time, distance traveled, and how busy are the RR's really ? + 100 years or so ago

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Fri Mar 22 13:47:27 EDT 2013

I have often wondered how the railroads figured out heavy traffic and
the like. As pointed out by harry, Amtrak has shaved 1 few minutes off
from the old N&W Cannonball and "someone" has spent how many tens of
millions of dollars later.

Here's a more concrete example from up in the Washington, DC area and
compares the Long Bridge across the Potomac River traffic, then vs.
now. before the present bridge was opened at the end of August 1904,
the old rickety, single-track span literally had trains waiting 24/7
one way or the other and something like 250 trains/day were recorded
crossing the old creaky structure. Trains in those days might have
been 5-25 cars long and air brakes were still a fairly new appliance.
CTC was decades in the future as everything was OS'd by tower
operators every 3-5 miles. Pot Yard was just getting under
construction and all the changes that would make starting in 1906.

Now CSX complains "we're overloaded and full" traffic wise and they
run 30-35 or so freight trains/day across the bridge, now all
DOUBLE-track, not the old single-track days before 1904 and complains
"we're at capacity". Huh? Okay, so freight trains today are not 10-30
cars typically, but 150 or so cars and there isn't that man on ground
or tower to physically say, "yep, such and such train has cleared",
the number of passenger trains are far fewer overall than 110 years
ago and still the RR's claim "capacity?"

It isn't just CSX as NS and all the other Class 1's cry the same tune
and they know full well the federal and state piggy banks can be
raided for these amenities but I just don't understand this math. I
just can't figure it out; freight trains are longer, in many cases
even faster (although also slower, too, in many cases), all in the
interest of moderization ??? and capacity ??????

I know we're supposedly past the end of Winter here, but I also think
that "snow job" is also a large part of this picture. My 2 cents

Bob Cohen

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