NCI: Leo KingEXPRESS TRAIN - Amtrak's Acela Express No. 2150 glides over troubled Conn River Bridge at 60 mph and the Connecticut River on time on Aug. 1. Various repair crews are "in the clear." Track 2, the nearest track, is out of service. The story is below.
|House passes rail retirement bill|
The House Tuesday (July 31) overwhelmingly passed the Railroad Retirement package that has been kicking around on Capitol Hill for the better part of two years.
The 384-to-33 vote makes it look like there's no argument over the matter.
But, in fact, there is.
President Bush is said to be less than happy with it. Syndicated columnist Bob Novak on Monday morning greeted Washingtonians with a broadside against the measure in the Washington Post.
He reported that President Bush had tried to derail what Novak called an "outrageous" measure that would raise benefits to workers while cutting payroll taxes. The columnist labeled it a "gravy train" for rail labor and management.
Moreover, it violates the president's strictures against government investment in the private capital markets.
The bill takes away $15.6 billion from the 2002 surplus and provides $15.3 billion to a rail pension trust fund to invest in the private sector.
We have reported many times in this space that rail management and rail labor regard the retirement legislation as a win-win proposition for both. Critics are saying there is an obvious reason for this, but the taxpayers end up with the tab.
The legislation was scheduled on last Monday's calendar for House business, but was pulled, possibly because of questions lawmakers had after seeing Novak's hit piece. However, the vote finally came on Tuesday.
Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee defined the proposal as "a fair and extremely important bill." Certainly, widows and rail retirees are looking forward to the benefits, and the railroads believe they can invest in their physical plant to better serve their customers. A series of derailments in recent months has prompted newspaper articles saying in effect that the nation's rail infrastructure is going to seed.
President Bush is not considered likely to veto the bill, despite his misgivings. He has other issues on his plate, and this is not something over which his administration wants to go to war. You have to pick your fights in Washington, and both rail labor and rail management do, as Novak pointed out, know how to "play the game" on Capitol Hill.
H.R. 1140 provides for immediate enhanced "Tier II" pension benefits for rail retirees, reduced taxes for railroad employers, and potentially for railroad employees as well.
As Young explained, this is made possible by "increased earnings through the investment of the railroad retirement trust fund balance in a diversified portfolio." Currently, investment of rail retirement assets is limited to lower-yielding U.S. government securities. Tier I of the railroad retirement program, operating much like Social Security, is not affected by the bill.
Last year, the measure zipped through the House, only to be blocked in the Senate, even though an overwhelming majority backed it there. It may not be stopped this time due to a change in Senate membership.
All photos NCI: Leo King'BONE AWAITS CLOSURE - Its operator, Bill Smith, has mounted the 18-ton Pettibone crane onto the Conn River bridge awaiting bridgetender David Coyle closing the main span on Wednesday morning.
Bridge that barely could
Crane helps to close a big bridge
"Conn" is the biggest of five Amtrak movable bridges in Connecticut, at seven spans plus the main 135-foot deck. It also fell on hard times, at least for a while. Boaters know the bridge as "Old Lyme Draw."
Two brand-new motors and related equipment failed on July 28. The machinery was still under warranty, but the installer had to come from Ohio. He did not bring spare parts with him, so the track department had to continue to make do with an 18-ton Pettibone crane by driving it out onto the bridge, and letting its weight continue the task of closing the main deck. The replacement parts were later shipped. Late on Aug. 1, the bridge was repaired.
NCI: Leo King'BONE COMPLETES ITS JOB - The Pettibone crane is at the far end of the movable span and its weight is enough to bring the deck down the last six inches for complete closure and lockup. The bridge will remain down until the next scheduled opening, and after at least one train has passed.
Track department crews mounted the small crane onto the rails within interlocking limits (and with the dispatcher's concurrence), drove it out to the main span, and after the bridge's brakes were set, drove the 'Bone onto the lifting span. The deck could not close the final six inches or so, but the crane's weight was just enough to drive the bridge down the rest of the way so the bridgetender could lock up the bridge, and the dispatcher could close the movable rail derails at each end of track 1, and clear signals for a train. The operator drove the machine back on shore to get out of the way.
Things became so snarled with boaters - and some are big, ocean-going vessels - Amtrak had to write a bridge opening and closing timetable.
Ordinarily, each bridge opens after a train passes, and stays open until about ten minutes before the next train is due, but the added Acela Express trains are raising havoc with that rule of thumb... and the trains needed to be on time for the plan to work.
Meanwhile, track 2 continued out of service for several days while railroaders removed rock cuttings in various places between Conn (milepost 106.8) and Nan (a small movable span over the Niantic River at Waterford and MP 116.7), and from Nan to Shaw's Cove (MP 122.5) at New London (MP 122.9). In reality, the last eastward holding location was View Interlocking (MP 105.9), just west of Conn near Old Saybrook.
In effect, it was a 17-mile single-track railroad between New London and View.
|Carrier writes a new tentative Express schedule|
Sources tell D:F added Acela Express trains will begin running on Aug. 12 on the New York-Boston Line. No word yet on the New York-Washington segment. In Boston, Commuter Rail will be giving up track 16 in Southampton Street yard to make room for more intercity trains.
