Destination:Freedom Newsletter
Destination:Freedom
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 4 No. 34, August 25, 2003
Copyright © 2003, NCI, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - James Furlong
Editor - Leo King

A weekly North American rail and transit update

 

 

Destination:Freedom will next publish on September 2 in observance of the Labor Day holiday.

 

 


Trains stuck by computer virus

NCI: Leo King

Amtrak, VRE and MARC trains were stuck for a time Wednesday after CSX’s computers in Jacksonville, Fla. – controlling switches and signals – were hit with a virus. Amtrak controls Washington Union Station and the main line northward, but CSX controls other lines.

 

Computer virus hits CSX;
delays D.C. commuter rail

 

Amtrak, Virginia Railway Express and Maryland Rail Commuter came to a stop for a time last Wednesday when CSX’s dispatching center in Jacksonville, Fla., was hit with a computer virus.

CSX spokesman Adam Hollingsworth said, “CSX Transportation’s information technology systems experienced significant slowdowns” starting around 1:14 a.m. “after a computer virus infected the network.”

The cause was believed to be a worm virus similar to those that have infected the systems of other major companies and agencies in recent days.

At least 10 long distance and regional Amtrak trains traveling between Pittsburgh, Pa. and Florence, S.C. were delayed, spokesman Dan Stessel said. In some cases, service was halted for up to six hours.

The Maryland Transit Administration said most service had been restored by about 7:30 a.m., but trains from West Virginia were canceled Wednesday morning. The afternoon commute was trouble-free.

Maryland commuter trains run on the Brunswick line, which starts in Martinsburg, W.Va., the Camden line between Baltimore and Washington, and the Penn line, which runs from the Cecil County town of Perryville through Baltimore-Washington International Airport on its way to the capital.

Average daily ridership on Maryland’s commuter rails was 23,636 for the last six months of 2002.

Sources said signals went dark and train orders could not be issued. Trains on the railroad stopped and were delayed pending orders and clearances to pass dark signals; and by speed restrictions related to such procedures.

The system was partly restored in steps, beginning at 4:00 a.m., but the processor controlling the Grand Rapids, Great Lakes, North End and RF&P subs remained completely down.

It was partially restored at 6:45 a.m., with signals operating again but train order messaging inoperative – no working radio system.

That messaging function is part of CSX’s mainframe system and CSX had to use a backup system to issue train orders; but that backup overloaded at 7:30 a.m. and went down.

Train orders then had to be manually generated, verified and delivered.

The backup system remained down until after 12:00 noon. The mainframe messaging system remained down as of early morning on August 21, more than 24 hours after the CSX’s initial computer failure.

The local rail passenger service, now called MARC Train Service, has operated since the 1830s on the Camden line, and since the mid- to late-1800s on the Penn and Brunswick lines. The service now operated by CSX was formerly the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad’s local train service (Camden and Brunswick lines). The Penn Line service, which is currently operated by Amtrak under state contract, was the local train service of the Pennsylvania Railroad, then Penn Central, Conrail and Amtrak.

Hollingsworth said the infection “resulted in a slowdown of major applications, including dispatching and signal systems. As a result, passenger and freight train traffic was halted immediately, including the morning commuter train service in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area.”

He said, “many key systems had been restored as of midday, allowing for resumption of substantial operations as the company works toward full system capability.”

He also noted CSX notified Amtrak, VRE and MARC and of the problem and began contacting state and federal agencies to inform them of the situation and expected impact.

The malfunction affected the entire CSX system, which covers 23 states east of the Mississippi River.


Return to index
FRA sidelines four Cascades Talgos

Shortfalls in Cascades Talgo equipment maintenance, discovered by the FRA, has forced Amtrak to yard three Talgo sets on August 19 after they completed their runs for the day.

The Mount Hood, Mount Baker and Mount Rainier sets were to be removed from service on August 18, but the FRA granted a two-day temporary operating extension. Scheduled service was not affected.

The Mount Olympus set will be withdrawn from service on September 2.

Replacement of parts and successful completion of FRA inspections will be required before the train sets can be restored to service, according to Amtrak.

Substitute equipment will be temporarily provided from Sound Transit until Superliner and Horizon equipment can be sent to the Pacific Northwest.


Return to index
Texans still looking for fast trains

It was clear at the recently concluded sixth annual Texas Transportation summit, which ended August 15 in Irving, Texas, that there is strong support in Houston, College Station and Fort Hood for a high-speed rail connection.

In 2000, The USDOT designated several corridors across the nation where high-speed train service – at speeds of 120 mph, 170 mph or perhaps even faster – would eventually be developed, but one problem in Texas is that “The Metroplex,” a nickname for the greater Fort Worth and Dallas region, and Houston, weren’t connected.

Instead, they were part of separate high-speed corridors, wrote the Fort Worth Star-Telegram last week.

Officials in College Station, the most populated Texas community without an interstate highway, saw an opportunity. They proposed connecting Houston to Dallas and Fort Worth through College Station.

The Army’s Ft. Hood was brought into the mix to give the proposed rail line an important military purpose – which helps when asking the federal officials for money.

The result could be a T-shaped rail hookup known as the “Brazos Express Corridor,” and also sometimes called the “Texas T-bone.” It’s actually an updated version of an old idea, the failed “Texas Triangle” rail plan that was proposed for Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston and San Antonio in the early 1990s. On June 26, Texas DOT Executive Director Michael Behrens wrote to Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta asking that the “Texas T-bone” be included in the nation’s high-speed rail corridor plan.

There was good news for motorists at the three-day meet who opposed raising gasoline taxes to pay for highway improvements. U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) has done an informal count of the votes, and he doesn’t believe there is enough support in Congress to increase the current 18.4 cents per gallon federal tax.

A proposal by the House Transportation Committee to index the gas tax so that it would rise gradually with the cost of living in future years also lacks votes, he said. “There is no support for higher gas taxes or indexed gas taxes, nor should there be,” DeLay said.


Return to index
LEGAL LINES...  Legal lines...

