Destination:Freedom Newsletter
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 5 No. 3, January 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004, NCI, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - Jim RePass
Editor - Leo King

A weekly North American rail and transit update


IN THIS EDITION...  In this edition...

At the Donner Pass

For NCI: Mark S. Wurst

It remains to be seen if Amtrak funding will be included in ARRIVE-21 legislation. Wes Vernon’s story is below. Amtrak’s California Zephyr has just exited Shed No. 10 at Donner Pass in Cisco, Calif. on March 08, 2002. Wurst writes he waited three hours on the hillside in the cold before any trains arrived.


Weather delays some trains

After a storm dumped about 6 inches or more of snow on the Northeast on Thursday and disrupted the morning commute, bone-chilling temperatures persisted and record-breaking lows blew into the region on Friday.

The frigid day disrupted all modes of transportation.

Amtrak’s Northeast corridor trains between Boston, New York and Washington, D.C., ran on or close to schedule, with scattered 20- to 30-minute delays. On the Empire corridor between New York and Albany, delays ranged from eight to 56 minutes.

The eastbound Lake Shore Limited for Boston and New York, No. 48 of January 16 departed Chicago 7 hours and 17 minutes late. The equipment turned from No. 49, which had come from the frozen wasteland of the Northeast, and arrived 12 hours, 41 minutes late.

Metro-North Railroad reported had 123 late trains as of 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, with 15-minute delays systemwide. By 2 o’clock, spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said the railroad decided to cancel or combine 36 of 127 rush-hour trains because of weather-related equipment problems.

It added about 20 minutes to the trips for some trains and led to more crowded conditions than usual.

Trains were still running with 10- to 15-minute delays around 9:15 Thursday night.

“We are going to aim at having a normal commute” on Friday, Brucker said, but added, “It may be necessary for us to combine some local and express trains and run them strictly as locals.”

Bus riders had to wait up to 45 minutes longer than usual for Westchester‘s Bee-Line buses during the morning commute, but by 2 p.m., the system was reporting delays of less than 15 minutes. The Bee-Line had no service Thursday in the hilly Uniontown area of Hastings-on-Hudson and in Nodine Hill, Yonkers.

Freight railroad were also affected by the bitter weather.

CSX issued a “Level 3” winter weather alert on January 15, and was “in effect between Buffalo, N.Y., and Boston, Mass, and between Syracuse, N.Y., and Montreal, Quebec,” and it continued the next day “because of extreme cold and wind chill.” It was later extended from Buffalo to Willoughby, Ohio.

In Level 3 conditions, the railroad explained, “Adverse weather conditions have severely affected the specified region. Only critical trains will be operated. Trains will operate on straight move and limit use of crossover moves to the extent practical. Local switching, scheduled service, and normal traffic connections will definitely be affected.

Another Level 3 alert was also in effect between New York City and Northern New Jersey to Albany.

Elsewhere, the carrier issued a Level 2 winter weather alert on the Conrail Detroit Shared Access Area and on the Conrail Shared Access Area in northern New Jersey. A Level 2 alert indicates adverse weather conditions have affected the specified region. Local switching, scheduled service and normal traffic connections will be affected.

A Level 1 winter weather alert was in effect for the Conrail Shared Access Area in southern New Jersey and substantial inclement weather conditions were being encountered (or are expected imminently) within the specified region. Scheduled service and traffic connections would be maintained as practical to the situation.

CSX urged shippers and receivers to “help us serve you safely by keeping switch points clear of snow and ice so that the switch can be operated safely,” and keep the area around the switch stands clear of snow and ice.

The also urged customers to clean walkway areas where train crews may need to access the facility or cars during service, and to make sure that “close clearance” signs are free of snow and clearly visible to the switching crews.”

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So much to do, so little time

By Wes Vernon
Washington Bureau Chief

Congress has an extremely narrow window in which to start the ball rolling on building 170,000 miles of track in the United States – 24 days. Barring an unusual willingness of politicians to stir up a hornet’s nest in an election year, that’s it.

The five-month extension of the massive current TEA-21 all-encompassing surface transportation omnibus bill expires February 29.Congress can simply put it off again until the presidential election is over, but transportation interests, including rail advocates, view that as unacceptable.

Most of the publicity on the legislation in the mainstream press emphasizes the highway infrastructure that is at issue. Very rarely is rail transit mentioned in that context.

However, around the country, much localized publicity is given to rail projects similar to those envisioned by many of TEA-21’s transit-oriented supporters. Here are some recent examples:

Nashville to start regional (commuter) rail construction. (APTA’s Passenger Transport).

Orange County, Calif., Center Line LRT gets final okay, with one-track tunnel (Los Angeles Times).

Minnesota governor backs Northstar rail transit project. Another measure would incubate PRT test system with up to $10 million. (Duluth News-Tribune).

Branson, Missouri’s on-again, off-again monorail hope is on again. (KYTV-Springfield, Mo).

The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) says in effect, “Don’t forget Amtrak!”

NARP puts it this way: “It remains important that the final product include a rail section based on one of the rail bills now pending, such as ARRIVE-21 (S.1961).”

This is one of two major bills (one mainly Republican, the other mainly Democrat) to fully fund Amtrak so that it can serve the public as a first class full service passenger railroad.

Amtrak’s inclusion remains iffy, as the only surface transportation entity historically ignored by Tea-21 and its predecessors. NARP said this is the time to change all that. Until that day arrives, CEO David Gunn will try to work within the regular appropriations process – which, as each of his predecessors discovered – can be roughly equivalent to a visit with the dentist.

The big sticking point in the new TEA-21 bill is the section that provides for indexing of the gasoline tax to pay for the repair of roads and bridges, airports, and for rail transit projects.

The Capitol Hill politics of this pits two Republican icons against each other:

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas) opposes any tax increase, period. Some in the media have referred to his persuasive powers by designating him “The Hammer.”

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (Alaska) whose control of much Congressional “pork” has instilled – if not fear, surely respect – among his colleagues.

As D:F reported last year, Young caused a scene during voting on the House floor by badgering freshman Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.) who had led a revolt against the chairman’s proposal to raise gasoline taxes and index the gas tax in the future so it automatically goes up when certain statistics kick in. Writing future automatic tax hikes into the statutes would do an end-run around DeLay, but folks at the grassroots at times can go ballistic when their money is taken away from them without an opportunity to put up a good fight.

Although Musgrave’ revolt is backed mainly by young House conservatives (in addition to DeLay), conservatives are by no means unanimous on the issue.

Conservative icon Paul Weyrich, President of the Free Congress Foundation and former Amtrak board member, wrote Young in strong support of his bill.

“It is my belief that support for an increase or an indexing of the federal fuels excise tax is consistent with, and even supportive of conservative views on taxation and the role of the federal government,” Weyrich wrote.

Weyrich has quoted founding father Alexander Hamilton as arguing that the two absolutely legitimate expenditures for the central government are defending this nation against those who would harm it, and supporting the infrastructure which, of course, is what TEA-21 is all about.

(In past Opinion pieces in D:F, this writer has discussed at some length both the gas tax controversy and the infrastructure “privatization” question.)

Young’s plan would implement indexing to “restore the lost purchasing power of the federal motor fuels user fee since it was last increased [years ago] “ for a $375 billion, six-year “investment plan.”

Just as public money funds the infrastructure of airlines and highways, now comes word that one major highway user is having some terrible problems staying in business on the operating side.

“Creditors, wary of the prospects for Laidlow’s Greyhound Lines, Inc., insisted that [the bus company’s] Chapter 11 reorganization plan limit the company’s investment in the bus system to $15 million through 2006. To get around that cap, [Greyhound] executives say they’d consider selling a share of the Dallas-based intercity bus service to outside investors – but until Greyhound’s performance improves, that would be a tough sell,” Crain’s Chicago Business News reported last week.

Greyhound’s infrastructure costs (highways) are underwritten by the gas tax, which may or may not add a talking point to the argument for the Young bill.

Because Greyhound’s problems are more directly related to its operating profit, or lack thereof, some cynics envision the following scenario:

The feds “come to the rescue,” and take Greyhound under their wing, just as they did with passenger trains 33 years ago.

Somewhere down the line, the argument is advanced that “Hey, we own both Amtrak and Greyhound. So why not merge them under one roof?”

A couple of years later, someone says, “You know what? We run both trains and buses. Buses are cheaper. Let’s just run buses and forget the trains.”

That scenario would run into a buzz saw of criticism, but some who have been in this town for many years and watched how the government process works are not dismissing it out of hand.

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Gunn travels to Michigan sites

Amtrak President and CEO David Gunn came to the Amtrak station in Niles, Mich., last week as part of one of his frequent tours of local facilities owned by the nationwide passenger rail network.

Niles, which also serves as the station stop for South Bend, Ind., is 89 miles from Chicago, according Amtrak’s fall 2003-winter 2004 system timetable. Niles is on the Amtrak owned segment between Kalamazoo and Porter, Ind. Most of the route is in Michigan.

While in the area, Gunn examined equipment at the local track maintenance facility, witnessed a demonstration of new computer train control equipment, and admired the restored railroad depot on January 12, the South Bend Tribune reported on January 13.

Fascinated with the steel behemoths since he was a child, the Harvard grad and former Naval Reserve officer parlayed that fascination into a managerial career that saw him overseeing – and troubleshooting – a number of different railway operations in places including Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C.

