If a Norfolk Southern track gang needs a No. 20 frog in a hurry, they’re not going to find that $20,000 appliance at the local Home Depot or Wal-Mart. Their go-to source is a one-of-a-kind facility – the Roanoke Material Yard. Based on a steel-tough commitment, the yard will have the frog – the part of a track turnout where train wheels move from one track to another – loaded on a rail car and shipped within 24 hours. That’s the way they roll.
Engineering Department leaders who oversee division operations are big fans of the Roanoke Material Yard. “I don’t know how we would survive without them,” said Kenneth Webb, assistant division engineer track on the Pocahontas Division.
Mention big business at Norfolk Southern and most employees probably think of intermodal or coal, the railroad’s two largest markets in terms of volume and revenue. This big business, however, is more literal – as in huge nuclear reactor vessels that weigh more than a million pounds and hulking bulldozers and backhoes. These supersize loads are among the most massive, cumbersome, and unique cargo that NS transports.
Drills buzz, hammers pound, and paint brushes swish in the Goode and McKinnon buildings as Norfolk Southern prepares to welcome around 400 Roanoke employees to their new offices in Atlanta and Norfolk this summer. NS’ decision to close its Roanoke office building coincided with a planned revamp of the Goode Building to create a more contemporary, open, and collaborative atmosphere. In addition, many departments now split between floors or cities will be housed together, improving communication and effectiveness.
At first blush, the keynote speaker at this year’s National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors convention might seem to be an unexpected choice: Executive Chairman Wick Moorman. In fact, inviting the leader of a U.S. railroad was inspired. Accurate timekeeping has always been crucial for safe, efficient operations on Norfolk Southern and its predecessor railroads.
Norfolk and Western engine No. 611 rolled out of the Roanoke East End Shops on May 29, 1950, at a cost of $251,344. The shiny new streamlined Class J locomotive was photographed the same day, and a press release followed on June 1.
In 2010, Norfolk Southern set a five-year goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent per revenue ton-mile of freight. Through fuel- and energy-efficiency initiatives, the railroad achieved 85 percent of the goal by the end of 2014, the final year. NS locomotives saw fuel efficiency gains of 2.2 percent in 2014, translating into diesel fuel savings of roughly 10.8 million gallons.