NCI: Leo KingP-42s and F-40s will haul the Downeaster trains from Portland to Boston.
|AFL-CIO joins Amtrak cause|
The 32-member Executive Committee of the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department (TTD) voted unanimously Feb. 12 to urge Congress to fully fund Amtrak at its authorized level for fiscal year 2002. They also voted to reverse course on the "glidepath to fiscal self-sufficiency pushed by those who are out to dismantle America's national passenger railroad," according to spokesman Michael Buckley.
"Congress and the President should reject this misguided budget goal," the Executive Committee declared, "and instead reach consensus on a long term Amtrak financing plan that incorporates a serious capital and operating plan and ensures that Amtrak can continue to introduce new, modern high speed service."
The executives declared, "Since its inception, Amtrak has fulfilled an important passenger service need as a vital part of the nation's multi-modal national transportation network. But our national passenger rail system is in a precarious fiscal state. The funds from the 1997 short-term Amtrak relief legislation enacted by Congress have run their course and Amtrak is now on a collision course with a statutory glidepath to operational self-sufficiency."
They also observed, "Moreover, the Amtrak Reform Council (ARC), a congressionally created body, is not only pursuing radical privatization proposals that would surely lead to Amtrak's demise, but moreover, the ARC has exposed its anti-Amtrak motives by seeking an acceleration of Amtrak's budgetary self-sufficiency 'glidepath'" to Dec. 2, 2002.
"While we reject this unrealistic budget glidepath, clearly an accurate reading of current law concludes that the first full fiscal year that Amtrak must be operationally self-sufficient is 2004," explained TTD President Sonny Hall.
"The 2000 Republican and Democratic Party Platforms may not have agreed on much, but they both emphatically stated that our national passenger railroad is critical to America's economic future," said Hall. "With Amtrak clearly at a crossroads, now is the time to find a sustainable funding mechanism to fulfill this bipartisan vision for America's national passenger rail service."
The TTD resolution also pledged transportation labor's continued effort to "combat the majority at the ARC that continues to peddle ill-advised proposals to privatize and break up Amtrak and ultimately dismantle our national passenger rail carrier."
Will it begin May 1?
Boston-Portland service inches closer;
Moving at the speed of a crawling insect, Amtrak service between Boston and Portland Maine is expected to begin May 1 - but that is not a firm date.
No platforms had been built as of mid-February, but the Downeaster service is tentatively scheduled to start May 1 - which is also Amtrak's 30th anniversary. GRS and NNEPRA apparently have not yet reached agreement on station platforms construction, but Wells, Maine station construction began on Oct. 26 following groundbreaking ceremonies.
Meanwhile, Guilford Rail Systems, Inc., (GRS) said last week it would only permit the passenger trains to operate at 59 mph, citing FRA-mandated safety reasons.
NNEPRAWhen the Wells, Maine station is finished, it should look like this artist's rendering.
Nearly $46 million in rail, signal, and bridge improvements within the 114-mile rail corridor is required to allow the service to operate at speeds up to 79 mph, but GRS is nixing that speed.
GRS's Cynthia Scarano, at the railroad's corporate headquarters in Billerica, Mass., said, "As far as we're concerned, it's 59 mph, at least for now. If you read the decision by the FRA, certain design specifications need to be met. We do not believe this route was designed to those specs. Safety is our number one priority, so we do not feel it is safe to run at these speeds over that track."
She added, freight train track speed is 40 mph, and GRS operates 12 though freight trains daily now, "but that can change any day; and then we have various locals around the area."
Amtrak trains will get onto Guilford tracks in the Atkinson, N.H. area, near Haverhill, Mass.
The Downeaster trains will include three train sets, according to Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA). Each train will include a P-42 or F-40PH, three coaches, a cafe car and a control car. The former Metroliner coaches can carry up to 68 passengers.
Eight trains are expected to operate daily, according to NNEPRA, and are tentatively slated to leave Boston's North Station at 9:45 a.m., 12:50 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.
