Destination:Freedom Newsletter
Destination:Freedom
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 3 No. 22, June 3, 2002
Copyright © 2002, NCI, Inc.
James P. RePass, President
Leo King, Editor

A weekly North American rail and transit update


Acela trainset at Boston's South Bay Yard

NCI: Leo King

Say it ain't so. The end of the production line is in sight as the last Acela Express is under construction. An early edition, the 2004 set, tests in year 2000 and arrives at Southampton Street Yard, Boston.
Acela's truckbuilder finishes job;
Amtrak lays off in Philadelphia
TransEd of Barre, Vt., has shut its doors at its Center Street shop after finishing the last trucks for Amtrak's Acela Expresses. TransEd officials said the company is looking for new contracts.

Robert Preman, Trans Ed's assistant general manager, said on May 23 that 10 employees were to be laid off the following day - Friday, The Barre-Montpelier Times Argus reported.

"It's a temporary thing," said Preman, who indicated the company hopes to land another contract soon.

"We have one (contract) in the works," Preman said. "We're hoping we'll hear something soon."

For the time being, Preman said, there is no work at a plant where employees have spent the last several months assembling trucks for Amtrak's high-speed trains. Manufactured by Bombardier Inc., the high-speed trains were finished at the conglomerate's company's Barre Town plant. Most of the finishing work was done at Bombardier's plant in the Wilson Industrial Park, the company subcontracted with TransEd to assemble the wheelsets. Preman said that work has involved assembling the wheels, frames, braking and suspension systems for the 150-mile-an-hour trains.

Meanwhile, Amtrak said that it cut 384 jobs from its Philadelphia operations during a recent belt-tightening that eliminated 1,000 positions nationwide.

The job cuts, reported on May 24 by The Philadelphia Inquirer, went deeper than the 700 anticipated when the nationwide restructuring was announced January 31. Amtrak now has 25,400 employees to run its 22,000-mile route system serving 500 communities in 45 states.

The national passenger railroad remains a major employer in Philadelphia, with 2,849 workers. Most of the employees work at 30th Street Station, which also houses the headquarters of its Northeast Corridor as well as system-wide management operations. It also has a reservations center in North Philadelphia and the Penn coach yard near 30th Street Station.

The Philadelphia cuts, which included 154 from management and 230 from union ranks, included layoffs and workers who were given early retirement and voluntary separation incentives, said Karen Dunn, media relations manager in Philadelphia.

The reductions include workers the public sees - ticket sales, station and customer service agents - as well as behind-the-scenes jobs in engineering, finance, policy, communications, and capital projects planning, she said.

The railroad faces a growing backlog of work on its tunnels, tracks, signals, bridges, stations and older train equipment. Unless it receives $1.2 billion from the federal government for this backlog by October, it said it would have to eliminate its 18 long-distance trains, including seven that serve Philadelphia.


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NARP lines up lawmakers
By Wes Vernon
Washington Correspondent

The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) is lining up the signatures of congressmen and senators in letters to their Appropriations Committee leaders, urging that Amtrak be funded in sufficient numbers to keep the national system on the rails in the next fiscal year. NARP members were also writing or personally contacting their local lawmakers during this past week's holiday recess.

As of Friday morning, NARP had the signatures of 30 percent of the senators and an equal percentage of House members.

The senators are reminded that their Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation had approved $1.2 billion for Amtrak, the amount Amtrak said would be needed just to keep the full system going. The Appropriations Committee will be the moment of truth, and the letter urges the leaders of that panel to follow through with the actual money.

The same legislative reality prevails in the House. There, the Congressmen who have signed the NARP letter are urging the appropriators to provide the $1.975 billion that has been authorized by the House Railroad Subcommittee.

If the appropriations panels follow though and persuade a majority of their colleagues to do likewise, then the differences between the two figures can be worked out in a Senate-House conference committee. Again, bear in mind the $1.2 billion is designated by Amtrak to be rock bottom minimum to keep the service from shrinking.

While the lawmakers have been taking a Memorial Day recess, NARP members have been given talking points to use in person at "town meetings" or in letters.

