Destination:Freedom Newsletter
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 4 No. 24, June 16, 2003
Copyright © 2003, NCI, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - James Furlong
Editor - Leo King

A weekly North American rail and transit update


Sunset Limited in Houston TX

For NCI via RailNet: Paul Smith

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison says she’s writing legislation that should get Amtrak on the right track. Here, the Sunset Limited pauses in Houston in December 2002 with P-42 No. 88 leading.


Hutchison writing Amtrak plan

By Leo King

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) said last week she is going to introduce legislation to reauthorize Amtrak for five years, and foster billions of dollars of private investment to restore and improve rail service – and if on-time performance doesn’t meet certain criteria, open the routes up for bidding.

Hutchison, who chairs the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine, was critical of Amtrak’s on-time performance, but she noted the carrier had help.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas)
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas)
She said at a June 5 subcommittee hearing, “I support Amtrak. I believe we can have a viable national passenger rail system. Unfortunately, we are far from realizing that goal. Outside the Northeast Corridor, trains seldom run on time, and service is abysmal.”

She added, “Lateness is often measured in days, not hours. Several years ago, when the airlines’ on-time rate fell below 75 percent, it was considered a national emergency. At Amtrak, on-time records under 50 percent are business as usual. Rail critics point to low ridership as the reason why we starve the national system. I contend that starvation is a big part of the reason for low ridership.”

She compared the Northeast Corridor to trains that operate in Texas, particularly train Nos. 21, 421, 22 and 422, the Texas Eagle.

“In the Northeast, a passenger can board a train here at Union Station and reasonably expect to be in New York City, about 225 miles away, in less than three hours. If one of my constituents buys a ticket from Austin to Fort Worth, a trip 38 miles shorter than D.C. to New York, the best she can expect is a ride of four-and-one-half hours. Of course, the Texas Eagle meets its schedule only 35 percent of the time, so it will likely take my constituent even longer to make this short trip.”

The Eagles operate over Union Pacific tracks.

She continued:

“An Austin businessman may prefer not to deal with airport hassles for such a short flight, and he may want to avoid the traffic on I-35, but the train is not a reasonable option if he has to be at a meeting in Fort Worth at a time certain. This problem must be addressed.”

The senator brought a solution to the table as well.

“Improving service on the national system will require creative thinking and innovative financing. We cannot continue to fund Amtrak just enough to keep it going until the next crisis. That is a road map for failure. Private investment, state participation, and the cooperation of the freight railroads are all absolutely critical to achieving service upgrades.”

Hutchison, who is the first woman senator from Texas and is now in her second term, declared the time is right to make bold moves regarding Amtrak.

“We will never have a better opportunity to accomplish this goal than now, in this reauthorization cycle. That is why I plan to introduce legislation to bring the national system up to Northeast Corridor standards.

“In Texas, most trains are forced to operate at less than 30 mph due to track conditions and freight operations. The national system needs at least $40 billion in capital improvements to allow both freight and passenger trains to meet a reasonable schedule. The Northeast Corridor requires roughly $10 billion to avoid an increased risk of accidents and a system-wide slowdown. Passenger rail should have a commitment similar to that enjoyed by our highway and mass transit programs.”

She also reached back to an earlier generation for a model to do what she proposes.

“In the 1950s, President Eisenhower convinced the nation to pay for the construction of the National Highway System. Fiscal realities have changed since that time, and we must find a way to creatively finance our rail infrastructure needs without draining resources from alternative modes of transportation and other federal priorities. Several proposals for leveraging private capital have surfaced, and we are here to evaluate their merit. Municipal bonding and private investment are necessary components of any plan to restore and improve rail infrastructure.

“Making this investment will not only improve passenger service, but also upgrade freight operations throughout the country. Outside the Northeast Corridor, freight and passenger trains must run on the same tracks. In exchange for an investment to upgrade those tracks, the freights must agree to allow Amtrak to meet its schedule.”

Hutchison also chairs the Military Construction Subcommittee, and is a member of the Defense Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, so her views also include moving military freight as required.

“I realize the critical role played by freight railroads in the American economy, and I know that this industry has seen better days. That is why I urge them to work with us to achieve a mutually beneficial solution. If we work together, freight railroads will enjoy capital improvements that they could not otherwise hope to afford, as we secure the future of passenger rail in this country. It could be a win-win situation.

She agreed with some Amtrak critics who have charged that Amtrak management, at least up until David Gunn, has not been good. She is setting a minimal on-time performance goal.

“I agree with Amtrak’s critics that the railroad’s stewardship of the national system has been inadequate. I was deeply disappointed to see Amtrak’s proposed five-year capital plan call for nearly all of its capital budget to be spent in the Northeast Corridor. The national system deserves more than the crumbs left over after the needs of the NEC have been met. Amtrak must be required to bring the national system up to an 80 percent on-time arrival rate.”

She further explained her notion.

“Once a route has enjoyed reasonable on-time performance, it can be fairly evaluated from a cost-benefit perspective. 80 percent is a modest goal. If Amtrak is unable to meet performance requirements on a route, that route should be opened to other operators for bidding.”

She was clear in her intent.

“We must decide whether we want to create a viable national system, or settle for a single rail corridor providing ever-deteriorating service to only one sector of the country. I will not support any proposal that does not put the national system on par with the Northeast Corridor.”

She added, “If we fail to enact real change in this reauthorization bill, we may run out of chances to obtain the intermodal transportation system we profess to seek.”

Hutchison said her legislation would reauthorize Amtrak for five years – through Fiscal Year 2008 by authorizing $50 billion in government-backed municipal bonds, which would include $10 billion for repairs and improvements to the Northeast Corridor and $40 billion for freight railroad lines on the national system. Bonds would be repaid over 30 years.

Her measure would authorize $10 billion in operating expenses over the next five years, and redirect the 4.3 cents per gallon fuel tax paid by freight railroads to create a Railway Account of the Highway Trust Fund to support a National Rail Transportation Finance Corp. (NRTFC) and its underwriting of the bonds. Those fuel tax dollars currently go into the general fund controlled by the Treasury Dept.

