Destination:Freedom Newsletter
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
  NCI Logo Vol. 2 No. 24, June 18, 2001
Copyright © 2001, NCI, Inc.
James P. RePass, President
Leo King, Editor

A weekly North American Railroad update

Last week's issue, revisited

By Leo King

We invite you to return to last week's Destination: Freedom for a second look. What you saw last week was a series of blunders that began when a laptop computer the editor uses crashed, following installation of Windows 2000. The fault was not the operating system's, but rather the user's, who was not familiar with its characteristics. We ran out of time, and text that had been prepared properly got lost somewhere between the editor's home-office desk and the server (which is in California). The text, during a final check from the server, got lost and replaced by the draft edition you saw. Our webmaster was able to replace the draft with the correct text by Wednesday, but by that time, nearly 300 people had read the junk file.

I was surprised... but relieved... no one wrote complaining about the quality (or lack of) the edition. Four missing photos are now posted, as well.

The Georgia piece about Norfolk Southern giving its blessing for passenger trains over a route from Atlanta to Macon is considerably expanded, with remarks from Georgia Rail organizer and NCI board member Doug Alexander added.

The piece on William Woolf of Alaska is tidied up, with some details added that were dropped in the earlier edition.

It was a nightmare weekend getting that edition out, and I hope I never see another one like that... and more so, that you do not, either.

Acela at Mystic Bridge, CT

NCI: Leo King

Acela Express tickets will go for "twofers" on weekends beginning later this month. The story is below. Here, No. 2150 glides over Mystic River Bridge in Connecticut.
Amtrak funding bill advances
By Wes Vernon
Washington Correspondent

A House Appropriations subcommittee this past week advanced legislation that fully funds President Bush's and Amtrak's request of $521 million for fiscal year 2002.

That appropriation, if okayed by both the House and Senate this year, will enable Amtrak to make key investments in the infrastructure for rail passenger service. At the same time, Amtrak notes that this measure is maintaining the lowest level of federal operating assistance in the company's history.

Amtrak has reduced its federal operating assistance from $318 million in FY 1999 to a projected $59 million this year and a projected $40 million in 2002, the carrier reported. That keeps the passenger rail service on a glidepath to eliminate operating subsidies in 2003, as mandated by Congress in the benchmark 1997 Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act, railroad officials claimed.

Amtrak CEO George Warrington said in the first six months of the current fiscal year, Amtrak served 11.3 million passengers, an increase of 7 percent over the same period in FY 2000. Ticket revenue is up 12.2 percent over the previous year's period.

Amtrak's "glidepath to self-sufficiency" applies only to operating assistance (running the trains, mail and express), officials pointed out. Subsidies for infrastructure (tracks, stations, signal systems, etc.) will continue to be required, and, they added, infrastructure assistance is routinely provided airways and highways.

Weekend Express trains go 'on sale;'
Ethan Allen will resume runs in July
By Leo King

Amtrak says it is offering a free ride for a companion on Acela express weekend service. Tickets will be sold, said a spokesperson, between June 20 and September 20, and are valid for travel on Saturdays and Sundays from June 23 to September 23. Travel will also be permitted on Independence Day and Labor Day - [the Fourth of July and September 3].

The carrier stated blackouts apply on September 1 and 2, and reservations must be made and fares purchased at least three days before departure.

In other New England news, sources said a crew (conductor, engineer, and an assistant conductor) are qualifying for Portland-Boston service - except Guilford will not permit the crew to qualify the route north to Plaistow, N.H., and on to Portland, Me., ostensibly because they are performing heavy track repairs during daylight hours on the route. They are moving their freight trains at night.

"Guilford won't let them onto their railroad, so they [the Amtrak crew] are only operating between Boston and Haverhill, and over the Grand Junction to South Station and Southampton Street Yard," a source said.

The crew will be used "to qualify other crews, run the test train," if the Surface Transportation Board gives its okay next month, "and bring the train to different communities so that emergency and rescue people can get their hands on the equipment," following a familiarization course that Amtrak held for them earlier this year.

