Destination:Freedom Newsletter
Destination:Freedom
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
  NCI Logo Vol. 2 No. 8, February 26, 2001
Copyright © 2001, NCI, Inc.
James P. RePass, President
Leo King, Editor
 

A weekly North American Railroad update


North Station, Boston. MA

NCI: Leo King

If Amtrak service ever begins between Boston and Portland, Maine, it will start from North Station in the Hub, which is undergoing major changes because of Boston's "Big Dig." The mile-long Third Harbor Tunnel Project runs from under North Station tracks to under South Station approach tracks. Of ten tracks in North Station, two are out of service on February 21 while tunnel construction continues underneath.
Maine service is again 'on hold'
By Leo King
D:F Editor

Maine's Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) said last week that Amtrak is going to bat for them with the Surface Transportation Board, following Guilford Rail System's (GRS) devastating revelation (in D:F and other publications) that it was going to limit passenger trains speeds over its tracks between Boston and Portland, Maine to 59 mph instead of the planned 79 mph. Guilford cited ballast not being deep enough as the reason why. Station platform siting and land acquisition is another major impediment.

The first 33 miles of existing track from North Station in Boston to Haverhill, Mass. (MP 32.93), on Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) tracks are already capable of running trains at the higher speed. GRS crews completely rehabilitated tracks over the remaining 81 miles from a hand-operated crossover named "Rosemont" (at MBTA's MP 35.49) near Plaistow, N.H., to Portland. Those track gangs still have about two months' work to do.

In a statement posted on its web site (http://thedowneaster.com), NNEPRA stated, "Amtrak will shortly submit a proposed test program to the Surface Transportation Board, and will request an order giving Amtrak access to Guilford's tracks for performing these tests resulting in the decision that permits operations at speeds of up to 79 mph. Such speeds are necessary to operate a competitively efficient transportation alternative."

Train 220 at Haverhill, MA

NCI: Leo King

Southbound MBTA train 220 will leave Haverhill, Mass., in a moment. Haverhill will become an Amtrak station stop whenever Boston to Portland, Maine service begins. This will be the "jumping off" point where the Amtrak trains will travel farther than the "T" trains over the double-tracks. Just behind this train, with engine 1067 pushing, lies "Hall," a hand-operated crossover from whom the "T" crews must get permission from Guilford's District 2 dispatcher in Billerica, Mass. to make the reverse move and cross over at MP 32.93. At 12:03 p.m., this train will begin a 63-minute run back into Boston and North Station. A baker's dozen stations lay ahead over the next 33 miles, but signal D328 lies less than 100 feet ahead of the control car, as does the Merrimac River bridge. At CPW-WJ, MBTA's milepost 17.92, the trains re-enter MBTA-dispatched territory.
The NNEPRA statement said, "Until recently, the primary elements necessary to begin the service appeared to support a May 1 launch. However, a number of issues anticipated to have been resolved before February 1, 2001 are still outstanding."

According to Jon Carter, NNEPRA board chairman, "The Downeaster service will begin only when we are confident that the service will operate at the level of quality its customers expect and deserve."

Michael Murray, NNEPRA Executive Director said, "I would much rather be here today to tell you that train service is going to start tomorrow, but that is simply not the case. The staff and board members of NNEPRA, the Department of Transportation, Amtrak and others are committed to providing Maine citizens with a first class rail service which will serve as the base of a passenger rail system in Maine lasting for many, many years to come. That being said, it's extremely important for the public to realize that every effort is being made to finalize these last points so that a start date can be announced."

The organization's statement added, "the extensive rehabilitation project is near completion," and the remaining construction activities have been scheduled by GRS, including platforms and station construction.

"Rights to construct and maintain platforms must be acquired before constructing the platforms at each of the seven station locations in Maine and New Hampshire. Outstanding requirements include reconciliation attributed to environmental issues and platform maintenance provisions. Once resolved, the platforms and station construction process will begin." Guilford has also refused to let platforms be built along the route until the state buys insurance to cover any environmental cleanup costs.

Another outstanding issue is a Portland layover facility, which is required for storing trains overnight. Maine and Guilford will have to write a site agreement and sign a contract between NNEPRA and Guilford. NNEPRA stated, "Amtrak is finalizing an amendment to their agreement with GRS reflecting the location of the Portland Station at Sewall Street."

The Portland station will be located at Thompson's Point, not far from the city's original rail terminal, Union Station, which is currently an intercity bus terminal. The former Union Station on St. John Street, which was not being used much, was torn down in 1961 to make way for a shopping center. Passenger rail service to Portland was completely discontinued in 1965.

