Smith to be honored in Boston on Wednesday
Amtrak Board member and NCI Board Chairman John Robert Smith will be honored at a reception Wednesday, June 27 at South Station 4:00-5:30 p.m. hosted by Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Kevin Sullivan and supported by NCI and Amtrak, followed by a tour of a Viewliner sleeper that has undergone a new Amtrak maintenance procedure. Space is very limited, so an RSVP is a must, to Jim RePass at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-269-5478.
NCI: Leo KingFRA has affirmed 79 mph travel between Boston and Portland, Me. The "cabbage car," No. 90214 - ex-Amtrak F-40PH diesel locomotive 214 is mated with P-40 827 in Southampton Street Yard, Boston. The cabbage is expected to move soon to Portland.
|FRA: 79 is fine on Portland line|
The Federal Railroad Administration on Thursday reasserted its finding that the Boston-to-Portland passenger rail service can safely run at 79 mph.
Amtrak, Maine DOT and the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) had argued the same position before the Surface Transportation Board some six months ago, but Guilford Transportation argued they could not safely permit any passenger train to run over its tracks at that speed.
The STB, Amtrak, Maine DOT and NNEPRA had agreed 115-pound rails between Plaistow, N.H., and Portland are safe for speeds higher than the 59 mph advocated by Guilford Transportation, the rail company which owns the tracks.
The STB has agreed to decide the matter by June's end.
The long-awaited Amtrak service is now scheduled to begin this fall.
Meanwhile, Amtrak has begun making preparations.
A single former F-40PH locomotive, dubbed a "cabbage car" in some rail circles, has been assigned to Portland service, and will be at one end of the train providing a train control system as well as baggage room while a complete locomotive, a P-40, pulls or pushes from the other end. It saves a great deal of time in that the trains do not have to go around a wye or be looped.
The lone cabbage on the New England division, No. 21219, has been lurking in Southampton street yard for more than a month, and in recent days was tied up to P-40 821. Meanwhile, New England Division manager Steven Alleman issued a bulletin order last week that restricts the cabbage car to 100 mph. It's the only one of its kind on the division.
Elsewhere around New England, the Vermonter is expected to return service to and from St. Albans, Vt. on June 24. Sources said a crew made a test trip on Thursday. Poor track on New England Central required immediate repairs in numerous locations.
NCI: Leo KingAmtrak's "cabbage" - combination control car and baggage car, is ready to work at Boston's Southampton Street yard. It is slated to work soon in North Station to Portland, Me., service.
Fireworks expected at ARC hearing;
NARP calls for grassroots action
The Amtrak Reform Council is going to hit the road in the coming weeks to hear comments from transportation officials on its plan, unveiled in March, to separate the passenger railroad's Northeast Corridor infrastructure from its operations.
That could take any one of several forms, from completely divorcing the infrastructure from Amtrak to placing it under Amtrak control, but still separated from operations.
The first hearing is tomorrow (June 26) in Newark, N.J.
Transportation officials from the Northeast Corridor states have been invited. As of Thursday, ARC had received acceptances from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware, but Maryland, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts were "waffling." Of course, Amtrak has been invited to testify to restate its opposition.
Although the spotlight in the proposal is on the Northeast, the Reform Council regards it as a national issue. The ARC words its proposal by saying that Amtrak's Northeast Corridor infrastructure would be "appropriately separated" from Amtrak's national inter-city passenger train operations. After the daylong Newark event, the council will later travel to St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Atlanta.
New York State Transportation Commissioner Joseph H. Boardman has written the council stating his belief that such a hearing is "premature." At this writing, the ARC was drafting a 12-page response saying that it was not premature, given that Amtrak has until fiscal year 2003 to become operationally self sufficient.
Under that kind of deadline, the hearing is very timely, in ARC's view.
Amtrak insists that it will meet the deadline, but the DOT Inspector General has said that although Amtrak is obligated to pay $135 million to the NEC infrastructure operations in one year, it has contributed only $71 million. As one observer close to the action put it to D:F, that's a little like swiping food off a family dinner table to build someone else's house.
An ARC background paper on the upcoming hearings stated the council "believes that separating the NEC infrastructure from train operations will enable Amtrak to better focus on its primary mission as a service provider."
Meanwhile, the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) is urging its members to respond to comments by Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, reported earlier this month in D:F. The secretary speculated that Amtrak could perhaps benefit by shrinking back to the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast corridors.
If you live in a city served by Amtrak, NARP suggests getting your mayor and other community leaders involved. They could be encouraged to write their Congressional delegation. If your city hopes for such service in the future, emphasize that saving the system is essential if this is to come about.
NARP would like you to contact someone you know whose community is served by long distance trains, hopefully to galvanize action there. Essentially, what Mineta was talking about was possibly eliminating long distance service.
Also, writing to the secretary himself would be helpful, or perhaps to President Bush, suggesting that if anything, the Amtrak system should be expanded.