Southbound trains are tentatively scheduled to depart Portland at 5:55 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Each train will make up to seven stops in between the end points. A message on NNEPRA's web site (http://www.nnepra.com) stated, "Efforts by Amtrak and MBTA to accommodate the arrivals and departures from Boston's North Station continue to be refined and a final schedule is expected by April 2001."
Round trip fares between Portland and Boston are currently estimated at around $35, NNEPRA stated, and they are making "partnerships to provide information, reservations and ticketing. Once these partnerships are finalized along with fares and schedules, reservations will be available."
|Maine solon to focus on Amtrak, BAR|
Expanded Amtrak service, revamping the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad and expanding passenger service to Acadia National Park are the top priorities of Rep. John Baldacci (D-Maine), who recently joined the newly organized House subcommittee on railroads.
Baldacci said he will be focusing on the reconstitution of Amtrak, which still faces financial problems. Amtrak is expected to make its maiden voyage from Boston to Portland on May 1. The carrier may someday extend service to Brunswick, then eventually to Montreal.
"This subcommittee gives Maine a voice on the decisions that involve Amtrak," Baldacci said, indicating that improving rail rights-of-way and increasing safety are two issues he wants to probe.
Elsewhere in Maine, he said the Bangor & Aroostook railroad will be a key focus for him. Rail America, a Florida holding company, had expressed interest in acquiring the freight hauler, which operates 407 miles of track within Maine. The company is now owned by Iron Road Railways Inc. Baldacci said he hopes the state will look to assist in keeping the line in operation and find alternatives if it appears BAR can't make it. He said he would help state and federal rail officials find alternatives.
|Former Amtrak cop charged with embezzlement|
The former head of the Amtrak police officers union has been charged with embezzling more than $50,000 from the union, federal officials said last week. Dennis Chiocchi, 47, of Villas, N.J., was charged with embezzling the money between 1995 and 1998 when he was secretary-treasurer and then president of the American Federation of Railroad Police, said John McGlynn of the U.S. Labor Department's inspector general's office in Manhattan, according to New York's Newsday.
McGlynn said Chiocchi used the union's money for personal travel rather than for union business. The union represents 300 police officers employed around the country by Amtrak. Chiocchi was arraigned in U.S. District Court in Newark Feb. 9 on a charge of embezzlement and released without bail, according to an assistant U.S. Attorney. Chiocchi's attorney could not be reached for comment. If convicted, Chiocchi could face up to 5 years in prison.
|Amtrak names new ad agency|
Ogilvy & Mather has won the estimated $35 million Amtrak advertising account following a review in which it faced FCB Worldwide in the final round.
"We look forward to a partnership with Ogilvy & Mather that will build upon the success we have accomplished in re-branding Amtrak," said Amtrak vice-president Barbara J. Richardson in Washington, D.C., according AdWeek.
The railroad's unconditional satisfaction guarantee, loyalty program called "Guest Rewards" and Acela Express high-speed service are part of a branding bid designed to tell consumers "that a revolution in high-quality passenger rail service is underway," she said.
She expects Ogilvy "to further strengthen the Amtrak brand," and cited the New York shop's strategic and creative concepts and its integrated services as reasons for choosing it.
Amtrak began reviewing the account last July after a 28-year run with DDB Worldwide, which, with the other incumbent, E. James White of Herndon, Va., participated in the early rounds. Other major players included BBDO Worldwide, FCB Worldwide, and The Martin Agency.
Amtrak will continue dealing with New York-based Chisolm-Mingo on multi-cultural marketing, she said.
|Auto rental agencies sign 'Rhody' rail deal|
Nine car rental companies agreed last week With Rhode Island's Airport Corp. to relocate their offices to the new Warwick rail station. The state and rental agencies are combining their resources to build the $130-million station and a parking garage on the doorstep of T. F. Green Airport.
Richard Licht, the state's lawyer, said he hoped to negotiate a contract on the partnership by May 1, allowing construction to begin in September, the Providence Journal reported last week.
Federal and state transportation grants and state bonds payable by the rental companies would finance the project.
