Rail passengers face threat
of train service cuts
Washington - Rail passengers who are seeking a way out from clogged highways and delayed air flights received some troubling news this past week.
First came a story from Don Phillips of the Washington Post that a cut in train service may be in the offing. Amtrak president George Warrington, according to the Post story, has ordered a 15 percent cut in management ranks and that a similar cutback in union employment. The latter possibility is seen as a natural consequence of eliminating trains.
Quoting Amtrak sources, the Post said that Amtrak has told senior managers Amtrak is falling $200 million short of the cuts needed to become operationally self-sufficient by late next year, and that some sources think that shortfall is closer to $350 million.
What is ironic is that Warrington, only a little more than a year ago, swore off cutting trains as a means of attempting solvency. On February 28, 2000, he mapped out a wish list for expanding service, declaring that this was the path to more revenue. As for cutting back on the route map, Warrington then said, "We tried that and it didn't work."
Nonetheless, Amtrak has hired a high-priced consulting firm to advise the managers as to how to "restructure or re-design the corporation." if necessary.
The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) pointed out that if service cuts were planned, "it would be difficult for Warrington to reconcile such cuts with his testimony."
Noting that the reorganization reportedly includes a plan to downgrade the three strategic business units (Northeast, Inter-City, West Coast), NARP commented, "It has never been clear to many observers that a company of Amtrak's size need four (now five, including Mail and Express) different presidents, with attendant administrative duplication with regard to operations and marketing."
The Associated Press ran a story, quoting Tom Till, Amtrak Reform Council's executive director, as saying that Amtrak had hired 900 managers over the past three or four years. ARC spokeswoman Deirdre O'Sullivan told D:F that that was a reference to "non-agreement" employees, including many who could in no way be classified as "managers." She also said the number of new managers was actually closer to 200, and that the period actually goes back farther than 1997.
However, cutting costs without cutting service, NARP added, "is something most people would support."
The news of Amtrak's projected cuts came the day after rail passengers throughout the nation were told that their hopes for relief from over-crowding on highways and at airports would amount to a waste of money. The congressional watchdog General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a critical report requested by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), with Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) agreeing to sign on.
The nuts and bolts of the GAO study is that giving Amtrak bonding authority to raise $12 billion to start building high-speed rail lines around the country would actually cost $19 billion over 30 years. Direct appropriations would be cheaper, says the agency.
NARP's response to that one is that the rail bond bill exists because "there is no politically feasible alternative." Highway and aviation trust funds are firewalled and unavailable for passenger train operations. That applies regardless of such incidental considerations as relieving highway and airport congestion.
In other words, never mind what's best for customers or passengers. We have our little fortress over here, and woe be unto anyone who interferes with what we regard as the "In God We Trust" Fund.
Indeed, one of the reasons passenger rail is in its current pickle is the failure of the government to develop it with the same attention accorded highways and airways. NARP points out that some $60 billion would be required to cover capital costs on high-speed rail, including the NEC, over the next 20 years. NARP points out that this only a little less than twice the most recent single-year spending on highways alone and matches (in 20 years, remember) what is spent on aviation in five years.
Red flags went up all over Capitol Hill over the paragraph in the original Senate bill cited by the GAO report:
"Freight railroads are not liable for taxes and fees imposed by the Internal Revenue Code or by any state or local government with respect to the acquisition, improvement, or ownership of (1) personal or real property funded by the proceeds of the bonds or any state or local bond or revenues or income from such acquisition, improvement, or ownership and (2) rail lines in designated high-speed rail corridors that are leased by Amtrak."
This raised a question of whether it was constitutional for the federal government to order the states and local governments to refrain from imposing taxes on a private corporation.
However, Senator Joseph Biden (D-Del.) and a prime sponsor of the high-speed bill, declared on the Senate floor May 23 that he is amending the measure to exclude reference to state and local government taxation. Presumably, the prohibition against IRS or federal taxation remains intact.
There is likely to be some debate over federal taxation, however. Though it won't be as volatile as it would have been had state and local taxation remained in the bill, it could finally - at last! - lead to a high-profile showdown on the age-old but often ignored question of how you equalize treatment of the rail mode with its highway and airway counterparts.
For decades, the feds have poured money into the latter two and treated the former as a stepchild.
The argument about subsidizing private companies, of course, was that these railroads are private companies. No doubt, that line of reasoning will be reiterated during the coming debate. We are about 75 years late to be raising that question.
The feds have been subsidizing "private companies" for decades ever since the U.S. government made it its business to finance the startup of a U.S. airways system. That move was made by none other than President Calvin Coolidge whose signature slogan was "The business of America is business," not exactly the socialist mantra of Karl Marx.
Every time tax dollars are spent for an airport or the air traffic controllers, that is a subsidy to United, Delta, Northwest, and the rest.
What is happening here in the bond bill is that railroads are saying, in so many words, "Okay, our competitors have their back door subsidies. Now it's our turn to have one."
In no way is this intended to convey the impression the freight railroads are gung-ho for this legislation. Indeed, many in the boardrooms of the Class I carriers fear this "foot in the door" as if it were the plague. Courts have ruled time and again that a government handout, in effect, is a license for government control.
If you want to understand why the freight rail giants seems so paranoid about this, you might want to bear in mind the Fabian policy aiming to "change everything except the outward appearance."
John Strachy, who entered the British Fabian Society in 1943, said that "a state of things might emerge in which the nominal owners of the means of production, although left in full possession of the legal title to their property, would, in reality be working not for themselves, but for whatever hands grasped the central levers of social control."
That may seem rather academic, but in the minds of some rail executives, it bears an eerie resemblance to what is happening to them through regulation and legislation, however evolutionary that process may be. This factor is cited not necessarily to argue their case, but to help readers understand why the freight carriers have the concerns that they have.
Freight railroads must also be mindful of the bottom line. Their own statistics and figures show they are not achieving a profit margin that enables them to grow with the rest of the economy. They are pressured by shareholders to do better. And some Wall Street analysts have warned them they won't survive if they do not accept some government help. For about 30 years, they haven't had the money to double-track some of their busiest trunk lines. That's reality. That's what they face, notwithstanding the fears that their corporations are falling under the control of "whatever hands grasped the central lever."
Given that circumstance, there is a raging debate within the freight railroad industry over whether to accept public money to add trackage on freight only lines, as well as in partnership with passenger train agencies to the mutual benefit of freight and passenger service.
That is the rationale behind the original intent to shield these private companies from being taxed by government on profits derived from actions taken at the behest of government for the public good.
That is the same rationale that is behind indirect subsidies to United, Delta, Northwest, etc. and to the trucking firms that, in the words of CN CEO Paul Tellier in recent congressional testimony, are all to often "having our lunch."
The entire debate over the High Speed Rail Investment Act will have been well worth it if it forces into the public arena a high-profile debate on this reason why we have clogged highways and airports at the very time we're debating whether there should be much or indeed any passenger train service at all. Somehow, there's something wrong with this picture.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee holds a hearing this Wednesday (July 25) on "The Status and Future of Amtrak and High Speed Rail."
Organizations to be represented there include Amtrak, the Amtrak Reform Council, NARP, USDOT, the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, and North Carolina DOT.
D:F will be there, too.
|Train loses electrical power, stops|
More than 300 passengers on an Amtrak train from Washington to Boston ended up stranded in Cranston, R.I. for about two hours on July 8 (Sunday) when the train lost all power and died on the rails.
No. 86, an Acela Regional train drawn by an AEM-7 electric locomotive, left Washington at 8:15 a.m., departed Penn Station New York at 2:30 p.m., and came to a stop in Cranston around 5:30.
The Providence Journal reported 30 passengers couldn't stand sitting in the steamy cars, so they pried open windows and doors, jumped from the train and made it to their destinations by foot - or stretch limousine.
Amtrak spokeswoman Cecilia Cummings, in Philadelphia, said the train lost all power, which cut off electricity to the air conditioning systems and bathrooms.
Amtrak's procedure is to encourage riders not to get off trains for safety reasons, unless there is an organized evacuation by Amtrak.
"It has not been the best of months for us, but Amtrak is in it for the long run," Cummings said.
