Destination:Freedom Newsletter
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
  NCI Logo Vol. 2 No. 15, April 16, 2001
Copyright © 2001, NCI, Inc.
James P. RePass, President
Leo King, Editor

A weekly North American Railroad update

Wrecked No. 323

Internet via Scott Whitney

Part of New England Central train 323 landed in the Connecticut River in Vermont following a washout on April 10. No one was injured. Amtrak's Vermonter passes this way, but was nowhere near at the time.
Freight derails on Vermonter route; no injuries
By Leo King

No one was injured when New England Central freight train 323, a northbound daily with 21 loads and 62 empties derailed at MP 139.8 at 5:50 a.m., in Westminster, Vt. On April 10.

The first unit (SD-40 No. 6281) made it through and stayed on the rails. The crew was shaken but uninjured.

The middle SD-40 (No. 5033) was pointing down toward the river at about a 45-degree angle, and the third unit, GP-38 (No. 3846), became virtually a submarine when it splashed into the Connecticut River and dumped as much as 2,200 gallons of diesel fuel into New England's largest river.

Thirteen more cars were derailed behind the locomotives, most of which were salt-laden covered hoppers destined for the Green Mountain Railroad. Some boxcars contained paper.

No Amtrak trains were near the line at the time of the derailment, but the Vermonter (train Nos. 55, 56) traverse that track.

New England Central, an observer said, "is on a step between a field and a river. Eighty feet up to the field, 80 feet down to the river," and, he added, "Water on the field ran off the bank washing it out and covering the tracks with mud."

He surmised, "The lead loco hit the mud and went over the top ending up back on the rail. The next loco went over the bank and onto its side, and the third loco went into the river."

The head 13 cars then derailed, "and the water-soaked embankment gave out, creating a washout 100-plus feet long by 80 feet deep." More than 300 feet of track would have to be rebuilt in addition to filling the washout.

Officials were trying to figure out how to keep the second derailed locomotive from fouling the river. The second unit was not leaking fuel, an environmental official said.

Tonnage was reportedly backed up between Bellows Falls and Brattleboro, Vt. as NECR and Guilford Rail System hauled the backlog away. NECR was expected to bring everything that had accumulated from the south as well. By Wednesday, the Bellows Falls yard was at capacity, and tonnage would be parked in as much extra space as could be found on the GMRC. Many more most likely would take residence in the Whitehall yard.

There was enough fuel in the water to kill some fish and waterfowl. Agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were en route to investigate how badly wildlife was affected, the Rutland Herald reported the next day.

A private cleanup company stretched a containment boom across the river between Putney, Vt., and Westmoreland, N.H., about five miles downstream, to prevent fuel from flowing farther south, but melting ice flowing downstream forced the company to remove the boom. A smaller one remained around the locomotive.

Elsewhere, Vermont Yankee officials were monitoring water flowing into the nuclear power plant's cooling system to ensure that it was not contaminated. The Vernon atomic plant is about 25 miles downstream.

Our tip of the engineer's cap and thanks to Scott J. Whitney.

Some rail-related hearings lie ahead
By Wes Vernon
Washington Correspondent

The long-promised comprehensive hearing on Amtrak is expected to happen "sometime in May," according to a spokeswoman for the Senate Commerce Committee.

The committee chairman, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), has criticized the passenger network, presenting it with a "Catch-22" standard. If Amtrak would only add more riders, it could perhaps justify its existence. On the other hand, it is a waste of money to let Amtrak add more trains so that it could attract more riders.

The senator almost single-handedly blocked enactment of the High-Speed Rail Investment Act (HSRIA) last year. That is the legislation to provide Amtrak with bonding authority to begin work on building high-speed rail corridors around the country.

Besides objecting to the fact that the bill was being routed through the Senate in such a way as to avoid his committee, McCain said it was "another bailout for Amtrak."

McCain's committee will also be the scene of a confirmation hearing for Allan Rutter to be Federal Railroad Administrator. No date has been set for that as yet, because the committee has not yet formally received the nomination from the White House, a technicality that cannot be dealt with until Congress returns and is formally in session. The White House announcement came too late to make the deadline before congressional recess.

