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The Norfolk Southern Railway is a major Class I railroad in the United Statesmarker, owned by the Norfolk Southern Corporation. With headquarters in Norfolk, Virginiamarker, the company operates 21,500 route miles in 22 eastern states, the District of Columbiamarker and the province of Ontariomarker, Canadamarker. The most common commodity hauled on the railroad is coal from mines in Kentuckymarker, Pennsylvaniamarker, Tennesseemarker, Virginiamarker and West Virginiamarker. The railroad also offers an 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 Norfolk Southern Railway, and control of the Norfolk and 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.

History of the railroad

NS was created from predecessor railroads which date back to the early portion of the 19th century. Prior to current times, the three main branches of the current corporate family tree were for many years themselves systems: Norfolk and Western, formed in 1881, Southern Railway System in 1894, and Conrail, formed much later, in 1976. Each of these grew from many smaller local and regional lines as the industry grew.

Southern Railway

The South Carolina Canal and Rail Road, the earliest predecessor line, was chartered in December 1827 and ran the nation's first regularly scheduled passenger train on December 25, 1830. The Richmond and Danville Railroad (R&D), formed in 1847, which expanded into a large system after the American Civil War under the leadership of Algernon S. Buford.

When the R&D fell on hard times financially in the early 1890s, it became a major portion of the newly created Southern Railway in 1894. Financier J.P. Morgan selected veteran railroader Samuel Spencer as President to head the firm, which became well-known as both profitable and innovative. Southern Railway was the first major U.S. railroad to completely switch to more efficient diesel-electric locomotives from steam in 1953.

Norfolk and Western

The City Point Railroad was a nine-mile railroad just south of Richmond, Virginiamarker established in 1838 which ran from City Pointmarker (now part of the independent City of Hopewellmarker) on the navigable portion of the James River to Petersburg, Virginiamarker. It was acquired by the South Side Railroad in 1854. After the War, it became part of the Atlantic, Mississippi and Ohio Railroad (A,M&O), a trunk line across Virginia's southern tier formed by mergers in 1870 by William Mahone, who had been builder of the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad in the 1850s. The A,M&O was the oldest portion of the Norfolk and 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 profitable N&W had already acquired the Virginian Railway, the Wabash Railway, and the Nickel Plate Road, among others, before it combined with the also profitable Southern Railway to form the new Norfolk Southern.

1982 merger

NS was created in 1982 from the merger of the Norfolk and Western Railway and the Southern Railway Company, both profitable companies. An earlier company, also named the Norfolk Southern Railway, serving primarily North Carolinamarker and the southeastern tip of Virginiamarker, had been acquired by the Southern Railway in 1974. The older company was the namesake for the 1982 combination. Headquarters for the newly established NS were established in Norfolk, Virginiamarker.

The 1982 combination of the profitable Norfolk and Western Railway and Southern Railway was done to compete in the eastern United States with the Chessie System-Seaboard System merger which had been approved by the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1980, resulting in formation of CSX Transportation.


Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) was an 11,000-mile (18000 km) system which had been created 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 Transportation made the first move to buyout Conrail. Norfolk Southern had to respond or else CSX would dominate the rail traffic in eastern half of the country and Norfolk Southern would not be able to compete. Norfolk Southern responded with a bid of its own which began a biding war over who would get "Big Blue".

On June 23, 1997, NS and CSX Transportation filed a joint application with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) for authority to purchase, divide and operate the assets of CR. On June 6, 1998, the STB approved the NS-CSX application and set August 22, 1998, as the effective date of its decision.

NS acquired 58% of CR’s assets (CSX got the remaining 42%). As a result of the transaction, NS's rail operations grew to include some 7,200 miles (11500 km) of the CR system (predominantly the former Pennsylvania Railroad). NS began operating its trains on its portion of the CR network on June 1, 1999. This marked the official end of the era of the Super Seven and introducing the era of the Big Four, Norfolk Southern & CSX in the east and Union Pacific & BNSF in the west.

