By Associated Press - Wednesday, February 19, 2020

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) - Norfolk Southern says it will close a locomotive maintenance facility and a locomotive parts distribution center in Roanoke, Virginia. The closure will impact 104 jobs.

The Roanoke Times reported Tuesday that 85 union-represented workers will have move to the company’s one remaining heavy-duty locomotive repair shop in Altoona, Pennsylvania, to keep their jobs. Norfolk Southern will eliminate 19 clerical positions in Roanoke.

The 136-year-old locomotive shop will shutter in May. The distribution center is expected to close in April.

The closures will mark yet another low point in the long decline of the industry in Roanoke. Freight railroading was the original economic engine of Roanoke, and more than 5,000 people once worked for the railroad.

The company said that the latest cuts will drop Roanoke-area employment to 650 in management and union positions in the transportation, mechanical and engineering departments.

Norfolk Southern has cited a 48% decline in coal shipments since 2008 and a drop in need for locomotives.

Railroad historian Ken Miller told The Roanoke Times that “anybody in the railroad community would have had to have been blind to not see this coming. But from a historical standpoint, it’s a tremendous blow because that shop has been in operation since 1883 as the Roanoke Machine Works.”

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