However, NARP advises that if you do write Mineta directly, "please be respectful, not indignant or angry. His opinion could have a major impact on what happens, so angering him is not helpful."
NCI: Leo KingAmtrak's Acela Express has received a gold medal in the 2001 Industrial Design Excellence awards. Designers were IDEO, Nikolaus Frank, Adrian Corry, IDSA, OH & Co. and Amtrak.
|Acela wins top design prize|
Amtrak's Acela Express is one of the gold winners in the industrial design - transportation category by the Industrial Designers Society of America, reports Business Week magazine. Designers IDEO, Nikolaus Frank, Adrian Corry, IDSA, Oh & Co. and Amtrak shared the prize last week. Entries were judged and the news magazine sponsored the awards.
Eighteen gold awards were presented for other transportation designs, including the Chrysler PT Cruiser and the business class interior of Virgin Atlantic Airways.
The judges stated, "Research and strategy for corporate clients are playing ever bigger roles in product design. For Amtrak's first high-speed train, IDEO put together a three-pronged strategy focusing on customer service, branding of the Acela name, and more comfortable and accessible rolling stock. To compete with air shuttles, IDEO designed a European rail-travel experience, not just a train."
|Albany station woes may be ending|
The New York State DOT aid last week it would help to pay for some final stages for the new Albany-Rensselaer railroad station, helping the Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) to cover some of the cost overruns that have drawn sharp criticism from public officials.
"At the present time, that gap looks like it is being closed," Wayne Pratt, CDTA board member and chairman of the operations committee that has overseen the station, said of the hole in the project's budget, the Albany Times-Union reported on June 17.
Logistical hurdles have plagued the station's construction, including changes in roofing and electrical contractors, costly track work and an unexpected need to earthquake-proof the parking garage. The budget rose from $35 million in 1998 to current estimates of more than $60 million.
About $53 million is needed to open the station next summer, but the authority is looking for cash to pay for the final construction phase, which will build a run-around track for freight trains rolling by the station. That project will push the total cost to more than $60 million.
CDTA officials indicated last month they would ask a state senator to help close the funding gap, but after Sen. Joseph L. Bruno harshly criticized the authority for repeated cost overruns, those officials declined to ask for money, spokesmen for CDTA and Bruno said. The state DOT recently offered to provide about $1 million for the track project, which will dovetail with the DOT's plans for track work on the western side of the river between Albany and Schenectady, DOT spokesman Michael Fleischer said.
The Albany-Rensselaer station is the nation's 13th busiest; more than 600,000 passengers passed through last year. The new station is nearly completed, painters have begun work on the interior and it should be open in one year. The three-year project has been plagued with problems, including an electrical contractor who filed for bankruptcy protection. Work was delayed for several weeks while the CDTA found a replacement. Some stretches of track had to be ripped up and moved just a few feet to make room for passenger platforms.
Amtrak, FEC jointly operate a demonstration passenger train
Florida East Coast Ry. Co. conductor Steve Rowand, engineer Tommy Allen and Road Foreman of Engines Victor Martin did something last week they probably thought the would never get to do - run a passenger train on their layout making station stops where people were getting on and off. It was not a scheduled train, nor did the passengers pay to ride. They were all invited to ride by FEC and Amtrak management. Both railroads stated nearly two months ago they have finally, after years of negotiating - if not wrangling - come to an agreement to run Amtrak passenger trains down Florida's eastern coast, variously called the Gold Coast, Treasure Coast, and so on (See D:F for May 7).
The consist was mostly standard Amtrak fare, except for the blue FEC GP-40-2 engine on the point, No. 442, followed by Amtrak P-42 No. 166 and cars 62001, 25073, 25124, 28018, 8531, 10001. That last car was Amtrak's Beech Grove, a business car. It marked the first time in 33 years a passenger train, which was picking up and letting off people, operated on the 368-mile layout between Jacksonville and Miami. About 200 riders were aboard at any given time.
The train was a one-day-only southbound extra on June 18 between both major Florida cities, but the crew and guests made their northward journey the following day. An enthusiast who was watching Monday's train said the special was running as "Extra 141." Aboard were "suits," mostly political figures, railroad officials, and the media.
It was significant because future trains, when regular service begins, will be making stops at Atlantic Ocean beach communities that have not had passenger rail service since the railway strike of some three decades ago.
The train left Jacksonville at 7:45 a.m. traveled the route to Miami in more than 14 hours. That's slower than the 70 mph planned for the regular service when it begins, officials said. Amtrak plans two daily round trips, although on the first year of service, it is likely that only one round trip will be on service daily, said FEC executive vice president Heidi Eddins, but she said more daily trips could be added later, based on ridership performance, as long as freight service, which will continue on the line, will not be affected.
Rail enthusiasts the length of the Sunshine State were paying close attention to this train, as was Florida's media, which gave the story good play in many publications the following day.
