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Conrail The Big Blue Railroad
Manifest Freight and Unit Train Operations
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Here, we will cover the carload manifest and unit freight operations of Conrail from the time the new railroad melded what had been six broken down wrecks into one integrated system. Sample schedules will be presented and examples of how trains were operated. This was the 'bread and butter' of Conrail's overall operations.

Conrail's carload freight service, which handled carloads of freight from many different shippers on the same train, made up the bulk of the railroad's freight business. The general freight service used boxcars,gondolas, standard flatcars, centerbeam flats, bulkhead flats, tankcars(usually shipper owned or leased), open top and covered hoppers to move its traffic.To better service its customers' needs, Conrail organized its freight traffic into four service groups: Automotive,boxcar and gondola, unit train, and intermodal, of which the Intermodal will be delt with separately on its own page. The automotive group utilized hi cube boxcars, equipped flatcars, multilevel autoracks, and equipped boxcars for handling automotive traffic; both vehicle parts and finished vehicles. Many trains consisted exclusively of multilevel autorack cars, though these cars could and did move in general freight and intermodal service as well. To support the freight service of Conrail as a line haul carrier, the following is a listing of the principal yards serviced by the railroad:
Chicago-59th STreet (PRR) and Elkhart, Rose Lake(PRR)-East St. Louis, Avon-Indianapolis, Sharonville-Cincinnati, Collinwood and Rockport-Cleveland, Conway West and Conway East, Pittsburgh; Enola-Harrisburg, Bayview-Baltimore,Beacon Park-Boston, Frontier-Buffalo, Selkirk-Albany, Oak Island-Newark, Allentown,Doremus (Newark-Elizabeth). Intermodal Ramps were located at many of these yards for handling this type of traffic. In Buffalo,NY Seneca Yard serves as a staging area for Multilevels and automotive traffic in and out of Buffalo even under CSX operation. The Samuel Rea carshop at Holidaysburg,PA provided heavy repairs to freight cars. A second shop at Meadville,PA served until recent years, when its work was shifted to Juniata at Altoona. Sample schedules to be shown here depict how manifest trains were handled over the road. Unit trains, on the other hand, carried only one commodity between desginated end points of the runs. In the section below, examples of both types of operation, taken from a 1994 freight schedule book will be depicted.
EQUIPMENT FLEET AT APRIL 1,1976 START Up
The following is a summary of the equipment with which Conrail began operations on April 1,1976. It should be noted that of the fleet of 5000 locomotives, not all were in operable condition. A number were waiting to be retired and scrapped. Here is the 162,000 strong freight car fleet by car type:
24,924 plain box cars
24,983 equipped box cars
13,124 covered hoppers
35,376 gondolas
47,760 open top hoppers
5,738 flat cars
11,000 TOFC units
4,822 multilevel auto racks
127 other
By Conrail's final years as a line haul carrier, the freight car fleet numbered approximately half the total the railroad began with in 1976 and the locomotive fleet was less than half the size of 1976, thanks to the newer high horsepower road units the railroad acquired during its nearly 25 year history, replacing many of the junkers inherited from the predecessor roads. Many of the SD45s were traded in on the SD50 fleet which replaced them in road service. The SD50 packed nearly the same horsepower as the SD45 but used fewer cylinders and less fuel to do it. 13 EMD SD45-2s, 5 EMD GP40-2s, many GP38s and 38-2s were among the motive power from the predecessors retained by Conrail. Some of the SD45-2s have been converted to SD40-2s but retaining the SD45-2 carbodies.Coming from the Erie Lackawanna, these locomotives, now with both CSX and Norfolk Southern are the last road diesels from Erie Lackawanna still in service. However, the days of these locomotives may well be numbered.