Eastern Rail News, a pay-to-read internet rail news site, reported last week that the Vermonter cancellation is probably permanent, stating Vermont's subsidy won't cover the operating losses plus the costs of bringing the tracks back to passenger train standards, and that the poor track is being used as an excuse to kill the train.

Amtrak, however, flatly denied the report.

Spokeswoman Karen Dunn in Philadelphia told D:F "Amtrak has no plan to discontinue the Ethan Allen Express."

She said directly, "That's false. We are committed to restoring Vermonter service ASAP. We are working closely with the New England Central Railroad to ensure that track maintenance work is done right and done quickly, and are optimistic about resuming service later this month."

Elsewhere, Amtrak's computerized reservation system showed Vermonter availability in both directions beginning July 9 (a Monday), and both coach and business classes available on July 4 on the southbound train, No. 55, from St. Albans.

Elsewhere in the Northeast, Amtrak has launched what it says is the most serious attempt ever to develop land it owns around its landmark 30th Street Station, according to the Philadelphia inquirer.

The railroad's ambitions are far more modest than previous plans, which never materialized, to construct buildings or even a baseball stadium over the tracks adjacent to the station. This time, it wants to build an office tower or conference hotel over a parking area, which would cost far less than putting a structure over the busy Northeast Corridor railroad tracks.

It already is seeking preliminary proposals from developers.

"We don't have time to entertain naive notions on what should be done here," said William McDowell, the railroad's senior director for real estate development.

The proposed office or hotel tower would front on Arch Street, across from the station. It is one of several sites being considered by Comcast Corp., which is growing so rapidly that it probably will need to relocate its corporate headquarters when its Market Street lease expires in 2006. An existing 500-car parking deck over the tracks would become an entrance plaza for the building and a planned 1,700-car parking garage.

The new building and garage would be linked to 30th Street Station by a covered pedestrian bridge over Arch Street, entering the foyer for the SEPTA suburban commuter rail tracks.

In other news, Amtrak launched a new user-friendly online reservations system yesterday to make booking train travel easier.

On Sunday, became live and is available to anyone who visits The new booking system replaces the current system.

Amtrak said it was developed "in response to feedback from our guests and the growing popularity of booking travel services online." The system was created specifically for Amtrak. In addition to Supporting Amtrak's new brand identity, the site changes include user IDs and passwords no longer required, a secure member profile speeds customers through the process, and fewer clicks are required to complete a reservation. In addition, reservations can be viewed instantly online, and passengers receive an automatic e-mail confirmation.

The passenger railroad stated, "Since the beginning of the current fiscal year," last October, "internet sales have grown by 88 percent, compared to the same period last year." It represents more than $75 million in ticket revenue.

Amtrak expects to book almost 900,000 tickets online this year.

The Philadelphia Inquirer can be found online at

UTU, BLE resume merger talks
The United Transportation union, representing freight and passenger train conductors, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, have resumed discussions aimed at merging both labor entities into a single organization.

UTU's president, Byron A. Boyd, Jr., said on June 12, he welcomed resuming merger talks okayed by BLE's Advisory Board at its special meeting the day before.

"The decision of the BLE Advisory Board to renew unification talks with the UTU will benefit the men and women in train and engine service who deserve a strong, single voice fighting for better wages, benefits, quality of life and job security," said Boyd.

"UTU has remained at the table," Boyd continued, and "we are happy to resume the unification process because it is the right thing to do for the membership of both unions."

UTU Assistant President Paul C. Thompson said he expected the Joint Drafting Committee to produce a Unification Agreement and Constitution for the membership of both unions to vote on as soon as possible."

The talks will resume in Cleveland.

Meanwhile, BLE's Advisory Board passed a resolution to reopen unification talks with the UTU, provided both unions immediately stop all solicitation of each others members.

The 120-word resolution says that the 13-member Advisory Board is reconsidering its May 8, 1999, resolution that ended unification talks with the UTU because of serious financial concerns.