Then there is the HSRIA, whose formal unveiling was postponed for the same reason, i.e. not meeting the adjournment deadline.

That legislation never got the co-sponsorship last year of a majority of House members, although a Senate majority, then and now, has signed onto it. That doesn't mean it can't pass the House. It just signals a tougher battle for it.

Meanwhile, the Class I railroads are looking ahead to June 11 when the Surface Transportation Board hands down its decision on guidelines for future mergers. Though no one in the industry wants to publicly speculate, the ground was laid at an April 4 hearing for a possible - and we emphasize the word "possible" - future court challenge.

The world of railroading has a crowded spring calendar in the capital.

Cooksey co-keynotes May NCI conference
Rep. John Cooksey (R-La.) will be a keynote speaker May 10-11 at the National Corridor Initiative's 2001 conference, Partnerships for Corridor Building: Making Multimodalism Work, in at the Marriott in Washington, D.C. The other keynoter will be DOT Secretary Norman Y. Mineta.

Cooksey is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and is also both a pilot and a practicing physician. He has become a strong advocate for intermodal transportation investment.

"Rep. Cooksey is one of the most interesting people in the Congress," said NCI President James P. RePass. "Not only because he is a practicing physician and a licensed pilot as well as being a member of Congress, but because he is in the forefront of the effort to Śmake multi-modalism work,' as we have themed this year's conference."

RePass added, "As a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Cooksey has become an advocate for co-locating train stations and airports - a common practice in Europe, but a new idea here. That kind of innovative thinking is what the country needs to develop a transportation system where the modes complement each other and provide balanced, seamless travel, instead of the ineffective system we have now that is so prone to gridlock and winglock."

Other featured speakers at next month's conference will include Javier Ruperez, Ambassador of Spain, a strong advocate of international trade; Amtrak Vice Chair Michael S. Dukakis; International Air-Rail Assn. director Andrew Sharp as well as Amtrak Reform Council Chair Gilbert E. Carmichael, who is also board chairman at the Intermodal Transportation Institute, Univ. of Denver.

Some 20 other speakers are also expected.

Renewed Nashua-Boston passenger line
nears reality north of Lowell; meeting set
With about $15 million separating Nashua from rail service to Lowell and Boston, Mass., officials from both states are coming together to try to make the route a reality.

Last week, U.S. Reps. Charles Bass (R-N.H.), and Marty Meehan (D-Mass.), announced they had joined forces to request $15 million for final design work and construction of an 11-mile rail line linking Nashua to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority line in Lowell, according to the Nashua Telegraph for April 9.

A bi-state steering committee meeting for the project will be held on April 17, which is expected to draw officials from the Nashua Regional Planning Commission, the Lowell Regional Transit Authority and the Federal Transit Administration. The public is also invited to the City Hall auditorium at 9:30 a.m.

About $15 million in federal dollars, is needed, officials said, to complete financing for the$21.5 million project.

The Boston firm Parsons Brinckerhoff, Quade & Douglas is conducting the preliminary engineering work for the rail line, which is expected to be completed in early 2002. Officials hope, however, that portions of the preliminary engineering will become ready as the year progresses.

Federal and state Congestion Mitigation Air Quality funds have already been approved for to buy a new locomotive and six coaches, which are now on order.

Other federal and state funds have been targeted for a station near Exit 2 of the F.E. Everett Turnpike and Appleside Drive. A meeting is expected sometime before summer that will be devoted to the station's design, an issue that is expected to draw a lot of attention considering the close proximity of the site to a residential neighborhood. The preliminary engineering is also expected to identify a downtown depot.

Some officials fear Guilford Transportation will not permit a Nashua-to-Lowell line unless New Hampshire adopts the same liability limit as Massachusetts. Legislation that would cap liability at $75 million per accident and $100 million in total damage awards each year is currently under consideration in the New Hampshire Legislature.

Massachusetts pays $610,000 per year for the $75 million insurance coverage, and the state insures all claims on its own up to $5 million.

