Seaboard Air Line S Line : LUSENET : ACL and SAL Railroads Historical Society : One Thread

What are the latest developments in the restoration of the Seaboard S-Line in North Carolina?

-- Paul Seidenman (, January 23, 2001


On my way back to Richmond from a trip to Raleigh at the end of this past June, I exited I-85 to nose around Norlina a bit. Not sure what the new ballast, etc. was all about. The line from Henderson north looks to be in pretty good shape (welded rail?), up to an industrial plant on the southside of Norlina. From that point northward, weeds were giving the ties a run for the money, although the tracks "downtown" looked pretty 'clean'. The old rail car on the siding was in use as the town library when I was by a few years now sits empty and deserted. As I followed the highway north toward home, I paralleled the now completely overgrown right of way, ocassionally spotting a ghostly telegraph pole (some with a few wires dangling down) poking up through the overgrowth. Hard to realize that this sleepy little spot was once an important rail junction with trains like the OBS roaring through town.

-- Greg Hodges (, August 02, 2001.

The last time I drove through Norlina in October '99. I noted something interesting; though most of the line is overgrown north of the stop sign on the track, the stretch in the downtown region itself was suprisingly well maintained. The track had fresh ballast, new ties and obviously had received an alignment job. There were even CSX vehicles next to the track. Why would they have done this, especially if they have no reason to go all the way to downtown?

-- Andrew Callo (, August 01, 2001.

Word is that NS wants to divest itself of all "lines east of Raleigh" (my apologies to Bill Griffin). This, no doubt, includes the former Southern to Goldsboro and A&EC beyond, plus the former Norfolk Southern Rwy. to Mackeys. That MAY be why the inspection train was on the NCRR. I wouldn't count restoration of the "S" line Norlina to Collier out just yet. There have been four corridors (?) studied for high speed passenger service: 1. Raleigh-NS-Selma-CSX 2. Raleigh-NS (the old one)-Wilson-CSX 3. Raleigh-Norlina (restore the Norlina Sub) - Weldon-CSX 4. Raleigh-Norlina (restore 65 miles of the "s" line to Collier-CSX Of these options, they're saying #4 is the most cost effective. So us Virginians will get dinged to restore the right of way, then CSX will be allowed (for a pitance) to run trains.

-- Harry Bundy (, July 26, 2001.

CSX ran an inspection train along the NCRR corridor from Selma to Raleigh and on down the S line to Hamlet earlier this week. Apparently, CSX is looking into obtaining trackage rights along this section, which currently sees only NS and Amtrak traffic. I find this rather odd, since A line traffic can switch off at Pembroke to reach Hamlet. While this could relieve some congestion on the line between Selma and Pembroke, it wouldn't to much to help the bottlenecks where the line needs help the most- between Petersburg and Rocky Mount.

Could this mean that CSX is giving up thoughts on rebuilding the S line north of Norlina and seeking alternate means to relieve traffic?

-- Rob Ziemba (, July 26, 2001.

For what it is worth! Chesterfield County Delegate John Watkins introduced the following Senate Joint Resolution in the current session of the Virginia Legislature....

SJ 396 Study; high-speed rail service between Virginia & North Carolina. Patron - John C. Watkins (all patrons) Summary as introduced: Study; High-speed passenger rail service between Virginia and North Carolina. Establishes the six-member Virginia component of a Virginia- North Carolina Interstate High-Speed Rail Commission to study the desirability and feasibility of establishing high-speed passenger rail service between Virginia and North Carolina.

-- Herman Wilkins (, February 04, 2001.

Many thanks to all of you who responded to my question about the Seaboard "S Line." I look forward to reading any future updates as any plans for its restoration may unfold. Sincerely, paul seidenman

-- Paul Seidenman (, January 31, 2001.