The Advisory Board's June 11 resolution urged "the negotiations between the BLE and UTU be reinstated as of their status on May 8, 1999, subject to both UTU and BLE updating and providing the financial information necessary...."

In addition, the June 11 resolution stated that upon the favorable conclusion of the discussions that any agreement reached by the parties shall be immediately submitted to the memberships of the BLE and UTU for ratification and approval.

"Every BLE member should be proud of the action taken today by the Advisory Board to take a positive step forward and to reopen talks under the right circumstances," said BLE International President Ed Dubroski.

"We did what we thought was right for the BLE on May 8, 1999, and we are doing what is right for the BLE today. The future of what we do will be in the hands of the members of both unions where it rightly belongs when that day comes."

Here is the resolution's text:

Advisory Board Resolution, June 11, 2001

Be it Resolved:

THAT the May 8, 1999, Resolution of the Advisory Board is hereby reconsidered and upon Reconsideration is dissolved;

THAT the negotiations between the BLE and the UTU be reinstated as of their status on May 8, 1999, subject to both UTU and BLE updating and providing the financial information necessary, prudent and required for continued discussions;

THAT upon favorable conclusion of said discussions, any agreement reached by the parties shall be immediately submitted to their respective memberships for ratification and approval; and

THAT said discussions are contingent upon both parties immediately terminating solicitation of members from one another and ceasing any organizational efforts against each other on all railroads currently represented by either UTU, BLE or both.

Freight lines...

Tough sledding for future rail mergers

By Wes Vernon
Washington Correspondent

The Surface Transportation Board has raised the bar for rail mergers. Not that the board is against them, STB Chairman Linda J. Morgan hastened to add, but the railroads will be required to meet stiffer criteria to satisfy a skeptical agency.

That skepticism was prompted by service problems and complaints following recent mergers, primarily the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific merger, and CSX and Norfolk Southern taking over Conrail.

Henceforth, she said, the petitioning railroads will have to show that the proposed merger is in the public interest, and that it will protect smaller railroads and passenger operations that stand to be negatively impacted.

Speculation in the industry is that the railroads will soon be making operating agreements as a way of avoiding the thicket that the STB has laid out before them if they seek formal mergers.

As a matter of fact, the attempted merger of Canadian National and Burlington Northern Santa Fe occasioned the new rules, ironed out over a 15-month merger moratorium. CN and BNSF have since called off their proposed marriage and have elected to pursue informal cooperative agreements between their companies. For its part, the board stipulates that such agreements might be among the "alternatives" to merger that could be considered in the future.

Given the fact that the Class I railroads have abandoned all the "excess capacity" they reasonably can, in the STB's view, future emphasis will be on more competition and the public interest and less on the question of greater efficiency.

There is also the question of a future monopoly or duopoly. What happens when North America has two or perhaps three transcontinental railroads left? From now on, merger applicants will be expected to address that question in the form of "commentary."

In line with the commissioners' newly declared "show me" attitude (their words), applicants will be required to present a Service Assurance Plan. That document is expected to detail how the newly merged entities would deal with service problems in the period of transition. The STB wants no more surprises in that area.

The UP-SP and Conrail problems engendered outrage among many shippers, employees and smaller railroads that promptly blamed the board for supposedly accepting the applications on blind faith.

No more of that, say the chastened commissioners. Problem resolution teams that would be guided by specific procedures to resolve disruptions or service failures or slowdowns will accompany the Service Assurance Plan.

The Association of American Railroads, the voice of the industry in Washington, said it was still reviewing the 100-plus-page decision.

However, AAR president and CEO Edward R. Hamberger did say the industry still believes "that new railroad mergers should not be subject to a standard requiring the enhancement of competition... "

This is an issue that prompted lawyers for the railroads to state at the STB's April 5 hearing on the upcoming rulemaking that this factor could cause the board to venture off into "new legal territory," leaving the impression that such a consideration in a merger application could be vulnerable to a legal challenge.