"Does that mean anything to anyone when they're waiting on a train for two hours? No, and we realize that."
Amtrak's on-time record for total service on all its trains is 91.6 percent.
There have been other snafus for Amtrak. On July 4, about 20 late-night Amtrak passengers were locked inside the Providence station when station workers were not informed that a late train would arrive.
One passenger called 911 from a pay phone on the platform and firefighters arrived about 20 minutes later. They took a stairwell door off its hinges to let them out.
Amtrak blamed the incident on miscommunication because of its holiday schedule. In the latest incident, more than 30 passengers left the train, through either windows or doors, Amtrak said
Some passengers reportedly hitchhiked home, but 20 men, on their way back from a bachelor party in New York, found a limo service just a few hundred yards from where the train stalled.
Frank Rizzo Jr., manager of A-Rizzo Limo, put 10 men in a white, ultra-stretch Lincoln Town Car, which then left for the Dedham, Mass. train station. His passengers called 10 other friends, who were walking on the tracks. A second limo picked them up at the shop, and then dispatched three more cars to the train.
Passengers were in Boston by 8:30 p.m.
In other Northeastern Amtrak news, the railroad now says that due to a "need to maximize revenue" generated from Acela Express seats, they will not be offering regular upgrades to Acela Express to holders of Amtrak's monthly Smart Passes.
"Holders of these passes enjoy upgrade privileges to Metroliner trains currently, but as the Metroliners are phased out, so is the regular upgrade privilege," a spokesman said, although "There may be an occasional promotional offering to Smart Pass holders."
Maine trains may run along I-295;
crews train, platforms work nears
Federal transportation officials have given Maine a conditional green light to locate passenger rail tracks through Portland along Interstate 295, a route favored by city officials and neighborhood residents.
Federal officials want to see an analysis of how train service would affect auto traffic before they endorse the plan, though, at an arterial off-ramps, said state Transportation Commissioner John Melrose.
"We are not out of the woods yet here," Melrose said, "but it's very encouraging news," the Portland Press-Herald reported last week.
The proposed rail line would run on the ground rather than on an expensive elevated track, as first proposed.
City officials and Bayside neighborhood residents had urged the state to build the track along the highway to preserve economic development opportunities in Bayside. Federal traffic engineers have resisted running the tracks near the interstate because they fear that passing trains could cause cars to back up on the exit ramps, generating accidents. A proposal to elevate the tracks was sunk by the projected cost, $26 million.
The train will run four times daily. Amtrak is expected to begin its Boston-to-Portland service in the fall, after years of negotiations and delay.
City Councilor Nathan Smith said running the tracks near I-295 would leave neighborhoods untouched and allow the city to proceed with redevelopment plans.
"This is wonderful news," he said.
From Portland, the train would continue north to Yarmouth, where it would branch out in two directions, west toward Lewiston-Auburn and east toward Brunswick.
A temporary station will be located off Sewall Street, but the state and city want to bring the trains closer to downtown Portland and give the Amtrak service visibility from I-295.
Meanwhile, builders are waiting to sign leases that will allow station platform construction in several New Hampshire and Maine communities.
Lease and sub-lease agreements have to be finalized and signed by each station platform host community, DOT officials in New Hampshire and Maine, Guilford Rail Systems, Amtrak and the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, Foster's Daily Democrat of Dover, N.H. reported last week.
A fortnight ago, New Hampshire Senior Assistant Attorney General Mike Walls said the leases are "99 percent done" and expects them to be signed within two weeks. Walls said one of the last details is environmental and liability insurance.
The liability insurance frees Guilford from liability at the station platforms. The environmental insurance frees all parties from liability if any hazardous materials are discovered during construction.
Nancy Mayville of the New Hampshire DOT has been coordinating the funding, design and construction of the railway platforms in Exeter, Durham, and Dover.
The original contract, awarded to R.S. Audley Construction of Bow, called for the Exeter and Durham platforms to be completed by July 1, but the absence of leases stalled the work.
"We have contractors doing the construction (at all three sites), but we have not been able to have them build the actual platforms because it is pending on the finalization of the lease agreements, and that's essentially done. We just need to ink the actual leases," Mayville said.
She believes that may occur within the next two weeks and work on all three platforms in New Hampshire should start very, very quickly.
Mayville said construction crews are working on canopies in Exeter and Durham. Parking, lighting, and landscaping have also been done at those sites.
Whenever New Hampshire finalizes its lease agreements, the Maine communities of Wells, Saco, Old Orchard Beach, and Portland are expected to sign their agreements as well, she said.
Michael Murray, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, said service could start in late summer or early fall.
"To further refine that is almost impossible," he said. "We just don't want to set up an expectation for the public that we can't meet."
Some of the projects his group will undertake after the lease agreements are signed include building a layover station in Portland, where locomotives and coaches will be housed. Murray predicted that would begin by mid-August.
Station platform work similar to what is taking place in New Hampshire is taking place in Wells, he added.
By the time the New Hampshire and southern Maine station platforms are on-line, Murray said the Portland station platform will also be ready.
Any remaining track, signal and crossing work that has to be completed will also be done by mid-August, he said.
Given the fact that this project has involved more than $50 million worth of railway improvements and more than 10 years of negotiations, planning and work, a few more weeks is not that significant, Murray added.
He said his group's main goal is not to start the service until all the pieces are in place, which is why it is so difficult for NNEPRA to set a definite date.
David Fink, vice president of Guilford, said his group has also been eagerly waiting for NNEPRA to let them know when they want to start the service.
As far as he is concerned, Guilford has completed all the necessary track work and lease and insurance negotiations.
"We've been ready to run the train since June 15," Fink said.
He said Guilford reached agreements on the station platforms and insurance with both states and NNEPRA in May, after that process began nearly a year ago.
The two-year project that Guilford undertook to install 78 miles of welded rail lines, ties, ballasts and signals while cutting its railroad operation in half for its freight trains is done, he said.
All of these things combined with Guilford's decision not to appeal the recent federal ruling to permit the trains to travel at 79 mph show the company has done everything it can to accommodate the service, he said.
Victor Salemme of Amtrak, the railroad's operations manager for Maine service, has been training the 21 people who will operate the four trains. Seven crews consisting of an engineer, conductor and assistant conductor have been getting familiar with the new route.
Salemme said they are being trained on the various switches, signal crossings, automatic block signals, mileposts, speed limits, turns and bridges along the 114-mile stretch.
They are training at speeds of up to 40 mph, or freight train speed, in an engine and a "cabbage," a former F-40PH that is now a control cab and a baggage car. When they are not practicing on the actual railroad tracks, Salemme said they are in a classroom learning about safety procedures, equipment handling, and operation.
There is no timetable on when the crews have to complete their training, Salemme said. Each crew includes a few seasoned veterans and younger Amtrak employees.
|'T' revises Providence line schedule|
A new Attleboro-Providence Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority timetable begins today (July 23).
The www.mbta.com site posted the changes.
The Attleboro-Stoughton-Providence line is adjusting its schedule because of the Acela Express high-speed service to New York. Two eastbound trains are affected, the rest are westbound.
No. 834, departing Attleboro at 8:53 a.m. will depart at 9:05 a.m.
No. 875, departing Boston at 3:15 p.m. will depart at 3:25 p.m.
No. 813 departing Boston at 3:50 p.m. will depart at 3:45 p.m.
No. 876, departing Canton Junction at 4:00 p.m. will depart at 4:05 p.m.
No. 815, departing Boston at 4:35 p.m. will no longer stop at Hyde Park.
No. 917, departing Boston at 4:42 p.m. will leave at 4:40 and will stop at Hyde Park.
No. 817, departing Boston at 5:05 p.m. will depart at 5:03 p.m.
No. 822, departing Providence at 5:55 p.m. will depart at 6:00 p.m.
No. 821, departing Boston at 6:25 p.m. will depart at 6:10 p.m.
No. 835, departing Boston at 6:50 p.m. will depart at 6:45 p.m.
No. 833, departing Boston at 7:53 p.m. will depart at 8:05 p.m.
Thanks to Paul Apollo
|Leaders eye freight yard development, uses|
Massachusetts Rep. John Olver (D) says the House Appropriations Committee has approved $400,000 to study the revitalization of CSX's West Springfield, Mass., freight yard, according to a report in the West Springfield Record of July 7.