Without the participation of the rental companies, the state DOT would probably have built a small train station that had no special use in serving other modes of travel, but the intermodal concept endorsed by the Airport Corp. combines a train station with a 4,000-car parking garage and a 1,700-foot "people mover," connecting the multipurpose building to the air terminal; but the car rental firms do not want to move out of the air terminal and into the train station until the people mover is in service. Moving before then would require customers to spend more time waiting for and riding shuttle buses before they got the keys to their rental cars.
The auto rental companies would have 3,000 spaces in the garage, with the remaining 1,000 reserved for rail commuters. The station would become a focal point for all ground transportation related to the airport: car rentals, taxis, local and long-distance bus service, Amtrak trains and MBTA commuter rail.
The station should open by Dec. 31, 2002.
|Jackson named DOT undersecretary|
|Michael P. Jackson is President Bush's choice to be his deputy Transportation secretary. Jackson is currently vice-president and general manager for business development at Lockheed Martin Transportation Systems and Services. He was previously senior vice-president and counselor to the President at the American Trucking Assn. He also served in a variety of positions within the Executive branch, including chief of staff at USDOT from 1992 to 1993 and special assistant to the President and Executive Secretary for Cabinet Liaison during the George H. W. Bush administration.|
Iowans make tracks to get aboard
The Iowa House is expected to soon take up The Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact (House File 30). The Iowa House Transportation Committee gave its approval last week.
Minnesota, Missouri, and Indiana have already approved the Compact, and an observer of the Iowa rail scene, Henry Wulff, President of the Iowa Association of Railroad Passengers, suggested that "Iowa needs to be at the table to insure that the Midwest has a balanced system, with Iowa being a full participant and receiving its fair share of passenger rail services. Iowa's participation needs to be right here, right now."
Federal dollars would pay 80 percent of the costs, he said.
Wulff explained to D:F that "H.F. 30 would provide a legislative mandate that Iowa participate in the Midwest Rail Compact. Nebraska and North Dakota have either approved it in one House, or had it passed out of committee for consideration by a House." Nebraska, with a unicameral legislature, passed it out of committee.
"Michigan and Wisconsin are expected to take action yet this year," he said.
The bill requires the Iowa DOT "to be at the table when the Compact states get together to consider and plan a Midwestern rail system. The legislation prevents Iowa from passing on the effort and not being pro-active. We would be a full participant from the beginning, not a johnny-come-lately trying to catch up or take the leftovers."
Wulff said, the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative "is an administrative effort to do much of the same thing, but it lacks a legislative mandate, so Iowa's participation could be withdrawn by administrative decision."
The long-term benefit to Iowa, he said, "is that our state will be connected by passenger rail to all of the other Midwestern states - from Cleveland to Omaha, from Fargo to Cincinnati. Without Iowa's participation, Midwest high-speed rail would stop in the Quad Cities and Iowa would be left out, like a third world country."
Elsewhere in Iowa, Fort Madison city and economic development officials are considering moving the Amtrak ticket office from its location in the rail yards at the foot of 20th Street to the restored Santa Fe Depot Museum.
City Council members, the Chamber and the Convention and Tourism Bureau and Historical Society are meeting with Amtrak representatives.
Chamber Director Marty Dean said tracks at the depot have been raised 38 to 40 inches because of flooding in recent years, which may also cause problems for Amtrak trains. Discussions are in preliminary stages.
Thanks to Rick Harnish, Midwest High Speed Rail
|Amtrak offices moving in Chicago?|
Amtrak apparently is moving out of Union Station in Chicago.
A real estate broker, Burton K. Friedman, told the Chicago Tribune for their Feb. 7 issue that Amtrak would likely lease about 55,000 square feet at 550 W. Jackson Blvd., an 18-story structure being developed by Chicago-based Mark Goodman & Associates Inc.
Amtrak, however, told D:F, not so fast.
Intercity Rail spokeswoman Debbie Hare said, "The Tribune's piece on this topic was written without our involvement, and I have no information to provide you at this time on the status of this project. Obviously this is an important project for Amtrak, and when we have news for the community and interested stakeholders we will make a public announcement."