She would also establish a Rail Office at USDOT responsible for recommending capital projects for funding by the NRTFC and administer Amtrak’s capital assets, and Require Amtrak to achieve an 80 percent on time record for the national system.

“Routes that do not meet this requirement shall be forfeited by Amtrak and opened for bidding by private operators or governmental entities, including states and transit authorities,” Hutchison said.

Many railroad photos are available via

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Rail management, labor cautious
on automated train control

By Wes Vernon
Washington Bureau Chief

The role of Positive Train Control (PTC) was a focus of a House hearing last week. Both the industry and labor urged a careful and thoroughly considered approach to its use.

Speaking for the industry, Norfolk Southern senior operations vice-President John P. Samuels urged the lawmakers to fully fund a PTC demonstration project in Illinois, saying that without such backing, “the project is unlikely to accomplish its principal objective of demonstrating the feasibility of PTC.”

Samuels explained, “The concept underlying PTC is to make use of digital data communications and computerized information systems in controlling train movements, thereby reducing opportunity for accidents due to human error. A PTC system links the dispatch center, locomotives, wayside devices such as signals and grade-crossing warning systems, and roadway worker computer terminals.”

On Friday, an AAR spokesman emphasized that the industry has not come to any hard and fast conclusions about PTC’s overall feasibility on a grand scale because of tests and pilot projects that are still in progress.

Speaking from the labor side, Bob Harvey, Regulatory Research Director for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE), noted, “PTC has been deployed on locomotives, in dispatching centers, along the wayside, in offices, and just about everywhere there is a business, communication, or control application.”

Harvey pointed to previous reports, which, he said, “have arguably not shown a sufficient safety benefit to justify the costs of the systems.” The reason for this, he argued, is that “the present operating environment of the railroad is incredibly safe and the costs of unpredictable.” However, they will not be inexpensive, he added.

He cautioned that certain factors ought to be heavily weighed in dealing with PTC Over-reliance on automation and the added distraction of having to monitor automation.

Those factors include maintaining the locomotive engineer’s “perceptual decision-making and control skills, which are considered mandatory.”

As we went to press, a spokesman for BLE pointed out to D:F that even on Washington’s Metro “subway” system, which is heavily automated, each motorman is required to operate a train manually each week just to make sure that he is always capable of doing so if necessary and to keep him in practice to meet any emergencies. Even while the train is on automation, a motorman must be in the cab. That is considered essential to the confidence of Metro’s riders.

A PTC system should provide “an auditory warning of appropriate hazards and graphical information about stopping profiles from the given speed. Otherwise, it should allow manual operation, with certain caveats. Also, failures of a PTC system should be announced by a clearly discernible auditory alarm

Another concern is that there should be special classroom and training for PTC operation.

In testifying on behalf of AAR, Samuels of NS urged the government to move away from command and control safety regulations and toward performance standards in order to improve railroad safety.

“Technological innovators,” he said, “will help ensure the continued improvement of the railroads’ safety record.”

Samuels was introduced to the committee by AAR President Edward R. Hamberger, who pointed with pride to the fact that “last year was the safest year in history in terms of our employee casualty rate,” as well as in terms of highway-rail grade crossing accidents and fatalities – a 13.5 percent decrease from 2001. Last month at the Harriman Awards luncheon, Hamberger reiterated that the industry would not be satisfied until accidents and casualties are reduced to zero.

Jo Strang of the FRA noted several statistics showing “the safety trends on the nation’s railroads are very favorable.

Dr. Alan J. Bing, Technical Specialist for ICF Consulting, said the railroads in recent years had adopted techniques earlier developed by the automobile industry to reduce occupant injuries and collisions, including crushable energy-absorbing structures at the ends of cars and locomotives.

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Canada gets closer to faster trains

A speedy rail system that could get passengers from Toronto to Montreal in just three hours looked closer to reality on June 9 with fresh declarations of support from federal cabinet ministers.

“I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to make an announcement soon... about the project. Hopefully we’ll be able to move on it,” Transport Minister David Collenette told Reuters.

Collenette was speaking after a weekend debate in which Finance Minister John Manley announced that he was in favor of such a system.

Last year, the government passenger rail company, Via Rail, proposed a C$3 billion ($2.2 billion) “higher-speed” project that would improve the existing network, but not be nearly as fast, nor as costly, as France’s TGV system.

The proposal targets the heaviest traveled rail corridor in Canada, from Quebec City to Windsor, Ontario, through Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.

Collenette told a parliamentary committee on June 9 that an express service to go the 360 miles from Toronto to Montreal could take three hours. The quickest Toronto-Montreal expresses currently take about four hours.

VIA's proposal last year was to raise money on capital markets to help fund its Via Fast program – with the expectation that Canadian National Railway Co and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd., which own most of the tracks on the corridor – would also participate.

Only partial funding for the project, which has been opposed by airlines and bus companies, would come from the federal government.

Despite Collenette’s optimism, one obstacle for the project is Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s plan to retire next February, with the race to choose a new leader of the governing Liberal Party already under way.

Finance Minister Manley is one of those vying to replace Chretien, but the front-runner is former finance minister Paul Martin, whose views on a high-speed rail system are unclear.

Meanwhile, the Manchester, N.H., Union Leader reported last week that the results of a study on the feasibility of Boston to Montreal high-speed rail service show it may be feasible.

Charlie Miller, rail program manager for the Vermont Agency of Transportation, told a New Hampshire rail task force June 6 of the findings.

A draft final statement of the first phase of the study presented by Miller indicates that a significant ridership would use a competitively priced high-speed rail service.

The preliminary study forecasts a maximum ridership of 683,667 passengers a year from a mid-speed service with the lowest fare rate.

“Therefore the results indicate that a competitively priced (high-speed) service would have the best ridership and the highest operating revenue,” the draft report states.