Now, the silver-haired, straight-talking Gunn is facing the challenge of a lifetime after coming out of retirement in 2001 to try his hand at undoing a fiscal and physical mess caused by years of poor organization at Amtrak, the nationwide passenger rail network. It‘s a job that can take him all across the country, and on January 12, it took him to Niles.

David Gunn David Gunn
Gunn’s no-nonsense management style and common-sense approach to running the railroad have paid off, with fiscal year 2003 showing strong ridership increases and increases in revenue. Amtrak may not be swimming in black ink, but the future is looking brighter, and Gunn aims to keep it that way.

“It‘s not brain surgery or rocket science,“ he said. “In terms of running the railroad, there is nothing wrong with the structure we have today.”

The structure requires careful accounting, strong management and a good feel for what is happening at all levels of the national operation – including Niles, where Gunn, clad in a striped sweater, work pants and a pair of safety glasses, talked detailed shop with the maintenance workers, engineers and technicians who keep the railroad running.

Indeed, Gunn looked more at home in the starkly lit confines of the company‘s right-of-way maintenance facility just south of the local station than he would behind a polished mahogany desk. Like a fan talking about baseball, he discussed the condition of maintenance equipment, the organization of work crews and even the condition of wooden railroad ties along the Amtrak-owned track that runs through town.

Gunn also listened with interest as other workers explained a computer system they had designed and built to eliminate the need for a manned post at a drawbridge near Michigan City and gave a demonstration of the device, which will save the company thousands paid annually to the company that oversees the post.

After a train ride that took him through parts of northern Indiana and southern Michigan, Gunn seemed impressed with the renovated depot building that greets rail passengers who meet or leave their train in the City of Four Flags.

Walking across the brick walkways and modern platform that grace the grounds of the building, he commented that not only did Amtrak have a place in Niles, but he wouldn‘t mind one, either.

“It‘s beautiful,“ he said of the facility. “I‘d move my office in here if I could.”

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Florida fast trains update:

It all comes down to (big) dollars

By Leo King

Florida’s High-Speed Rail Authority last week published its annual report to governor and legislature. The authority’s report made it clear it needs to be funded as the law demands.

“State funding in fiscal year 2004 is critical to maintaining the schedule mandated in the Constitutional amendment. A state commitment to fund the project will also aid the authority as it pursues federal funding for the project. To date, the federal government has demonstrated a history of providing funds to match the state investment in high speed rail.”

With the funding authorizations currently in place, the authority anticipates that it will be able to continue the planning phase for the Tampa-Orlando section through completion of the federal environmental impact statement and a federal record of decision next April.

The authority says it will require additional state funds and ultimately federal funding support through either tax credit bonds, or an equivalent federal contribution to the project in order to continue work finalizing the first part of the project, and to advance the future phases.

Through January 1, 2004, the Florida legislature had authorized $14 million in state funds. $5 million authorized by the legislature last year was vetoed, “and therefore, the authority received only $9 million of the total state funds authorized thus far,” the report explained.

The body also received specific earmarks from Congress totaling $5.15 million during the past two years, and the authority “anticipates an additional $4.0 million grant this year. Of the total $14.15 million in state and federal funds, approximately $13 million” had been spent as of January 1.

The authority again recommended Florida seek federal funding, and support federal legislation that provides such funding – “either in the form of direct grants, loans, tax credit bonds, or other funding mechanisms.”

Staff director Nazih Haddad and his people noted the authority recommended that the legislature approve an annual appropriation of $75 million per year for 36 years to finance building infrastructure from Tampa to Orlando.

“Under the plan of finance provided by Fluor-Bombardier (which assumes the availability of federal tax credit bonds), the project revenues will generate surplus revenues sufficient to repay most of this annual appropriation over the life of the project,” the report states.

Fluor-Bombardier was the successful bidder to build the system.

The authority also recommended – as it has in the past – that the source of the state’s annual appropriation be from the Transportation Outreach Program (TOP), “which currently has $100 million programmed in fiscal year 2004-2005 and $105 million programmed per year for the following seven years, and from the public transportation allocation of the State Transportation Trust Fund as deemed appropriate by the Florida Legislature.”

Haddad said using those programs would avoid any impact to the state highway programs.

Some 7,000 new jobs are expected to be created when construction begins, just between Orlando and Tampa. Other expected financial benefits to the communities include $8.5 billion in total sales among Florida firms and $950 million in increased property values.

JetTrain by Bombardier


Florida’s high-speed rail system – when construction finally begins – will be operating Bombardier’s JetTrains up to 150 mph. Problem: Gov. Jeb Bush (R) vetoed construction funding last year, and is adamantly opposed to the project, claiming the state can’t afford it. Last year, JetTrain locomotive 2200 visited Orlando.
The authority wants the state to actively seek federal funding assistance for the project, and support federal legislation that provides such funding either in the form of direct grants, loans, tax credit bonds, or other funding mechanisms. They’ve recommended that in the past, too.

“The Authority continues to recommend that legislative actions be taken to address bond requirements and tax exemptions,” the report noted.

Insurance may be a problem, so the rail authority is recommending statutory amendments “to provide the bonding flexibility needed to effectuate the best level of commercially available security.”

The report pointed out there is a current situation with the surety and insurance industry, which may result in there not being commercially available sureties in an amount equal to the value of the first phase and its first part, which would be to build the line from Tampa to Orlando.

Haddad is recommending that the legislature review and clarify the tax exemption provision of the Florida High Speed Rail Authority Act.

“Working in conjunction with the governor’s staff, the authority and the Florida Department of Revenue have developed suggested new language that would narrow the existing definition and would limit the exemption to only the high speed rail transportation system, excluding associated developments.”

The authority, as directed by the act, requested bids for a “Design, Build, Operate, Maintain and Finance (DBOM&F)” procurement process “in order to meet the mandate of the Florida Constitution that the construction of the high speed rail system begin by November 1, 2003.”

Bush’s veto failed to carry out that mandate.

Preferred proposer Fluor-Bombardier got the contract last October 31.

The Fluor-Bombardier proposal “offered a firm fixed price of $2.056 billion for Bombardier’s gas turbine JetTrain technology operating on a single track system from Tampa to the Orange-Osceola County line, and double track from there to the Orlando International Airport.”

The firm, fixed price “excluded certain cost elements, such right-of-way and environmental mitigation that are the responsibility of the authority.

Global Rail Consortium’s proposal included electrified TGV technology operating on a fully double-tracked system from Tampa to Orlando. The firm fixed price provided by Global Rail Consortium was $2.401 billion, Haddad stated.

The Fluor-Bombardier proposal, “as submitted in February 2003, offers JetTrain technology powered by a diesel fueled gas turbine. This technology was developed in partnership with the Federal Railroad Administration and is fully compliant with current US regulations.”

The base proposal includes a “single-track located in the median of Interstate 4 from Tampa to the Osceola-Orange County line; and from there, double-track in the Greeneway median to the Orlando International Airport.”

On October 27, the authority appointed a Contract Negotiations Committee, which included the authority chairman and three members of the authority “to begin negotiations with Fluor-Bombardier.” The report did not name the members.

The committee and Fluor-Bombardier explored a range of technology options “including electrified technology, and an option to provide full double track from Tampa to Orlando.” Technology options and infrastructure options were also developed for evaluation. Those results were presented to the authority at the December 17 board meeting, at which the authority “agreed that an option providing JetTrain technology operating on double track from Tampa to Orlando with provisions for future electrification was both cost effective and superior to the single track included in the original proposal from Fluor-Bombardier.”

The reported stated Fluor-Bombardier estimated the full double-tracking and future electrification provisions would add $290 to $325 million to the base proposal.

Fluor-Bombardier was directed to proceed to develop a revised firm, fixed price corresponding to the full double-track option.

When the High-Speed Rail Authority gets the revised numbers, “the revised firm, fixed price,” the Contract Negotiations Committee will renegotiate a final price for the first part of the project.

Fluor-Bombardier anticipates a public and private partnership with government funding the project’s infrastructure supported by the builder’s “assumption of construction cost overruns and financial operating risks backed by parent company guarantees from the principal members of the team.”

A critical assumption in the financial plan is that “federal tax credit bonds would be available to finance the infrastructure, and that the principal on these bonds would be repaid by the state’s commitment to an annual appropriation of $75 million per year.”

In 2011, the first full year of operation, the cash flow plan shows a state appropriation of $75 million returning $21 million net operating profit, and a state appropriation surplus of $14 million. That “$35 million in surplus results in a net cost to the state of $40 million for the year.”

The finance plan anticipates that rolling stock would be financed separate from infrastructure using a combination of federal grants and tax-exempt bonds repaid by net income from ridership revenues.

“To achieve this, Fluor-Bombardier proposes to submit the investment-grade ridership study through due diligence reviews by investment banking firms and bond rating agencies,” according to the report.

Authority members noted that ridership revenues can cover operating costs for the initial part of the project, and that net income from ridership revenues “can potentially repay all, or a substantial proportion of the state’s investment in the project under the finance plan” recommended by Fluor Bombardier – but they also recognized “based on the independent peer panel review of these estimates that there is inherent risk associated with ridership forecasts for a new mode of travel and technology operating in a unique corridor.”

