Vol. 5 No. 5
February 2, 2004

Copyright © 2004
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

Destination: Freedom
The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - Jim RePass      Editor - Leo King
Washington, D.C. Bureau Chief - Wes Vernon
Webmaster - Dennis Kirkpatrick

A weekly North American rail and transit update
* Now in our Fifth Year *

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


The Empire Builder

For NCI: Peter Van Dyke

Amtrak is sustaining winter woes around the nation especially with frozen equipment. Eastward train No. 8, the Empire Builder, last week got stuck in Minnesota after an avalanche derailed a BNSF freight train. On New Year’s Day, No. 8 passed through Marias Pass, east of Summit, Mont., before the heavy snows came. The train operates daily between Chicago and Seattle. The weather story is below.

 

Damn the torpedoes

Amtrak and Gunn: full speed ahead

By Wes Vernon
Washington Bureau Chief

Destination:Freedom has learned that Amtrak will forge ahead with a budget request for fiscal year 2005 that reflects the passenger railroad’s assessment of its real needs to restore the trains to a state of good repair – regardless of the fact that Congress slashed the Amtrak request for the current fiscal year.

Amtrak wanted $1.8 billion for the current year, which ultimately was cut back to $1.22 billion, or $1.32 billion if you factor in a deferral on a $100 million USDOT loan to Amtrak a couple of years ago to avoid a shutdown.

DOT had requested only $900 million, which Amtrak said would have been a “shutdown” budget.

This time, Amtrak President and CEO David Gunn believes his 20-month-old regime at Amtrak has additional ammunition, as it wades into another rock ’em, sock ’em battle on Capitol Hill.

Pouring over the 2003 ridership figures at his desk at Amtrak headquarters above Washington’s Union Station, Gunn would have to be enjoying a strong measure of satisfaction. Lower fares, restructured routes, and more convenient schedules (according to Gannett News Service) have attracted the most passengers in Amtrak’s history. Ridership was up by 600,000, or 3 percent, over 2002.

If the Amtrak boss looks out his window, he can see the Capitol Building and possibly think to himself, “Okay, we’ve shown what we can do. We’ve cut the fat out of the system, implemented sound business and marketing practices. Now, our customers – who are our constituents – need your support, hopefully beyond just getting by.”

The 2004 limp-along budget Congress finally handed him will not deter Gunn from submitting a 2005 budget request that he thinks is necessary to operate the system efficiently and restore it to a state of good repair.

“It has always been Mr. Gunn’s philosophy to lay out the facts in a clear detailed way, and let policy-makers respond accordingly,” Amtrak spokesman Dan Stessel told D:F in an interview, “so we will make the case that bringing Amtrak to a state of good repair is in the best interests of everyone, regardless of how you feel about Amtrak.”

Last November, when a final 2004 figure was settled, Gunn said it would take “a month or so” to “assess the impact of this funding on our current budget.”

That time span has run its course, and soon Amtrak will spell out any deferred maintenance that might be necessary, as well as what management believes is needed to run the passenger trains in a customer-friendly manner. No bells and whistles or grandiose plans for the future. Gunn’s whole approach is to run the present system well, and defer expansion until such time as Congress appears disposed to give him the money for it.

In preparation for Amtrak’s budget request, officials have been using the past couple of months to “retool the five-year plan [announced last year], prioritize capital projects under [that] plan, and report that the prioritization [is] complete.” That information and the 2005 request will soon be rolled out for the public.

Amtrak’s “overall assessment” will focus on what it can do with “a lower appropriation this year” as well as what its “needs are going to be going forward,” to quote Stessel.

“We’re kicking the can down the road [with the lower 2004 funding],” the Amtrak spokesman said.

To which one might add that “deferred maintenance” gets to problems that directly impact the passengers.

There have been such anecdotal incidents as faulty air conditioning in Florida and non-working toilets in sleeping car facilities. This winter has been hard on rolling stock. Is that the kind of “deferred maintenance” that will occur as a result of the 2004 cutback?

“I don’t have the details on it yet,” Stessel responded, but “I imagine that there will be effects on all aspects of our capital program, be it infrastructure, tunnels and tracks or mechanical in the form of cars and refurbishments, everything down to seat cushions.” Nothing, short of safety, the number-one rule of any railroad, is sacred.

Labor unions representing about one third of Amtrak’s unionized workers are not convinced that safety will be all that sacred.

As D:F has reported, they are keeping their options open for a possible one-day walkout to make their point. Amtrak insists that safety is rock-solid, no matter what. The rest of Amtrak’s unions reject the walkout option and join Amtrak management in labeling such “job action” counter-productive.

Moreover, Stessel said the Gunn regime has improved the reliability of its equipment nationwide “in a measurable way.”

The present focus is “convincing lawmakers that we are good stewards of the public funds – that we will deliver on our promises, and that increases in our appropriations will produce positive measurable results.”


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Snow wreaks havoc on railroads

Compiled from press reports

Once again the Northern Tier, Mid-Atlantic States and New England ran into foul weather last week, with snow, ice – freezing temperatures – stalling trains and locking up coaches. Forecasters said on Thursday the bitter cold would not end for another two weeks.

An avalanche in Montana stalled freight and passenger trains.

Amtrak trains on the Northeast Corridor operated on a modified schedule on January 28 “to minimize service disruptions and protect equipment from extreme conditions,” the passenger carrier told the regional media. Only 80 percent of the trains operated Wednesday. Usually 120 trains run weekdays.

Five northbound and four Acela Express trains were cancelled while No. 2151 operated only between New York and Washington, D.C. instead of through to Boston. From Boston, No. 2175 operated only as far as New York. Seven Metroliners and three regional trains were also annulled.

Amtrak said passengers who held tickets for trains that would not operate that day would be “accommodated on the next available train, usually within 60 to 90 minutes. Any applicable exchange fees will be waived for affected passengers.”

There were no schedule adjustments affecting the Empire Corridor between New York City and Albany, nor the Keystone Corridor between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pa.

Amtrak planned to operate on a normal schedule in the Southeast, but Mother Nature had other plans.

“Due to icy conditions, commercial power outages, frozen switches, signal problems and freight congestion on CSX-owned track south of Richmond,” Amtrak stated in a press release, and several trains were “significantly delayed,” including the Silver Meteor, the Silver Star, and the Palmetto, all operating from New York to Miami. The AutoTrain, running from Lorton, Va. to Sanford, Fla. was also delayed.

D:F has learned Amtrak is running out of equipment to operate in the East because cars are failing faster than the shops can fix them. Its eastbound Three Rivers, train No. 40 of January 27, had three Viewliner sleeping cars, but only the 62042 was in revenue service. 62025 and 62014 were deadheads, unserviceable and heading for the shops due to freeze damage and burst piping.

Meanwhile, that day’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited, No. 48 had no Boston sleeper and was missing a Boston coach, and no serviceable cars available. The one remaining Boston coach (21461) was a Corridor Amfleet I. The lounge was the 20013, a Corridor Café car. Also, a New York line coach was missing because of no car availabilities.

The Boston section splits off from No. 48 at Albany-Rennsselaer, N.Y. and continues to the Hub as No. 448 over CSX’s Boston Line (the former New York Central/Boston & Albany line).

The westbound Lake Shore Limited, No 49 of January 27 had one Boston coach line protected by a Corridor Amfleet-I, the 21160.

The train had no lounge car at all. No usable lounge, dinette or café in New York (Sunnyside Yard). A New York line coach was also missing with no spares available.

Broken engines

AEM-7 locomotives are doing reasonably well under the circumstances. 19 were out of service last week, which is 37 percent – six more than Amtrak's “goal.” Six were out for scheduled maintenance, but the same could not be said of the15 HHP-8s. Ten were out of service; and only two for scheduled maintenance. Amtrak’s goal is four HHPs out of service t any one time.

A report from the Midwest said that Amtrak contacted a major private car owner to see if he had any cars available for lease to Amtrak so they would have sufficient equipment to protect. He didn't. Currently, 112 active roster passenger cars are out of service on the Northeast Corridor. 18 are Acela Express, leaving 94 conventional cars out of service. Of those, 44 are for scheduled maintenance.

NS shuts down

Norfolk Southern told its customers it was invoking a “force majeure at noon on January 26 on all traffic originating or moving through affected area.” A winter storm moving through the Midwest and into the Northeast was “hampering Norfolk Southern operations across a wide area.” Conditions included freezing rain, wind, ice and snow.

“Although operations continue at all locations, delays are expected due to conditions associated with this storm. Customers with shipments moving through this area should expect delays.”

Meanwhile, CSX reported signal and switch failures were playing havoc with Atlantic Coast schedules. Amtrak’s southbound Palmetto, train No. 89 of January 27, was seriously delayed in the 70 miles between Dillon, Florence and Kingstree, S.C., after which the crew “blew up” after completing 12 hours on-the-job. Their hours of service expired just south of Kingstree, and a relief crew had to be sent to the stopped train. The Palmetto arrived in Charleston some 22 hours late.

Several major Northeast airports were shut down and flights canceled on the 28th, as was Greyhound Bus Lines.

Amtrak advised, “Passengers in areas impacted by winter weather are advised to take mass transit to the station, allow extra time for boarding, and use extreme caution on exposed station platforms.”

The Richmond, Va., Times-Dispatch told its readers weather was still affecting transportation statewide, and travelers continued to face delays, cancellations on planes and trains. Amtrak hoped to return to normal in the city after experiencing what it called “significant” delays on some passenger trains traveling through the Carolinas on Tuesday.

Spokesman Dan Stessel said at least three trains were delayed between Richmond and Miami, and two others were canceled.

In Trenton, N.J., The AP noted, “Fat flakes of snow fell over a crunchy glaze of ice across the mid-Atlantic and Northeast early Wednesday, though the worst of the storms tapered off before the morning commute.” Motorists expecting to plow through drifts of snow in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts were mostly finding roads slippery but passable.

The National Weather Service said up to 10 inches of snow had fallen in northeastern New Jersey, but forecasters said the heaviest snows had passed through and only another inch or so of additional accumulations was expected.

The snow was the latest weather headache for the winter-weary in the East. Snow, ice and cold blanketed the eastern half of the nation since the weekend. At least 50 deaths were blamed on the weather.

Many school districts had canceled classes for Wednesday, and others were planning delayed openings. Hundreds of flights had been canceled since Tuesday at Newark Liberty International Airport, where 9 inches of snow was on the ground early Wednesday.

Forecasters had predicted up to 13 inches of snow overnight in Albany, N.Y., but only 3.5 inches fell, said National Weather Service meteorologist George Maglaras. A winter storm warning was canceled for eastern New York.