The Board seems to have attempted to get around that by linking enhanced competition directly to the downside of a merger. In the future, the STB declared, applicants will have to show that a merger would "enhance competition where necessary to offset negative effects of the transaction."

Hamberger, in his reaction statement, says new mergers "should remain subject to the test of whether a merger preserves competition - the same test that applies to other industries under anti-trust laws. Conditions relating to competition should only be focused on remedying competitive harms, if any, that may result from a merger."

On paper, then, the AAR and the STB appear to be on the same wavelength although, as with anything, "the devil is in the details." Thus, the issue would surface on a case-by-case basis in future merger attempts.

Hamberger served a reminder that railroads "already face substantial competition for most of the freight they carry. Indeed 60 percent of all intercity freight moves by highway, waterway, or pipeline. Although railroads carry 40 percent of the intercity freight, they receive just 10 percent of the intercity freight revenues, clearly indicating that competition in the transportation marketplace is thriving."

Edward Rastatter, policy director of the National Industrial Transportation League, representing shippers using all modes, told the Wall Street Journal, "I suppose they raised the bar, but I don't know how high."

The Alliance of Rail Competition, whose members are specifically rail shippers, was more outspoken. ARC Executive Director Diane Duff accused the STB of "missing the point." The board's rhetoric "seemingly supports the general concept of increased competition," she said, but "the final rule included even fewer references to the more specific concerns about rail-to-rail competition than included in the original proposal."

According to Duff, "The board continues to protect railroad executives from having to concern themselves about rail-to-rail competition."

CN president and CEO Paul Tellier said he was "pleased" the STB "would raise the bar for the quality of service in future railroad mergers." He is also pleased that the board has heard CN's concerns "and plans to apply higher public interest standards for mergers equally to all applicants - both domestic U.S. companies and foreign-headquartered corporations."

Tellier has long complained that the STB, in sidelining his company's deal with BNSF, made him and his merger partner the victims of faulty planning in previously approved mergers.

CSX, one of the "Big Six" affected by the new rules, said, "It is disappointing that potential mergers, and their accompanying benefits, will be judged on a decidedly harder and more complicated set of regulatory standards than those faced by other U.S. businesses."

As of Friday, spokesman Michael Buckley of the Transportation Trades Division of the AFL-CIO said most of rail labor is "still "analyzing" the new rules.

Whistle while you work... or play ball
Major League baseball may not give a toot about trains, but railroaders certainly do. Seattle Mariners chairman Howard Lincoln will have to live with train whistles and horns from the trains at Safeco Field during the All-Star game on July 11.

In a letter delivered last week to Seattle city council member Jim Compton, Lincoln wrote that network broadcasters dislike the horns that freight and Amtrak train engineers must sound before crossing Royal Brougham Way beside the ballpark.

He asked that the whistles be silenced for the July 10 game, but the Mariners decided to back off on their request, team spokeswoman Rebecca Hale said. She said the team was disappointed the whistles turned into an issue.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokesman Gus Melonas said the railroad was ready to work with the Mariners and the city for a quiet zone if extra security officers kept the crossing safe, but the Mariners are turning their attention to other things to prepare for the upcoming game, Hale said.

As for the noisy whistles?

"We'll just deal with it," Hale said.

"While the train horns have become a part of the atmosphere of the ballpark, under the circumstances, we believe it is necessary to sacrifice some 'charm' for the good of this important international event," Lincoln wrote.

Muzzling the trains would help "ensure that Seattle and Safeco Field are shown in the best possible light," Lincoln added.

Compton, a baseball fan who paid $500 for two tickets to the All-Star game, said Lincoln's plea fell on deaf ears.

"I think they're a vital part of the charm of Safeco Field," the councilman said. "They're as much a part of Seattle baseball as the view of the Olympics or Dave Niehaus," the club's broadcaster.

NS reluctantly agrees to pay for fiber optic space along its tracks
Conceding that digital information is not freight, a subsidiary of Norfolk Southern Corp. has agreed to pay landowners along its tracks when it installs underground fiber-optic lines.