Miller briefed the New Hampshire task force on re-establishing the Lawrence, Mass., to Manchester and Concord and Concord to Lebanon rail service on results of the study, which is about to shift to phase two.

Steering committees from Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts along with Canadian government officials have been working on a feasibility study of a 329-mile high-speed rail corridor between Boston and Montreal.

Vermont already has several active rail lines and is strongly committed to Amtrak and freight line service, Miller said.

The Green Mountain state has committed $3.5 million this year for Amtrak services for both the Ethan Allen Express service out of Rutland to Penn Station in New York as well as the St. Albans to Washington service, the Vermonter, which serves Claremont and several other communities along the Connecticut River Valley, Miller said.

Phase one of the study covered the development of ridership projections, existing freight and passenger operations, station selection issues as well as infrastructure questions. Phase two will shift into refinements of phase one issues and focus on a more specific operating plan, Miller said.

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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

Painting-NY Penn Station
The painting of New York’s Penn Station by noted Connecticut artist Gordon Bell is still for sale. While not a railroad painter per se, Bell often paints the built environment (buildings, cityscapes, and so on) and his take on this deep and mysterious scene is unique and original. Penn Station is an oil painting (30 inches by 24 inches, and can be yours for $1,200 – and its sale will benefit NCI. Destination:Freedom readers can express interest by contacting

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Miami-Dade Palmetto Station seen from the air

Miami-Dade OPTM

Miami-Dade’s new Medley, Fla., station opened on May 30. It is named “Palmetto.”


Florida Palmetto Metrorail station opens

Miami-Dade’s rapid transit system opened its newest station – Palmetto Metrorail Station – in Medley, Fla., on May 30. It is the 22nd for the rapid transit system as well as the first new station to open in 14 years.

One-point-four miles of new track were laid to extend the route to the new station, the area’s only transport hub for commuters traveling eastbound, originating in Northwest Miami-Dade and Southwest Broward County. The Office of Public Transportation Management (OPTM) operates the system.

The entire Miami-Dade Metrorail System began 24-hour service on June 8.

A park-and-ride lot for 710 cars was also built, including 20 wheelchair spaces and 3 stroller spaces. There are also three Metrobus connections to routes 282, 245 and 242.

Travel times from Palmetto station to the downtown Government and Dadeland stations is about 29 and 47 minutes, respectively.

A landscaped plaza leads to an open-air, double-height station concourse. Its architecture includes columns and glass block clerestory.

Last November 5, voters approved a “People’s Transportation Plan,” a traffic relief plan in which the Dade County “commits to adding more buses and routes, improving service, expanding rapid transit and creating new transit and construction related jobs,” said OPTM spokeswoman Aurelia Vasquez.

The grand opening ceremony included a special presentation to retired Rep. William Lehman, who got $17 million in surplus funds from the Metromover Project.

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aMBTA train 803 at Providence, RI led by 1124  GP40

NCI: Leo King

Come July 1, the crews aboard Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will start receiving their paychecks from the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad instead of Amtrak. No. 803 is arriving in Providence in February 2002 and will turn for 810, another Boston-bound commuter train.


Mass Bay Rail, unions ink pacts

Officials at the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co., (MBCR) the operator of the MBTA’s commuter rail lines as of July 1, said on June 11 that contracts have been ratified with all 14 unions, a major hurdle as the private consortium prepares to take over the rails from Amtrak.

As part of the deal, according to the Boston Globe of June 12, company officials said the unions’ estimated 1,500 workers would each receive a $1,000 bonus for signing up with the new contractor during time off from their jobs with Amtrak, which will leave Boston and the T’s commuter rail operations at midnight June 30. That includes dispatchers as well as trainmen.

The new union contracts also include a 20 percent salary increase over five years, according to MBCR spokeswoman Tara Frier.

Amtrak officials chose not to bid on the $1.7 billion contract, saying the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s new terms would cost the national rail carrier too much money.

Other than a few bureaucratic hurdles to settle with Amtrak before the July 1 transition, MBTA general manager Michael Mulhern said the union agreement is a major step.

In a letter sent recently to federal transit officials, Mulhern said some items still being worked out with Amtrak include an inventory of the T railcar fleet, reprogramming software that assists train dispatchers, and the handover of federal certificates from Amtrak to the new operator.

The T and Amtrak are also trying to resolve details about repairs to train equipment.

Amtrak workers dismantled a portion of the brake mechanism on some trains, and T officials want the parts replaced, although Mulhern said the change had no impact on safety.

The transition, which is being watched by federal officials and private rail companies, has had a few bumpy patches.

Amtrak officials canceled all vendor contracts in mid-May without notifying the new operator, but that was quickly fixed, said officials with the railroad consortium. Amtrak officials said they had warned the consortium about the canceled contracts well in advance.

“At this point in the game, I think we’re all moving forward,” said Frier. “There are some bureaucratic logjams, but we’re working through them.”

The Boston Business Journal reported the14 unions agreed to the equivalent of a 20 percent salary increase, Frier said. She noted that 13 unions negotiated a 20 percent pay hike and the union representing the dispatchers, the American Train Dispatchers Department of the International Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, agreed to an 18 percent salary increase. She explained that the 18 percent increase is the equivalent of a 20 percent pay hike because the dispatchers will also be paid for the additional 10 minutes they have to spend at the end of each shift to update their replacements about the system’s status.

Frier said the labor contracts call for a 5 percent increase in the first year and the remainder over the following four years.

MBCR is a consortium of three transportation companies – Miami-based Connex North America, Montreal-based Bombardier Inc. and Boston-based Alternate Concepts Inc.

The transition will not involve any layoffs and includes hiring 20 new employees to bring the total work force to 1,710 people, according to Frier.

MBCR bid $1.07 billion on the five-year contact, some $950 million less than Boston & Maine Corp.’s bid of $2.02 billion.

John K. Leary Jr., MBCR managing director, has said MBCR plans to turn a profit by leveraging the efficiency of its international partners and by upgrading computer and technical equipment.