Court orders Amtrak to park 55 reefers

A U.S. Circuit Appeals Court has ordered Amtrak to park 55 of 111 refrigerator cars.

Amtrak sued ExpressTrak for allegedly violating their lease agreement. ExpressTrak said that the lease requires all disputes to be arbitrated, meaning they cannot be heard in court.

The trial court agreed with ExpressTrak and ordered Amtrak and ExpressTrak to arbitrate the dispute. Amtrak appealed, and the appeals court agreed with Amtrak that the dispute must be heard in court, not arbitrated.

The current order to park 55 out of the 111 is the outcome of that further hearing.

In Chicago, 15 refrigerators are parked; 19 in Los Angeles, 9 in Philadelphia, 2 in Emory, Calif., 4 in Albany, 1 in Jacksonville. Five more were enroute to destinations when the order was issued.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for The District of Columbia Circuit heard the original arguments (No. 02-7163) on May 9 and issued its decision on June 6 (National Railroad Passenger Corp. v. ExpressTrak, L.L.C.).

Circuit Judge Rogers wrote “In this expedited appeal, the National Railroad Passenger Corp. (“Amtrak”) appeals orders of the district court (1) interpreting its lease agreements with ExpressTrak, L.L.C., to require arbitration of any disputes; (2) enjoining the parties to continue performing under the terms of the leases during arbitration; and (3) confirming an interim arbitration award.

“Amtrak contends that the district court failed to abide by the parties’ clearly expressed intent to litigate disputes arising under the leases. Our jurisdiction to review the grant of the injunction compelling continued performance of the leases and the order confirming the interim arbitrator’s award is clear.

“Under 28 U.S.C. 1292(a)(1)(2002), the court has jurisdiction to review the district court’s entry of the injunction because, although denominated “permanent,” the injunction is interlocutory in nature, as the district court has not entered a final order winding up the parties’ litigation.

“Under the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), 9 U.S.C. 16(a)(1)(D), the court has jurisdiction to review the district court’s order confirming the interim award. Although orders compelling arbitration are usually non-appealable under FAA 16(b), to review either the injunction or the interim award, the court must determine whether the parties’ dispute was properly arbitrable; hence, the court has pendent appellant jurisdiction over that order as well.

As to arbitrability, we hold that the parties’ dispute was not properly arbitrable. Accordingly, we reverse the order compelling arbitration as well as the injunction and the confirmation order, and we remand the case to the district court for trial on Amtrak’s claim that ExpressTrak breached the lease agreements.”


Return to index
BUSINESS LINES...  Business lines...

For sale: 8 ex-Santa Fe dome cars

Holland America says it has received its new dome cars with more to be delivered next year, so now the Alaska carrier is selling eight out of ten of its ex-Santa Fe full-length dome cars – for about a half-million each.

These cars began Alaska service on the Alaska Railroad in 1987.

“They were rebuilt 1986-1994 and with the earlier rebuilds done again in 1995-1996,” Holland America stated in a press release.

Set up with 66 forward facing, booth and side facing seats upstairs and 22 dining room seats and kitchen downstairs, the cars were in daily summer service through the 2003 season.

Only 17 of these cars exist today, and two are privately owned.

Holland America stated the cars are “FRA compliant with Part 223 glass and emergency windows. Carrier/Sutrak air conditioning, HEP, 27-pin, generators, holding tanks, three-axle trucks.”

The cars “are priced at $500,000-$550,000 each depending on specifications and condition.” Spare parts are also available.

The cars will be available for inspection in Anchorage in September, and the line is looking for “Serious inquires only.”

Holland America Line Westours Inc. address is 300 Elliott Ave., West, in Seattle, 98119.


Return to index
Wabtec upgrades Amtrak, MTA, MBTA

WABCO Transit, a subsidiary of Wabtec Corp. has received a contract worth about $3.5 million to supply 4-1/2-inch tread brake units for Amtrak’s Amfleet I cars. Deliveries will begin in the 2003 fourth quarter.

“These tread brakes are currently used on Amtrak’s Amfleet II vehicles and other car classes,” said John M. Meister, executive vice-president, WABCO Transit. “By adding our tread brake units to its Amfleet I cars, Amtrak has made this piece of equipment more universal on its vehicles, allowing for easier maintenance.”

Three Wabtec subsidiaries also received contracts on August 20 totaling about $18 million to supply equipment to Kawasaki for transit vehicles in New York and Boston. Deliveries will begin in the 2003 fourth quarter and will continue though 2004.

WABCO Transit and Vapor Rail will supply brakes, couplers, current collectors, electric door operating equipment and door panels for 80 passenger rail vehicles being manufactured for New York City Transit. These cars, originally expected to be delivered in 2003, represent the final option order under New York’s R-142S contract.

Separately, the firm will supply brakes and pneumatic door-operating equipment by Vapor Rail and electronically controlled heating, ventilating and air conditioning units by Stone Air for 28 commuter rail cars for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

WABCO Transit is based in Spartanburg, S.C.


Return to index
COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

MBTA Commuter at South Station, Boston

NCI: Leo King

It now looks like the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s Greenbush line renewal will get a green light for commuter rail. It will be the third branch to reopen along the Old Colony corridor.

 

Greenbush project is ‘more likely’

The Greenbush commuter rail line is “looking more and more likely that it’s going to be a go,” a senior Romney administration official said August 19, reports the Boston Globe.

One month earlier, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney questioned whether the state could afford major new transportation projects.

The Romney administration has sent out conflicting signals about the South Shore rail line over the past months, with the governor telling a business group in Fall River that the state could not proceed with the project or any other rail expansion, and Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey saying a couple of weeks later that no decision had been made to kill the Greenbush line.

Last Tuesday, the unnamed senior administration official said the Greenbush line’s projected final price, as well as the resolution of several key environmental and right-of-way issues, will probably save the project.

“The analysis at this point seems much more likely a go than a no-go,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “If I had to guess it now, it’s going to happen.”

The official said that after a seven-month cost review, MBTA general manager Michael Mulhern is expected to present the T board with a $479 million final price tag for the project on September 10. While the cost of the project has not increased significantly in the last year, Romney administration officials had expressed concern about the potential cost of paying local communities to make up for the impact the line would have on towns—issues that have largely been resolved.