In all, the preliminary engineering, formal application to the Federal Transit Administration, and final engineering and permitting, is expected to take at least three years.

Bombardier lays off some workers 'temporarily'
Bombardier reports it is "temporarily" laying off 175 workers in Plattsburgh, N.Y., while it fixes a brake problem affecting some of the high-tech cars made for New York City subways.

Bombardier spokesman Gilles Pag said assembly workers were the most likely to be laid off, for about the eight weeks it will take to fix the problem, reports The New York Times.

In February, New York City Transit took dozens of subway cars assembled at the Plattsburgh plant out of service because of several technical problems. Bombardier's trains are replacing 40-year-old equipment.

HHP Horsepower

NCI: Leo King

Last week we noted no high-horsepower engines had been in Boston for several weeks, leading some railroaders to speculate they were not performing well. Last week, the east end of the Northeast corridor got a double-dose. No. 658 had arrived earlier in the week on a nighttime arrival, and No. 661 arrived on Friday morning with No. 190. Both Bombardier-built engines left Beantown 48 minutes late on Friday, hauling No. 177 - after mechanical problems were repaired - from South Station with 16,000 HP. Conductor Peter White gave engineer Dave Luna the okay to back up after White lined the hand-operated switches to the Dorchester main line, where the operator at South Bay Tower and the Dorchester Branch train dispatcher lined the rest of the route for the one-mile journey to the station.
Corridor lines...

Cooksey co-keynotes May NCI conference

Amtrak president George Warrington said last week there is a bright future for passenger rail service in Nashville, Tenn., but there is plenty ahead that could derail things.

"We're serious about taking at look at the economics of extending the Louisville Cardinal where we are right now to Nashville," Nashville TV station, WKRN-TV reported. Warrington was in Nashville on April 10.

Rep. Bob Clement (D-Tenn.), and the Amtrak CEO dream of a high speed train linking Nashville with Louisville which now links with Chicago, the broadcasters reported, "Because when you get to Chicago, you can go to New York, Boston, or the West Coast out of Chicago."

Meanwhile, the Knoxville Tennessean told its readers Nashville could receive its first Amtrak passenger service in two decades - an extension of a Chicago-to-Louisville route - by early 2003 if a study concludes it would be viable, Warrington said.

Warrington said Amtrak hopes to finish its study of the Louisville-to-Nashville extension by year's end, and if the service is feasible, trains could begin rolling into middle Tennessee a year later.

Warrington and Clement spent the day meeting with state legislative leaders, Gov. Don Sundquist and Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell discussing the Amtrak line that Clement and city leaders are seeking.

Amtrak halted its Floridian, which once connected Chicago to Florida through Tennessee, about 20 years ago, leaving Memphis and Dyersburg with the state's only Amtrak service, the north-south City of New Orleans train running between New Orleans and Chicago.

In addition to Nashville, Clement said he is "encouraged" about the possibility of restoring Amtrak service to Northeast Tennessee between Bristol and Washington, D.C., that could, he said, eventually lead to a corridor running on south through Knoxville and Chattanooga.

Amtrak currently runs buses between Nashville, Atlanta and Macon, Ga. The Cardinal (trains 50-51), which Warrington apparently was referring to, operates every-other-day between Chicago and Washington, D.C. via Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia.


CN to cut 252 WC jobs after merger

Canadian National plans to eliminate 252 jobs with Wisconsin Central, or about 11 percent of the work force. Ninety-seven of the jobs to be cut are based in Wisconsin, a CN spokesman told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last week.

More than two-thirds of the job cuts would hit union (agreement-covered) employees. Seventy-seven management jobs would be eliminated.

Disclosure of the employment impact of the proposed sale came as both railroads jointly filed for approval of the $1.2 billion deal on April 9 with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board and the Canadian Competition Bureau.

Representatives of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and the United Transportation Union, both of which represent Wisconsin Central operating employees, were not immediately available for comment.

