Destination:Freedom Newsletter
Destination:Freedom
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
  NCI Logo Vol. 2 No. 4, January 29, 2001
Copyright © 2001, NCI, Inc.
James P. RePass, President
Leo King, Editor
 

A weekly North American Railroad update


Alco S-4 305

Two photos, Scott Whitney via nerailpic@topica.com

Bombardier's house switcher crew with their engine 305, an Alco S-4, switch empty flatcars that were used to bring Acela car shells to the plant. A pair of Acela cars awaiting delivery are on the adjacent track. The 305 is pulling the cars away from the camera, then will move them over into the Bombardier yard for Green Mountain engine 803 (an EMD GP-9, below) to tie on at the other end and head down the hill. The Bombardier plant is located high on a hill in the village of Websterville, Vermont, deep within granite quarry operations.

EMD GP-9 803
Mineta gets Senate nod
for top USDOT job
By Wes Vernon
Washington Correspondent

Like the proverbial hot knife through butter, the Senate as Transportation Secretary confirmed Norman Mineta within minutes of his confirmation hearing. And like the good politician that he is, he did not tip his hand on policy matters any more than he had to.

At the Senate Commerce Committee hearing, Mineta's opening statement and accompanying background documents said nothing about Amtrak and very little about railroads in general or mass transit.

While the new secretary's views on Amtrak were not clear, the hearing told us more about Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) and what he has in mind than it did about future Bush administration policy.

McCain won out in the last Congress in a battle to prevent passage of the High-speed Rail Investment Act (HSRIA) aimed at granting Amtrak bonding authority to implement plans for infrastructure enabling high-speed rail corridors around the country. His argument was that this legislation had been rammed through in omnibus budget legislation, circumventing his committee.

There was a reason for that, of course. Senators Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), Bill Roth (R-Del.), and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) knew full well that McCain would have moved heaven and earth to make his committee a burying ground for the bill. As he moved to kill the measure in the closing days of the 106th Congress, the Arizona senator faithfully promised Moynihan, Roth, and Lautenberg (all of whom were retiring and had hoped to cap their careers with this accomplishment) that he would give the high-speed bill a fair hearing in the next 107th Congress.

But now the 107th Congress is here, the three prime sponsors are gone, and Chairman McCain is again emphasizing his long-held hostility to Amtrak, notwithstanding that Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott and Democratic Leader Tom Daschle have promised to co-sponsor the high-speed bill early in this session.

In his opening statement, the chairman declared it was "high time" for the administration and Congress "to debate the role of passenger rail." Notwithstanding the senator's comment in a recent Washington Post article to give a fair balanced hearing to legislation advancing passenger rail service in the U.S., he gave every impression at the Mineta hearing of an intent to weight that "balance" with his thumb on the scale.

Every committee chairman has that prerogative, of course, but if the senator from Arizona conducts future hearings on passenger trains with the hostility exhibited in his few Amtrak comments the other day, we can likely expect to see a demonstration of why sponsors of the bill to get high-speed rail off the drawing boards last year deemed it wise to try to avoid the McCain committee.

Said he: "I oppose Amtrak's back door attempts to get even more funding under the guise of always being near 'self-sufficiency... ' Amtrak and its many champions tout Amtrak's ridership and revenue growth, yet it has the highest operating losses of its history. Amtrak ridership is essentially flat through its history while that of other modes has grown. We need to oversight Amtrak's financial performance and service demand."

Amtrak's "many champions" would note that the passenger rail schedule and map have been "essentially flat through its history" and that it is a law of physics that if you do not add more trains, people won't ride them. On the other hand, partially to make up for the trains that Amtrak has not added, mainly because of budget constraints, the airlines have added to their schedules big time. The result has been "winglock" at airport after airport, a problem that Senator McCain acknowledges is serious.

About a year ago, Amtrak issued what some call a "wish list" for expanded service. But once again, budget constraints and attention diverted to problems with the startup of the Acela high-speed service in the northeast have combined to leave much of that new service unrealized.