New York City public schools, the nation’s largest system with 1.1 million students, were closed Wednesday. Eight inches of snow fell over the city, the National Weather Service said.

Many schools closed in anticipation of major snowfall in Rhode Island, but only half of the 10 inches of snow originally predicted for parts of the state materialized.

In Massachusetts, continued cold and dry conditions also resulted in the “snow having a hard time getting to the ground,“ said meteorologist Alan Dunham of the weather service.

Connecticut’s snowplows worked through the night clearing roads. Rick Dematties, a storm monitor for the state transportation department, said the roads were in relatively good shape for the morning commute.

Metro-North switched to a Sunday schedule on Wednesday after 9:00 a.m. because of very light ridership. Railroad spokesman Dan Brucker said the commuter railroad wanted to conserve and preserve its electric train equipment, which doesn’t do well in the snow. he said there were scattered 10- to 15-minute delays throughout the system during the morning rush hours.

Earlier, The New York Times noted on January 23, soft, flaky snow kicking up on tracks, coupled with the cold, had “knocked Metro-North railroad cars for a loop and has left their riders with a commuting headache.”

Railroad officials said that one-quarter of the cars have had electrical problems so severe they have been removed from service and that the situation could get worse before it improves. Trains have been canceled and others combined in an attempt to compensate, but lateness has been on the increase and cars have been filled beyond capacity.

“We always get asked why we can’t prepare for this,” said Dan Brucker, a spokesman for the railroad, but preparation is impossible, he said, because the fleet is chronically vulnerable to bitter cold weather and soft snow – “and we can’t retrofit, reconfigure or redesign it.”

Most of the railroad’s approximately 800 train cars are electric, and many, made three decades ago, use traction motors that suck in snow through ventilators and electric boxes that are low and exposed and thus prone to getting wet and short-circuiting.

Keeping the trains rolling is no easy task, Brucker said. Though repair work is going on around the clock, replacement parts cannot be pulled off the shelf because much of the equipment needs to be rebuilt or custom ordered, he said. There are also no guarantees that once back in service, a car will not break down again. Even if it has not snowed in a while, snow that sits on the track kicks up as the trains travel over it, causing trouble.

“There are no indicators or ‘check engine’ lights,” Brucker said. “It’s just bing, it’s finished.”

A measure of relief may be on the way, though too late for this winter. By the end of February or in March, Metro-North will be receiving 180 M7 model cars, made by Bombardier Transportation, with electrical components that are better protected. The Long Island Rail Road already has 200 M7s in operation, and Brian Dolan, an LIRR spokesman, said they had been performing very well in the cold and snow. LIRR has fewer than 100 cars out of service out of a fleet of about 900, Dolan said.

A spokeswoman for New Jersey Transit said their cars have not been having difficulty in the snow.

As for Metro-North, it is still an open question how much fixing a quarter of the fleet will cost.

Said Brucker: “Our first concern is getting the service back. We’ll figure out the bills later.”

No. Train 48, the Lake Shore Limited of January 28, departed Chicago six hours and 18 minutes late. It turned from No. 49, which arrived five hours and 26 minutes late.

Things weren’t much better in the U.S. northern tier along the Canadian border.

Two separate avalanches hit a BNSF freight train near Essex, Mont., on January 23, and 15 cars derailed. The AP reported the avalanches closed the tracks used by Amtrak’s Empire Builder.

No one was injured.

A BNSF official said because of the avalanche danger in the area, the Empire Builder would not be permitted on the section of track until at least Friday (January 23) after the route was cleared.

“The slides occurred due to extremely heavy snowfall,” said Gus Melonas, a BNSF spokesman in Seattle. He added, “We’ve had 60 inches of snow in the area.”

Winter storm warnings remained in effect, the National Weather Service said.

Three locomotives and 119 empty grain cars were en route from Pasco, Wash., to Great Falls, Mont., when the first slide struck about three miles west of Essex, near the southern edge of Glacier National Park.

The slide hit near the middle of the train, knocking seven cars off the tracks, Melonas said. While the train was stopped, another slide hit near the rear of the train about 15 minutes later, knocking eight more cars off the track, he said.

Crews were attempting to remove the snow, derailed cars and other debris from the double-tracked route. Melonas said the line was expected to be closed until Thursday morning, and then open only for freight train use until at least Friday.

Amtrak’s Empire Builder, which runs from Chicago and Seattle, operates on BNSF’s Hi-Line track across northern Montana.

The westbound Empire Builder – which left Chicago on Tuesday – arrived in St. Paul 15 hours and 49 minutes late. The train terminated at Minneapolis, and its equipment ran deadhead to Chicago behind Amtrak’s No. 8, the eastward Empire Builder.

An 18-year Amtrak track department veteran tells us “going back many years, it has been Amtrak’s custom to annul scheduled service on the Northeast Corridor during periods of expected high snow accumulations and replace it with hourly service.”

He added, “During snowstorms it usually becomes impossible to maintain a schedule.”

He explained, “Amtrak found out a long time ago that during snowstorms the public is satisfied with the hourly service sans amenities such as business class, Metroliner service and, now, Acela Express service.”

He asked rhetorically, “What’s the sense in selling tickets at a high fare for an Acela Express train that won't move any faster than a Clocker? That's why the AEs are usually the first trains to be annulled. It has more to do with that than the reliability of the equipment in the snow.”

During snowstorms, many of the local airports either close down or annul the shuttle flights between New York, Boston and Washington.

“Passengers are usually grateful that Amtrak has something that is at least moving,” he said.


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Capon urges single rail bill in Senate

The National Assn. of Railroad passengers is urging its members to ask their senators to press Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) and Thomas Carper (D-Del.) to agree on a single rail amendment which could be offered as a floor amendment to the big highway and transit reauthorization bill that could be on the floor as early as today.

Ross B. Capon, NARP’s executive director, said on Friday “negotiations between the three offices have been ongoing, but some issues remain unresolved.”

The passenger rail organization noted “Time is short and you can convey your sense of urgency. If a multiyear transportation bill moves forward in the next few weeks, it will be a long time before a similar opportunity will appear again.”

Last year, a bipartisan deal was reached on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee about some key labor issues that needed resolving.

Capon said he hoped that deal, “which took a long time for the House to reach, would be easily accepted in the Senate.”

He said it was supported by rail labor, the rail freight industry, and key House Republicans and Democrats, and is part of ARRIVE-21 (S.1912), “but Senator Hutchison's AREA (S.1505) is silent, and thus far she has indicated no willingness to include the labor provisions in a compromise bill.”

Capon stated “Hutchison understandably has placed high priority on improving the on-time performance of Amtrak’s Texas Eagle, but as a result she proposed that if Amtrak cannot run a route 80 percent on time within five years, the route should be let to ‘private operators.’

That upset the freight railroads, which oppose giving other operators statutory access to their tracks.

It also does not address the on-time performance problem. Freight congestion and dispatching causes the majority of delays and railroads, Capon asserted, and the fright carriers “won’t give better handling to a private operator whose existence they oppose.”

A “simple 80 percent calculation makes no distinction between trains that are 35 minutes late and six hours late,” he said.

Capon suggested “The real solution to on-time performance is capital investment to address legitimate chokepoint issues. Both bills provide funds and procedures for that.”

He explained “There can be creative solutions that do address on-time performance, like insuring that any on-time performance penalties are appropriately aimed and only take effect after infrastructure improvements have been done.”


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Iraquis war-torn engine

Rick Degman

This is the kind of destruction Iraqi railroaders are trying to either repair or replace. The engine was built by the Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Works of the People's Republic of China in 2002.Former Amtrak private car and charter manager Rick Degman is in Iraq. He is now helping to rebuild the Iraqi Republic Railways. (Photo via http://www.on-track-on-line.com/foto-iraq.shtml).

 

Iraqis study Amtrak, UP

Six officials from the Iraqi railroad visited Amtrak operations and Union Pacific Railroad last Thursday in Omaha.

The tour was a lead-up to a meeting today (Monday) in Washington, D.C., with about 75 U.S. companies interested in selling equipment or services for reconstructing the Iraqi railroad.

The officials from the government-owned Iraqi Republic Railways Co. spent three days in Chicago before taking Amtrak to Omaha. The U.S. Trade and Development Agency, according to the Omaha World Herald of January 30, coordinated their visit.

“This visit is really an eye-opener for them,” Dan Stein, the agency’s regional director for Eurasia, said from Washington.

“For the last 20 years, they have not been exposed at all to the most up- to-date technology in railways, so their eyes are being opened by what they see.“

UP spokesman John Bromley said the group toured the railroad’s Harriman Dispatch Center Thursday morning and would spend the rest of the day and part of Friday at the company’s downtown Omaha headquarters to talk with company officials.

Visiting UP also gives the Iraqi officials the opportunity to see equipment in use that it might purchase from other companies, Stein said.

Iraq’s rail system is “not in a good state of repair,” Stein said.

“It has not had a lot maintenance done over the years,” he said. Some lines are operating, but track and equipment need to be repaired or replaced.

Supplemental funding targeted more than $200 million for rebuilding Iraq’s railroad.

“Their needs are probably much, much larger than that over the longer term,” Stein said.

So many businesses responded for Monday’s meeting that registrations had to be cut off, he said. They range from such large, widely known companies as General Electric and General Motors to “some smaller companies that you probably have never heard of before.”

Before returning to Iraq, the group also will meet with the AAR, the FRA and with U.S. government financial organizations.

“There’s such a high level of interest in meeting with them that they have almost no free time,” Stein said.

On February 2, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) will conduct a briefing for U.S. firms on business opportunities associated with rebuilding Iraq’s railways.

The briefing, according to a USTDA press release, “will enable U.S. firms to meet with senior officials who are directly responsible for the development of Iraq’s railway reconstruction projects and the allocation of resources.”

They will all be meeting at the USTDA Business Center at 1000 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. It will be on the 15th floor.

“USTDA is pleased to play an important role in facilitating the reconstruction of Iraq’s railways,” said USTDA director Thelma J. Askey.

“Many U.S. firms possess products and expertise that may benefit Iraqi planners as they move forward with reconstruction of the rail sector. I look forward to learning the results of the contacts made at this important event,” she said.

Iraq’s railroad system “lacks the tools, machinery and spare parts necessary to maintain equipment,” she said, and added, “Much of the rolling stock is out of service due to lack of spare parts or the need to repair damage caused by looting. The track system is currently in a state of disrepair. Moreover, the lack of a signals and communications network is a safety risk and limits the system’s capacity. Additional needs exist in the area of repairing and acquiring locomotives, rail cars, intermodal facilities and equipment.”