Symbolling of Conrail's Manifest Trains and Unit trains.
A.MANIFEST FREIGHT TRAINS
These were designated by an alpha code, of which, the first two letters indicated the train's origin terminal and the second pair of letters, the destination for that train. Following the alpha code was a numeric designation indicating the day on which the train operated. Following the numeric date of operation was an alpha code designating section or sections if a train was to be operated in more than one section on the same day. Examples as taken from a 1994 Freight Schedule book are as follows: Selkirk to Boston Manifest symbo SEBO; train operated in four sections on the first of the month: 1st section: SEBO1A;second section:SEBO1B,SEBO1C,SEBO1D. For trains consisting entirely of Multilevel autorack cars, loaded or empty, these were designated ML followed by an even number for eastbound or southbound loaded movement, and odd number for northbound or westbound empty movements. Unit coal trains were designated as follows: U indicating a loaded train, the second letter the train's destination, These trains were divided into several groups; those using conventional Conrail hopper cars,those using Conrail bathtub gondala cars, and those using foreign line  or privately owned cars. On a train symbol, the letter X indicated the train was empty and returning to its loading point for another load. Those unit trains handling Grain in covered hopper cars were symbolled GR for loaded trains and JR for empty trains. Ore trains were designated with the letter Z for loaded trains and X for empty trains returning for their next loads in the operating cycle. For local freight trains, these were designated as follows: W for Way freight, Yard for yard job and the second letter indicated the division on which each train operated:  P for Philadelphia, H for Harrisburg,A for Albany, I for Pittsburgh, D for Dearborn, and S for Indianapolis Division. The numerics indicated specific assignments on each division. Intermodal trains were designated by TV for TrailVan and handled both trailer and container traffic. This service will be discussed on its own page.
 
SOME SAMPLE MANIFEST FREIGHT TRAIN SCHEDULES
Table 1. SEBO Selkirk to Boston Manifest  Daily
 
Selkirk                              Lv    0420   ET Day 1
CP-SM-NY                         Ps    0500
CP 150 MA                        Ps   0710
Westboro                          Ar   1145
Westboro                          Lv  1220
Framingham                    Ar   1300
Framingham                    Lv   1400
Boston Beacon Park        Ar   1445
Takes cars classified:
1.Worcester
2.Westboro Multilevels-as required
3.Framingham Multilevels as required
4.Framingham
5.Cape
6. Beacon Park
 
Westboro
Set off Blocks 1 and 2
Block 1 connects WAWRO2 Day 1.
First placement of Block 2. Multilevels, 1145 Day 1.
Framingham: Set off Blocks 3,4 and 5.
 
Table 2. SEBU Selkirk to Buffalo Manifest
 
Selkirk                           Lv 2359  Day 1
CP296 NY                       Ps 0330  Day 2
Lyons                            Ar 0500   Day 2
Lyons                            Lv 0600   Day 2
Buffalo-Frontier            Ar 1000    Day 2
Takes cars classified:
1.Buffalo
Lyons: Takes cars classified:
1.Buffalo
Buffalo-Frontier. Block 1 connects to BUCP 1800
Day 2 and subsequent trains.
Table 3. BUBI Buffalo to Binghamton Manifest (Sun.-Fri, Sat. as needed)
 
Buffalo- Frontier               Lv 0600
Buffalo  William Street     Ps 0800
Silver Springs                   Ar 0945
Silver Springs                   Lv1045
Hornell                              Ar 1310
Hornell                              Lv1340
Corning,NY                       Ar 1500
Corning,NY                       Lv 1820
Elmira                              Ar  1900
Elmira                              Lv  2010
Binghamton                     Ar  2200
 
Buffalo- Frontier
Takes cars classified:
1.Silver Springs
2.Corning
3.Elmira
4.Binghamton (incl.Delaware locals)
 
Silver Springs
Set off block 1 for connection toWASL30
Hornell: Takes cars classified:
2.Corning
Corning: Set off Block 2 for connection toWPCG40 Day 2 and
subsequent trains.
2.Binghamton (incl. Delaware Locals)
3.Elmira
Elmira
Set off Block 3 for connection toYAELO1 day 2 and subsequent trains.
Blocks 2 and 4 connect to WABH11 day 2 and subsequent trains.
 
Note: Performs local work between Buffalo and Corning.
 
Table4.BIBU Binghamton to Buffalo Manifest Mon-Sat.(Sun. as needed)
 
Binghamton                    Lv    0001   Day 1
Elmira                             Ar    0205   Day 1
Elmira                             Lv    0305   Day 1
Corning,NY                      Ar    0350   Day 1
Corning,NY                      Lv    0510   Day 1
Addison                           Ar    0550   Day 1
Addison                           Lv    0605   Day 1
Hornell                            Ar     0625  Day 1
Hornell                            Lv    0730  Day 1
Silver Springs                 Ar     0825  Day 1
Silver Springs                 Lv     0950  Day 1
Buffalo-William Street    Ps     1100   Day 1
Buffalo-Frontier              Ar      1300   Day 1
 
BINGHAMTON
Takes cars classified:
4.Buffalo -Frontier
ELMIRA
Takes cars classified:
4.Buffalo-Frontier
CORNING
Connects from WPPJ41, Day 0
Takes Cars Classified:
1.Addison
2.Hornell
3.Silver Springs
4.Buffalo-Frontier
ADDISON
Set off Block 1 for placement on arrival
Takes cars classified:
1.Buffalo-Frontier
HORNELL
Set off Block 2 for placement on arrival
Takes cars classified:
1.Buffalo-Frontier
SILVER SPRINGS
Set off Block 3 for connection to WASL30 Day 2.
Takes cars classified:
1.Buffalo-Frontier
BUFFALO-FRONTIER
Blocks 1 and 4 connect to BUCO Day 1 and subsequent trains.
NOTE;Performs local work between Binghamton and Corning.
 
Table 5. BUHB  Buffalo to Harrisburg Manifest (Daily)
 
Buffalo-Frontier             Lv      1300      Day 1
CP Gravity                     Ps      1515      Day 1
Olean                            Ar       1730     Day 1
Olean                            Lv       1845     Day 1
Driftwood                      Ar       2100     Day 1
Driftwood                      Lv       2130     Day 1
Renovo                         Ar       2220     Day 1
Renovo                         Lv       2230     Day 1
Newberry                      Ar       0100     Day 2
Newberry                      Lv       0200     Day 2
Northumberland            Ar       0400     Day 2
Northumberland            Lv       0500    Day 2
CP Stoney                     Ps       0645     Day 2
Rockville                       Ps       0730     Day 2
Harrisburg                     Ar       0830     Day 2
 
BUFFALO-FRONTIER
Cutoff for receipt of auto traffic from Kenmore
via YAFY20 Day 0 1700.
Takes cars classified:
1.Olean
2.Newberry (including Northumberland)
3.Allentown
OLEAN
Set off Block 1 for connection to WHOL03 Day 1 and subsequent trains.
DRIFTWOOD
Takes cars classified:
2.Newberry as required
NEWBERRY
Set off Block 2 for connection to WHNE04 and supsequent trains.
Takes cars classified:
1.Conway
2.Allentown
NORTHUMBERLAND
Setoff Block 3 for connection to WHNO06 Day 2 and subsequent trains
Takes cars behind Block 1 classified:
1.Conway
2.Allentown
HARRISBURG
Block 1 connects to HBPI W Day 2
Block 2 connects to HBAL B Day 2.
It should be kept in mind that these and other freight train schedules published in Conrail's freight schedule book were essentially guidelines on how the trains were to be operated, since all freight trains on Conrail were operated "extra" since no timetable authority was conveyed to the freight schedules. Only scheduled trains on Conrail were Amtrak trains operated over the railroad as well as commuter trains operated by various transit authorities. The freight schedule book was essentially a tool used by both operations and sales departments to guide the day to day operations of the railroad and to sell shippers on the merits of using Conrail's freight services.