A driving force in getting passenger train service to Maine at all has been TrainRiders/Northeast. Its president, Wayne Davis, said, "The desire to have the service here is the very thing which fuels the frustration over the length of time it is taking to make it happen." He said TrainRiders' membership "continues to support the initiative with enthusiasm as efforts to resolve the issues continue." Davis is also an NCI board member.

"Every resource is being allocated toward resolving these project elements to ensure the services commences as soon as possible," Murray said.

The Portland Press-Herald reported that David Fink, Guilford's executive vice president and who is the railroad's negotiator with the rail authority, said on February 20 that there was no acceptable testing method available, and that the only alternative would be another costly track upgrade. Fink said Guilford doesn't believe that the ballast being installed under the tracks now is deep enough to meet requirements for rail rigidity.

The work on the track is nearly complete, and Guilford expects to finish sometime in April. The freight railroad is being paid millions of federal dollars to perform the track upgrade.

Maine political figures were disturbed by the news.

State Rep. Christopher Hall (D-Bristol), called for the state to use its power of eminent domain to take land that may be needed to start the service.

"The taxpayers have bought Guilford a beautiful new high-speed train line between Portland and Massachusetts," Hall said, and "Now Guilford has got everything it wanted - a new main line and hefty profits from construction - and now it has no incentive to cooperate any further with the state."

In Old Orchard, where townspeople have been working on plans for a station since 1993, officials were angry, but not surprised.

"The taxpayers have invested a lot of money into Guilford," said Town Planner Tad Redway, and up to "this point, Guilford is the sole beneficiary."

Fink said Guilford is thinking only about safety and still wants the project completed. He said, however, that any proposal to test the rails is flawed because it would ensure the rails' safety only at the particular time and location of the test. "There is no way to test for this on a daily basis," he said.

Fink said that Guilford, which now runs freight trains on the line in southern Maine and New Hampshire, has suffered because it has not been allowed to use its track for the half of each day devoted to trackwork. He said the delays have inconvenienced Guilford's customers, and the idle trains have created tremendous costs for his company.

If the project is delayed until after this summer's tourist season, then officials should think about delaying service until next spring, said Jeff Monroe, Portland's transportation director. He said it's important that the service starts successfully, and he worries that there won't be many riders if it begins in fall or winter.

Also, he said, if the trains begin traveling at only 59 mph, which would lengthen the trip to Boston by 15 minutes, then people riding the train for the first time may be disappointed and not come back.


Number 275 departs North Station in Boston

NCI: Leo King

No. 275 departs North Station enroute to Reading on the Haverhill line.
North Station undergoes transformation
The Wednesday afternoon lineup was ready to leave North Station... as soon as some arriving engineers walked the length of their trains from the control car to the engine. All that construction equipment on Feb. 21 - and the preceding four years - was for the "Big Dig," the Third Harbor Tunnel Project in Boston, which has disrupted operations at both North and South Stations. A tall, barren, concrete building above the station is the Fleet Center, home to the Boston Bruins pro hockey team, and the Boston Celtics, an NBA franchise. Covers over some new high platforms are not yet completed. The roadway has been a major rebuilding job for the railroad as well as the state's DOT and highway department.

MBTA train No. 275 to Reading was departing from track 1 at North Station in Boston, which now boasts high-level platforms. If you could see the other side of a dwarf signal, you would see it was green, displaying "slow clear." The mile-long Big Dig extends from this north end to within one-quarter mile of South Station. The project has disrupted all of the ten tracks at this north side station in the Hub, and on this day, two tracks were out of service. Engine 1134 was leading train 275 on its 12-mile journey, which operates on the Haverhill line. This train leaves town at 3:50 p.m. weekdays on its thirty-minute journey. If Amtrak service to Portland, Maine ever begins, the trains will leave from one of these tracks.

The Cab-Baggage Car

NCI: Leo King

"Cabbage car" - It's both a cab car and a baggage car - 90214 arrived in Boston's Southampton Street Yard on the Lake Shore Limited on January 17, all ready for service between Boston and Portland, Maine. That was before Guilford Rail and the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority got into their current tussle regarding track speeds and station platforms. "At some point," said Amtrak's Karen Dunn in Philadelphia, "it will be used for Portland Service. Prior to that, it sat in Beech Grove from May 1998 to March 2000, and before then, it was leased to UP for five months. Earlier, it served as a locomotive on the San Diegans." Its last recorded move as a complete locomotive was Oct. 21, 1997, she said.
Parking trains in Portland
Look for the storage and maintenance plan for the Downeaster trainsets - whenever they start to run - to be close to a plan in which three trainsets will be assigned, each with one locomotive, four cars and a cab-baggage unit (a "cabbage" car).