The talking points and the case made in the letters circulating in the House and Senate touch such bases as balanced transportation-especially since September 11, related security measures to that tragic day, a backlog of badly needed infrastructure projects, life safety improvements in deteriorating tunnels, and the need to avoid "even greater costs to this country as the passenger train network deteriorates due to short-term budget constraints."

If your Congressman, House member or Senate member Ē happens to be on the key appropriations committees, all the more relevant.

The House Appropriations Committee is chaired by Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) with Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) as ranking member. Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) heads the Transportation Subcommittee of Appropriations. Rep. Martin Sabo (D-Minn.) is ranking member.

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The ranking member is Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). On the Transportation Subcommittee, the chairwoman and ranking member respectively are Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)


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Commuter lines...

SEPTA replaces grade crossing

It took a week to do the job, but 30 members of a SEPTA track gang recently replaced a grade crossing for the R6 suburban rail line in Morristown, Pa., at the intersection of Markley and West Marshall Streets. The $80,000 project included road detours at one of the community's busiest grade crossings.

Trains on the R6 line continued using the route from Wednesday morning to Friday midnight, a spokesman said, but the line was shut down for the weekend, and riders were "bustituted."

Rail service was restored on Monday morning, and the concrete grade crossing was ready for traffic on Tuesday morning.

The rail crew removed 70 feet of track and a 14-foot wide section of the macadam road surface and installed 17 pre-cast concrete ties and new rails.


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Metro North along the Hudson River in NY

Five photos: Kent Patterson

Two Metro-North trains race along the Hudson River in New York, but Kent Patterson offers a railroader's view of riding Amtrak from New York to Chicago and back on a roundabout route.
NCI takes a ride

Railroader rides the high iron

By Kent Patterson
Special to Destination: Freedom

A business trip to Detroit, Michigan inspired me to sample the Empire and Detroit Corridors, via Toronto, Canada. This journey started at Yonkers N.Y., continuing on a roundabout route to Toronto, Battle Creek Mich., and eventually Detroit. The return trip was Detroit to Chicago, and back home to the New York City area. In all, with mileage figures found in Amtrak's timetables, I rode 2,095 miles

Twilight Limited

Amtrak's Twilight Limited pauses at Jackson, Mich. Enroute from Detroit to Chicago.

Most trains averaged between one and two hours late, but the relaxed expectations of each train's roughly 200 riders didn't seem to annoy the clientele.

On the Empire Corridor, any business patronage of consequence ends up in New York City or Albany-Rensselaer. Several convenient peak-time trains arrive at Pennsylvania Station in the morning, plus a similar convenient pattern of afternoon and evening trains depart New York giving the Hudson Valley and Albany's Capitol District residents good travel options. When one adds midday and non-peak trains, this corridor of lesser prominence than the Northeast Corridor, is served by 27 trains.

Amtrak's No. 63, the Maple Leaf, from New York to Toronto, enjoyed the most business patronage between New York and its on-time arrival (9:45 a.m.) at Albany-Rensselaer.

West of Albany, Empire Corridor service level thins out considerably. A single train is available to bring passengers east to Albany or New York City in enough time for at least a partial day's business.

Few business travelers, if any, were aboard No. 63, and often between 100 and 200 passengers included students, seniors, families, and leisure travelers.

Currently, the western two-thirds of the Empire Corridor is structured as a standard, mid-range regional service that provides four round trips trains largely scheduled for midday travel, which includes the frequently tardy Lake Shore Limited.

One area where Empire State rail planners may capitalize on a substantial improvement and market gain is in expanding the corridor concept west, at least partially for now. As prices are costly for scarce housing around the Hudson Valley, the next logical region beyond is the Mohawk Valley. If emphasis were given to this market, several depressed upstate counties could benefit from this transport enhancement. Utica, Amsterdam, and Schenectady are within three to four hours travel time from New York. Historically, transportation improvements foster an area's development and economy.

West of Albany-Rensselaer, the Maple Leaf operates over CSX's Chicago mainline, which is among the busiest freight arteries in the nation.

