GCS preparation, planning key to quickly restoring rail yard operations after hurricane

DAYTON, Texas–October 6, 2017 (James Street Media Services)–The lessons of previous Texas hurricanes were not lost on the Gulf Coast Switching Company (GCS). So when Hurricane Harvey arrived in August 2017, GCS was ready.

GCS is responsible for maintaining a major Union Pacific Railroad (UP) freight rail yard in Dayton, Texas. After Hurricane Ike hit Southeast Texas in 2008 with extensive flooding, GCS management began working on long-term facility improvements to better protect the critical Houston-area rail yard from future storms.

Those preparations were put to the test by Harvey, which made landfall on August 26, 2017 and dumped more than 50 inches of rain on the yard.

As Harvey approached, GCS moved its three switching locomotives and all maintenance equipment to the yard’s highest elevations. When the storm hit, the yard experienced flooding in several locations.

“We never had to reposition any rail cars, because the water never rose much above the railheads,” says GCS President Leigh Walters. “Our crews pitched in to return the yard to regular service within a week of when the storm hit.”

Walters explained that over the past several years, GCS—together with UP—undertook a program to improve drainage in the facility, which can store 3,000 freight cars on some 26 miles of track. The yard is maintained by GCS, which also performs some switching operations there.

An initial two-year program cleaned all ditches that drain water away from the track structure, as well as a main drainage channel that carries the water away from the rail yard. Once that improvement program was finished, GCS scheduled regular cleaning to prevent vegetation and other materials from refilling the ditches.

 Walters credits the ditch maintenance program with keeping flooding to a minimum, and hard work from GCS employees restored rail service within the week.

“It was the dedication of our own crews that made it possible for us to resume service so quickly,” he says. “Despite the fact that some of our people were facing flooding at their homes, everyone showed up to help restore our service. I’m really proud of our team,” said Walters.

About Gulf Coast Switching
Gulf Coast Switching Company (GCS) provides contract rail switching services. GCS is owned by Anacostia Rail Holdings.