Fluor-Bombardier also proposed to provide credit enhancements for the bonds “by way of a $50 million standby liquidity facility secured by principal company assets and a $50 million operating reserve accrued through net operating surpluses.”

While the revenue bonds used to finance a portion of the rolling stock purchase constitute a relatively small portion of the total investment for the project, the advantage to the state is that the structure of this financing requires that Fluor-Bombardier “assume obligation of securing these bonds (including updates to the ridership study) and with the bondholders, share the risk of ridership revenues associated with repayment of these bonds.”

The bonds that would be sold based on those revenues would be “supported by credit enhancements from the Fluor-Bombardier parent companies and are non-recourse to the state. In short, the taxpayers of the State of Florida will have no obligation to repay these bonds in the event of default.”

Under the base proposal, the finance plan anticipates returns to the state totaling $2.3 billion over 30 years.

Tax-exempt revenue bonds are proposed for financing approximately 54 percent of the rolling stock cost, or $120 million. That represents approximately 6 percent of the total investment for the Phase 1, Part 1 project.

The return is expected to exceed Florida’s total investment of $1.9 billion, and provides an additional $419 million above the state’s investment.

For the proposed double-track and future electrification options, the net income and surpluses are expected to repay Florida’s investment and return an additional $176 million.

Net annual cost to the state is actually less that the annual required appropriation commitment of $75 million per year upon which the plan is based.

Haddad stated federal tax credit bonds are an essential financial plan element, but there is no current federal legislation authorizing this type of finance for a high-speed rail project.

To assess the impact on the financial plan – assuming that federal tax credit bonds were not an option – the authority evaluated the selected proposal option (with the excluded and contingent cost items) assuming conventional tax-exempt bond finance in lieu of federal tax credit bonds.

The annual average cost to the state would be approximately $133 million. Any federal tax credit bond mechanism, or equivalent federal funding participation, would be “essential in order to minimize the cost to the state.”

He also pointed out “No transportation project of this magnitude has ever been implemented in the U.S. without significant federal funding support.”

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‘No,’ for now, along eastern Florida

Bringing passenger rail service to cities on Florida’s East Coast isn’t on Amtrak’s priority list, a railroad spokesman said last week.

“The last list of potential new routes (that included the Florida East Coast project) was developed under a previous [Amtrak] president and board years ago,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told the Stuart News from Chicago on January 15.

“Our board’s first priority now is to finish years and years of deferred maintenance and to get out of the hole we’re in.”

The expansion project, first proposed in 2000, would have rerouted the New York-to-Miami Silver Star train onto tracks owned by the Florida East Coast Ry., establishing daily, 70-mph passenger train service with stops in most coastal cities from Jacksonville to Miami, including Vero Beach, Fort Pierce and Stuart.

A $60 million state grant would have largely paid for the $82.5 million needed to upgrade the rails and build new stations and platforms in cities along the route, said Nazih Haddad, manager of the Florida DOT’s Passenger Rail Department. Amtrak would cover the rest and furnish the trains.

“The community has always welcomed and committed funds to the project,” Stuart, Fla., Mayor Jeff Krauskopf said.

“Should Amtrak at some point in the future become profitable enough to continue the expansion, we would gladly step forward and welcome it,” he added.

Funds have been set aside in Stuart annually for a rail station, but each year the money has rolled over for use in other projects, Krauskopf said.

“It’s a shame but I understand they have more pressing needs,” he said.

The project derailed when Amtrak rolled into financial trouble in 2002.

A $200 million federal emergency loan issued in June 2002 kept Amtrak from cutting existing routes. Conditions of the loan prohibit Amtrak from expanding for at least one year, but the passenger railroad says it still doesn’t have the cash to expand services.

Amtrak still isn’t meeting its funding needs because Congress hasn’t allocated what Amtrak requested for 2003 and 2004, he said. For fiscal year 2003, Amtrak asked for $1.2 billion and received $1.05 billion. For 2004 they asked for $1.8 billion, but Congress proposed about $1.2 billion – but still hasn’t authorized it, along with several other unrelated spending bills.

“Until we know for certain, it’s hard for us to determine how much work we can do,” Magliari said. “The FEC proposal is not a current proposal and we don’t know when it will be. There’s a market to be served there, but there’s no funding for it.”

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Midwest Airlines likes Amtrak connection

After more than a decade, Midwest Airlines finally is getting the Amtrak station it hopes will bring more Chicago-area passengers to Milwaukee, where it is the largest carrier.

By this time next year, customers from Chicago‘s northern suburbs should be able to hop on a train in Glenview and arrive just outside General Mitchell International Airport about 45 minutes later. A train ticket is expected to cost between $15 and $20, reports the Chicago Tribune of January 13.

The idea for an Amtrak station at the airport came from executives at Milwaukee-based Midwest Airlines about 13 years ago. The $6.5 million in federal funding to get the job done came in legislation over the past two years.

Chicagoans wanting to fly out of Milwaukee also will be able to board Amtrak in downtown Chicago, but Midwest Airlines has its eye primarily on North Shore customers. Midwest generates more than 6 percent of its customers from northern Illinois.

Like other airlines, Midwest has renegotiated contracts with creditors and workers to cut costs and avoid filing for bankruptcy. Now, Midwest executives want to generate revenue partly by negotiating a deal with Amtrak that would allow customers to use one ticket for their rail and air travel.

“It‘s a pretty slick way to make your itinerary,“ said Randy Smith, Midwest‘s head of sales and distribution. The airline allows customers to use their Amtrak travel for frequent-flier miles.

Midwest also would like its passengers to be able to check their bags in downtown Chicago or Glenview and pick them up at their final airport destination.

Airlines have done such code-sharing with bus and train companies in the past but with varying degrees of success. Currently, Amtrak shares tickets with Continental Airlines passengers flying in and out of Newark, N.J.

Customers are able to use one ticket for their entire trip and receive frequent-flier miles for their rail travel, but they are not able to check their bags all the way through, said Continental spokesman Rahsaan Johnson.

“It would have been almost impossible logistically,“ Johnson said, particularly because airports have more stringent security measures than train stations.

The Newark station, which opened in October 2001, was meant to ease travel between Newark and New York City. But the code-share with Amtrak also attracts a few dozen Continental passengers each day coming from and going to Philadelphia; Wilmington, Del.; and Stamford and New Haven, Conn., Johnson said.

Midwest Airlines officials declined to say how many new customers they hope to gain after the new train station opens, but Adams estimates that the new station will add about 20,000 rail passengers each year to the 420,000 customers who travel the Milwaukee-Chicago corridor.

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Bush notion would close tax loopholes

The Bush administration introduced proposals on January 13 to block several corporate tax shelters, taking special aim at deals in which companies reap billions of dollars in tax breaks by buying public works like subways and sewer systems from cities and states and then leasing them back.

The proposals signal a new effort by the administration to try to take the lead on the issue of corporate tax loopholes, which have become a frequent target for Democratic presidential candidates, who also accuse President Bush of having skewed his tax cuts to the rich.

The main proposal could have a significant effect on the finances of cities and states nationwide, including New York, which have engineered tax deals involving billions of dollars’ worth of public property, The New York Times reported last week.

The idea is part of a package of proposals that President Bush will include in his budget plan, which is due out next month.

Treasury Department officials estimate that the proposal to block leasing deals would prevent the loss of $34 billion in federal tax revenue over the next 10 years. The proposals would take effect retroactively in January 2004 and would not affect deals in place before then. The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority has sold and leased back most of its subway cars and fare-card machines, as have transit authorities in Chicago, Boston, Washington and other big cities.

Critics contend that the federal government often loses far more than local municipalities gain from such deals. In a typical case, a city or state sells public property, like subways or sewer lines, and then leases it back from private investors. The investors take advantage of the tax write-offs that come from depreciation of the property.

Corporate beneficiaries have included the Altria Group, the parent of Philip Morris, and Textron Inc. Treasury Department officials said that the deals were designed almost entirely to avoid federal taxes.

“We find very little financial activity going on in these transactions,” said Pamela F. Olson, assistant secretary of the Treasury in charge of tax policy. “There is very little to be said in support of these transactions.”

Defenders of the leasing arrangements say they provide much-needed revenue to cities and states that might not otherwise have the cash to keep up with the maintenance and operational costs of their aging systems.

“These are transactions that benefit the municipalities that allow them to raise needed capital for important infrastructure,” said Michael Geffrard, president of the Liati Group, a company in New York City that has arranged scores of leasing deals in New York, Chicago and other parts of the country. “It allows them to raise money for capital improvements without raising taxes at the local level.”

Almost all the Democratic presidential candidates have vowed to crack down on corporate tax shelters.

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Boardman writes with hard pen

New York State Transportation Commissioner Joseph Boardman, widely regarded as one of the Pataki administration’s more personable commissioners, has a tougher side when he wields a pen. David Gunn, Amtrak’s president and CEO, noted the contrast recently when he received a letter from Boardman regarding the future of New York’s high-speed rail program.

In a December 16 letter to Gunn, Boardman offered, in blunt terms, a long list of issues he said Gunn had inaccurately characterized in a September letter, reports the Albany Times-Union of December 29.

He wrote, “It has become clear that Amtrak is not negotiating with New York in good faith and simply seeks to abandon its responsibilities under our program agreement.… Further, I will not sacrifice New York State’s best interest to simply relieve Amtrak of obligations.”