We were close to on-time most of trip. We were routed well by CSX dispatchers, despite the fact that heading west along this former New York Central mainline we passed 19 eastward CSX freight and intermodal trains, three Amtrak trains, as well as overtaking a long, slow westbound hopper car train.

Future important market venues deserving of more attention include the upstate cities of Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo. Each metropolis is about one hour from the next. The entire route from the Hudson River to Lake Erie is basically straight and flat, an enviable terrain for a fast corridor.

At Niagara Falls, U.S. Customs gave the Maple Leaf an inspection leaving the U.S., a new item since September 11, and then across the border, a longer inspection from their Canadian counterparts - but with all these formalities, arrival in Toronto was less than ten minutes late.

At 6:35 the next morning, the Chicago-bound No. 365, The International Limited, pulled out of Toronto with close to 100 customers, including local Canadian passengers. This train also operates as a VIA Rail Canada "corridor" train within Ontario. We maintained a close to on-time performance to the border.

From September 11 until March 2002, the International was required to unload its passengers before the border at Sarnia, Ontario, put them on a bus while the train crossed into the U.S. to Port Huron Mich., then reload them after each passenger cleared customs.

A slightly improved scheme has been implemented. All passengers were herded into the forward portion of the train. The caf» car became a makeshift customs office for routine immigration matters, and passengers, after being cleared, were then sent to the rear of the train - meaning everyone was required to move with their luggage. Some moved twice.

We were ready to depart after incurring a half-hour delay (about an hour is already factored for customs work, typical of American cross border trains). Unfortunately, a Grand Trunk Western train encountered brake trouble just west on this old single-track railroad, thus rounding the delay to an hour.

Subsequently, a switch failure, some opposing traffic and passenger loading caused another hour's bleed, resulting in my missed connection at Battle Creek for Detroit. While this train had about 100 cross-border passengers as we headed toward Chicago, the passenger load more than doubled. For example, at East Lansing, the train's lengthy station work included loading and unloading about 100 college students.

Three round trips daily ply the Detroit-Chicago corridor. A single round-trip serves a different route: Chicago to Grand Rapids, and the Toronto-bound International is a fourth train on this corridor between Battle Creek and Chicago.

This corridor is far from being able to attract business clientele. For starters, the 280-mile route currently requires a five and one half-hour journey. One should note that during the steam era of the 1950s service frequency was more than double the current service level, more punctual, and shorter by a half-hour in travel time.

Conductor stands by

The conductor on No. 353, the Twilight Limited, awaits the appointed time to leave Jackson, Mich.

Union Station, Chicago

Union Station, Chicago, is one busy railroad station. Patterson's No. 353 is at the left beside the Illinois Zephyr to Quincy, Ill.

Again, like western New York State, with a glance at a schedule, one can see that business travel between Chicago and Detroit is difficult. The departure choices are very few, and a full day of business in either city is not possible, so most of this market is also for leisure travelers. On average, in Michigan, about 150 passengers were on each train that I rode, although a quick count of the evening westbound train from Detroit to Chicago yielded 60 passengers at Battle Creek.

While a good quantity of tired Amfleet cars make-up Midwestern train consists, the more spacious Bombardier built, Horizon fleet with more comfortable seats are plentiful in consists. Caf» cars host different menus featuring fast food items more familiar in the Midwest, like White Castle Burgers, Polish Frankfurters, etc.

The few business travelers that I saw on this entire journey made rather good use of their time by working with their computers. Add cellular access, they kept in-office access while traveling (although some should learn to be quieter). If they drove or flew, that efficient use of time certainly would have been diluted.

One positive taste of improvement included a pilot project for a 90 mph positive train separation system (PTS) based on a Global Position System (GPS). The old Traffic Control System (TCS), a block signal system, still works, of course, but we sailed along at close to 90 mph on smooth track. This piece of good fortune shaved about 15 minutes off an earlier one-hour delay.

PTS-equipped locomotives have a computer and GPS using real-time train location data (other trains, too) from satellites. This system enhancement is currently in addition to the TCS already in place, which is a dual directional block-signal system. FRA regulations limit the speeds over TCS and Automatic Block System track to 79 mph, since the trains lack positive stopping protection.