The new building, to be completed in early summer, is diagonally across the street from the station, which was built in 1925 and occupies the block bounded by Jackson and Canal, Clinton and Adams Streets, the newspaper reported.
Although there is basic agreement between Amtrak and Goodman, who is advised by Richard Ellis, there are some issues to be resolved before a lease is signed, sources said, according to the Tribune.
Last spring, the railroad renewed efforts to redevelop the station, obtaining proposals from several local firms including Prime Group Inc., the private holding company of real estate executive Michael Reschke; and Chicago-based U.S. Equities, LLC.
|Smithsonian to take road show to Chicago|
Chicago's growth from a railroad hub into a center of commerce dependent on expressways and airports as well will be a central part of a new Smithsonian Institution exhibit on transportation, a multimillion-dollar makeover slated to open in fall 2003 at the National Museum of American History.
"Everything seems to happen in Chicago," said William Withuhn, the museum's curator of transportation. "Chicago is one of the stars of the show," according to Crain's Chicago Business News.
The point of the exhibit is not the changing technology of transportation but rather transportation's role in changing society.
Museum-goers will see some rail-related systems, ride a circa 1959 Chicago Transit Authority coach, and listen to passengers talk about their lives as a multimedia scene of the city streams by.
|More elderly sleepers to be scrapped|
Three Rivers Heritage Sleeping Cars will be retired as of Oct 1, 2001, according to sources.
Amtrak is required to retrofit all its on-board toilets to direct-dump cars with holding tanks or take them out of service by Oct. 1, so, because of the Heritage Fleet cars' advanced age and the prohibitively high cost of retrofitting them with holding tanks, they will be retired.
An Amtrak spokesman stated, "We will work to have Viewliner sleepers available for the Three Rivers after Sept. 30."
Harris Cohen, President of the Teen Assn. Of Railroad Passengers, asked, "How is Amtrak going to pull this one off? There is already an extreme Viewliner shortage. Maybe... everything will just become bare bones. Amtrak needs to get their funding secured ASAP, otherwise, there could be huge trouble."
Earlier this year, sources said, Amtrak offered to sell some Heritage sleeping cars and Slumbercoaches as-is, where-is, which was in Hialeah, Fla.:
|Michigan commuter rail plan falters|
A commuter rail system linking major southeast Michigan cities is in jeopardy after participating groups failed to contribute to the development plan.
The Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA) in Lansing asked the proposed communities - Lansing, East Lansing, Howell, Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Detroit - to contribute $20,000 each. The money would be used to continue a feasibility study for the proposed railway system.
Debbie Alexander, the CATA project director, hoped to get financial approvals from the six communities last week, but only Dearborn gave written commitment to pay the $20,000.
Lansing stated it would provide its share, but had not formally committed, Alexander said.
The Livingston County Board of Commissioners recently voted 5-4 against paying for the study.
CATA had been working on the proposal for more than three years. Pre-engineering and environmental hurdles, as well as funding issues, would still have to be cleared before the project could become a reality.
Federal funds would cover 80 percent of the $80 million start-up costs. The state would pick up 10 percent and local municipalities would be split the remaining $8 million.
Proponents of the commuter trains say they would alleviate road congestion, and employers as well as city officials have said a rail system would also help bring workers to communities outside major cities.
"The rails would be a godsend because of the problems so many people have with commuting," said Dee Guerrero, of Uni-Boring Co., a machinery manufacturer for the automotive industry in Howell. The firm has more than 300 workers coming from Lansing and Detroit by bus or company vans.
|Two more Capitol trains en route|
Two new Capitol trains will begin service in April, and both will add service to the entire San Jose-Auburn route, adding Auburn and San Jose. This corridor is now Amtrak's third busiest in the nation, after the Northeast Corridor and Pacific Surfliner Corridor.
Harry Sutton of San Diego attended the recent NARP Region 12 meeting in Sacramento, and learned of the additions.
The Capitols currently run seven trains daily in each direction between Oakland and Sacramento, with four trains continuing to San Jose, and another continuing on the north end to Auburn on the Reno line.
