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Norfolk Southern


Norfolk Southern

This article is about the rail company that has existed since 1982. For other uses, see Norfolk Southern (disambiguation).
Norfolk Southern Railway
NS system map; trackage rights in purple
Locale Alabama
New Jersey
New York
North Carolina
South Carolina
Washington D.C.
West Virginia
Dates of operation 1982–present
Predecessor Norfolk & Western Railway
Southern Railway
Track gauge (standard gauge)
Length 21,500 miles (34,600 kilometres)
Headquarters Norfolk, Virginia

The Norfolk Southern Railway (reporting mark NS and others) is a Class I railroad in the United States, owned by the Norfolk Southern Corporation. With headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, the company operates over 20,000 route miles in 22 eastern states, the District of Columbia and the province of Ontario, Canada. The most common commodity hauled on the railroad is coal from mines in Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The railroad also offers the most extensive intermodal network in eastern North America.

The current system was formed in 1982 with the creation of the Norfolk Southern Corporation, a holding company, and on December 31, 1990, the Southern Railway was renamed the Norfolk Southern Railway, and control of the Norfolk & Western Railway was transferred from the holding company to the Norfolk Southern Railway. In 1999, the system grew substantially with the acquisition of over half of Conrail.


Norfolk Southern's predecessor railroads date to the early 19th century. The three main branches of the current corporate family tree were systems for many years themselves:

Southern Railway

The SR's earliest predecessor line was the South Carolina Canal & Rail Road, which was chartered in December 1827 and which ran the nation's first regularly scheduled passenger train on December 25, 1830.

Another early predecessor, the Richmond & Danville Railroad (R&D) was formed in 1847 and expanded into a large system after the American Civil War under Algernon S. Buford. The R&D ultimately fell on hard times and in 1894, it became a major portion of the new Southern Railway (SOU). Financier J. P. Morgan selected veteran railroader Samuel Spencer as president. Profitable and innovative, Southern became in 1953 the first major U.S. railroad to completely switch to diesel-electric locomotives from steam.

Norfolk & Western

The City Point Railroad, established in 1838, was a nine-mile railroad in Virginia that started just south of Richmond — specifically, City Point on the navigable portion of the James River, now part of the independent city of Hopewell — and ran to Petersburg. It was acquired by the South Side Railroad in 1854.

After the Civil War, it became part of the Atlantic, Mississippi & Ohio Railroad (AM&O), a trunk line across Virginia's southern tier formed by mergers in 1870 by William Mahone, who had built the Norfolk & Petersburg Railroad in the 1850s. The AM&O was the oldest portion of the Norfolk & Western (N&W) when it was formed in 1881, under new owners with a keen interest and financial investments in the coal fields of Western Virginia and West Virginia, a product which came to define and enrich the railroad.

In the second half of the 20th century, the N&W acquired the Virginian Railway (1959) the Wabash Railway, and the Nickel Plate Road, among others.[1]

1982 merger

NS was created in 1982 from the merger of N&W and SOU, both profitable companies. The new company was given the name of the Norfolk Southern Railway, an older line, acquired by SOU in 1974, that served primarily North Carolina and the southeastern tip of Virginia. Headquarters for the new NS were established in Norfolk, Virginia.

The merger aimed to compete in the eastern United States with CSX Transportation, formed after the Interstate Commerce Commission's 1980 approval of the merger of the Chessie System and the Seaboard System.


Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) was an 11,000-mile (18000 km) system formed in 1976 by bringing together several ailing northeastern railway systems into a government-owned corporation. Conrail had become profitable after the Staggers Act in 1980 largely deregulated the U.S. railroad industry.

In 1996, CSX bid to buy Conrail. Norfolk Southern, fearing that CSX would come to dominate rail traffic in the eastern U.S., responded with a bid of its own. On June 23, 1997, NS and CSX filed a joint application with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) for authority to purchase, divide and operate the assets of Conrail. On June 6, 1998, the STB approved the NS-CSX application, effective August 22, 1998.

NS acquired 58% of Conrail assets (CSX got the remaining 42%), including about 7,200 miles (11500 km) of track, most of which was part of the former Pennsylvania Railroad. NS began operating its trains on its portion of the former Conrail network on June 1, 1999, closing out the 1990s merger era.

Company executives

Presidents of Norfolk Southern have included:


NS is a major transporter of domestic and export coal. The railroad's major sources of the mineral are located in: Pennsylvania's Cambria County, Indiana County, and the Monongahela Valley; West Virginia; and the Appalachia regions of Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. In Pennsylvania, NS also receives coal through interchange with R.J. Corman Railroad/Pennsylvania Lines at Cresson, Pennsylvania, originating in the "Clearfield Cluster".

NS's export of West Virginia bituminous coal, begins transport on portions of the well-engineered former Virginian Railway and the former N&W double-tracked line in Eastern Virginia to its Lambert's Point coal pier on Hampton Roads at Norfolk. Coal transported by NS is thus exported to steel mills and power plants around the world. The company is also a major transporter of auto parts and completed vehicles. It operates intermodal container and TOFC (trailer on flat car) trains, some in conjunction with other railroads. NS was the first railway to employ roadrailers, which are highway truck trailers with interchangeable wheel sets.