Between trips, the trainsets will remain at North Station in Boston, and coach cleaners will perform their chores there while mechanical department forces complete their inspections.

Each day, one trainset will be rotated to Southampton Street Yard in South Boston and Amtrak's service and inspection building.

That will require a switching crew, which does not presently exist (Zone One, or three jobs, has not yet been determined) which will require the crew to go from North Station to CP-3 on CSX near Beacon Park Yard, then come east the three miles to South Station, then reverse direction down the Dorchester branch for the last mile to Southampton Street.

Overnight storage is supposed to be at the Portland end "somewhere" for two trainsets. These will require plug-ins and drainage run-offs to conform to environmental laws; fencing, lighting, security [Amtrak Police], and other details.

Thanks to George Chiasson Jr. and Dave Bowe


Four more Acela Expresses en route March 5
Four more scheduled Acela Express trains will start running on March 5 when the new Northeast Corridor timetable goes into effect. There will be no net gain in the numbers of trains because as the expresses come onto the railroad, so far, conventional trains are being cut.

For example, No. 132, currently an Acela Regional train between Washington (departing at 1:05 p.m.) and Boston (arriving at 8:25 p.m.), will be deleted from the schedule while express No. 2170 is added to the schedule. It will leave Penn Station, New York at 6:00 p.m. and arrive in Boston at 9:28.

Meanwhile, No. 94, a virtual "local" in the current timetable as a Northeast Direct train, will become an Acela Regional train operating about three hours earlier, but keeps Newport News, Va., as its initial terminal. It will leave Newport News at 8:20 a.m. and depart Washington on 132's old schedule, at 1:05 p.m.

One of the new Acela Express trains, No. 2180, will be a non-stop run that will connect Washington to New York in less than two-and-a-half hours.

Its southbound counterpart, No. 2153, will leave Boston at 6:12 a.m. and make station stops at Back Bay, Route 128, Providence, and New Haven, and arrive in New York City at 9:40 a.m.

So far, the Acela Express trains are not running on weekends, but the carrier said it will increase its weekend Metroliner service between New York and Washington with additional trains on Saturdays and Sundays.

The return non-stop Acela Express to the national capital, No. 2183, will depart New York at 3:50 p.m. and arrive in Washington at 6:18 p.m. Metroliners will pick up passengers who want to travel to Philadelphia, Baltimore and Wilmington, and those trains will leave about 10 minutes after each express departure, Amtrak said in a press release. The new schedule will also increase weekend Metroliner service between New York and Washington. A fifth roundtrip train will be added on Saturdays, and the Sunday schedule will be increased from eight to 10 roundtrips.

The existing Acela Express roundtrip trains between Washington and Boston (2150/2175) will remain unchanged, except that a stop at BWI Airport on the morning northbound run will be eliminated. The southbound evening train will continue to stop at BWI Airport.

Amtrak stated it would phase in more Acela Express trains through the end of the summer as it receives more trainsets from the manufacturers, Bombardier and Alstom. Twenty high-speed trains are being manufactured and will be used to run 19 roundtrips a day between New York and Washington, and 10 roundtrips daily between New York and Boston.


Acela Express won't stop at Green Airport
Amtrak's Acela Express trains will not be stopping at the forthcoming T.F. Green Airport station in Rhode Island, Amtrak said last week, but the MBTA will be going there. Amtrak has a contract with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to run its commuter rail system. The commonwealth owns the "T." The new station is expected to open in late 2002.

Russ Hall, an Amtrak spokesman in Boston, said the federally supported rail service would gauge public demand after the airport station opens to determine whether it should be added as an express line stop. Downtown Providence is Amtrak's only Rhode Island stop for the express trains.

Rhode Island's DOT director William Ankner proposed connecting the airport with Providence over a planned Providence & Worcester freight line. A so-called "running track" between Lawn interlocking in Pawtucket, R.I. and Atwells interlocking, just west of Providence station (at MP 185.6), is to be reinstalled after years of disuse, and will extend to Davisville (at MP 168.0). It is intended to be a single-track, freight-only line to keep freight trains off the electrified corridor, and to boost business opportunities at the Quonset Point deep water port in North Kingstown. The route is adjacent to the electrified territory.

Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian said he will ask Amtrak officials to add the express stop. Before Amtrak commits, however, "I'm sure they want to see the numbers as to how many people are using the station," he said. The airport opened a new terminal in 1996 and has seen business double. More than five million passengers used the airport in 1999, compared to 2.4 million in 1996.


Corridor lines...