At the same time, MBTA officials have been quietly making land acquisitions for the line, including buying a key, 1.5-mile right-of-way in Braintree from the CSX freight line for $3.9 million last month. The purchase was finalized when the MBTA board of directors met in executive session.

Mulhern said that “at this juncture, I’m going to hold off on any public comments until I give the MBTA board the courtesy of hearing our recommendation first.”

The nearly 18-mile Greenbush line would be the third leg of the MBTA’s Old Colony Rail Line. Trains on the line already run between Boston and Plymouth and Boston and Middleborough.

The newest line has faced opposition in Cohasset, Braintree, Hingham, Weymouth, and Scituate, where past agreements to allay the impact of the rail line helped secure local support, while also adding $86 million –or 20 percent – to the price tag.

Construction on the rail line was put on hold beginning in February to avoid cost overruns after state and MBTA officials said key environmental permits and the deal to purchase the CSX rail line had not been finalized.

Transportation Secretary Daniel Grabauskas, whose position includes serving as chairman of the MBTA board, said “having resolved a number of outstanding issues with the project, we will be in a position next month to make a final recommendation or decision on the project.”

As for the purchase of the CSX right-of-way, Grabauskas said it was a “prudent business decision,” regardless of Greenbush.

Much work remains, however, including a final decision on the mitigation agreement for Weymouth Landing, a below-grade station straddling Braintree and Weymouth, estimated to cost a minimum of $22 million, that would mute the line’s impact on that area.

Outstanding issues on Greenbush remain, including finalizing the mitigation agreement on Weymouth Landing, a below-grade station straddling the Braintree-Weymouth border that is estimated will cost a minimum of $22 million.

The MBTA’s $479 million final figure also does not now include a proposal to install expensive, four-arm gates at each of the line’s 24 street crossings, a move that could add at least $6 million to the project’s final price tag.

The administration official said the MBTA and the state plan to fight the four-arm gate proposal, which would install crossing arms at all four corners of a crossing. As for Weymouth Landing, the official said, construction could begin without a final agreement being in place.

MBTA officials and transportation officials in the Romney administration have been discussing the future of the line over the past several months, debating the cost of moving forward with Greenbush versus the cost of scuttling the project.

The senior administration official said the MBTA and state officials were most concerned about the legal cost of backing out of the contractual agreement with contractor Cashman-Balfour Beatty.

At the same time, because the Greenbush line is part of a series of court-ordered transit projects meant to counter the environmental impact of the Big Dig, MBTA and state officials debated alternatives to building the line, including increasing bus and ferry service from the South Shore.

Those alternatives, however, “just didn’t get us to where we needed to be,” the official said.

A major factor pushing the project forward was the purchase of the CSX rail line. When the six-month work stoppage on Greenbush was begun in February, the official said, “CSX wasn’t returning anyone’s phone calls.” By the time the two sides met, CSX was asking for more than $500,000 annually to lease the 1.5 miles of track.

“It was only getting this thing put on hold that got CSX and the T talking,” the official said.

John Bewick, president of Greenbush Advocates for Transportation Alternatives, which opposes the line, said the move to preserve Greenbush “flies in the face of Romney’s fix-it-first policy, since [the T is] significantly under-funding maintenance.” Told of yesterday’s comments by the administration official, Ralph Rivkind, chairman of a new group, Greenbush on Track, that supports the line, said, “I don’t think I can let my guard down until I’m at the ribbon-cutting.”


Return to index
CTA execs find pension gravy train

As the Chicago Transit Authority ponders hitting its riders with a huge fare increase, the agency has quietly enacted an altogether different hike for its top executives: fatter pensions.

Under terms of a deal reached behind closed doors at a Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) board meeting on August 6, about 200 senior managers will be able to retire five years earlier and earn pension benefits one-third faster than they can now, according to Crain’s Chicago Business News of August 18.

At least some board members will be able to take advantage of that sweetened pension plan, even though they insist CTA staff told them otherwise before the meeting.

Among those in line for more retirement income is CTA President Frank Kruesi, who also appears to benefit from a special provision.

The pension shift was presented in detail and debated only in a portion of the meeting that was closed to the media and general public. The action came even though the CTA faces a potential $100-million budget deficit in 2004 and is considering laying off 300 workers and hiking its basic fare 50 cents, to $2, according to CTA insiders.

Kruesi aides, who was not available for comment, said the pension sweetener is designed to persuade high-priced executives to take early retirement, saving the CTA money overall – but one outside watchdog disputed that.

“This is not an early retirement plan. It’s something for a few top employees,” said Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation of Chicago, a tax policy group. “There should have been a public hearing. There is concern that there has been no public discussion about what the real purpose of these changes is.”

CTA finances have been tightening for years, but signs have multiplied lately that the situation is becoming acute.

Last spring, the agency failed to convince the General Assembly to give it a larger share of state transit subsidies, and ridership has flattened. In addition, the CTA could face higher labor costs now that it has resumed contract talks with its bus drivers’ union.

Officials last year hinted that a fare hike would be needed soon. Against that backdrop, the CTA staff moved to revamp the agency’s supplemental pension plan, which covers only vice-presidents and above, plus some middle managers who were covered by an earlier plan.

Board members were notified of the proposed pension plan changes only the day before the August 6 meeting. Normally, they receive copies of all matters scheduled to come up at a meeting at least a week in advance. They were given nothing in writing until the executive session.

When they reconvened in open session, the ordinance was called for a vote and approved without discussion.

CTA Chairman Valerie Jarrett did not attend the meeting; she had just returned from a trip to Europe and was tending to a hospitalized family member.

Jarrett said she had no idea the ordinance would be introduced until getting a phone call on August 4, two days before the meeting, informing her of a Tuesday briefing.

“This caught me completely off guard,” she said. When she was briefed, staffers told her that the matter was an “emergency” because the CTA faces huge financial woes and must quickly replace high-priced executives with cheaper workers.