PTS saves money in high-speed signaling and train stopping systems since the system is used aboard locomotives, not in the tracks. Avoiding expensive track wiring improvements saves money.

Passengers were able to catch their now-close connections. Chicago is a big destination, but is in every sense, a hub and connection point. I had two hours to kill until I boarded the Lakeshore Limited for New York.

Union Station's Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge is now a tired facility, although crowded with people awaiting connecting trains. Many appeared to be retirees with first-class sleeping car tickets allowing access to the lounge. Only coffee and a few used newspapers seemed available among the gratis amenities, however, the small staff was attentive.

Aboard Train No. 48, the Lake Shore Limited, the staff was anxious to do a good job, and it showed well. The dining car steward and lounge car attendant made several sales pitches over the public address system to solicit business. They worked hard at advertising it, almost as though if we all bought enough meals, booze, candy, and potato chips, Amtrak just might pull through it's fiscal mess.

A positive denominator on No. 48 was the employee willingness to make the best impression possible to the guests with their meager resources, reminding me of the pre-Amtrak days circa late 1960s, when railroad management cared none for passenger service. Passenger employees soldiered on with their efforts to offer good service, despite the prevailing management of that era.

The International at the US/Canadian border

No. 365, the International, awaits a highball at the Canadian-U.S. border (on the American side) after clearing U.S. Customs.

We departed Chicago about 20 minutes late (police reasons), but the train lost little time just outside Union Station having about a dozen cars, and Roadrailer trailers of mail, express, and some perishable freight coupled on behind us. This added traffic was essential to offset much of the train's operating cost.

Soon we raced east on the former New York Central mainline. The diner did a brisk trade, and all at my table enjoyed good conversation over their strip steak, or fresh sole, or a not greasy, pan-fried chicken. I could not completely finish my generous dinner.

After what seemed to be a brief slumber, the Lakeshore Limited eased into Toledo, Ohio.

It was in the 1970s when I last saw this station, which then bordered on abandonment. Tonight, when looking out my Viewliner roomette, there were two active tracks adjacent to our train. The station was cleaned-up - in fact, it looked busy and rather new. There is plenty of mail and express here - it's a hub for Amtrak's mail and express.

Several cars were cut from the train's rear, and the station work did not further delay us, but other factors must have affecting our timing, because at 8:25 the next morning, I awoke near Rochester, N.Y. and about 80 minutes late. A Buffalo newspaper was slid under my room door, and I read it over French toast in the diner. Most passengers aboard this New York-bound train had leisurely time constraints and somewhat low expectation of its on-time performance. Actually, I had planned for a longer delay, so my plans that evening would not likely be impacted.

Few people use the Lakeshore Limited in New York State to head to Albany or New York City, and generally opt for the other two morning trains that don't have as much delay exposure.

Forty-two minutes is carded at Albany for splitting the train to Boston and New York, plus cutting off mail and express equipment. Almost ironically, the New York section left in twenty minutes. Some creative planning appears to have been done improve the daily switching operation.

We made excellent time from Albany-Rensselaer non-stop to Croton Harmon. It was just under a 90-minute run, allowing me to miraculously make a connection to a Metro-North commuter train to Tarrytown, N.Y., by two minutes.  


 

Kent Patterson, 47, is a project manager with Metro-North Railroad's Marketing Department, in New York City. Kent has always kept an interest in railroads, as well as other modes of transportation.

His career started in 1973 as a tower operator for Penn Central, on the former New York Central, Hudson Division. He has stayed mostly within that organization since then, going on to other positions with Conrail, and then Metro-North. He worked as a tower director in Grand Central Terminal, a yardmaster, and trainmaster.

A graduate of the State Univ. of New York's Empire State College majoring in Business Management, Kent also had published photography, an article on rails in China, and has experience in rail and freight marketing.

Today, Kent maintains a keen interest in rail operations in New York State, notably on Metro-North, and the Empire Corridor. - Ed.