A class-action suit settlement could include about 60,000 landowners along 2,500 miles of track, and some landowners could get more than $31,000 for every mile of cable laid through their property.

Thoroughbred Technology and Telecommunications Inc., also known as "T-Cubed," is the NS's telecommunications subsidiary.

The railroad had contended that since it already owned property rights-of-way along its tracks, it could install fiber optic cable without further payment to landowners, but the plaintiffs had argued those rights of way were limited to rail traffic.

"We think the law is clear. The landowner has the legal right for compensation for the use of a corridor of land," Kathleen C. Kauffman, the plaintiffs' attorney, said. She added she believed the settlement was the largest ever in a fiber-optic property rights case.

Norfolk spokesman Rudy Husband predicted the settlement will cost the company "several million dollars."

Landowners will also receive more money as T-Cubed revenues grow from the fiber optic lines' expansion  up to $31,875 per mile of property used.

Notices have been mailed to landowners who might be eligible in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Fuel costs are the gremlin

Rails forecast slow economic recovery

Union Pacific says a second-half recovery in the U.S. economy is unlikely and it would face continued high fuel costs and declines in demand growth.

"We're becoming less certain that we'll see a significant recovery in the second half," CEO Richard Davidson said in a speech at the Merrill Lynch Global Transportation Leaders Conference in New York City recently. He added, "Fuel costs continue to be a challenge," reflecting an opinion offered by his counterpart at CSX.

Davidson said UP's rail car volumes, which are currently flat, are not expected to increase in the second half due to the slowing U.S. economy.

The freight railroad, which is the largest consumer of diesel fuel in the U.S., paid 95 cents a gallon for fuel two weeks ago compared with 84 cents a gallon on average during the second quarter last year, he said.

To help control some of those fuel expenses, the Omaha-based carrier will buy 1,700 new freight cars, improving fuel efficiency by 10 percent to 15 percent, he said.

The company reported about a 95 percent on-time performance rating for its express lane service, which runs from the West Coast to the East Coast. It plans to continue to work to improve service and expand into the mid-Atlantic region and Canada in an effort to push through a price increase of 1 to 2 percentage points on some lines later this year, Davidson said.

Davidson said the railroad wants to capture more business from the trucking industry, which presently does about $1 billion in service along the I-5 corridor running between the Pacific Northwest, southern California, southern Nevada and Arizona. UP has added two trains running along the I-5 corridor daily with an 85 percent reliability rating, Davidson said.

Davidson said UP sees "tremendous opportunity" to grow in Mexico, where it currently has a 60 percent market share of the rail business. The company expects the Mexican economy to improve in the second half which will spur an increase in demand for transportation of grain into Mexico and beer coming from Mexico into the United States, he said.

Davidson said the long-term demand for coal, which has been "quite profitable" for his railroad, remained positive as more utilities turn to coal due to the high price of natural gas.

Railway giant CSX Corp stated, at that same meeting, its second-quarter results would show a "striking improvement" in costs, helping offset the high price of fuel and declining demand growth in the slowing U.S. economy.

"The earning power of CSX will increasingly be revealed," said CEO John Snow, during a speech at the conference, held in New York City.

"Our service is of more value than we are getting paid for it. Snow said, and noted, "We see a world where rates will have to go up."

CSX and Norfolk Southern Corp. jointly bought portions of Conrail three years ago and have suffered service problems as the two rail giants tried to integrate Conrail lines into their existing lines.

During the first quarter, CSX raised prices selectively on certain rail lines, said Dan Murphy, a CSX spokesman.

As a result, revenues remained flat in the quarter compared with a year earlier despite a decline in rail car volumes, reflecting the "strength in our pricing program," he said.

Snow would not release any specific numbers on how much prices might rise or give a specific earnings forecast, but he said CSX had made significant cost improvements, particularly how it used its equipment and trimmed its locomotive costs during the quarter.

Those cost cuts should help to offset continued high diesel fuel costs, which rose by nearly $20 million in the first quarter compared with the year-ago period on comparable usage, Murphy said.