A special train ran on the FEC last February, but made no scheduled stops. A CSXT passenger special also operated last year, but except for rare visitors like those, such as the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners (AAPRCO) trip of October 1999, a couple of Amtrak test trains ran, wrote Kevin D. Andrusia of Orlando, who noted in his e-mail signature he lives along "CSXT A-Line, Sanford Sub."
Other on-line posters included Seth Bramson of Miami, a noted author, who wrote a book about the FEC several years ago.
He told his fellow enthusiasts on an e-mail list named "SERails" It was the "first time southbound since July 30, 1968. There have been trains carrying people, such as the AAPRCO train and circus trains, but this is the first passenger train that made stops (eight) between Jacksonville and Miami's Hialeah Yard."
Bramson, who was aboard the special, noted, "We loaded or detrained passengers at every station."
FEC tracks and milepost 0.0 is on the north end of the railroad's St. John's River Bridge, where it connects to Norfolk Southern.
The special train hit the FEC Fort Lauderdale drawbridge at 3:50 p.m., which one observer noted, "By my calculations, puts them ahead of schedule in Hialeah, unless it takes them a two hours to get from Fort Lauderdale to Hialeah. My limited experience is that these passenger specials move very rapidly."
The average dwell time in each station was five minutes.
Bramson wrote the train was scheduled to leave Amtrak's Clifford Lane Station in Jacksonville at 7:45 a.m, and arrive in Hialeah Yard at 6:00 p.m. The train called on St. Augustine, Daytona, Titusville, Cocoa, Melbourne, Vero Beach, Fort Pierce, and Stuart.
The next day, they would depart Hialeah Yard at 7:45 a.m. and arrive back in Jacksonville at 6:00 p.m. No word where people slept overnight in Miami.
The next day, northbound FEC train No. 240 crossed the Fort Lauderdale drawbridge at 9:08 a.m. with FEC's 442 again leading. It was the same consist.
A slow order at MP 261 was lifted a short time later.
The Amtrak special passed West Palm Beach at 10:05 a.m.
A railroad expert pointed out "only one train a day each way may operate over the ATC-equipped FEC without having an ATC-equipped locomotive in the lead. Since [freight trains] 206 and 105 run with Norfolk Southern locomotives that aren't equipped with Harmon Ultracab ATC, it makes more sense to run that train as the exception than a light passenger train."
Jon Hollahan, of South Florida, wrote, "FEC has said they will not supply Amtrak with pilot locomotives on a regular basis, although I don't know what the contract specifically mentions. It makes sense for Amtrak to equip their power with the comparatively cheap system so they can take advantage of higher permissible speeds for passenger trains rather than hold them to the 65 mph max allowed by the gearing in FEC traction motors."
FEC track speed for freights is 50.
Another poster remarked, "In my industry, microelectronics, before you ever deliver new products for actual field service, you build, test, and prove out prototypes. That's what these Amtrak specials over FEC are, not true passenger trains, they are prototype runs. Testing out demand for the service, schedules, doing PR/marketing, etc.
"I am jealous and would love to be on board. I suspect the northbound prototype run as I type this at about 1 p.m. is somewhere between Titusville and New Smyrna, but the first real passenger train across the St. John's River drawbridge for points south on the FEC will be the one carrying passengers who purchased tickets for a specific destination along the route. There will probably be more prototype runs before the real thing happens."
He added, "It is wonderful to see passenger cars zipping along on the FEC again, whether in prototype trains or whatever you want to call them. Frankly, I am skeptical that this service will ever come to pass, given the costs of building stations and the vulnerability of Amtrak funding from the government, but I dearly hope I am wrong."
After the two-day affair, Bramson wrote, "The trip was a major and smashing success. The entire trip was upbeat; the representatives from the communities are enthusiastic about supporting the fiscal requirements and all of them know and are aware that this has to be a joint effort between the communities, the Florida DOT, to a lesser extent the feds, and, of course, the railroad."
Bramson reported, "The AMT people, from the governmental affairs manager to the train manager (a wonderful and gracious gentleman by the name of Jeff Barker) to the service staff were warm and cordial and enthusiastic. The FEC representatives were supportive and interested, and I cannot say enough about the FEC engine crew and everyone on the railroad who was connected with this effort."
He also pointed out that while the trip was certainly enjoyable, "it was business-oriented. Mr. Barker discussed the operation of the train and the improvements that would be required and made certain all understood what was necessary to enable an all-freight railroad to be used to carry passengers."
He said the railroaders served "A light breakfast, and an appropriate buffet lunch. If you have people on a business trip or meeting for a full day, you do have to take care of such minor issues as food, and I can assure you that, while the food was both beautifully served and excellent in taste, it was not, by any means, extravagant. Beverages consisted of coffee, tea, juices and soft drinks. No liquor was served.
At each of the eight stops, he wrote, "Police blocked the crossing at which we boarded and detrained passengers."
