TRANSPLAN 21 conference and rally for rail
June 14, 15 on Capitol Hill Washington, D.C.

Vol. 6 No. 15
April 11, 2005

Copyright © 2005
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
Webmaster - Dennis Kirkpatrick

A weekly North American rail and transit update

For railroad professionals
Political leaders at all levels of government
Journalists from all media

* Now in our Sixth Year *

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

  News Items… 
Empire spills in Oregon; no deaths, some injuries
  Commuter lines… 
Passing stop signals NJT suspends six engineers
Will VRE extend? Stay tuned
Gotham subways briefly shut down
  Freight lines… 
UP expects to improve LA rail safety
CSX leases a Florida branch to G&W
Carmody leaves NTSB
CN orders 75 locomotives
Rail freight traffic continues upward march
  Selected Friday closing quotes… 
  End Notes… 

French Transit

NCI: Leo King

Editor Leo King says he can’t tell you which line this is, nor which line it is beyond “35-T,” but it is one of the routes on the French National Railways (SNCF). King will be in France until early July, and will report from time-to-time from Europe as well as editing D:F.

 

Empire spills in Oregon;
no deaths, some injuries

Thirty people were injured in an Amtrak derailment April 4 when westbound No. 27, the Empire Builder, derailed. According to Amtrak, the locomotive and four cars went off the rails at 9:40 a.m. Sunday morning, at a point approximately 23 miles west of Bingen, WA, resulting in minor injuries to 30 passengers and crew. Portland Oregonian reported railroad crews and track inspectors reported multiple problems with a curve in southern Washington just days before the accident.

NTSB investigator Cy Gura cited four reports of track abnormalities and said 18 concrete ties had worn down on the track, causing the Amtrak locomotive and its cars to jump off the rails near Home Valley, Wash. at Stevenson, where four of the train’s 105 passengers and six of its nine crewmembers were treated at hospitals in Washington and Oregon.

Why the track problem wasn’t discovered sooner will be the target of an NTSB investigation.

“We have a good idea of what happened,” Gura said one week ago today, and “Now we have to figure out why it happened.”

The four reports are accompanied by a September 2004 report that cites track abnormalities around the site of the derailment, Gura said. None of the reports specifically cited curve 58-B, where the derailment occurred.

The first report came September 23, 2004, when a track geometry vehicle flagged 10 sites in yellow, including curve 58-B, along a 10-mile stretch near the crash site. The yellow flag citation meant structural elements of the track should be measured and monitored frequently, Gura explained.

A yellow flag citation is one degree below a red flag, requiring immediate repairs, but the four reports will be at the core of the NTSB’s investigation.

The first of the four came March 23, when a federal track inspector reported a “rough ride” at milepost 58.4, about 250 feet from where the train derailed, Gura said.

Investigators have found the report was radioed to BNSF, Inc., which owns the tracks, but investigators have no record of BNSF track inspectors checking the problem, other than an e-mail sent to a track inspector saying BNSF would look into the report, Gura said.

BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas referred questions to the NTSB.

The other rough track reports came within a few days.

The northbound train travels to Spokane where it joins up with the eastbound No. 8 and continues to Chicago.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

Passing stop signals

NJT suspends six engineers

A recent rash of trains running through stop signals has prompted New Jersey Transit to suspend six engineers and require all others to go through special safety training.

The April 6 actions follow six trains failing to stop between November 3 and March 22. In the most recent, a Midtown Direct train went through a red light – a stop signal - near New York Penn Station and wound up on the same track as an oncoming train.

Both trains were going slowly and were able to stop before hitting each other, officials told The Newark Star-Ledger.

“That incident signaled that it was time for NJ Transit to do something,” said Cliff Black, a spokesman for Amtrak, which owns the tracks where the incident occurred. “They’ve responded with vigor and focus.”

Four of the six incidents involved Midtown Direct trains leaving or approaching New York Penn Station. The others involved Northeast Corridor trains going through stop signals at Secaucus Junction.

The six engineers, who were not identified, were suspended for 30 days without pay, said NJ Transit spokeswoman Penny Bassett Hackett. Since March 22, the agency has also put all engineers through training on safety policies, and rail supervisors have been riding with engineers to oversee procedures.


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Will VRE extend? Stay tuned

Karen Rae, who heads the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, said last week Virginia Railway Express may extend to Gainesville.

She told Times Community Newspapers on Friday that rail extension to western Prince William could happen in the foreseeable future.