“I was assured the changes would have absolutely no impact on me,” since CTA board members have their own, separate plan, Jarrett said.

In fact, “I since have been informed that it did (affect me),” because a clause at the end of the ordinance appears to allow board members who once worked for another local government body or the state to join the supplemental plan if it pays more than the board plan.

Jarrett previously served as Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s planning commissioner.

Besides Jarrett, at least three of the other six board members apparently could take advantage of the changes because they held government jobs, including ex-state workers Susan Leonis and Cindy Panayotovich, and Victor Reyes, who served as chief lobbyist to Daley.

Jarrett said she has asked for an outside legal opinion on exactly what the new ordinance does and in the meantime is not signing the measure. She and Reyes vowed late last week not to join the newly sweetened supplemental pension plan.

Mayor Daley appoints four of the seven CTA board members, with Gov. Rod Blagojevich selecting the other three. In Jarrett’s absence, Vice-chairman J. Douglas Donenfeld, a Chicago attorney, ran the board meeting.


Return to index

 

APTA HIGHLIGHTS...  APTA Highlights...

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


 

Transit Agencies Seeing Increased Interest in Transit Oriented and Joint Development

A story by Federico Cura in the August 18 issue of Passenger Transport examines how transit-oriented development and transit-adjacent development—terms referring to a form of urban planning that connects development with locations near public transportation properties—is growing in popularity as transit systems take an increasingly active role in the process along with developers and local governments.

These developments are designed to bring potential transit riders closer to transit facilities, leading to increased ridership through a location at, or within one-quarter mile to one-half mile from, a transit stop.


Return to index

 

GAO Report: Transit Security Responsibilities Unclear

In a report released July 30, the U.S. General Accounting Office expressed concern over the lack of specific definitions of the security responsibilities assigned to U.S. DOT and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “which creates the potential for overlap, duplication, and confusion as both entities more forward with their security efforts.”

GAO recommended to Congress in the document “that the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of Transportation develop mechanisms, such as a memorandum of agreement, to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of TSA [the Transportation Security Administration] and DOT in transportation security matters.”

Both TSA and U.S. DOT are in the process of launching new security initiatives, according to GAO. While the original focus of TSA was on aviation security and meeting specific deadlines, now TSA is in a position to focus more on the security of all modes of transportation. The DOT modal administrations had planned to develop memorandums of agreement with TSA, the report states, but they were not signed because both agencies found them to be too generic and offering little clarification.


Return to index

 

TranSystems Corporation Acquires Multisystems

TranSystems Corporation, a provider of engineering, architectural, and planning services to the transportation industry, has acquired Multisystems, a public transit consulting firm based in Cambridge, Mass.

Multisystems specializes in transit service planning, fare policy and technology, Intelligent Transportation Systems, and Americans with Disabilities Act and paratransit consulting.

Based in Kansas City with offices in 27 locations across the nation, TranSystems will expand its geographic reach with the acquisition of Multisystems to four additional locations including Toronto; Vermont; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and New Jersey. In 2002, TranSystems created a new division to serve the passenger rail and transit market.

Multisystems, founded in 1966 by faculty members at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, focuses exclusively on public transportation services.


Return to index

 

Chicago’s CTA Adding Energy Efficiencies

The Chicago Transit Authority will begin installing energy-efficient upgrades at seven of its facilities that are expected to save the agency nearly a half million dollars annually.

As part of an Intergovernmental Loan Agreement between the CTA, the city of Chicago Department of Environment, and Commonwealth Edison, the upgrades will improve energy efficiency and reduce CTA utility costs. They include lighting retrofits to improve electricity consumption, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning improvements to reduce electrical or natural gas consumption.

The $2.5 million loan agreement, approved Aug. 6 by the Chicago Transit Board, is part of a larger agreement in which ComEd provides loans to city and sister agencies for energy-efficient retrofits.


Return to index

 

PATH Chooses Design Team for New WTC Station

The Board of Commissioners of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey has received authorization to enter into contract negotiations with the Downtown Design Partnership—a joint venture of DMJM+HARRIS and STV—for design and construction of the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation’s new permanent terminal at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan. The partnership will work with internationally renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, S.A.

The new terminal will act as both a major regional transportation hub and a significant cultural and retail destination. It will be an integral component of the master plan for the World Trade Center site, serving as a downtown gateway for commuters, workers, residents, and visitors.


Return to index

 

FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

Old Bridge Still in Use

NCI: Four photos: Leo King

At 9:29 a.m. on August 13, northward Norfolk Southern train 284 with engine 9024 leading, takes some empty auto racks off FEC iron and touches briefly on CSX rails en route to NS’s Simpson Yard, about three miles ahead. The third unit is FEC GP-38-2 No. 502 with a pair of NS D9-40CWs ahead.

 

Elderly bridge still carries freights

By Leo King
Editor

’Way back in 1924, Republican Calvin Coolidge was re-elected the 30th U.S. President, winning by an electoral vote of 382 to 136 over Democratic Party challenger John W. Davis.

Another historical footnote from that year was that J. Edgar Hoover was appointed the first director of the Bureau of Investigation (later renamed the FBI), and it was the year Adolf Hitler published his Nazi political tract Mein Kampf (My Battle).

In Florida, a two-year construction project began to take shape across the northward flowing St. John’s River in Jacksonville. Florida East Coast Ry.’s milepost 0.0 is today’s north end of a long 2,500-foot, 79 year old bascule bridge. The double-tracked span replaced an open-deck timber trestle that had a swing span.

Details of the bridge construction are sketchy now, but in the intervening year before the span opened for traffic, 1925, writer F. Scott Fitzgerald published The Great Gatsby, and astronomer Edwin Hubble composed a classification scheme for galaxies.

Near MP 1.0, the south end of the bridge on the abutment, the date “1924” is cast in the concrete, and a nearby bronze U.S. Geological Survey bench mark, embedded into the concrete, states, “National Ocean Service bench mark” with the date “1995” cast on it.