In short, they need everything.

Seven Iraqi railroad officers will be attending the meeting, including Salam Jabur Salom, the Director General, and operations director Matti Yacoub Matti. Mechanical and MW officers will also attend, as well as a computer operations officer, and others.

Gordon Mott, Senior Rail Advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), will accompany the delegation and participate in the U.S. business briefing. The briefing will open with presentations by the delegates on their projects and procurement needs, followed by one-on-one meetings with U.S. firms.

Under the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act (P.L. 108-106), $210 million has been allocated for the reconstruction of the Iraqi railroad. Export opportunities for U.S. firms exist in the areas of reconstructing and upgrading tracks, track maintenance equipment, procuring and refurbishing rolling stock, intermodal and container handling equipment, rail control and signaling equipment, and communications and information technology.

Registration is required for the free meeting. Interested U.S. firms should contact Mike Koeppen or David Elliott at (202) 429-5245, or send an e-mail to MAK@KEALTD.com. The event is open to U.S. firms only and is expected to fill to capacity. Early registration is strongly encouraged.


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Mineta opens NYSE trading;
USDOT unveils new indicator

USDOT Secretary rang the bell Thursday morning to open the New York Stock Exchange. He did so because it was the first day for the federal agency’s brand new “Transportation Services Index (TSI),” described in a DOT press release as “A new economic indicator intended to measure the performance of the economy as reflected in the movement of freight and passengers.”

The new index will focus on the movement of freight and passenger traffic by land, water and air. DOT expects the TSI will join the ranks of other monthly indicators in providing a reliable benchmark on the overall strength of the American economy.

“Wall Street understands how important numbers are for gauging financial health,” Mineta said.

He noted, “The new Transportation Services Index will fill a crucial void by finally giving us a single number to measure how much transportation means to the American economy.”

The TSI will use monthly data on freight movement and passenger travel in the for-hire transportation sector. Analysts from the Department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) will weight and seasonally adjust the data to allow monthly and year-to-year comparisons.

The freight measures in the TSI will include freight railroad services, for-hire trucking and parcel services, inland waterway traffic, pipeline movements and air freight.

The passenger transportation measures will include intercity passenger rail, local transit, and air passenger transportation. The first TSI numbers will be released in March.

The index does not include intercity bus, sight seeing services, taxi service, private automobile usage, or bicycling and other non-motorized means of transportation.

The transportation sector accounts for 11 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product and employs over 11 million Americans, Mineta said.

At the New York Stock Exchange alone, there are 39 transportation companies listed that together represent a current market value of over $181 billion.

Mineta said the TSI will provide the first-ever single measure of the transportation sector’s impact on the economy.

“The TSI will show just how much keeping the economy moving is about keeping America moving,” he said.

Details on the new index will appear on the BTS website, www.bts.gov.


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Corpus Christi looks for Amtrak

A Texas group met with Amtrak officials on January 24 to discuss marketing and promotional issues for two of Texas’ rail lines.

Extending Amtrak’s service into Corpus Christi was not a scheduled topic of discussion at the meeting, but local officials and members of the Texas Eagle Marketing and Performance Organization, or TEMPO, said bringing Amtrak and TEMPO together in Corpus Christi was a step in that direction.

Tom Niskala, president of the Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce, said he hoped the visit could be a starting point for bringing an extension of railway service into Corpus Christi, according to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times of January 25. That could happen in one of two ways, he said. Either Amtrak will extend the rail line to the city, or they will establish a bus connection, in which passengers could get off the train in San Antonio and onto a bus.

Amtrak’s Texas Eagle runs from Chicago to San Antonio, but connects to trains that reach more than 70 cities, including Los Angeles. The route was in jeopardy of being closed by Amtrak until last week, when the Senate approved a $1.2-billion-dollar subsidy for the railroad.

Amtrak has had trouble garnering enough riders to maintain business in Texas. In 1997, the Texas Eagle Mayor’s Coalition secured a bridge loan from the state that enabled Amtrak to continue operations. The Texas Eagle Marketing and Performance Organization was originally set up as an oversight committee to supervise Amtrak’s use of the loan.

Now, the organization is dedicated to furthering grassroots marketing of the Texas Eagle service, as well as promoting travel and tourism for communities along the route.

Kim Lemley, director of tourism for the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, said “This is a service that would benefit our local citizens and the tourism industry as it offers other means of transportation linking San Antonio to Corpus Christi,” she said.

Lemley also credited John Wright, a local architect and a TEMPO member, with bringing the two groups together in Corpus Christi.

“Typically, they would not meet in a city where they don’t have service,” she said. Wright said that he has had trouble getting local political representatives and city officials to warm up to the idea of finding ways to bring rail service here.

“The response of the community is perceived as an indicator of our desire to have this service in Corpus Christi. I don’t think that there has ever been an effort made to do that. I just don’t think anyone has stepped forward in the city,” he said.

One of the challenges politicians might be facing in pursuing the issue, he said, is that Amtrak is currently in a mode of non-expansion – but one option would be to establish a private railway that links Corpus Christi and San Antonio that Amtrak would operate, according to Fred Babin, manager of transportation at the Port of Corpus Christi.

Babin, who also attended the meeting, said that because Amtrak is a business, ridership potential in the area would be a primary consideration.

Mark Magliari, a media relations manager for Amtrak who attended the meeting, said that extending service into Corpus Christi “has been a long time coming,“ although a workable deal was not something he foresaw in the immediate future.


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Amtrak plays sharply;
violinist can now relax

“Things happen,” said Gidon Kremer.

The violinist was exuding much more calm than you might expect from someone who had left a $3 million violin on a train a few hours earlier.

“I can’t justify myself,” added the acclaimed, Latvian-born violinist, after being reunited with his instrument at Meyerhoff Hall in Baltimore, where he was the guest artist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Thursday through Saturday.

He said, “I can only explain.”

Tim Smith, the Baltimore Sun’s music critic, told his readers on January 29 Kremer arrived at Baltimore’s Penn Station from New York on an Amtrak train in the same condition he spent the past 10 days of his U.S. tour: sleep-deprived. “I haven’t slept one night all the way through,“ he said.

Before heading to Baltimore, Kremer learned that a violinist in the Kremerata Baltica, a chamber orchestra he founded in 1996, was sick and couldn’t make an Asian tour scheduled to start in a few days.

“I was preoccupied with that from the moment I sat down on the train to the moment I got up as we approached Baltimore,“ he said.

Used to traveling with only a garment bag and his violin, Kremer had a large suitcase as well yesterday, since he will be heading off for that Asian tour from there.

“I took the violin off the shelf, put some papers into the case, then grabbed the suitcase and garment bag,“ Kremer said, “but then I suddenly realized I had left a pencil on the table. A pencil is a most usable tool for musicians, and we’re always losing them. I put the violin back down, grabbed the pencil, put it in my pocket and got off the train.”

Waiting at the station was Jeremy Rothman, the BSO’s associate artistic administrator.

“I saw he had only two bags with him,“ Rothman said, “so I asked, ‘is this everything’ – and I could see his face suddenly change.”

The train was already winding toward Washington by that point, with unexpected, unguarded cargo - a blue cloth case with a gold-colored tag bearing the name “Gidon.” Inside, a Guarneri del Gesu violin, dated 1730 (“but most likely made in 1734,“ Kremer said), estimated value $3 million.

“I was not paralyzed completely,” Kremer said about his reaction when he realized what had happened. “I still trust people.”

By the time the train pulled into Washington’s Union Station, Amtrak officials were waiting. Seasoned lost-and-found baggage handler Mike Famiglietti secured the violin, which was subsequently picked up by Thomas Cirillo, a member of the Vilar Institute for Arts Management at the Kennedy Center, who offered to bring it up to Meyerhoff Hall.

Meanwhile, Kremer rehearsed with the BSO on an instrument lent to him by BSO violinist George Orner.

“I am incredibly grateful to all the people who helped me,” Kremer said, cradling the returned fiddle. “I have heard stories about other violinists losing their violins, but never believed such things could happen.”

Kremer performed Jean Sibelius’s Violin Concerto, and Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No, 1, Titan. James Judd conducted.


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Sunset Limited’s route:

CSX fixes tracks east of New Orleans

CSX will be carrying out major trackwork between New Orleans and Jacksonville in March, and it will require all traffic on the line to be suspended.

Amtrak’s Train No. 2, the eastward Sunset Limited, originating in Los Angeles on March 10, will operate as far as New Orleans. Passengers will be required to transfer to a stub train (1002) from New Orleans to Orlando. That train will only have two coaches and a café car.

No. 2 originating in Los Angeles on March 12, 14, 17 and 19 will operate only to New Orleans, and there will be no alternate transportation east of the Louisiana city.

Train No. 1 that would have originated in Orlando on March 14, 16, 18 and 21 will operate instead from New Orleans to Los Angeles only and will depart New Orleans one day later on March 15, 17, 19 and 22.

There will be no alternate transportation between Orlando and New Orleans.

Train 1 originating on March 23 will run as a stub train (1001) from Orlando to New Orleans with two coaches and a café car. Passengers will be able to transfer to full equipment in the Crescent City.

The first trains to resume operating through between Los Angles and Orlando with all normal equipment will be No. 2 on March 21. No. 1 will originate in Orlando on March 25.

Amtrak noted, “As in any situation where Amtrak does not provide the service paid for, passengers are entitled to refunds for the service not provided.”


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N.J. Dems pass up train ride

The power train will be missing a few big wheels this year, reports the Newark The Star-Ledger.

New Jersey’s Democratic leaders – Gov. James E. McGreevey, Senate President Richard Codey and Assembly Speaker Albio Sires –skipped the January 29 Chamber of Commerce-sponsored train ride to Washington, D.C.

The trip is a decades-old Trenton tradition where lobbyists and executives schmooze with the elite in New Jersey government, including legislators, Cabinet members and key staff members. In years past, more than 1,000 people have crammed onto an 18-car Amtrak train for the ride to the nation’s capital and a dinner honoring the state’s Congressional delegation.

Kevin Friedlander, the trip’s chief organizer, said attendance by New Jersey governors has historically been hit or miss, but he couldn’t remember the last time none of the state’s three top officials was on board.

This year marks the first time since 1991 that Democrats have full control of state government. Friedlander noted that while the leaders are skipping the ride, many Democratic lawmakers will be aboard.

“We still have 70 legislators going, and they are a pretty powerful group, so we’re not disappointed. Of course we’d like to see the Assembly speaker and the Senate president take the train, but that’s life,” Friedlander said.