Gunn said he received the letter after a December 18 meeting with Boardman and was stunned by the difference between Boardman’s written words and his cordial manner during the meeting.

“You leave me both baffled and bewildered by the inappropriate and unnecessary confrontational tone you take in your personal correspondence to me and the friendly and thoughtful demeanor you express when we meet,” he wrote.

“The letters you send seem to go out of their way to provoke a much larger confrontation than there needs to be on this matter,” Gunn wrote.

The letters also hint that DOT and Amtrak may be headed for court to resolve the foundering $185 million plan that was to have trains zooming between the Capital Region and New York City at speeds up to 125 miles per hour.

“It is clear to me now that you have no intention or desire to resolve these differences through negotiations with Amtrak,” Gunn wrote.

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Timekeeping: Hiawathas edge out Downeasters

Amtrak’s endpoint on-time performance report for December shows the Sunset Limited arrived on time only three times while the Texas Eagle exceeded the company’s goal for the first time in years.

The carrier’s goals are for Metroliners and Acela Expresses to be on time 94 percent of the time; Regionals and Clockers, 90 percent; short haul and various corridor trains, 85 percent; while long-haul trains are expected to arrive on time at least 70 percent of the time.

Late Score
Acela Express66113379.9
Auto Train621477.4
California Zephyr623150.0
Capitol Ltd623543.5
City of New Orleans623248.4
Coast Starlight623248.4
Empire Svc71423067.8
Empire Builder1244762.1
Heartland Flyer60886.7
Hoosier State361266.7
Lake Shore Ltd1247638.7
Pacific Surfliner7138987.5
San Joaquins37211968.0
Silver Service1869946.8
Southwest Chief621379.0
Sunset Ltd272411.1
Texas Eagle621674.2
Three Rivers621969.4
Grand totals8651 227173.7

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FRA, Pipeline Safety may merge

A USDOT reorganization might merge the FRA with the Office of Pipeline Safety. USDOT secretary Norman Mineta proposed the idea last week. The new agency would be called the Federal Railroad and Pipeline Administration. As part of the reorganization, the Research and Special Projects Administration (RSPA), which currently has hazardous material oversight, would be eliminated and a new Research and Innovative Technology Administration would be created. RSPA’s Hazardous Materials Office would be moved to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy and have oversight on hazmat transportation for all modes.

– Trains News Wire, January 9

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High-speed rail would be loser
in California budget revisions

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed state budget unveiled January 9 would take a huge gouge out of California‘s transportation budget, reports The Sacramento Bee, but came with assurances from the administration that it intends to apply better business principles to spending the money that remains.

In a press briefing, the governor’s business, transportation and housing secretary, Sunne McPeak, acknowledged that siphoning $1.1 billion in transportation funds to the general fund would halt or delay nearly 200 projects statewide. She said the move is a necessary evil to help get the state‘s “fiscal house in order“ and make its economy competitive.

“First things first,” McPeak said, offering the governor‘s argument that a balanced budget is paramount and that all state agencies must bear the burden.

The governor‘s proposed 2004-05 budget contains several notable cutbacks for an already hurting state transportation infrastructure.

Notably, it asks the legislature to vote to postpone indefinitely a $10 billion bond measure to build a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco. That line was planned to connect eventually to Sacramento and San Diego.

McPeak said the governor remains intrigued by the possibility of high-speed rail and sees it as a possible economic boon, but considers it imprudent to sell more bonds now, when the state is so deeply in debt.

She was noncommittal on when the project might be resurrected but said the governor‘s proposal contains money to continue the project‘s environmental impact studies.

McPeak said the administration is hoping it can start reinvesting in transportation projects at higher levels by next year, while focusing on projects now that have the best chance of boosting local economies.

“This is going to come home to roost big time,“ said Steve Schnaidt, Senate Transportation Committee staff director. “Everything is going to be jammed up.“

The estimated $1.1 billion to be diverted under the governor‘s plan from transportation accounts into the state general fund would come from gasoline taxes. The move essentially suspends a state Constitutional amendment, Proposition 42, approved by voters in 2002, that required gasoline sales taxes to be used for transportation.

The amendment was written to allow those funds to be diverted into the general fund if the governor declared a budget crisis, and if the Legislature agreed by a two-thirds vote.

Several other transportation plans were affected, administration officials said.

Some 141 projects statewide are affected, including plans in Sacramento to extend the new southern light-rail line.

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BUILDERS LINES...  Builders’ lines...



Bombardier and Alstom are building 22 TGV trainsets for SNCF for $491 million Canadian.


SNCF: Bombardier gets $120 million order

The Bombardier Transportation and Alstom Transport consortium has received an order for 22 bi-level Train a Grande Vitesse (TGV) duplex high-speed trainsets from the French National Rys. (SNCF). The total amount of this new order, disclosed on Thursday, is approximately $491 million in Canadian dollars, or € 305 million (Euros). Bombardier Transportation, of Montreal, expects to earn about $120 million (€ 74 million). This order is a follow-up to an initial order for 82 trainsets awarded in October 2000.

Bombardier will manufacture the two first-class vehicles, one second-class vehicle and six trucks for each of the eight-car trainsets. Deliveries are scheduled to take place between January 2006 and December 2007.

Bombardier has contributed to the production of 259 TGV trainsets since its first order for TGV equipment in November 1985. Eighteen additional trainsets ordered in December 2001 are currently under production at the Crespin, France facility.

"Bombardier Transportation has an extraordinary amount of experience in the outfitting and equipping of different types of TGV trains. We are particularly proud of this new order, which further attests to the confidence that SNCF has in our capabilities," stated Jacques Lamotte, Executive Vice-President of Bombardier Transportation.

Bombardier Transportation in France operates primarily at its Crespin site in the Valenciennes region, where it employs more than 2,100 people. In the French market, Bombardier Transportation participates in all TGV programs and manufactures a wide range of rolling stock for public transport. Among its products are the MF 88 and MF 2000 vehicles for the Paris metro, the Strasbourg, Nantes and Saint-Etienne tramways, and the Nancy and Caen trams-on-tires.

In December 2001, Bombardier signed a contract with SNCF to supply 500 regional express trains of the Autorail Grande Capacite for various French regions.

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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

LIRR Takes flak over yard idea

The signs and petitions started to pop up throughout Huntington Village last fall, on light posts, the counter of a local bookstore and throughout the shops of Main Street.

“Stop the Long Island Rail Road Yard,” they read, arguing that a proposed 16-track railroad storage yard would harm the community.

Newsday, of January 11, reported that at the same time, LIRR was preparing for the first of four public meetings on the proposed yard for the Port Jefferson line with brochures and signs touting the service additions and benefits a train yard would bring.

The pitch is simple, LIRR officials said. A new yard with more tracks would mean better and faster service – nine trains every morning by 2012 for commuters who sometimes wait nearly 30 minutes between trains.

Now, the first phase of the public comment period has ended and the railroad is preparing to move ahead with the selection of a site from among a field of six in Huntington and Smithtown. Railroad officials said the public comment period achieved its goal, garnering much-needed input into the site selection – but residents of both communities said the railroad should be prepared for a fight.

“It’s going to be a huge challenge,” said Beverly Dolinsky, executive director of the Long Island Rail Road Commuter’s Council, a transit riders’ group.

“Overwhelmingly, people want service but they don’t want a yard, and you can’t have one without the other,” she offered.

There are six sites the railroad is considering for a yard: two in Huntington and four in Smithtown. In Huntington, the sites are land next to the state armory and a parcel west of Bread and Cheese Hollow Road south of Pulaski Road. In Smithtown, potential locations are two sites in Kings Park near a sand mine; a parcel at the Kings Park Psychiatric Center; and land next to St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center.

The sites will be evaluated on the basis of a number of factors, including land-use issues, noise considerations and impact on natural resources.

A new yard would mean electrifying the Port Jefferson line east of Huntington to where the new yard is located.

The Federal Transit Administration will review the findings of the environmental study and issue a decision on the site. A final environmental impact statement, which will identify a preferred site, is scheduled to be finished by the end of next year or early 2006. The railroad then needs approval from the Federal Transit Administration before starting design work.

The railroad now stores equipment on a siding east of the Huntington Station with a three-train capacity. Also, the railroad operates several morning rush-hour trains to Huntington from its West Side Yard, about 37 miles away.

A 16-track yard would mean an additional three trains in the morning by the time it is built in 2011. When the East Side Access, which will connect the LIRR to Grand Central Terminal, is complete in 2012, it will mean six more trains, bringing a total of at least nine more trains each morning. Currently, there are 14 trains each morning rush hour, some with nearly a half-hour gap in service.

“Huntington is very restricted as to what you can do,” said LIRR president James Dermody. “There is an overwhelming need.”

Since the railroad falls under federal authority, it does not require village, county or state approval, but in an effort to get public input, the railroad hosted four meetings in November in Huntington and Smithtown, attended by hundreds, the majority of whom were against the project. Politicians at the state, county and town level have voiced objections as well.

“There were a lot of people who were very vocal shouting their opposition. They were not there to participate in the process, just to say no, without really learning about it,” said Commuter’s Council chairman James Govern, one of the few speakers at a Kings Park hearing in favor of the proposal.