Date In Stone Before European involvement in North America, the Timucuan Indians called the river, Welaka, meaning “River of Lakes.” It was aptly named – it begins in its upper basin in Indian River County, some 200 miles south of Jacksonville, passes through the middle basin between Seminole and Putnam Counties until it finally reaches its lower basin in Putnam County, and continues its journey to the Atlantic Ocean, finally making a hard right turn in Jacksonville and on to the sea.

The FEC crosses the river at its narrowest point that far north – between the Brooklyn neighborhood on the north shore and South Jacksonville on the south. The Acosta Bridge, a fixed highway deck, parallels the railway just few hundred feet to the east.

In 1565, Spanish soldiers marched north from St. Augustine, captured Fort Caroline and slaughtered the French. The Spanish renamed the river San Mateo to honor the saint whose feast followed the day they captured the river. Later, the river was renamed Rio de San Juan after a mission near its mouth named San Juan del Puerto. The English translation of the name Rio de San Juan, or St. John’s River, lasted through English and Confederate possession of the river and remains today.

In the 1800s, steamboats made the St. John’s River a popular winter destination for northerners. By the 1860s, several steamers were making weekly round trips from Charleston and Savannah to Jacksonville and Palatka as well as other settlements, and by the turn of the century millionaire oilman Henry Flagler was consolidating several short line railroads into a system that came to be known as “The Flagler System,” or Florida East Coast.

“It’s bridge 0.03, what we call the JAX Bridge,” said assistant director for engineering services, Charles Stone.

He is the keeper of engineering facts.

“The JAX bridge across the St. John’s River has one of the largest railroad ‘Strauss’ type patented bascule spans over a navigational channel in the U.S.,” he told D:F.

He noted, “Similar Strauss bascule bridges are located in New Orleans, Cleveland, San Francisco, Sault Ste. Marie and a few other locations.”

Only someone well-acquainted with the intricacies of movable bridges could take delight in explaining details about them.

“The unique feature of this type bascule bridge is the means by which the span operates in opening and closing. A series of linkages form a parallelogram, which folds as the bridge is raised.”

He explained, “The bascule span heel pivots on a lower joint and the counterweight pivots and rotates about an upper joint. The counterweights each weigh one million pounds and are driven by two 225hp electric motors.”

Bridge designer Joseph Strauss, who owned The Strauss Bascule Bridge Co., was the same designer who later designed the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

“The entire double-track bridge is 2,451 feet long, Stone said, noting, “It consists of 216 feet of the Strauss heel trunion bascule movable span. The movable span is flanked by simple truss spans on each side and deck plate girder approach trestles.”

NCI visited the southern approach to the bridge on August 13 and again on the 18th. On the second visit, the span was being cranky – perhaps to be expected, considering its age. For more than an hour, the bridge tender couldn’t get the movable span to lock, and without the bridge lock, the dispatcher in St. Augustine couldn’t get a signal to allow trains to pass.

Bridges and Buildings people arrived and fixed whatever the problem was. Now the trains could start moving again.

The Bridge while up.
The Strauss bascule opened for traffic in 1926. B&B bridge repairmen climb the steps leading to the cabin on August 13 after two southward trains passed. The view is from CSX’s parking lot on the St. John’s River’s north shore.

 

It so happened two CSX and NS connections were both tardy getting ready to leave their respective yards, but by 10:20 a.m. the southward CSX train arrived, and the NS drag was about 15 minutes behind.

“Those were the two hot intermodal cuts for the day,” FEC spokesman Husein Cumber said later.

“The CSX cut was Y-108 which makes interchange for our southbound No. 101. The Norfolk Southern string was The Hurricane, which makes interchange for our southbound No. 105.”

The trains would go about five miles south to FEC’s Bowden Yard, FEC’s north end classification spread in Jacksonville.

As Y-108 passed my location, a northbound track car patrol came by on the other track. FEC Track Car 6601’s driver, Chris Kuntz, picked up another employee near the bridge, and they traveled across.

In 1926, American physicist Robert Goddard launched the world’s first liquid-propellant rocket, and Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich premiered his First Symphony.

It was also the year Florida East Coast steam engine-drawn trains began hauling passenger and freight trains across the new JAX Bridge, with connections to the Atlantic Coast Line, Seaboard, and Southern Railways to connect to New York, Chicago and the rest of the nation.

Jacksonville Terminal – now the Prime Osborne Convention Center – remains an architectural masterpiece (at least, to my eyes), a few hundred feet north of the bridge and the river. That, however, is a story for another day.

Crossing at JAX

NCI: Leo King

CSX Y-108 heads toward FEC’s Bowden Yard to make FEC hot intermodal train 101. It left CSX’s Jacksonville Terminal yard at Beaver Street a few minutes earlier. A Norfolk Southern Hurricane Train was about 15 minutes behind.

Return to index
‘No,’ say Grupo TMM stockholders

Grupo TMM, S.A. stockholders, meeting in Mexico City on August 18, turned down management’s proposal to sell their railroad to Kansas City Southern Ry.

The sale would have okayed the sale of TMM’s interests in Grupo Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana, S.A. de C.V. Their approval was required under the terms of an acquisition agreement before for the sale could proceed.

KCS stated, “As a result of the shareholder vote, Grupo TMM’s board of directors intends to meet as soon as possible to review the company’s options.”

The company is informing authorities at the Ministry of Communications and Transportation, the Ministry of Finance, other relevant authorities and stakeholders of TMM and its subsidiaries of the shareholders’ decision.

Grupo TMM is Latin America’s largest multimodal transportation company, and is headquartered in Mexico City.


Return to index
NS donates $50,000 for scholarships

Norfolk Southern Corp. and the Railroaders Heritage Corp. said on August 20 that NS has donated $50,000 to Pennsylvania’s Railroaders Memorial Museum’s Railroad Heritage Scholarship Program for the 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 school years. NS becomes the title sponsor.

The program provides school districts throughout the state a no-cost opportunity for students in kindergarten through 12th grade to learn and interpret the social and transportation history of central Pennsylvania.

“The Railroaders Memorial Museum and the Horseshoe Curve National Historic Landmark describe in vivid detail an important aspect of Norfolk Southern’s history,” said Rudy Husband, NS public relations director.