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FL9 at Boston

NCI: Leo King

Amtrak used FL-9s at their end for standby duties in Boston shortly after the electrification project was completed between New Haven, Conn., and Boston. Here, paired with F-40PH No. 310 - itself now a "dinosaur," rides west up the "chute" track at South Bay tower and Southampton Street Yard in the Hub, three years ago.
Used engines for sale
Ordinarily, we don't write much about commercial ventures, but this one struck us as so close to our hearts as well as our rail history we made an exception.

B.A.Hastings is offering, on Amtrak's behalf, "six FL-9 locomotives for sale - Built 1957 by EMD; 1,750 HP, 16-cylinder 645E engine; 26L air brake; diesel with third-rail capability, but all 3rd rail shoe beams have been removed but are available."

The dual electric and diesel engines were originally built for the New York, New Haven & Hartford to enter Grand Central Station and travel to Boston, eliminating an engine change at New Haven, Conn. Not only did they have third-rail shoes, but they also had tiny pantographs at one time. They are distinctive because the have two axles on the front truck, and three on the rear.

"Four of the six are equipped with 57:20 gearing; two have 6215 switcher gearing; capable of going through tunnels."

They're also offering some other elderly power for sale.

"Two CF-7 1,500 HP switchers; five GP-9 1,750 HP switchers; two GP-7 1,500 HP switchers; two SSB 1,200 HP switchers."

Those CF-7s began their journeys with EMD in the 1950s and were originally Santa Fe F-7s, which were rebuilt in AT&SF's Cleburne, Texas shops as road switchers. All the engines were hand-me-downs when Amtrak got them.


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Freight lines...
The Juice Train

NCI: Leo King

A CSX crew operating Union Pacific engines run-through power set out a half-dozen "Juice Train" cars in West Jacksonville, Fla. on May 21. That's SD-70M 4537 in the lead, SD-60M 2452 trailing.
What if freight rails disappeared?
By Wes Vernon
Washington Correspondent

Freight railroads play a largely invisible role in the everyday lives of Americans. But if they were suddenly to disappear, their importance would be noticed by nearly everyone.

That is the message the railroad industry is trying to get across to the public.

Talk about trains to someone who is into the "fly-drive" mentality of transportation, and you might hear something like, "Well, they're a thing of the past, aren't they?" or "Only hobbyists have an interest in trains. I haven't been on one in years."

It is precisely that mindset that has caused the Association of American Railroads (AAR) to set out to "educate" the public.

In a huge advertising campaign going into the millions, and focused on people whose view of railroads is guided by an "out of sight, out of mind" syndrome, AAR's ads have appeared in the Washington Post, the Washington Times and can be seen on CNN and radio and television outlets in communities throughout the nation.

Several decades ago, when the freight railroads also ran passenger trains, the "limiteds" were viewed as a public relations (as opposed to an economic) benefit for them.

When the Class I carriers turned the passenger operations over to Amtrak, the private rail companies took on a lower profile with the public.

Behind the scenes, decision-makers have been well aware of the importance railroading plays in the lives of every citizen in this country. That is why whenever a nationwide rail strike is called, Congress steps in and stops it within one, two or three days.

Elected politicians understand, for example, that "just in time" delivery of automobiles is made possible by the massive use of railroads in getting them from the manufacturer to the showroom.

They also understand that for many industries, sustained disruption of rail services could adversely affect assembly lines and result in the loss of jobs for substantial numbers of people - people in households with two or more voters. It could erode the general economy, which could have significant economic impacts on communities and individuals alike.

Trains, however invisible they may be to large segments of the public, provide a number of "quality of life" materials that most Americans take for granted. This includes grain for many food products including perishable goods, the likes of CSX's Florida "Juice Train," ores for steel, chemicals for manufacturing clothes, Chlorine and other items.

Yet, if you don't ride Amtrak or a commuter train or have a hobby or professional interest in trains, railroads are not likely to be on your radar screen.

AAR seeks to remedy that. Not only is the industry advertising aimed at helping "average Americans" to see how their lives are impacted by railroads, they are even making an appeal to rail hobbyists.

That is a significant change. Over the years, the industry has viewed "foamers" (and not entirely without reason, many railroaders will say) as something of a nuisance. Some of them have been shooed off railroad property where they have presented safety problems to get those great pictures. Others have leaned on the companies to run "fan trips" hither and yon, with little evident concern for economics or practicality.