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Dissent may derail Northstar

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s plan to borrow $37.5 million for the Northstar commuter rail line has sparked an intramural fight among Republicans in the state House and has one of Minnesota’s most powerful interest groups vowing to kill the proposal, writes the Pioneer Press of January 14.

With the governor’s backing and long-standing support from the Democratic-controlled state Senate, the fate of the Minneapolis-Big Lake line lies in the House.

Pawlenty had opposed Northstar when he was House majority leader, but softened his stance when he ran for governor in 2002. His announcement last week that he backs the rail line represents the best chance of success yet for the $265 million project, which has languished in the early planning stages for years.

“What a long, strange trip it has been, but we think we’re about to make that trip a little better,” Pawlenty said at a news conference in Anoka, Minn. Division within GOP ranks even showed itself at Pawlenty’s event, which Lt. Gov. and Transportation Commissioner Carol Molnau did not attend.

“It’s no secret that the lieutenant governor has been a skeptic of this project,” Pawlenty said. “It’s fair to say she still has concerns, but she’s willing to be a team player.”

Pawlenty said he expects controversy in the House. Northstar nearly scuttled the last major round of state borrowing in 2002, when House Republican leaders, Pawlenty among them, derailed the project in tense negotiations with the Senate.

House Speaker Steve Sviggum fears the same could happen this winter and has suggested that he might let Northstar stand or fall alone.

Building the rail project means spending an additional $32 million to connect it to the Hiawatha light rail line in Minneapolis.

Another key lawmaker said he was alarmed that Pawlenty would support Northstar without knowing its true price tag. Pawlenty acknowledged that the $265 million figure will rise before the train begins running in 2008.

“We don’t think it’s going to skyrocket, but we anticipate some modest change,” Pawlenty said.

“That’s how the state gets into budget problems,” said Rep. Bill Kuisle, a Rochester Republican who is chairman of the House committee that oversees transportation funding. Kuisle said the state has no idea how it will pay the $10 million needed to run Northstar every year.

Pawlenty said local governments would pay for half that cost, just as Minneapolis is expected to pay for half the cost to run the Hiawatha line.

The governor is not without allies. Other than the DFL-controlled state Senate, House Minority Leader Matt Entenza of St. Paul said his colleagues are 100 percent behind Northstar.

Entenza said he was glad Pawlenty had changed his mind on rail and added that the real danger to Northstar is Sviggum’s proposal to split the project from the larger borrowing plan.

“Doing that seriously jeopardizes Northstar’s chances of passing,” Entenza said.

That’s just fine by David Strom of the Minnesota Taxpayer’s League. Strom said his group will do what it takes to defeat Pawlenty’s proposal, including lobbying and an ad campaign if necessary.

Strom said any lawmaker supporting Northstar will have a tougher time winning the Taxpayer’s League endorsement, which can make or break Republican candidates if they have a conservative opponent.

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Chicago trainmen irked over long hours

Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) train riders’ safety is being compromised by a move to require Orange Line light-rail trainmen and women to work up to 13 hours a day, the union representing the employees charged last week.

The expanded hours, effective January 25 on the line between the Loop and Midway Airport, are intended to increase labor productivity and do not compromise safety, CTA officials countered.

USDOT and FRA hours-of-service laws do not cover light-rail trainmen.

The Chicago Tribune reported on January 14 the contract between the transit agency and Local 308 of the Amalgamated Transit Union permits longer work hours, but until now the option has been used only on the Purple, Blue and Red Lines. Under the plan, the rail operators would work four-day weeks.

The union recently filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, according to Local 308 president Ethel Carter.

“This increase will make it mandatory for train operators to be on the clock and in service for up to 13 hours,” Carter said, adding the longer hours raise serious concerns about fatigue. “These same train operators are responsible for safely driving the trains and... operating the doors at each station,” she said.

CTA officials said the changes, taking into account longer lunch hours, breaks and times in the rail station, would mean less than eight hours of driving time, well under standards in other areas of the transportation industry. The Federal Highway Administration allows long-distance truck drivers to work 11 hours straight between 10-hour rest periods.

“This is not a safety issue,” said CTA spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney. She said union leaders are getting a backlash from members because the union recently asked the CTA to end a pilot program that paid an extra $1 an hour for workers who worked up to 13 hours a day.

Though the maximum hours logged by airline pilots, truckers and other transportation workers are tightly regulated under federal laws, the Federal Transit Administration neither requires nor recommends specific rest periods for mass-transit operators or bus drivers.

“It’s a loophole in the system,” said a former agency official.

CTA train operators work eight-hour shifts, with overtime provisions. Many operators work a split shift, divided by a long rest break, which enables the transit agency to schedule more trains during morning and evening rush periods.

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Utah commuter rail ‘on track’

The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) has taken the next step in the process to bring commuter rail to the Wasatch Front by 2007.

Last month, the transit agency shipped the draft of its environmental impact study to the Federal Transit Administration for review, and was expecting a response from the FTA late last week. Barring surprises, UTA officials anticipated they would be approved to proceed with the final environmental study, which must be completed and approved by the end of the year, according to the Salt Lake of January 13.

“We don‘t see anything big that will require us to go back out in the field,“ UTA commuter rail project manager Steve Meyer said Monday, “but [the FTA] does want a defensible document. They don‘t want to find out you‘ve missed something. They want to know that we‘ve hit all the issues.”

The first phase of UTA’s commuter rail line, which will run from Pleasant View, north of Ogden, to downtown Salt Lake City with six stops in between, is expected to be operational by the end of 2007.

The transit agency is scheduled to receive $9 million in federal funding for this year, which will allow the planning process to continue. Federal funds for construction of the commuter line still must be secured, but at least half of the required local matching funds already are in place.

The total projected price tag for the initial phase is between $200 million to $300 million.

“A lot of this is going on behind the scenes, but it‘s on track,“ said Andrea Packer, UTA’s public relations and marketing manager.

That said, there are still some obstacles to overcome. Stations sites have been chosen and UTA has reached an inter-local agreement with 40 cities, slated to be completed last week, that will give it planning and operational authority in its rail corridors.

The transit agency still must gain city approval for the design of the stations and park-and-ride lots. There also are some parcels still left to purchase for rail rights-of-way.

“We‘ve identified potential impact areas around the stations; how residents will be impacted, environmental concerns and things like traffic impacts and noise,“ said Meyer, noting that many of the cities along the line want to incorporate the stations into larger, transit-oriented developments.

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STATION LINES...  Station lines...

Group seeks aid for ex-CB&Q station

There might be a future for Omaha’s ex- Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad station. A new group is unveiling a new view of the urban crystal ball that restores the Burlington luster after three decades of idle disregard.

Drive by 10th and Pierce and it’s easy enough to pass the “Q” station without a second look, reported WOWT-TV on January 13.

There have been some ideas about resurrecting the building, but nothing has pried the “For Sale” sign loose.

The Burlington Committee plans to change that.

Project consultant Sheila Ireland said, “I think it‘s an incredible space and a very marketable space. If you look at a lot of restaurants in the Old Market, that‘s exactly what we have in this building, only better. This space is far more interesting than the warehouses we eat dinner in in the Old Market.“

Ireland and the rest of the group admit that it needs a lot of work and a lot of money to breathe new life into the slumbering station. The idea is to keep the exterior features true to the neo-classic look with a renovated interior.

Amtrak is one business that already interested in relocating.

District Manager Stephen Felder said, “Moving into this building would give Amtrak a nice feel for the community. It would upgrade its situation here.“

Ireland sees more than Amtrak as a tenant.

She said, “I look at it and I see a fabulous space that could hold a lot of uses.” Those uses could include everything from a restaurant to office space and a grocery store.

Estimates reveal it would cost $5 million to renovate the facility.

The Burlington Committee will continue to pitch the idea to developers while pointing to other successful development in the area that serves as a gateway to the downtown and Old Market.

A project like this would take years, but there is some urgency to get started. While the building is structurally sound, existing water damage will only get worse as time passes.

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Londoners want better Via tracks

A rail advocacy group plans public meetings in London, Ontario and other provincial communities to press for upgrades to the line that carries Via Rail trains from London to Toronto through Stratford and Kitchener. Transport 2000 is holding the meetings to focus on the cancellation of Amtrak’s Chicago-Toronto train and the need for Ottawa to spend more on tracks and equipment along the north main line, according to the London (Ont.) Free Press of January 14.

Improvements to the line are needed so trains can run faster and permit more frequent Via Rail service, said Transport 2000 spokesperson Paul Langan.

He said top speed on the line is 55 mph. That compares with top speeds of 87 mph on the main London-Brantford-Oakville-Toronto line.

The urgent need for upgrades to the north line was illustrated a fortnight ago when an eastbound Via train derailed near New Hamburg, east of Stratford, said Langan.

One woman was slightly injured when she was splashed by hot coffee.

“This accident might have been prevented with an investment in improved infrastructure on this line,” he said.

The north line is important to thousands of people who commute for work or school between London and Kitchener, Waterloo, Guelph, Stratford, St. Mary’s and Sarnia, said Langan.

“Unfortunately, the current frequency of Via Rail service is grossly inadequate to meet the needs.”

Better and cheaper rail passenger service would lure more people out of cars and help take the load off Highways 401 and 402, Langan said.

Former federal transport minister David Collenette said last summer that Ottawa planned to provide $700 million to upgrade rail lines and equipment in the Windsor-Quebec core.