Amtrak drew strong bipartisan support among other committee members.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said, "I listened to the chairman on Amtrak. Only if you include depreciation and capital expenses can you conclude they're not improving. The actual operating loss has decreased. Amtrak cannot be judged properly without provision of capital to do the job."

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), at a later point in the hearing declared, "all modes have taxpayer capital subsidies. I don't mean operating subsidies. We should all strive for Amtrak's operational self-sufficiency, but not starve them on capital. When we see crowded highways and airports, there is no question that we need to keep rail as an option."

McCain would have none of it. He urged Mineta to examine studies of Amtrak by the Congressional Government Accounting Office (GAO) and the DOT Inspector General (OIG).

Those reports are indeed critical of Amtrak operating procedures in the past. But nowhere do they suggest Amtrak ought to be eliminated. Moreover, my conversations with people who write those papers suggest they tend to fault "the party line" on Amtrak; i.e. that Amtrak should forever remain more or less "just as it is," with little room for innovation. That may or may not be fair, depending on your point of view, but it hardly amounts to a crusade to shut down passenger trains in the U.S.

McCain insisted that "the problem is not just lack of capital, but the continuing operating losses, something we were assured wouldn't happen by (October 1) 2002 after the last capital boost we gave them."

No one on the panel brought up the fact that Amtrak's "business plan" is behind schedule because of the failure of the Bombardier-Alstom consortium to deliver the high-speed Acela trainsets on time. It is barely starting up now nearly a year and a half behind schedule. Nonetheless, the Amtrak board steadfastly maintains (despite advice from some of its strongest supporters) that with the high-speed trains phasing in over the next few months, the passenger train corporation will meet that operating subsidy deadline.

When Senator Hutchison asked Mineta if passenger rail would "be a priority for the new administration, and not walk away from Amtrak's capital needs," Mineta replied he was awaiting the conclusions of the Amtrak Reform Council (ARC).

"They have the charge on operating self-sufficiency. We will need to wait for their report and see what progress has been made. There is a question of limited financial resources and seeing where to make them work. The issue of operating subsidies is what's being looked at by the ARC. Capital, I think, is one that has to be looked at. The capital starvation of Amtrak means that it is not operationally successful. With my limited knowledge, I have to explore what's needed to make it work."

That statement, including the phrases "question of limited financial resources" and "capital starvation of Amtrak" in nearly the same breath left the committee without a firm roadmap as to where the new Bush administration intends to take us. We do know that the Republican Party platform called for a national rail passenger system.

A source inside Amtrak was not bothered by Mineta's ambivalence, noting that every incoming transportation secretary walks a tightrope on Amtrak at first. The recently departed DOT secretary, Rodney Slater, was similarly indirect when taking the reins for the Clinton administration.

That is because Amtrak has traditionally been so relegated to the back burner of national debate that every new administration is not quite sure what to do with it.

Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) put in a plug for the proposed Southeast high-speed rail system, extending from Washington on south to Richmond and North and South Carolina and Georgia. Allen, a freshman senator who is a former governor of his state, has familiarity with the desire of many of his constituents for the rail alternative.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) reminded the incoming secretary, a fellow Californian, that the Golden State carried seven million Amtrak passengers last year.

"Amtrak is very important to us," she said, "and I hope we don't have to have a terrible fight over Amtrak... if we don't get behind Amtrak, we can't live up to being a world economic leader."

Still, McCain would not let go, saying rail passenger service was not viable beyond the Northeast Corridor and California, a statement that will come as news to Amtrak Chairman Tommy Thompson who, as the governor of Wisconsin has pushed along a plan to implement a high-speed rail plan throughout the Midwest, while having brought about increased rail service to his state.

"Their (Amtrak's) labor costs are high," said Senator McCain. Here, he touched on a sore point that sometimes divides the pro-Amtrak coalition. Three years ago, Tom Downs was ousted as Amtrak president when he refused to blink at the prospect of a strike that would have shut down the Northeast Corridor. At the time, NARP was pointing out that Amtrak service employees receive wages that are higher than pay for comparable jobs in other modes, notably the airlines. But ever since then, few have broached the issue. It is a case of "letting sleeping dogs lie."