Olver, from Amherst, represents the Bay State's 1st Congressional District, serves on the Transportation Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee, and included the funding in the fiscal year 2002 Transportation Appropriations bill.
"This funding is an important step toward revitalizing the West Springfield rail yard," he said. "By taking a good look at the surrounding area and the traffic patterns, we will have a better idea how to strengthen and improve this facility."
The House is expected to take up the bill sometime later this month. A final House-Senate reconciled version of the legislation is due by October 1, 2001, the beginning of fiscal year 2002.
West Springfield leaders want to examine traffic congestion in the area surrounding the rail yard, "and the potential for turning West Springfield into a regional rail hub," he said.
|Light-rail line may be in Marlborough future|
With traffic growing on Rte. 495 and affordable housing moving farther west, officials in several suburban Massachusetts cities want to convert a lightly used freight track into a 37-mile light-rail system running from Fitchburg to Framingham.
Marlborough Mayor William Mauro, the president of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, pitched the light-rail idea earlier this month to the mayors of Fitchburg and Leominster.
"That's where your work force is. That's where your affordable housing is going to be, " said Mauro, who already backs the creation of a regional transit authority along Rte. 495.
"To get a shuttle service on a rapid schedule, I think it would work out really well."
The rail line, known as the Fitchburg spur, is used only once or twice a day by a slow-moving freight train. The track runs by several major Metro West destinations and employment centers, including the Framingham commuter-rail station, Framingham State College and Framingham Technology Park, where Bose Corp., Staples and Genzyme are located.
The track also runs along Rte. 495 near Marlborough's industrial park, home to major employers such as Fidelity Investments and Compaq Computer Corp.
Farther north, it continues along Rte. 290 past the Solomon Pond Mall, and past industrial areas in Clinton, Leominster, and Fitchburg.
Because the Fitchburg spur is segregated from other traffic except for several grade crossings, the trains would be able to travel quickly, planners said.
Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella said he believes a feasibility study of the plan is warranted, given the growing number of commuters between Metro West and Fitchburg and Leominster.
"We're supportive, " Mazzarella said. " I think 495 to the west is establishing its own economy... a huge part of a stand-alone economy is transportation. "
Fitchburg Mayor Mary Whitney was on vacation last week, but Fitchburg planning coordinator David Streb said he thought the city would " be very excited " about a light-rail project to Framingham.
"Sounds good to me," he said. "All it takes is money and political connections."
Mauro and other MetroWest planners previously have advocated turning only a portion of the freight track, from Northborough to downtown Framingham, into a regular commuter-rail line, with continuing service to Boston's South Station, but a state-funded study released in December determined that such a plan, which required track upgrades, locomotives and heavier rolling stock, would cost $159 million dollars and "produce limited benefits for the costs involved."
The Fitchburg-to-Framingham rail line was built about 150 years ago, but last used for passenger service in 1937.
Added together, Fitchburg, Leominster and Clinton have 94,000 residents, according to the 2000 census.
|New York mayoral candidate eyes more stations|
Saying that New York was alone among large cities in having decreased its rail mileage since the 1940s, Peter F. Vallone outlined a plan last week to expand city train service using existing tracks and stations.
"It's expensive, but it's doable," said Vallone. He is the New York City Council Speaker - and a Democrat who is running for mayor.
He estimated that the cost of reopening the stations would be from several hundred thousand dollars to $20 million, reports The New York Times.
"These are existing rail lines that we should be talking about reopening service which once was available to the people of the city of New York," he said.
Vallone's plan would use a combination of existing Metro-North, Long Island Rail Road, Amtrak and Staten Island Railway tracks, trains and stations to alleviate crowding on lines like the Lexington Avenue line in Manhattan, and to reestablish service in under-served communities. For example, Metro-North trains that now zip underneath Park Avenue on the Harlem line would stop at reopened stations at 86th Street, 73rd Street, and 60th Street.
Readers can find The New York Times online at http://www.nytimes.com
Amtrak inks Louisville into schedule
A $530,000 project to return passenger rail service to Louisville's Union Station will begin in August, and should be completed this fall, Louisville and Amtrak officials said last week.
Groundbreaking will take place in August, and construction should be completed by October, when the Kentucky Cardinal is scheduled to cross the Ohio River, said Bruce Traughber, Louisville's development director.
The work includes refurbishing Union Station for passenger use, laying several hundred yards of track and installing a switch.
The Cardinal, which began operating between Southern Indiana and Chicago in December 1999, terminates at Jeffersonville, Ind.
"We're just waiting for them to complete the project," Amtrak spokesman Kevin Johnson said.
Louisville will spend $300,000 budgeted last year on the project. Amtrak has kicked in $200,000. Additionally, the Great American Station Foundation, based in Las Vegas, N.M., has awarded the Transit Authority of River City $30,000 toward building a covered platform on the west side of Union Station, which lost passenger train service in the 1970s.
After the work is completed, the train will cross the Ohio River on the 15th Street railroad bridge, continue south for a mile, cross Broadway, and then travel four blocks east to Union Station.
Plans also call for Union Station, a historic limestone structure that received a $2 million face-lift in 1979, to be used as an Amtrak ticket office and passenger waiting station.
The daily trip between Jeffersonville and Chicago takes about 12 hours. In addition to five stops, it has several "slow orders" of 30 mph.
Amtrak recently designated Louisville as part of a regional high-speed corridor throughout the Midwest, which may eventually alleviate the slow pace of the Cardinal.
|Cross-platform Amtrak-BART station opens|
Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), Amtrak and Richmond, Calif. officials celebrated a ribbon-cutting on Thursday, marking completion of the joint BART-Amtrak cross platform at the Richmond BART station on Thursday.
The 800-foot platform has a 120-foot canopy sheltering Amtrak patrons, seating areas, clock-identification tower, stairway, and elevator providing direct access to the BART station below.
Richmond is the only station, among BART's 39 stations, with a direct connection to Amtrak, including the Capitol Corridor service between Sacramento and San Jose.
|High-speed train project gets boost|
Maglev planners for a high-speed train that would run between Las Vegas, Nev. and Anaheim, Calif., got $2 million July 12 when a Senate panel added the money to a bill funding transportation projects for next year, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The Nevada-California magnetic levitation project, a 273-mile track that might speed passengers as fast as 300 mph, suffered a setback this year when the Federal Railroad Administration passed it over in a competition for federal grants.
Project officials visited Capitol Hill in June seeking money to keep their program viable until they could persuade federal policy-makers to take another look at the route.
Work on an environmental impact statement for a 40-mile stretch between McCarran International Airport and Primm has been ongoing, and the new funds will be added to $1.3 million in local matching money to complete that phase of work as well as other pre-construction planning.
The transportation bill also included $100,000 for Amtrak to study upgrading the Las Vegas-Los Angeles rail corridor to provide its own high-speed rail service.
Wisconsin moves closer|
to airport-rail station
The federal government would pay most of the cost of a new Amtrak station at Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport as part of a $79.5 million package of Wisconsin transportation projects, if the transportation appropriations bill becomes law in its current form, according to Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.).
The bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee also includes $5 million for the airport train station, which is estimated to cost up to $8 million, state officials said. Gov. Scott McCallum has committed the state to spending $100,000 on studying the station, which would be part of a $4.1 billion network of high-speed trains across the Midwest, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported last week.
Kohl said the airport station would help relieve parking problems at the airport, and that Midwest Express Airlines executives had lobbied him to support it. Midwest Express has voiced interest in a joint venture with Amtrak to let passengers buy airline and train tickets at the same time.
However, Airport Director C. Barry Bateman has said airlines would not want to pay for building the station, and County Executive F. Thomas Ament has refused to spend property tax dollars on it. Cook said he did not know whether the state would pay the rest of the station's cost.
Other passenger rail appropriations in the bill include $5 million for engineering on high-speed rail service between Milwaukee and Madison; $500,000 to upgrade rail crossings on that line; and $4 million to extend Chicago's Metra commuter trains from Kenosha to Racine and Milwaukee.
