Thursday, January 4, 2018

Off topic: Eastern railroad coal traffic

CSX and Norfolk Southern have filed their 2017 Week 52 carload reports, and it gives an idea of how the coal business is doing in the Eastern U.S. These are carloads, not tons, and these numbers contain no financial information. That comes later this month or next when the two railroads release their fourth-quarter and year-end earnings reports.

CSX reported a 4.6 percent increase in carloads of coal for the year, from 765,846 in 2016 to 801,195 in 2017.

Norfolk Southern reported a 16.6 percent increase, from 835,531 in 2016 to 973,911 in 2017.

Executives will likely discuss these numbers in more detail when they have their conference calls with investment analysts following release of the quarterly earnings and performance reports.

As a side note, as part of the late E. Harrison Hunter's Precision Scheduled Railroading program at CSX, the number of locomotives in use fell from 3,200 at the end of September to 2,998 at the end of December. The number of people on trains and engines likewise fell in that period, from 9,445 to 8,909.

Speaking of coal, I checked the PJM Interconnect to see what fuel sources were carrying the load as of 4 p.m. during this cold snap. Coal was providing about 40 percent of total generation in this region, which stretches from New Jersey into Ohio and Eastern Kentucky. Nuclear was at 28 percent, gas 20 percent and renewables 4 percent. Other sources made up the difference.

Items in the news

Hiding on a barge is probably not the best way to try to stay warm in January. Assuming it was a barge and not a boat (a lot of journalists don't know the difference)

Especially when the river, especially in the upper reaches, begins to ice over. Eh, people excited about this ice should look up 1977 in their archives.

Meanwhile, people in Cairo are trying another effort to bring some economic growth to their community. The latest idea is a bulk products port on the Mississippi River.