McCain added that taxpayers in Arizona should not pay for such little service in Arizona.

"I think it's an important issue. I think it's important that the taxpaying citizens of my state not be asked to pay their tax dollars over and over again for a transit system which has basically disappeared from our state."

During a previous hearing on Amtrak, the senator had claimed to have no passenger trains at all in Arizona. We listed the Arizona stops on the Amtrak schedule. Now he refers to "little service" back home.

If the senator's only complaint with Amtrak were that his state is underserved, the Amtrak route planners would undoubtedly welcome his suggestions for doing something about that.

But needless to say, it goes far beyond that. I have covered Amtrak's political battles for 30 years and have seen many Amtrak critics come and go. Some of the criticisms were very sharp. But it could be argued that the two critics over the years who have focused like a laser beam on their dislike for the rail passenger service above and beyond all others are OMB Director David Stockman in the 1980s and McCain in the present era.

Stockman was somewhat counter-balanced at the time by DOT Secretary Elizabeth Dole and FRA Administrator John Riley. We may witness a real test as to whether Congressional Amtrak support will be sufficient to offset McCain.

To understand the senator's capacity to bulldog an issue once he gets a burr under his saddle, one has only to view his determination on his other current and more publicly visible effort: campaign finance reform.

Only a completely focused politician could present the nation with a situation where a candidate for president loses the nomination and then months later spends an hour at the White House telling the new president (the winner) that he (the loser) has a "mandate" for his signature issue, even though the president disagrees and even though campaign finance reform does not register in the top 40 (according to a recent poll) of concerns among the voters of America.

The word for that is unvarnished determination. And when a U.S. Senator, in a chance meeting, confronts a cheerful Amtrak supporter who is also the governor of a state and angrily regales him with his dislike of Amtrak, you know he means business.

The Mineta nomination was voted through the McCain committee before all the questioning of the nominee had been completed. After that, it went straight to the Senate floor where it passed, 100-to-nothing.

The only other comments on railroads during the Senate panel discussion dealt lightly with the diminishing number of Class 1 lines through mergers. Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) and John Breaux (D-La.) made reference to that. Rockefeller bemoaned the railroads "would not allow each other into competition." This is known as "open access." The industry rejects the idea of forcing one railroad to let a competitor to use its facilities. Breaux was unhappy that there are "fewer and fewer" railroads and airlines and urged Mineta to use "the bully pulpit" to deal with it.

Norman Mineta is now the Secretary of Transportation, and he has several balancing acts on his plate.


Carmody named NTSB vice-chair
One of President Clinton's last acts before leaving office on January 20 was to name Carol Carmody as vice-chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). She had been an NTSB member since June 2000, and is now the accident investigation group's acting chair for a two-year term. Her board member term expires December 31, 2004.

Former chairman Jim Hall resigned earlier in January with the change of administrations.

Before joining the board, Carmody, from Louisiana, worked as an independent aviation consultant, focusing on international and environmental issues. From 1995 to 1999, she served as the U.S. representative to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the United Nations body responsible for international civil aviation standards. From 1988 to 1994, she was a professional aviation staff member on the Senate Commerce Committee responsible for aviation legislation. She also spent 11 years with the Federal Aviation Administration, including three years as deputy director for Congressional Services.

Carmody holds a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Oklahoma and a master's in public administration from American University in Washington, D.C.


Corridor lines...

Full Michigan service restarts

Amtrak has targeted February 2 as the day to resume all of its Michigan service - and will use all Superliner equipment.

A railroad spokesman said the older equipment is more resistant to harsh winter weather than the Horizon and Amfleet cars, which frequently froze in near-record cold and heavy snow in December.

Amtrak Intercity president Ed Walker told reporters last week that in order to lure passengers back, and to reward them for their patience, the railroad will offer free companion fares for travel on all Michigan routes between February 1 and March 10.

Amtrak suspended two Chicago to Pontiac, Mich., round trips, as well as the Chicago-Janesville, Wis., Lake Country Limited in late December.

(See D:F of January 8, 2001) - Ed.)