“I think it has a lot of promise,” she said. “As you look at I-66, the concept of rail to Gainesville-Haymarket ... probably offers one of the more comprehensive solutions.”

Extending the line to Gainesville and Haymarket has been talked about for years, but it is only recently that the idea has been discussed as an actual plan.

In February, Loudoun Delegate Joe May (R) asked for $5 million to be added to this year’s state budget to study the rail extension. That money was only a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of the project, but it represented the first step toward making the plan a reality - but when the state budget proposal was finalized at the end of the month, the money for Gainesville VRE was missing, stricken from the final legislation. In its place is a directive that the Department of Rail and Public Transportation develop a plan to fund the extension of the rail lines to Gainesville and Haymarket.


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Gotham subways briefly shut down

Hundreds of subway riders were evacuated Thursday after an underground circuit breaker malfunction ground their trains to a halt, causing a smoke condition, NYC Transit said.

Service was disrupted on the A, C, B and D lines, according to WINS.

Four trains became stuck between stations and those passengers were evacuated to the street, said spokeswoman Marisa Baldeo. There were no passenger injuries reported.

The problem occurred underground at 11:02 a.m. near 141st Street and St. Nicholas Avenue. A transit worker was taken to Harlem Hospital with unspecified injuries, she said.

NYC Transit said service was restored at 2:18 p.m.

The circuit breaker malfunction caused suspension of A and C service between 59th and 168th streets, B service between Brighton Beach in Brooklyn and Bedford Park Boulevard in the Bronx, and D service between 57th and 207th streets.


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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

UP expects to improve LA rail safety

Weeks after a 14-year-old boy managed to derail a chemical-carrying freight train by pulling an unlocked switch, the Union Pacific Railroad is moving to replace all of its switches in Los Angeles County, railroad executives said last week, acing to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune of April 1.

The railroad also is adopting an aggressive inspection and track repair program in response to a string of train derailments in the Whittier area in the past six months, officials said at a hearing organized by Democratic state Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez.

On March 9, authorities said, a 14-year-old boy opened an unlocked switch as a UP train carrying chemicals was moving on the tracks, sending the front portion of the train onto a siding and causing several cars in the center of the train to derail.

Just one day earlier, another UP train from derailed in Industry, and on October 16, yet another UP train derailed in North Whittier, demolishing or damaging at least two homes and littering the area with debris from overturned freight cars.

No one was injured in any of the three incidents.


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CSX leases a Florida branch to G&W

CSX Transportation said on Friday it is leasing its 32-mile Kingsland subdivision in Northeast Florida from Yulee to Fernandina, Fla., and from Yulee north to Seals, Ga., to First Coast Railroad (FCRD), a subsidiary of Rail Link, Inc. Jacksonville-based Rail Link is a subsidiary of Genesee & Wyoming Inc. of Greenwich, Conn.

The lease was effective Saturday, when FCRD took over operations. The rail lines will handle approximately 15,000 carloads annually, including pulp and paper, chemicals and agricultural products; freight cars will be interchanged with CSX.

No dollar amounts were reported by either carrier.


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Carmody leaves NTSB

Carol J. Carmody departed the NTSB on April 1, after nearly five years as a member. Carmody joined the board on June 5, 2000 as its 30th member.

She served two years as vice-chairman (from 2001 to 2003), during which time she served twice as the agency’s acting chairman.

During her tenure, she was the on-scene member at the derailment of an Amtrak train in Kensington, Md., in July 2002, among several aircraft accidents.


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CN orders 75 locomotives

Canadian National is ordering 75 high-horsepower locomotives from GE and EMD.

CN will take delivery of 50 ES-44DC locomotives from GE Transportation Rail, a unit of General Electric Co., and 25 SD-70M-2 locomotives from Electro-Motive Diesel, starting in the fourth quarter of 2005, with completion by mid-2006.

The ES-44DCs are rated at 4,400 horsepower, and the SD-70M-2s at 4,300 horsepower.

CN said on April 1 it had also negotiated options, effective through the end of 2008, to acquire a further 25 ES44DC and an additional 50 SD70M-2 locomotives.

The railroad did not discuss any dollar values.


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Rail freight traffic continues upward march

U.S. railroads originated 1,729,924 carloads of freight in March 2005, up 2.5 percent (42,764 carloads) from March 2004, the AAR reported Thursday. U.S. intermodal rail traffic, which consists of trailers and containers on flat cars and is not included in carload figures, totaled 1,056,685 units in March 2005, up 3.0 percent (31,045 trailers and containers) compared with March 2004.