Citing Amtrak sources, he said "Growth in this corridor over the past 12 months has been 52.4 percent, with ridership going from 593,334 in the previous 12 months to 904,535 from February 2000 to January 2001."
He stated "Revenue increased about 25 percent in the last fiscal year quarter with train cost per passenger mile down 21 percent."
The trains use bi-level California Cars with F-59 engines operating over a UP line, which is almost entirely double-tracked between Oakland and Sacramento.
A new Martinez station will open by May, and a large and complex plan to improve the Sacramento station and tracks is in the planning stages
On-time performance left some nagging questions. More than half of Amtrak West's complaints involved late trains, Sutton learned.
For example, if a Pacific Surfliner leaves San Diego 20 minutes late (for whatever reason), then loses more time to become 35 minutes late at Solana Beach (the first stop), then maintains that status at each of the six succeeding intermediate stops, by any measure, the train would be considered late and the passengers would certainly consider themselves late.
However, about 10 minutes of schedule padding allows the train to arrive in Los Angeles only 25 minutes after the scheduled time. Because any train arriving within 30 minutes is considered "on-time," this train would go into the monthly and annual statistics as an "on-time" train.
At none of the intermediate stations was the train within 30 minutes of the scheduled time, yet the on-time performance at none of those stations counts in the statistics. The passengers getting on or off there know the train was late, but it's as if those passengers didn't exist.
|'Ace' to start third round-trip train|
Relief is just around the bend for passengers aboard the Altamont Commuter Express (ACE) in California - passengers who cram their way onto two overcrowded daily trains between the San Joaquin Valley and Silicon Valley.
ACE officials announced plans last Tuesday to begin running a third round-trip train March 5, with a fourth daily train on track for a fall start. The new trains are expected to ease the standing-room-only crowds, and also attract new riders, the San Francisco Chronicle reported last week.
"This is really bringing ACE of age," said Scott Haggerty, an Alameda County supervisor and member of the ACE Authority, a three-county agency that oversees the commuter rail service. "We've been waiting a long time to bring on extra trains."
ACE's two daily round-trip trains have been popular among commuters since service began Oct. 19, 1998. At first, each 1,550-seat train carried about 1, 400 passengers, but with the technology boom and Silicon Valley's high housing prices driving more workers to the San Joaquin Valley, ridership has swollen. An average of 2,100 people now crowd onto each train, with some passengers forced to sit in the vestibules or stand in the aisles.
The third and fourth trains won't start in Stockton, where ridership has been relatively light, but in Lathrop, near Manteca. The new morning and evening trains will both depart about an hour later than the current last trains.
In exchange for the rights to run the two extra trains, ACE will pay Union Pacific Railroad $159 million for track improvements.
ACE has already taken delivery of two new locomotives and five double-deck passenger cars for the new service. Along with its move to a three-train schedule, ACE will also move from the Union Pacific rails to the Caltrain tracks between Santa Clara and San Jose, adding a stop in downtown Santa Clara.
BNSF sued for DNA testing
You would probably never consider a railroad to be in the forefront of medical technology, but that's where Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. (BNSF) found itself last week when it was discovered the railroad had been testing some of its employees' DNA.
The Omaha World-Herald reported an Alma, Neb., woman's questioning led to the first federal lawsuit seeking to stop a company from testing employees for genetic defects.
Janice Avary of Alma discovered that her husband's employer was trying to extract blood for genetic testing without his permission. Her husband, Gary, is one of four union workers, three of whom are from Nebraska, taking part in a civil-rights lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
In the first federal case of its kind, the government is suing BNSF, seeking to stop the railroad from requiring blood samples for genetic testing from employees who file claims for certain work-related hand injuries. The suit says the testing is intended to identify people who may be genetically predisposed to such conditions as carpal tunnel syndrome, which could mean that the repetitive-motion injury was not work-related.
The lawsuit, which was filed Feb. 9 in the U.S. District Court in Sioux City, Iowa, said BNSF's policy violates workers' civil rights. The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes also filed a separate suit on the same day against the railroad.