The 110-mph Milwaukee-Madison line, which would start service in late 2003, is estimated to cost $176 million. State officials are counting on the federal government to pick up 80 percent of the cost, under a separate bill in Congress that would authorize borrowing $12 billion for high-speed rail nationwide.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is online at http://jsonline.com.
Washington State rail would get a few dollars
if senate transportation bill becomes law
A Senate committee last week approved a transportation spending bill that would provide Washington State with more than $140 million in rail and other transportation projects.
The $59.96 billion package to finance the federal government's primary transportation needs for the next fiscal year was approved on a voice vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill was largely written by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who assumed control of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee when Democrats regained the chamber and moved quickly to follow tradition by making sure the needs of her home state were well looked after.
Among other things, the bill includes $24.5 million for Sounder Commuter Rail, compared with only $5.6 million in the version passed by a House committee. The money would build rail transit facilities between Tacoma and Lakewood.
Readers can find the Seattle Post-Intelligencer at http://seattlepi.com
CSX tunnel fire closes
A CSX freight train hauling hazardous chemicals caught fire on July 18 inside a century-old railroad tunnel under Howard Street in Baltimore, shutting down much of the city's downtown. The National Transportation Safety Board sent investigators on Thursday.
By Thursday midday, the fire was still burning in some cars containing paper. CSX spokeswoman Cathy Burns in Jacksonville, Fla., said the railroad was "guestimating we will not be able to open the single-track line until at least seven to 14 days."
Baltimore firefighters waged a cautious second-day attack on Thursday on the nightmarish tunnel fire that shut downtown businesses, knotted traffic, upset freight service along the East Coast and Midwest and even disrupted e-mails and cell phone service.
Temperatures in the century-old bore rose as high as 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit - hot enough to cause some of the freight cars still inside to glow, according to fire department spokesman Hector Torres.
"You're talking about metal glowing," he said. "The tanks are too hot to off-load. We have to bring the fire under control."
Unable to reach the fire from the tunnel's ends, the firemen changed tactics and came in from the top, through a manhole entrance.
While Baltimore officials and NTSB investigators focused on the 4,000-foot long train and fire, repair crews descended under street beds to reroute fiber optic cables running through the tunnel.
The cable damage had an impact well beyond Baltimore, from inoperable cell phones in suburban Maryland, to corporate Web pages that couldn't be updated in Manhattan, to e-mail crashes in Africa.
Meanwhile, a water main break linked to the fire forced the closure of two downtown office towers and obstructed traffic, and shut down Howard Street.
Baltimore Sun reporters David Michael Ettlin and Del Quentin Wilber informed their readers in Thursday's edition, as well as online, that "Choking black smoke spewed from both ends of the tunnel, and fear of an explosion or toxic fumes from a cargo that included dangerous acids prompted authorities to ban pedestrians and vehicles within five blocks of its openings at Camden Yards and Mount Royal Station."
The problems continued into Thursday and Friday. A water main break above the tunnel that flooded streets and nearby businesses had officials speculating on whether it was related to the tunnel fire.
The crisis began about 3:10 p.m. on Wednesday, according to CSX railroad officials and the train's two-man crew, when the train, L212, lost its air in mid-tunnel, and the brakes went into an emergency application. The 1.7-mile bore leads to the former Baltimore & Ohio's Mount Royal Station.
The train's conductor and engineer, the only known occupants of the northbound, 60-car freight, said they were unable to get their air back in the brake line. They thought initially that the smoke was exhaust from the three diesel engines, all CW60ACs, and set about uncoupling and moving them the last quarter of the way out of the tunnel.
By the time the city fire department was notified at 4:15 p.m., black smoke was rising through manhole covers on Howard Street, and the situation was getting out of control. The fire department sounded at least six alarms in assembling more than 150 firefighters and equipment.
As firefighters aimed water cannons from each end toward a blaze they could not see in the smoky blackness, activities above ground slowly came to a standstill. Firemen were trying late Wednesday night to reach the source of the fire deep in the tunnel, using thermal imaging devices. There was speculation that the train had derailed, but the cause of the fire was unknown.
By Thursday, it was apparent some 800 feet of rail had spread inside the tunnel. What was not clear was whether the rails had spread under the train while it was moving.
Earlier, late on Wednesday, car and truck drivers were trapped for hours on gridlocked streets, and people waited at curbs for buses halted on their routes. The Metro subway was closed for an hour until inspectors were sure there was no smoke in the tubes, and light rail service was severed near its midpoint.
The second game of a day-night Texas Rangers-Orioles double-header was canceled on Wednesday, as was another single game slated for Thursday.
Firefighters on Wednesday first tried to reach the train from the southern end of the tunnel, but were forced back by chemicals that made their skin burn. About a half-dozen firefighters wearing standard gear went in with hoses trying to reach the train, about three-quarters of a mile away, through smoke and intense heat, said fire department Lt. Jim Boyer.
"They got within 300 yards of the derailment, but they felt the skin on their necks burning," he said, speculating that chemicals had reacted with perspiration.
"You can't fight a fire from 300 yards. Any chemical situation, plus in an enclosed space like a tunnel, that's terrifying," said Boyer, a Baltimore firefighter for 30 years.
At least 22 people, including two firefighters with chest pains, were treated at area hospitals on the first day, most for respiratory or eye irritation, officials reported.
Many of the freight cars were carrying wood pulp and other combustibles, but nine were carrying chemicals from North Carolina to New Jersey, including five tank cars full of acids.
Two were full of fluorosilicic acid, two of hydrochloric acid, and one of glacial acetic acid. Other substances on the train's manifest were ethylhexyl phthalate, propylene, and tripropylene glycol. Among the most dangerous was the fluorosalicic acid, a chemical that, when diluted, protects children's teeth from cavities. In its concentrated form, it can cause severe burns to skin, lungs, nose, and throat, with the effects often taking hours to appear.
Most of the other chemicals on the train were common ingredients used in manufacturing. Typical of these modern, multipurpose chemicals is propylene glycol, a compound used to de-ice airplanes and plumbing pipes, and also used as a solvent in food ingredients.
According to their "material safety data sheets," which is standardized information from the manufacturers provided for guidance in accidents, these chemicals are mildly to moderately irritating to eyes, lungs and throat when they are inhaled, and can burn the skin.
Hazardous materials experts from the Maryland Department of the Environment tested the air repeatedly at both ends of the tunnel.
"There's no acid content in the smoke," agency spokesman John Verrico reported Wednesday night, adding that tests showed a significant wood-ash content.
"It's smoke from a fire which is going to be irritating, but we're not finding any acid compounds, which is kind of a sigh of relief."
Early Thursday, five cars from the end of the train were uncoupled and towed out of the tunnel before 9 a.m. They were an empty covered hopper, three empty gondolas, and a charred boxcar whose coat of golden yellow paint was largely burned black. Its cargo, bales of pulp board, smoldered during hours of unloading by a backhoe.
Thursday night, crews were trying to remove the next cars in line on what had been a northbound train, a string of four tank cars hauling thousands of gallons of chemicals. One of them, the 53rd from the head-end, was found by firefighters and a Maryland Department of the Environment's hazardous materials team to be "leaking along the seams," said MDE spokesman John Verrico.
The 20,000-gallon tank car was loaded with hydrochloric acid. About one-fourth of it was estimated to have spilled, some seeping into storm sewer drains inside the tunnel and carried into the Inner Harbor.
Near the Light Street Pavilion at Harborplace, the Coast Guard used floating booms to protect the waters from the flow, which contained "soot and ash and petroleum and traces of the tripropylene," Verrico said. The flow was discovered quickly enough to prevent a fish kill, officials said.
Fixing the acid leak proved difficult. An adjacent tank car "burned up to a husk," Verrico said. It contained the tripropylene, a highly flammable petroleum compound used to manufacture some plastics.
The train's conductor Edward Brown, 52, of West Baltimore, and engineer Chad Cadden, 27, of Stewartstown, Pa., said they did not know what caused the brakes to activate.
"I don't really know what happened," Cadden said, recounting how the train stopped with the locomotives three-quarters of the way through.
Robert Gould, a CSX spokesman, said the crew saw that diesel fumes were building up and uncoupled the locomotives to move them out of the tunnel, but after completing that task and turning back to walk along the train, Gould said, "they recognized they had a problem and notified dispatchers," who are located in Jacksonville.
