At Norfolk Southern, local ties to the Atlanta community run deep

Norfolk Southern and Atlanta go way back. Throughout our railroad’s history, we’ve had a strong presence in the city and region. With a solid foundation in place, bringing 650 WPT, our new corporate headquarters, to the city isn’t an introduction – it’s an opportunity to build on the success of the NS team that has called Atlanta home for decades.


At the heart of our operations there, Inman Yard sets an important tone. Built by Southern Railway in 1957, Inman has kept the steel wheels rolling for over half a century while adapting to changing markets and evolving customer needs. What has not changed, however, is Norfolk Southern’s commitment to innovative, best-in-class service.


“About this same time last year, we started the Southern Region redesign project that brought general merchandise traffic back into Inman,” said Mike Davis, Superintendent of Terminals. “It was a big focal point of the redesign, and we wanted to get a blended network between intermodal and general merchandise traffic. There hadn't been a general merchandise box car in Inman for over 30 years.”


Prior to the redesign, Inman’s traffic was about 98% intermodal shipments. Now, with the addition of general merchandise, the same amount of intermodal traffic accounts for just over 60% of the total volume. Each day, Inman receives roughly 1,000 cars and departs approximately 1,100 cars.


“We didn't pull any intermodal traffic out with the new plan,” Davis added. “We continued to build on it, which was challenging at times, but the team got it done through all the ebbs and flows of settling into the new, more efficient process.”


An aerial view of Atlanta’s Inman Yard. 


Handling the additional general merchandise traffic relies predominately on flat switching cars through gravity roll rather than the traditional humping process.


“A big component of our success is that we have continued to remain focused through the challenges and work closely with the other departments,” said Rodney Moore, Coastal Division Superintendent. “We’re all in this together.”


Leading by example

Thanks to the success in Atlanta, that process is now being expanded to other facilities across the network.


“Macon and Bellevue, both previously fully automated hump yards, are doing something very similar with the Inman model,” Davis said. “It’s been very successful, and as we look at the productivity gains and efficiency, we’ve really created something special.”


Inman Yard now handles just about every type of freight that Norfolk Southern ships. For the Coastal Division – consisting of Georgia, the Carolinas, and Florida – traffic almost always goes through Inman, or nearby satellite yards, including Austell just outside Atlanta.


“Not everything comes directly into Inman, but all shipments are worked in or around it at some point,” Davis explained. “From there, you can go in any direction – whether that’s the old Piedmont Coastal, the Gulf Division, or on to sunny Florida. It’s a vital location for the entire network, not just the Coastal Division.”


Thoroughbred pride in action

There’s a deep sense of pride in the crucial role Norfolk Southern plays in Atlanta – for our company and the broader economy.


“I have been so proud to be associated with the whole Atlanta area,” said Dianne Barnett, Director Mechanical Operations, who is based at the company’s Inman Yard. “There are so many things that Inman and the surrounding satellite yards do every day to positively impact the entire system.”


Dianne Barnett, Director Mechanical Operations, pictured with Division Engineer Nathan Kronewitter inspecting the cause of a derailment in Oakwood, Georgia. 


A 23-year Norfolk Southern veteran and second-generation railroader, Barnett knows how important our industry is to our communities and the country.


“My father was a locomotive engineer, and I love what we as railroaders represent,” Barnett added. “We’re delivering food, supplying energy, transporting raw materials for cars, shipping gifts, and so much more.”


From new operating plans to the challenges of a pandemic, the Norfolk Southern workforce has not wavered, ensuring that operations continue as normal.

“No matter what obstacles we face, everyone pulls together to do what is necessary to work safely and keep the train schedules,” Barnett said. “There are so many moving parts to the job, and I really couldn’t be prouder of our team.”


They work hard, look out for each other, and get the job done every day, Davis added.

“If you give them a task, they're going to do all they can to exceed expectations every time,” Davis said. “I can’t say enough good things about this Atlanta team.”


With the holiday Peak Season just around the corner, they’re also gearing up for what is always a crucial time for our railroad and our Premium customers. In true Norfolk Southern fashion, though, Davis, Barnett, and undoubtedly a chorus of unfazed Thoroughbreds respond, “Every day is Peak Season.”