The older Norfolk Southern Railway gets, the more important it becomes to the region it serves.
Over a century old, the railroad that began as Norfolk & Western in 1992, when the line was connected to the Ohio Extension, today has a potential for providing the greatest service in its history.
Robin Chapman, of NS's Public Relations Department in Roanoke, Va., responded to a Williamson Daily News request for an update on the Williamson Yard and local citizens will be encouraged to know the future of the railroad is rosy.
Chapman observed "the Williamson Yard has been a critical linchpin in Norfolk Southern's coal business for more than 100 years."
He said the local yard handles about 45 trains a day, most of which are coal trains. "The yard also has repair yards, engine service buildings and machine shops that keep engines and cars functioning safely and efficiently.
"The roundhouse and turntable is one of the few operating roundhouses left in the United States and is still used to service freight cars," Chapman reported. He said the current employment at the local yard is about 280.
In September of 2010, double-stack trains began moving through Williamson on their way between Norfolk and the Midwest with the completion of the Heartland Corridor tunnel project.
"With the increase in the vertical clearance of 28 tunnels and 24 other overhead obstructions, Norfolk Southern, in partnership with the states of Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio, and the federal government, this route has become even more vital to the company and to the region's economy by enabling NS to move containerized freight into and through West Virginia in the most efficient way possible," said Chapman.
He noted that the state of West Virginia is planning to build an intermodal facility 60 miles downstream in Prichard (Wayne County), enabling container trains to serve the region and boost the economy by attracting companies that require efficient access to world markets.
Norfolk Southern has just completed a new three-story, 9,500-square foot yard office in the East Hard and will be moving into the structure next week.
The first floor of the new building is a parking garage; the second floor has locker rooms, a break room, conference/training room, and the trainmaster and assistant trainmaster's office. The third floor will have offices for the yardmaster, assistant superintendent and other management personnel.
A large atrium on the third floor rises up 26 feet to bring natural light into the space.
Chapman said Norfolk Southern Corporation is one of the nation's premier transportation companies. Its Norfolk Southern Railway subsidiary operates approximately 20,000 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia, serving every major container port in the eastern United States, and providing efficient connections to other rail carriers.
Norfolk Southern operates the most extensive intermodal network in the East and is a major transporter of coal and industrial products.
For 22 years in a row, NS employees have won he E.H. Harriman Memorial gold medal award for achieving the rail industry's lowest employee personal injury ratio. Norfolk Southern has won the award every year since 1989 – an achievement unmatched among the industry's major freight railroads.