Cadden said, "We knew something had happened, and we debated about going back. We had no idea it would be something like this. We didn't know it was something serious."
|CSX workers allege brain damage|
Eight former railroad employees sued CSX Transportation on July 18, alleging they have brain damage from using solvents to clean locomotives at rail yards in Jacksonville and Waycross, Ga.
Lawyers for the eight men said hundreds, even thousands, of workers at those maintenance yards could have the same illnesses, and they want a Jacksonville circuit judge to declare the case a class-action lawsuit, according to the Jacksonville Times-Union.
The case extends a string of solvent lawsuits that have dogged the railroad for more than a decade. CSX has already spent about $35 million settling more than 450 cases, according to a report in the Louisville, Ky. Courier-Journal earlier this year. The report quoted court papers that have been sealed.
People who worked at the company's West Jacksonville maintenance facility in the 1940s through the 1980s, and in Waycross in the 1980s and 1990s brought the new case.
A CSXT spokesman said the company has done nothing wrong and would fight the suit.
The men have reported memory failure, confusion, difficulty speaking, and other problems they blame on solvents affecting on their brains.
"I'm 52 years old, and my golden years are gone," said William Howard, an electrician employed by the company for 16 years. Howard said his mind has become so clouded he retired his state electrical license.
"For somebody who's a master electrician, my memory ain't worth a damn."
Howard said he had been sick for years, and began to suspect his former job was responsible after talking to former co-workers who had similar problems.
"This is unusual for this many people to have these problems," he said.
The suit also claims workers are at greater risk of developing cancer and other illnesses.
CSXT spokesman Gary Sease said yesterday the use of solvents at the railroad from the 1960s to the 1980s was within the safety standards in place at the time.
"For that reason, we intend to vigorously defend our company in court," he said.
The suit says CSX workers were expected to use dangerous solvents without proper safety equipment or ventilation. It says the company didn't warn employees about the risks and didn't train them to handle chemicals correctly.
The solvents were used to clean oil and dirt off locomotives so they could be repaired and maintained.
Howard and another electrician, Augustus Flynt, described working in maintenance pits under the trains, where puddles of solvents seeped into their shoes and dripped onto them after being sprayed overhead.
They said they learned later that the solvents were intended to be poured into vats where engine parts could be scrubbed clean. The men said spraying the chemicals through homemade pressure washers created a mist that they and other employees inhaled for hours at a time.
"It was a bad place to work, real bad," said Flynt, describing conditions in an old roundhouse at the West Jacksonville site.
"You'd be spraying on that engine, and on the next track the other guy would be spraying. You'd be getting fumes from both sides."
One of the solvents commonly involved in railroad lawsuits, 1-1-1 Trichloroethane, was considered relatively safe by the federal government, said Steve Risotto, executive director of a chemical industry group, the Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance. He said workplace standards allowed relatively high levels of the chemical in the air, but when those levels were exceeded, workers could have "acute health effects," including severe dizziness.
Hardesty & Hanover, EngineersDepending on tides, New Haven's newest bridge averages 62 feet above the river when it is raised. A single-track rail line shares the span with vehicles.
Enormous rail, road bridge to open;
P&W to share route with vehicles
A new joint rail-highway bridge has changed the skyline in New Haven, Conn.
"A lot of people are surprised by how high it is and how blue it is," New Haven City Planner Karyn Gilvarg told the New Haven Register.
The structure is expected to open to traffic in January, and the Tomlinson's 140-foot high steel boxes will loom over the harbor. A temporary bridge will then be demolished, and the project completed by June.
Reported to be the heaviest lift span on the Eastern Seaboard, it will rise and descend like an enormous counter-weighted sash window hung on 128 metal ropes. Any vessel that can fit under Interstate 95's adjacent Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge will slide under the Tomlinson with room to spare. The behemoth will accommodate a track for the Providence & Worcester, four lanes of traffic, and a broad sidewalk.
P&W expects to provide freight and tank cars to distribute copper, zinc, steel, petroleum and other cargo that flows into the port, but the movable bridge must also allow tugs, barges, oyster boats and pleasure craft to pass underneath.
Rail traffic is expected to increase, said James Schine, director of sales and marketing for Logistec Corp., which loads and unloads freighters.
The P&W's track extends to the New Haven Harbor power station. On the north side of the bridge, the single-track line passes down Water Street and curves inland to connect with Amtrak's main line, and to Cedar Hill Yard via Shore Line Jct. or Mill River Jct.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decreed that the new Tomlinson provide the same clearance and channel width as the I-95 bridge, the "Q" bridge, in the unlikely event warships need to travel inland.
Stephen DiGiovanna, Connecticut DOT project engineer for the new Tomlinson, said the new bridge is bigger than the small span it replaced because it has more work to do.
New box girders surpassed the quaint bascule bridge that linked New Haven's east and west shores from the 1920s into the '90s. The towers then rose above the aging temporary bridge that's handled cross-harbor traffic since 1996.
The original channel width of 120 feet was doubled to 240 feet, same as the Q. That will give barges more room to maneuver and reduce accidents. A runaway barge smashed into the old bridge in 1995, cracking one of its concrete piers and sealing its fate.
Specifications for the new bridge called for a railroad track on the north side, two lanes of traffic in each direction, and a 10-foot-wide sidewalk on the south side. The truss, or central section of the bridge, is 40 feet high and will weigh about six million pounds (30,000 tons).
"Typically you don't have a combination of railroad and highway," said Michael Hawkins, project engineer for Hardesty & Hanover.
Dual usage requires the weight of both concrete and rails. A rail bridge would have been narrower and a bridge for cars and trucks lighter. Lighter, in turn, would have meant smaller towers. Eliminating the tracks would have narrowed the bridge by 20 feet and slimmed it down to about 4 million pounds.
Putting rail and road together is why the Tomlinson is to become one of the half-dozen heaviest lift spans in North America - and king of the East Coast, Hawkins said.
Engineers emulated seesaws that tip up to 62 feet, and by using large pulleys and weights, the span can be raised and lowered with relatively little effort.
The six-million pound center span is counterbalanced with about six million pounds of weights - 3 million pounds in each tower. The span's clearance dictated the tower height, and each tower had to have room for a moving 1,500-ton weight.
When the span goes up, the weights go down, and vice versa. That way a net load of only about 25,000 pounds (the span is slightly heavier than the weights) must be raised and lowered. To ensure that the center holds, massive pins lock the span when it's in down position.
The weights, which are enormous buckets of concrete, ride up and down in the towers, which are 92 feet wide, 32 feet thick and as tall as 14-story buildings.
Wire cables that hang over sheaves connect the span and weights. Each tower is topped with four 25-foot diameter grooved sheaves that weigh 85 tons apiece, and each sheave carries 16 wire cables. Each cable is 2_ inches in diameter. 128 cables connect the weights to the span.
Four 100 hp electric motors spin the sheaves, and each tower has two. A pair of motors will raise and lower the span; the other two are spares. The bridge is also equipped with a diesel generator in case of a power outage.
When closed, the new bridge has about the same clearance as the old, meaning it will have to open and close the same number of times a day, DiGiovanna said. Clearances could not be increased because the freight trains require a lower grade to connect to existing track.
|UP, BNSF end fatigue rules trials|
Union Pacific Railroad has ended safety measures designed to ease fatigue for some "extra list" locomotive engineers. The freight carrier cited expenses and a requirement to hire more workers to give reasonable time off between trips.
The work-rest program ended on Jan. 1 at some hubs, such as North Platte and Cheyenne, Wyo., and last week's action affects fewer than 300 of the company's 8,200 engineers systemwide.
Union Pacific implemented most of the work-rest agreements with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE) two summers ago as part of several programs aimed at alleviating fatigue. The Federal Railroad Administration investigated the railroad after 11 fatigue-related fatal train accidents in 1997, following its 1996 merger with the Southern Pacific.
Dave Harbert, director of safety for the railroad, told the Omaha World-Herald that the company has moved beyond the service crisis that followed the merger and has hired more workers, giving them reasonable time off between trips.