Bramson added, "In order for a project of this nature to become reality, the various communities with a vested interest - St. Augustine, Daytona, Titusville, Cocoa, Melbourne, Vero Beach, Fort Pierce, and Stuart - had to be shown, first hand, how excellent the operation can be and how much it can and will mean to their communities, both in bringing tourists and in providing employment."
In his view, he wrote, all eight stations would have to be manned because of the expected demand. He also opined, "I believe that this service can actually be profitable to Amtrak from Day One. This was not a frivolous train ride, but, rather, a business promotional event, bringing together all three of the involved 'publics' - government, business, and transportation - to allow them to see and hear, first hand, what this service can mean to each community. Jacksonville, of course, with the Super Bowl awarded for 2005, has a major and vested interest in seeing that this service is in place well before that."
The general press had a somewhat different take on the activities. For example, David Bauerlein, a reporter for the Jacksonville Times-Union, told his readers, "In the heyday of passenger rail travel, trains rolled through St. Augustine every day, bringing travelers to the Sunshine State from the freezing north. In one colorful piece of marketing, the "Florida Special" carried a swimming pool on it during the 1935-36 winter travel season."
He echoed some of Bramson's thinking.
"The Amtrak train that ran through St. Augustine Monday didn't have any swimming amenities in it, or for that matter, any tourists. Instead, it was a kind of lobbying campaign on wheels for the route Amtrak wants to open along the Florida coast by adding eight new stops, including the return of regular passenger rail service to St. Augustine... "
There are murky waters ahead though. Florida's DOT has been able to less than one-third of the estimated $64 million that will be needed to make the route ready for passenger trains again, most of which would be for adding long passing sidings so passenger trains and slower-moving freight trains won't interfere with each other. The funding also would cover the cost of new signaling, improvements to railroad crossings and construction of train stations at all eight new stations
Some Florida officials who took the ride included Jacksonville City Councilwoman Faye Rustin and St. Augustine City Commissioner Raymond Connor.
Amtrak has not set a target date for starting the service, other than to say that after funding is in place, it would take a year to get under way. Based on the state's budget situation, that would put it at mid-2003 at the earliest.
Nazih Haddad, Florida DOT's intercity passenger rail manager and an NCI member, said FDOT has set aside $15.5 million for the work, and FEC has agreed to pay $3 million. Local governments would contribute about $2 million. Beyond that, it's not clear where the rest of the money would come from, Haddad said. Cities will contribute at least 20 percent of the cost of constructing their own train stations and the state would pay the rest. Each station is estimated to cost at least $800,000.
"The DOT's position at this time is that certainly, we're still interested in it," he said. "We want to see it happen. It would be a lot of benefit to the east coast of the state. However, we don't have the money."
Amtrak trains now run from Jacksonville to Miami, but the route operates over CSX through central Florida via Tampa, Orlando, Lakeland and Winter Haven.
Bert Eljera of Vero Beach's Press Journal, learned that "In the 1950s, Seth Bramson, then a college student, always found it a delightful experience riding the train from Miami to Vero Beach and back. Fascinated with trains since boyhood, he collected train memorabilia, particularly those that had something to do with the Florida East Coast Railway, its legendary founder, Henry Flagler, and his storied trains, "but when a strike forced the railroad company to cease passenger operations in 1968, Bramson bought the last ticket sold and kept it as a souvenir."
"åThis is exciting,' said Bramson, a 56-year-old university professor who had parlayed his experiences on the train into a book, titled, Speedway to Sunshine: The History of the Florida East Coast Railway, which was published in 1984 by Boston Press Mills of Erin, Ontario.
In Fort Pierce, City Commissioner Reginald Sessions said the Amtrak service would be an economic engine and a major plus as a transportation line.
"If we could get this thing in line, it will also help us in our downtown revitalization effort," said Sessions, who led a Fort Pierce delegation that included another commissioner, R. Duke Nelson, the city manager and the city's community development director.
Ramon Trias, of the community development agency, said the Fort Pierce train station is estimated to cost $1.5 million. It would be built on Orange Avenue, and would complete the make-over of that important thoroughfare.
"It will be a very visible public building with Mediterranean-style architecture, like the old City Hall," Trias said. He thinks the building could be completed by next spring.
Stuart would spend about $1 million for its train station, according to City Manager David Collier, who led a 15-person delegation.
"It's been a long time coming," Collier said. "We are looking forward to having this service." As the Stuart group boarded, 25 people, including several city employees, lined the tracks near City Hall.
"This is historic, the first time Amtrak has coming through Stuart," said Frank Besanceney, who arrived about a half-hour before the six-passenger car train made its 2:04 p.m., on-time, arrival in downtown Stuart.
The Palm City resident and model railroad club member was one of a number of people who brought cameras to record the event.
"I think this is the most wonderful thing," said Stuart resident Mary Harding. "Usually we have to go to Okeechobee or West Palm Beach to see the trains."