NS bought out about half of Conrail some three years ago, and it includes the tracks that were once the Pennsylvania Railroad around Horseshoe Curve. CSX bought the other half.


Return to index
Carload freight continues downward spiral
while intermodal rail traffic continues rising

Carload freight was down but intermodal volume was up slightly on U.S. railroads during the week ended August 16 in comparison with the corresponding week last year, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported April 21.

Carload volume totaled 334,733 units, down 3.1 percent from last year, with loadings down 4.0 percent in the East and 2.3 percent in the West. Intermodal volume, which is not included in the carload data, totaled 195,398 trailers or containers, up 0.8 percent from the comparable week last year. Total volume was estimated at 29.5 billion ton-miles, down 1.3 percent from last year. Volume may have been affected by the blackout which hit parts of the Eastern U.S. last week.

Nine out of 19 carload commodity groups reported gains in volume compared to last year, coke rising 29.2 percent, grain up 5.2 percent and pulp, paper and allied products increasing 4.8 percent. Among commodities showing declines were metallic ores, down 20.7 percent from last year; motor vehicles and equipment, off 18.2 percent; and metals and products, down 9.4 percent.

The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first 33 weeks of 2003: 10,610,620 carloads, down 0.3 percent from last year; intermodal volume of 6,162,072 trailers or containers, up 5.7 percent; and total volume of an estimated 935.3 billion ton-miles, up 0.5 percent from last year’s first 33 weeks.

Railroads reporting to AAR account for 88 percent of U.S. carload freight and 95 percent of rail intermodal volume. When the U.S. operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 95 percent and 100 percent. Railroads provide more than 40 percent of the nation’s intercity freight transportation, more than any other mode, and rail traffic figures are regarded as an important economic indicator.

Both intermodal and carload volume were down during the week ended August 16 on Canadian railroads, which were also affected by the blackout. Intermodal traffic totaled 39,971 trailers and containers, down 8.6 percent from last year. Carload volume of 58,038 cars, was off 714 percent from the comparable week last year.

Cumulative originations for the first 33 weeks of 2003 on the Canadian railroads totaled 2,008,995 carloads, down 1.4 percent from last year, and 1,361,575 trailers and containers, up 8.7 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 33 weeks of 2003 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 12,619,615 carloads, down 0.5 percent from last year and 7,523,647 trailers and containers, up 6.2 percent from last year.

The AAR also reported that originated carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended August 16 totaled 7,728 cars, down 3.2 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 3,426 originated trailers or containers, down 4.2 percent from the 33rd week of 2002. For the first 33 weeks of 2003, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 280,501 cars, up 1.4 percent from last year, and 115,876 trailers or containers, up 24.8 percent.

The AAR is online at www.aar.org.


Return to index
ACROSS THE POND...  Across the pond...

TGV Mediterranee continues growth

Rail Europe Group reports continued growth in ridership, market share, seat availability, services, and frequency of departures in the second full year of operation of France’s newest high-speed rail line, TGV Mediterranee.

It is a subsidiary of the French National Railroads (SNCF). Meanwhile, increased train frequency to Montpellier, Nimes, and Aix-en-Provence will go into effect September 1.

Connecting Paris to Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, Nimes, Montpellier, Marseille and points throughout the south of France, TGV Mediterranee – nicknamed “TGV Med.,” carried 19 million passengers between June 2002 and June of this year, up 8.5 percent over its first year of operation. When it was launched in 2001, the high-speed line cut one hour off most travel times, reduced the Paris-Marseille trip to 3 hours, and Paris-Avignon to 2 hours, 38 minutes.

“Part of the reason for the growth may be TGV Med’s enviable on-time performance record,” explained Fabrice Morel, President of the Rail Europe Group.

Morel said, “More than 90 percent of the hundreds of trains along this route operate within 10 minutes of schedule which compares quite favorably to the airlines. Besides increasing ridership, this may also be one reason rail continues to gain market share at the expense of air on the routes served.”

Before TGV Med started operating at speeds up to 186 mph to the south of France, conventional rail only held 40 percent of the Paris-Marseille traffic.

Today rail’s share of transport market vs air has risen to 61 percent Paris-Marseille, 61 percent Paris-Montpellier, 95 percent Paris-Avignon and 90 percent Paris-Nimes.

To handle the growing traffic, SNCF added 11 new double-decker (Duplex) trains this year, increasing available seats to 352,000 per week this summer on all TGV Med routes, which is a 6 percent increase over last year at this time.

Service between Paris-Perpignan and Nantes-Marseille was expanded this summer by one more roundtrip each and on September 1 one more roundtrip will be added each to the schedules between Paris-Nimes-Montpellier, Paris-Aix, and Lyon-Aix.

DVD movie rental is currently available from Paris, Lyon Part Dieu and Marseille stations, but soon that service will also be available at Avignon TGV, Valence TGV, Aix TGV and Montpellier.

“First class passengers to Paris or Marseille may also order taxis, eliminating the long waits in taxi lines at both terminals,” Morel said. Shuttle buses operate from TGV stations in Avignon and Aix to city centers.


Return to index
Minister wants to close tax loophole

By Dave Beale
Special to Destination:Freedom

HASTE – Germany’s Finance Minister Hans Eichel touched off a political firestorm a fortnight ago when he submitted new tax regulations for 2004 – which would eliminate the deduction on income tax returns for people who commute to and from work with an automobile.

The income tax deduction for tickets or passes on public transportation such as buses and trains purchased for commuting to and from a job would remain in-place.

Presently, German taxpayers are allowed to deduct the cost of commuting to and from their job from their gross income on their income tax returns. It is either a flat rate per kilometer driven in an automobile, or the costs of tickets or monthly passes on public transport, or a combination thereof for those who use both modes.

The draft ruling has brought swift and harsh responses from both the ADAC (German equivalent of the American Automobile Assn.) and the opposition CDU-CSU and FDP political parties.

All three groups promised to fight the proposed rule change in the German parliament and, if necessary, in court.