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Bombardier loses $3 billion aircraft deal

Bombardier, Inc. has been beaten by Embraer of Brazil on a $3 billion aircraft contract, and has sold its defense aviation services unit for $90 million in its continuing asset sale, shareholders learned June 10.

Canadian Press also reported they also were told that the founding family will retain control of the Montreal-based international transportation equipment maker. Two class share structures enable a minority stockholder, the Bombardier family, to control the company through multiple voting shares.

New CEO Paul Tellier urged shareholders to hold on to their depressed stock, insisting that the company “is suffering from a temporary crisis of confidence.”

Bombardier, whose non-voting shares (TSX: BBD.B) have fallen from almost $25 two years ago to $4.25 today, will emphasize consolidation and conservative management in the next few years, as opposed to the rapid expansion of the 1990s, Tellier said.

Tellier also revealed that he and the president of Amtrak have agreed to mediation in Bombardier’s legal dispute with the U.S. passenger carrier over problems with its high-speed Acela trains, but the report offered no further details.

D:F queried both Bombardier and Amtrak for details, but had not received a response from either by our Friday deadline.

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OC Transpo DMU at Massey Park

For NCI: Mike Jager

Ottawa is home for OC Transpo where Bombardier’s Talent operates over five miles to visit five stations. They run north-south to Bayview, Carling, Carleton (Univ.), Confederation and Greenboro. Immediately south of Carleton, the line goes across a bridge over the Rideau River and immediately plunges into scenic Vincent Massey Park. Vincent Massey was a Canadian governor-general (basically representing the queen), and was brother of Raymond, of film fame. “The ‘O-Train’ is the local name we gave to what are, in reality, the Talent 643 diesel multiple units built by Bombardier – in Germany. There are 250 in use or on order worldwide,” writes photographer Mike Jager, of Montreal. “I worked on the project for a couple of years, but am now freelancing working on a proposal to re-open another five miles to the south of the current southern terminus,” he says.

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Amtrak gets deadline from VRE

Virginia Railway Express on June 7 gave Amtrak an August 1 deadline to respond to concerns about quality of service or lose the contract to operate Northern Virginia’s commuter rail service.

VRE is paying Amtrak $14.4 million this year to lease track, operate trains and maintain equipment, The Washington Times reported.

If Amtrak fails to respond adequately to VRE’s concerns about management of the contract, “[A request for proposals] will be issued for carrier contract services,” VRE spokesman Mark Rober said.

He added, “We’re getting to the point where they’re going to have to tell us how they’re going to take care of our services or we’ll have to look elsewhere.”

VRE’s transportation commissioners set the deadline during a Thursday evening meeting, and is the latest in a year-long reconsideration of the contract. VRE’s skepticism started last summer, when Amtrak threatened to shut down its nationwide rail system as it ran out of money. A $200 million, last-minute bailout by the federal government averted the shutdown.

VRE trains carry about 14,000 riders daily between Northern Virginia and Union Station in D.C. The agency’s ridership has grown about 18 percent per year since 2000. Service began in 1992.

Alternative operators could include short-line railroads in the Mid-Atlantic or staffing companies for the transportation industry, such as Massachusetts-based Connex North America Inc. or Florida’s Herzog Transit Services Inc.

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APTA HIGHLIGHTS...  APTA Highlights...

Here are some other transit headlines, from the pages of Passenger Transport, the weekly newspaper of the public transportation industry published by the non-profit American Public Transportation Assn. For more news from Passenger Transport and subscription information, visit the APTA web site at


Detroit Area Leaders Establish First Regional Authority

With the help of Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, representatives of local governments and public transportation agencies in the Detroit region reached an agreement last month that creates the area’s first regional transit authority.

The partners to the May 22 agreement that establishes the Detroit Area Regional Transportation Authority are the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, which provides transit services in the Detroit suburbs; Detroit DOT, transit provider in the city of Detroit; and the Regional Transit Coordinating Council, which represents the region’s county governments. The authority’s service area will include the counties of Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, and Wayne, where the city of Detroit is located.

Beth Gibbons, SMART’s public relations manager, explained that the agreement allows the partners to provide transit services in each other’s service areas. The SMART Board of Directors has approved the agreement, which is awaiting consideration by the Detroit City Council as the last step in the approval process.

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Monteferrante Selected to Head Optima Bus Corp.

Michael Monteferrante has been appointed chief executive officer of Optima Bus Corporation, headquartered in Wichita, Kan.

Since 2000, Monteferrante has served as senior vice president of iRail LLC of Parsippany, N.J. He was a founding officer of the company that provides comprehensive software solutions and services to the global transit industries.

Prior to his participation in the launch and management of iRail, Monteferrante served as vice president, business development for Morrison Knudsen; CEO of J.T.Nelson; CEO of ALSTOM Canada Transport; and vice president of ALSTOM’s North American Service operations, based in Rochester, N.Y.

In addition, he has served on APTA’s Business Member Board of Governors.

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Irvine, Calif., Voters Deliver Mixed Message on Light Rail

The Orange County Transportation Authority received a mixed message from two separate two votes in a June 3 special election regarding whether the city of Irvine, Calif., is part of OCTA’s proposed 11.4-mile CenterLine light rail project.

Unofficial vote tallies with all precincts reporting show that voters defeated Measure A, which supported CenterLine, by 48 percent in favor and 52 percent against. However, Measure B, a separate ballot initiative that would have kept light rail out of Irvine entirely, also lost by the same margin. Twenty-three percent of the 77,178 registered voters participated in the election.

OCTA spokesperson Ted Nguyen said the authority “will be taking a close look at what the two different outcomes of the election mean to light rail in Orange County, and we will be in discussions with the city of Irvine to plan what the appropriate next steps might include. It would be fair to say that the voters left the door open for the future of light rail in Irvine.”

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Pew Center Report Examines Greenhouse Gas Levels

A report from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change released May 29 in Washington urges government officials to pursue policies curbing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, and mentions public transit and land use planning as two effective ways to address the problem.