Wearing matching railroad engineer's caps and carrying "Welcome Amtrak" signs, Harding brought her two sons, Andy, 4, and Robbie, 10, to greet the train.
"We'll use it to go visit relatives in Maryland. It's easier than the highway," she said.
Ted Astolfi, executive director of the county's Business Development Board, who rode the train from Jacksonville to Stuart, said there were dozens of people at stops and numerous train-spotters along the tracks the entire route.
Mike Branom, an Associated Press writer, told the rest of Florida through his wire service, that
"åAmtrak's wanted to serve the east coast of Florida for a long, long time,' said Ray Lang, Amtrak's director of government affairs. åThe east coast of Florida has some of the busiest tourist destinations in the whole world. There's a tremendous market there, and the potential is almost unlimited.'"
The expansion is part of a larger Amtrak plan to restructure and increase service in Florida, Branom wrote, and added, "When improvements have been completed, Amtrak will offer six daily nonstop roundtrips within Florida, doubling the current three."
Amtrak has not yet determined passenger fares.
FEC Vice President of Transportation Charlie Lynch acknowledged that allowing Amtrak to run trains on much of its track is a risk for the company.
"It's going to be more difficult for us to get windows to maintain our track, it will require more precision on train routes because we are a single-track railroad with passing sidings," Lynch said, but added, there are benefits that could make the company's operating agreement with Amtrak worthwhile. The infusion of capital into FEC's infrastructure will help, and FEC will be able to offer faster cargo delivery.
"Think of it as FedEx on rails," Lynch said.
Wall Street seems to agree with Lynch's optimism. Since the partnership between Amtrak and FEC was announced May 3, shareholder value has increased more than 10 percent. By June 22, the stock was valued at $35.30 per share.
Oilman Henry Flagler, a self-made millionaire built the railroad down the Atlantic coast. In a 27-year span beginning in 1885, Flagler's Florida East Coast Railway laid tracks from Jacksonville through the Keys.
Some online sources include Amtrak, at http://www.amtrak.com, Florida East Coast Industries, the parent corporation of Florida East Coast Ry., at http://www.feci.com/, Southeastern Rails, an e-mail chat group concentrating on rail issues in the Southeast, at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/serails, the Jacksonville Times-Union at http://jacksonville.com, the Vero Beach Press Journal at http://www.tcpalm.com/vero/index.shtml, and The Associated Press, at http://www.ap.org/
|Augusta, Ga., looks for Amtrak|
An Augusta, Ga., effort to attract Amtrak's high-speed passenger rail service to the city received the community's railway subcommittee's endorsement. Commissioners forwarded recommendations to the engineering services committee to begin soliciting funding from legislators in Georgia and South Carolina for a study for the Charleston-Columbia-Atlanta rail line.
The subcommittee also voted to add a new intermodal train and bus terminal to the city's long-term Regional Transportation Improvement Plan in addition to researching the cost of bus service from Augusta to Columbia for a more immediate Amtrak connection, according to the Augusta, Ga. Chronicle
"We know one day we're going to have passenger rail service," Mayor Bob Young said. "It may be later rather than sooner, but we know it will be here."
Another project, which could be completed as early as 2003, would install signal technology throughout the downtown area to help divert traffic around slow-moving trains traveling Sixth Street tracks.
"When you come through town, if there's a train on the tracks, there's no way to know it until you're stopped in front of it," City Traffic Engineer Jim Huffstetler said, but with a video monitoring and detection system, traffic engineers could install a traffic signal network and be able to detour motorists around trains before it is too late to turn around.
The sales tax-funded improvements would include gates, lights and bells at the Laney-Walker Boulevard railroad crossing and elsewhere. The price tag would be about $1.25 million.
|46 new LIRR engines to be repaired|
All 46 of the new locomotives that pull the Long Island Rail Road's double-decker commuter trains must be sent back to the manufacturer so cracks that have developed in the steel frames supporting their engines can be repaired, railroad officials said June 19.
Officials said the cracks discovered by its inspectors and disclosed more than a year ago posed no immediate safety hazard to riders. And the repairs, it said, would not disrupt service because locomotives would be sent back only two at a time, starting in September, according to The New York Times.
But the repair plan, which the railroad confirmed last week, is only the latest in a litany of sour news about the new fleet, which was introduced with great fanfare as a way for passengers from eastern Suffolk County to ride to New York City without having to change trains.
Soon after the first train hit the rails in November 1997, myriad problems arose with the radio equipment, heat and air-conditioning systems, lights, horns that were too loud, doors that opened at the wrong times, and cracks that developed in shock absorbers and the steps to engineers' cabs.
"The problems were so numerous," said Robert M. Evers, general chairman of the engineers' union, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. "Any time you have a structural defect relative to the locomotive itself, it is a safety problem."