Gary Avary, who has worked for BNSF for 27 years as a maintenance worker, noticed numbness in his right fingertips last year, said his wife. After getting the railroad's authorization, he had carpal tunnel surgery in August. The newspaper article did not specify what he maintained for the railroad.
His wife, who is a registered nurse, said she became suspicious when the railroad requested blood samples after the successful surgery. She also wondered why her husband was referred to a Lincoln-based doctor instead of his own physician or a hand specialist, for the blood work.
BNSF began the testing program last year on the advice of its medical department, said Dick Russack, a railroad spokesman. About 20 people, fewer than 10 percent of those claiming the disability, have been tested, he said. The lawsuit surprised the company, he said.
EEOC Chairwoman Ida Castro said this is the first time that the commission has challenged such tests, which the commission contends violate the Americans With Disabilities Act.
"As science and technology advance, we must be vigilant and ensure that these new developments are not used in a manner that violates workers' rights," Castro said.
It's the taxes
CSX take New York State to court
CSX is so irked at how high the State of New York levies its property taxes that it is hauling them into federal court. The railroad filed suit in U.S. District Court in White Plains on Feb. 14.
Railroad lawyers pointed out that federal law prohibits a state and its jurisdictions from imposing discriminatory taxes on a railroad.
"In New York, the state taxes rail property at a far higher percentage of market value than other commercial and industrial property, resulting in discriminatory taxation. This discrimination arises primarily from the state's method of valuing railroad property based on reproduction costs without adequately accounting for depreciation," the railroad argued.
"We regret that we have to take this action, but we simply cannot continue to operate under an illegal and discriminatory tax structure that penalizes us for doing business or for improving our infrastructure in New York State," said John Casellini, CSX's resident vice president for State Relations. "The State's tax structure acts as an incentive to disinvest, rather than taking actions that would help attract new business to the state."
Last year, CSX paid about $21 million in property taxes within New York State, significantly more than it paid in any other state.
Legislation to revise tax laws is under consideration in the state legislature, "and if it is adopted, it would relieve railroads of the onerous tax burden and enable taxing jurisdictions to receive state funding on a declining basis over several years to phase out the revenue currently anticipated in their budgets," Casellini said.
He observed that, "Our strong preference would be to resolve the tax issue quickly and get about the business of attracting more business to New York."
The brief asks the court to create a defendants' class, and names 11 jurisdictions that would act as lead defendants in the case. CSX stated, "The named parties were chosen based on their form of governance and the amount of taxes collected. They are the cities of New York and Rochester; the towns of Bethlehem, Cheektowaga and Stony Point; the village of Herkimer; Monroe and Onondaga counties; and the school districts of Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk, East Syracuse-Minoa, and North Rockland."
|RailAmerica carloadings up 11 percent|
RailAmerica, Inc. reported last week that its carloadings (including intermodal units) for January 2001 increased 11 percent to 102,516, from 92,419 in January 2000.
The totals include RailTex railroad properties in both periods and exclude carloads associated with railroads sold by the company during 2000. RailTex was acquired one year ago.
RailAmerica, which claims to be the world's largest short line operator, said its North American carloads totals for January 2001 rose 9 percent to 77,723, from 70,983 in January 2000, while total international carloads for January 2001 increased 16 percent to 24,793, from 21,436 in January 2000.
RailAmerica owns or operates 39 short line and regional railroads operating approximately 14,000 route miles in the United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina and Chile. In North America, the company operates in 23 states and six Canadian provinces.
So long, Camp Lejeune
Marine Corps is losing its North Carolina railroad.
Last October, the Camp Lejeune Railroad Company (CL), a Norfolk Southern subsidiary, petitioned the Surface Transportation Board to abandon a 5.5-mile rail line between milepost CK-2.5 at Camp Lejeune and milepost CK-8.0 at Marine Junction, in Onslow County, N.C.
The STB said okay last week.