Railroad officials said ending the agreements has been an option it has always reserved.
One union official, Mike Young of Cheyenne, Wyo., general chairman of a BLE region that includes Nebraska, told the World-Herald that engineers fear the changes will compromise safety.
The railroad had given some spare board locomotive engineers seven days on-call and three guaranteed days off. They were paid for the entire month regardless of how often they worked.
That system was getting too expensive, railroad officials said.
"We want to come up with new procedures that properly balance UP's needs and the employees' needs," said Terry Olin, general director of labor relations for the railroad.
With the changes, the substitute engineers are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They fill in for regular engineers, who also can be placed on-call but tend to have more predictable schedules.
UP's directors declared a quarterly dividend of 20 cents per share on June 1 on its common stock, payable July 2.
Burlington Northern Santa Fe also has ended its guaranteed days off for substitute engineers on some routes.
Merle Geiger, a general chairman for the BLE in Fort Worth, where BNSF is headquartered, said the company ended a work-rest program in Alliance and more than a dozen other locations in late June.
Geiger said the work-rest program was too expensive, and the union and BNSF are having engineers on certain routes work seven days with the option of taking three unpaid days off, instead of being required to take off time.
BNSF's directors voted on July 19 to pay a regular quarterly dividend of 12 cents per share on outstanding common stock.
Rails discover there are profits
in the web - and using it
America's big railroads may have been slow to adopt the Internet, but they are gaining steam. Over the past year, the BNSF, UP and NS have rolled out a variety of web initiatives designed to reduce costs and give their customers better service.
While the initiatives are laudable, the rail industry has been lagging other sectors in adopting the Web.
According to a report in Interactive Week, http://RailMarketplace.com, a portal for the rail industry, launched just three months ago. A number of theories attempt to explain the industry's slow adoption of the Web. One is that rail companies are older and more conservative, and thus less likely to quickly adopt new technology. For example, UP was created in 1862, when Abraham Lincoln signed a law mandating the creation of a railroad to link the East Coast with the rapidly growing West Coast. The UP is online at http://www.up.com.
In addition, the rail industry is highly centralized, particularly compared to the trucking industry.
"Web markets go after industries where there are lots of buyers," says John Lanigan, CEO of http://Logistics.com, a logistics software provider.
"There are few railroads and lots of trucking companies." Lanigan said there are dozens of large and midsize local and long-haul trucking firms, as well as hundreds of smaller, independent haulers competing in the trucking business. Dozens of web sites have sprung up to service that industry. By comparison, just seven firms dominate the freight rail business.
Although trains are cheaper and more energy-efficient, trucks are faster and can haul loads door-to-door. Given the increasing focus on speed and transparency in supply chain management, those factors give trucks an advantage in today's market, says Roy Blanchard, principal of railroad consultancy The Blanchard Co.
"The intercity freight market is worth $500 billion per year," he said. "Railroads have 7 percent of that. The challenge for them is to steal some of that back from the trucking guys."
Blanchard and other analysts believe the railroad that is doing the best job of using the web is BNSF. The company, at http://bnsf.com, was the first in the industry to do reverse auctions for diesel fuel on its web site. BNSF was also the first to institute "Web fares" that give shippers discounts on underutilized shipping lanes.
"You'll be hard-pressed to find any companies that are leveraging the Net more than we are," claims Kathleen Regan, BNSF's vice president of e-business development. BNSF started upgrading its web site about three years ago, after the company saw the efficiencies that could be gained by moving away from telephone and fax-based customer service. In the old system, customers called or faxed in their logistical information.
To find Interactive Week online, point your browser to http://www.zdnet.com/intweek
|Switchman dies in CP derailment|
|A Canadian Pacific Railroad trainman died July 14 when a freight car derailed and crushed him in Bensenville, Ill. Anthony Johnson, 54, of Chicago, was switching a yard job when it derailed at about 11:15 p.m. Johnson was trapped beneath a box car and killed, according to the DuPage County coroner's office.|
Vulcan steam locomotive
There were always stories about treasure buried under the rolling hills of Ginther Coal Co. in Cumbola, Pa.
Unsteady miniature mountains of spent and unspent energy sit idle, evidence of more than a century of New Philadelphia mining heritage.
Two years ago, in the fall of 1999, a Ginther employee was routinely shoveling at a refuse bank.
Then he hit something hard, and "It caught our attention right away," said Brian R. Bevan, Ginther's foreman.
At first, it appeared to be just a large metal pipe, but as the sooty earth was slowly cleared away, the pipe became a smokestack, and the smokestack became the tip of a long forgotten, steam-driven locomotive.
Probably buried in the 1930s, the locomotive most likely fell victim to a boiler explosion, said Kurt R. Bell, librarian, archivist, and historian with the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania at Strasburg.
As Bell shuffled through photographs of the locomotive's unearthing, his eyes grew larger with each image.
"We wish we had one of these," Bell said. "It looks like a small, industrial saddle tank locomotive, like the ones built by Vulcan Iron Works around the turn of the century. Vulcan built these by the thousands."
John W. Rich Jr., president of Reading Anthracite Co., has volunteered to restore the locomotive. It now rests on-site at his Gilberton salvage yard.
Old-timers often told stories of an old locomotive buried somewhere on the Ginther Coal Co. property. Bevan was beginning to think it didn't exist.
Mystery surrounds the discovery. Little is known about who may have purchased the locomotive.
The records of the now defunct Vulcan Iron Works are now part of the Railroad Museum archives. However, they list only the names of the purchasers who bought the locomotive straight from Vulcan.
"The Ślokie' may have been purchased second hand, which makes determining who buried it next to impossible," Bell said.
Vulcan Iron Works, formerly of Wilkes-Barre, had its origins in the foundry business. A tiny foundry built in 1849 by Richard Jones grew by 1866 to the point where it was reorganized as a joint stock company. It adopted the Vulcan name a year later, according to John H. White's A Short History of American Locomotive Builders in the Steam Era.
After 1887, Vulcan began producing locomotives after it acquired the Wyoming Valley Manufacturing Co. Heading its way to the forefront of American industrial locomotive building by 1900, Vulcan also produced larger engines for secondary lines, foreign railroads and the military, White said.
Surviving the advent of gasoline and diesel-powered engines, Vulcan produced its last engine in May 1949, having produced 4,700 locomotives. Among those engines built at Vulcan were the Henry Clay and the Henry Clay 2, both of which now belong to the Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine & Steam Train, Ashland.
The company that once employed more than 1,000 people finally closed its doors on May 12, 2001, filing a bankruptcy petition. At the time of closing, only 20 employees remained.
There seems to be some mystery behind who owned the land in the 1930s.
Bevan recalls that Ginther Coal Co. is located on the former site of the Luciana Coal Co., which burned in the late 1940s.
Some "old-timers" Bevan has asked say that the land may have been owned by a man by the name of "Slattery" around the turn of the century, but no records could be found.
Since the valuable construction plate was stripped from the locomotive steambox long ago, most likely before it was buried, it's impossible to confirm a date of sale.
Nonetheless, Saint Clair Coal Co. purchased a similar, if not identical engine in July 1904 from Vulcan Iron Works. It was a typical 0-4-0 saddle tank industrial locomotive.
The locomotive, named William H. Jr., had a 33-inch wheel diameter like the one discovered at Ginther Coal Co. Saint Clair Coal Co. also purchased a saddle tank engine in February 1902, just like the one found, weighing more than 16 tons, named Nelli G.
Either one could, essentially, be the newly discovered locomotive. Rich's archives include a parts list for the locomotive, which breaks it down into working pieces.
When unearthed, the locomotive was one massive, rusted hulk of railroad history. The wheels still turned, and it was all in one piece, but now it has been dissected to make restoration easier.
"We've got it all apart, and are in the process of identifying what needs to be corrected," Rich said.
Those kinds of locomotives were used by coal companies to haul coal, culm, which is waste from anthracite coal mines (consisting of fine coal, coal dust, and dirt) and other materials back and forth on site.
They had narrow wheelbases and saddle tanks in order to negotiate tight turns and climb steep inclines, Bell said.
"They weren't very powerful," Bell added. "Only capable of pulling 10 or so loaded colliery cars. It would have traveled right to the entrance of the mine, and was set up for a one-man operation."