Brian Dolan, a railroad spokesman, said the cracks in the steel frames, or skids, did not pose an imminent safety hazard. But, he said, tests by a private metallurgical firm hired by the railroad indicated that safety could be compromised in future years if the cracks went unfixed. That study led the manufacturer, the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors, to recommend three months ago that the railroad replace the skids on all of the locomotives.
"It is in our interest to replace them now, while we are in warranty," Mr. Dolan said.
The 46 new engines, bought to replace 50-year-old equipment, are the only locomotives used by the Long Island Rail Road; the other trains are powered by an electric third rail.
Cracks in the engine frames were not found on every locomotive in the fleet, Mr. Dolan said. But he said the problem did afflict "several" of the 23 diesel locomotives, each of which cost $3.1 million, and the 23 engines that can operate in both diesel and electric mode, which cost $4.1 million each.
Dolan said that Lucius Pitkin, the Manhattan metallurgical firm hired to study the cracks, attributed them to "vibrations."
The firm had not yet submitted its final report, but Dolan said it had recommended that the railroad immediately fix any cracks six inches long or more, which the railroad did at its Richmond Hill shop, and then develop a plan for permanent repairs of all the cracks.
The permanent repairs will be paid for by the manufacturer, which is currently seeking to award a contract for the job.
The new locomotives are 26,500 pounds heavier than the ones they replaced.
Two locomotives will be removed from service at any one time, an official said, which could leave the railroad with too few spare engines if further mechanical problems arise.
The New York Times is on online at http://www.nytimes.com.
|Seattle's station to be restored|
Washington State's Association of Rail Passengers (WashARP) reports the state legislature voted favorably in March and April to restore Seattle's King Street Station.
Senate Bill 5224 allowed the Washington DOT to create partnership with a private, non-profit corporation to restore the station to its original appearance. The Senate vote was 49-2, and the House vote was 79-10. Gov. Gary Locke signed the bill on April 18. The partnership between WSDOT and Railroad Station Properties (RSP) leverages the $21 million in federal, state and Amtrak funds on hand to build the $43 million project.
The Great Northern Railway built the three-story, 60,000-square-foot station, and opened it in 1906. It was designed in the railroad Italianate style, and featured a 12-story clock tower modeled after the campanile at the Piazza San Marco in Venice.
Amtrak's Cascades began stopping at the temporary Sounder Tukwila Station on June 1.
With the renaissance of Amtrak service in the Northwest Corridor and the beginning of Sound Transit's Sounder service, more than 3,800 passengers a day use the station. WSDOT projects 6 million passengers a year will use the station when full Amtrak Cascades and Sounder service is implemented.
Structurally, the building remains sound, surviving the earthquakes of 1949, 1965 and last February with little damage, said officials.
Through competitive bidding, WSDOT awarded the bid from RSP to manage the redevelopment and operate the station for up to 30 years. WSDOT will lease the building from RSP, providing Amtrak and Sound Transit the needed facilities for their operations.
The upper floors will be subleased to government agencies. Lease payments will be used to pay off RSP's debt. By the end of the lease, WSDOT or another designated agency will assume ownership of the building. Maria Barrientos of Barrientos LLC, a consultant involved in redevelopment of historic buildings and coordinating the project for WSDOT, suggested the financing plan, which was used by King County to develop the King Street Center next door to the station.
The renewed station is expected to reopen in mid-2003.
CSX spills 16 freight cars; no injuries
Sodium hydroxide solution spilled from a tank car into a nearby creek in Wilmington, Ohio. last week. In all, 16 cars of a 68-car train derailed. CSX Transportation spokeswoman Kathy Burns said she did not know how much hydroxide was spilled on June 17, but the creek feeds into a lake at nearby Cowan Lake State Park, where about 30 people were sent to a hospital to be examined. All were determined to be unharmed.
Emergency workers were using sand to contain the spill; the chemical solution is used to make paper, soap and fabrics.
Most of the derailed cars contained paper, Burns said, adding that the train was headed from Buffalo, N.Y., to Cincinnati. Wilmington is about 60 miles southwest of Columbus.
Also on Sunday, another CSX's "juice" train with 61 cars, carrying refrigerated containers of Tropicana orange juice, derailed in Florida, sending the cartons spilling onto the track, authorities said.
Thirty of the train's reefers derailed near Ocala, said Paul Nevels, Marion County fire rescue battalion chief. No one was hurt.
|'Won't pay,' says Guilford|
Two years have passed since six freight cars slipped off the tracks in Charlemont, Mass., and spilled a latex chemical into the Deerfield River, turning the water milky and bubbly.
When Massachusetts officials tried to get Guilford Transportation, Inc., (Boston & Maine Corp.) to pay the $8,000 in clean-up costs, the North Billerica rail company appealed to the federal government, saying the state had overstepped its bounds in blocking the firm from handling the cleanup on its own.
Now the USDOT, after receiving numerous comments from environmentalists, transportation companies and attorneys general from other states, faces the daunting task of interpreting how federal transportation laws should interact with Massachusetts laws on chemical spills. A public comment period runs through June 12, but federal officials are under no deadline to make a final ruling.