According to NS’s 2012 Annual Report to Investors, at the end of 2012, NS had more than 30,943 employees, 3,468 locomotives, and 79,082 freight cars.

At the end of 2012, the transport of coal, coke and iron ore made up 26% of the total operating revenue of NS, general merchandise (automotive, chemicals, metals, construction materials, agriculture commodities, consumer products, paper, clay, and forest products) made up 54%, and intermodal made up 20% of the total.


Largely an eastern U.S. railway, NS directly owns and operates 21,300 miles (34,300 kilometres) of track in 22 states. It operates three primary hubs in its system: Harrisburg, Chicago and Atlanta.

NS has rights to operate its trains with its own crews on competing railroads' tracks. These trackage rights permit NS to operate as far west as Dallas, Texas, as far north as Waterville, Maine, and as far south as Miami, Florida. NS locomotives also occasionally operate on competitors' tracks throughout the U.S. and Canada due to the practice of locomotive leasing and sharing undertaken by the Class I railroads. Not including second, third and fourth main line trackage, yards, and sidings, NS directly operates some 21,500 miles (34,600 kilometres) of track. In addition NS has direct control over approximately 38,000 miles (61,000 kilometres).

The company has several major rail classification yards, located in:

Norfolk Southern has many intermodal classification yards. They are:


Eight major locomotive shops are located in:

  • Conway Yard, Pennsylvania
  • Enola Yard, Pennsylvania
  • Roanoke, Virginia - Two different shops (Shaffer's Crossing Locomotive Shop and Roanoke Locomotive Shop)

NS also shares interest with CSX in the Oak Island Yard, managed by Conrail Shared Assets Operations in Newark, New Jersey.

Regional Divisions

  • Lake
  • Dearborn
  • Illinois
  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Piedmont
  • Pittsburgh
  • Harrisburg
  • Central
  • Virginia
  • Pocahontas

Pittsburgh Line

The Pittsburgh Line is NS's principal east–west line from the Northeast to the Midwest. Running from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to Conway, Pennsylvania, it once was the core of the Pennsylvania Railroad's (PRR) main line. On average, on any given part of the line, anywhere from 60-80 trains, of all types, ply the line in a 24-hour period. The line is also home to the famous Horseshoe Curve.

Beginning at Altoona in Altoona, Pennsylvania and ending at Conpit Junction in West Wheatfield Township, Pennsylvania, trains are challenged to ascend and control speed down the faces of the Allegheny Ridge, which are some of the steepest slopes in the Allegheny Range. It is a helper locomotive district. Most common on helper assignments are pairs of new SD40Es (former EMD SD50 units rebuilt at NS's Juniata Shops in Altoona). On heavier unit coal trains, it is not uncommon to see two helper sets put together to create what local railfans call by the slang term four-bangers. It is not uncommon for some trains to exceed 18,000 tons in weight. For eastbound traffic, the usual cause for a "helper-ahead" of the road power is due to the road crew running short on time.

Some lesser hills also exist west of Altoona, sometimes warranting westbound helpers to continue all the way to Pittsburgh. For this purpose, a partial bypass of the Pittsburgh Line exists between Johnstown and Pittsburgh known as the Conemaugh Line, running from Conpit Junction to Federal Street on the North Side of Pittsburgh via a flat, though longer, route along the Conemaugh and Allegheny Rivers, bypassing several steep grades west of the Alleghenies as well as the Pittsburgh passenger station.

Chicago-Fort Wayne

This is most direct route for NS trains between Chicago and Fort Wayne, Indiana. This route has 16 passing sidings which allow trains coming from one direction to stop while another train passes. The route also contains several stretches of double track.

Chicago Bypass

Main article: Kankakee Belt Route

Meridian Speedway

Main article: Meridian Speedway

Pan Am Southern/Patriot Corridor

On May 15, 2008, NS announced that it would join with the ailing Pan Am Railways to create the "Patriot Corridor", an improved rail route between Albany, New York, and the greater Boston, Massachusetts, area.[3][4][5] On March 12, 2009, STB approved the deal.[6] Each of the two companies now owns 50% of a new company known as Pan Am Southern (PAS). PAR's trackage between Ayer, Massachusetts, and Mechanicville, New York, was transferred to PAS, and continues to be operated and maintained by PAR's Springfield Terminal Railway Company subsidiary. NS transferred to PAS cash and property valued at $140 million.

Planned improvements to the route include upgrades to tracks and signals and new automotive and intermodal terminals.