CP becomes operator at Brooklyn yard
The New York City Economic Development Corp. reported recently that it had selected Canadian Pacific Railroad to operate the 65th Street rail yard in Brooklyn. CP operates freight trains along the East Shore of the Hudson River under a 1998 deal approved by the Surface Transportation Board when CSX and NS acquired Conrail.

City development officials said CP's presence at 65th Street would increase railroad shipments there, reducing some truck traffic in the city. A CP executive said the railroad hopes to begin unloading bulk foods and aggregates this spring, and begin container traffic to and from Canada later in the year, according to The New York Times.

65th Street stands to be an important facility if a cross-harbor rail tunnel is ever constructed, because the tunnel's Brooklyn end would emerge in or near the yard. The yard now features two new float bridge facilities that enable rail cars to be rolled onto barges for movement to the rail network in New Jersey.

New York & Atlantic Railway, which moves freight over Long Island Rail Road lines, will handle switching and the float bridges at the yard, under a sub-contract with CP. New York City acquired the 33-acre yard in 1982, and, with New York State, has invested over $20 million in its modernization.

Freight traffic dips slightly in March
Rail carload traffic was nearly equal with year-earlier levels in the four weeks ended March 31, according to data from the Association of American Railroads. Carloadings were down 1.9 percent for the first quarter, suggesting that the recent slump is easing. For March, the AAR recorded a .1 percent decline.

Intermodal volume, which is recorded separately from carload data, continued a slump that began at the beginning of the year, down 1.4 percent in March, following a decline of 1.3 percent for the first quarter. The intermodal mix of trailers and containers continued its shift, with containers now accounting for 72.8 percent of intermodal originations. Container shipments were up 1.9 percent, but trailers were down 9.1 percent.

Shipments of manufactured goods continued their downward trend in March, but strong coal shipments that increased 10.6 percent from the previous year almost negated the decline in other commodities. Coal shipments were depressed in March 2000 as utilities worked off inventories accumulated in anticipation of Y2K computer problems that never materialized at the beginning of 2000.


Amtrak Historical Society

The seventh annual Amtrak Historical Society Conference will be held in Chicago from April 27 to 29 at The Quality Inn in downtown Chicago, One Mid City Plaza (Madison at Halsted Streets). Highlights will include a tour of Amtrak's Chicago Reservation Call Center and a tour of the city's Historic Pullman District and Pullman Porter Museum, as well as presentations by Amtrak. Each year, the conference is held on the weekend closest to Amtrak's Anniversary and this year is Amtrak's 30th Anniversary. For details, go to HTTP://WWW.TRAINWEB.COM/AHS/2001/

Financing Freight Transportation Improvements Conference

USDOT's modal agencies will discuss financing freight transportation improvements, including existing financing options from the federal, state, local, and private sectors, innovative financing approaches, program and policy issues and options to finance future freight transportation projects between April 29-May 2 in St. Louis. Rail topics will include Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Program (RRIF), Class I Railroads Financial Overview and Future Investment Needs, and several other programs. Contact Karen McClure at 202-493-6417 or email

Partnerships for Corridor Building: Making Multimodalism Work
- National Corridors Initiative

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta and Rep. John Cooksey (R-La.) will be the keynote speakers May 10-11 at NCI's 2001 Conference at the Marriott in Washington, D.C. (

Mineta is a former Chairman of the House Public Works Committee and was a U.S. House member from California.

Cooksey, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is both a pilot and a practicing physician, and has become a strong advocate for intermodal transportation investment.

NCI's highest award, the Claiborne Pell award, will be presented to Sen. Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Sen. Minority Leader Tom Daschle (R-S.D.), who have kept their promise to re-introduce legislation to provide capital for intercity passenger rail. Last year's recipient was Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX).

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

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

NCI: Leo King Collection

as it Illinois Central's Panama Limited or IC's City of New Orleans? We'll probably never know, because this 50-year-old publicity print had no information on its back; so, we are left to speculate where this striking brown-paint beauty was located, and who the photographer was. In any event, it was circa 1950, and the train was streaking between Chicagoland and Bourbon Street. Which way? Not a clue.
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 Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write.

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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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