Newport News Coal Terminal

Coal Grazing

Why does the coal at the end of the CSX line in Newport News, Va., end up in mountains to be grazed by behemoths, while the NS coal that ends up in Norfolk is stored in a gigantic yard of coal cars?

Coal grazing can be seen spectacularly from Interstate 664, just north of the new Monitor-Merrimac Tunnel in Newport News, Virginia. Going southbound, pull over in the truck weigh station, if it's not being used. The view is elevated and excellent.

Answer from iamslick -(at symbol)-
CSX dumps coal so that they can acheive a faster "turnaround" on their coal hopper cars. NS has purchased property west of Norfolk for a similar type of operation as CSX has at Newport News. NS currently gets a 14 day turnaround on its hopper cars.


More coal grazing can be seen in Baltimore, from Interstate 895 just north of the Harbor Tunnel.


From L.B.: (why I'm using initials instead of a name here)

... There are two coal piers [in the Newport News coal terminal]. One is operated by Dominion Terminal Associates and the other is operated by the Pier IX company (formerly called Massey).

... Go under the tracks. When you come up, you'll take an immediate left, then a quick right. At that point, on your right are the VPA piers. There are occasional RR cars there, but today because some cranes blocked the leads, I only saw one.

On the left is the Pier IX dumper building. Both companies have tracks right there and you can tell which is which by the engines. Pier IX has red yard engines, while DTA''s are blue.

Some empty cars were blocking my view, so I couldn't see much there. However, if you continue down the road, then make a left at the end, you'll see much more. Just after making that left, you'll go under Pier IX's massive conveyer belts that run from the coal piles to the ships. Just down from that, there is a little stone parking lot on the right that was empty this afternoon. If you park there and look ahead and to the left, you'll see the DTA dumper building. From where I sat, I was able to see several 2-car sets shoved into the building from the rear, turned, then shoved out empty towards me.

The road continues ahead toward the DTA conveyer to the ships and on towards what used to be the CSX coal piers, but I didn't drive any further. I don't think the public can get any further than the conveyer, anyway. CSXT has been renting space out in the old Pier 14 and Pier 15 areas for long-term ship berthing. The old U.S. United States was there for the longest time until being towed to Turkey.

I forgot to take my scanner with me, but I've not monitored either company's operations on any of the AAR standard frequencies. DTA has several allocations in the 464 MHz business band and I've heard railroad ops on one of those frequencies in the past. The last time I looked, Pier IX had 3 or 4 allocations in the 850 MHz range, but I never heard any railroad-type traffic on any of them.

The DTA tower does communicate with CSXT crews on the road channel (160.230) and on the primary yard channel (161.160). It's usually when a CSX engine needs to cross the DTA control point. You can see that sign along one of entrances to I-664 at what would be 33rd St. I've never heard Pier IX on CSX frequencies, though the Newport News yardmaster refers to Pier IX tracks as Massey.

Send a better caption:

Other views: