The newsletter of the National Corridors
Vol. 1 No. 5 ©2000, NCI, Inc.
May 1, 2000
Briefs at deadline
New logo shines on page
That logo you see at the top right "ear"
of this page is the work of famed railway artist J. Craig Thorpe of Seattle.
It not only represent the "Rail is Real" theme of the upcoming June conference,
but also is a new, pro-active public affairs campaign for all of the American
railroad industry, "coming soon to a property near you," as NCI President
Jim RePass put it. The two-day conference is being held this year on June
26 and 27 at the Washington, D.C. Marriott. Specific details and registration
information appears elsewhere on this web site.
House to pick up transport
House leaders plan for the fiscal 2001
transportation appropriations bill to be the fourth (of 13) such bills
brought to the House floor in coming weeks. Transportation and Infrastructure
Chairman Bud Shuster reportedly gave his blessing to the transportation
figures contained in the recently passed budget resolution. The House is
in recess until May 1.
Friends of Amtrak website, http://trainweb.com/crocon/amtrak.html
Amtrak's birthday is today
Twenty-nine years ago on May 1 Amtrak
came in to being, following enabling legislation passed by the Congress.
On that first day, the railroad had no engines, no coaches, and only a
handful of employees.
Speaking of anniversaries, This year
marks the 75th anniversary of the Amtrak's Crescent, a long-distance
train that travels daily between New York and New Orleans. The train began
operating on April 26, 1925. The Crescent has a rich history that
began in 1891 with the Richmond & Danville Railroad Co. for the Piedmont
Air Line Route. It connected the Northeast with Atlanta and New Orleans,
and was known then as the Washington & Southwestern's Vestibuled
BOSTON, April 5 ö The
Lake Shore Limitedâs Boston section departs South station
en route to Chicago, and snakes its way over a myriad of double-slip switches.
In a moment, it will pass over the top of the "Big Dig" and the brine-frozen
ground. That white material at the pipesâ joints is frozen brine
that has oozed out.
Trains run over frozen
By Leo King
Despite financial problems Bostonâs
"Big Dig" running into, the third harbor tunnel project is a civil engineering
highway project that will be remembered by a lot of people for a long time.
Even railroaders are getting involved, because the tunnel is being dug
underneath all the tracks barely one-half mile west of South Station.
D: F editor
Among the projects that is having a
profound effect on Amtrak and MBTA railroad operations is a scheme that
freezes the ground under the tracks while tunnel construction continues.
Project engineer Joseph McCann of the
FreezWell Company, who is also a vice-president of the parent company,
Moretrench, of Rockaway. N.J., is the person in charge of freezing the
ground, and spends his time between Boston and Rockaway.
"What we do is circulate brine, which
is basically salt water, superchilled to minus 25 degrees Centigrade (-16F).
We have closely spaced pipes, and itâs circulated in those pipes
by a series of connections, then sent back to our refrigeration plant (a
compressor and a condenser) heat exchanger."
One can see the frozen brine where it
has squeezed out through various crevices at pipe joints. The pipes are
laid out generally in the same direction the tunnels are going underneath
the pipes and the tracks ö all three tunnels.
McCann said, "There are about 2,000
pipes between the tracks and the tunnel bottoms," and they average 55 to
60 feet deep.
"We go within six feet of the inverse
of the tunnel," or to its bottom, McCann explained in a telephone interview
from his Rockaway office, "so the depth varies with each tunnel."
One tunnel is called "ÎRamp D,â"
he said, "another is called the Îeastbound tunnelâ and the
other is the Îwestbound tunnel.â"
He said no chemicals are added. Itâs
just salt water.
"We buy the brine from a local [Boston]
manufacturer; itâs already made up with salt in it."
The refrigeration plant and pumping
station is located within a few feet of the former track 7, which has temporarily
been removed for the project. It "chills the brine down, and we have a
recirculating tank that all the brine is captured in. Itâs really
a closed unit. None of the brine escapes from the system. After we chill
the brine, the pumps pump it out to the various pipes." He added that it
"operates on very low pressure, 30 pounds per square inch."
Amtrak and MBTA trains frequently pass
over the frozen ground, both on the main line and the leads to the Dorchester
and Old Colony branches. The pipes are located at the junction where all
the routes come together. The tunnel tops come within just a few feet of
the track structure.
"The whole purpose is that we freeze
the ground ahead of the tunnel, and what happens is as they excavate the
tunnel. I think they only excavate a foot at time. The entire face of the
tunnel is supported by this frozen ground, which has the consistency of
rock by the time you finish."
Amtrak, which carries out track maintenance
for the Commonwealth in this part of the Bay State rail system, has had
to keep up with what amounts to frost heaves. As the ground freezes, it
contracts, and as a result, lowers the track structure. Track department
crews have had to go out frequently at night, when rail traffic is light,
to resurface the tracks and create a smooth vertical curve between the
frozen ground and the unaffected earthworks. They have also occasionally
had to add fresh ballast.
McCann said that "What it does is support
the rails" so that in case the tunnel excavators encounter some kind of
a foreign structure, for example, like a foundation, there is structural
"Say thereâs a big granite block
that comes into the tunnel. Obviously that creates a void once you pull
it into the tunnel, and if you didnât support the ground öhave
it frozen ahead of you ö obviously you could have some sort of subsidence
and the tracks could come down. What this does is actually give you the
protection of a frozen arch and frozen material ahead of you. So, itâs
a very conservative way to do it."
"Thereâs a lot of historical fill
at the site," he said. Theyâve run to old brick pipes structures,
"old gasification plant pipes, the kind of gas they used to use for street
His company began its part of the "Big
Dig" project in November 1997, "and weâll probably be finished early
in 2001; maybe in the first quarter."
FreezWell is a subcontractor to the
general contractor consortium, J.F. White, Slattery, Interbeton, and Perrini.
McCann declined to disclose how much his firm is being paid for its portion
of the $397 million project, nor would the general contractors, but Big
Dig spokesman Sean OâNeill said "We issued the contract, Contract
94, which is the big piece of the pie, and they divvy up based on what
their subcontractors need."
Labor and politics find
within the Amtrak Reform
By Wes Vernon
A shakeup is in the works at the Amtrak
Reform Council (ARC), and considering that the all-volunteer ARC is a relatively
low-level entity as federal agencies go, it is fraught with Machiavellian
politics of the highest order. Two new members are now or are scheduled
to join the panel.
Charles Moneypenny, Legislative Representative
(i.e. Washington lobbyist) for the Transport Workers Union (TWU) is replacing
former Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE) President Clarence Monin
as the White House labor appointee. Though Monin says the reason he was
asked to leave was laborâs desire to have someone more currently
active in the union movement, some fellow panel members believe rail labor
decision-makers wanted him out because he has "an open mind" on privatization.
Though sent to the White House, Moneypennyâs appointment had not
been made official as of this writing.
James E. Coston, a Chicago attorney,
who loves passenger trains perhaps as much as any man alive, replaces Donald
Sweitzer as the ARC appointee of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. Thatâs
While both appointments are interesting,
it is the Moneypenny appointment behind which lies a tale of Washington
intrigue. Here's some background:
When the ARC was formed as a result
of major Amtrak legislation of 1997, the new agency was charged with monitoring
Amtrakâs progress toward operational self-sufficiency by fiscal year
2003. Seats on the panel were apportioned among the White House and Congressional
leaders of both parties. The ultimate makeup of the 11-member group was
six Republican and five Democratic appointees.
Rail labor immediately had a panic attack.
Before the council even met, union operatives or their allies planted unfavorable
stories, mostly targeting the council's anticipated expenditures, which
would be minuscule by Washington standards, and were intended to provide
the council with a consultant staff to do independent analysis.
Ultimately, the ARC was denied consultant
services and instead hired an executive director in the person of Thomas
Till, transportation veteran and onetime acting FRA administrator in the
Reagan administration, and subsequently manager of transport planning in
the former Soviet Union for the World Bank, and then for the European Bank
for Reconstruction and Development in London.
By this time, New Jersey Gov. Christine
Todd Whitman had resigned her ARC chairmanship, complaining that the council
was not provided with adequate funding to carry out its responsibilities.
It is reasonable to speculate that as a politician from a state where labor
unions could make things uncomfortable for any statewide incumbent, the
governor may have perceived that Mickey Mouse games were at hand, and decided
she was not playing. After Whitman left, the council elected as its chairman
Gilbert Carmichael, another former FRA administrator, this time in the
Meanwhile, the White House had gone
for months without announcing its two allotted slots on the ARC, one for
rail management, the other for rail labor. This delay fed GOP suspicions
that organized labor was pressuring the administration not to make any
appointments at all, on the theory that any findings of an unbalanced Republican
Council would be discredited. However, when enough noise was made about
this, the White House quickly appointed Monin and Milwaukee Mayor John
The latter, by the way, proved to be
an independent thinker who sided with the majority view that the ARCâs
mission was to "think out of the box."
Once on the ARC, Monin supported the
minority view of those who feared the council itself was a threat to Amtrak
and that it should be denied consultants and its budget kept as low as
possible. In this, current FRA Administrator Jolene Molitoris, sitting
in for USDOT Secretary Rodney Slater generally supported him. Sweitzer,
who attended few ARC meetings, rounded out the three-member pro-rail labor
Frequently, Monin would exchange notes
with Moneypenny who was usually seated in the audience during ARC meetings.
At the opposite end of the spectrum
were author Joseph Vranich, who has written a book calling for dismantling
Amtrak to make way for a totally different high-speed rail system, and
Wendell Cox, who has written several articles criticizing Amtrak and questioning
its cost effectiveness as presently structured.
Between these two points of view is
a majority of six members who want passenger trains in this country, but
who also believe that asking some adversarial questions will be required.
Members in this group, consisting of four Republicans and two Democrats,
do not automatically flinch at the thought of privatization, though they
are careful to note that this can take many forms and that some privatization
ideas are better than others are. And their views on privatization vary
from enthusiasm to at least not rejecting it out of hand. Basically, they
favor Amtrak operations by the most efficient means possible. Some in rail
labor see this as a potential threat their work rules. Rail labor refused
even to participate in a scheduled ARC hearing soliciting its views, for
fear of lending credibility to the council.
Chairman Carmichael, as an example of
the majority faction, advocates what he calls an "Interstate 2 program"
that would have high-speed trains crisscrossing virtually every corner
of the country.
Capital funding would be provided by
the public sector through a penny-a-gallon portion of the gas tax. Thatâs
all you would need to enable a high-speed train system, whether through
the private sector or a consortium organized by the states, with Amtrak
providing equipment, and what Carmichael calls the connecting distance
or "hotel trains." A blueprint for this would be the proposed nine-state
Midwest Regional Rail Initiative. He has noted that there is big (private)
money to be made in passenger trains, in some cases by the same firms that
cashed in on Interstate 1 (the highway system with which we are all familiar).
Under Carmichaelâs scenario, there
would be more labor union jobs available than ever before.
Moneypenny, who has criticized Carmichael
for being a "privatizer," was unaware of Interstate 2 when asked about
it by Destination: Freedom. He said he would "like to take a look at it."
For that matter, Monin told us he too was unaware of Interstate 2. As we
described it to him, he could see a potential of many more union labor
Another big issue stemming from the
1997 legislation is the $2.2 billion given to Amtrak for capital expenditures
for new equipment and an upgraded infrastructure to assist it toward operational
independence. By an 8-3 vote, the ARC in January 2000 took Amtrak to task
for spending much of this money on day-to-day maintenance costs, rather
than on badly needed equipment. Since some of that maintenance expense
has involved labor agreements, rail labor dissents from that ARC view.
(See several previous stories on this web site).
In June 1999, organized labor was the
main force behind a bitter floor fight in the House of Representatives
to cut back on ARC funding. The effort succeeded in the House, but the
money was restored in the Senate.
Now, with that background, we go next
to the recent developments in the ARC shakeup.
Clarence Monin, the White House labor
appointee, is not as militant as some of his votes and comments might lead
one to believe. Though he vigorously dissented from the majority annual
report that the council released January 24 (which he labeled "aggressively
anti-Amtrak") he had been receptive to taking a look at privatization efforts
overseas. Merely examining it would not commit him to implementing it,
after all. Thus, he agreed to accompany fellow ARC member Wendell Cox and
Executive Director Tom Till on a trip to Great Britain to attend a worldwide
conference on rail privatization. Every U.S. rail union president approved
a letter urging Monin not to go; that there was nothing useful to be learned.
But he says he did not see the letter until he returned, and that as laborâs
representative on the panel, he would not have gone if he had been aware
of the wishes of the union leaders.
Cox tells Destination: Freedom that
yes, trains in England were more crowded than they had been under the old
government-run British Rail, but that was because ridership had increased
dramatically under the privatized regime. More equipment was on order,
he told us.
Monin returned to the U.S. with what
some perceived as a softened view of "privatization" which in the halls
of rail labor is a word not to be uttered with anything but contempt. Clearly
he is not ready to turn everything upside down and privatize overnight,
certainly not in the near future. The former BLE president told Destination:
Freedom he still sees problems with privatization, mainly safety-related.
But he also told us that rail labor, while protecting its own interests,
is going to have to avoid saying "Hell, no" to everything. In the final
analysis, he told us, "Weâre all in this together."
Cox, who volunteered to us that he paid
his own way to London, although ARC paid his conference fee, quotes an
official of Tony Blairâs Labor government in Britain as saying last
yearâs widely-headlined disastrous accident near Londonâs Paddington
Station had nothing whatever to do with privatization.
Cox says if he had been in charge of
privatizing British Rail, he would have done a lot of things in a different
way. Clearly the former Conservative government in Britain made some errors
in judgment, he told us. But that does not discredit privatization per
se. He cited the London double-decker transit bus system, which, under
privatization, has actually turned a profit.
Coincidentally or not, at about the
same time that word got around that Monin was taking a "long view" (i.e.,
not saying "Hell, no" to everything) his labor brethren suggested it was
time for him to leave the council.
His response was that he wanted remain
on the council, that only the President of the United States who had appointed
him could remove him from that position.
His labor union critics apparently decided
to deal with that stumbling block, too. Reportedly, they petitioned DOT
officials to urge Secretary Slater to persuade President Clinton to have
Monin replaced on ARC by Moneypenny.
Moneypenny denies that he and Monin
"had words" over his overseas trip or that he personally played a role
in any moves to prod the former BLE president from the Council.
Displeased labor leaders reminded Monin
not long after his return from London that he could no longer speak for
organized labor anyway since the BLE had ousted him from his executive
post in a recall election forced months earlier by dissident union members.
(There is some dispute about that election, but that is another issue.)
Monin says he does not want to leave, but that he takes the rail labor
leaders at their word when they say his relatively inactive status in the
labor movement was the main reason for their wanting him out. Some other
ARC members are less willing to believe Moninâs "long view" had nothing
to do with his departure. But he himself says if the paperwork goes through
on Moneypenny, he would bow to the wishes of the labor leaders. As of late
April, "the paperwork" on Moneypenny had not materialized. Monin remains
with his union as a "consultant" until October 31 when he says he can take
Monin told us that many labor leaders
saw a leaked copy of the first draft of ARCâs first annual report
in January. That draft, he explained to us, was staff-written without input
or action from the members. Some of its provisions were bad for labor,
he said, and tended to dictate labor agreements that are properly the domain
of collective bargaining between unions and management. Monin says he successfully
fought for elimination of the most objectionable parts of this document.
In this effort, he had the cooperation of Chairman Carmichael who was seeking
But then the original staff document
was also leaked to my colleague Frank Wilner, who wrote about it in a Traffic
World magazine article under the heading "Amtrak Slam." That prompted labor
leaders, still miffed at Moninâs November trip to London, to get
their backs up, and they ordered the BLE veteran to vote "no" on the final
report, which he did, notwithstanding his role in softening its labor provisions.
In his dissent, Monin concentrated much of his fire on the dispute over
how the $2.2 billion was being spent.
Whatever happened, and the above accounts
of what went on are not necessarily mutually exclusive, Monin supposedly
is on his way out and the council is now to have as one of its members
someone who is openly dedicated to abolishing it.
"I just donât think it should
be a federal agency", Moneypenny told Destination: Freedom, noting that
several members have backgrounds with "conservative" foundations or think
tanks. He believes the think tanks ought to fund ARC, if it is to exist,
and "not the taxpayers."
So what does he intend to do as a new
council member other than try to have it abolished? The TWU representative
said he will "work with other members who want passenger trains."
ARC Vice Chairman Paul Weyrich is someone
with whom Moneypenny thinks he can work. Even though Weyrich heads a conservative
foundation and think tank, Moneypenny says heâs "talked with him
and believe Weyrich sincerely wants passenger rail service."
It is not unusual for any public entity,
Democrat or Republican, to select people from think tanks ö liberal
or conservative ö whose views comport with those of the government
What seems to bother rail labor is that
most ARC members are not appointed by the White House, with the advice
and consent of the Senate. Instead, they are top-heavy with appointees
of the majority and minority leaders of Congress, with no Senate confirmation
required. That way, organized labor, which has tremendous influence in
any Democratic administration, has less control over the appointee selection
and hence, less influence on Council priorities and perhaps ultimately
on Amtrak policy. Labor unions representing private sector workers would
love to have the advantage of being, more or less, on both sides of the
bargaining table. Which may explain rail laborâs antipathy to "privatization."
That independence, of course, was precisely
what Congress had in mind in creating ARC. In contrast, most members of
the main Amtrak Reform Board, to which Amtrak management is directly accountable,
are appointed by the White House, subject to Senate confirmation.
As to the overall dispute between rail
labor and ARC, Cox says rail labor has every right and responsibility to
look out for its own interests. But he added that when any interest conflicts
with the public interest, it is the public interest ö in this case,
the traveling public ö that should get first consideration.
The other new ARC appointee is attorney
James E. Coston; someone prepared to hit the ground running.
Coston, by reputation and based on my
own conversations with him, just wants more passenger trains, by whatever
practical and efficient means. Currently managing partner of Chicago law
firm Coston and Lichtman, he has years in experience in the rail passenger
industry, dating back to the 1970s when he was working his way through
college and law school as an Amtrak ticketing and station reservations
agent. He is now an equipment finance attorney. In 1997, Coston assisted
senators in drafting the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act, which created
Last year Coston was being touted by
both rail labor and rail management for a slot on the main Amtrak Board,
a position for which he fought tooth and nail, even to the point of hiring
consultant and popular ex-Amtrak official, Tim Gillespie, to lobby for
Republicans were adamantly against President
Clintonâs re-nomination of Washington lawyer Sylvia De Leon to the
directors board because of her role in firing Amtrak President Tom Downs
during a labor dispute in 1997 when she was on the predecessor board. Republicans
were also unhappy because they said Mr. Clinton had broken his promise
not to re-nominate anyone from the old board, which GOP lawmakers believed
was part of the problem rather than the solution. Five Democratic senators
had written a letter to the White House saying De Leon was a lost cause
and that Coston should be selected to fill the slot. Ultimately, however,
some horse trading with judicial appointments allowed De Leon to be confirmed
by the Senate.
Now, as he takes a seat instead on the
Amtrak Reform Council, Coston thinks heâs getting a better deal anyway.
He canât wait to plunge into the oversight functions of the ARC which
has a statutory mandate on several fronts related to Amtrakâs future.
These include recommendations as to actions Amtrak can take to improve
operational and financial performance, as measured by its own goals, and
whether or not it is likely to meet those goals.
"I fell in love with trains. I studied
trains, memorizing runs and schedules the way other kids memorized batting
averages," he said.
Costonâs fascination with passenger
trains began in 1969 when he was 14-years old and visited Chicagoâs
Union Station and was given a tour of equipment for nearly a dozen name
trains, with de-luxe equipment, including dining cars, lounges, sleeping
cars, round-end observation cars ö you name it. He saw everything.
Then, he was told that all these trains were about to be eliminated. The
crestfallen youth could not fathom this. The idea of taking a passenger
transportation system built by visionaries dating back more than a century
and just throwing it away was incomprehensible to him.
"Iâve been looking for a platform
that lets me get to the bigger picture," said this founder of the Chicagoâs
Twentieth Century Railroad Club.
When we pointed out to him a recent
report by the DOT Inspector General that the six tunnels leading into New
Yorkâs Penn Station were in danger of becoming a fire hazard unless
their current repair schedules were stepped up, Coston was flabbergasted.
"Congress has got to do something about
that!" he said, "Here we have this beautiful new high speed rail equipment
on the Northeast Corridor, and we havenât got the infrastructure
to back it up and make it work. The chickens have come home to roost. Amtrak
should have had a dedicated source of funding the last 30 years."
Coston supports the idea of operational
self-sufficiency provided Amtrak receives adequate capital funding from
the public sector, as does every other transportation mode.
Though his appointment to the ARC had
the full backing of organized labor, you can look for Coston to be his
own man. He just wants more passenger trains. He will support organized
laborâs agenda only insofar as it does not obstruct that goal. My
own guess is that, more often than not, Jim Coston will be voting with
ARCâs "pragmatist" majority.
Acela Express in
Amtrak and the FRA met on April 14 about
the possible introduction of Acela Express with the current hardware, at
reduced speeds, Destination Freedom has learned. The proposal is to begin
service on Metroliner schedules with a maximum speed of 135mph. The intended
start up date is June 20, which is due to earlier statements by Amtrak
president George Warrington and others that Acela Express would start by
Spring 2000. Another date being considered is Independence Day.
No firm decision was reached in that
Friday meeting. Operations of Acela high-speed trains is still subject
to agreement between Amtrak and the manufacturing consortium over maintenance
and liability issues arising from operation of equipment which does not
meet the specifications under which they were designed and ordered. There
is no change in the plan to design a new radial truck from scratch, to
be fitted to existing trainsets and installed on the equipment, now parked
at the Bombardier manufacturing facility.
Meanwhile, we have learned that Amtrak
is running Acela Express endurance tests daily except Wednesdays with an
eye toward racking up the contractual 60,000 miles on a trainset without
The train leaves Penn coach yard in
Philadelphia mornings (between 8 and 9) for Washington, turns and heads
to Newark (and sometimes New York City), then turns again and returns to
It appears perhaps that Amtrak's aim
may be to launch limited Acela Express service by July 4th by jumping on
the Independence Day bandwagon with a big advertising splash. Presumably
this would be rush-hour-only service by two trainsets with more to follow
as manufacturing proceeds.
The major factor is finishing the electrification
between New Haven and Boston. Look for that to be completed by May's end.
ö Gene Poon via Dave Bowe; Andy
Are the tracks ready
passenger lines cozying up
By Wes Vernon
In recent months, there have been clear
signs of a thaw in the heretofore frosty relations between freight and
passenger rail carriers. Last Fallâs annual "Passenger Trains on
Freight Railroads" conference, sponsored by Railway Age magazine, spotlighted
a brand of "glasnost" between the two forms of railroading whose agendas
are so radically different that one wonders how the pre-Amtrak Class Is
managed to mix the two as long as they did.
But as they now maneuver for the same
rights-of-way space in the same metropolitan areas, some of the animosity
is slowly and subtly giving way to a "Weâre all in this together"
attitude. So now that there is growing realization that not everyone in
Class I railroading hates passenger trains and that not everyone in passenger
railroading is ignorant of the problems of running for-profit freight trains,
the next question becomes: What is the bottom line?
There are some indicators of what will
dominate the dialogue.
If high speed rail supporters want the
willing cooperation of the freight railroads in gaining access to their
rights of way, there are two issues that will have to be addressed, other
than the need to make certain the tracks are fit for fast passenger trains.
There are two dominant issues are capacity and growth.
? Capacity and growth will be the main
centers of attention when freight and passenger negotiators meet.
? The problem doesnât stop there.
It also means additional tracks to accommodate not just passenger growth,
but freight growth, as well.
All of this came clearly into focus
in an April talk by a Norfolk-Southern official. Addressing old friends
at the annual banquet of the Washington, D.C. Chapter of the National Railway
Historical Society (NRHS), G. William (Bill) Schafer, NS's operations director,
spoke of the "new reality" in freight railroading which points to intermodal
operations as "the only significant source of freight growth out there,"
coal having declined for a number of reasons. That means NS will have to
"recalibrate expectations," with the result that NS "will look a lot more
like Conrail," organizationally and operationally, "than in the past".
All the pain in the deal to carve up
Conrail was well worth it, he said.
"We have a franchise now that is to
die for." The problems and customer complaints probably would not have
happened if NS had not "underestimated the complexity of absorbing Conrail."
But these problems are well on their way to solution.
Merchandise is trending toward "new
trains, or dedicated trains or commodity trains."
Examples include all-auto trains. Mixed
cargo is less common.
Weâre talking here of a growth
in consumer goods, which means the freight railroad growth is where the
people are. That played a role in driving NS and CSX to buy Conrail.
Conrail itself was where the people
were, which presents a "challenge" for planned expanded passenger train
And there is that "unique relationship"
between Norfolk Southern and Amtrak, with the Northeast Corridor providing
the key to getting "hundreds of millions of dollars worth of freight" to
major markets. Schafer, who is based in Philadelphia, is right in the thick
of all that. His boss, CEO David Goode, has said Amtrak "saved our (Norfolk-Southernâs)
bacon" in many instances.
Schafer hastens to add that commuter
lines are not paying Amtrak "anywhere near" what NS is paying to operate
on Amtrakâs property.
The freight railroads have no extra
capacity, according to Schafer. New trackage on existing rights of way?
That could make the difference. The nine-state Midwest Regional Rail Initiative
is eyeing just that prospect. But "the challenge," Schafer said, "is going
to be to plan for enough capacity" for both freight and passenger growth.
That "will probably take public money for (the infrastructure for) both
passenger and freight trains," he observed.
CSX's chief Goode, at the Railway Age
conference, left open the possibility of his railroad actually lobbying
for Amtrak funding that would expedite construction of new tracks to accommodate
Both freight and passenger are important,
Schafer told the Washingtonians.
"We canât focus on getting people
out of their cars if it is at the expense of forcing freight back onto
"Raising the consciousness of folks"
will be required "if we are not to get our capacity swallowed up by new
passenger train projects."
Schafer said Michigan "has the priorities
right." He has worked with officials there on the upgraded passenger effort
on the Detroit-Kalamazoo line. That experience has shown, he says, that
"if you want to add tracks for passenger trains, they can comingle with
the freight trains, and everybody can be happy." Michigan is working to
eliminate non-safety related speed restrictions on the line, along with
eliminating grade crossings or equipping them with better warning devices.
Enabling trains to operate safely at higher speeds should take precedence
over getting the top speed up.
First things first, Schafer said. If
the passenger ridership justifies it, then perhaps the time to discuss
extra tracks will have arrived. Passenger trains that are being planned
"have a bright future," he added. One of Schaferâs jobs at Norfolk
Southern is to solicit partnerships with passenger carriers.
The FRA apparently has not given NS
tracks the kind of thorough audit that resulted in bad publicity for CSX.
"Not that I know of," Schafer said,
though the feds "are out there with us every day, just as they are with
CSX," which reminded him that NS has received the coveted Harriman Award
for safety year after year.
That raised another problem not discussed
by Schafer but implied by a question: If a major Class I carrier (CSX)
was found to have many defects that rendered its tracks unfit for slow
heavy mainline freight trains, what does that tell you about the work that
needs to be done to upgrade tracks to accommodate passenger traffic?
CSX has moved quickly to reach an agreement
with the FRA to upgrade its track inspection and maintenance processes.
This will cost an estimated extra $20 to $30 million, according to CSX
chairman and CEO John W. Snow. Thatâs in addition to $350 million
already spent for this purpose each year, he added.
FRA regulators discovered some terrible
CSX track conditions were attributable to overworked inspectors who were
missing track defects, and that when such defects were found, they were
not being fixed in a proper manner.
The embarrassment of bad trackage is
said to have been the "straw that broke the camelâs back" in the
railroadâs executive suite, where CSX President Ronald J. Conway
and two other top officials were ousted by Snow not long after the track
problem was publicized. Some other CSX officials reportedly were "livid"
when they saw the defects and reported them with no action follow-up.
Senior vice president Mike Cantrell
said he will work with the Brotherhood of Maintenance Way Employees to
assess the resources need in terms of workers and equipment to put the
tracks back in shape and keep them up to Class 1 standards.
As of this writing, we still donât
know what penalties are to be assessed for the problems discovered by the
FRA audit, but the last time CSX had problems with the FRA, it had to pony
The outlook for high-speed rail dealings
indicates room for cautious optimism. The Class I carriers, with merger-related
problems and, in some cases, trackage badly in need of repair, have enough
on their plate that you can expect them to be tough negotiators when sitting
down to talk with passenger interests about high-speed rail. But with patience
and resolve on the passenger side, the potential is there. It is not a
cakewalk, but with officials like Schafer at Norfolk Southern and Paul
Reistrup (formerly with Amtrak and the B&O passenger division) at CSX,
you have to believe there is a good potential for common ground.
New England lawmakers
call for high-speed
New England lawmakers are urging that
a plan to extend high-speed train service from Boston to Montreal become
a reality. The plan could halve commuting times for New Hampshire and Vermont
residents who currently drive to Boston.
The legislators, including Massachusetts
Gov. Paul Cellucci and both of the stateâs U.S. senators, want to
extend the 110 mile-per-hour train service already planned between Boston
and New York City through Lowell, Nashua, Manchester, Concord, Montpelier,
and Burlington, and on to Montreal.
A letter dated April 4 from Vermont
Sen. Jim M. Jeffords to President Clinton and USDOT Secretary Rodney Slater
argued that the heavily-populated area has become congested, and urged
them to upgrade tracks along the 330-mile stretch between Boston and Montreal
with federal highway funds.
"Our population density and a 150 percent
increase in travel throughout New England has combined to overwhelm traditional
modes of transportation in our region," the letter said. The rail would
also allow passengers to use the Manchester, N.H. airport as an alternative
to Logan Airport.
The proposed extension would allow residents
in southern New Hampshire to cut their driving times to downtown Boston
to two hours from about four hours. Travelers would be able to reach Montreal
in three hours.
The project would cost about $500 million,
paid under 1998 legislation calling for the expansion of high-speed rail
service around the country. The project would entail building new tracks
between Concord and White River Junction in Vermont, a stretch that currently
lacks any service.
CSX admits having track problems
Executives at CSX scrambled on March
31 to figure out how to fix sloppy maintenance and potentially dangerous
tracks discovered by federal investigators, the Jacksonville Times-Union
The Jacksonville-based freight railroad,
which also allows Amtrak and commuter authorities to operated over its
system, is looking for track defects in several spots in response to an
CSX officials admit there are problems.
"We are not in denial here," said James
Schultz, the railroadâs chief safety officer. "We are in the wrong·
We should have done a better job."
The company is taking the unusual step
of having its chairman and chief executive officer, John Snow, personally
head an internal review. CSX faces potential fines of up to $20,000, and
individual employees could be disciplined by company safety managers.
One of the discoveries was a finding
that insufficient repairs were made following a derailment, an FRA official
said. The draft also shows a 60 percent increase in track-caused accidents
on the 23,400-mile system over five years. The review found many instances
in which the distance between the rails had spread wide enough to risk
derailments. Railroad experts said that could be the most serious problem
and one that could be the most time-consuming, tedious and expensive to
The railroad community ö the passenger-based
rail lines that pay to use CSX tracks and companies that ship products
by rail ö worried about the FRA findings.
Some of the routes in question include
those used by Amtrak, including the Orlando-to-Los Angeles route and the
"The safety of our customers and employees
is our top priority," Amtrak spokesman John Wolf said. "Amtrak will pursue
the matter involving CSX to the fullest. While Amtrak has not seen the
FRAâs draft findings, we have contacted the agency and CSX, seeking
more information and the opportunity to review the findings."
Amtrak Intercity, one of three Amtrak strategic
business units, announced a new organizational structure on April 5 that
will make it easier for the corporation to deliver quality service to its
customers. The Amtrak Intercity business unit is responsible for the operation
of most of the corporationâs long-distance trains nationally as well
as short-distance services in the Midwest and North Carolina.
Amtrak Intercity President Edward V.
Walker said Eastern and Western regions, each headed by a Vice President,
have been established within the business unit to provide support and leadership
for all aspects of service delivery in their areas.
"With these changes, we now have a team
in place that will enable Amtrak Intercity to succeed by building on the
strengths of our senior managers, who can now in turn, focus on supporting
their employees," said Walker. "The new organizational structure provides
a reasonable distribution of responsibilities and allows Amtrak Intercity
leadership to become more responsive to the needs of employees and guests
while focusing on their areas of expertise."
Al Edelston, 59, has been named Vice
President for the Eastern Region and will be responsible for customer service
on the Auto Train, Cardinal, Carolinian, Capitol Limited, City Of New Orleans,
Crescent, Kentucky Cardinal, Lake Shore Limited, Pennsylvanian, Piedmont,
Silver Meteor, Silver Palm, Silver Star, and Three Rivers services. Edelston,
who has over 25 years of Amtrak experience in customer service and operations,
will be based in Jacksonville, Fla.
Don Saunders, 45, has accepted the position
of Vice President for the Western Region and will be responsible for customer
service on the California Zephyr, Empire Builder, Heartland Flyer, Southwest
Chief, Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle, Midwest Corridor services and terminal
operations at Chicago Union Station.
Saunders, whose previous position was
Chief Operating Officer of Amtrakâs West Coast business unit, comes
to Amtrak Intercity with over 27 years of railroad experience, 14 of them
spent at Amtrak. He has worked in the Midwest for much of his career and
has extensive experience managing both long-distance and commuter services.
Amtrak operates a 22,000-mile intercity
passenger rail system, serving more than 500 communities in 45 states.
Under Amtrakâs new leadership, the corporation is turning the corner
to become a successful business enterprise.
As part of its turnaround, Amtrak is
focusing on growing public and private business partnerships, expanding
its mail and express business, improving and guaranteeing consistency and
quality of service, introducing high-speed rail in the Northeast, and developing
other high-speed rail corridors nationwide.
It appears Floridaâs "Treasure Coast"
is one step closer to getting passenger rail service. Officials in Stuart
and Fort Pierce are going ahead with plans to build train stations after
Florida East Coast Railway and Amtrak officials recently met with representatives
from more than a half-dozen cities. They all stand to get passenger train
service after an agreement is complete by allowing Amtrak to use FECâs
tracks along Floridaâs Atlantic coast. State funding will be needed
to create additional passing sidings to minimize delays.
Thanks to Dave Bowe.
Amtrak inspection crews were testing the
rails between Meridian, Miss., and Dallas, Tex., in March getting ready
for new service expected to begin this summer. Some train equipment will
most likely be stationed in Meridian for splitting the line from New York
to New Orleans, so that one train can head West to Dallas-Fort Worth.
"We would potentially be looking at
other services being located in Meridian, such as a terminal for mail and
express service," Amtrakâs Ed Walker said. On April 24, Amtrak opened
a crew base in Meridian for engineers, conductors, and assistant conductors.
They will work to New Orleans and Atlanta at first, but later to Shreveport,
La., when that service begins. Crews on this line formerly worked out of
New Orleans and Atlanta to Laurel, Mississippi.
Thanks to Dave Bowe.
Amtrak applauded Gov. Gray Davisâ
announcement of his long awaited transportation-funding proposal, which
supports a multi-modal transportation solution to Californiaâs growing
transportation needs. The Governorâs April 5 proposal includes a
total investment of almost $700 million in intercity rail.
"As millions of new residents and businesses
pour into California each year, Amtrak is well positioned to continue to
play a significant role in meeting Californiaâs transportation challenges.
Governor Davisâ proposal today is a step in the right direction and
we applaud his diligent work," said Gil Mallery, President of Amtrak West.
The proposal marks the culmination of
discussions with transportation officials, legislative and congressional
members and the transportation industry to develop a far-reaching program
that will improve mobility and ease the movement of goods.
"We are pleased that the Governorâs
plan embraces a variety of alternative transportation initiatives," said
Mallery. "Intercity passenger rail can provide transportation solutions,
while enhancing quality of life and continuing to support economic development."
Since 1990, Amtrak and the state spent
more than $1.2 billion in intercity rail. The cash has improved existing
track, purchased trainsets and established facilities to maintain and operate
the trains. The result has been more trains with shorter trip times.
Amtrak service has increased by 38 percent
in California since 1995.
Union Pacific and Amtrak have reportedly
tentatively reached an agreement to run Amtrak's Texas Eagle through East
Texas on different tracks in different directions.
Westbound No. 21 would be rerouted from
Texarkana via Mt. Pleasant to Big Sandy, then would resume the current
routing. The eastbound train would remain on the current route. Two station
stops, Marshall and Longview, would lose train service from the westbound
Amtrak intends to substitute a bus to
serve those two cities.
City officials of Marshall and Longview,
which would lose their westbound train service as well as TEMPO (Texas
Eagle Marketing and Performance Organization), are disturbed over the proposed
reroute, and say they will work to reverse the decision if directional
running does take effect.
Marshall just completed a complete rehabilitation
of its brick station, and Longview is one of only three stations on the
Eagle route that produced over one million dollars in revenue for the train
Amtrak sources indicate that the directional
running issue is unrelated to the future Meridian, Miss., to Ft. Worth
service, but was demanded by Union Pacific as a concession before they
would even discuss daily Eagle operations. UP specifically wants to eliminate
21's westbound movement arguing that the earlier schedule for proposed
Meridian-Ft. Worth No. 819 would be less disruptive to their freight traffic.
Thanks to Gene Poon
Amtrakâs directors, Washington State
and Sound Transit officials broke ground on April 26 for a new, jointly-funded
$43 million state-of-the-art maintenance facility in downtown Seattle,
replacing the current 1910-era facility.
Amtrak President George Warrington said
more frequent and faster trains between Seattle and Portland could arrive
earlier than expected if money can be found for track and equipment improvements,
the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported.
The difficulty in the Pacific Northwest
and elsewhere, he added, "is that demand exceeds capacity The entire system
The new structures will be a block south
of Safeco Field along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks.
During ceremonies, Amtrak board member
Amy Rosen of New Jersey chided airlines, saying the originally scheduled
guest speaker, Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson and Amtrak board chairman,
would be late flying in "because the airways are too crowded."
The new maintenance facility will provide
much better working conditions and is expected to enable employees to better
maintain, repair, service and inspect trains by improving efficiency, and
allow continued growth of passenger rail service in the Pacific Northwest.
Trains serviced there include the Coast
Starlight, Empire Builder and Cascades trains as well as Sound Transitâs
new Sounder commuter trains.
The new facility will have two structures,
a service and inspection building, and a locomotive and coach repair shop.
Construction will be completed in 2003. Amtrak is spending $21 million,
and Washington State, $22 million.
The 75,000 square foot service and inspection
facility will feature full-length service pits to allow easy access beneath
passenger cars for routine and heavy maintenance. The site will also house
a fully enclosed 66,000 square foot locomotive and coach facility with
A wheel turning machine will be installed,
which permits mechanical department forces to ensure that locomotive and
car wheels are shaped and "trued" correctly. A train washing facility,
which allows train exteriors to be scrubbed as they roll slowly through
the maintenance facility, will also be added, Amtrak said.
New Amtrak Chicago to Janesville, Wis. service
began over the April 15 weekend. The railroad ran crew qualification trains
during the April 8 weekend over the Wisconsin Southern.
Launched as part of Amtrakâs Network
Growth Strategy, the new train ö the Lake Country Limited öleaves
Janesville daily for Chicago in the early morning, and returns in the evening.
The train makes an intermediate stop in Glenview, Ill.
The train travels over tracks operated
by Chicagoâs Metra, the Wisconsin and Southern, and the I & M
Rail Link. It is an all-reserved coach train and is intended to increase
"mail and express commercial opportunities," as a press release put it,
"between Janesville and Chicago, providing access to Amtrakâs national
system for both passengers and time-sensitive shipments."
A temporary passenger facility at Janesville
was built on the southeast side of the city.
Amtrak reported it is also considering
adding a stop at Walworth, Wis., near Lake Geneva, pending renovations
to the station there.
The southbound Lake Country Limited
will depart Janesville at 6:00 a.m., Monday through Friday, arriving in
Glenview, Ill., at 8:50 a.m. and in Chicago at 9:20 a.m.
On weekends and holidays, the train
will depart Janesville at 6:15 a.m., arrive in Glenview at 8:35 a.m. and
arrive in Chicago at 9:05 a.m.
The northbound Lake Country Limited
will depart Chicago at 8:15 p.m. daily, arrive in Glenview at 8:39 p.m.
and arrive in Janesville at 11:05 p.m.
A one-way ticket between Janesville
and Chicago is $22 each way.
Amtrakâs web site, at http://www.amtrak.com,
has been named one of the 100 most popular bookmarked sites on the Internet,
and was the only direct provider of passenger transportation service to
be included in the Top 100 list, compiled by HotLinks.
Amtrak said HotLinks told them that
the Amtrak web site was also one of the top 10 special interest sites regularly
bookmarked by its members. The increasingly popular Amtrak Internet site
provides users with access to fares, schedules, promotional information,
and potential custom.ers
can buy their tickets on-line as well. Amtrak said 5 percent of all Amtrak
tickets are booked online.
Those were the days...
From time-to-time, weâll present
from our railroading past. We begin
month with two New England photos from
the early 1950s. - Ed.
June 7, 1954,
was a memorable day for Destination: Freedomâs editor. He
turned 16 years old, and rode a New York, New Haven & Hartford local
from Providence to Boston to celebrate. It was his rite of passage. A sense
of historical leanings had already encompassed the youth.
The view of Tower 1 (above) at Boston's
South Station is a distant relic compared to the lead photo in this monthâs
D: F .
Tower 1 is that narrow, tallish two-story
brick structure to the right of the New Havenâs Budd rail diesel
car. The switches were all pneumatically operated machines controlled by
four operators and levermen inside the tower. They also controlled the
high board semaphore signals.
South Stationâs low platforms
were also the location where The Senator (train No. 177) began its
return trip to our nationâs capital via the Pennsylvania Railroad,
south of New York Cityâs Penn Station. Most of the New Havenâs
hourly intercity trains terminated at Grand Central Terminal where they
shared tracks with the New York Central ö as they did in Boston ö
but a few, like The Senator, went farther south. Some trains had
run-through sleepers that connected with the likes of Atlantic Coast Line
and Florida East Coast and their Florida services.
The Senator (lower photo) paused
briefly in Providence, R.I. on the main on a midsummer day, and would,
in a heartbeat, resume its 90-mph jaunt to New York City, and on to the
District of Columbia.
In those days, it took this train four
hours and 20 minutes to operate on time to Manhattan, according to NYNH&H
Employee Timetable No. 183, dated Oct. 30, 1955. That included an eight-minute
engine swap (steam or diesel to electric) at New Haven, Conn. Todayâs
fastest trains, with electric AEM-7s, like unnamed Nos. 131 and 133, take
three hours and 55 minutes, according to Amtrak public timetable for Winter
2000, while a conventional train (F40PH power), like No. 173, takes four
hours and 59 minutes.
An end note·
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, weâd
like to hear from you. Please email the crew at <email@example.com>.
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