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Old 10-28-2020, 01:04 PM
 
Location: Decatur, GA
6,185 posts, read 4,677,961 times
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It's a subscriber article, but I'll post the link and a point relevant to Atlanta to discuss: https://trn.trains.com/news/news-wir...rd-in-macon-ga

The article principally deals with idling Macon's hump yard, it'll still be a yard, but for flat-switching. The Atlanta-relevant part is here:
Quote:
Concurrently, we will also close several local yards in the Atlanta area. These changes enable us to rework many of our Southeastern intermodal flows for improved service, lower cost, and additional growth capacity
This quote is intriguing. There's already the usual railfan speculation going on as to what yards that means. NS has a number of local yards scattered around: Industry Yard (just N of downtown East Poin), South Yard (between McDaniel St and 75/85), Forest Park, Chamblee, and Norcross. After being completely wrong on CSX's Tilford closure, I hesitate to speculate myself. However, the real interesting part in that quote is they're talking about local yards and intermodal flow at the same time, they really shouldn't have anything to do with each other. The only way they could normally be talked about in the same sentence is if you're talking about locals and yard jobs around the yard fouling the mainline and holding up the intermodal trains.

However, "local" in this context could simply mean local to Atlanta, and there is a little speculation that Inman Yard (parts are adjacent to CSX's former Tilford yard) could be one of the yards to go which would leave Austell as NS's Atlanta intermodal yard much like CSX closed Hulsey and consolidated operations to Fairburn. However, Austell isn't as easily accessed as Fairburn. Trains can enter or leave Fairburn and go pretty much any direction. But trains to Austell must come from the east. For N-S intermodal traffic like between Chicago and Florida, that's not an issue. However, trains coming from Birmingham and points beyond can't just pull in. Some trains have blocks of cars destined for Austell, those trains pull east of the city of Austell, and a yard job comes out of Austell, couples onto the back, and pulls that portion of the train into the yard. I don't think they do anything like that for westbound trains, I think any cars from Austell westbound get shuttled to Inman first. But, don't start getting excited about an Inman closure just yet. That's very much only in the realm of railfan wild speculation right now.

Link to the thread about CSX closing yards: http://www.city-data.com/forum/atlan...4-atlanta.html
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Old 10-28-2020, 05:03 PM
 
Location: Atlanta
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Well watch me wrong too...

My two cents, is CSX is not as dependent on Atlanta for mainline switching. They have more alternate routes for inter-regional traffic. That is why they were able to remove such a large classification yard. I'm still surprised they did it, because it is something they will never realistically be able to get back.

Norfolk Southern is dependent on Atlanta, it is a linchpin in the network. They might can scale back the classification yards with types of demand changes, but I suspect they will still rely heavily on it. I would be surprised if they expected all of their longest trains to go to Macon with some loads needing to come back north towards Atlanta.

What I believe is happening is intermodal freight yards do not make sense close to town anymore. Most large warehouses and factories are going to exurban areas or even further out, like Upstate SC or West Point. I think intermodal freight sells better away from the congestion of Atlanta's freeways.

On the south side of town you have Forest Park Yard, South Yard, and Industry Yard. They do not need 3, but there are attributes to each that are appealing. That is why they all survived so long. Forest Park is used as a major center to industrial distribution facilities in that local area. They need to stage deliveries and the more local, the better. I don't see that going away.

Industry Yard is probably the easiest to remove, but here is the thing it is located on an exit onto Langford Pkwy. It is light traffic access to I-285 west, which is the busiest trucking corridor through town. It is a terminal for raw materials, not so much intermodal movement of containers. They have a client base right there, which is a hesitation. However, that client base will have more increasing incentives to sell the property for redevelopment as property values increase and the cost of running industrial properties ITP increases.

South Yard is positioned on the Macon line via McDonough (not griffin). This is their heaviest use mainline between Macon and Atlanta and it is a larger yard that can be used for smaller classification switching and I assume it makes it more efficient before transiting the congested corridor through town into Inman Yard, perhaps I'm wrong.

Armour yard has limited use, but there isn't much operations or land there to hassle with or seek savings from either...