Eagle swings back to main iron
Amtrak train No. 21, the Texas Eagle, formerly exiled by UP to directional running on the former Cotton Belt between Texarkana and Big Sandy, returned to the former Texas & Pacific route between Texarkana and Jefferson on January 21. It enters Kansas City Southern tracks at Jefferson, and is routed via Sulphur Springs, Greenville, and Wylie to Dallas using former Santa Fe tracks south of Wylie, now owned by KCS. Union Pacific is performing track maintenance on their line between Big Sandy and Dallas, and the work is expected to continue for six weeks.

Roanoke looks for passenger trains once again
Roanoke, Va., should fight to get passenger rail service again because it's an integral part of the city's railroad heritage and a future tourist draw, former Mayor David Bowers told Roanoke City Council on January 22. Bowers heads a special council-appointed committee that is trying to find a way to bring back passenger rail, which Roanoke has not seen since the 1970s.

The committee recommended that the old Norfolk and Western passenger station be restored as the hub for the new initiative. The passenger station is owned by Center in the Square, a nonprofit city cultural organization, The Roanoke Times reported.

Plans are in the works to redevelop the passenger station as a new home for the Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the History Museum and Historical Society of Western Virginia, which could potentially house O. Winston Link's world-renowned railroad photography. The plans could also include passenger rail service, Center in the Square Director Jim Sears told council members.

The committee recommended that taxpayer money be used to fund all or a portion of the project, which could cost several million dollars. The council took no action on the recommendations, but it asked its city manager to review the committee's report and offer her own recommendations later.


Frieght lines...

Judge orders UP engineers back to work

A judge ordered the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and more than 8,000 striking Union Pacific engineers to halt a Saturday morning walkout, which threatened to disrupt the nation's largest rail carrier, the company said.

U.S. District Judge Lyle Strom issued a temporary restraining order early Saturday, shortly after the walkout began, said John Bromley, a UP spokesman. The Cleveland-based BLE said the strike was the result of new qualification standards for personal leave that were implemented at the start of the year.

"While we disagree with the court, and are confident that our legal position ultimately will prevail, we will respect the court's order", said BLE president Edward Dubroski.


Earnings down sharply

NS to lay off up to 2,000;
plans to restructure as well

Norfolk Southern (NS) said last week it intends to lay off up to 2,000 employees, pay only six cents a share to stockholders for the quarter, and begin a financial restructuring. The company paid 20 cents a share in the previous quarter, July-September 2000.

In a press release, NS stated it would begin "a work force reduction of 1,000 to 2,000 employees over the next 12 months, which will be in addition to programs announced in 2000." Both management and agreement-covered jobs will be affected.

The job reductions will be in addition to layoffs and early retirements that affected 3,500 jobs in 2000 and cut the firm's payroll to 33,000 people a spokesman said. Yet to be determined is whether the jobs will be eliminated through cuts, early retirements, or both.

Since NS took over part of Conrail in June 1999, NS has laid off hundreds of union workers and offered buyout packages to non-union employees. The number of workers has declined about 2,500 throughout the system, the Roanoke Times reported. Those steps saved the company $27 million, but the railroad said it needed to make more cuts.

NS chairman David R. Goode blamed escalating diesel fuel prices as the culprit, as well as a declining U.S. economy. Declining coal traffic was also a factor. Coal is a major staple of NS traffic.

"Our results reflect both the successes of improved operations and the challenges of significantly higher diesel fuel prices and a slowing economy. We are taking aggressive steps to improve our financial performance while reaffirming our commitment to safety and customer service," he said.

The press release stated, "The charge reflects a voluntary early retirement program elected by 370 of 846 eligible employees and certain voluntary separation programs elected by 157 employees."

The railroad directors said they would pay common stock shareholders on March 10 to stockholders of record on February 2.

"The dividend reduction was a difficult decision but a necessary component of our restructuring, which is part of a series of planned actions that Norfolk Southern is taking in response to the economic slowdown and changes in our transportation markets," said David R. Goode, NS chairman, president and CEO.

"These actions further align our company with changing economic realities," he said.