The report notes that by improving transit and intermodal connections, the nation could reduce GHG emissions from transportation, which accounts for one-third of all greenhouse gas pollution in the U.S, said, David L. Greene, co-author of the report, during a press event. Transit use helps reduce per-capita use of energy, added Greene, Ph.D., corporate research fellow at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy.

Moreover, the geographic distribution of people and jobs strongly influences the demand for transportation, according to the report, titled Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions From U.S. Transportation. The amount and kinds of transportation used by people depend on whether homes are designed within walking distance of transit and shops, and whether neighborhoods have sidewalks or bike paths, according to the report, co-authored by Andreas Schafer, a principal research engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Sound Transit’s Sounder Heads to Everett, Lakewood

Sound Transit announced May 28 that it has reached a preliminary agreement with The Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co. to begin operating the popular Sounder commuter rail service this year between Seattle and Everett.

The preliminary agreement also allows Sound Transit the option to purchase or lease 21 miles of BNSF track from Tacoma to the Nisqually Delta, clearing the way for expansion of service along a 100-mile corridor between Everett and the Pierce-Thurston county line. It provides the means for completing the voter-approved commuter rail connection between Lakewood, Piece County’s second largest city, and Tacoma, and makes expansion of rail service to Dupont and points south possible in the future.

Sound Transit will pay BNSF a total of $224 million, plus interest, over four years for the segment between Seattle and Everett, and $27 million to purchase and/or lease the Tacoma-to-Nisqually section of track. Final details on both segments will be worked out over the next 90 to 120 days, subject to approval by the full Sound Transit board and BNSF.

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Las Vegas monorail on display

Echo Media

Las Vegas’s Monorail train was unveiled June 12 in Times Square. The power car will travel on a flatbed truck to the Nevada City. The monorail is scheduled to open in early 2004. New York City was the first stop as the monorail makes its journey from the Bombardier manufacturing facility in Kingston, Ontario, Canada to its home on the Las Vegas Strip.


Las Vegas monorail begins journey

When the new Las Vegas Monorail was unveiled on June 12 in New York’s Times Square, the world got a Las Vegas-style preview of the “world’s only privately-funded public transportation system” and a glimpse into the future of “experiential advertising.”

Spokeswoman Sabrina Shannon said, “The Las Vegas monorail is unique among metropolitan transit systems – it uses no tax dollars for its development or operation.”

She explained that “As the result of a decade-long effort by entrepreneurs, business leaders and politicians, development of the monorail system has been funded through a private $650 million bond. The daily operation of the monorail will be funded by fare box revenues, and for the first time in public transportation, the sale of “experiential advertising.”

The monorail trains will travel on a guideway 20 feet above the ground on average, with a high point that towers 70 feet above the Las Vegas Convention Center. Nine trains will operate over the system, each with four connected cars and seven stations. Initially the trains will run from 6:00 a.m. until 2:00 a.m., year-round.

Each of the monorail’s nine trains and seven stations will be individually themed environments paid for by some of the world’s most creative brand advertisers. This experiential advertising concept of the Las Vegas Monorail was created to establish unique destinations throughout the monorail system and provide passengers with an entertaining experience as they travel in and around “the most visited city in the world.”

The first advertiser of the Las Vegas Monorail is “Monster Energy,” a division of Hansen’s Beverage Co., which is why the train looks like a giant can of Monster Energy ™.

When the monorail system opens, riders who board the Monster-imaged train will be immersed in the brand as the entire exterior, floors, seats and walls are emblazoned with imagery and video screens

Monster Energy is paying $1 million per year for ten years for advertising on the trains.

More than 40-million riders annually ultimately are expected to ride the monorail. The two-car trains are 138 feet long.

When it opens in early 2004, the Las Vegas monorail will connect the casino resorts of the Las Vegas Strip to the Las Vegas Convention Center. Plans are also underway for extensions of the system to the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas and McCarran International Airport.

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LABOR LINES...  Labor lines...

Canadian conductors awarded damages

The Canada Industrial Relations Board has ruled that many of almost 230 former United Transportation Union (UTU)-represented VIA Rail conductors who lost their conductor and assistant conductor positions at VIA Rail are entitled to losses of wages and potential earnings.

The losses could be as much as C230,000 each and collectively total in the tens of millions of dollars. Alternatively, many of the conductors and assistant conductors could be allowed to train as a locomotive engineer with their full train-service seniority.

The UTU stated on June 5 “These damages flow as retribution following the Canada Industrial Relations Board’s (CIRB) finding of serious violations of Canadian labor laws by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers with the compliance of VIA Rail.”

The BLE or VIA Rail – or both – are liable for the payments on a basis yet to be determined, said the CIRB.

In September 1997, VIA Rail, (the Canadian government-owned national intercity rail passenger carrier), moved to combine the crafts of conductors and locomotive engineers into a single craft and bargaining unit of “operating engineer” (later changed to “locomotive engineer” at the insistence of the BLE). VIA Rail said it recognized and understood its responsibility to train all affected employees so that they might meet the qualifications of the new single craft.

VIA Rail promised to treat all employees equally. However, the BLE and VIA Rail later negotiated a different result.

Following the 1997 decision, according to the UTU, the CIRB (formerly known as the Canada Labor Relations Board, or CLRB) directed that there was to be a representation election between the two operating crafts. The BLE was successful and gained exclusive bargaining rights for this new single craft.

The vote, very narrowly favoring the BLE, said the CIRB, was “close” and turned, in part, on BLE promises to provide craft autonomy, separate committees of adjustment for former conductors and assistant conductors, equal access to engineer training, and assurances that those conductors and assistant conductors not promoted to positions of locomotive engineer on VIA Rail could flow back to prior positions within the UTU’s ranks at Canadian National Rys.

