SIMMONS / BLADE Enlarge
The screeching behind Guy Hall's East Broadway home has stopped - for now, at least.
"You couldn't stand in your backyard, it was so nasty," said Mr. Hall, a Lake Township resident whose house abuts Stanley Yard, until recently a busy railroad-car sorting facility. "It was five times as bad as somebody taking their fingers to a chalkboard."
The racket came from freight cars passing through devices called retarders that keep them from gaining too much speed as they are sorted by being pushed over a hump and allowed to roll, one or a few at a time, downhill onto various tracks in the rail yard. Retarders slow the cars down by pinching their rolling wheels against the rails, which emits a distinct metal-on-metal screech.
On April 1, the hump at the CSX rail yard fell silent. Concluding a sequence of cost-cutting operational changes intended to phase out most activity at Stanley, CSX transferred all remaining freight-car sorting at the yard to neighboring Walbridge Yard, which also has a hump but one that has been inactive for more than a decade. Only four tracks at Stanley were to remain in regular use for train storage.
All freight formerly classified at Stanley was either to be "flat-switched" at Walbridge - sorted using a locomotive pushing cars into specific tracks rather than sorting them by gravity - or diverted to other facilities, including a hump yard in Willard and flat yards in Detroit and Lima, Ohio.
"Once April 1 arrived, they cleared all the trains out," Mr. Hall said. "It was like a ghost town back there - almost scary."
Stanley's closing also has raised hopes in another part of the township that CSX will abandon a controversial track construction project that the company proposed several years ago to create an alternative route for trains to use in and out of the yard.
"At this point, plans for the connecting track project are not being considered," said David Hall, a CSX spokesman unrelated to Guy Hall - a statement that brought cheers from Lake Township leaders.
"It would have caused a lot of safety problems. It was a bad idea from the start," Mr. Welling said.
"If they're not going to put that crossover in there, that makes me 100 times happier," Lake fire Chief Dennis Boos said.
CSX first disclosed its plans to build the two-mile track across southern Lake Township, linking the south end of Stanley with its Walbridge-Fostoria main line, in late 2000. Letters to area landowners inquiring about buying right-of-way from their property stirred considerable protest.
"Officially, we haven't heard a thing from CSX," said Lou Snyder, who would have lost three of 28 acres he farms on the west side of Luckey Road to the project. "I take it a couple of different ways. Either they're not interested, or they're lying in hiding. We're not dancing any victory dance yet, but we're hoping it's gone away."
Whether the connecting-track proposal might resurface should CSX rethink its local operating scheme was unclear.
Since CSX shut down Stanley, it has had a hard time keeping it completely dark. Walbridge Yard has become so overwhelmed by the increased workload that some trains have been diverted to tracks at Stanley, where several crews have been assigned to flat-switch them into new blocks of freight cars.
The jam of trains waiting for an open track in the yards has sometimes caused back-ups on the CSX line across East Toledo and North Toledo and up into southern Monroe County, and as far south as Pemberville.
Trains sometimes have been stopped while blocking busy streets, only to have their crews learn that they would be unable to move any farther before reaching the 12-hour legal limit on their work shifts.
Early last week, railroad observers reported multiple CSX trains parked on main lines outside of Detroit too, with their locomotives taken off because they were needed to run other trains.
"We are continuing to make adjustments to the way we switch cars, so there is a learning curve," CSX's Mr. Hall said. "Our employees are learning how to go from a hump-yard operation to flat switching. But we are making improvements every day and expect the consolidation will give CSX a more efficient operation in the Toledo area."
According to CSX, the local changes have not caused any layoffs.
About 75 Stanley employees transferred to Walbridge, while a much smaller number shifted to other yards.
Contact David Patch at: email@example.com or at 419-724-6094.24.14675 120.1573