Other actions the freight carrier will be doing include selling 12,000 surplus freight cars, a line rationalization program targeting 3,000 to 4,000 underutilized or duplicate track miles over the next 24 months, consolidating or disposing of [read: selling] up to 10 underutilized or redundant facilities."

Goode also said the company is going to redesign its service network, and it has hired "MultiModal Applied Systems, a railroad consulting firm with a successful track record of helping railroads reduce operating costs while improving service levels."

NS operates about 21,800 miles of road in 22 states, the District of Columbia and the Province of Ontario.

In financial details, NS reported on January 24 that its fourth-quarter net income was computed by "excluding the effects of a workforce reduction charge of $44 million, or $0.11 per diluted share, compared with $31 million, or $0.08 per diluted share, for the fourth quarter of 1999."

Including the effects of the charge, which amounted to $39 million, or $0.10 per diluted share, fourth-quarter reported results were $5 million, or $0.01 per diluted share.

For the full year, net income, excluding the effects of workforce reduction charges in the first and fourth quarters, was $273 million, or $0.71 per diluted share, compared with $239 million, or $0.63 per diluted share, in 1999. Total workforce reduction charges in 2000 were $101 million, or $0.26 per diluted share. Including both charges, reported net income for the year was $172 million, or $0.45 per diluted share.

Railway operating revenues for the fourth quarter were $1.5 billion, 2 percent higher than the comparable period in 1999. While fourth-quarter revenues were not as strong as expected, Intermodal posted another record quarter of $306 million, 14 percent higher than the fourth quarter of 1999. General merchandise revenues were 2 percent higher than the comparable period in 1999, driven by a 9 percent increase in automotive revenue. By contrast, coal revenues for the quarter declined 6 percent due to weak volume.

In 2000, railway operating revenues of $6.2 billion were 17 percent higher than 1999, reflecting a full year of operations in the Northern Region.

Railway operating expenses, excluding the workforce reduction charges, were $1.3 billion, down 1 percent, for the quarter, and $5.4 billion, up 19 percent, for the year. Diesel fuel costs, which were more than 50 percent above 1999 levels, had a significant impact on expenses. Annual expenses also were affected by a full year of operations in the Northern Region.

The railway operating ratio, excluding the workforce reduction charges, was 88.2 for the quarter and 87.0 for the year, compared with 90.8 and 86.3 for the respective periods in 1999.

None of the announcements surprised Tom McCoy, general chairman of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes.

"The elimination of further jobs is not a result of the economy, which has slowed down a little bit," McCoy said. "NS couldn't deliver the product in a timely fashion. A lot of business went to other railroads, and, he added, "Mergers are not good for working people."

McCoy said, "Who in their right mind would think NS would take two money-making railroads and make a disaster out of one?"


For sale: Maine freight railroad
The Bangor & Aroostook Railroad, a transportation lifeline for the industries of northern Maine, is facing a severe cash crunch and may have a new financial partner or new owner in a few weeks, according to the Portland, Me., Press Herald of January 21.

Dan Sabin, the chief operating officer of the railroad, said the cash crunch was caused by difficulties in putting together refinancing 18 months ago, but he insists that the line is cutting its losses and will end up close to breaking even for 2000. The carrier has about 450 employees.

Despite that, he said the company needs a cash infusion from a new partner and would be willing to look at offers to buy the 858-mile railroad, which runs through northern Maine, with lines into New Brunswick to the east and Quebec and Vermont to the west.

In December, the railroad returned 28 locomotives to a leasing company because of a dispute over payments. Sabin said the dispute with the locomotive leasing company occurred, in part, because B&A had a lot of mechanical problems with the engines. The rail line is getting by with fewer locomotives by relying on other lines to use their own equipment to move some of their cars through Maine and by cutting back on service.

Some areas that were served by B&A six or seven days a week are now on a three-times-a-week schedule, Sabin said, but that also reflects a falloff in demand over the winter.

Sabin said the rail line hoped to line up about $60 million to pay off the original debt and provide operating cash, but both lenders it was working with ended up being sold themselves. The new owners then halted the financing at about $45 million, he said, and B&A has been dealing with the consequences since August 1999.