For the first three months of 2005, total U.S. rail carloadings were up 2.5 percent (107,154 carloads) to 4,402,656 carloads, while intermodal traffic was up 7.6 percent (196,209 units) to 2,781,254 trailers and containers. Total volume was estimated at 408.7 billion ton-miles, up 3.3 percent from last year.

“The traffic gains in March reflect an economy that is expanding at a healthy pace,” noted AAR Vice President Craig F. Rockey, “but freight railroads are not just passive beneficiaries of that growth. Rather, their efficiency and cost effectiveness actively contribute to that growth and help our economy expand faster than it otherwise would. Operating largely behind the scenes, U.S. freight railroads are moving more freight today than ever before.”

U.S. rail traffic in March 2005 was paced by coal (up 6.7 percent, or 44,541 carloads, to 705,520 carloads), coke (up 14.2 percent, or 4,129 carloads, to 33,217 carloads), and chemicals (up 2.3 percent, or 3,416 carloads, to 154,096 carloads). Commodities showing carload declines in March 2005 included motor vehicles and equipment (down 8.4 percent, or 10,869 carloads, to 118,677 carloads) and waste and scrap material (down 10.5 percent, or 5,703 carloads, to 48,387 carloads). All told, 12 of the 19 major commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw carload gains in March 2005 compared with March 2004.

For the first three months of 2005, coal carloadings were up 5.6 percent (93,705 carloads) and carloads of crushed stone and gravel were up 6.5 percent (15,937 carloads) to pace all other commodities.

Canadian carload rail traffic was down 0.6 percent (2,000 carloads) in March 2005 to 360,340 carloads, due largely to declines in carloads of motor vehicles and equipment (down 10.6 percent, or 4,368 carloads, to 37,012 carloads), grain (down 6.2 percent, or 2,654 carloads, to 39,912 carloads), and coal (down 2.7 percent, or 1,241 carloads, to 44,176 carloads). Canadian chemical traffic in March 2005 was up 4.1 percent (3,062 carloads) from March 2004 to 78,605 carloads, while metallic ores was up 5.9 percent (938 carloads) and nonmetallic minerals was up 7.7 percent (811 carloads). Canadian intermodal traffic in March 2005 was up 5.1 percent (10,299 units) from March 2004 to 213,040 trailers and containers.

For the first quarter of 2005, Canadian rail carloadings were up 1.6 percent (14,308 carloads) to 906,176 carloads; Canadian intermodal traffic for the quarter was up 4.9 percent (25,402 units) to 538,684 trailers and containers.

Carloads originated on Transportación Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM), a major Mexican railroad, totaled 41,901 carloads in March 2005, down 3.3 percent (1,443 carloads) from March 2004, while intermodal originations of 16,391 trailers and containers were down 13.8 percent (2,627 units). For the first three months of 2005, TFM carloadings of 110,860 were up 3.7 percent (3,909 carloads), while intermodal traffic of 47,313 units was up 4.2 percent (1,927 units).

For just the week ended April 2, the AAR reported the following totals for U.S. railroads: 350,106 carloads, up 1.6 percent from the corresponding week in 2004, with loadings down 3.4 percent in the East and up 5.7 percent in the West; intermodal volume of 210,260 trailers and containers, down 0.1 percent; and total volume of an estimated 32.3 billion ton-miles, up 2.2 percent from the equivalent week last year.

For Canadian railroads during the week ended April 2, the AAR reported volume of 74,283 carloads, down 1.0 percent from last year; and 42,364 trailers and containers, down 4.9 percent from the corresponding week in 2004.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 13 weeks of 2005 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 5,308,832 carloads, up 2.3 percent (121,462 carloads) from last year; and 3,319,938 trailers and containers, up 7.2 percent (221,611 trailers and containers) from 2004’s first 13 weeks.

The AAR is online at www.aar.org.


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: MarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)52.1553.28
Canadian National (CNI)61.9662.49
Canadian Pacific (CP) 35.6935.85
CSX (CSX)41.5441.81
Florida East Coast (FLA)40.8041.75
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)24.3025.72
Kansas City Southern (KSU)20.6819.96
Norfolk Southern (NSC)34.8436.78
Providence & Worcester (PWX)13.8013.27
Union Pacific (UNP)68.0068.66


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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.

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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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