The decision could change the way Massachusetts and other states handle spills from chemicals that are transported across their borders.
A federal ruling in favor of the rail carrier would "set a terrible precedent," said Rob Sargent, senior advocate for Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group.
"It's a stretch to argue that in this instance, Boston & Maine is not bound by the state requirement."
Boston & Maine and other transportation companies assert that the state has no legal authority to respond to spills resulting from a transportation accident if those chemicals turn out to be on the special list of hazardous materials designated by USDOT.
Bay State officials say its chemical cleanup laws have nothing to do with transportation and therefore apply to any chemical spills in the state. The emergency response law requires the state to use its own equipment and a trained team of cleanup experts.
The derailment on June 27, 1999, caused one of the cars to leak various non-hazardous chemicals, including latex, which was going to be used for plastic soda bottles, according to company officials.
Charlemont firefighters and their hazardous materials response team arrived at the scene, along with CYN Engineering, a private contractor hired by Boston & Maine to contain the spill. But since the rail car did not carry any paperwork indicating what the chemicals leaking from it were, firefighters took over the containment and cleanup responsibilities and prevented CYN employees from going near the site, according to Boston & Maine workers present at the scene.
Two months later, Boston & Maine received a cleaning bill from the Charlemont Fire Department for $7,955.80. After some wrangling, Boston & Maine filed a complaint against the fire department in the Massachusetts Superior Court for Middlesex County and asked the USDOT to consider preempting the state's definition of hazardous materials.
The company asserts that most fire departments aren't prepared to handle rail car chemical spills.
College offers rail disasters course
Rail crashes, earthquakes and terrorist attacks will be among topics studied by students at a British university that says it is offering the world's first disaster studies degree, according to Reuters news agency. The postgraduate course, aimed at students from the medical professions, police or military, will include post-traumatic stress, forensic psychology and counseling.
The degree program will focus on the events surrounding disasters, and will not be for amateurs.
"While some people may have a curious interest in trauma and disaster, they are not really the people we are looking for," a professor said. He said the course, which begins in September, had been welcomed by voluntary organizations, aid agencies and emergency services.
|Locomotive engineers may join British rail strike|
The train drivers' union, ASLEF, last week set itself on a collision course with the rail industry by insisting that guards - which Americans call "conductors - are retained on passenger services.
It warned that any passenger train company, including those serving London's busy commuter routes, which tries to remove guards, will find itself in immediate dispute with the union, a clear warning of strike action.
The move threatens to bring a summer of rail travel misery. The RMT union, which represents guards, has already ordered 24-hour strikes to take place next Monday and on 4 July in a long-running dispute over the role of train guards, claiming their position is being reduced to on-board "KitKat sellers."
The ASLEF move, however, is potentially far more serious. The union warns that any company where guards have been removed already - such as Thameslink, WAGN and the Gatwick Express - will now face a concentrated campaign to have them returned.
The latest row over guards came just 24 hours before Lord Cullen published his concluding report into the Paddington disaster of October 1999, in which 31 people died. In the immediate aftermath of the accident, two off-duty train drivers helped rescue passengers because there was no guard on one of the trains.
SolTrain makes its maiden run
The SolTrain, the world's first solar-powered train, made its maiden run on June 12, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
So what's that, you ask?
It's a prototype solar-powered train.
One year in the making, the train rumbled down the tracks along Highway 9, giving short rides to onlookers as well as project supporters.
The train was the brainchild of Sustainable Monterey Bay, a group dedicated to alternative transportation and affordable housing.
Ted Lahti, prime mover behind its creation, served as conductor. He donned a white hard hat and blew a wooden train whistle as he pulled to a stop before a crowd of about 20 well-wishers.
"Everyone thought it was a crazy idea," he said as the train filled with a load of passengers.
The single-car train looks like a bus with metal train wheels - and that's just what it is. The train was fashioned from an electric bus and outfitted with 13 "photovoltaic cells" on the roof and 22 batteries inside.
It's no bullet train. At a maximum speed of about 10 mph, a brisk walker could outpace the train. But project designers said the prototype is a "proof-of-concept vehicle" that demonstrates a sun-powered train can move people up and down the tracks. Future designs would travel about 50 mph.
"We're not creating anything new," said Bob Drake, a Sustainable Monterey Bay member. "We're using existing technology, and it's free. The sun is free."
Lahti credited Capitola Mayor Dennis Norton and the county Regional Transportation Commission for believing in the train. The commission gave $15,000 to the project. The total cost was $50,000, with the difference coming from private donations.
Norton, who likened Lahti to Orville Wright, is interested in the idea as a possible use of the Union Pacific rail line that runs from Davenport to Watsonville.
The train is small and quiet, and would be unobtrusive passing through residential neighborhoods.