Following the representation election, a new contract was negotiated in June 1998 between the BLE and VIA Rail covering the new craft of locomotive engineer. The result of this contract was that all conductor positions at VIA Rail were immediately eliminated and with the concurrence of the BLE. Furthermore, although not one of the BLE represented engineers lost their jobs at VIA Rail, the majority of the former UTU-represented conductors lost their jobs at VIA Rail since most were not offered training in the small group of locomotive engineer positions that were made available to this group in June 1998 as a result of the agreement between the BLE and VIA Rail.

Subsequently, an “unfair labor practice” complaint was filed with the CIRB by the former VIA conductors and assistant conductors, who previously were represented by the UTU. They charged the BLE had represented them in a manner that was “arbitrary, discriminatory and in bad faith.”

The former conductors and assistant conductors alleged the BLE had made false promises prior to the representation election. More specifically, it was alleged the BLE failed to create conductor general committees of adjustment as promised, failed to provide craft autonomy as promised and had acted in a discriminatory and prejudicial manner toward conductors and assistant conductors by signing an agreement with VIA Rail that failed to provide conductors and assistant conductors with the necessary training to perform duties of the new craft.

These actions by the BLE, said the complaint, effectively eliminated, in a discriminatory manner, every conductor and assistant conductor on VIA Rail.

In 1999, the CIRB ruled in favor of the conductors. It ordered VIA Rail and the BLE to renegotiate the crew consist agreement as it applied to the selection process, provide training for the new locomotive engineer positions and establish seniority lists for conductors and assistant conductors.

Also, the BLE was ordered to hire a “professional,” at BLE cost, to assist the conductors and assistant conductors in the renegotiation process so that the conductors and assistant conductors would have an equal and independent voice at the table with VIA Rail and the locomotive engineers.

In May 2003, the CIRB – which accused VIA Rail and the BLE of delaying the final decision through “a flurry of legal proceedings” – issued new, more specific and harsher remedies.

VIA Rail was ordered to reform the seniority system and the process by which locomotive engineers are trained and selected from the ranks of the former UTU represented Via Rail conductors. Also, both VIA Rail and the BLE are to be held responsible either jointly or severally to reimburse many of the adversely affected former conductors and assistant conductors for any lost earnings or potential earnings, and also to pay all legal fees and expenses incurred by the former UTU-represented conductors and assistant conductors who filed the complaint.

The CIRB said it would decide the compensation to be awarded the conductors and assistant conductors on an individual basis and would decide how much of the bill VIA Rail and the BLE would be responsible for. It appears the BLE and VIA Rail may share in the costs to the conductors and assistant conductors. The CIRB reserved the right to determine the proportionate amount between the BLE and VIA Rail.

During the proceedings before the CIRB, the BLE denied it had made “promises” to the conductors and assistant conductors prior to the representation election, but rather had only provided “campaign rhetoric.” The BLE said it “cannot be held accountable for what was said during a campaign and there can be no reasonable expectation on the part of UTU members that they would obtain all that had been promised.”

The CIRB said, “What these proceedings have brought to light is the BLE’s recklessness in telling the conductors and assistant conductors that they would be able to return to similar positions at CN without ensuring beforehand that these rights were indeed available.” The CIRB said “the BLE failed to uphold a reasonable standard of competence in representing its members and, in this regard, is accountable to them for its shortcomings.”

The CIRB also held that VIA Rail and the BLE were guilty of collusion in that they obviously combined their efforts to negotiate an agreement that failed to appropriately recognize the former conductors’ and assistant conductors’ rights to the newly created position of locomotive engineer.

VIA Rail and the BLE may appeal the decision to Canadian courts, but the UTU and former UTU-represented conductors (known as the Cairns group) have won every case heard before the CIRB, Federal Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of Canada.

“There is no doubt that this latest decision is one of the most important and largest damage awards against a union in CIRB or CLRB history,” said UTU Vice President Guy Scarrow.

He added, “It is also one of the most far-reaching decisions. The end result to either the BLE or VIA Rail could result in tens of millions of dollars in damages, including the costs to train as many as 100 former UTU-represented conductors and assistant conductors to become fully qualified locomotive engineers.”

The CIRB ordered the BLE and VIA Rail to produce further information following which the UTU and Cairns group will have the opportunity to present their demands for just compensation.

The complete decision text is online at

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QUARTERLY REPORTS...  Quarterly reports...


Bombardier, Inc. will be paying dividends next month.

Directors declared a dividend of $0.0225 per share on Class A shares (multiple voting) and of $0.0225 per share on Class B shares (subordinate voting). They are payable on July 31 to the shareholders of record at the close of business on July 18.

Holders of Class B shares (subordinate voting) of record at the close of business on July 18, who have a right to a priority dividend at the rate of $0.0015625 per share per year, payable in quarterly installments of $0.000390625, will receive the second installment of $0.000390625 per share on July 31.

A quarterly dividend of $0.34225 per share on the Series 3 Preferred Shares is payable on July 31 to the shareholders of record at the close of business on July 18.

A quarterly dividend of $0.390625 per share on the Series 4 Preferred Shares is payable on July 31 to the shareholders of record at the close of business on July 18.

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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

Fireworks roll on by rail

By Wes Vernon
Washington Bureau Chief

The four largest Class I rail carriers have lifted their embargoes on carrying fireworks and other explosives.

As D:F reported last week, the Department of Homeland Security and USDOT had interpreted recent legislation as barring fireworks and explosives transportation by rail. The upshot of that would have been that many smaller- and medium-sized communities would have been without that most American of Independence Day celebrations – fireworks displays.

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported that by week’s end, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, CSX and Burlington-Northern & Santa Fe (BNSF) had lifted their embargoes, and that Canadian Pacific had “partially” lifted its own embargo.

The railroad that apparently was the focus of greatest concern was BNSF, according to American Pyrotechnics Association (APA) spokeswoman Julie L. Heckman. That railroad was “most crucial” in that it served so many communities that would otherwise be without fireworks for July 4th.

The others were also important, she added, either in terms of communities directly served or as pivotal connections.

After BNSF, “NS and UP opened [lifted the embargo] right away.”

