to a Precision Scheduled Railroading operating model, UP is reducing its reliance on major terminals by pre-blocking traffic at origin, having road trains do more work en route, and doing more block-swapping.

The operating plan changes have allowed UP to reduce operations at several yards since it began implementing its Unified Plan 2020 in October.

In the second quarter, UP shifted traffic handled at Des Moines, Iowa, to Neff Yard in Kansas City, Mo. UP also shifted work from its Armourdale Yard in Kansas City to its 18th Street Yard. Operations have been curtailed at the yard in Salem, Ill., near St. Louis, as well as at the 36th Street Yard in Denver and East Yard in San Antonio, Texas.

Proviso is the third hump UP has idled this year. This winter the railroad idled the humps at Hinkle, Ore., and Pine Bluff, Ark., with remaining traffic flat-switched.

From April through June, volume at Proviso declined by about 1,100 cars per day compared to the same period a year ago, according to data the Chicago Transportation Coordination Office reports to the Surface Transportation Board.

In the first week of June, for example, Proviso handled an average of 1,840 cars per day, down from 2,658 in the same week a year ago. In the week ending July 6, the latest figures available, Proviso averaged just 1,129 cars per day.

“We will continue to look for ways to reduce car touches on our network, which will undoubtedly lead to additional terminal rationalization opportunities,” Vena says.

Humps are efficient when they handle large volumes of traffic and are located at the right places, Vena noted.

Bailey Yard in North Platte, Neb., the world’s largest classification yard, is one of them.

“I think North Platte’s going to be there for a long time,” he says. “We’re asking it to work harder though.”

The yard, which has eastbound and westbound humps, is handling record volumes and is setting records for processing cars quickly.

Englewood Yard in Houston also will remain in operation, Vena says. “Houston’s growth area,” Vena says. “We expect that hump to be efficient and stay there.”
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