The engineers were usually coal company employees and could power the locomotive with just a few scoops of coal every couple of hours, and enough water.
The three domes on top of the locomotive each had a distinct purpose.
The first was a steam dome, which delivered steam to the drive system by way of the throttle, Bell said.
The second was a sand dome, which would deposit sand on the tracks for added traction under slippery circumstances.
"This engine would have had very little traction," Bell said.
The third was the whistle dome.
Saddle tank locomotives ran in tight clearances and didn't need a tender, or fuel car. A bucket of coal was usually all that was needed, and that sat right on the floor with the engineer.
"Engines like these were usually run approximately 20 to 30 years and then discarded," Bell said. "They are the forgotten servants of industry - usually ran out of sight and out of mind."
They were reliable, but very uncomfortable to work on.
"Look. That's all riveted construction," Rich said as he kneeled down to take a closer look at the firebox.
"There was no welding in those days."
Bell believes one day, the water surrounding the tubes in the locomotive's boiler expanded too quickly, causing an explosion. He came to that conclusion because photographs of the rescued locomotive appear to show that the area where the boiler was located now merely consists of shredded metal.
"If it wasn't worth the time or the money, they'd just roll it down a hill and bury it with fill," Bell said.
Far Across thePond...
Trans-Siberian is 100 years old
A train arrived in this Russian Pacific port July 18 after traveling from Moscow to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Trans-Siberian railway, the world's longest track.
The special train stopped at major stations along the way to allow its crew of 140, including railway workers and veterans, writers, journalists and Orthodox Christian clergy, to promote the anniversary among local residents.
The celebrations will culminate in Vladivostok in October, a century after the last rails of the 5,758-mile railway were put in place to honor Czar Nicholas II's ascension to the throne. In Russia, completion of the track was compared to discovering America or digging the Suez Canal.
Sergei Darkin, governor of Russia's Far Eastern Primorye, or Maritime region, of which Vladivostok is the capital, said the length of the railway "reminds us of how great our country is and of the industriousness and diligence of our people."
The railroad may get a new impulse from increased traffic if it is connected with the railway that is planned to join North and South Korea.
|NS halts Ohio traffic following flooding|
Norfolk Southern reported last week that two lines were out of service from flooding.
A track washout on NS's main line at Clare, Ohio, between Cincinnati and Portsmouth, had disrupted operations, the carrier stated on July 12.
"Efforts are being made to restore service as quickly as possible. Trains normally operating over this route will be detoured as necessary to expedite traffic. Customers with traffic normally moving over this route should expect delays of at least 24 hours," a press release from the freight railroad stated.
Flooding at Sharonville, north of Cincinnati, caused "congestion due to water over rail."
Customers with traffic normally moving over this route "should expect delays up to 24 hours," according to NS.
"Generally, this will include traffic moving from or to points in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and points in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri."
NS is online at http://www.nscorp.com.
Thank You, John McCain,
Many of our readers will no doubt be bemused by the headline on this editorial, but they shouldn't be.
For what Sen. John McCain and some of his fellow senators did when they requested a Government Accounting Office study on the financial impact of S. 250, the proposed $12 billion, 10-year Amtrak bond legislation, was to show once and for all how much of a bargain a national rail network would be.
The GAO report estimates that if all the bonds are sold and investments made, the nominal cost to the Treasury would be between $16.6 to $19.1 billion over 30 years. In present value dollars, it would be only $7.7 to $10 billion.
In short passing this bill, bonding out all $12 billion, and using that money to start the rebuilding a decent national rail system would cost, over 30 years, a fraction of what we are already spending every year for highway construction ($30 billion-plus) and air route operations ($14 billion-plus) at the federal level... and we are not even considering state and municipal expenditures in those categories.
The present and growing crisis in air and highway travel in America is forcing us to look once again to rail, as part of a balanced transportation system. The GAO report showing the low cost of S. 250 ought to encourage all lawmakers to get behind this bill, and make sure that we have an alternative to gridlock and winglock.
Bringing passenger rail in the 21st Century
The following opinion piece was written by Sen. Joe Biden from Delaware, who commutes to Washington daily on Amtrak. It was published in the July issue of UTU News.
Sitting in snarled traffic on one of our country's major interstate highways or parked on a runway for hours at an overcrowded airport, you have to ask, "Isn't there a better way?"
Last year, more than 22.5 million Americans found out there is: Amtrak.
With our nation's highways and airports stretched to the breaking point, America's passenger rail system is poised to play a larger role in our country's transportation network.
Today, nations around the globe are making substantial public investments in new high-speed rail technologies and millions of travelers in other countries are enjoying the benefits of a new era of passenger rail service. Americans should expect no less.
However, with an economy that is the model for the rest of the world, and at a time when our budget battles are over surpluses instead of deficits, we spend less per capita on passenger rail in the U.S. than they do in Estonia. Other advanced industrial economies in the world - and many of the less developed ones, too - are making passenger rail part of a balanced, efficient transportation system.
So should we.
Throughout its history, Amtrak has not received the kind of consistent capital funding a first-class passenger rail system needs. In the 30 years it has been in existence, Congress has provided Amtrak with only $11 billion in infrastructure investment. That's pennies compared to the dollars we spend on highways or airports, beneficiaries of $750 billion over that same period. With a new, business-like approach to service and investment in high-speed technologies, Amtrak is prepared to open a new chapter in the company's history; but for Amtrak to succeed, Congress must do its part.
Amtrak's new high-speed Acela service on the Northeast Corridor shows what can happen when we invest in new technologies to make passenger rail more efficient. The introduction of this quicker, more efficient passenger rail service has contributed to the record increase in ticket revenues for Amtrak. At the current rate of growth, Amtrak is on pace to serve 4.5 million more passengers in 2001 than it did just five years ago.
In an effort to build on this success and provide Amtrak with the capital funding it needs to succeed, I joined with my colleague Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Tex.) in introducing the High Speed Rail Investment Act of 2001. This bipartisan bill, which enjoys the support of more than 50 cosponsors, including both Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) would enable Amtrak and other passenger rail companies to issue as much as $12 billion in bonds over the next 10 years. This new source of capital would be used to create a national system of high-speed rail corridors throughout the country - from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine.
While we recognize the high-speed rail initiative is a significant investment, we believe it is one that makes good economic sense. Thousands of jobs will be created to construct, maintain and operate these new high-speed rail corridors. In the Northeast alone, the Acela project has created more than 10,000 construction and manufacturing jobs. Add to that the thousands of operating jobs that are expected to be created with implementation of full Acela service, and the thousands of employment opportunities that will be created by the development of areas near revitalized downtown train stations. In the Midwest, Amtrak estimates that 15,000 new construction jobs and 2,000 permanent operations-related jobs will be created through development of the Midwest rail corridor.
In addition to providing economic benefits, passenger rail also makes good environmental sense. Passenger rail offers a more efficient use of fuel than car or air travel. And by upgrading our existing rail lines we can preserve and protect existing open space and wetlands by reducing the need to expand highways and airports.
Clearly, continued investment in our national rail system is crucial to a balanced and efficient transportation system. Amtrak has done its part in recent years, bringing in record revenue and introducing high-speed rail service in one of the nation's busiest corridors in the country. It is safe, efficient, and fast, reduces pollution, and saves time.
Americans deserve a national transportation system worthy of the strongest, most productive economy in the world. The new technologies of high-speed passenger rail that other nations now enjoy must be part of a balanced 21st century transportation network in the United States.
We have the technology and skilled labor to make a national high-speed rail system work. But the train can't leave the station, so to speak, unless Congress provides Amtrak with the funds it needs to make this critical investment in our nation's transportation infrastructure. It's time we meet this growing passenger demand and bring our rail service into the 21st century.
- Thanks to Dave Bowe
Amtrak Reform Council
Hearing: 9:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. (CST) - Inviting Midwest and South-central region states to provide their views on the various issues and proposals in the council's second annual report published in March 2001.
Business Meeting 3:30- 5:30 p.m. (CDT)
Hyatt Regency, One St. Louis Station,
American Assn. of Railroad Superintendents annual meeting
Doubletree Hotel, Missoula, Mont.