If the ruling remains intact, it expected to be a major boon to Deutsche Bahn (DB) as well as numerous local transit authorities across Germany.

Germany’s federal government is presently struggling to raise tax revenue and reduce spending as its federal budget deficit reaches record proportions and exceeds a European Union-imposed deficit limit of 4 percent GDP.

Elsewhere in Germany’s rail scene, DB reports that sales of its re-introduced 50 percent discount “Bahn Card,” referred to in the local press and public as the “old” Bahn Card, have been brisk and well above company projections since the product went on sale August 1. The Bahn Card 50 has earned the nickname of “old Bahn Card” because it has the same across-the-board 50 percent cost reduction on standard DB passenger rail tickets (excluding local and commuter rail tickets) as the previous Bahn Card, which was discontinued at the end of 2002.

DB reports that sales of the Bahn Card 50 are now well over 150,000 since the product went on sale a little over two weeks ago. The new Bahn Card 50 costs almost double for an annual subscription in comparison with the “old” Bahn Card.


Return to index
India to upgrade crews, engines

Indian Railways is to give its staff yoga lessons in a bid to cut down on accidents and improve efficiency, officials say.

Engineers, who currently sit on uncomfortable wooden seats in temperatures often as high as 132 degrees, are to get new air-conditioned cabs.

Authorities believed the uncomfortable conditions would keep engineers awake, but a string of accidents in recent months have prompted a rethink.

Vince Wadhwanni, an American traveling in India, told D:F “Indian Railways does not have a policy of making driver uncomfortable to keep them awake. There is a new initiative to get air conditioning in the cabs, but this was driven because of the removal of an obstacle.”

He said the obstacle was a green flag.

“Previously, train engineers had to wave a green flag out the window when passing the station. Indian Railways did not want air conditioners running while windows were open. Now, however, the trains display green lights on the locos – just like U.S. trains.”

Although now largely unused, in the U.S. a green flag or light meant an extra section was following.

Engineers will soon also have cushioned seats and walkie-talkies.

Ticket checkers, booking clerks, station masters and cabin staff will get yoga training before starting work each morning.

A spokesman said the aim of the yoga lessons is to "keep our staff physically fit and mentally alert."

The rail network, which shuttles 13 million passengers through 7,000 stations every day, has been rattled by a number of crashes in recent months.

Last month, the Golconda Express, packed with commuters, plunged off a bridge onto a busy street in Warangal town, Andhra Pradesh state, leaving 21 dead.

On June 22, 51 people were killed when a train carrying people on holiday hit boulders on the track south of Bombay. There were at least three other major derailments, the larges of which saw 130 people die when the prestigious Rajdhani Express dashed off a bridge and tumbled into a river in eastern India in September 2002.

India’s rail system, one of the world’s largest and backed by a 1.6 million-strong workforce, is saddled with infrastructure that dates back to the British colonial era before 1947.


Return to index
Lion dung on tracks keeps deer safe

Railway officials in Wakayama, a largely rural prefecture in western Japan, racked their brains for months for a way to keep wild deer from running onto train tracks and getting killed, Reuters reported on August 20.

Finally, inspiration struck: scare them off with lion dung.

Taking hints from research by forestry experts, who found that deer shunned the aroma of the king of beasts, officials at the local branch of West Japan Ry. Co. (JR West) got the material they needed from a local amusement park.

“I forget how much, but it was a whole lot. I think about 220 pounds,” said Takao Maeda of JR West in Shingu.

“They sort of mixed it with water and then spread it along the tracks.”

The strategy appears to have worked – for now.

Along a 1,300-foot stretch of tracks where a number of deer were struck last year (the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said 30 between January and October), none have been hit since the dung was spread last November.

In fact, officials are now looking to spread the success even further by using the same method elsewhere.

Maeda admitted that there is, however, a huge drawback.

“The odor is really, really foul,” he said. “So we can only use it on tracks in uninhabited areas.”

The plan is also apparently hard on the amusement park, which freezes the dung and stocks it until needed, but Maeda said the trouble is worth it. “We’re all really pleased to help keep the deer from being killed.”


Return to index
STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: Bloomberg.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)26.76027.370
Canadian National(CNI)52.40053.450
Canadian Pacific(CP)23.94023.960
CSX(CSX)31.10030.970
Florida East Coast(FLA)30.50030.750
Genessee & Wyoming(GWI)23.58021.750
Kansas City Southern(KSU)12.02012.850
Norfolk Southern(NSC)18.31018.730
Union Pacific(UNP)59.51060.600


Return to index
OFF THE MAIN LINE...  Off the main line...

C&T Scenic to remain joint venture

Calling himself a “coward,” one of New Mexico’s representatives on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad Commission has defused a controversy over his governor’s request to buy out Colorado’s interest in the narrow gauge railroad.

The motion from Carl Turner to indefinitely defer the takeover plan was approved unanimously by the four-member commission August 14 in Chama, N.Mex., according to an AP report.

During a July 30 town meeting in Chama, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson had asked commission officials to check into New Mexico’s buying out of the 64-mile tourist train that weaves in and out of Colorado and New Mexico.

Critics bristled at the idea that Colorado was no longer interested in the railroad.

“I’ve talked with the governor’s office and with the lieutenant governor,” said former Colorado state Sen. Hugh Fowler, who sponsored legislation to create the railroad commission in 1977.

“There’s no way the states are divided. That’s nuts, and it’s destructive to the future (of the railroad).”

The railroad’s assets are estimated at about $64 million.

Dick Cowles, a member of the Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, said the agreement between the two states has typically hinged on equal funding for the project, but in 2002-2003, Colorado gave $1.1 million to the railroad and New Mexico chipped in nearly $1.3 million.

For 2003-2004, Colorado’s legislature has given the railroad just $10,000 while New Mexico has contributed $830,000, Cowles said.


Return to index
OPINION...  Opinion...

States cry ‘foul’ on Amtrak plan

By Wes Vernon

State governments have examined the federal DOT plan to deal with – all together, class –

“M-o-n-e-y  l-o-s-i-n-g  l-o-n-g - d-i-s-t-a-n-c-e  p-a-s-s-e-n-g-e-r  t-r-a-i-n-s.”