Paper companies in northern Maine rely on the railroad to deliver raw materials and chemicals they need to make paper and to take the finished product to market, including the J.D. Irving Co., a Canadian conglomerate, which not only uses B&A to move its products through Maine to U.S. markets, but also relies on the railway to feed its own line, the New Brunswick Southern Ry.

Mary Keith, a spokeswoman for the company, said, "For us, it's not only a product issue, it's an interline issue." She said the parent company is concerned enough that it has worked out an agreement with B&A to run its New Brunswick trains through to Montreal if B&A stops operating. She said the agreement needs federal approval and would only be used as an interim measure to keep freight moving.

"We have the locomotives and the people trained to keep the line running, should this be required," she said.

The lack of capital has also made it difficult to keep the rail lines upgraded, Sabin said, noting that the company spent $7 million this year replacing and repairing track and rail ties. He said it costs about a half-million to lay a mile of new rails. The same amount buys about 10 miles of new ties, but the railroad's lines had gone years without substantial repairs before Iron Road bought it, Sabin said, and more work is needed while the lines are carrying more freight than they have in recent years.

"The lines that we have have not seen the kind of tonnage we've had on them for many years," he said.


Weber gets new job at Conrail
Gregory R. Weber has been named president of Conrail, effective February 1. He succeeds Timothy T. O'Toole.

The remaining sliver of the former giant, Conrail, is a jointly owned subsidiary of CSX and NS, and provides local freight service and coordinates operations in the "Shared Assets Areas" created primarily to serve NS and CSX in New Jersey, Philadelphia and Detroit.

Conrail's directors made the change last week.

Weber was formerly CSX's vice president and treasurer. Management did not state where O'Toole went.


FV&W want to abandon 34 miles
The Surface Transportation Board reported recently that the Fox Valley and Western Ltd. (FVW) has filed an application to abandon its rail line between Green Bay, Wis. (MP 4.78) to New London (MP 38.98). That is about 34.2 miles though Brown and Outagamie counties.

If the STB approves the application, the railroad will be able to salvage track, ties and other railroad appurtenances, and to dispose of the right-of-way.

The rail line runs in an east-west direction and is located just east of and parallel to Wisconsin State Highway 54.

During 1998, 350 railcars moved over the line, the railroad told the STB, while 313 railcars were moved during 1999, and 82 railcars were moved as of September 28, 2000. FVW stated that the "significant reduction in rail traffic results from a substantial portion of the grain and fertilizer traffic no longer moves over the rail line."

The railroad said it was making arrangements, where necessary, with all remaining shippers, including any overhead rail traffic.


Lines across the pond...

Brits prepare for fast trains;
tracks nationwide get fixed

Railtrack PLC, which owns and operates the U.K. rail infrastructure, said on January 15 it will take a charge of $857 million (580 million in pounds sterling) in 2001 to meet repair costs and compensation payments following a rail crash at Hatfield in October. It will also pay 20 million to cover the cost of floods that hit the UK in the same month.

Railtrack expects to pay train and freight operating companies some 400 million sterling in compensation for disruption to the rail network, some 50 million more than originally expected. The cost of re-railing to replace cracked rails and points renewal will amount to 180 million.

A broken rail is believed to have been the main cause behind an accident at Hatfield in southern England, in which four passengers died.

Elsewhere, later this month, with governmental approval, the first major contracts for the second section of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link will be awarded as planned. The award of these contracts mean that the construction of the final phase of the UK's first high-speed line into London can begin as planned in July and the overall construction timetable maintained.

A second round of contracts are expected to be signed in February, which will bring the total value of let contracts to almost 600 million. More than 170 million has already been spent on advance works for Section 2 which will complete the new line from Southfleet in north Kent to London's St Pancras Station. London & Continental Railways (LCR) is contractually committed to construct both sections of the CTRL with or without Railtrack.