Contact Barbara Marlow, email@example.com or phone 219-922-1072
The Ohio Association of Railroad Passengers will hold its summer meeting on August 4, 2001 in Cincinnati. For details and registration information click on http://www.oarprail.org/Summer%202001.htm
AREMA annual conference
Palmer Hilton Hotel, Chicago
301-459-3200, or fax 301-459-8077.
September 15, 16
Representing Rail Passenger Interests Conference
Philadelphia, Pa., Hilton Garden Inn, 1100 Arch St., Philadelphia Center City.
Register at RRPI Conference, P. O. Box 9373, St. Louis, Mo. 63117.
Registration $85 by August 1, Make checks payable to RRPI Conference.
This conference is spearheaded by members of the Amtrak Customer Advisory Committee and commuter advisory boards, and will focus on passenger rail and transit advisory organizations and advocates.
The conference will explore how advisory and advocacy organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada can improve practices to better represent rail passengers in a coherent and effective manner. Contact Richard Rudolph, Ph.D., Chair, RRPI Conference Committee, at 207-642-5161 or Philip Copeland, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amtrak has agreed to give a discount of ten percent off coach fares for persons attending the conference.
October 16, 17
Passenger trains on freight railroads
Railway Age conference
Washington Marriott Hotel
Guest speakers to include White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card (and former USDOT secretary).
Claytor award for distinguished service to HEW Secretary Tommy Thompson, former Amtrak board chairman.
Register at http://www.railwayage.com or call Jane Potereala at (212)-620-7209.
This article ("Congress faces full rail plate," D:F , July 16) did an excellent job of identifying a crucial issue facing intercity passenger rail in the US and suggesting a course of action, complete with some key talking points. Your recommendation to thank those members of the House Subcommittee on Railroads that have already signed on as sponsors of H.R. 2329 is just as important, if not more so, than perhaps leaning on those that have not.
There is one small error in this piece. Howard Coble ® is from North Carolina, not Arizona. It is easy to see how this mistake might be made, however, as Mr. Coble's opposition to the HSRIA rates right up there with another fellow Republican from Arizona.
This is a timely action alert and one that I hope all of your readers will have heeded by now - as opposed to getting wrapped around the axle with whether to apostrophe or not to apostrophe."
Thanks for pointing that out. It is the kind of error we really try hard to avoid. It is a question of credibility. - Ed.
Not to be picky, but there was a minor inaccuracy in the July 16 edition of D:F .
Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) was struck by the railroad operating crafts in 1963, not 1968. The Interstate Commerce Commission ordered the railroad to continue passenger service by operating one passenger train per day, each way, between Jacksonville and Miami. Permission to discontinue this service was received by FEC in 1968.
I have a suggestion that may or may not be technically possible or doable. In your newsletter, there should be a way of printing out individual articles or saving individual articles just like newspapers do.
Your July 16 newsletter printed out to 22 pages. There are two or three articles that I would like to print out, but instead, I had to print out all of them. After each article, there should or could be an opportunity to print out individual articles. In other words, there should be a print option for each article, so instead of printing a whole newsletter just to get one or two articles, readers could print just those articles they are interested in.
It is something we have thought of, off-and-on, but you're the first person to ask. For now, I suggest you highlight the article you want, copy it to your clipboard, paste it into your word processing program, and then print it. I have passed your question on to our webmaster, Dennis Kirkpatrick.
Great suggestion, but not necessarily technically possible.
Web pages are more akin to a computer program than they are to a word processor document. It's essentially a series of computer commands that tells a "browser" to display text in a stylized manner. While most computers share a few common characteristics, any two browsers may recreate the page in very different-looking ways. You may not be aware of it, but you can program your browser to use a wide variety of fonts (letter styles) that would radically change everything you see, yet the general instructions sent from our web pages do not change.
We already employ a technique that encapsulates each article in its own separate "table." This is somewhat akin to an Excel Spreadsheet data cell if we were to draw an analogy. Some browsers will respect where a table begins and ends and appropriately start a new "table" (in our case, an article) on a new page when the prior one is within a few lines of the end of a printed page; however, that is not respected in many browsers. I know Netscape does this nicely in most cases, but not Internet Explorer.
Printing is greatly a feature of individual computers and cannot be programmed into a web page. This is because each different type of computer uses a different language to make that happen. Web pages are meant to be "platform independent," meaning that they are a common denominator that can be viewed on any browser-equipped computer.
Microsoft Word for Windows for a Windows system will not work on a Macintosh, and Appleworks will not work on a PC. Hypertext Markup Language, or HTML (web) works on both.
To print select articles you need to isolate the text in question and that requires some manipulation on your part as you move from the wide-usage HTML to something more specific that your computer can print.
First, as Leo suggested, highlight the text and print the contents of the clipboard. If a direct print from the clipboard is not possible, you can open NotePad, WordPad, or Word, paste the text there, and then print from there.
Another option is to "save as text" from the browser menu. That text file can then be opened in Word for further access. However, bold-faced or italic print styles are lost. All you get is very plain text.
The last option is to "save as source" or "save as HTML" from the browser menu, which actually saves the HTML computer code. You can then tell Word to open that file, which will then be converted to a word processor document for easy printing. From there, you can select which pages, etc.
On a Mac, the process is similar which I won't go into detail here. Contact me if necessary.
I hope this helps somewhat. If the world only had one kind of computer, life might be different, but we have to consider compatibility to a wide range of systems from around the world, and, as such, have to limit to a common denominator.
Dennis Kirkpatrick, Webmaster
For what it's worth, we compose Destination: Freedom in Rhode Island on a Compaq PC in Microsoft Word for Windows 2000 and in 12-point Bookman Old Style. The headlines generally range from 30 points down to 18. Some are bold, some italic, some regular, depending on the story, its placement, its importance, and other factors. After each issue is composed, we send it via file transfer protocol (FTP) to our California website where our webmaster, who resides in Boston, downloads the file at his convenience to prepare it for its final format onto the web pages.
Our copy deadline is 5:00 p.m. on Fridays, although copyediting begins during mid-week (the older stories or so-called "timeless" pieces). Sometime Saturday morning, editing is finished. After the webmaster gets it and works his magic, he sends it back to the California site in its final form for Monday morning publication.
The typeface you read it in depends entirely on how you have your computer set up. - Ed.
Budd: National Geographic magazine.
In April 1951, the Budd Company was trying to sell stainless steel, fluted side passenger coaches to railroads, whose passenger car miles were dwindling. Artist Leslie Ragan captures a round-end obs passing through small town mid-America. Some copy in the text states "Railroads have found they can use these cars for many years, and millions of miles beyond major overhaul schedules... " How true. Just ask Amtrak.
Here is the complete text of Budd's ad:
"The performance of Budd all-stainless steel railway passenger cars again demonstrates the effectiveness of the Budd philosophy of combining imaginative, forward looking design, quality workmanship and the most suitable materials.
"Railroads have found they can use these cars for many years and millions of miles beyond major overhaul schedules considered normal for cars not constructed of stainless steel.
"The most critical inspections fail to discover any deterioration. Parts which in cars built of other materials are notoriously vulnerable to rust, corrosion and excessive wear, remain unimpaired. And the superior strength of the stainless steel structure assures maximum safety for the railway passenger and increased availability for service.
"Application of Budd ideas to the field of railway passenger transportation has proved as sound as it has in the field of the Budd all-steel automobile body, the steel wheel and other automotive components. The Budd Company, Philadelphia, Detroit, Gary."
"PIONEERS IN BETTER TRANSPORTATION"
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 email@example.com. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write.
Destination: Freedom is partially funded by the Surdna Foundation, and other contributors.
Journalists and others who wish to receive high quality NCI-originated images that appear in Destination: Freedom may do so at a nominal fee of $10.00 per image. "True color" .jpg images average 1.7MB each, and are 300 dots-per-inch for print publishers.
In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other rail travel sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives - state DOTs, legislators, governor's offices, and transportation professionals - as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists.
If you have a favorite rail link, please send the uniform resource locator address (URL) to the webmaster in care of this web site. An e-mail link appears at the bottom of the NCI web site pages to get in touch with D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCI's Site in Boston.
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