Here is a tentative schedule:
Effective Sept. 30, two more trains will be added in each direction:
Peering into the future, effective on December 10, No. 2167 will leave Boston at 1:10 p.m. and arrive New York at 4:45. Meanwhile, No. 2158 will leave New York at noon to arrive in the Hub at 3:35 p.m.
Come March 12, 2002, No. 2151 tentatively will leave Boston 5:10 a.m. to arrive in the Big Apple at 8:45 a.m while No. 2162 will leave NYP at 2:00 p.m. to arrive in Boston at 5:35 p.m.
|Eagle derails, 13 injured|
The Texas Eagle derailed on July 29, injuring 13 people. 174 passengers and 12 crewmembers were aboard the Eagle, enroute to Dallas, when the train left the tracks just after 2 a.m. near Sabula, Mo., about 130 miles south of St. Louis. There were no deaths reported.
Four to 6 inches of rain created flash floods that washed out much of the ground beneath the track, said Mark Davis, a spokesman for Union Pacific, owner of the track, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
No equipment was available in San Antonio to operate train No. 22 for Monday, July 30 to Chicago. The train was annulled for that date.
Ten people were treated at two hospitals in Farmington, about 40 miles north of the train wreck. One was in good condition after undergoing minor surgery. Six passengers were treated and released, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Another passenger was in satisfactory condition and two others were treated and released at another hospital, a hospital.
Amtrak dispatched a customer care team to the rural Missouri site.
Railroad crews worked through the night and into the following morning removing the wreckage, cleaning up diesel fuel that had leaked from a locomotive and rebuilt 600 feet of damaged track.
The Eagle, with two locomotives and 19 cars, left Chicago late Saturday. It had stopped in Alton and St. Louis to board passengers.
The consist of No. 21:
As the train approached Sabula, it already was slowing down because slow orders for maintenance in that area, Davis said. The train was going about 30 to 35 miles an hour, he said, when the crew spotted the washed-out track bed along a low-lying stretch of track running parallel to Highway 49 next to Big Creek.
"The track was suspended in the air for 50 feet with nothing underneath it," Davis said. "The crew saw this section and was beginning to slow down, but it was too late. There was just nothing under the track at that point."
Both locomotives and 10 cars derailed. One of the locomotives leaked 2,200 gallons of diesel fuel.
An Amtrak spokeswoman said most of the passengers chose to continue their trip by bus Sunday.
|1999 wreck victims sue Amtrak|
More than 60 victims of the 1999 train-truck crash in Bourbonnais, Ill. filed suit on July 27 in U.S. District Court in Chicago accusing Amtrak of negligence and wrongdoing.
The suit was filed by the estates of nine passengers killed in the wreck as well as by 53 people who were injured, according to the plaintiffs' attorney, Michael Demetrio.
Similar suits against other defendants previously have been filed in Cook County Circuit Court as a result of the collision between Amtrak's City of New Orleans and a truck carrying 20 tons of steel.
The suit alleges the train's engineer failed to keep a proper lookout and did not brake when he first saw the truck on the tracks. It also faults the crew's training in responding to an emergency. The suit seeks unspecified damages.
In the crash, 11 passengers died and 122 others injured. NTSB authorities have not completed their investigation.
|Amtrak get new web site, address|
Amtrak has a new web address, and a redesigned site.
Amtrak said in a press release the site, at http://lb.amtrak.com, offers faster access to a new "Fast Fare Finder" as well as simplified navigation.
The carrier said "Improved and consistent information for all stations, trains and amenities" was added, as well as an "ability to search for stations, trains and top destinations, and ability to search for advertised specials by keyword."
IDs or passwords are no longer required, but a "Secure member profile speeds customers through reservations, and guests receive an automatic E-mail confirmation."
NCI: Leo KingEND OF THE DAY - Extra 837 gingerly makes its way down Boston's Southampton Street yard on track 1 on July 29 after a full day of testing, operating and training a C&E crew between the Hub and Portland, Maine. Cabbage 90214 is being pushed by P-42 837, with café car 43359 sandwiched between. Its crew took the train over to South Station at 7:22 a.m., left the station shortly afterward for CSX's CP-3 for its connection to Grand Junction, which led to North Station. From there, Amtrak dispatched the train to Haverhill, where Guilford dispatchers took over its routing, and sent it to Portland. The crew tied up back in Boston at 5:24 p.m. No word yet when scheduled, revenue service will begin.
CN-WC merger gets another okay
No environmental review is needed for the CN-WC merger, reports the Surface Transportation Board (STB).
Chair Linda Morgan said last week, "There would be only minimal changes in railroad operations as a result of the proposed Canadian National-Wisconsin Central railroad merger, so the transaction does not require the STB's formal environmental review" under the National Environmental Policy Act.