Railtrack's option is to purchase Section 2 upon completion of the CTRL in 2007, and they have until 2003 to take up this option. The British government is in discussion with Railtrack about its involvement. LCR is exploring alternative financing structures, which may or may not involve Railtrack at this stage.


We Get letters...

Editor:

I am a Past Commodore of the Bush River Yacht Club in Harford County, Maryland, and have been following the plans to upgrade the Northeast Corridor to accommodate the higher speed trains such as the Acela. My specific question is about the Amtrak bridge across the Bush River at Perryman point. I had heard that the recent funding bill included funds for upgrading this bridge and am interested in finding out if there are any plans to either replace or upgrade this bridge. I have talked with many of the boaters on the Bush River and there seems to be agreement that if this bridge were replaced by a fixed span with 15-16 feet clearance from the waterline the need for the drawbridge and scheduled openings would be eliminated and the large number of boaters using this waterway would be able to traverse the river without concern for their ability to get under the current bridge (12 feet clearance). Any information regarding the Bush River Bridge would be greatly appreciated.

Frank Abbott
Past Commodore
Bush River Yacht Club

We asked Amtrak on Wednesday morning via e-mail if they could find an answer for you. We got a partial response from Cliff Black in Washington, Amtrak's chief spokesman, who forwarded your query to the folks at the Northeast Corridor public affairs office. We had not received a response from them as of 5 p.m. Friday.

Black told us, however, "The Bush River drawbridge has been an operating headache for many, many years. At one time, in the 1980s, Amtrak proposed closing it permanently, since it requires a maintenance-of-way crew to open and close. The USDOT intervened (in the form of the US Coast Guard), and some federal money was forwarded for the purpose of slightly upgrading the bridge's mechanism. It still requires MW crews for its openings and closings on Sundays during boating season. Apparently the bridge doesn't have sophisticated automatic rail miters, etc., and is very costly to operate." - Ed.


Editor:

You have a headline and first line error in [last] week's D:F. It is Michigan which is paying $5.7 to subsidize trains, not Indiana. Although the news item is datelined South Bend, this refers to the State of Michigan's agreeing to continue to state subsidy for the Pere Marquette and the International.

Kaz Fujita
East Lansing, Mich.

Thanks for showing us the errors of our ways. - Ed.


Editor:

Are you following the dispute between Norfolk Southern and, on the other side, Amtrak and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and the disabled community, concerning the installation of handicapped persons' high-level platforms at the ends of commuter station platforms?

Unsigned

We are reluctant to publish unsigned letters, but sometimes they lead to good stories. We'll let you know via these pages if we learn anything: - Ed.


The way we were...


NCI: Leo King

The date was Sunday, October 17, 1954. How can we be so sure? Because the photographer still has the "souvenir coupon," the ticket stub, from that day so long ago. The Budd cars left Providence at 6:30 a.m. enroute to Springfield via the Washington Secondary (or was it the Worcester line via Valley Falls, R.I?) on a New England Railfan's Association trip over the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Co. The red ticket was No. 81. The photog recalls Flat Rock River Reservoir and a rock cut in Connecticut, so chances are pretty good the trip ran over the Washington Secondary to Hartford, then turned northward on the double-track main between New Haven and Springfield.
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 leoking@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write.

Destination: Freedom is partially funded by the Surdna Foundation, and other contributors.

Journalists and others who wish to receive high quality NCI-originated images that appear in Destination: Freedom may do so at a nominal fee of $10.00 per image. "True color" .jpg images average 1.7MB each, and are 300 dots-per-inch for print publishers.

Destination: Freedom's editor, Leo King, also writes for "ThemeStream," a forum for writers and readers. King's articles are all rail-related, and mostly chronicle events over the last ten years on the Northeast Corridor, particularly in New England. Look for his articles at http://www.themestream.com under the heading "Travel," and the sub-heading, "Riding the Rails."

In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other rail travel sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives - state DOTs, legislators, governor's offices, and transportation professionals - as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists.

If you have a favorite rail link, please send the uniform resource locator address (URL) to the webmaster in care of this web site. An e-mail link appears at the bottom of the NCI web site pages to get in touch with D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCI's Site in Boston.


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