Another problem plaguing CSX's second-quarter results is continued weak demand in the slowing U.S. economy, Snow said.

"We see very weak demand across virtually all our lines of business," Snow said.

"The only bright spot that we have, and it is a gloriously bright spot right now, is coal." Snow said coal represents about 30 percent of CSX's total revenues and coal volume was up 10 percent in the first-quarter compared with a year earlier as many utility companies turned to coal as an energy source rather than the more expensive natural gas.

Snow called the overall picture for the railroad industry a "good one" citing cost cuts, pricing power and increased alliances with other railroads, as the reasons for service improvements, increased cash flow and improved future earnings.

What's a 'reefer?'

An old railroad term gets new life

Seven hundred new reefers.

That's what Burlington Northern Santa Fe has begun receiving.

What's a "reefer," you ask?

It's a venerable old railroad term for refrigerator cars - but these reefers are not like the ones your grandfather loaded crushed ice into from the roof.

"Putting all perishable operations into a single basket is just a better way to deal with customers," said Mike Wood, BNSF's general director perishable consumer products.

The second step was an order placed in late 2000 for 700 new "high cube" refrigerated boxcars. This is the first large order of reefers built in the past 35 years. Although BNSF intends to increase the size of its refrigerated boxcar fleet, the initial plan is to use new cars to replace the existing fleet. Trinity Industries is the carbuilder.

The perishables market is one of the fastest growing in the transportation industry, says Steve Branscum, BNSF group vice-president, consumer products. The market share for perishables moved by rail is about 7 percent of total perishable movement in the U.S., but of that percentage, less than 5 percent moves in carload lots.

The total refrigerated boxcar fleet in the U.S. is 8,000 cars, and. BNSF controls one-fourth of that capacity with a fleet of 2,000 cars. When the new car order is complete in June 2002, the railroad's share will be even larger, because the new cars are almost twice the size of cars in the existing fleet.

Wood said BNSF uses its existing fleet of reefers for only eight loads a year, and the cycle time from the start of one load until the next load is 44 days. Transit time for a typical load is only eight to 10 days.

The rest of the time between loads is administrative. The car must be cleaned and inspected before every use. If the consignee did not clean the car properly at unloading, it must be sent to a wash facility, which can take several days. BNSF has three washing locations, and they are spread as far apart as Alabama and the Dakotas. Not only is washing time-consuming, it is expensive. The average cost of washing a refrigerated boxcar is $650, and that's just inside. The railroad does not wash the exterior.

Inspection and repair also consumes several days. Empty cars are sent to one of several inspection facilities operated by Western Fruit Express, a wholly owned BNSF subsidiary. During the inspection, the car is checked thoroughly to ensure that brakes, suspension, and box integrity meet BNSF standards. The refrigeration unit is inspected as well. If any repairs are indicated by the inspection, this adds time to the period between loads. Cars are also inspected every 1,000 miles while under load, but are essentially a walk-around to ensure that the doors are closed properly, that the unit has sufficient fuel, and that the couplers and brakes appear to be in good working order.

Wood said delay in transit is almost never an issue.

"We run seven trains from California to Chicago a day with a 98 percent on-time record. We clock those trains on departure and on arrival. On time is on time, not two minutes later. However, a 'bad order,' a car not available for loading when requested, usually because a problem was discovered during inspection, can cause a delay that averages three days."

He said the economic justification for refrigerated boxcar freight remains compelling. BNSF makes a profit moving only eight loads per car per year while providing a service to its shippers. In a hypothetical example, a truckload of oranges from California to New York might command a freight rate of $2,800, he said. It takes several truckloads to equal a single carload. While carload freight is more expensive than a single truckload, it still costs less than moving an equal amount of freight by highway.

The cost justification will become even more pronounced when the entire order of new boxcars is in service.

"These are some of the largest boxcars ever built, Wood said.

"Existing cars in the BNSF fleet can hold the equivalent of 2.3 high-cube trailer loads. The new cars will hold as much as four trailers."