Train supporters have big ideas for their invention. Ultimately, they hope production models will run from Davenport to Monterey, offering commuters and tourists an alternative to Highway 1. Beyond that, they see the SolTrain as part of a series of "eco-villages" along the railroad.
They say the dense, multi-level housing developments would offer an alternative to expensive single-family homes and long commutes. The group has identified more than a dozen housing sites in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties and is looking for partners. It is in escrow on a site in Marina.
A Thousand Clowns:
On the way to Broadway; catch it if you can
Any mainstream play where Model Railroader magazine numbers among a child's favorite things is a rarity these days, even more so when it is a wonderful show like A Thousand Clowns, starring a marvelous Tom Selleck in his stage debut. See this funny, warm and delightful comedy if you can -and take your family. No, it's not about trains, it's about life -and if you've ever had to make choices in your life about being your own person this is the play to be, especially if you know how to laugh.
I caught Herb Gardner's A Thousand Clowns this past week in Boston, where it runs through July 1 before hitting the Great White Way, and while the entire cast is strong, Selleck as protagonist Murray Burns is just outstanding. This is the truly funny story of a former TV writer whose lust for life, and understanding of the potential for joy in every-day things has led him to an unconventional if problematic New York City existence.
There, in a cluttered one-room apartment, he is raising his young nephew Nicholas (an adenoidally hysterical Nicholas King who steals scenes without mercy) in a way that, of course, catches the attention of the local welfare investigators, Albert Amundson (an appropriately villainous yet vulnerable Brad Cover) and Sandra Markowitz (the accomplished and very funny Barbara Garrick) - who, naturally, decide to take Nick away from Murray. The rest of the play concerns how the unemployed Murray can transform himself into a conventional (i.e., employed) and stable person so that he does not lose Nick. Achieving that goal involves seeking the help of Murray's high-powered TV-executive brother Arnold (Robert Lupone of The Sopranos in a pneumatic, wonderfully acted role) and former boss Leo Herman (Mark Blum, who perfectly captures the loathsome, self-hating kiddie-show host we all suspect must lurk beneath many of those saccharine Saturday morning smiles).
This is a show with some great one-liners, but not the kind of smarty-pants sitcom one-liners we've all come to know, as television has continued its race to find the lowest common denominator. The punch lines mean something here, and while funny, will make you think -about choices and about toughing it out when you have to; but most of all, about getting some fun out of life.
A Thousand Clowns is just a triumph, almost 40 years old -yet in this production, ageless. It's the kind of show people will love, but many critics won't, because A Thousand Clowns has a complete absence of political correctness that rules the media. To the credit of the play's producers, Theatre Previews at Duke with Zannie Giraud Voss as producing director (in association with Jeffrey Richards and Raymond Greenwald, Norma Langworthy, James Fuld Jr. and Irving Welzer), they have resisted the urge to artificially update this marvelous show, give it a downbeat theme, or do anything other than to look within the funny, zany wisdom of the play itself for Herb Gardner's gentle and honest take on life, and to strong actors (casting director Liz Woodman), tight direction (John Bando), a truly perfect set (Allen Moyer) which adds significantly to the fun, and atmospheric lighting (Brian Macdevitt) that makes Murray's apartment come to joyous, cluttered life.
There are many reasons to see A Thousand Clowns - it's great fun with a lot of heart, and a terrific cast. Seeing Tom Selleck in his utterly first-rate stage debut is by itself worth the price of admission, but in fairness, he is part of a great, funny play that will stay with you for a long, long, time. If you get the chance, go!
Herb Gardner's A Thousand Clowns with Tom Selleck runs through July 1 at the Shubert Theatre in Boston, and then moves to Broadway. Telecharge 800-447-7400)
Recently reading the Amtrak Forum at railroad.net, I see that there are some frustrated rail advocates in upstate New York that have seen slow or little progress in passenger rail in that area. Among other things cited are:
What resources are available in order to call local officials out and make them accountable for their decisions?
You can find the complaint I cited at http://www.railroad.net/forums/load/amtrak/msg0614365497747.html?32
Any help you can offer our panelist and other frustrated commuters in Upstate New York will be greatly appreciated.
Kim L. Millard
See our story earlier in this issue, thanks to the Albany Times-Union. We are curious though, why, if you live in Michigan, you are so close to New York State issues? - Ed.
American Assn. of Railroad Superintendents annual meeting.
Doubletree Hotel, Missoula, Mont.
Contact Barbara Marlow, email@example.com or phone 219-922-1072
AREMA annual conference
Palmer Hilton Hotel, Chicago.
Contact http://www.arema.org; 301-459-3200, or fax 301-459-8077.
NCI: Leo KingThis piece of history was a Canadian project. The John Molson is an operating replica of a "locomotive used on the Champlain & St. Lawrence Railroad, according to a postcard from 1979, "Canada's first public railway. The original Jon Molson was built in Dundee, Scotland in 1849. Audio Visual Designs of Earlton, N.Y, published the postcard.
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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 Site in Boston.
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