Micah Rasmussen, McGreevey’s spokesman, said the governor planned to take a 7:00 a.m. train to Washington and attend several individual meetings with members of Congress. He would also deliver a speech to the annual dinner sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, which occurs after the train ride.

“It is an opportunity for him to go down there and get some work done,” Rasmussen said of McGreevey’s decision to take an earlier train.

Codey said he seldom takes the train and skipped the ride last year. He said he plans to fly down to attend the dinner, but he may cancel those plans because bad weather this week has fouled up his schedule.

Sires skipped both the crowded train ride and the dinner.

“I’ve got a million things to do,” Sires said. “I never liked the train ride. Last year, I didn‘t go.”

McGreevey’s two top advisers, Jamie Fox and Eric Shuffler skipped the event altogether, but a handful of aides from the governor’s office and at least four Cabinet officials rode the train.

The annual New Jersey Chamber of Commerce train from Newark to Washington DC is running Thursday January 29 and returning Friday January 30. It is one of the longest passenger trains to operate on the Northeast Corridor. Last year’s train was 18 cars, just a bit shorter than the current Palm Beach School Safety Patrol Special, which doesn’t go north of Washington. In some years the New Jersey Chamber train had to be run in two sections because it would otherwise have exceeded the maximum allowable train length.

A report from the Midwest says that a major private car owner was contacted by Amtrak to see if he had any cars available for lease to Amtrak so they would have sufficient equipment to protect this move. He didn’t. Currently, 112 active roster passenger cars are out of service on the Northeast Corridor.18 are Acela Express, leaving 94 “conventional” cars out of service. Of these, 44 are for scheduled maintenance.

As of Wednesday, 19 AEM-7 electric locomotives were out of service, which is 37 percent of them, “and six more than Amtrak’s goal,” wrote an observer of the railroad online. A half-dozen are out for scheduled maintenance.

The same cannot be said of the 8,000hp HHP-8s.Out of the 15 in the class, 10 are out of service, and only two for scheduled maintenance. “Amtrak’s goal of four HHPs out of service seems like a dim, faraway hope.”


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ON THE MAIN LINE...  On the main line...

Train ride home was ‘long and sweet’

Chaperones aboard the Amtrak train carrying 1,000 fifth-grade safety patrol members home to Palm Beach County in Florida from the annual Washington, D.C., trip must have thought someone had it in for them.

First, a freight train farther down the line broke down. That, coupled with ice and snow freezing the railroad lines, caused the train to slog along on a 12-hour delay.

The Palm Beach Post of January 28 reported that meant food needed to be brought on board for the unexpected sixth day of the outing, starting with breakfast in Florence, S.C.

Amtrak’s answer to the most important meal of the day: Krispy Kreme doughnuts and sodas.

“They were pretty sugared up,“ said trip coordinator Chuck Shaw, and district’s instructional support director, “but they had fun. They did what kids do.”

“It was fun hanging out with our friends,“ said Austin Mobley of H.L. Johnson Elementary in Royal Palm Beach, adding, though, that he and his classmates got a little tired and homesick as the trip dragged on.

When this week’s group finally chugged into West Palm Beach’s Tamarind Avenue station Tuesday at 1:30 a.m. – 12 hours after its scheduled arrival – it unloaded tired and wired youngsters whose parents had monitored their progress through the trip’s web site, cellphone calls and calls from school officials.

“They were fine,“ Shaw said. “It was just another story for them to tell.”


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Le International: Au revoir, Canada

On April 25, we can all say goodbye to Amtrak’s International. It is being reincarnated as a Port Huron to Chicago train only.

Effective with the April 25 timetable change, trains 364, 365 won’t go to Toronto any more. No. 367 won’t be on the schedule any more, at all, either.

The new schedules of trains 364 and 365 have not yet been written, but Amtrak says it expects that 365 will leave Port Huron early in the morning, and No. 364 will depart Chicago in mid-afternoon.

Amtrak stated, “To avoid bookings to and from Canada that we know even now will not operate, effective April 25, trains 364, 365 and 367 have been shortened to operate Chicago-Port Huron only. The new schedules will be entered as soon as they are finalized.”

Via will continue to operate service between Sarnia, London and Toronto, but it will not connect with Amtrak at Port Huron.


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Travelocity adds Amtrak bookings

Travelocity business corporate customers of can now book Amtrak rail trips online.

The new option, believed a first for online corporate-travel agencies, could prove especially appealing to travelers along the Northeast corridor, where rail travel is often quicker and easier than air.

“Adding rail bookings to all of our other options online gives travelers one more way to enhance their travel,” said Ellen Keszler, president of Travelocity Business.

She said, “Corporate travelers are looking for greater control of their travel experience.“

Travelers at companies who use Travelocity Business can now enter their company’s private online website to view all possible options for a trip and decide which mode of transportation is most convenient or cost effective.

Companies can use controls in Travelocity Business to show corporate-negotiated pricing and inform travelers about which options are compliant with corporate travel policies.

Rail bookings are also available on Travelocity’s consumer website, at www.travelocity.com. Rail options there include RailEurope and VIA Rail Canada as well as Amtrak.


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Californians vie to keep rail plan

California and federal officials said last week they would move ahead with plans for a 700-mile, high-speed rail system that might cost up to $37 billion, a project opposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), who has said the price is too steep.

Joe Petrillo, chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, Reuters reported, said a 2,000-page environmental impact report on the proposed transit system would now be available for public comment for 90 days, a required regulatory step.

The system has drawn opposition from Schwarzenegger, who has proposed that lawmakers remove from the November ballot a nearly $10 billion bond measure that would finance the initial phases of the system’s construction. The governor, who supports limited financing for further planning on the rail system, is opposed to an expensive borrowing plan to break ground on the system while state’s finances and economy remain wobbly, a spokesman said.


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Poconos line to get $2.5 million

More than $11 million in federal aid to Morris County, Penna., including $9 million for transportation items including the Lackawanna Cutoff rail project, was approved last week in the omnibus appropriations bill that also okayed Amtrak funding.

Lackawanna Cutoff rail link will get $2.5 million, and the Mount Arlington train station, $2.2 million, the Newark Star-Ledger reported last week.

The proposed $200 million Lackawanna Cutoff would link the Poconos and New York City with a passenger railroad that restores an abandoned rail link in Sussex and Warren counties. It would parallel traffic-clogged Route 80, hopefully reducing traffic as the highways runs through Morris County, according to proponents.

The money would finance completion of all environmental and other study requirements of the Federal Transportation Administration, with a goal of moving the project to the engineering stage this summer, said Morris County Transportation Director Frank Reilly, who chairs a bistate panel on the plan.

“This money is exactly what we needed,” said Reilly.

The project entails laying 60 miles of new track and installing signals, parking, a train storage yard and six stations, in Andover Township; Blairstown; Scranton; Mount Pocono, Pa.; Analomink, Pa.; and East Stroudsburg, Pa. Construction is still at least three years away at best, officials said.

Meanwhile, the Mount Arlington train station project, also designed to ease Route 80 traffic, is about two to three years from opening, said Reilly. It is hoped the federal government will provide the remaining $2.2 million of the estimated $4.4 million cost in next year’s federal budget, he said.


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Amtrak helps new college students

Amtrak is helping prospective college students find a campus they like with a buy-one-get-one-free offer. It’s exclusively for prospective students and their parents or guardians.

The “Campus Visit” discount program, which enables high school juniors and seniors to travel for free when accompanied by a full-fare-paying parent or guardian, has also been upgraded to allow students to make their travel plans online.

“Choosing a university is a major decision, and Amtrak has made it easier and more economical than ever to make that decision with the Campus Visit discount,” said Barbara J. Richardson, Amtrak vice-president of marketing and sales.

The campus plan is online at www.campusvisit.com/amtrak.htm.


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Lines fighting terrorists…

Feds warn of possible terrorist threats

There is a continuing terrorist threat against U.S. subways and railways, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stated in a bulletin sent to law enforcement agencies on January 28.

“Recent intelligence indicates a continued terrorist interest in conducting attacks on U.S. subways and railways,” the bulletin said.

“Although the FBI possesses no information indicating a specific threat to subways and rail systems in the U.S., the potential for an attack cannot be ruled out,” the departments stated.

Both the FBI and DHS said Usama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda terrorist network has had a long-standing fascination with the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, Fox News reported.

“An attack on a subway or rail system could cause substantial loss of life, and would have an adverse impact on public confidence, resulting in massive economic loss,” the bulletin said.

Sarin is most known for the March 1995 terrorist attack by the Aum Shinrikyo religious cult, when members released the gas at several points in the Tokyo subway system, killing 11 people and injuring more than 5,500. The terrorists left punctured packages of liquid sarin in subway cars and stations, which gave officials time to seal off the affected areas.

The bulletin describes possible attack scenarios, such as train derailment, trackside bombs and chemical or biological attacks.

“Public rail transportation is highly accessible, making critical assets such as signal boxes and communication lines vulnerable and difficult to protect against attack,” according to the bulletin. “Passenger railcars, subways and underground transfer stations with large numbers of people in confined spaces represent potentially attractive targets for terrorists.”

The FBI and DHS said that timetable and operating schedules are publicly available and therefore accessible by terrorists.

“Internet sites provide information regarding the location of critical rail assets for train command and control,” the agencies said, and added, “U.S. rail and subway systems play a vital role in urban public transportation and freight movement, carrying considerable economic resources. Attacks on rail systems require less planning, training and materials than attacks against large passenger aircraft or cruise ships, potentially increasing their attractiveness to a diminished Al Qaeda.”

The FBI warned law enforcement and security personnel to remain alert to potential pre-operational planning and for any attempts by people to bring explosives or chemical devices on a rail or subway system.


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Graffiti artists point out failings

At 2:00 a.m. on a wet Wednesday in December, a graffiti artist who calls himself “Serk” was in a railroad tunnel not far from the Washington Monument, spray-painting his tag on the wall in bright blue, orange and magenta. On an adjacent track, less than 10 yards away, a train hauling toxic chemicals rolled by.

“See?” Serk whispered after the last car passed. “It wouldn’t be hard at all for someone like al Qaeda to wait right here for the right train with the right poison and bang! Goodbye, Washington.”

The Wall Street Journal reporter Robert Block told his readers on January 23 normally Serk prefers to talk about paint, not politics, but in recent months, he and several of his friends have become important players in a local legislative struggle. Washington’s city council is considering passing a law to regulate or even ban the movement of dangerous chemicals through the District of Columbia on the grounds that such shipments are tempting targets for terrorists. If the ordinance passes, Washington would be the first city in the country to regulate all shipments of hazardous materials passing through by rail and road. Hearings on the proposal started January 23.