The Turboliner

David C. Warner

Rebuilt and refurbished from the rails up, the Turboliner III operates on the Empire Corridor. It recently ran at 125 mph in tests.
Turbo takes test ride to 125 mph
Faster trains are coming to the Empire Corridor, and Amtrak tried out a rehabilitated Turboliner III overnight on Feb. 15-16 between 9 p.m. and 3:45 a.m. The speedy train, operating between the Albany-Rensselaer station and Hudson, peaked at 125 mph in the secret test run.

When it begins in late April or early May, the high-speed service will cut 20 minutes off the 142-mile trip to Penn Station, making the run in an even two hours. New York DOT officials and Amtrak conducted the test in the wee hours to avoid disrupting normal service along the route. The railroaders kept the public and even Gov. George Pataki in the dark about the test run. Crossing guards were placed at each grade crossing during testing, in accordance with federal safety standards.

The Turboliner was originally built in the late 1970s and could reach speeds of up to 110 mph. Super Steel Schenectady Inc. of Glenville, N.Y. has been upgrading the train's turbine engine, and renovated interiors, installed ergonomic seats and outlets for laptop computers.

The test run was on one of seven trainsets that will eventually be used on the route. Technicians aboard were checking out the train's stability, ride quality and performance. F-40PH, P-42 and other diesel locomotives peak at 110 mph.

About 800,000 people travel annually between Albany and New York City. Amtrak officials said they do not anticipate a fare increase to pay for the upgraded $12 million Turboliners.

Later, Pataki said he was pleased with the test and the progress on the state's $200 million project to provide high-speed rail service.

"High-speed train travel is coming to New York State, which will help promote economic development and enhance travel options across the state," Pataki said at week's end.

-Thanks to Dave Bowe


Looking over the FEC, again
An Amtrak test train left Jacksonville, Fla. on Feb. 21 to inspect the Florida East Coast, as it did about one year ago. The consist was an Amtrak locomotive and six Amtrak cars. The train arrived in Jacksonville behind Train 91, the Silver Star, and proceeded to FEC tracks at Beaver Street where it picked up an FEC GP-40. FEC has cab signals, so a pilot engine was required. Round-end observation-FEC business car Azalea was also tacked on. The train continued to Miami. No word on which officials from either railroad were aboard.

Freight lines...

NS closes Hollidaysburg car shop

Norfolk Southern Corp. (NS) said it will close its Hollidaysburg, Pa., car shop on or about September 1. The railroad is restructuring itself following its Conrail takeover.

"Changing economic conditions and excess capacity throughout the freight car repair industry have reduced our workload to the extent we cannot support continued operations at the shop," said Mark D. Manion, vice president Transportation Services and Mechanical.

He added, "Consolidating our work at fewer locations is part of making Norfolk Southern a more efficient company as we go forward."

Hollidaysburg's 300-plus employees will be able to follow their work to other locations, a company spokesman said.

"Employees who transfer with their work will be paid relocation expenses. In some instances, applicable labor agreements and protective conditions will require further handling with Norfolk Southern's unions before implementing the work transfers," said Rudy Husband in Philadelphia.

NS said it will continue to work with Blair County development officials in finding alternative uses for the Hollidaysburg facility.

NS operates approximately 21,800 miles of railroad.


Meetings...

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.


Surface Transportation Board

The Surface Transportation Board will conduct an oral arguments hearing concerning its proposed, new "major railroad merger regulations" rulemaking proceeding, Major Rail Consolidation Procedures, STB Ex Parte No. 582 (Sub-No. 1). The oral arguments will begin at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, April 5, in the Board Hearing Room, Room 760, on the 7th Floor of its offices in the Mercury Building, 1925 K Street, N.W. (at the corner of 20th and K Streets) in Washington, D.C. Chair Linda Morgan said she anticipates providing a total time of four hours for participants.


2001 Union Pacific steam trips

June 10

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

Sioux City & Pacific Excursion
6307 Seward St.
Omaha, NE 68104-4761
e-mail DaveS402@yahoo.com

June 19

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
2129 Barrett Station Rd., PMB 271
St. Louis, MO 63131-1638
(314) 839-2356
E-mail via http://www.stlouisnrhs.org


The way we were...

NCI: Leo King collection

Some fifty years ago, Kansas City Southern Lines ran fine stainless steel passenger equipment like its Southern Belle, to Kansas City. Now it wants to run passenger trains again, and it is looking to Amtrak to help it serve its region. How unlike some Northeastern railroads who seem to go out of their way to stop passenger trains from ever starting. In about a year, KCS should be operating at least one round étrip train over its iron between Meridian, Miss., to Shreveport, La., and on to Dallas-Fort Worth. It will be named Crescent Star.
End Notes...

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

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

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

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

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

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


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