No freight service had originated or terminated on the line since June 1999. Two shippers located on the line, Barrus Concrete (APAC Carolina, Inc.) and Eastern Rulane Sales Corp. did not oppose the proposed abandonment, so the abandonment is effective on March 4.
The CL operated over the line under a lease from the federal government, but even though the government owns the line, it never operated it as a common carrier. CL's lease expired in August 1999, at which time it stopped service on the line. According to CL, the feds will not renew the lease because it wants the property.
The City of Jacksonville and NCDOT plan to use the property for a trail, commercial development, and to accommodate street improvements.
In other STB decisions, it extended its permission for CSX, in actions begun by predecessor Conrail in Boston, to temporarily discontinue service over a line of railroad known as the Boston Terminal Running Track (also referred to as "Track 61,") lying between the west side of Summer Street at approximately railroad milepost 0.85 and the end of the track at Boston Harbor Pier, a distance of approximately 2,635 feet, in the City of Boston, Suffolk County, Mass.
The board originally granted Conrail a discontinuance exemption a temporary suspension of business for three years, until December 16, 2000.
CSX requested an extension for three more years, until December 31, 2003. CSX stated construction of the Central Artery-Third Harbor Tunnel Project by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority was not complete, and that construction was the reason for granting the exemption to Conrail.
Elsewhere, the STB is pondering the Lancaster and Chester Railway Co. request to lease, with an option to purchase, nearly 31 miles of track in South Carolina from NS.
The line in Kershaw and Lancaster Counties extends from MP SB-58.7, at Kershaw station, to approximately MP SB-89.5, at Catawba station. The line connects to L&C's existing rail line at L&C Chester District Connection, at approximately milepost SB-76.4, near Lancaster.
"Because the projected revenues of the rail lines to be operated will exceed $5 million," L&C certified to the STB, on December 1, 2000, "the required notice of its proposed transaction was sent to the national offices of all labor unions representing employees on the lines and was posted at the workplaces of the employees on the affected lines."
CP divides itself; divesting
Rail, ship, air, energy and hotel conglomerate Canadian Pacific Ltd. said on Tuesday that it would divide the company into five separate publicly traded companies.
The company, whose holdings include an 86 percent investment in PanCanadian Petroleum Ltd. (PCP) and 100-percent interests in Canadian Pacific Railway, CP Ships, Fording Coal and CP Hotels, said it will distribute its investment to holders of Canadian Pacific's common shares, giving shareholders shares in the five companies.
The company also said in a press release that after the distribution, Canadian Pacific Hotels would be the only significant business of Canadian Pacific.
No timeframe was given for the distribution, but the move was seen as preparation for divesting itself of its rail unit. CN and CP have been mulling merging for some time. CN's Paul Tellier said publicly one month ago that he would like to see the Canadian rail giants merge.
Farmers, rail labor join hands
to get CN branch line routes
An unusual coalition of farmers, communities and railway workers is poised to take over and operate Canadian National Railway Co. branch lines through top grain-growing regions on the Canadian Prairie.
CN has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes, reports the Journal of Commerce, giving the coalition until March 15 to present a formal organization that would take over the lines.
The BMWE is leading the coalition, called Prairie Alliance for the Future.
"We will make it, no doubt about that," said Gary Housch, the BMWE's Canadian vice president, from the union's national headquarters in Ottawa. "We've been working on it for three years."
The alliance will present to CN how it is constituted and structured to operate three separate branch lines totaling up to 618 miles, mostly in wheat-growing Saskatchewan. It will explain how it is organized to function as a nonprofit railway-operating agency on the lines, which serve farmers and communities located considerable distances from the huge concrete grain terminals on mainlines.
The immense terminals now replace the wooden country elevators that once nurtured communities across the three Prairie provinces. "It's a promising concept that originated with the BMWE and that CN thinks is worth exploring," offered Jim Feeny, a CN spokesman in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
If the alliance can persuade CN that it has an effective organization, the actual and detailed negotiations would follow and take another two months or so, Housch said.
CN would consider operating the lines for up to a year after an agreement took effect, a union officer said.