The bill is backed by a coalition of scientists and environmentalists, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. Its origins date back to a few months after September 11, 2001, when Rick Hind, legislative director of Greenpeace’s Toxics Campaign, started asking various federal agencies what was being done about the shipments of dangerous chemicals through the nation’s capital.

More than 1.7 million carloads of dangerous substances move annually on freight trains across the U.S. through hundreds of towns and cities.

About 28 percent of these pass through Washington en route to factories and chemical plants north and south of the capital.

Hind wrote letters and made calls to the USDOT, the Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service. In each case, he said, he was rebuffed. All three agencies decline to discuss the details of security arrangements for hazardous-material shipments.

Hind says that the government was so closemouthed he wasn’t even able to get confirmation that shipments of dangerous chemicals were passing through the nation’s capital. So he turned to an unlikely source of railway information: graffiti artists.

“Just as a spy satellite has a different view of the Earth, a graffiti artist has a unique perspective on his world from underneath bridges and inside tunnels,” Hind said.

Hind figured that since the street Picassos are always on the rails, they might know what was coming over the tracks. Under federal law, tank cars of toxic chemicals that travel by rail and road must be labeled so that in an accident, emergency crews know what they are dealing with (the UN or UA four-digit hazardous materials number codes).

Hind also sees the graffiti artists as living proof that the rails are not secure. Scott Davis, a former Amtrak police officer who, until 2001, ran an anti-graffiti unit in Washington said, “Graffiti on the rails means one thing: access.”

Through a network of friends and local artists, Hind sent out word that Greenpeace was looking for help from writers, as graffiti artists call themselves. It wasn’t long before several artists answered the call. Among them was Serk, a 27-year-old free-lance researcher and longtime wall scribbler. He agreed to be interviewed for this story on the condition that his anonymity be protected since he is vulnerable to charges of trespassing and vandalism.

Slight of build, the baby-faced Serk began his tagging career on the rails as a Washington teenager, at first just hanging out with graffiti writers and snapping pictures of their work. His tag is an acronym for Searching Eyes Recording Knowledge.

Serk and his friends paint almost exclusively along the railways because it is one of the few places in Washington that don’t get “buffed” or rubbed out by the city’s two “graffiti buster” cleaning trucks. The tracks belong to the railroad, and the district has no jurisdiction to go in and clean them up – and keeping your painting up for all to see is what the game is all about, Serk said.

“Graffiti writers have a romantic sense of ownership of the rails and tunnels around a city. Those are our spaces. That’s why we decided to help Greenpeace,” he said.

Over several weeks last summer, Serk and his friends guided Hind and Greenpeace photographers through broken fences to show them not only when and where to find trains carrying dangerous cargo, but also how to get right up next to them. All of the visits to the tracks were made in daylight hours. The trains moved slowly and rattled so loudly that it was easy for the graffiti artists and their companions – including a reporter on one occasion – to hide before engineers could spot them. Graffiti covered walls and pylons like a rash all along the track.

Serk’s tours confirmed Greenpeace’s suppositions about the daily frequency of hazardous-material shipments and how easy it was to approach trains carrying hundreds of tons of chlorine, ammonia, hydrogen fluoride and hydrochloric and phosphoric acids. Passenger trains and freight trains share the same tracks in and out of the District of Columbia, but instead of heading to Union Station, freight trains turn toward nearby Capitol Hill and the Mall and then swing south of the Jefferson Memorial.

CSX Transportation, the Jacksonville-based railroad that owns the freight rails running through Washington, acknowledged that trespassing and graffiti are problems, but denied that they signal a more serious security threat.

CSX and the AAR are fighting Washington’s proposed shipping ban, saying they are opposed to any local regulation of their business, and that their security measures are already sufficient to deter terrorists. Such measures, which they say are continually being improved, include frequent inspection of tracks and close monitoring of hazardous-material shipments.

CSX spokesman Bob Sullivan and the company’s security chief Skip Elliot said the new law would force them to reroute shipments, shifting the danger onto other communities.

“What’s then to stop these communities from following Washington’s example banning hazardous shipments? Rail transport would grind to halt,” Sullivan said.

On several occasions, at the request of the Department of Homeland Security, CSX has delayed, rerouted or suspended hazardous-material shipments, to prevent possible attacks on Washington, CSX and Homeland Security officials say. The most recent instance was during President Bush’s State of the Union address this week.

The FBI believes that the easiest place for terrorists to lay their hands on quantities of toxic chemicals sufficient to kill and maim thousands is a tank car.

“It is far easier to attack a rail car full of toxic industrial chemicals than it is to compromise the security of a military base and obtain these materials,” Troy Morgan, an FBI expert on weapons of mass destruction, told a chemical-security conference in Philadelphia sponsored by the American Chemistry Council last summer.

According to the chemical industry’s own published worst-case estimate, a leak from one 90-ton rail car of chlorine in downtown Washington would endanger the population within a 14-mile radius -- 2.4 million people.

Jay P. Borris, a chief scientist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratories in Washington, spoke to the council in October about the possible consequences of a terrorist attack. He said that in the first 30 minutes after a car with chlorine ruptured, people could die of pulmonary edema at the rate of 100 per second.

Based on the testimony of Boris and of Greenpeace on what it had learned on the rails from graffiti artists, three members of Washington’s 13-member city council, one Democrat and two Republicans, on October 21 introduced the local bill. It would require transporters of hazardous materials to seek a permit from the city for hazardous materials shipments that would be granted only if there is no possible alternative route.

The anti-terrorism proposal before the District would ban shipments of most dangerous classes of hazardous materials by road or rail through the nation’s capital.

If enacted, the ban would make Washington the first city in the country to block hazardous materials en route to other destinations from crossing its borders.

Federal regulators and railroad and chemical trade groups say federal interstate commerce laws preempt a ban. If allowed, they argue, such efforts would trigger a rush by other cities and states to shift the risk elsewhere, disrupting the economy more than an act of terrorism.

“If you ban shipments here, shipments are going to have to go through someone else’s back yard. The risk will go through someone else’s community,” said FRA associate administrator George Gavalla. Three people have been killed by a chemical release caused by a train accident in the U.S. since 1990, he said, and studies show rail to be among the safest modes of transportation.

D.C. Republican council members Carol Schwartz are sponsoring the bill and David A. Catania as well as Democrat Kathy Patterson, who say their aim is to bring federal officials and industry representatives together to discuss the issue.

At the hearing, Schwartz asked, “There are people who live and work in D.C. every day. There is not going to be a risk only when a collection of people who are not residents gather at the U.S. Capitol, is there?”

She added, “You have to recognize our concern. We’re not just one little community in the U.S. We’re the nation’s capital. We were targeted along with New York City.”

The debate highlights the unease among local officials at federal efforts to secure 1.5 billion tons of dangerous cargo a year.

In the nation’s capital, one of seven “high-threat” cities, local leaders complain that warnings from the Bush administration about the vulnerability of truck and train shipments are not matched with appropriate action.

Washington is a transit point for about 4,000 freight car shipments per year of hazardous freight, Gavalla said. Cargo rolls along CSX and crosses the Potomac River at the 14th Street bridge, runs south of the Mall and turns northeast. At their closest point, the rails come within four blocks of the U.S. Capitol.

Worst-case industry scenarios prepared to comply with federal environmental laws estimate that a catastrophic rupture of a 90-ton tank car of liquid chlorine would create a plume of toxic gas that would kill or injure people up to 14 miles away, a radius that encompasses 2.4 million people in the D.C. area, depending on weather conditions. A new city DOT threat assessment recommends that all such shipments be prohibited.

Spokesmen for CSX, AAR and the American Chemistry Council said the industry is working closely with government to add security safeguards, many of them classified. Railroads have added guards, increased surveillance, set up 24-hour links with federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, studied vulnerabilities and strengthened rail cars.

Bob Sullivan, spokesman for CSX, acknowledged the threat but objected to local bans.

Authorities halted hazardous rail traffic for days after the September 11, 2001, attacks. Since then, the government has found American chemical trade publications in al Qaeda caves in Afghanistan and arrested a man who was accused of helping al Qaeda by seeking out sites for possible train derailments along the East Coast. From time-to-time after the attacks, federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies issued warnings about securing trucks and tanker cars.

“The threat is not theoretical,” said Greenpeace’s Hind.

Hind said federal agencies have not addressed the issue and blamed the Bush administration’s close ties to industry. He noted that former CSX chairman John W. Snow is now Treasury secretary.

Brian Doyle, spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, said the agency works every day to take appropriate precautions. “Security is first and foremost. We also look to work with industry.”


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LABORLINES...  Labor lines...

BLET on GTW territory ratifies pact

Canadian National and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) reported on January 26 BLET members on the railroad’s former Grand Trunk Western (GTW) territory in the U.S. ratified a new labor agreement.

In contrast with traditional mileage- and rule-based wage systems dating back to the steam locomotive era, the agreement, effective February 9, provides hourly wages, job guarantees and more flexible work rules for 250 current BLET members on the GTW through August 31, 2005.

E. Hunter Harrison, CN’s CEO, said, “Our innovative, hourly-rated labor contracts for train and engine employees will make CN a more efficient, customer-focused railroad, while providing employees increased pay, job security and a better balance between work and home lives.

Harrison noted, “To date, CN has secured hourly-rated labor agreements in the U.S. covering 1,930 T&E personnel – almost 85 per cent of this employee population.”

BLET National President Don M. Hahs remarked, “The BLET, which recently merged with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, is at the forefront of negotiating groundbreaking labor agreements that boost the quality of life of our membership while, at the same time, increasing their levels of pay.”

Hahs said, “More than 61 percent of our membership at GTW voted in favor of this contract, which is a testament to the hard work and dedication of Paul Sorrow and John Karakian,” the chief negotiators.

The GTW’s main line between Port Huron, Mich., and Chicago is a primary link in CN’s corridor between the U.S. Midwest, Ontario Quebec and the Maritimes.


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BUILDERS LINES...  Builders’ lines...

Bombardier reorganizes rail group

Bombardier, Inc. president and CEO Paul Tellier said on Thursday Bombardier Transportation is being reorganized.

Tellier said the positions of president and chief operating officer is now split into two distinct positions.

The appointment of a new President for Bombardier Transportation is expected to be made before the end of March. Tellier said he would continue as interim president until the appointment is made.