The fireworks industry heaved a sigh of relief when CSX lifted the embargo five or six days after the government gave the green light, “and that was crucial because that was a transfer point for us.”

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FEC names Lucas intermodal VP

Florida East Coast Ry. Last week named John C. Lucas as Vice-President and general manager of intermodal, reporting directly to President John D. McPherson.

Lucas will be responsible for all sales, marketing, customer service and drayage service efforts in the Intermodal Division and will concentrate on increasing revenue by growing FEC’s existing customer relationships and developing new markets.

“John Lucas’ vision and leadership skills make him the perfect fit for this important new position and he has the proven ability to create an Intermodal Division that is aggressive in the area of sales and marketing,” said McPherson.

Lucas said “FECR has had success in the intermodal segment over the last year with the Hurricane Train. It is now time to look at the I-95 corridor north of Jacksonville to develop additional marketing alliances with other carriers.”

FECR’s intermodal services parallel I-95 for approximately 350 miles, offering an attractive opportunity for truck freight to move by rail. This moves freight off Florida’s congested highways and gives companies the ability to access markets quicker and more efficiently by using premium rail intermodal service.

McPherson said, “FECR intends to further penetrate the retail truckload market between the Southeast U.S. and South Florida. Our Intermodal Division now has the leadership in place to drive this effort.”

Integrating trucking and customer service operations, formerly provided by a separate trucking subsidiary, formed the Intermodal Division.

The newly formed division will also be responsible for FEC’s wholesale intermodal segment by servicing intermodal marketing companies (IMCs), parcel carriers, less-than-truckload companies (LTLs), truckload carriers, ocean carriers and railroads.

Intermodal is an important part of FECR’s business. Approximately 40 percent of FEC’s freight revenue (nearly twice the Class I proportion) is currently derived from the intermodal segment due to Florida’s unique market and the railway’s customer service record –scheduled, on time, dependable and damage free service.

“We have the ability to give customers the option of using our assets instead of tying up their own in the congested South Florida market,” said McPherson, and the railway is particularly proud of providing 471 consecutive days of failure-free service for United Parcel Service, a worldwide record. We intend to build on this success.”

FECR’s successful Hurricane Train, a marketing alliance with Norfolk Southern to provide premium intermodal service between Atlanta and South Florida, is averaging approximately 900 loads per month after one full calendar year of operation. Additionally, FEC has recently begun intermodal service to several major customers, including BJ’s Wholesale Club, ConAgra Foods, Pepsi Bottling Group and U.S. Xpress.

“Lucas has a strong transportation background with a deep understanding of the intermodal industry. His proven leadership abilities and his success in growing the existing customer base in his previous positions will bring FECR market development strength, market breakthrough experience, and proven entrepreneurial strategies,” McPherson said.

Lucas has spent his entire professional career in the truck and rail intermodal transportation industry. His thirty-three year transportation career includes approximately 15 years with BNSF.

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RailAmerica reports May carloads

RailAmerica, Inc. reported on June 10 its carloads (including intermodal units) for May 2003. As compared to the same period in 2002, May 2003 North American “same railroad” carloads increased 1.4 percent.

The international freight rail shortline conglomerate reported Chilean carloads were up 26.3 percent, while Australian carloads decreased 24.2 percent due to the impact of a drought. “Same railroad” totals exclude carloads associated with railroads, or portions of railroads, sold by the company after December 31, 2001.

Consolidated carloads for May 2003 decreased 1.1 percent to 121,631, from 123,018 in May 2002. On a “same railroad” basis, May 2003 carloads were down 0.8 percent to 121,631, from 122,665 in 2002. Year-to-date through May 31, 2003, total carloads were 593,171, down 2.0 percent from 605,069 in 2002. On a “same railroad” basis, year-to-date carloads decreased 1.3 percent to 593,171, from 601,059 in 2002. Positive year-to-date carloads at North America and Chile were more than offset by drought impacted Australian carloads, which were down 25,986 cars versus 2002.

Total North American carloads for May 2003 were 95,136, up 1.0 percent from 94,176 in May 2002. On a “same railroad” basis, May 2003 carloads increased 1.4 percent to 95,136, from 93,823 in 2002. For the month, strong coal, petroleum and other carloads were partially offset by lower auto, agricultural and intermodal carloads. Year-to-date through May 31, 2003, total carloads were 467,466, up 0.7 percent from 464,110 in 2002. On a “same railroad” basis, year-to-date carloads increased 1.6 percent to 467,466, from 460,100 in 2002.

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KCS applauds STB procedural decision

Kansas City Southern applauded a June 10 decision by the Surface Transportation Board (STB) accepting its application as a minor transaction and outlining a procedural schedule for consideration of KCS’s application to exercise common control over The Kansas City Southern Ry. Co., the Gateway Eastern Ry. Co., and the Texas-Mexican Ry. Co. (Tex-Mex).

KCS had filed its application with the board on May 14, and last week’s decision set October 17 as the date by which it will issue its final decision on the merits of that application.

“We are very pleased that the STB strongly affirmed our position that this is a minor transaction and will be treated as such as their review process goes forward,” said Warren Erdman, vice president corporate affairs.

Erdman said, “We are also pleased with the schedule of proceedings outlined by the STB in this decision and look forward to demonstrating why this transaction will enhance rail competition for cross-border shippers.”

In its decision, the STB acknowledged that the application filed by KCS would be treated as a minor transaction, which means the application must be approved unless opposing parties can demonstrate that the transaction would lessen competition, restrain trade, or create a monopoly.

“This is a high hurdle for opponents, Erdman remarked.

He noted, “While the board also granted parties additional time to prepare their initial comments, KCS had supported that request. In addition, consistent with the STB’s request, KCS will supplement its application with additional information regarding the enhancements to cross-border competition that the transaction would bring to shippers following STB approval.”

In its application, KCS is asking for common control authority, which would place Tex-Mex under the control of KCS in an end-to-end transaction that has no adverse competitive effects.

