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CSX in the real world

  • 1994 While divvying up Conrail with NS, CSX was promising to never negatively impact their short line partners.  Within weeks of closing on the Conrail acquisition, CSX killed off their intermodal connection with a short line partner in Palmer, Mass and took the traffic themselves.

  • 2001 when meeting in the conference room at Worcester’s restored Union Station, CSX and MBTA operational personnel used to have knock-down, dragged-out fights filled w flying F bombs, over who was going to have dispatch priority on the NYC/CSX/MBTA Mainline.

  • 2002 In that same conference room a meeting was held where CSX RE personnel met with representatives from 7 communities. CSX wanted to sell off 5 dead branch lines in 7 eastern and central Mass communities through “Rail Banking.” This began a generations-long, over 16 years long, period of negotiations with communities.  All about the pricing, or over-pricing of the land of dead railroad corridors. 

  • 2006 (approx.) when CSX was blocking pedestrian access to a city park in Philadelphia along the Schuylkill River by parking unitized trains of reeking garbage across the entry gateways into the park. At the same time, they were denying that they would ever allow bike-ped crossing of their active line--anywhere. CSX knew that there was a bike-ped crossing of one of their active lines 7 miles from their HQ in JAX.  A crossing that not only was allowed by them, but designed and built by them.  A video of that trail crossing of an active RR that was shown extensively on TV in Philly.   A few months later CSX agreed to a plan to formalize a safe bike-ped crossing that included agreeing to never park smelly garbage trains on the crossing areas. 

  • 2009 when CSX sold the active mainline from Framingham to Worcester to the state of Mass and refused to include in the sale, the dead corridor in those seven communities.  They wanted to continue their hardball negotiations with the communities for those dead RRs.  They wanted to continue to negotiate w the individual town committees made up of volunteers whose professional careers were outside of the real estate industry.  This was where the CSX professional RE people held the upper hand in negotiations. The state of Mass paid $109 million for the ownership (and more importantly, the right to be in control of dispatch) of the CSX mainline west of Framingham to Worcester.  $109 million.

  • 2018 when after 16 years of scorched earth negotiations with the 7 communities for the purchase of the dead RRs  they started putting together deals that were extraordinarily high in values.  One in a suburban community in Eastern Mass was the highest value ever paid for dead RR corridor in the US and it wasn’t an “arm’s length transaction.” That community had an ongoing mitigation fund paid for by a mall developer that was burning a hole in the selectboard’s proverbial pocket.  They over-paid for the dead RR ($6M+ for 2.3 miles) to just move on and get their trail built. (Ribbon-cutting was held in 2021 and it is no longer the most expensive sale of dead RR in the U.S. A more recent sale in NY paid CSX $11M+ for 1.3 miles.)

  • 2019  when that non, “arms-length” transaction showed up as a comp in a proposed Pam Am Railway sale of the Portsmouth Branch to the state of New Hampshire.  The price was almost 30% over the real value.  Lots of of calls and conversations with commercial RE appraisers in the mid-west to get the price reduced and NH was able to purchase it without an artificially inflated pricing.  

  • 2022  After an 18 month pitched battle at the Surface Transportation Board in DC, CSX purchased the Pan-Am Railway assets in New England.  MassDOT and the MBTA--fresh off their negative memories of negotiations with CSX 12+ years earlier, fought against that acquisition, tooth and nail.  Though they lost in the end, they were given a bone so to speak.  CSX was ordered to pay Massachusetts $108M and the state be given the right to operate passenger trains on the CSX mainline parallel to Rt 20 and the ex B&M/Pan-Am line parallel to Rt 2 through the northern tier --and west of Greenfield into the Berkshires.  Given that the line parallel to Rt 2 only connects to CSX's competitor, Norfolk Southern (NS), it only a matter of time, 5-10 years, before all the freight traffic west of Greenfield evaporates.   Don't worry.  It'll get worse within 10-15 years from now.  

  • Around 2040, after CSX sells off the all the assets of the old B&M/Pan-Am, there will no longer be a Real Estate Dept that produces so much revenue that it supports the stock price and the maintenance of the track structure.  A few years after the last sale, there will be a catastrophic derailment that kills hundreds of people.  When that happens, the Federal Government will once again, nationalize the RRs, but this time, they'll do it differently. They'll remake the RRs into how the airline industry operates.   Federal government will maintain the routes, the dispatch and the terminals just like how they do it now for both the passenger and freight airlines.   They will do it for freight and passenger railroads.  Yes, passenger RRs plural.  Amtrak will have competition finally.  Amtrak is a piece of junk, imposter RR operating on other peoples tracks with obsolete equipment and beholden to the whims of Congress. It'll be much better when it is run like the airlines operate.

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