"This project transformed an aged, inefficient rail yard into a state-of-the-art, effectively designed major terminal capable of handling existing and future traffic quickly and efficiently," said CN executive vice-president Claude Mongeau, who will succeed retiring president and chief executive officer E. Hunter Harrison on Jan. 1, 2010. "Today's yard can handle nearly double the traffic the old facility could in a 24 hour period."
Memphis, a major freight distribution hub, is a key operating center on CN's North American network. It is an important destination for freight traffic on the CN system, and the gateway to CN's rail operations in the Gulf region. The city is also the largest U.S. location outside of Chicago where CN interchanges traffic with four of the major U.S. Class 1 railroads.
The new Memphis yard is CN's second largest classification yard in the United States. It has a capacity of more than 3,100 freight cars with 45 tracks in the classification yard. It also has 12 receiving and departure tracks ranging in length from 5,000 to 10,000 feet. The revised operation can handle 35 or more freight trains per day.
It took more than two years to construct, effectively building a new rail yard on top of an existing one while never ceasing railroad operations. The configuration of the old Johnston Yard created operational challenges that at times affected CN's ability to efficiently meet customer needs. The new yard removes those challenges, creating a terminal that optimizes our ability to move traffic in and through the yard.
"The old yard was removed section by section and rebuilt piece by piece," said Keith Creel, CN's executive vice-president, operations. "The yard now features the latest technological enhancements in railroad operations, including the newest switching technology to maintain safety and efficiency at all times."
The yard reconstruction also included rebuilding of the terminal's aged locomotive repair and car shops and upgrading of the locomotive fueling station.
At a ceremony Sept.24 at the yard in Memphis, CN also announced the renaming of the facility as Harrison Yard. E. Hunter Harrison has served as president and chief executive officer of CN since January 1, 2003. He will retire at the end of 2009 after a railroad career spanning five decades. Harrison's railroad career began in 1963 when he joined the Frisco (St. Louis-San Francisco) Railroad as a carman-oiler in Memphis while still attending school.
The original Memphis yard was constructed in the early 1900s on roughly 345 acres of land and named for former Illinois Central president Wayne Johnston (president 1945-1966). CN acquired an additional 88 acres of adjacent property for the yard upgrade project, which broke ground in early 2006.
The completion of Harrison Yard comes nearly four years after the opening of Intermodal Gateway Memphis, a $35-million intermodal terminal operated jointly by CN and CSX Transportation inside the Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park.
Together, Harrison Yard and Intermodal Gateway Memphis represent a $135-million investment in CN operations in and around Memphis over the past five years.