Both CN and WC asserted in their April 9, 2001 application that "The proposed transaction would have insignificant environmental effects, and would cause only modest changes in railroad operations, none of which would exceed the thresholds triggering the board's environmental review as established in the agency's environmental rules."
The applicants also stated that the proposal is exempt from historic review under the National Historic Preservation Act.
The board agreed.
|KCS quarterly profits fall 47 percent|
Kansas City Southern Industries, Inc. reported last week its second quarter earnings fell 47 percent as the U.S. economic slump caused lower industrial production and less demand for product shipments.
The freight carrier reported second quarter results of $4.7 million, or 8 cents per share. That compared with income of $8.8 million, or 15 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenues declined by $1.2 million to $143.2 million and operating expenses rose by $4.3 million compared to the year-ago period.
The railroad said its freight revenues have continued to suffer, particularly in the paper and forest products and certain chemical markets, but it expects these trends to improve when economic conditions improve.
Coal revenues for the first half of 2001 increased about 1 percent compared to the first half of 2000 and 8.5 percent quarter to quarter, as utility companies turn to coal as a cheaper source of fuel than natural gas.
In other quarterly reports, Norfolk Southern reported second quarter net income of $107 million, compared with $99 million the second quarter last year. NS second quarter revenues were $1.59 billion, roughly unchanged from the second quarter last year. The carrier said the income rise was helped by high natural gas costs increasing demand for coal.
Meanwhile, CSX reported second quarter net income of $108 million, compared with $48 million the second quarter last year. CSX second quarter revenues were $2.06 billion, compared with $2.07 billion the second quarter last year.
Hong Kong rejects new railroad
A Chinese government-owned railway lost its bid Monday to build new tracks through a sensitive wetland, but an appellate panel suggested it could try again by modifying its plans to better protect the environment.
The Kowloon-Canton Railway Corp. issued a statement expressing its disappointment and said it would need to study the judgment from Hong Kong's Environmental Impact Assessment Appeal Board before commenting further.
The ruling was a victory for Hong Kong conservationists hoping to protect 210 species of birds, including four that are globally threatened in Long Valley, a part of Hong Kong's rural New Territories.
Museum receives World War II boxcar
The U.S. Air Force airlifted a World War II-era rail car, historically used as a prisoner-of-war troop train, to the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, on July 25.
The boxcar, sometimes referred to as a "forty-and-eight," was donated by the French National Railroad Co. (SNCF) and the American Prisoner of War Association. It will be used to complete a prisoner of war display at the museum, an Air Force spokesman said.
"When the American POW Association offered the donation, it took us about two seconds to say 'yes,'" said retired Maj. Gen. Charles D. Metcalf, who is also the museum director.
He added, "What better artifact could there be to recreate the POW experience than an original rail car?"
He said he expects it will help complete its POW display. Using real railroad tracks, theatrical lighting and actual memorabilia, the museum will incorporate the vehicle as a walk-through exhibit.
The museum plans to celebrate the arrival of the car in conjunction with POW/MIA Day on Sept. 21, Metcalf said.
Downed American pilots were sent to Germany and Poland aboard this kind of freight car during World War II, said Gen. François Beck, the French Air Force's air mobility commander. Beck was part of a small legion of officials on hand to witness the car being loaded at Istres, France onto the C-5 Galaxy aircraft from Westover Air Reserve Base of Springfield, Mass.
Since cars like these, which were built between 1941 and 1944, transported prisoners of war, they became part of military history.
Although records cannot be found to trace the origin nor background of the boxcar, it bears the inscription, "Hommes 40 - Cheveaux 8," which translates to 40 men and eight horses because it was capable of transporting that many people or animals.
The project started more than 18 months ago when the car was found in Dijon, France, for the POW Association. It was in poor condition and needed to be rebuilt.
During the restoration, which began in December, many of the rusty original pieces were salvaged. All of the planks of the wood structure had to be replaced, and vintage supplies were used to maintain its antiquity.
For Beck, who became involved in the project six months ago, it is more than part of the job. He has a personal connection.
"My father was a prisoner of war during this time and was rescued by American soldiers," he said. "This is my chance to help give back to Americans."
Florida High Speed Rail Authority Public Meeting
10:00 a.m. to conclusion
Florida DOT Auditorium
For details, contact Nazih Haddad, (850) 414-4500. Anyone who requires special accommodations to participate in these meetings are asked to advise the authority at least 48 hours before the meeting by contacting Betty Sizemore, (850) 414-5244.
AREMA annual conference
Palmer Hilton Hotel, Chicago
Sept. 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.
Amtrak Reform Council
Los Angeles, CA
The hearing will invite states in the western region of the country to provide their views on the various issues and proposals in the Council's Second Annual Report published in March 2001
Oct. 16, 17
Passenger trains on freight railroads
Railway Age conference
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.
NCI: Collection of Leo KingThe Alco Century 420 was still at the factory in Schenectady, N.Y, ready to begin its working days on the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. Alas, this would be the New Haven's last engine purchase. It soon would be folded into Penn Central. The photo was published on a post card from Audio-Visual Designs of Earlton, N.Y., but there is no publication nor copyright date on the card.
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