Operation DeCoursey


The railroad yards, mechanical facilities and other installations at DeCoursey, Ky., might be aptly compared to the jam-packed "innerds" of the average radio.  In the case of the latter, one finds a bewildering assortment of tubes, wires, and gadgets, each with a job to do and each co-operating to produce an effective result.  So, too, with the plant at DeCoursey.  Here, in the narrow valley of the Licking River, about five miles south of Covington, Ky., and extending along that stream for some three and one-half miles, there are southbound receiving and classification yards, northbound classification and receiving yards, repair tracks, make-up tracks for Short Line trains, a 29-stall roundhouse and a great number of other installations.  Each, too, has a job to do and each must do it in co-operation with the others.

Over $700,000 Spent Thus Far

It was to improve the quality of this "co-operation" or teamwork, that about three years ago a large-scale improvement program was initiated.  Thus far over $700,000 has been spent and there are still a number orf odds and ends to be taken care of.

The accompanying pictures show many phases of "Operation DeCoursey."  The following paragraphs tell in a general way just what has been done and - as a distinction - what has been accomplished.

King Coal Now Moves Faster

The goal of the three year program, working within the limits imposed by the terrain, has been to speed the flow of traffic in both directions through this gateway.  While coal predominates, there are other commodities involved too.

Since such a goal was dependent upon so many factors, the necessary changes were correspondingly numerous.  For instance, the movement of coal through DeCoursey, originating on the Eastern Kentucky and Cumberland Valley Divisions, was formerly slowed by the weighing and billing of the cars.  In the past, if such cars were not weighed at point of origin, the work could only be done at DeCoursey, after considerable time-consuming switching.  The installation of automatic scales and a new yard and central billing office at DeCoursey has worked wonders.  The scales are located in a new building on the north-bound hump, making it possible for cars to be weighed and their weights recorded automatically as the cars leave  the hump and roll down the grade towards the car retarders and the northbound classification yard.

About 60 per cent of the coal from Eastern Kentucky mines is now weighed on these scales.  Coal cars are sent to DeCoursey on a mine card bill, and this billing is now done in a new central billing office (also located in the building previously mentioned) instead of at Latonia.  A number of grade and track changes were necessitated by this installation.

A pneumatic tube system has also been very helpful in expediting the billing.  It extends between the new billing office, the retarder tower, the roundhouse and the office (No. 26, or otherwise known as "Frostbite Terrace" because of its second-floor balcony) at the north end of the classification yard, and is used for the sending of bills, consists, etc.

Masterful Mechanics

The Railroad's purchase of the M-1 freight engines several years ago and their use - first on the Cincinnati Division and then on the Cumberland Valley and Eastern Kentucky Divisions - placed several problems in the laps of the mechanical department at DeCoursey.  The stalls in the roundhouse there were not along to accommodate the M-1's,  making it necessary for the doors to be left open, even in bad weather.  Several of the pits and stalls have recently been extended therefore and modern roll-type doors installed.

Other improvements to mechanical departmental facilities have included the installation of a three-track and of a two-track cinder conveyor to replace an old, open cinder pit, and of three new 100 h.p. air compressors, replacing old steam compressors.  A 1,000-gallon diesel fuel storage tank, and oil and service building to serve as a washroom and locker room for roundhouse employees have also been built.

Longer Yards Are Helpful Too

The use of M-1's before mentioned and the consequent desirability of hauling longer trains of empties back to the mines, also dictated several changes at DeCoursey.  The capacity of the southbound classification yard was increased from 969 to 1066 cars, while at the same time the capacity of its opposite northbound number was increased from 1245 to 1326 cars so that an entire transfer cut (for a connecting line) could be chambered at one time.  These extensions necessitated some re-location of the southbound main.

Allied to these phases of "keeping'em rolling," were several miscellaneous changes made in Yard F to make it possible to efficiently handle Short Line trains from DeCoursey to South Louisville instead of from Covington.  These improvements have given added velocity, or impetus, to such fast steppers as the "Silver Bullet."

By Land and Air

The Railroad has also "taken to the air" in the "forward passing" of the cars moving through DeCoursey.  A modern two-way radio system has been installed to permit the hump foreman to talk with the engineer on the hump engine and with the pin-puller at the crest of the hump.  Three engines have been equipped with radio and there are, as indicated, "stations" in the hump foreman's office and near the crest of the hump.  The humping and classification of cars has thereby been greatly facilitated.  Experimentation is now also taking place with  the "walky-talky" type of communication between yard forces.

The handling of cars has also been aided by the construction of an air line tot he northbound classification yard, making it possible to pump up a train line before the arrival of an engine.  An open track has also been provided to the roundhouse to the north end of this yard so as to reduce the delay to the engines assigned to move the cuts to connecting lines.  In order to accomplish this it was necessary to re-locate the stock pens and elevated ice platform - a move which in each case resulted in the building of a more modern facility.

All of the work mentioned has been spread over a three year period so as to minimize the interference with train and cr movements and to permit the most efficient utilization of Company forces who have done a large part of the work.

A "New" DeCoursey Means Better Railroading

In these times, when billions of dollars are mentioned casual-like every day, a million doesn't sound like a lot of money.  While the Old Reliable has spent less than three-quarters of a million at DeCoursey, it is gratifying to report that each dollar laid on the line has made a sizeable contribution towards more efficient railroading.  As a result, the currents of traffic in both directions now roll at an accelerated pace - an achievement which becomes all the more commendable when it is realized that some 100,000 cars are nowadays moving through DeCoursey each month.


from the L. & N. Employees Magazine, November, 1950