Meanwhile, Wolfgang Toelsner was appointed Chief Operating Officer.. Toelsner was responsible for Bombardier’s Locomotives and Freight Division in Europe since 200l. He joined Bombardier in 1996.

Under the new structure, eight of the 10 operational divisions will report to the North American COO.

The Industrial Division, previously responsible for the European manufacturing network, is being disbanded. The various manufacturing facilities will become part of the respective product divisions, allowing each division to have direct responsibility not only for marketing, sales and engineering, but also for production. This means, for example, that the plants producing mainline products will be integrated into the Mainline Division, the ones producing light rail vehicles will become part of the LRV Division.

Elsewhere, the Mainline Division will be expanded to include the Metros Division as well as the Carbodies Division. The products manufactured by these two units are produced in the same facilities.


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‘Green Goat’ builders come to U.S.

The Canadian “Green Goat” builder is setting up shop in the U.S. as well.

RailPower Technologies Corp., of Vancouver, B.C., reported on Friday that it has formed a U.S. subsidiary called RailPower Corp. and will be based in Erie, Penna.

RailPower President and CEO, Jim Maier, who is president and a director of the subsidiary, said, “Having a U.S.-based operation is a logical step as we build up our U.S. commercialization program. The U.S. is our largest single market by far, and we need to have a physical presence in it.”

He explained, “Erie is an excellent choice because it is an area of wonderful technology for the rail industry with a wealth of experience and entrepreneurship to draw on, a fact we have already established by hiring a number of key staffers and consultants from there.”

General Manager Bill Hackett, who had been working as a consultant, manages the U.S. subsidiary, which is registered in the State of Washington.

Officers are Maier and Alain Voisin, RailPower’s CFO, who is also a director and the vice-president and secretary of the subsidiary. The remaining director is Frank Donnelly, RailPower’s chief technology officer.

“Green Goat” switchers “cut smog-precursor oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and dangerous particulates by 80 to 90 percent and diesel fuel use 50-80 percent, when compared to conventional switchers in the 1,000 to 2,000 horsepower range. They are built by converting old locomotives, typically at time of repowering, major overhaul, or when they have been scrapped, into modern, efficient and quiet hybrid locomotives,” Maier said.


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GPS to follow gons nationwide

MHF Logistical Solutions, Inc. and GE Rail are testing wireless devices that incorporate global positioning system technology to transmit real-time geographical position and sensor data via satellites. The processed data will be incorporated into MHF-LS tracking systems, and is expected to bring cost-effective remote monitoring and diagnostics systems for use in rail shipping.

The systems are being tested on MHF-LS’ private fleet of gondola railcars in use across North America.

If a problem is detected, diagnostic data and alerts are immediately sent to the customer. Functionality includes identifying cars with cargo that may have been tampered with, or cars that haven’t moved, may be misrouted, or are entering other areas of concern.

The MHF-LS/GE Rail pilot test program is expected to run until spring.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

Metro-North Harmon Shop

©2004 Joseph M. Calisi

Metro-North's Harmon shop has seen an increase in the number of electrical multiple unit cars (EMU) following traction motor failures caused by fine-grained snow entering the traction motors.

 

MTA board okays bond sale for cars

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board on Thursday approved advancing by 18 months buying 120 rail cars from Canada’s Bombardier Inc. for its Metro-North Railroad – but New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg doesn’t think it’s a good idea.

The purchase will be financed mainly with a $208 million bond sale.

MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow said, however, the cost of this speeded-up railcar purchase should be deducted from Metro-North’s next capital plan. New York City members of the MTA board had voted against the rail car purchase because it takes money away from the city’s buses and subway lines.

Reuters reported on January 29 the board also approved $2.8 billion of new money bond sales and a $220 million refunding. All the bonds will be issued through negotiated sales.

The list of approved bond sales include $750 million of MTA transportation revenue bonds or dedicated tax bonds in February, and several more bonds through the end of the year for the entire system, not just rail.

On Friday, The New York Times reported Bloomberg assailed the MTA on Thursday for voting to expand its capital budget by $231 million to buy new the cars.

Bloomberg, who wants the M.T.A. to help pay for an expansion of the No. 7 subway line and take over city-run private bus lines, suggested that the authority was short-changing the city.

“I think the MTA has sort of forgotten that they were created to be a regional transportation system," Bloomberg said. He added, “The center of the region is right here in the city. We have people in Co-Op City, we have people in Queens who don't have the kind of mass transit that they deserve, and the M.T.A. should focus on first providing that before they go and enhance the transportation they already provide elsewhere.”


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Remember

TRANSIT TAKES ACTION WEEK!

February 9 -13

Write your Members of Congress ask them to Reauthorize Now

Visit the Transit Action Center at http://www.apta.com

for sample letter and information.


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APTA Highlights...  APTA Highlights...

Here are some other transit headlines, from the pages of Passenger Transport, the weekly newspaper of the public transportation industry published by the non-profit American Public Transportation Assn. For more news from Passenger Transport and subscription information, visit the APTA web site at http://www.apta.com/news/pt.


Three Congressional Briefings Hone in On Transit

Public transportation was the focus of three Congressional briefings during the week before the U.S. House and Senate reconvened on January 20 to tackle a busy agenda with legislation affecting transit at the top of the list.

In preparation for discussions on appropriations levels and reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, the briefings focused on boosting the commuter benefit cap levels, the benefits transit provides to non-users, and transit’s contribution to improving the environment, public health, and energy use.


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Powell to Retire from San Diego Transit

Langley C. Powell, president and general manager of San Diego Transit for the past two years, says he plans to retire on March 1.

Before joining San Diego Transit, Powell was the first president and general manager of the San Diego Trolley, beginning in 1981. His career in transit began with the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad in the late 1960s, where he worked in both commuter and freight operations.

Powell came to San Diego Transit Ron Yagura retired in February 2002.


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Walsh to Retire as GM of King County Metro Transit

Rick Walsh will retire in March as general manager of King County Metro Transit in Seattle, a position he has held since 1996.

Walsh has participated in and overseen much of the coming of age of Metro Transit. His public transportation career in Seattle began in 1972, when he joined the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle as a transit operator after graduating from the Univ. of Washington. Seattle Metro became the regional transit system for Seattle and the greater King County area in 1973.

Walsh was first promoted to Metro’s transit planning department, and in 1981 he was named supervisor of operations and transit planning. In 1986, he became manager of service planning and market development for the transit system, and he became Metro’s deputy transit director in 1989. He moved into the general manager position with the 1996 merger of King County and Metro Transit.


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Carlton Sickles, ‘Father of Washington Metro,’ Dies at 82

Carlton R. Sickles, 82, a longtime member of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority directors – who has been called “one of the ‘fathers’ of the Metrorail system” – died January 17 at his home in North Bethesda, Md.

Sickles’ support of the Metrorail system predated the opening of the system by decades. In the 1950s, he served in the Maryland House of Delegates on a planning and study commission that set the stage for construction of the system. He was one of a handful of public leaders who laid the legal framework for the creation of the interstate compact that governs WMATA activities.

Sickles became a founding member of the WMATA board, representing Prince George’s County, Md., in 1967, and served almost continuously on the board since its inception. He was a past board chairman. At the time of his death, he was an alternate director representing Montgomery County, and chair of the board’s Safety Committee.


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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

Pats win, 32-29

Challenger makes tracks to Super Bowl

The world’s largest operating steam locomotive snaked its way across eight states and two time zones a fortnight ago, slowly heading for Houston and Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Union Pacific Railroad’s Challenger No. 3985, a 4-6-6-4, left its home base of Cheyenne, Wyo., dipped briefly into Colorado, then crossed portions of Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Arkansas, The Fort-Worth Star-Telegram reported on January 25.

“A lot of this trip is just about history,” said Mark Davis, a UP spokesman who was aboard the train.

“We have served Houston for years. The track that we will be coming in on was built in 1860. We’re just matching the world’s largest operating steam locomotive with one of the world’s greatest sporting events.”

The Houston Tap & Brazoria Ry., a UP predecessor, built the original tracks. It is among the oldest railroad routes in Houston.

The 122-foot 2-6-6-2 articulated steam engine was built in 1943. It rides on 72-inch drivers and can reach a top speed of about 70 mph.

“No. 3985 was built for fast freight service. It was retired in 1959, but UP employee volunteers restored it to running condition in 1981 for special service,” UP said.

The train is used every year on a trip from Denver to Cheyenne, Wyo., and the Cheyenne Frontier Days, Davis said. There are generally two or three special excursions each spring and summer.

This winter trip is even more dramatic.

“In this cold weather, the steam just billows out,” Davis said. “It looks impressive.”

The response to the train “has been phenomenal,” he said.

The Challenger was scheduled to spend one night in St. Louis, but because of mechanical problems it ended up staying in the Missouri city four days.

The public turned out every day to see the giant steam engine. In Chester, Ill., a small place along the Mississippi River, people actually stopped their cars along the roadside and ran down the tracks as the train passed by.

There are no dignitaries riding the special train; the local communities don’t get to send a chamber of commerce group for a free ride. The exhibit includes the massive steam engine and seven support cars.

The engine is on display just east of Reliant Stadium. It will leave Houston February 3 for its trip home to Wyoming.

Pats beat Panthers

The New England Patriots took the Super Bowl for the second time in two years yesterday by beating the Carolina Panthers, 32-29.

Place kicker Adam Vinatieri kicked the winning field goal with nine seconds left on the play clock.

He kicked the winning field goal two years ago as well.

In the first half of Sunday’s game, Vinatieri uncharacteristically missed a field goal and had another kick blocked.

Next year’s Super Bowl XXXIX will be played at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla.

Union Pacific Challenger No. 3985

For NCI: David Hoge

Union Pacific Challenger No. 3985 crosses the St. Francis River at the Arkansas-Missouri state line on January 23 en route to Houston and yesterday’s Super Bowl. The view is from the Arkansas side of the river at 8:38 a.m. The New England Patriots demolished the Carolina Panthers 32-29.


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Jobs abound on railroads

For the first time in a generation, railroads are hiring nationwide.

A wave of retirements, combined with surging freight traffic, is expected to create 25,000 new railroad jobs in the next five years, at least 2,000 of them in the Chicago area, according to Crain’s Chicago Business News of January 24.

Illinois already leads the nation in rail industry employment, with 17,600 workers, mostly around Chicago. Railroads anticipate hiring 500 more people in Illinois this year.

With factory work disappearing, job openings at railroads offer a rare ray of hope for Chicago’s industrial workforce. Starting pay is relatively high, and college degrees aren’t required.

