CSX molten sulfur trains

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Recently I spotted a westbound molten sulfur train passing through Charlottesville, VA on the ex-C&O. A local railfan confirmed the train had originated in Lee Creek, NC at PCS Phosphate. Lee Creek is located on the NS (ex-NS Ry.) and is reached by CSX F731 on trackage rights from Greenville. A railfan site I found lists trains K803, K891, K893, and K895 operating between the Chicago area and Lee Creek. In the 23 years I lived in Greenville I never saw a unit molten sulfur train on CSX or NS. All the Lee Creek traffic I saw was handled South Rocky Mount-Greenville on F729 and then Greenville-Lee Creek on F731. It's my assumption these molten sulfur trains operate only as far east as Rocky Mount. Can anyone confirm this? Thanks.

-- Paul Williams (plwexpress@hotmail.com), August 09, 2004


Paul, pardon me if I have misunderstood your question, but as I have understood it, my response is that the sulfur trains probably operate through to Lee Creek. Molten sulfur (sulphur) is a prime ingredient in the manufacture of supertriplephosphoric acid, which is most likely produced at the PCS Phosphate plant at Lee Creek. CSX also runs unit molten sulfur trains to the phosphate mining area in central Florida, as does the NS to the mining area in north Florida. For awhile, a couple of Soo Line units would bring the unit sulfur trains from originating points in Canada. However, most of the Florida supply of sulfur comes from Texas and Louisana Gulf coast locations. I've come to the conclusion that the origination points depend upon the locations of the best prices on bulk sulfur.

I've also noticed that, most often, the loaded (and empty) sulfur tank cars are major components of mixed freight trains.

After they arrive at the phosphate processing facilities, the tank cars are "warmed up" with steam heat in order to convert the sulfur into its molten form for use in the manufacturing of fertilizers and other related products, as the tank cars do not keep the sulfur in its molten form.

I hope that this long-winded explanation helps!

Best wishes!

Aaron Dowling

-- Aaron Dowling (aarondowling@cfl.rr.com), August 09, 2004.

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