The next guess and best guess I have is perhaps they are only removing the intermodal terminal in Inman Yard and hoping they can sell the land with any transactioins/revelopments that happen over CSX's old Hulsey Yard and consolidate to the larger Austell Yard that has more expansion room. It is on that adjacent side of the property and the Austell Yard is fairly large and a bit further outside of town.

Austell and Inman are their main intermodal truck terminals in Atlanta. Other terminals tend to handle raw materials or local track deliveries.


So my final speculation is:
Removal of Inman Yard's intermodal terminal (not the classification yard @ Inman); Consolidate to Austell
Removal of Industry Yard and consolidate to Austell
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Old 10-28-2020, 06:04 PM
 
Location: Decatur, GA
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Actually Inman is only intermodal. The tracks are still in hump configuration, but nothing has been humped there in years. Another rumor I've heard (still VERY unsubstantiated and I'm somewhat skeptical) is that one of the yards closing is Industry and they will actually be moving freight classification back to Inman. I also understand that South Yard and Forest Park are only very lightly used. But there's really no way they could consolidate anything but intermodal to Austell, it's completely not setup for any kind of carload sorting or movements. Technically NS doesn't have any classification yards in Atlanta anymore. Chamblee, Norcross, South, Industry, Forest Park are all smaller "local" type yards. Going through the latest symbols I can find, there's only one manifest train pair that originates/terminates in Atlanta. Everything else is dropped off or picked up by trains passing through enroute to or from Macon or Birmingham.
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Old 10-28-2020, 10:00 PM
 
Location: Atlanta
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Well that is why I didn't call it a hump yard Hump yard is one type of classification yard. It use to be the most common, especially when they had to sort car-by-car. And yes, Inman classification yard was originally a hump yard.

They're still doing some flat switching for auto cars and intermodal cars (not nessecarily meaning intermodal freight terminal adjacent to the north).

The yard is still operational from that. It just isn't what it was in the '90s.

There are details I don't know, admittedly, but they still receive and distribute trains when the routes pass through. They seem to be moving away from hump yards for intermodal freight. I've always assumed that is because they can better plan when they build and break down the trains at origins and destinations in larger blocks, but they still have to break them down and flat switch them in blocks, even when they don't do it car by car. That is how Inman Yard (non-terminal) is still in use. When a train pass through it stops. They pull off a block or two and then add a block or two that came from other previous routes and the individual cars don't need to be sorted as the train was built pre-sorted in multiple blocks.

I think when rail freight use to be more raw materials or point-to-point cars that weren't destined for large intermodal terminals, being able to individually switch single cars at a time was more important. When they use large terminals at both ends and convert to sea or truck, they can create larger blocks on the trainsets efficiently. It makes block swapping work.

However, the larger premise here is a large part, the largest area, of inman yard isn't an intermodal terminal, and it is still in use. When they developed the Austell intermodal yard, one of the major reasons was the lack of expansion space at the Inman intermodal terminal.

They don't need all 60 classification tracks they have from the old hump yard to do this. They do need to receiving tracks, delivery tracks, and some classification storage when moving these blocks to set them up onto the next scheduled trains.

My personal theory is when CSX shifted to these flat switching blocks of intermodal cars, Atlanta wasn't an important switching point on the network strategically. They do most of that switch at Rice in S. Georgia as to whether freight goes Northeast or west. Their northwestern intermodal trains still pass through Atlanta, but they mostly need switching for local use and neighboring regions (ie. Gainesville, athens, Upstate SC, etc..)

With Norfolk Southern the Atlanta junction is more critical with the push to intermodal. Their port bound trains from the Northeast and Northwest still pass through Atlanta. That is why I believe we won't see a CSX Tillford yard situation, but I could be wrong. Now with that said, Inman Yard could be ripe for change in other ways. They move blocks of cars between those those different routes you see passing through Inman.


I feel like thy need one good yard on the southside for marshaling local deliveries with minimizing use of the mainline tracks. Forest Park Yard does that quite well. It is a smaller yard directly adjacent to a larger industrial district with facilities still mostly connected to delivery tracks. South Yard isn't directly accessing areas like this, but it is on a more heavily used line before a bottleneck.