After taking office, Prime Minister Paul Martin put the spending in doubt.

The second item on the meeting agenda will be Amtrak‘s plans to drop its Toronto-Chicago train because of declining passenger volume.

Several public meetings are scheduled in January – 23rd in Sarnia council chambers; 24th in St. Mary’s town hall and in Stratford, Kiwanis Community Center; London YMCA. Meetings also are planned in Kitchener and Guelph.

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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

Challenger-worlds largest steamer

Union Pacific

The world’s biggest operating steam engine, Union Pacific’s Challenger, No. 3985, stopped off in Sedalia, Mo. last week enroute to the National Football League’s Super Bowl.


Steam rolls to the Super Bowl


That’s a word not heard much these days.

It also a kind of railroad locomotion that is extremely rare these days – especially out on main lines.

Yet grinding metal screeched through downtown Sedalia, Mo. last week as the world’s largest operating steam locomotive came to a halt near the Washington Avenue viaduct bridge on Thursday. It was January 15, 2004, wrote The Sedalia Democrat.

A plume of grayish-white steam visible from a mile away heralded the arrival of the 1 million-pound Union Pacific Challenger just after 11:30 a.m. Yes, that’s 500 tons.

About 200 people gathered at the Amtrak depot as word of the train’s arrival spread through the radio waves and phone lines.

“You can’t pay for a trip like that,“ said railroad fan Jim Schmitt, a Sedalia native who drove from Liberty to catch a glimpse of the engine. “I‘d just like to be a waiter. ‘Get this, go do that.’”

The Challenger, on a cross-country journey from Cheyenne, Wyo., to Houston for the NFL’s Super Bowl, was scheduled to stop in Marshall Thursday morning, but was rerouted earlier in the day to avoid heavy rail traffic, said engine manager Steve Lee.

No. 3985 runs

Union Pacific Challenger No. 3985 was designed by Union Pacific and built in 1943 by the American Locomotive Co. of Schenectady, N.Y. It was one of 105 Challengers built for UP between 1936 and 1943, and is the only operating engine of its class in the world today – the largest and most powerful operating steam locomotive.

No. 3985 last operated in regular train service in 1957. It was retired in 1962 and stored in the roundhouse in Cheyenne, Wyo., until 1975, when it was placed on display near the Cheyenne depot. A group of Union Pacific employees volunteered their services to restore the locomotive to running condition in 1981.

The Challengers were designed for fast freight service, but occasionally pulled passenger trains. No. 3985 originally burned coal and pulled a tender with a 32-ton capacity. In 1990, it was converted to use No. 5 oil. Its top speed is about 70 mph.

The schedule change was all the better for Stephen Galliher, a freight conductor from Sedalia who led a local crew accompanying the train‘s regular operators from Kansas City to Jefferson City.

“I‘ve been working 33 years, and this is the best ride I’ve had,” Galliher enthused. He said a new crew was scheduled to take over on the leg from Jefferson City to St. Louis.

“We ride along with them and tell them where it‘s uphill, where the slopes are, where it goes downhill,“ Galliher said.

The engine was towing a fuel tank containing 5,900 gallons of oil, Lee said. The engine has a top speed of 70 mph.

“As you can see by the crowds, people enjoy it,“ Lee added. “This is kind of continuing lost arts. This is what built the country, or at least helped build the country.“

Lee said the heavy-duty locomotive fell out of favor with railroad operators in the 1950s because of the high level of maintenance required to keep the engine running. During the 1930s and 1940s, 50,000 or so similar machines were riding the rails, he said.

“Every hour you ride it, it takes 10 hours of maintenance,“ Lee said. “Intensive maintenance is why you got rid of steam engines.“

The Challenger was retired in 1959, and volunteers worked to restore it for special events in 1981. Lee said the engine goes on five or six trips a year.

The crowd ranged from railroad old-timers and enthusiasts to young children awed by the loud whistle and grinding gears.

“I‘m going to drive it,“ said 5-year-old Dylan Becker, of Tipton. He was watching the train arrive with his friend, Mitchell Moon, 4, and Mitchell‘s mother, Sheila Moon, also of Tipton.

“It‘s got a lot of noise,“ Mitchell said. “It‘s cool.”

The sound of the locomotive brought back memories for Ed Homan, of Sedalia, who started working with Southern Pacific in 1952 as a brakeman in Arizona.

“I cut my teeth on something like that, “Homan said. “We had four of those in the Phoenix yard. They weren‘t quite as big, but we had to use them to help get over mountains.”

“It‘s something, especially since this used to be a railroad town,“ Schmitt said. “What‘s really neat is they preserve this. These little kids don‘t get to see this much.”

Neither do so-called grown-ups.

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Look out, Amtrak – here comes BNSF

Burlington Northern & Santa Fe isn’t running an AutoTrain like Amtrak, but the freight railroad is making ready to ship “snowbird” vehicles starting in March.

BNSF and Autolog Corp. will start car-rail service between Phoenix and Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul and New York City. The average cost will be around $450, officials said. BNSF won’t be running passenger cars.

The new service, “CarsOnTrack,” “caters to the needs of snowbirds, people with dual residencies who spend the winter in Arizona,” said Myron Levine, Autolog’s president. The

Starting March 8 the service will begin on a route from Phoenix to the three major metropolitan areas.

Levine said more than 250,000 people live in the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas during the winter months, and return to homes in the Midwest and the Northeast in the spring.

They have only two alternatives to transport their personal vehicles – drive the vehicle themselves, or hire an independent trucking firm. The typical cost associated with either of those options is more than $800, Levine said.

Robert Sutton, BNSF Logistics’ Director of Operations, added, “Clients who use the car-rail service receive a reliable, lower cost, safe and timely method of transporting their vehicles.”

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Davidson, others quickly repay loans

Union Pacific Corp. on Friday said CEO Dick Davidson and other senior executives of North America’s biggest railroad were paying off company loans quickly and should have no outstanding balances by January 31.

Reacting to a research group’s report indicating that Davidson owed nearly $11 million to the company for loans used to purchase UP stock, spokeswoman Kathryn Blackwell said the report did not reflect large payments made by the executives.

Davidson now owes $3 million “and should have that paid off by the end of the month,” Blackwell said. Reuters reported, “The data they used seemed to be from 2002 and to come from a proxy report prepared for last April’s annual meeting,” according to Blackwell.

The Corporate Library, a research group, earlier on Friday released a report saying few executives with large loans from their companies had made much effort to repay the debts, despite an 18-month-old law banning such loans.

UP, according to the Corporate Library, had outstanding loans to 62 executives worth just under $40 million. Davidson was listed in the report as owing $10.97 million to Union Pacific.

Blackwell said Davidson and other executives had made substantial repayments since the company’s last proxy report. The outstanding balance at UP for all such loans now stands at $8 million, she said. The new data will be published in the next proxy report due out in coming months.

Five other senior executives, including UP’s president and chief technology officer, were also repaying the loans and expected to have their balances down to zero by month’s end, she said.

Loans to other, less senior executives were also being repaid, but would not necessarily be satisfied by January 31, she said. She said the great bulk of the outstanding $8 million was expected to be repaid this month.

Blackwell said Union Pacific had made the loans in recent years to encourage executives to buy more Union Pacific stock as a way to signal to Wall Street the managers’ commitment to the cargo-hauling giant and their faith in its prospects.

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Greenbrier gains orders

Greenbrier posted first-quarter net income of $4.2 million, or 28 cents per share, up from a loss of $700,000, or 5 cents per share in the year-ago period. The Lake Oswego, Ore. carbuilder notched a 12 percent rise in revenue to $112 million. A survey of analysts by Thomson First Call forecast earnings of 15 cents per share and revenue of $120 million for the company. New railcar backlog “remains strong” in both North America and Europe, stretching into fiscal 2005, the company said. Industry-wide 17,714 new freight cars were built in 2002, the year for which the most recent figures are available, according to the AAR.

– CBS MarketWatch, January 13

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Freight traffic declines 3.2 percent

Freight traffic on U.S. railroads was off slightly during the first full week of 2004 in compared to last year, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported on Thursday.

Carload freight totaled 317,986 cars, down 3.2 percent from last year, with loadings off 4.4 percent in the East and 2.2 percent in the West. Intermodal traffic, which isn’t included in the carload data, totaled 188,722 trailers or containers, up 1.1 percent from the comparable week last year. Total volume was estimated at 28.2 billion ton-miles, down 2.1 percent from last year.

Ten of 19 carload commodity groups registered gains in comparison with last year, with coke up 36.1 percent; grain mill products up 15.9 percent; and waste and scrap materials up 15.0 percent. Among commodities down from last year were motor vehicles and equipment, off 27.4 percent; lumber and wood products, down 13.3 percent; and coal, off 6.5 percent.

Railroads reporting to AAR account for 88 percent of U.S. carload freight and 95 percent of rail intermodal volume. When the U.S. operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 95 percent and 100 percent. Railroads provide more than 40 percent of the nation’s intercity freight transportation, more than any other mode, and rail traffic figures are regarded as an important economic indicator.

Carload freight was up but intermodal volume down on Canada’s railroads during the week ended January 10. Carload volume totaled 63,287 cars, up 2.3 percent, with agricultural products registering a 37.6 percent gain. Intermodal traffic totaled 39,954 trailers or containers, down 3.1 percent from last year.