Tex-Mex is a 157-mile railroad in south Texas linking the international gateway of Laredo to Corpus Christi. In addition, the Tex-Mex operates over some 380 miles of trackage rights in Texas.

KCS has already acquired 51 percent of Mexrail, the holding company for Tex-Mex, and placed those shares in an independent voting trust pending STB approval of the transaction. Mexrail was previously owned by TFM, a Mexican railway in which KCS holds a significant minority interest.

Allowing KCS to have common control over Tex-Mex allows KCS to acquire control of the 157-mile railroad, which it already had a significant ownership equity in, and allows KCS to compete more vigorously with the other much more dominant rail carriers in the Laredo, Texas, gateway.

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Intermodal up, carload freight down, reports AAR for week

Intermodal traffic was up while carload freight was down slightly on U.S. railroads during the week ended June 7 in comparison with the corresponding week last year, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported June 12.

Intermodal traffic totaled 194,096 trailers and containers, up 2.6 percent from the comparable week last year. Carload freight, which doesn’t include the intermodal data, totaled 330,970 cars, down 1.3 percent from last year, with volume down 0.4 percent in the East and 1.9 percent in the West. Total volume was estimated at 29.0 billion ton-miles, up 0.7 percent from last year’s 23rd week.

Seven out of nineteen commodities were up from the comparable week last year, with coke rising 41.4 percent, pulp, paper and allied products, up 8.3 percent; and coal gaining, 3.5 percent. On the down side, loadings of metallic ores were off 23.5 percent and grain was down 8.0 percent.

The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first 23 weeks of 2003:

7,384,236 carloads, up 0.5 percent from last year; intermodal volume of 4,240,880 trailers and containers, up 6.9 percent; and total volume of an estimated 652.7 billion ton-miles, up 0.9 percent from last year’s first 23 weeks.

Railroads reporting to AAR account for 90 percent of U.S. carload freight and 96 percent of rail intermodal volume. When the U.S. operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 96 percent and 100 percent. Railroads provide more than 40 percent of the nation’s intercity freight transportation, more than any other mode, and rail traffic figures are regarded as an important economic indicator.

Canadian railroads reported gains in both intermodal traffic and carload freight during the week ended June 7. Intermodal traffic totaled 44,539 trailers and containers, up 7.2 percent from last year. Carload volume was 62,006 cars, up 0.5 percent from the comparable week last year.

Cumulative originations for the first 23 weeks of 2003 on the Canadian railroads totaled 1,423,720 carloads, down 1.6 percent from last year, and 939,275 trailers and containers, up 10.1 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 23 weeks of 2003 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 8,807,956 carloads, up 0.1 percent from last year and 5,180,155 trailers and containers, up 7.4 percent from last year.

The AAR also reported that originated carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended June 7 totaled 5,350 cars, down 40.0 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 3,282 originated trailers or containers, up 10.8 percent from the 23rd week of 2002. For the first 23 weeks of 2003, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 195,849 cars, up 1.4 percent from last year, and 81,551 trailers or containers, up 35.6 percent.

The AAR is online at

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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...


  Friday One Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)29.65029.270
Canadian National(CNI)51.10051.300
Canadian Pacific(CP)23.35023.630
Florida East Coast(FLA)28.10029.070
Kansas City Southern(KSU)12.51012.270
Norfolk Southern(NSC)21.35021.750
Union Pacific(UNP)60.28060.970

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LETTERS...  We get letters...

Dear Editor:

Regarding last week’s “The way we were” photo of the Providence & Worcester’s M-420s. Darlington yard is now designated as “out of service”. Every so often it will be used for storage for MW equipment.

You state, “We have no information on what happened to 2002, 2004 nor 2006. P&W replaced the engines with U-18Bs.”

2002 and 2004 went to the Massachusetts Central, then went to the Maine Coast. Either this year or last, Guilford shipped them to Rotterdam Jct. to destinations unknown.

You included No. 2006, but 2006 is a GP-38-2 and is still in service. The P&W replaced the M-420s with U-23Bs, not U-18Bs (they only had one). From my notes, there was only one 2006, a GP-38-2 and five M420s, 2001-2005.

Jeff Rost
Webmaster, P&W Railfan Club, Inc.

Other posters noted “XP-4 Goes on duty at 6:30 a.m. Mondays through Fridays, and works to East Providence and return. Also works to Barrington and Bristol as required. XP-2 goes on duty at 9:00 a.m. Monday-Friday and works to Berkley and the Providence area and return. It also works the Pontiac Branch weekly.”

“These trains were also called VF-1 and VF-2, and the nightly road freight to Worcester was PG-1. I also remember both VF-1 and VF-2 on the Darlington branch at the same time. If VF-1 had to detour around Lawn Tower, they would use the Darlington, and go to Providence via East Side Tunnel.”

“Ex-P&W 2002 and 2004 are presently stored at National Railway Equipment’s Mount Vernon, Ill., facility.” – Ed.

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THE WAY WE WERE...  The way we were...

Canadian Pacific Engine at Peterborough, NH

NCI: Leo King - 2 pictures

Peterborough, N.H., circa 1955. In the dead of winter, the editor rode a New England Railfan Assn. excursion from Providence, R.I. to Peterborough. This station was distinctive because it had a steam engine weathervane atop a belfry, both unusual features for a station. In any event, Canadian Pacific E unit No. 1801 was ready for work, judging by the steam produced on this cold winter day. The sign at the end of the platform says, “Montreal via CPR.” An arrow points to the left and names “Montpelier, Burlington, St. Albans.” Another arrow, pointing to the right, names Woodsville, Berlin, Newport.”
Canadian Pacific Engine at Peterborough, NH

End Notes...

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

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In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other rail travel sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives - state DOTs, legislators, governor's offices, and transportation professionals - as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists.

If you have a favorite rail link, please send the uniform resource locator address (URL) to the webmaster in care of this web site. An e-mail link appears at the bottom of the NCI web site pages to get in touch with D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCI's webmaster in Boston.

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