Housch added, similar talks were under way with Canadian Pacific Railway Co., but that they were in a much more preliminary stage.
The two railroads have abandoned thousands of miles of track running through hundreds of communities. Farmers in these areas now must truck grain, often on long hauls.
The railroads do not want these branch lines but often are prepared to have short-line operators use the old tracks and facilities to bring grain in from fertile but comparatively distant regions.
New England Railroad Club
The New England Railroad Club will hold its engineering and transit night dinner meeting on March 22 at Boston's Copley Plaza Hotel. Guest Speaker is Mike Franke, vice-president, Amtrak's MidWest Rail. For tickets, go to http://nerailroadclub.com.
2001 Union Pacific steam trips
Union Pacific reports two steam excursion scheduled so far this year. Challenger steam engine No. 3985 on June 10, 2001 from Council Bluffs to Sargeant Bluff, Iowa and return.
Contact The Camerail Club
Challenger steam engine No. 3985 on June 19, 2001, from St. Louis to Gorham, Ill., and return. St. Louis Chapter, NRHS is also hosting the 2001 annual NRHS convention, June 19-23.
Contact St. Louis Chapter, National Railway Historical Society
Wes [Vernon] inadvertently referred to changes in the Railway Labor Act that were supported by both labor and management [Re: D:F Feb. 5]. That is not correct. What he was referring to were proposed changes in the Railroad Retirement System to improve benefits and reduce taxes.
I really appreciate your response and the information you provided me. Do you know how I could find out about these larger plows? I'm trying to get a hold of the companies that make them and even Acela's maintenance crew to find out more information.
Sorry, Bill, but in a word, no. We don't know who makes plows these days. Perhaps a reader can respond, and we'll post his reply here.
Elderly roundhouse needs some help
From the pages of the Omaha World-Herald, we learn that out in Nebraska City, workers have finished stabilizing the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad roundhouse, freeing supporters to focus on fund-raising to permanently restore the 1887 structure.
Todd von Kampen wrote on Feb. 4 that an architect and an engineer are scheduled to inspect the roundhouse to make sure the $36,000 project has solved the immediate problems that nearly led city officials to tear down the roundhouse, said Gerald Kopiasz, president of the Heartland Railroad Historical Society. Kopiasz and his small band of railfans have fought for more than a year to save the roundhouse, which partially collapsed in October 1999.
The city was set to complete demolition when Omaha banker John Kotouc helped assemble funds and plans to prevent a final collapse.
Workers moved into the roundhouse Dec. 8 to install three beams to hold up a damaged roof truss, waterproofing the roof, and putting up a fence around the outside. Project supporters are addressing issues brought up by city officials to ensure that liability insurance is in place, Kopiasz said.
The roundhouse's champions hope to raise more than $500,000 to restore it for retail, wholesale or museum space. Kopiasz said he has applied for various grants and is waiting for the next application period to seek federal funds administered by the Nebraska Department of Roads.
The five-stall roundhouse serviced steam and diesel locomotives until the mid-1950s.
Rock Island: Leo King collectionKaufman and Fabry were commercial photographers in Chicago, and had a contract to do the publicity shots for the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific. One of their best-known photos was this incredible nighttime view at La Salle Street Station in the Windy City of the Golden State, which operated daily between Los Angeles and Chicago via Arizona. The public relations folks wrote on the back of the 8-by-10-inch black and white photo, "Equipment of this train includes latest type day-night reclining coach seats, observation car, all types of sleeping car accommodations, and deluxe dining car." The train operated on a 44-hour, 15-minute schedule, they wrote. We don't know who the photographer was, but he certainly gets a tip of our engineer's cap.
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Destination: Freedom's editor, Leo King, also writes for "ThemeStream," a forum for writers and readers. King's articles are all rail-related, and mostly chronicle events over the last ten years on the Northeast Corridor, particularly in New England. Look for his articles at http://www.themestream.com under the heading "Travel," and the sub-heading, "Riding the Rails."
In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other rail travel sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives - state DOTs, legislators, governor's offices, and transportation professionals - as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists.
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