Combined volume for the first week of 2004 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 381,273 carloads, down 2.3 percent from last year and 228,676 trailers and containers, up 0.4 percent from last year.

The AAR also reported that originated carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended January 10 totaled 7,722 cars, down 12.9 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 2,303 originated trailers or containers, down 28.4 percent from the first week of 2003.

AAR is the world’s leading railroad policy, research and technology organization focusing on the safety and productivity of rail carriers.

The AAR is online at

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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...


  Friday One Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)31.7032.01
Canadian National(CNI)61.5063.40
Canadian Pacific(CP)27.2328.49
Florida East Coast(FLA)33.0333.08
Genessee & Wyoming(GWR)36.7534.50
Kansas City Southern(KSU)14.5414.05
Norfolk Southern(NSC)22.9022.92
Union Pacific(UNP)66.7566.53

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ACROSS THE POND...  Across the pond...


For NCI: Mick Scarfe

Passengers flocked to Eurostar in record numbers at the end of 2003 after the company opened part of a high-speed link from the Channel tunnel to London last September, the railroad reports. Eurostar train 373, nearest to the camera with engine 3020 leading, is ready to leave Waterloo International station in London, U.K. last April 14.


Passengers swell Eurostar numbers

Passengers flocked to Eurostar trains in record numbers at the end of last year after the company opened part of a high-speed link from the Channel tunnel to London in September, figures showed January 12.

Operating out of London’s Waterloo station, Eurostar carried 1.69 million passengers through the Channel tunnel between October and December last year, a 15 percent increase on the same period in 2002 reports London’s The Guardian.

The rise in passenger numbers came after the long-awaited opening of the first section of the Channel tunnel rail link, between Folkestone and Fawkham junction in Kent in September.

Trains can run at 186 mph on the 46-mile section of track, slashing 20 minutes off journey times. A trip between London and Paris now takes two hours and 35 minutes.

Eurostar said the strong fourth quarter largely offset a slower start to the year as the effects of the Iraq war and the European economic downturn resulted in a 4 percent fall in passenger numbers for 2003, with 6.3 million passengers carried through the Channel tunnel in 2003 against 6.6 million the year before.

“There has been a successful rebirth of Eurostar,” said Paul Charles, Eurostar’s communications director.

“Although 2003 started off with a bleak outlook and low consumer confidence, a mix of the new high-speed line, a fresh management and a refocused strategy has enabled Eurostar to begin 2004 – its 10th anniversary year – in upbeat mood.”

The company said its market share on all routes had increased against all air competitors. Latest figures show Eurostar has a 66 percent share of the London-Paris route, compared to just 13 percent for British Airways.

Traffic on the London-Brussels route increased from 41 percent in November 2002 to 48 percent at the same time last year. Sales in the fourth quarter increased by 11 percent to £98 million, compared with £88 million in the same period in 2002.

In other tweaks designed to boost traffic, Eurostar is to introduce a new 10-minute check-in for business travelers from January 20, while retaining the 30-minute check-in for those traveling on leisure tickets.

A fortnight ago, passengers on the London-to-Brussels route were able to travel non-stop for the first time. Consequently, services on the route have been increased from eight to nine times a day, after increased demand for seats.

When the final stage of the Channel tunnel, the “Chunnel,” rail link is completed in 2006, journey times from London to Brussels will come down to two hours.

Eurostar also said the redesign and stronger promotion of the Eurostar website,, has led to higher sales, with more than 20 percent of tickets sold in the United Kingdom now being booked via the internet. Eurostar will be investing more resources in its website during 2004.

Sales during 2003 were £375.9 million, 8 percent lower than the 2002 figure of £407.9 million, but in the fourth quarter, sales increased by 11 percent to £98 million, compared with £88 million in the same period in 2002.

Eurostar in October admitted it still faces a challenge to deliver long-term performance improvements for passengers and shareholders. The company is still losing money, but says it is determined to return to profitability around 2006. Eurostar says it will be disappointed if it does not carry 8 million passengers by the end of 2004.

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‘Ninety years late, five minutes early’

First train to Darwin rolls on

“NO clickety-clack – and a smooth ride.

“These are the hallmarks of the first train to Darwin as it reaches speeds of up to 110km/h crossing Australia through its red heart,” wrote Greg Kelton for the Adelaide Advertiser on January 17.

The train is hurtling towards history on the longest seamless rail line in the world. There are no gauge changes and the line is welded so there are no gaps between the rails. It’s continuously welded rail. Hence the lack of the “clickety-clack” and of any major swaying motion.

Crowds have gathered along the 3,000-kilometer line to cheer on the historic train loaded with everything from vacuum cleaners to beer.

Thursday, it was the turn of Alice Springs as thousands greeted the train from the outskirts of the town until it stopped at Alice’s main terminal.

In scorching heat, they cheered again as the train rolled out of town and headed north – the first locomotive to do so in the nation’s history – on its way to more celebrations in Tennant Creek and then tropical Katherine.

At 1.30 p.m. on Saturday, with Prime Minister John Howard, Premier Mike Rann and NT Chief Minister Clare Martin on board, the train pulled into the Palmerston station at Darwin.

Earlier, it had pulled into Alice Springs ahead of schedule, with rail ambassador and former deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer waving his hat to the crowd yelling, “Ninety years late, and five minutes early.”

Fischer said there had been people all along the route from Adelaide to Alice to wave at the train. He had spotted a group at Marla, in the middle of the sparsely populated Far North of South Australia, taking photographs and waving at 3:00 a.m.

SA Premier Mike Rann told the Alice Springs ceremony, “This is a train called confidence. It is time for everyone to get on board and to kiss the knockers and whingers goodbye.”

He rejected Patrick Corp boss Chris Corrigan’s claim that the economic return would be “smaller than a tick’s testicles” and that it would have been better to spend the money on a link between Melbourne and Brisbane.

Howard, who has interrupted his holiday to see in the inaugural train, said the line would be important to Australia’s future.

“I decided to back a belief that, over time, this would prove not only to be economically successful, but it would capture the imagination and it would aid the opening up of the Northern Territory, the further development of the Northern Territory and the enhancement of Darwin’s links as the Asian gateway of Australia,” he said.

NT Chief Minister Clare Martin said the rolling event was “more than just a celebration of the first train from Adelaide to Darwin”.

“It is the start of a new era in intercontinental transport in Australia and an important moment in our history,” she said.

Martin said the line had created enormous potential for local business and job creation and was an important component of the territory’s future growth.

Freightlink chief executive Bruce McGowan said the trip had gone “very well. There has been lots of support along the way giving us a wave,” he said.

“Everything has been fine, a very smooth trip,” he said, adding, “We are running on time, and that really does demonstrate the reliability of rail.”

Earlier story follows – Ed.

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At last, a great train journey begins

January 15 was a big day for all of Australia – trains began running in a place where no trains have gone before. It was also a big day for Kurra Kurraka and Purnu, wrote Jeff Turner, a reporter for the Adelaide Advertiser.

Two brightly decorated locomotives pulled out of Adelaide Thursday morning, hauling the first Adelaide-to-Darwin train. The train left Adelaide at 11:15 a.m.

At 1.1 miles long, it is a lot of train, and its load reflects the prime importance of the new 1,864 mile (3,000 km) track – to carry thousands of tons of freight across the continent for Asian markets and beyond.

Both locomotives on that first run featured indigenous artwork. Darwin-based artist Gallium Lee painted Kirra Kurraba. It centers on the crocodile, a symbol of the Northern Territory.

Purnu’s decoration, by Ruth Dawson, is more abstract, based on a tribal story about two people gathering water at a rock hole.

About 300 official guests watched the train depart from the Pacific National Adelaide Terminal, near Regency Park. Premier Mike Rann issued an open public invitation, and the opening ceremonies featured speeches from Chief Minister Clare Martin and Sen. Nick Minchin.

There was a trainload of invited guests as well, including many politicians “looking for photo opportunities and ‘door-stoppers’ on 1 February,” one wag noted.

It was a remarkable moment. After almost 150 years of roller-coaster indecision since the idea was first muted, it took the previous state Liberal government to finally push the track into reality.

The freight services will carry mixed loads – from heavy machinery to supermarket frozen peas. Early next month, the cross-continent Ghan passenger train will begin.

A brass band and red carpet welcomed the historic train at its first stop, Port Augusta, at 4.40 p.m.

Port Augusta has been planning the ceremony for months. Hundreds of people turned up for the 40-minute stop. Seating and shade was organized, and local caterers were ready with sandwiches and tea or coffee.

Bill Broadwood, 60, of Port Augusta, worked in the railways for 27 years. His original guard’s uniform was on display at the Port Augusta Railway Station.

Passenger ticket sales on the new Adelaide to Darwin railway have already hit $15 million, with more than $5 million taken in the past six weeks.

Thursday did not belong just to the new train. As it neared Port Augusta, it was joined by a Pichi Richi train at Stirling North on the 3-mile-long parallel narrow-gauge line.

Port Augusta Mayor Joy Bloch hopes the Adelaide to Darwin line will mean a new era for her city.

“We’ve already had indications from the west coast of Australia, in South Australia’s Riverland and in Victoria from firms wanting to ship through Port Augusta to Darwin,” she said.