A jump in retirements last year left railroads short of freight train conductors and engineers just as the economic recovery boosted freight shipments. The need is great in the Chicago area, the country’s largest hub for intermodal freight traffic.

“Our projection is for an anticipated continuous hiring pattern for the foreseeable future,” says Bill Behrendt, assistant vice-president of human resources at Union Pacific Corp.

To keep trains moving last fall, Nebraska-based UP assigned management employees to trains and handed out $25,000 bonuses to keep retiring conductors and engineers on the job until replacements could be trained. UP, the nation’s largest railroad, expects to hire 250 workers in Illinois this year.

Meanwhile, Houston-based Burlington Northern & Santa Fe expects to hire 170 people, and Jacksonville’s CSX, about 50.

The surge in hiring follows 20 years of shrinking payrolls at the nation’s railroads. About 223,000 people work for U.S. railroads today, less than half the 1980 total.

“There was virtually no hiring done for two decades,” says Joseph Szabo, Illinois legislative director for the United Transportation Union, which represents railroad workers.

As a result, the median age for railroad employees is 47, up from 42 in 1990, according to the Chicago office for Railroad Retirement Board, a federal agency that administers the railroad industry’s pension program. In 2001, a legislative overhaul of the agency cut the minimum retirement age for 30-year employees to 60 from 62.

The change triggered an exodus of veteran rail workers. Retirements jumped 77 percent to 11,000 in 2002. Another 8,200 retired in 2003, and railroad executives expect a similar total in 2004.

Many of the employees leaving are conductors and locomotive engineers. Railroads typically fill engineer positions by promoting veteran conductors, leaving entry-level openings for conductors.

The starting pay for conductors is $35,000 to $40,000 a year and can swell to $60,000 or more with overtime. Engineers’ pay ranges from $45,000 to $72,000 without overtime – but longtime railroad employees warn that the work isn’t easy, particularly for those accustomed to regular hours. Conductors and engineers are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

They typically log 12-hour shifts and work long stretches without a day off. New conductors have to adjust to irregular sleep patterns, holidays on the job, working outside in lousy weather and days at a time away from home.

“You know what the railroads call Thanksgiving? Thursday,” quips Ron Parsons, 48, a 30-year conductor for UP in Illinois who helps train new employees. He added, “The hours are the hardest part. Fifty percent of the job is just showing up.”


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Mineta supports Chicago plan

The federal government is sending strong signals it will help finance a mammoth upgrade of the antiquated freight railroad system in the Chicago area.

U.S. Rep. William Lipinski (D-Ill.), who has made the $1.5 billion plan to modernize the region’s freight rail infrastructure one of his top legislative priorities, has received the support of the Bush administration’s transportation secretary, reports the Chicago Tribune of January 26.

“While the larger Chicago area will benefit from the improved safety, reduction in traffic congestion and improved air quality, the rest of the country will benefit from improved rail service and increased efficiency and reliability of the nation’s freight hauling surface transportation system,” USDOT Secretary Norman Mineta said in a recent letter to Lipinski, a senior member of the House Transportation Committee.

Almost 40,000 freight cars move throughout the region daily at an average speed of less than 12 mph because the railroads and the state and federal governments have neglected much-needed improvements for years. The result is a paralyzing bottleneck in the nation’s largest rail hub that threatens to get much worse. The volume of freight transportation in the U.S. is projected to double by 2020.

“I’m now more encouraged that the federal support will come through for us,” Lipinski said Friday.

The fix being sponsored by the Daley administration, the rail industry and the state is called the Chicago Regional Environmental and Transportation Efficiency program. It involves modernizing and expanding five rail corridors and creating more efficient connections on existing rail rights-of-way. The plan also envisions building overpasses and underpasses for vehicles at about 25 locations in Chicago and its suburbs, and constructing six railroad flyovers to separate freight trains from passenger trains.

Mineta told Lipinski steps are under way to discuss financing of the Chicago regional program, which will tap an undetermined mix of public and railroad industry funding. Mineta said the DOT has created a team in Chicago to help move the project forward and provide guidance.

Meanwhile, leaders in Congress expect to pass at least a three-month extension of the temporary funding bill that is keeping state and local transportation agencies afloat until a permanent, six-year appropriation is approved.

The Bush administration and Congress remain far apart on transportation funding levels over the next six years. A series of short-term continuing funding resolutions threatens to cause chaos for state and local transit officials trying to plan large multi-year projects.


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RailAmerica acquires CM

RailAmerica, Inc. says it has completed its acquisition of the Bay City, Michigan-based Central Michigan Ry. Co. $25.3 million. The transaction was funded from cash on hand supplemented by funds from the company’s $100 million revolving credit facility.

The Central Michigan operates 100 miles of line from Midland southward to Durand, and generated revenues of approximately $11 million in 2003.

CM provides rail freight service to the Saginaw area, and interchanges traffic with Canadian National, CSX, Lake State Ry., Tuscola & Saginaw Bay Ry., in addition to RailAmerica’s Huron & Eastern Ry. and Saginaw Valley Ry.

Major shippers on CM include Dow Chemical and Consumers Energy, and the railway moves chemicals, coal, agricultural commodities, sugar beets, fertilizer and cement.

It becomes RailAmerica’s sixth Michigan railroad with more than 500 miles of track. Collectively, they move 60,000 carloads a year.


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CSX gets satellite service

MCI says it is providing satellite services for CSX at remote operating locations across the eastern U.S. CSX will be able to deploy common access virtually everywhere. A press release stated the railroad plans to use the satellite services to connect U.S. based railroad-switching stations that facilitate the transport of goods across the country. Neither CSX nor MCI disclosed how much the railroad would pay for the service.


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UP makes changes ‘upstairs’

Union Pacific said on Friday it had created an “office of the chairman” which will now include two senior executives, as well as chief executive Dick Davidson. The corporation said that Ike Evans will be vice-chairman and that CFO James Young will succeed Evans as president of the corporation’s UP Railroad. Robert Knight, now senior vice-president of finance, has been named CFO, UP said.


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Freight traffic is up sharply

Freight traffic on U.S. railroads was up sharply during the week ended January 24 in comparison with the corresponding week last year, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported Thursday.

Intermodal traffic totaled 196,764 trailers or containers, up 8.0 percent from the comparable week last year. Container traffic registered a 5.9 percent gain, while trailer volume rose 14.6 percent from last year.

Carload freight, which does not include the intermodal data, totaled 330,305 cars, up 7.9 percent from last year with volume up 8.6 percent in the West and 7.0 percent in the East. Total volume was estimated at 29.6 billion ton-miles, up 9.2 percent from last year.

Among the 14 carload commodity groups showing increases compared with last year were farm products other than grain, up 57.9 percent; grain, up 11.9 percent; crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 29.6 percent; and coal, up 9.5 percent. Five commodities were down from last year, with metallic ores off 7.3 percent and primary forest products down 6.8 percent.

The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first three weeks of 2004: 987,153 carloads, up 3.1 percent from last year; intermodal volume of 584,938 trailers or containers, up 5.3 percent; and total volume of an estimated 88.0 billion ton-miles, up 4.4 percent from last year’s first three weeks.

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.

Canadian railroads reported an increase in carload freight but a decline in intermodal volume during the week ended January 24. Carload volume totaled 65,479 cars, up 9.4 percent, with agricultural products registering a 35.8 percent gain. Intermodal traffic totaled 39,306 trailers or containers, down 2.0 percent from last year.

Cumulative originations for the first three weeks of 2004 on the Canadian railroads totaled 192,946 carloads, up 5.8 percent from last year, and 118,510 trailers and containers, down 0.4 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first three weeks of 2004 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 1,180,099 carloads, up 3.6 percent from last year and 703,448 trailers and containers, up 4.3 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 24 totaled 7,828 cars, down 10.9 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 3,129 originated trailers or containers, down 18.3 percent from the third week of 2004. For the first three weeks of 2004, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 23,953 cars, down 10.0 percent from last year, and 8,695 trailers or containers, down 21.1 percent.

The AAR also stated last week its 20th annual edition of Railroad Ten-Year Trends is now available from its Policy and Economics Department. It presents data for 1993 through 2002.

Railroad Ten-Year Trends provides tables and graphs, which present an economic overview of the U.S. freight railroad industry, including Class I industry performance, traffic, financial statistics, employment, plant and equipment, and operations.

The publication also includes selected information on regional and local railroads as well as the web sites of approximately 250 Canadian, Mexican and U.S. railroads. It also lists all U.S. freight railroads and offers profiles of rail-related organizations.

Copies of Railroad Ten-Year Trends are $100 for non-members and $50 for AAR members.

The AAR is online at www.aar.org.


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QUARTERLY REPORTS...  Quarterly reports...

CSX 8365

NCI: Leo King

CSX earnings fell about 10 percent in the last quarter as higher fuel prices and restructuring costs outweighed a pickup in freight traffic.

 

CSX reports fourth-quarter loss

CSX Corp. reported on January 27 that its fourth-quarter earnings fell about 10 percent, mainly on a restructuring charge stemming from the planned firing of up to 1,000 managers.

In the three months ended December 26, the railroad and transportation company posted earnings of $123 million, or 57 cents per share, compared to $137 million, or 64 cents a share, a year earlier. The quarter included a restructuring charge of $7 million, which decreased earnings by 4 cents a share.

There were consequences for CSX following their latest financial report. Prudential Equity Group said on January 28 it cut its rating on CSX Corp. to “neutral” from “overweight.” Bear Stearns cut its rating to “peer perform.”

Excluding the charge, earnings were $130 million, or 61 cents per share. That beat the average estimate of analysts by a penny per share, according to Thomson First Call.

Revenues for the quarter were $1.95 billion, down from $2.06 billion a year earlier. The prior year included revenue of $189 million from an affiliated company that CSX no longer owns.

CSX said in November that the layoffs would cost $60 million to $80 million, which would be charged over six months.

Chairman and CEO Michael J. Ward said that revenues for the company’s core surface transportation units were strengthening on a recovering economy.

“However, because these positive trends were offset by continued high operational costs, we remain keenly focused on improving our cost structure and restoring our higher service levels that we’ve seen in the recent past,” Ward said.

CSX employs 34,000 people, and operates over a 23,000 route-mile network in 23 states, the District of Columbia and two Canadian provinces.

Excluding a restructuring charge, earnings were 61 cents a share, topping the average analyst estimates compiled by Reuters Research of 60 cents a share.

Revenue fell as the positive effects of a strengthening economy and “aggressive” efforts to win modal conversion business was offset by higher costs, vs. analyst forecasts.

The carrier posted a 10 percent decline in quarterly profits as higher fuel prices and restructuring costs outweighed a pickup in freight traffic.