One advantage of the S-line is that it reduces one-way mileage Richmond-Atlanta by 16 miles one-way. In a 100-car train, that's a lot of car-miles. CSX has used the S-line as a safety valve by routing traffic from the ACL at Selma, across the North Carolina RR (NS) to Raleigh, thence the S-line to Hamlet. Even with the limited traffic CSX now has on the S-line, they are obliged to keep the line signalled for "The Silver Star". CSX had plans to have Amtrak divert "The Star" to operate via NS Selma-Raleigh-Greensboro- Charlotte-Columia, but the planned connection at Columbia fell through.

-- Harry Bundy (, January 30, 2001.

Doug-You are correct in the fact that the S line was run more efficiently in the past than the A line is today. I was speaking from an engineering view point-which translates to a lines potential. Unfortunately, the human element then takes over and the potentials are whittled away. Properly run, the A line has a greater potential traffic capacity than the S line because of its grades, lesser curvature, etc. CTC on the S line increased its capacity, and smart operating procedures helped-which is why the Seaboard was able to survive.

The problem CSX faces is that while it has the potential capacity, it cannot use it. Minor changes made over the years which saved small amounts of money had a cascading effect in reducing overall throughput. Coupled with a centralized, try to run it all from Jax philosophy, and you get exactly what you are describing. Unfortunately, even if the S line were reopened, it would be missing the S people-who had to know how to keep things moving. Based upon what I have seen of CSX operations after the Conrail takeover, I doubt if CSX could run half the traffic Seaboard did.

-- Michael W. Savchak (Savchak, January 30, 2001.

Having run over both the A and S lines I feel sufficiently qualified to assure you that the S-line (as it was dispatched out of Raleigh and operated by SCL crews) was faster than the A-line. Yes, there were grades, fills, and bridges to maintain, but in terms of timely delivery of northeast freight headed to Atlanta and on to Birmingham for forwarding by BN to the west (in competition for that business with NS), CSX rues the day it let the S-line go. When the A-line from Collier to Rocky Mount was double tracked (and signaled for movement with the current of traffic only), it was quite often an operational nightmare in terms of holding southbound trains at Petersburg and dispatching northbound trains from Rocky Mount to Richmond and Portsmouth, to make sure that the weakest link (the slowest train) got out behind the passenger trains and piggyback trains, and could make it as far as Garysburg so that it could clear on the opposite track. In reality, it was a 100-mile railroad with only one, two-mile passing siding. The S-line, on the other hand, was CTC, and although the passing sidings were relatively short, running meets were common place. Even though today's A-Line is CTC dispatched from Jacksonville, crews rack up costly overtime and tie up frequently, unable to make it from Acca to Rocky Mount (or vice versa) in 12 hours. Of course, given current finances, re-double tracking the A-line or resurrecting the S- line is a pipe dream unless government funding (state and/or Federal money, austensively for passenger train accomodation) is made available.

-- Doug Riddell (, January 30, 2001.

The key words here are "environmental study". CSX could not replace the old "S" line without performing and getting approval of , an environmental impact study. Since everyone affected by the line would have an oportunity to line up asking for special consideration, or to issue purported impacts, CSX would be foolish if it did not look at increasing capacity on existing, operating lines.

I also agree with Mr. Nolen-why would CSX want to perpetuate problems with grades and curves-Not only is the ex ACL faster, but it is less expensive to operate-and that is the bottom line here.

-- Michael W. Savchak (Savchak, January 29, 2001.

I think if CSX had its druthers it would opt for re-double tracking the A-Line from richmond to jacksonville, in all honestly this would be more benneficial to CSX's current traffic jams... the s-line would be a nice safety valve in case of disaster or extremely heavy traffic, but you gotta remember why it was left to rot in the first place, cause the A-Line was faster...

-- troy nolen (, January 29, 2001.

Not much new lately. Still doing the environmental study. It'll be a while before anything happens. They're also still looking for funding for the project. CSX has increased traffic on the line to a local bothways 5 days a week, an occasional local to the cement plant in Youngsville, and a 3 times a week rock train to the quarry and back. Nothing thru since the line is a dead end. I'm all for the new line, which means better railfanning opportunities. Happy Railfanning!!!

Lee MP 140.78, CSX S-Line, Wake Forest, NC

-- Lee Bright (, January 25, 2001.

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