The latest assessments of the Adelaide-to-Darwin line by the SA Centre for Economic Studies says international trade flows will not appear “overnight.”

“The key challenge for developers and governments is to promote Darwin as the gateway to Asia,” SACES director Michael O’Neill said.

Cheering and more speeches welcomed the train at Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Katherine and then Darwin. Two-hour celebrations were planned at each center.

The train arrived at the Port of Darwin at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. Prime Minister John Howard led the welcome as three helicopters fluttered banners overhead.

The Ghan’s first turn on the extended track will be on February 8. Aboard will be enthusiasts who have already dubbed it one of the world’s great train journeys.

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Pakistan-India train carries hope

PAKISTAN-INDIA BORDER, January 15 – A train from Pakistan crossed into India Thursday for the first time in two years, the most dramatic sign of rapprochement between both nuclear-armed countries since ground-breaking talks between their leaders this month.

The Samjhota, or Understanding Express, freshly painted in green and yellow and festooned with bunting, Reuters reported, crossed the border at Wagah near Lahore heading for the Indian station at Atari, one-half mile away.

Resumption of the train service follows the meeting between Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf at which the rivals agreed to resume stalled peace talks next month.

Security was tight on both sides of the border given fears of attack by militants opposed to peace. Dozens of soldiers stood guard and sniffer dogs and X-ray machines were used to check passengers and their luggage.

The locomotive engineer, wearing a garland of red roses, waved from his cab as the train crossed the border.

Passengers changed trains in Atari for onward travel into India, while the Pakistani train was to pick up travelers heading to Pakistan.

Passengers waved as the train rolled slowly into Atari. Some hung out of doors while others peeked out from behind windows.

The train is capable of carrying 800 passengers, but only 76 tickets were sold for Thursday’s journey, given continuing visa restrictions. The passengers were 56 Pakistanis and 20 Indians.

They hailed the resumption of the train service as a sign of peace between their countries, which went close to a fourth war in 2002 after India accused Pakistani-based militants of a bloody attack on its parliament in December 2001.

Transport links were severed after that attack and the two countries staged a massive build-up of forces along their border while violence worsened in the divided Himalayan territory of Kashmir, the main cause of their long-running rivalry.

The passengers each paid 240 rupees (about $4) for the journey, which compares with 940 rupees ($16) for a one-way bus ticket to Delhi or 8,500 rupees ($148) for an air ticket.

The train will operate twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays.

Ramesh Lal, a member of Pakistan’s national assembly, was traveling to India with his family.

“The resumption of train service is a real service for the public,” he said. “Rich people can travel by air; poor people can only travel by train. The train service will also facilitate better relations between the two countries.

“I am going there for peace,” Lal added.

Mohammad Hussain Khan, 80, was returning to Bombay after visiting his birthplace in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province for the first time since 1947.

“We are all brothers, we are all human beings,” he said.

“If we live together, it’s better for all of us. Both the countries will progress if they patch things up. It’s better for both Musharraf and Vajpayee to come to terms with each other.”

An Indian railway official at Atari was delighted to see the service resumed: “This will increase the feeling of brotherhood, trade will increase, and I am happy to be working for this train that will bring the two countries closer to each other,” he said.

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DB slashes capital spending

According to reports in the German weekly magazine Focus and from the Süddeutschland Zeitung, Deutsche Bahn (DB) will begin cutting spending on many capital spending projects, including construction projects already started.

DB executives informed transport officials in the German government that the worst-case scenario is a reduction from € 4.4 billion spent in 2003 down to € 3.07 billion in 2008.

Included in the projects to be deferred or canceled altogether are:

Expanding the Uelzen-Langwedel route.

A new high-speed ICE route between Erfurt and Nürnburg will be delayed until 2020 “or perhaps further beyond.”

Terminating construction on the new Karlsruhe-Offenberg-Basel (Switzerland) line; work on the Katzenberg tunnel will continue.

Construction related to modernizing the Berlin S-Bahn urban commuter railroad.

The reason for the dramatic reduction in spending was given as forecast reductions in government provided infrastructure spending in the coming years.

Elsewhere in Germany, British train and bus operator Arriva wants to begin operations in Germany.

According to a Financial Times report, Arriva chairman Bob Davies said it is important to keep Germany in sight for expansion opportunities, as the country represents Europe’s largest mass transit market.

Davies also sees Italy and Portugal as possible expansion opportunities, where it operates bus services.

Arriva is present in continental Europe, Holland and Denmark as a rail operator, where it operates local train services. Germany represents the third most active open-access rail market in Europe, after the U.K. and Sweden. Davies did not mention specific routes or regions in Germany where Arriva will attempt to gain a foothold.

– David Beale

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OFF THE MAIN LINE...  Off the main line...

1941 EMD for sale/auction

Port of Pascagoula

Built around 1941, this EMD (or perhaps EMC) switcher is for sale. Is it an SW or an NW – or something else?


Pascagoula auctions old engines

Frank Kirby and his crew at the Port of Pascagoula have taken good care of switcher 1052, a 1941 antique that is about to be auctioned as county surplus.

“You’re looking at a real piece of history,” Kirby said January 13 at the port. Kirby is the assistant manager of operations and facilities. “Everything on it is original. It’s a beautiful old engine,” the Pascagoula Times-Herald reported last week.

He started the power with its wooden floors and deafening horn and it hummed like it was ready to report for work. In fact, the port used it a day earlier, he said.

The port has purchased a new vehicle to do the switcher’s work. It’s a “track mobile” that can go from tracks to pavement. The little blue and white engine has been outmaneuvered, but not outclassed.

When Kirby got the 1052, it was rusty and in bad shape, he said. His crews refurbished it and maintain it even though parts are hard to come by.

Kirby said he thought EMD built the engine originally for the Southern Railway. A check with an EMD-related website showed the General Motors’ Electro-Motive Division produced the 1,200 hp engines in its La Grange, Ill plant.

General Motors purchased Electro Motive Corp. (EMC) and Winton Engine in 1930. EMC was a subsidiary of General Motors until 1941 when it became a full division (EMD). Switchers built before February 1939 were powered by the 201A engine, and after that the 567 series, followed by the 645 series engines. 567 powered models included SW-1s and NW-2s.

“Think how many years this thing has run,” he said. “I love it.”

He said he wouldn’t be surprised if a local company buys it and keeps it working in a yard.

Kirby said he believes that the headlight on the 1941 engine could go for $8,000 on its own.

The port has used the 1941 engine and a 1950s engine that is not in as good a shape to move boxcars around warehouses since the mid-1980s, when the port inherited them from Louis Dreyfus when a grain elevator closed, but their time at the port is over.

County supervisors declared them surplus property on January 12 and contracted with Durhan Auction in Wiggins, Miss., to auction them off for the highest return.

With the help of the Internet and e-Bay, the company will collect bids over five days, ending February 13, and hold a live auction of the two switch engines. The high and second-highest internet bidders will be allowed to re-bid by phone if they are outbid during the live auction, auctioneers told the county in a letter.

The auction company will put the word out among railroad enthusiasts and collectors.

Kirby thinks that his favorite engine will attract a lot of attention and bring between $35,000 and $50,000. Just from word of mouth, he has received calls from Louisiana, Alabama and Florida.

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WE GET LETTERS...  We get letters...

Dear Editor:

Re: D:F January 12 – “Metroliner coach 21908 is the first wreck-repaired car that Amtrak’s Bear Shops in Delaware returned to revenue service last year. The railroad’s Sharon Slaton tells us, through the pages of employee publication Amtrak Ink, that a corner post step and door frame were damaged following a collision in Sunnyside Yard in the Bronx. It returned to service on November 19.”


Sunnyside is in Queens, not the Bronx. One can see it from a passing Long Island Rail Road train, or the No. 7 subway line. Maybe you were thinking of Metro-North’s Mott Haven yard, in the Bronx? Amtrak doesn’t go there much anymore – they haven’t since service to Grand Central Terminal stopped a few years ago – but they certainly go to Sunnyside.

Phil Nasadowski
Glen Cove, N.Y.

Several readers noted the error. – Ed.

Dear Editor:

I see you sourced a story on SEPTA from a Pittsburgh TV station. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s (SEPTA) miserable on-time performance has been an issue only because of Delaware Valley Assn. of Rail Passengers (DVARP) putting pressure on the SEPTA’s board and management. The record – now 20 straight months with 10 percent or more of SEPTA’s trains being late and an OTP of 84 percent for calendar 2003 – has been front-page news in our newsletter for a while.

Among other things, we determined that SEPTA trains ran late twice as often as even the worst of its peers, and that other railroads can manage 97 percent or 98 percent while dealing with bad weather, freight trains, and Amtrak. In fact, SEPTA’s goal of 91 percent on-time performance would still make it the worst major commuter railroad in the nation.

Matthew Mitchell
Editor, The Delaware Valley Rail Passenger

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THE WAY WE WERE...  The way we were...

Frisco engine

NCI: Frisco; Leo King collection

The St. Louis-San Francisco Ry. Co., known far and wide as the “Frisco,” began most notably as the St. Louis & San Francisco Ry. (1876-1896) and the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad (1896-1916), but it its last corporate name was created in 1916. In 1980, the Burlington Northern absorbed it. The Frisco operated in Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, but it never got to California until it became BN property.

End Notes...

We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, we'd like to hear from you. Please e-mail the crew at Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write.

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