Operating revenue was $1.95 billion, down from $2.06 billion in 2002’s fourth quarter, which included sales of $189 million from a business no longer owned by CSX, the company stated in a press release.

“The company’s merchandise markets all showed strong year-over-year growth with revenue and volume up 6 percent,” the company said. “Coal and Intermodal volumes also increased year over year.”

Once run by John Snow, now the U.S. Treasury Secretary, CSX last year put in place a restructuring plan meant to improve operating efficiency at the company’s mainstay freight railroad. Several executives have left the company, and CSX said in November that it planned to cut 1,000 people by mid-2004.


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NS income falls; pays dividend

Norfolk Southern Corp. (NSC) reported its regular quarterly dividend of 8 cents per share on its common stock, payable on March 10 to stockholders of record on payable on March 10 to stockholders of record on February 6, but NS’s income fell by 60 percent. The carrier disclosed the numbers on January 27 and 28.

Its fourth-quarter net income fell as the railroad took after-tax charges related to voluntary staff reductions and a decline in the value of some telecommunications assets.

NS earned $52 million, or 13 cents per share, in the quarter ended December 31, compared with net income of $129 million, or 33 cents per share, in the final quarter of 2002, the company reported.

Without the charges, fourth-quarter profits would have been $171 million, or 43 cents per share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had estimated earnings of 37 cents per share.

“What you’re seeing in the fourth quarter is the result of what a well-positioned transportation company, like Norfolk Southern is, can do as the economy recovers and builds momentum,” David R. Goode, chairman, president and CEO, said in an interview.

Fourth-quarter revenues were $1.68 billion, up 6 percent compared with the same period one year earlier.

Railway operating expenses in the quarter increased 12 percent to $1.5 billion, primarily because of a voluntary workforce reduction program involving 553 salaried employees.

An after-tax charge for that program reduced income by $66 million, or 17 cents per share. An after-tax charge to recognize the decline in value of certain telecommunications assets reduced income by $53 million, or 13 cents per share.

Norfolk Southern owns Thoroughbred Technology and Telecommunications, or “T-Cubed,” which has a fiber-optic network along company tracks. An appraisal in the fourth quarter indicated deterioration in the value of those assets, Goode said.

For the year, net income was $535 million, compared with $460 million in 2002. Revenues in 2003 rose 3 percent to $6.5 billion, up from $6.3 billion.


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CN gives three-for-two stock split

Canadian National Ry. reported on January 28 that its directors approved a three-for-two stock split of the company’s common shares outstanding. The board has also approved a 17 per cent increase in CN’s quarterly cash dividend.

Prudential Securities increased its ratings on CN to “overweight” on January 30.

The three-for-two stock split will take the form of a stock dividend. Shareholders will receive one-half additional common share of CN for each common share held (i.e., one additional share for each two shares held). The stock dividend will be payable on February 27 to shareholders of record at the close of business on February 23.

In addition, a quarterly cash dividend of 19.5 cents (Cdn $0.195) per common share post-split will be paid on March 29 to shareholders of record at the close of business on March 8.

E. Hunter Harrison, president and CEO, said, “The stock split will improve liquidity and increase the float of CN shares. This will benefit the company and its shareholders by ensuring CN shares are more accessible to individual investors.”

Since the initial public offering of company shares in 1995, including last week’s dividend announcement, CN has increased its cash dividend annually eight times by a total of almost 200 per cent. Its share price has increased by more than 500 per cent since 1995.

Financial officers at the railway said, “The stock split will have no unfavorable tax consequences in Canada or the U.S., and will not dilute shareholders’ equity.”

All equity-based benefit plans will reflect the additional shares or options resulting from the declaration of the stock split. All share and per share data for future periods will also reflect the split.


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CP earnings rise

Canadian Pacific Ry. said on January 27 fourth-quarter earnings rose nearly 40 percent as Canada’s No. 2 rail carrier increased freight revenue. Calgary-based CP Rail earned C$175 million ($136 million), or C$1.10 a share, up from year-earlier C$126 million, or 79 Canadian cents a share. ($1=$1.31 Canadian)


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BNSF quarterly earnings rise

Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Corp. (BNI), the second-largest U.S. railroad, reported on January 27 a rise in quarterly profit as freight volumes increased in an expanding American economy.

The Fort Worth railroad said fourth-quarter profit was $226 million, or 61 cents a share. A year earlier, Burlington earned $202 million, or 54 cents a share.

On Wednesday, Prudential increased Burlington Northern & Santa Fe to “neutral weight.”

CBS MarketWatch reported an 8 percent increase in freight revenues boosted fourth-quarter income to $226 million.

Analysts were expecting earnings per share of about 57 cents. Revenue jumped to $2.5 billion on strong growth in all segments except coal. Consumer product revenue increased 15 percent, industrial product revenue rose 10 percent and agricultural product revenue rose 7 percent. “For 2004, we anticipate continued revenue growth as both the global and U.S. economies continue to expand,” said CEO Matthew K. Rose.

The Prudential Equity Group said on Wednesday it raised its BNSF rating to “neutral” from “underweight.”


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P&W

Providence & Worcester Railroad Co. (AMEX: PWX) announced that at its regular quarterly meeting on January 28, the company directors declared a dividend of 4 cents per share on the carrier’s outstanding common stock, payable February 19 to shareholders of record on February 5, 2004.


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: CBSMarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)32.1332.74
Canadian National(CNI)59.9562.03
Canadian Pacific(CP)25.9527.60
CSX(CSX)31.5635.31
Florida East Coast(FLA)33.1033.27
Genessee & Wyoming(GWR)32.9537.18
Kansas City Southern(KSU)14.7415.10
Norfolk Southern(NSC)22.3023.13
Union Pacific(UNP)64.4065.63


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

Tourism grant gets mixed reviews

An announcement of a $200,000 Opportunity Returns grant to two Galesburg railroad organizations has been met with mixed reviews by the not-for-profit groups and city leaders.

The grant is funded through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

The Galesburg grant is aimed at increasing tourism. Gov. Rod Blagojevich unveiled his economic development plan for the West Central Illinois region last week in Quincy.

The grant “will help combine the National Railroad Hall of Fame and the Galesburg Railroad Museum,” said Opportunity Returns spokesman Andrew Ross.

The money “is in the pipeline,” he said.

He remarked, “This is something that is going to happen, and it’s going to happen as quickly as possible.”

While combining the organizations refers only to locating them under a single roof, not all parties involved favor that idea.

Mike Godsil, president of the Galesburg Railroad Museum, doesn’t like the idea at all.

“We’ve had our plans in the works for three years,” Godsil said of the group’s planned construction of a new museum scheduled to break ground this summer and be completed in time to celebrate 150 years of railroading in Galesburg this December.

“Weve worked with the city, and we’ve already worked with a contractor,” he explained.

Former local businesswoman Marilyn Fagan, whose father worked for the railroad, recently willed $150,000 to the museum, a big boost to the group’s nearly four-year building fund drive.

In light of the shared grant money, Godsil said his group is willing to work with the NRHF, which currently operates out of the visitor’s center and doesn’t have a permanent home, but Godsil said he would rather not share a building. At a recent meeting, Godsil said the two groups merely agreed to get along.

“We’ve run our museum for 22 years,“ Godsil said. “They’ll want to start making guidelines, and we’re not about to turn (the museum) over to anybody.”

Robert Bondi, president of the NRHF, sees things differently. Locating the two railroad organizations under one roof would bolster their tourism draw.

“It’s terrific. It’s delightful,” he said of the grant announcement.

Individually, the NRHF has been scouting possible permanent locations, including renovating existing structures and building sites. Bondi said locating both organizations by Colton Park near the main Burlington Northern & Santa Fe depot and where the rail line leads into the hump yard would be most desirable.

Currently the museum is located at Seminary and Mulberry streets near the Amtrak depot.

“The folks in Galesburg thought, and obviously we agree, that combining those two into one makes a lot of sense,” said former Macomb Mayor Tom Carper, the newly appointed director of the West Central Region for Opportunity Returns.

“The governor knows that we have to do everything we possibly can to help jump-start the economy there,” Ross said, “and providing this money to help jump-start tourism there is obviously a great start.”

Each year between 8,000 and 10,000 people visit the museum, Ross said. Based on estimates from the governor’s office, increasing attendance to about 13,000 a year could generate $845,000 for the community. If visitors stay in Galesburg for two days, the economic impact could reach $1.7 million, Ross said, “and that’s going to create jobs.”

Mayor Robert Sheehan sure hopes so. By the time Maytag finally closes its doors at the end of the year, a total of 2,200 people will have lost their jobs, and with other area manufacturers cutting their work forces, some estimate unemployment in the community of 33,000 could reach 25 percent.

“This is one small thing,” Sheehan said of the announcement, “but even the small things help.”

The mayor said locating the two organizations under one roof would allow them to work together and help each other.

Sheehan, however, was reserving his excitement and hoping for something a little bigger at Blagojevich’s announcement. The mayor said he has been told there could be as few as three announcements of aid for the Galesburg area or as many as seven.

“The more the better,“ he said.

State Rep. Don Moffit (R) said the railroad grant is part of the bigger plan to reinvent the Galesburg economy.

“Tourism is one of the pieces,” Moffit said. “That’s why Opportunity Returns is so important. The old way of making a living is unfortunately going by the wayside.

“Travel and tourism is the No. 2 industry in the state, that’s my understanding; and this is one more piece of the puzzle to make Galesburg a destination.”


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WE GET LETTERS...  We get letters...

Dear editor:

Placing old copies of Destination Freedom in “cold storage” is, of course, your prerogative, but this seems to be the age of copious hard drive space. Likewise, the magazine seems to be mostly text, which doesn’t take up much space anyway. I would hope that you could abandon the current plan and instead just buy additional storage media.

Adam Krom

It takes money to do all these things. Ed.


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

South Bay's Former Elephant

NCI: Leo King

We hear ’tis the political season again. Back in 2000, a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority switch tender at Southampton Street Yard in Boston found this large stuffed elephant. He was not making a political statement, he told me, just thought it would be something funny for commuters to look at along the Old Colony branch, one mile south of South Station, Boston. We agree. The pachyderm lasted a year, then some nitwit put a match on it. – Ed.

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” Joint Photographers Group (.jpg) images average 1.7MB each. Print publishers can order images in process color (CMYK) or tagged image file format (.tif), and are nearly 6mb each. They will be snail-mailed to your address, or uploaded via file transfer protocol (FTP) to your site. All are 300 dots-per-inch.

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 webmaster in Boston.


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