A CSX train passes through Downtown McKeesport in 2016. Residents of lower 10th Ward say nighttime railroad operations are knocking things from walls and disturbing their sleep, but the railroad says nothing's changed. (D.A. Liscomb photo via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.)
The author of this story has a conflict of interest. See editor's note.
It sounds like "a pile of steel (being) dropped into an empty barge at two in the morning."
That's how Dwayne Yeager of lower 10th Ward described CSX Railroad's late-night and early-morning operations in his neighborhood.
Yeager, who is retired from factory work, has lived in his home since 1994, so he's used to the sound of trains passing through. He told McKeesport City Council on Wednesday that it's not the normal noise of train operations bothering him and his neighbors.
"That noise is nothing," Yeager said. "What they're doing is hooking and unhooking cars by camera, without a brakeman, at all hours of the day and night. They're shaking things off the walls and off of the windows."
It's not the first time he's heard those kinds of complaints, McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said. City officials have notified the railroad in the past about noise problems.
"I don't want to say that they don't try" to mitigate the noise, Cherepko said, but "I will tell you (railroad management) is difficult to deal with."
He promised that the city would seek help from federal officials, including U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle.
Sheriee Bowman, a CSX spokeswoman in Atlanta, said the railroad has not altered its operating procedures in McKeesport in recent years, and that she's unaware of any use of remote-camera devices to couple trains.
"Nothing has changed," she said. However, CSX can't just stop running trains during nighttime hours, Bowman said.
"The railroad operates 24 hours a day," Bowman said. "We're not on a schedule. Our operations are based on the needs of our customers and those we have to serve."
CSX is a 21,000 mile railroad operating in the eastern United States and Canada, and the successor to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, whose tracks once passed through the center of McKeesport.
The company also owns the tracks of the former Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad, which pass through 10th Ward, in some cases only a few feet from houses and apartment buildings.
The CSX Mon Subdivision, which includes those P&LE tracks, runs from McKeesport to Brownsville, Fayette County, and serves as a connection to West Virginia coal mines. Although the line, which continues down through Glassport, has just a single track, there are sidings where trains are sometimes parked or "staged" overnight.
Residents who have concerns about train operations should notify the railroad as soon as possible, Bowman said. Complaints or comments may be submitted via "Tell CSX" on the railroad's website at https://www.csx.com/index.cfm/about-us/contact-us/, and should provide as much detail as available, including the time, date and type of problem.
"That's the only we can identify what train may be involved," she said.
Conflict of Interest Note: The author of this story is a CSX Transportation shareholder.
Edited to clarify that complaints are about late night and early morning operations.
Jason Togyer is the editor of Tube City Almanac and the volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published January 04, 2019.