Using Wood's example of oranges, a shipper paying a hypothetical $8,000 for a carload would save more than $3,000 compared to highway freight.

Although not certified for high speed - 90 mph on Amtrak - the new cars are designed for 70 mph. Operating in conventional freight trains, produce will have a transit time of eight days from Salinas, Kans., to New York.

Planning for the new boxcars began in 1993 when BNSF initiated a development project centered on composite car construction. At that time, they had two cars built as a test for a major brewer. A few other cars were built for private fleets, including a number that make use of cryogenic refrigeration instead of conventional mechanical units. In total, only about 50 refrigerated boxcars were built between 1965 and 2000, and some of those are not in constant use, because the price of liquid CO2 has risen sharply in the last few years.

The cars have the potential to remain in service for 40 years. Refrigeration units will be replaced on a shorter cycle, probably after eight to 10 years. BNSF projects refrigeration unit utilization at 1,000 to 1,200 running hours annually.

The new cars are a joint development project that included BNSF, its shippers, Trinity Industries and several suppliers, including Carrier Transicold. Car builder Trinity knew that conventional steel boxcars are not the best solution for holding perishables at precise temperature, and using composites for car construction was not seen as a workable solution either. The result became a steel car with composite components, particularly the roof. Trinity has 78 facilities, and 12 million square feet of manufacturing space in 22 states, plus operations in Mexico and Brazil. It is headquartered in Dallas.

Boxcar size is limited by two factors. If a car is too long, it cannot negotiate curves properly. If it is too wide or too tall, it will not fit through tunnels, so the new "Plate F" cars are about as big as a boxcar can possibly be, Wood said. They are 82 feet, 2 inches long between the coupler faces, and 76 feet 9 inches between the end sills. They are as wide as physically possible and 16 feet 11 inches exterior height. The "plate" letter refers to the AAR's car dimensional standards, which determine where a car can or cannot fit.

Inside, the cars are 72 feet 3 inches long, 9 feet 2 inches wide, and 12_ feet high. The plug doors are 12 feet wide and 11 feet 3_ inches tall. Estimated tare weight is 105,000 pounds, which provides a payload of 181,000 pounds based on a gross rail load of 286,000 lb.

Pioneer earns $2.5 million from sale
Pioneer Railcorp reported on June 11 it had sold 34 miles of its Alabama & Florida Railway Co. tracks from Georgian to Andalusia, Ala.

The buyer was the Three Notch Railroad Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Gulf Railways of Knoxville, Tenn. The selling price was $2.5 million.

Alabama & Florida is keeping nearly 43 miles of the line from East Andalusia to Geneva, Ala., and will continue operations on its remaining tracks, interchanging traffic with Three Notch at Andalusia.

Pioneer Railcorp is a shortline railroad holding company with 16 freight railroads and one tourist railroad operating in ten states with over 431 miles of track.

Lines across the pond...

British conductors set to strike

British passenger train conductors, or "guards," in English usage, are poised to strike several of the island nation's railroads.

Talks aimed at averting two 24-hour strikes by rail guards over their safety role are to continue after Wednesday's "constructive" meeting. Leaders of the Rail Maritime and Transport union met the Association of Train Operating Companies to try to head off the walkouts, planned for June 25 and July 4, Ananova reported last week.

Further talks are to be held with officials from Railway Safety, a subsidiary of Railtrack, which has responsibility for the industry's rulebook. The union has complained that changes to the rulebook have downgraded the role of guards.

Guards employed by 21 railroad companies, including South West Trains, Connex, Virgin and Scotrail, have backed the strikes, although employees at Great Eastern and the union's three members on the Isle of Wight's Island Line voted against.

Three more companies, WAGN, Thameslink and Gatwick Express, do not employ guards and so will be unaffected by the strikes.

Both 24-hour strikes will be held on Monday 25 June and Wednesday 4 July, and will affect 22 of the rail operating companies.

The RMT rail union announced the decision after a ballot of its 5,200 guard members.