That has long been a widespread industry view of "fans." Though that view is not likely to disappear overnight, the industry has decided to make an appeal to those who "like trains." Perhaps, it is reasoned, their keen awareness of trains can help the industry better connect with the public. At least, they are willing to give it a try.

By the end of the year, when the campaign is completed, the railroads hope they will have increased their profile with Americans.


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Rail World inks pact to buy BAR
Rail World, Inc.'s affiliate Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway reported last week it signed an "asset purchase agreement" with James Howard, trustee of the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad Co. The agreement provides for MM&A to purchase approximately 745 miles of rail line in Maine, Quebec and New Brunswick from BAR (also known as B&A) and its affiliates.

Howard said he intends to file the agreement with the bankruptcy court as soon as the affiliate parties have signed, and will request the court's approval to complete the sale. He indicated that it would take several months for the bankruptcy court to review the sale agreement and to consider comments of the creditors and other parties of interest.

B&A is currently under Chapter 11 of the U.S. bankruptcy statues, and its Canadian affiliate, Quebec Southern Railway, is under court-supervised administrative proceedings. The other B&A affiliates involved in the sale are Canadian American Railroad, Northern Vermont Railroad, Newport & Richford Railroad and Van Buren Bridge Co., all of which have filed under Chapter 11.

Larry R. Parsons, president of Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad and an investor in Rail World, said last week that the deal is a step forward to making the system profitable.

Edward Burkhardt, president of Rail World and former president and CEO of Wisconsin Central Transportation Corp., said in a statement, "We believe this can be a highly successful railway and are anxious to close the purchase as soon as possible. We are particularly impressed with the quality of the employees and the customer base."

Investing with Rail World are Larry R. Parsons, president of Wheeling & Lake Erie; Jerry R. Davis, retired president of Union Pacific; and Frank Turner, retiring president of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.

Thanks to Joe Calisi - Ed.


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Public funds will help fix bridge
In one of the few times public funds have been used to help a railroad freight carrier, Delaware and Norfolk Southern have signed an agreement that will allow the state to help fix a bridge that will ultimately improve the state's economy.

Delaware and NS jointly stated on May 29 the plan is to aid "the competitiveness of the Port of Wilmington and improve rail freight service to the Delmarva Peninsula."

The Shellpot Bridge crosses the Christiana River in Wilmington.

Under the terms of the agreement, Delaware will fund the cost of restoring the bridge for train service, and NS will compensate the state over 20-years based on its use of the bridge. The total cost of the rehabilitation project is approximately $13 million, and completion is expected by 2003.

David R. Goode, NS chairman, president and CEO said, "Through the leadership of Governor Minner, Secretary Nathan Hayward III and the state legislature, the state of Delaware is demonstrating its commitment to improving the way freight flows through Delaware."

Goode added, "Norfolk Southern looks forward to satisfying the rail freight transportation needs of the Port of Wilmington and Delaware for many years to come."

Although the use of public funds to support private transportation infrastructure improvements is common in the trucking, airline and maritime industries, this partnership is unique in the freight railroad industry in that NS will reimburse the state through a fee for each rail car that crosses the bridge.

The Shellpot Bridge is a swing-style railroad drawbridge originally built in 1888 on timber piers. The timber framework was replaced by a concrete foundation in 1951. The movable portion of the bridge is 242 feet long, and the total length of the bridge is 725 feet.

Conrail discontinued service over the bridge in December 1994 when the bridge foundation could no longer support heavy freight trains. Since then, freight trains operating in Wilmington have had to run on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor through the Wilmington Transit Center.

NS currently is limited on its freight train operations on the peninsula to times when passenger trains are not scheduled. When the Shellpot returns to service, the port and Delmarva Peninsula shippers will have better access to all rail routes via NS.


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Two of FEC's engines in the yard.