It's a good point about the removal of so many hump yards. Will there be a better place to build a more centralized one for where it is needed and could that be Inman. I don't know.
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Old 11-25-2020, 12:54 PM
 
Location: Atlanta
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Matt,

Have you heard anymore details?

I hadn't really been paying attention, but say this today:

https://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta-new...DGSXAUFVM7EHM/

It shows they want to build a new transfer terminal for raw materials transfer further from the city center.

It might be something they need to close some operations elsewhere.
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Old 11-25-2020, 02:27 PM
 
30,558 posts, read 29,011,780 times
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Matt and cw,

I much admire your knowledge of the rail system.

What are your recommendations for some good railfanning locations around the ATL?
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Old 11-25-2020, 03:48 PM
 
Location: Atlanta
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Matt might be better at this than I am. I'm more of the dork that's been reading planning reports for decades.

There is a small strip of businesses off of Marietta St where you can catch glimpses of parts of Howell Junction down an embankment from the back of parking lots. I remember their being an old package store.

Of course, going to White Provision might be a more comfortable experience for many, but you only see one set of tracks going into the junction.

Then if you just want to see trains pass... there are overpasses at anything named Marietta... Road...Street.... Blvd to the northwest near Inman Yard.

The busiest side of town is the Northwest.

The Ivan Allen Blvd bridge offers a good city backdrop view.


As for me I have seen most of my trains pass by at convenient locations to me that aren't railfan heavy locations, like Lilburn City Park just because I was doing other things.


There were some locations south of the city near my great grandfathers old house.

There use to be a good view of the smaller rail yards south of the city near McDaniel St and another near Industry Yard. https://www.google.com/maps/@33.6892...7i16384!8i8192


Of course, from the warnings of these articles... they might not be that busy these days....
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Old 11-25-2020, 04:39 PM
 
Location: Decatur, GA
6,185 posts, read 4,677,961 times
Reputation: 3665
Quote:
Originally Posted by cwkimbro View Post
Matt,

Have you heard anymore details?

I hadn't really been paying attention, but say this today:

https://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta-new...DGSXAUFVM7EHM/

It shows they want to build a new transfer terminal for raw materials transfer further from the city center.

It might be something they need to close some operations elsewhere.
That doesn't really affect any of the existing yards. I'm quite familiar with the location. The grade crossing right there, Parrott Ave, is/was a very popular railfanning spot. There was a patch of dirt next to the tracks that, apparently after something of an informal legal battle, NS conceded wasn't their property and stopped running railfans off from parking there. Unfortunately, about two weeks ago, they began adding a fence to the area for the new ethanol facility and the poles go right through the "parking" area. I'll get back to this below. But everything about this new facility reads like it's entirely new service. There might be some bleed off from a facility in Doraville, but that isn't certain yet. But it doesn't seem like this will be a carload facility, that is cars having to go through and be sorted in a rail yard. I think the trains that serve this facility will be unit trains that run point to point.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cwkimbro View Post
Matt might be better at this than I am. I'm more of the dork that's been reading planning reports for decades.

There is a small strip of businesses off of Marietta St where you can catch glimpses of parts of Howell Junction down an embankment from the back of parking lots. I remember their being an old package store.
Unfortunately, none of these sites are railfan friendly anymore. Virtually all of them will run off people who are just siting around watching the tracks. Believe me, if I had enough money, I'd buy one of the lots and open a coffee shop with open rear platform just for railfans.
Quote:
Of course, going to White Provision might be a more comfortable experience for many, but you only see one set of tracks going into the junction.
I second this area. The bridge there is quite nice and there's seating overlooking the tracks on the south side. The NS line through here is moderately busy. I'd say if you spend an hour and a half, you'll at least see one train, occasionally I've seen as many as five in the same time period. Of course Amtrak comes through here if you're interested in catching it.