Union members at two companies, Great Eastern and the Isle of Wight's Island Line, rejected industrial action, but RMT said guards on all other train operators voted "resoundingly in favor" of strikes, with an average of four to one in favor.

The union is angry that guards no longer have responsibility for train service safety under changes to railway rules and say they will be reduced to the level of "Kit-Kat sellers."

First Great Western, which runs services out of Paddington station to south Wales, the west of England, Bristol and the Cotswolds, said it was extremely disappointed by the vote.

Managing director Mike Carroll said, "We are disappointed and frustrated at this news. I cannot stress enough how importantly we view the safety of our customers and staff. Safety is at the center of everything we do."

Guards have traditionally been responsible for "guarding" the rear of their train should it have to stop because of an accident or breakdown, but in 1999 Rail Safety, a subsidiary of Railtrack, changed the rule book to give drivers (locomotive engineers) the responsibility for train safety, leaving guards to look after passengers.

The RMT union said the new procedures devalued the role of guards as rail safety professionals. There was also concern that some train companies might do away with them altogether, but Railway Safety and the train companies have stressed that guards still have an important safety role.

The latest ballot is the second national vote on their role.

Last year industrial action was called off when negotiations seemed to be progressing. The Association of Train Operating Companies has said, "a gun is being held to our heads". It continues to oppose the RMT's demands.

Bombardier pays .045 to shareholders
Bombardier of Montreal said last week is Class A and Class B shares paid a dividend of $0.045 per share on the Class A shares (multiple voting) and of $0.045 per share on the Class B shares (subordinate voting) is payable on July 31, 2001 to the shareholders of record at the close of business on July 18, 2001.

Holders of Class B shares (subordinate voting) of record at the close of business on July 18, 2001, who have a right to a priority dividend at the rate of $0.00039075 per share per year, payable by quarterly installments of $0.00039075, will receive the second installment of $0.00039075 per share on July 31, 2001.

A quarterly dividend of $0.34375 per share on the Series 2 Preferred Shares is payable on July 31, 2001 to the shareholders of record at the close of business on July 18, 2001.

Bombardier's revenues for its fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2001 totaled $16.1 billion and more than 90 percent were generated outside Canada.

We get letters...

"Only three trains along the Northeast Corridor will not have quiet cars. Those are Acela Express No. 2170, which leaves Washington, D.C. at 7:20 a.m... " - D:F

Dear Editor:

I have an Acela Express ticket in my hand for [a] June [date] on No. 2170 with a Washington departure time of 3:00 pm. The lead coach was indeed a "quiet car," and one young woman was quickly nailed by the attendant even as she was still trying to dial, and sent packing to the rear. Even our group was asked to "please keep it quiet" (quite nicely, by the way). To be fair, however, when boarding in a hurry (as we were as 2170 was 40 [minutes late] departing and it was swarmed when the boarding call finally came), one does not necessarily notice the signs.

I took a group of ten from Washington, D.C. to Wilmington, Del., and back as part of High-Speed Rail Day. They all met CEO Jim RePass at about 6:30 a.m. in Union Station shortly after our arrival from North Carolina on No. 98.

Don Stewart
Fayetteville, N.C.


July 28-31

American Assn. of Railroad Superintendents annual meeting.
Doubletree Hotel, Missoula, Mont.
Contact Barbara Marlow, or phone 219-922-1072

Sept. 10-13

AREMA annual conference
Palmer Hilton Hotel, Chicago.
Contact; 301-459-3200, or fax 301-459-8077.

Charles St Rail Yard, Prov., RI

NCI: Leo King

A remnant from the steam era was still standing at the Charles Street Roundhouse area in Providence, R.I. circa 1950. The steamers had been bumped by the critters now occupying the ready tracks, a Fairbanks-Morse road switcher at the left, and an American Locomotive Co. - Alco - DL-109, rested. The DL-109s were soon to be downgraded to commuter train duties as second-generation Alco PAs took over the premier roles. Nothing in this scene exists today. A ramp from Chalkstone Avenue to I-95 covers the spot, now.
End Notes...

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