Company executives

Presidents of Norfolk Southern have included:

Major businesses

The railroad is a major transporter of domestic and export coal in the Eastern half of the country. The railroad's major sources of the mineral are located in: Pennsylvaniamarker's Cambria County, Indiana County, and Monongahela Valley; West Virginiamarker; Appalachia regions of Virginiamarker, Kentuckymarker, and Tennesseemarker. In Pennsylvania, NS also receives coal through interchange with R.J. Corman Railroad/Pennsylvania Lines at Cresson, Pennsylvaniamarker, originating in the so-called "Clearfield Cluster".

Norfolk Southern's export of West Virginiamarker bituminous coal, begins transport on portions of the well-engineered former Virginian Railway and the famous former Norfolk and Western's double-tracked line in Eastern Virginia to its Lambert's Pointmarker coal pier on Hampton Roadsmarker at Norfolk, Virginiamarker. 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 2003 Annual Report to Investors, at the end of 2003, NS had more than 28,160 employees, 3,468 locomotives, and 101,095 freight cars.

At the end of 2003, the transport of coal, coke and iron ore made up 23% of the total amount of traffic hauled by NS. Intermodal containers made up 19% of the total; autoracks 14%; chemical tankers 12%; metals, construction materials, agriculture commodities, and consumer products 11%; paper, clay, and forest products 10%.

Track network and facilities

Largely an eastern United States railway, NS directly owns and operates 21,300 miles of track in 22 states: Alabamamarker, Delawaremarker, Floridamarker, Georgiamarker, Illinoismarker, Indianamarker, Kentuckymarker, Louisianamarker, Marylandmarker, Michiganmarker, Mississippimarker, Missourimarker, New Jerseymarker, New Yorkmarker, North Carolinamarker, Ohiomarker, Pennsylvaniamarker, South Carolinamarker, Tennesseemarker, Virginiamarker, and West Virginiamarker. In addition, Norfolk Southern owns track in Washington D.C.marker and the Canadianmarker province of Ontariomarker. It operates three primary hubs in its system, in Harrisburgmarker, Chicagomarker and Atlantamarker.

Furthermore, 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, Texasmarker, as far north as Waterville, Mainemarker, and as far south as Miami, Floridamarker. NS locomotives also occasionally operate on competitors' tracks throughout the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker due to the practice of locomotive leasing and sharing undertaken by the Class I railroads.

Not including second, third and fourth main line trackage, yard trackage, and siding trackage, NS directly operates some 21,500 miles (34,601 kilometers) of track. When the additional tracks are counted, however, the amount of track NS has direct control over rises to over 38,000 miles (61,155 kilometers).

The company has several major rail classification yards, located in:
Norfolk Southern's Intermodal Terminals are located in:

Six major locomotive shops are located in:

NS also shares interest with CSX in the Conrail Oak Island classification yard and complex in Newark, New Jerseymarker.

Norfolk Southern's 11 operating Divisions

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

Pittsburgh Line

This route is NS's principal East-West line from the Northeast to the Midwest. Running from Harrisburg, Pennsylvaniamarker to Conway, Pennsylvaniamarker, it once was the core of the Pennsylvania Railroad's 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 world famous Horseshoe Curve marker.

Beginning at Alto Tower in Altoona, Pennsylvaniamarker and ending at Conpit in West Wheatfield Township, Pennsylvaniamarker, trains are challenged to ascend and control speed down the faces of the Allegheny Ridge; some of the steepest slopes in the Allegheny Range. It is a helper locomotive district. Most common on helper assignments are pairs of EMD SD40-2s applied to the head or rear end of a train. Norfolk Southern has also began operating new SD40Es(former EMD SD50 units rebuilt at Norfolk Southern's Juniata Shops in Altoona, Pennsylvania) which are becoming more and more common on the route. 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. Certain Pennsylvania Power and Light unit coal trains routinely exceed 12,000 tons in weight, and it is not uncommon to see two helper sets in front of the train's locomotives and an additional two helper sets on the rear.

Chicago To Fort Wayne

This is most direct route for NS trains to take from Chicago, Illinois to Fort Wayne, Indiana or vice versa. This route has 16 passing sidings which allow trains coming from one direction to stop while another train passes. In addition to these sidings there are several sections of double track on either end of the line. The longest passing siding on this section of the railroad is located in Sidney, Indianamarker. At over 9600 feet in length it allows the longest of trains to pass. Nine other rail lines cross over this line segment. These interlockers or diamonds are in the following general locations: Claypool, Indianamarker; Argos, Indianamarker; Thomaston, Indianamarker; Valparaiso, Indianamarker; Gary, Indianamarker; Hammond, Indianamarker (3); and Burnham, Illinoismarker.

Chicago Bypass

See Kankakee Belt Routemarker

Pan Am Southern / Patriot Corridor

On May 15, 2008, NS announced that it had come to an agreement with Pan Am Railways to "create an improved rail route between Albany, N.Y., and the greater Boston, Mass., area called the 'Patriot Corridor'."

On March 12, 2009, the Surface Transportation Board approved the deal. Each of the two companies now owns 50% of a new company known as Pan Am Southern (PAS). PAR's trackage between Ayer, Massachusettsmarker and Mechanicville, New Yorkmarker was transferred to PAS, and will continue to be operated and maintained by PAR's Springfield Terminal Railway subsidiary. NS will transfer to PAS cash and property valued at $140 million.

Planned improvements to the route include track and signal upgrades, and expansion of terminals, including construction of new automotive and intermodal terminals.

Environmental Record

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.

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. 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.


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, is painted in predecessor SOU colors of green and white with gold trim and is a favorite of railfans. The work was done at the Debutts Yard in Chattanooga, Tennesseemarker during the summer of 1994 and the locomotive received a repaint in the summer of 2004.

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."

In 2005, NS added two new types of locomotives to its roster: EMD SD70M-2s, which when all are delivered, will be numbered 2649–2778, and GE ES40DCs, which will be 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, Pennsylvaniamarker. It wasn't until September 2008 that 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.

Most NS locomotives have flashing ditch lights. NS has many different horns on locomotives such as the Nathan K5LA, K5H, K5HL, K5LLA, P3, and P5, and the Leslie RS3L and RS5T.

Image:NS Loco No.9903.jpg|NS #9903 D9-40CW along with two other units head west from NS Elkartmarker Yard.Image:NS Loco No.8372.jpg|NS 39J lead unit NS #8372 D8-40CW with 5 others are late leaving Kalamazoomarker due to weather and delays from Amtrak.Image:NS Loco No.3524.jpg|NS #3524 D8-32B at NS Hinman Yard.Image:NS Loco No.3067.jpg|NS #3067 GP40-2 with it new paint scheme sits in the snow at Botford Yard.Image:NS5333 DoverDE.JPG|A NS GP38-2 in Dover, Delawaremarker, with depot in background.Image:Railroad Pictures 022.jpg|SOU 4610 working train GD01 in Dalton, Georgiamarker, on January 19, 2006.Image:Norfolk Southern GP38 5610.jpg|A NS GP38-2 running long hood forward through Ridgewood, New Jerseymarker, on March 1, 2008.Image:EMD-GP50-Northern-Suffolk-7069.jpg| A GP50 approaches a level crossing in Charlotte, NCmarker on June 22, 2005Image:NS 8921 GE C40-9W.jpg| A GE Dash 9-40CW approaches in Wyomissing Pa on October 12, 2008

Reporting marks

Railroads use initials as reporting marks, a universal system intended to help keep track of rolling stock and financial transactions between railroads. 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 ex-Pennsylvania Railroad 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.

List of reporting marks

TV 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 especially for NS. It was filmed in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.

Awards and recognition

As of May 2009, NS has been selected as the Group A Gold Harriman Award recipient for a record 20 consecutive years beginning in 1989.

The Harriman Award is intended to recognize railroads with outstanding safety achievements. Group A comprises line-haul railroads whose employees worked 15 million employee-hours or more. Harriman winners are selected by a committee of representatives from the transportation field and are granted on the basis of the lowest casualty rates per 200,000 employee-hours worked with a formula that accounts for volume of work performed as well as the number of fatalities and occupational illnesses.


  • The Norfolk and Western Railway in 1960 was the last Class 1 U.S. Freight Railroad to discontinue steam motive power operations.

See also

Cultural references

Employees and Their Unions


General references

External links

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