Collaboration Keeps Houston's Englewood Yard Humming Throughout Transformation

Large | Englewood Bridges

Upgrading three bridges was the first step for Englewood’s transformation.


Union Pacific’s Englewood Yard in Houston, Texas, plays a pivotal role keeping freight moving – and as the yard continues transforming into a premier rail car processing hub, this important work can’t miss a beat.

“At Englewood Yard, a lot of subdivisions converge in one location,” said Adam Coleman, yard controller and employee-in-charge, Transportation. “In conjunction, you also have traffic from other railroads. Off the top of my head, there are roughly 13 ways in and out of this yard.”

In 2020, crews started transforming Englewood from a yard processing 1,700 freight cars a day to one with a potential of 3,000. The first project: upgrade three major bridges.

“Englewood Yard is a beating heart,” said Anthony Davila, senior manager-Bridge Construction, Engineering. “Two of those bridges lead up to the hump at Englewood where trains run 24/7. Keeping the yard fluid and active during construction was challenging, but we all worked together.”

A fleet of backhoes replace 17 switches within 59 hours.

A fleet of backhoes replace 17 switches within 59 hours.

What made it all work, said Henry Corbert, senior manager-Train Operations, Transportation, was planning and communication.

“It meant strategically yarding trains around affected areas to remain as fluid as we could during the work curfews,” he said. “The construction crews and forepersons were in constant communication with the Englewood yard controller and other crews in the area.”

These strategies continued in December 2020 while replacing the yard's master retarder, a device installed in a classification yard to reduce the speed of freight cars as they’re sorted. The team finished a job that would have normally taken 16 hours in under eight.

Crews later installed extended bowl tracks to make yard switching (moving freight cars from one track to another) more efficient and allow for longer trains, as well as upgraded the yard to a new LED signal system to expedite yard processing and reduce freight car dwell. Employees replaced 17 switches (the devices used to route freight cars from one track to another), rewired 26 switches, installed five signals and 57 track circuits, and verified 32 switches and 67 signals. With an 85-hour window allowed for this project, crews finished within 59.

Cerwin Fleming, superintendent-Train Operations, Transportation, said it was a team effort that made it possible.

A tie gang installs nearly 23,000 new ties, strengthening Englewood’s infrastructure.

A tie gang installs nearly 23,000 new ties, strengthening Englewood’s infrastructure.

“It wasn’t just one department; it was a lot of departments coming together to achieve this goal,” he said. “The most important piece of that collaboration was communication, and we did an outstanding job.”

“This is probably the best maintenance project I’ve ever been involved with,” said Robert Ellis, superintendent-Service Lanes, Harriman Dispatching Center. “I received commentary from my counterparts on other railroads who were impressed with our efforts not causing disruption for them. To me, that’s a great measure of success.”

In February, Engineering employees strengthened Englewood's underlying rail infrastructure by replacing and installing more than eight miles of rail and nearly 23,000 ties.

“It’s been impressive to see how the entire team comes together,” said Andrey Drozdov, general manager, Transportation, Houston Service Unit. “From signal testing, coordinating between departments, dispatching, Engineering and everyone else involved – I’ve never experienced such a well-organized and executed project of this magnitude.”

In late March, Union Pacific will begin the final phase of upgrading the hump computer system’s software and hardware. Once fully implemented, Englewood Yard – the railroad’s largest single hump yard on its system – will be capable of processing 3,000 freight cars daily.

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