Quote:
Then if you just want to see trains pass... there are overpasses at anything named Marietta... Road...Street.... Blvd to the northwest near Inman Yard.
Very much agreed here. Unfortunately, except for West Marietta St. parking is an issue. Around West Marietta St. it's four hour paid parking except Sunday which is free. It's kind of an awkward bridge to hang out on though, but they do have a pocket park now at the intersection with Brady Ave. But the park itself doesn't have a view of the tracks. Also if signals are your thing (I'm personally a huge railroad signal nerd) the Howell/10th st complex is impressive!


Quote:
The busiest side of town is the Northwest.

The Ivan Allen Blvd bridge offers a good city backdrop view.
Definitely a fair number of trains through here, but with the decorative side panels on the bridge, the views aren't great. The best one of the trains is on the western approach, but it's still a bit cluttered with power lines, and again, parking is something of an issue.


Quote:
As for me I have seen most of my trains pass by at convenient locations to me that aren't railfan heavy locations, like Lilburn City Park just because I was doing other things.


There were some locations south of the city near my great grandfathers old house.

There use to be a good view of the smaller rail yards south of the city near McDaniel St and another near Industry Yard. https://www.google.com/maps/@33.6892...7i16384!8i8192


Of course, from the warnings of these articles... they might not be that busy these days....
The yards still aren't bad, that one specifically doesn't have a lot of traffic especially out of the south end, but every time I see it, there are plenty of cars in the yard. Another good NS yard is South Yard. There are major grade crossings at McDaniel st and Fortress Ave and there should be neighborhood parking although the neighborhoods around there aren't the greatest. I haven't been there personally yet so I don't know how good it is.



Once the Nelson St pedestrian bridge is rebuilt, hopefully the complex will be railfan-friendly, and that should have some of the best, and easiest views of trains in the city! You should be able to see things pretty well from the sidewalk nearby on Nelson St itself, but the last time I tried, I couldn't find any nearby parking whatsoever.


Another place I occasionally go is Jefferson St. where it dead-ends at the track. The area is a tad sketchy, but I've never had any issues during the day and early evening. Once the English Avenue development progress further, that may change, I don't know if the roads were transferred to them the way some roads around Underground Atlanta were. But again, depending on the owners, the overall development may improve railfanning there.


Outside Atlanta, you can't go wrong at Austell. In fact, there's a circular concrete plaza there with some benches right off Broad St. Just look in Google, Facebook, or Waze for "Austell Railfan Plaza." I personally added the location to those three. It's on the north side so if you're a photographer, the lighting isn't the best, but there's an unsignalred pedestrian grade crossing right there that comes out at a Burger King. I've never had any problems crossing over to get a low-angle picture that's more front-lit.


Going a bit further out, Locust Grove has a railfan platform, but I haven't been there in years, I've stuck to higher traffic areas like Austell and Atlanta. But I would say you shouldn't go more than two hours without a train. Just keep in mind that stretch of track is single track so trains have to meet each other at places other than Locust Grove which can somewhat hamper how much traffic you see.


Aside from NS, there's some street parking around the overpasses to CSX's Howells yard, but the views of the mouth of the yard where the traffic comes in and out isn't great. The only views are Huff Rd or Howell Mill Rd and again, you'll have to park and walk a ways.
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Old 11-25-2020, 04:50 PM
 
Location: ATL -> HOU -> DAL -> ATL
5,381 posts, read 4,354,851 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arjay57 View Post
Matt and cw,

I much admire your knowledge of the rail system.

What are your recommendations for some good railfanning locations around the ATL?
Yea it's obvious reading them how little I know about rail lol
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Old 11-25-2020, 08:21 PM
 
30,558 posts, read 29,011,780 times
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Thanks, y'all. That is great information.

I used to go down Foster Street past the Goat Farm and you could get into the Howell Wye that way. You'd get a lot of action down there and the railroad folks were very friendly to railfans. It may be closed off now and I'm not as spry as I used to be either.

I also liked the South Yard. Used to know a fellow who worked at the metal company and he'd let you park there and look around some.

cw, I have been to that park in Lilburn you are talking about. That's a great spot!

I need to get up to Austell and get some footage. Matt, I really wish you would built a platform like the one in Loganville. It would be a huge hit!

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