Environmental record

Air quality and fuel efficiency

In early spring of 2008, the state program manager for air quality planning in Georgia, Jimmy Johnston, had been talking to NS about voluntary upgrades to reduce the company's environmental impact. NS is upgrading 3,800 of its locomotives with new technology that is 73 percent more efficient than previous models. The new technology being put into the locomotives is making the ride more fuel efficient and reducing idle time.[7][broken citation]

NS has also introduced an experimental battery-electric switcher locomotive, NS 999. This prototype locomotive was developed by Norfolk Southern, in collaboration with the United States Department of Energy, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Pennsylvania State University.[8]


On January 6, 2005, a NS derailment resulted in a large amount of chlorine and diesel fuel being released into nearby waterways in Graniteville, South Carolina. In addition, a toxic cloud covered the city resulting in the town being evacuated. Federal common carrier laws prevent railroads from refusing to transport chlorine and similar Toxic Inhalation Hazard (TIH) commodities. Local wildlife was killed, many of the local crops and vegetation were contaminated or killed, nine human deaths were reported, and thousands were injured.[9] The company is being taken to court and being fined for violating the Clean Water Act and the Federal Superfund law. NS has spent a total of $26 million for the clean up.[10]


NS's locomotives are often called "catfish" by railfans, as the stripes are said to look like catfish whiskers. The locomotive numbered 4610, a GM-EMD GP59, was painted in predecessor Southern colors of green and white with gold trim and was a favorite of railfans. The work was done at the Debutts Yard in Chattanooga, Tennessee during the summer of 1994 and the locomotive received a repaint in the summer of 2004. The locomotive was repainted standard NS black and white in February 2012.

The current paint scheme for NS locomotives is black and white. The locomotives feature a rearing horse on the nose, which is consistent with prior marketing campaigns where NS has billed itself as "The Thoroughbred." Most NS locomotives have flashing ditch lights.

In 2005, NS added two new types of locomotives to its roster: EMD SD70M-2s, which all are numbered 2649–2778, and GE ES40DCs, are numbered 7500-7719.

Historically, NS has only purchased DC traction Diesel locomotives. NS inherited a small number of AC traction locomotives (EMD SD80MACs) from CR. Currently, 10 of the 17 SD80MACs are assigned to the locomotive pool in South Fork, Pennsylvania. In September 2008 NS purchased its first-ever order of brand new AC traction locomotives: 24 GE ES44ACs, numbered 8000-8023. NS began receiving these units in October 2008. These new locomotives will be used for pusher service on long haul coal trains. In 2010, NS ordered 67 more ES44ACs and 25 more SD70ACes and in the fall of 2011, an order for 40 more SD70ACe's was placed.

Heritage Fleet

According to Trains magazine [11] and Norfolk Southern's web site[12] on March 1, 2012, ten SD70ACes and nine ES44ACs on order will be painted as special Heritage Units, each bearing the paint schemes and markings of NS's predecessor railroads. NS CEO Wick Moorman commented, "The heritage locomotives reflect the pride we take in our long and colorful history, as they travel through our system, these state-of-the-art units in vintage livery will serve as reminders to our customers, employees, and communities that the modern rail network that keeps America competitive today and into the future has deep roots in the nation’s past." On March 16, 2012 NS announced that Penn Central will be added to the Heritage Roster, and recently announced that the Monongahela Railway has been added to the list bringing the total of expected heritage units to 20. As of July 4, all Heritage GE ES44AC's and EMD SD70ACe's have been put into service.

The following former railroads are represented in the Heritage Fleet:

[13] [14]

Reporting marks

Although it has been widely known as simply "Norfolk Southern" since 1982, the corporate structure and reporting marks are more complicated. In 1990, Southern Railway Company was renamed Norfolk Southern Railway Co. Its Norfolk and Western Railway company was merged into the Norfolk Southern Railway in 1997. In 1999, when most of Conrail's former PRR trackage was sold to the Norfolk Southern Railway, the Pennsylvania Railway Lines was created, and PRR reporting marks used on the former Conrail motive power and rolling stock.

Television commercials

On September 3, 2007, NS Launched new television ads featuring a family of gas cans cross country trekking to meet a NS train; it is a message on NS' role to reduced congestion on highways called "Lonely Gallon". It also features the song "You Don't Need Me" performed by Ravi Krishnaswami of New York and Steve Kolander of Atlanta. The song was created specially for NS. It was filmed in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.[15] In May 2013, NS rocked National Train Day by premiering a new ad series, using music adapted from ABC's "Conjunction Junction" School House Rock program.[16][17] The video shows an overhead view of Inman Rail Yard in Atlanta, Georgia.

Awards and recognition

From 1989 to 2012, NS won the Gold (first-place) E.H. Harriman Award in Group A (line-haul railroads whose employees worked 15 million employee-hours or more) every single year.[18] The award, which recognized the railroads with the lowest casualty rates per 200,000 employee-hours, was discontinued in 2012.[19]

In January 2011, NS Chairman and CEO Wick Moorman was named Railroader of the Year by Railway Age magazine.[20]

See also

Improvement projects

Cultural references

Trade unions


General references

External links

  • system map
  • Norfolk Southern News
  • Norfolk Southern Photo Archive
  • Norfolk Southern Locomotives
  • Yahoo! - Norfolk Southern Corporation Company Profile
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