NCI: Leo King

Florida East Coast Industries, Inc.'s directors declared a quarterly dividend of $.025 (2 1/2 cents) per share on all issued and outstanding common stock, payable on June 28, 2002 to all shareholders of record as of June 13, 2002. The firm owns four subsidiaries, including Florida East Coast Railway Co. FEC is a regional freight railroad that operates 351 miles of main line track, from Jacksonville to Miami. In May, two GP-40 crews were working Norfolk Southern's Simpson Yard in Jacksonville - one shuffling double-stacks, the other, general merchandise.
Lines across the pond...

Byers quits; Darling changes posts

Stephen Byers

BBC

Stephen Byers

British Transport Secretary Stephen Byers has quit his job, saying it was "the right thing to do for the Labour Party and the government."

Byers had been under fire for months, initially for standing by spin doctor Jo Moore after she sent an e-mail on September 11 saying it was a good day "to bury" bad news.

Meanwhile, Alistair Darling has been appointed Minister of Transport. One day earlier, he had been the equivalent of the U.S. Secretary of Labor. A lawyer, his previous ministerial experience was all within the Treasury.

Byers has also faced criticism from the City over his decision to force Railtrack into administration, the British equivalent of bankruptcy. There have been a series of claims that he lied to Parliament - all of which he has denied. The most recent, following the Potters Bar rail crash, came from the Paddington train crash survivors' group.

A Member of Parliament's report published a fortnight ago branded his 10-year transport plan "incomprehensible."

At a news conference at 10 Downing Street last Tuesday, Byers admitted making mistakes and said his continued presence "damaged" the government.

Conservative and Liberal Democrats welcomed his resignation, but both parties attacked Prime Minister Tony Blair for standing by him for so long.

In a brief statement, Byers said resigning was "the right thing to do" for the Labour Party and for the government. The Prime Minister said he "understood and respected" Byers' decision.

Byers said he stood by the major policy decisions he had made, but he said that, with hindsight, there were things he would have done differently.

"Government ministers take many decisions and I know I have made mistakes," he said, and added he had tried to "behave honorably." He stated flatly, "The people that know me best know I am not a liar. What is clear to me, however, is that I have become a distraction from what the government is achieving, that the debate we need to have about key policy issues is being distorted by my involvement, that by remaining in office I damage the government."


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Meetings...

June 8-13

American Public Transportation Assn.

Commuter Rail/Rail Transit Conference

Renaissance Harborplace Hotel & Hyatt Regency
Baltimore

Featured speakers will be new Amtrak President David Gunn, FRA's Alan Rutter, USDOT's Emil Frankel, and other major players in intercity and commuter rail future. All rail transit system and commuter rail personnel, board members, policy makers, suppliers, consultants, and any other personnel involved with rail and fixed guideway design, construction, operations and maintenance should attend. Pre-registration ends June 4.

To learn more and to sign up go to www.apta.com/meetings/commuter/, or contact Heather Rachels online at http://apta.com or phone (202) 496-4838; David Phelps via e-mail at dphelps@apta.com; or phone 202 496 4885.


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The way we were...

Of forts, flags and corporate citizens

Commerative plaque

NCI: Leo King

Being a good corporate citizen sometimes takes railroaders far from their tracks. Consider, for example, two railroads that contributed to Fort McHenry's well being, in Baltimore. The war of 1812 eventually brought British men-of-war ships to attempt a Naval bombardment at the Patapsco River leading to the city in 1814. The Brits were not very good shots, even though it was a stormy night. Only one shot landed that caused two deaths. Baltimore, however, a few short years later, would be the birthplace of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad - America's first.

This plaque rests near a flagpole that still rises above the fort, no longer an active military garrison, but operated by the National Park Service.

"During the bombardment of September 13-14, 1814, the flag which inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star-Spangled Banner" flew from a flagstaff at this location.

"This replica of the original flagstaff donated by: Veterans of Foreign Wars, Department of Maryland; Joseph O. Hansen; Terminal Corporation; CSX Transportation; Baltimore Gas & Electric; Burlington Northern Railroad; Maryland Port Authority; Tidewater Equipment, Inc.; International Union of Operating Engineers, Local No. 37; Burdeke's Paints; AFL-CIO Iron Workers, Local no. 16; and the Patriots of Fort McHenry, 1989."


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Old Glory

End Notes...

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

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

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

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 webmaster in Boston.


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