Destination:Freedom Newsletter
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
  NCI Logo Vol. 2 No. 16, April 23, 2001
Copyright © 2001, NCI, Inc.
James P. RePass, President
Leo King, Editor

A weekly North American Railroad update

NCI's May 10 meeting approaches
In just a little more than two weeks, railroad professionals and leading rail-oriented political figures will be gathering in Washington for our National Corridors Initiative's annual conference. This year's theme is Partnerships for Corridor Building: Making Multimodalism Work. This year's meeting will take place at the Washington Marriott Hotel, the same site as last year's conference.

"NCI is a business and environmentally oriented advocacy and educational group for passenger and freight rail development in America founded in 1989," explained president and CEO, Jim RePass.

RePass urged people who are involved in national, state and local governments and transportation matters to attend the May 10 and 11 conference, as well as railroad professionals. He added, "It is our hallmark to have small, intense, serious conferences rather than big sales 'expos.'"

Scheduled speakers, so far, include keynote speakers U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, and Rep John Cooksey (R-La.).

Other speakers will include two carbuilders, Alstom USA President Francis Jelensperger and Bombardier Transit President Peter Stangl, whose partnership is building America's Acela Express trains; Spain's ambassador to the U.S., Javier Ruperez; Association of American Railroads president Edward Hamberger; Railway Progress Institute vice-president Tom Simpson; Amtrak vice-chair Michael S. Dukakis; Amtrak Reform Council chair Gilbert E. Carmichael, who is also board chairman of the Intermodal Transportation Institute at the Univ. of Denver; NCI chairman and Amtrak board member Mayor John Robert Smith of meridian, Miss.; Railway Age Editor William C. Vantuono; Washington Post Writer's Group columnist Neal Peirce, an expert on regionalism, and at least 16 other rail and rail-related governmental professionals.

"Every now and again the world changes for the better, and in recent weeks we saw that happen in America with the start of Acela Express service on the Washington-to-Boston fully electrified Northeast Corridor," RePass waxed enthusiastically recently. "It's the first Euro-style high-speed train service in the U.S."

He added, "That was an important event, but this year, at our conference, you will see how that event was not unique, because all over America we have the opportunity to build a balanced transportation system using high-speed rail as a backbone. In May, the people making that happen will be gathering in Washington to share their experiences, tell their stories - and let the national news media know that the national rail corridors movement is gathering momentum."

In more than a dozen active U.S. corridors, he pointed out, "transportation professionals, citizens, and political leaders of all stripes are uniting to demand an alternative to gridlock and winglock, and the reconstruction a rail system that, while long neglected, is one of the great hidden assets of the American infrastructure."

RePass told his colleagues, in a "Dear Colleague" letter, "From the Pacific Northwest to Maine, from the Deep South to the upper Midwest, from the Southeast to California, from Florida to Canada, gatherings of business, environmental, rail, and political figures, meaning workers as well as management, are growing in numbers and influence. The interests of freight and passenger railroads, after a generation apart, are once more coalescing, and although that fact is not even on the radar screen of the general public, it is an event of great historical and economic import for this country."

RePass added, "For more than a dozen years, the National Corridors Initiative has worked towards this outcome. It is not yet here, but it is, at last, on the way. Our work is very much in keeping with the fundamental American characteristic of renewal and rebirth."

A footnote - NCI is a federally registered 501(C) (3) corporation, and contributions may be tax-deductible.

Acela at New Haven, CT

NCI: Leo King

An eastbound Acela Express arrives in New Haven, Conn., on Metro-North territory under catenary erected ca. 1907.

MN to install new catenary
Metro-North is spending around $300 million to replace 180 miles of catenary between Grand Central Station in New York City and New Haven, Conn. Most of the funding is from federal sources, officials said.

The original wire went up circa 1907, but is unable to support today's faster trains and higher speeds. Trains are limited to 60 mph in most locations, 90 in a few, but the new "cat" would permit around 90 in most locations, and higher speeds for Amtrak's Acela Express, which operates over Metro-North between New Rochelle, N.Y. (Shell interlocking) and New Haven.

MN officials said it would take eight to ten years to do the job. The first phase of construction will begin between New York City to the Connecticut state line, followed by work at New Haven terminal. In other traction news, Friday the 13th was not a good day for two of Amtrak's Acela Expresses.

Trains 2150 and 2180 were delayed 40 to 50 minutes. Just out of Washington, No. 2150, en route to Boston (the 2032-2034 set), lost power because on-board computers reported a catenary fault. Its main circuit breakers would then interrupt the power feed. It operated at reduced speed to New York City, where Alstom technicians met the train and reprogrammed both power units' computers.

Train 2180 (2016-2038) from Washington to New York City, had similar problems and was met by Amtrak technicians at Philadelphia, who reset the computers.

Amtrak suspects that the Acela units may have been having troubles with catenary frequency or waveforms. Tests reportedly have been scheduled on today and Tuesday to discover the causes.

- Thanks also to Gene Poon

In depth, and a history lesson

Legislation would outlaw union shops, revise RLA

By Wes Vernon
Washington Correspondent

A group of House members has introduced a bill to outlaw union shops nationwide.

The measure would amend not only the Taft-Hartley Act, which applies to labor-management relations in most industries, but also the Railway Labor Act, which dates back to the 1920s and applies specifically to railroads and airlines. The result would be a national Right-To-Work law.

This is an old, recurring battle that began when the Congress passed the Depression-era Wagner Act in the 1930s at the outset of the New Deal. That law allowed the "union shop," whereby, if a majority of workers in a given plant opted to join the union, every worker in that plant would be compelled to join and pay dues and subject himself to the rules and the discipline that come with membership.

After the end of World War II, the pent-up demands of the unions - which had been suppressed during the war years by the patriotic chant of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's war effort - suddenly burst forth with a vengeance. You couldn't pick up a newspaper in late 1945 and during 1946 without reading about another huge industrial strike or threats of strikes, including some significant disputes in the railroads. Many of the labor actions tied up commerce and imposed some inconveniences to which the public had not become accustomed and which did not accept with good humor.

In those days, high profile or flamboyant union leaders, such as John L. Lewis who spoke for coal miners, and New York City's Michael Quill of the Transport Workers Union, were effectively made out as the "bad guys" in the eyes of the public. Lewis had even agitated for strikes during wartime, but he was the glaring exception.

Just as one extreme brought about another when the lid on wartime strikes resulted in the backlash of strike fever in the post-war years, so too did the post-war proliferation of strikes result in the backlash of Congressional efforts to cut organized labor down to size.

The result was the Taft-Hartley Labor law of 1947, passed with resounding public approval. The bill, as originally formulated in the House, included a provision to outlaw the union shop, or effectively impose what came to be known as a "right-to-work law" nationwide. When it reached the Senate, however, the measure was modified considerably from its House version. One of the changes made was to allow the states to decide whether they wanted right-to-work laws, whereby union membership would be voluntary. Several rural Southern, Midwestern, and Mountain West states quickly adopted such legislation.

In 1958, the Republicans decided to make an all-out effort to get right to work laws adopted in many states, including the industrial states of Ohio and California, as well as several smaller states. Only one state, Idaho, opted for the right-to-work law in that congressional mid-term election. All other states shot it down in flames.

More to the point politically, organized labor's fevered "get out the vote" drive to defeat right-to-work laws resulted in a bloodbath for Republicans that year at the polls.

It was at that point the Republicans decided the principle involved was not worth the total lack of political dividends. Thus, the GOP powers that be decided if individual states wanted to go for the right to work law, they were on their own, but there would be no more national drive for this on the part of the Republican Party.

That was a year the Republicans suffered a backlash. But the Democrats were to suffer their own backlash later. In 1959, despite their huge Congressional majority, they failed to defeat the Landrum-Griffin Act which, among other things, tightened the screws on secondary boycotts.

But the Democrats' real setback came in 1965 when, fresh from Lyndon B. Johnson's massive victory over Barry Goldwater, they decided it was time to turn the tables on right-to-work, and pass legislation prohibiting the states from enacting them, which would have effectively declared all then-current state right-to-work laws null and void.

This produced a huge backlash of public opinion which argued that this was a matter for the states to decide and that the federal government should not interfere. The outcome was that the attempt to repeal Section 14-B of Taft-Hartley (the section allowing the states to decide the issue) failed. But the very effort to take this power out of the hands of the states was a factor in the Republicans' big comeback in 1966 when they picked up 46 House seats in that mid-term election.

Since then, the Democrats, like their Republican counterparts six years earlier, decided they had learned their lesson. And the issue became settled in the public mind. Let the states fight it out "back home," and leave them alone. For the most part, there reigned a spirit of "live-and-let live" in the issue of the union shop.

Comes now new legislation by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), which would not only impose a national right to work law on all 50 states, but would also impose it on the railroad and airline industries as well. In the history recounted here, the railroad and airline workers never were involved one way or the other in the right-to-work fight because they were covered by separate legislation, the Railway Labor Act, dating from May 20, 1926. They have always been required to join a union in order to work in the industry, and their status was impervious to any provisions in Taft-Hartley. Eric Eakin of the Public Affairs Department of the United Transportation Union confirmed this to D:F. In a phone discussion from his office at U.T.U. headquarters in Cleveland, he said state right-to-work laws never affected rail labor, basically because of "the interstate nature of the job."

"We've always had a union shop in all 50 states," said James M. "Broken Rail" Brunkehoefer, the UTU's national legislative director here in Washington, who recalled that in the last session of Congress, when someone tried to attach a national right-to-work provision to another bill, it went down in flames with 63 "No" votes.

But now, Goodlatte, who was six-years-old back in 1958 and probably doesn't have a clear memory of the political fallout in that last year when the GOP came close to making the union shop a national issue, wants to break new ground by directly involving railroad workers in the "right-to-work" dispute.

I have covered politics for over 40 years. It is my considered judgment that the public has settled this issue in the compromise that is Section 14-B. Those on both sides who have learned the lessons of history are loathe reopening this "can of worms."

The unions will loudly complain about the mere existence of any right-to-work law in any state, and workers who are forced to join a union against their will in order to make a living will similarly complain about the "injustice" of it.

The political dynamics of large states where unions are strong and the reverse "sagebrush rebellion" attitudes of "Middle America" have resulted in a classic standoff on this issue. Neither side is able to impose its complete will on the other, therefore, it is extremely difficult to imagine a national right-to-work law ever becoming a reality in my lifetime or that of most people reading this. And it would be extremely problematical if the railroad industry were included.

Amtrak gains more riders
Results for the first six months of the current fiscal year (Oct. 1, 2000-March 30, 2001) show that more than 11 million passengers rode Amtrak trains, a. 7 percent Increase in ridership over the same period one year ago. Ticket revenue, $564.3 million, was up 12.2 percent compared to this same six-month period last year. No word from Amtrak if it operated at a profit or loss for the period.

Reading 'headhouse' gets its plaque back
A commemorative plaque marking the 75th anniversary of Philadelphia's famed Reading Terminal as a transportation landmark was remounted in the Reading Terminal "headhouse," now the entrance to the Grand Hall of the Pennsylvania Convention Center (PCC).

The plaque was originally presented by the Philadelphia Chapter, National Railway Historical Society (NRHS) to the Reading Company on December 11, 1968, to commemorate the railroad's then 75th anniversary.

Several displays depicting the railroad heritage of Reading Terminal and its importance to Philadelphia currently exist at the terminal. Friday was chosen because the National Railway Historical Society (NRHS) officers and board of directors met in Philadelphia last weekend to conduct its business.

The first contract for construction of Reading Terminal was let on July 9, 1891, and the first special train operated out of the famed trainshed on January 27, 1893. The terminal opened for full service the next day.

Freight lines...

BNSF settles gene testing case

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said last week it had reached a settlement with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad.

The EEOC challenged BNSF's secret genetic testing of employees, in which the company used the results to identify workers predisposed to carpal tunnel syndrome.

In part of the settlement, the railroad agreed it would not conduct any more tests or analyze any test or blood previously obtained, nor would retaliate against employees who complained about the practice.

The agreement allows employees who were tested "to work free of retaliation and future invasions of privacy," Commission Chairwoman Ida L. Castro said in a statement.

Company spokesman Patrick Hiatte said BNSF agreed not to "request any employees to undergo genetic tests, will not discipline any employees for refusal to submit to genetic tests and will preserve all records in its control."

The EEOC's lawsuit claimed the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by threatening to fire a worker who refused to provide a blood sample. The company said the test was designed to determine whether employees were predisposed to developing carpal tunnel syndrome, which is believed to be caused by repetitive hand motions.

Of the 125 workers who filed claims for carpal tunnel syndrome since March 2000, 18 were tested, the company has said.

The Fort Worth-based freight railroad agreed in February to stop the tests after the EEOC sued. It was the commission's first challenge to genetic testing. Earlier in April, BNSF reached a settlement with two unions in a separate lawsuit over the issue.

Maine line still looking for a partner
The Bangor & Aroostook System is still looking for a dance partner. The Maine-based freight railroad has a new president at the helm, but the Iron Road Railways line's fate is still muddy.

In an effort to attract potential buyers, BA is cutting costs and is restructuring itself. B&A President Fred Yocum said 14 employees took the railroad up on early retirement packages, according to the Boston Globe.

The railroad expected to have a new owner or investor within a week, last February. No deals materialized, but Yocum said the company is working with potential suitors.

The 858-mile system includes the Bangor & Aroostook, Canadian American, Northern Vermont, and Quebec Southern. The lines' cash flow problems go back to a refinancing plan nearly two years ago.

BNSF, NS create run-through links
BNSF and Norfolk Southern report they have become partners to provide coast-to-coast, non-stop intermodal service for container loads of freight between California and the East Coast.

In a press release, both carriers stated direct eastbound and westbound service is available between Los Angeles, San Diego and San Bernardino to Harrisburg, Morrisville, Bethlehem and Ameriport, all in Pennsylvania; ERAIL, Dockside and Croxton, N.J.; Baltimore and Norfolk.

BNSF will provide service between Southern California and Chicago, while NS will provide service between Chicago and the East Coast.

The railroads expect to cut transcontinental transit times by at least a day.

Freight traffic takes holiday break
Freight traffic on U.S. railroads was down during the week ended April 14 in comparison with the corresponding week last year, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported on Friday. The AAR noted that 2001 week included Good Friday, which is a holiday for railroad employees, while the comparison week from last year did not.

Carload freight totaled 328,715 cars, down 4.1 percent from last year, with volume down 7.0 percent in the East and 1.6 percent in the West. Also down was intermodal volume, which is not included in the carload data. Intermodal totaled 165,262 trailers and containers, down 7.3 percent from last year. Total volume was estimated at 27.4 billion ton-miles, down 2.1 percent from last year.

Sixteen of 19 commodity groups were down in comparison with last year. Coal, however, was up 9.7 percent.

AAR's website is

Running extra...

UP operates passenger extra behind E-9s

Union Pacific is operating a passenger extra this week from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to Oakland then back to Salt Lake City. The train began its journey on Friday, and passed through Salt Lake City to Las Vegas, where it remained overnight. On Saturday, the special got signals to Yermo and Los Angeles (LATC), The following day, it moved to LAUPT.

This morning (Monday, April 23) it will leave Los Angeles at 7:30 a.m. (PDT) to arrive in Oxnard at 8:45 a.m., San Luis Obispo at 12:45 p.m., San Jose at 5:50 p.m., and arrive in Oakland, at 7:30 p.m. where it will remain overnight.

On Tuesday, it is slated to leave Oakland at 7:00 a.m., travel to Oroville by 12:55 p.m. and arrive Portola at 5:15 p.m., where it will stay overnight. It is expected to arrive in Salt Lake City at 7:50 a.m. Wednesday.

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

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
E-mail via

The way we were...

Leo King collection

The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific ran passenger trains like the Olympian Hiawatha between Chicago and Seattle, as this ca. 1950 post card show. The publisher was "Dextone," from Dexter Press of Pearl River, N.Y. The caption on the postcard describes this scene only as "Powered by a giant diesel and pictured here beside the Mississippi" River, the train "spans the continent Chicago to the pacific north coast." Isn't that a Fairbanks-Morse engine with train No. 21?
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.

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.

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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