That’s very good, class. You’ve mastered the profound trained seal act very well. Tomorrow, we will take up a study of barking dogs, roaring lions, breathing humans, and bed-wetting babies.

All trains lose money.

All highways lose money.

All airway systems lose money.

That is, if you include both infrastructure and operating costs. No – repeat NO – major transportation entity “makes money.” Thus to describe any passenger transportation mode – be it planes, trains or automobiles – as “money losing,” is more or less redundant.

The word “No” can also be interpreted as “zip,” “zilch,” “nada.” It is known to have a translatable meaning in every language spoken throughout the world.

For the news media in this country, there is the convenience of having the English version of that word simplified in one syllable with just two letters. You would think that an explanation reduced almost to kindergarten picture book terms would suffice as a road to understanding. Alas, you would be wrong.

Instead, the automatons of the mainstream media repeat the pap they’ve been fed about long distance trains somehow being uniquely “money losing.” Let us assume (as I do) that these scribes are basically honest people – but ignorant?

How else to describe anyone too lazy to question something that has been repeated over and over again in such a way as to warm the heart of a Goebbels-style propaganda minister whose stock in trade is bestowing credibility on an outright lie through the art of repetition?

Out there in the state capitols, there is a fully justified hue and cry over DOT’s restructuring plan for the nation’s passenger train network.

Part of the plan is to terminate federal funding for long distance routes. If the states want to keep them running, hey, just get six, seven, or eight state legislatures together and agree on who pays for what, how you write the schedule, and – oh, yes – have fun… and we’ll see you at the start of the 22nd Century, assuming you’ve reached agreement by then.

The DOT plan grandiosely cited the Northwest Cascades Service as Exhibit A in its scheme to fob much or all of the funding for the trains onto the backs of the states.

Oops!

The Oregon House of Representatives just pulled the switch and figuratively opened the trap door beneath the number crunchers at the federal DOT. The legislators in Salem voted to exclude a subsidy for the Cascade service between Portland and Eugene. The DOT green eyeshade bureaucrats had the Cascades figured for one of the most successful routes outside the Northeast Corridor. This was their Exhibit A as to how and why their plan would work wonders for the rest of America.

Given that the ridership on the Cascades had scored a huge 15 to 23 percent leap from the previous year, the Oregonians’ action reflects one of the basic real-world problems inherent in the whole DOT plan: The states are broke and cannot assume that kind of responsibility. If the feds had come up with a plan like this for the Interstate Highway System back in the 1950s, we would all be slogging through mud puddles.

The financial condition of the states, when confronted with this idea from Washington, can best be summarized in the remarks of Joseph Boardman, an official of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). He serves as chairman of that group’s Standing Committee on Rail.

In a statement reported by the Carmen Group’s Washington Newsletter on Transportation, Boardman (whose day job is Commissioner of the New York State DOT) declared that the states are broke and cannot afford to increase their expenditures for intercity passenger trains. A career transportation professional, Gov. George E. Pataki nominated Boardman in July 1997.

In my own state of Maryland, the state government has cut back on transportation projects because of its budget squeeze. Ditto for the states of Virginia, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, and Oregon.

One can argue, as I have, that the feds have taxed us up to our eyeballs so that there’s almost nothing left for the states to tax, but that comes under the heading of “Woulda-Shoulda-Coulda.” We have to deal with what is.

Amtrak CEO David Gunn has said that, yes, the trains depend on government subsidies, but the long-distance trains are not the problem. You’re looking at $300 million out of a budget of $1.8 billion. Yet, for whatever reason, we hear the drumbeat about “money losing long distance trains.”

Getting rid of the long distance trains and expecting the rest of the country to subsidize what are essentially commuter operations in short densely populated corridors may be a nice and convenient dream for some. However, it won’t happen.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) is not letting them get away with it. She and three other GOP colleagues are sponsoring a bill to build up Amtrak nationwide. “No national system, no Northeast Corridor,” they say.

The lady from Texas means it. She believes heartland Americans have been played for suckers long enough. She is tired of token service to her part of the country, only to have the media seals gripe about how what little service is available out there across the fruited plain is “losing money” while the rest of the system is flush with the green stuff – an outright lie.

All that having been said, it is well to dispense with any conspiracy theories of why it is that the heavily populated NEC and corridors in the Midwest and West Coast have more service than the states in between. It is not an evil plot, but rather an accident of history.

When the Class I railroads decided to dump their (Yes, “money-losing”) passenger trains onto Amtrak, the densely populated corridors were running the most frequent service. Much of the great wide-open spaces had to make do with a dwindling schedule, some of them just three times a week in each direction.

Moreover, in the early years of the Amtrak era, major eastern railroads went into bankruptcy and were only too happy to hand over their property to a federally created entity named Conrail. Since Conrail’s main mission was to restore solvent freight rail service to the east, Amtrak ended up with the NEC, since that was a heavily used passenger line by long tradition.

Most of the western states railroads, on the other hand, were doing quite well, and had no such desire to sell their property. In the Midwest, short to medium distance corridors were relatively easy to maintain and states such as California taxed themselves to the hilt to pay for such service.

All of this explains the “why” of the situation. It does not follow that a dearth of decent passenger train service in much of the country should continue to be the rule for the indefinite future.

Watch Senator Hutchison in the upcoming fall debate over Amtrak She’s mad – and she’s not going to take it any more.


Return to index
Automated horns at crossings:

An idea whose time has come

By Alan Kandel

Over time, there has been much controversy surrounding the sounding of “loud” train whistles in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, especially with the arrival of commuter train operations there recently.

This is a subject all too familiar with folks living along the 400-mile Florida East Coast (FEC) Ry., CSX, Norfolk Southern and many other rail lines with multiple crossings at grade.

Already a well-known fact, trains approaching grade crossings routinely sound their horns alerting motorists (and others stopped at crossings) to their presence.

One of the problems arising from the use of loud, blaring train horns in residential neighborhoods is that it interrupts the calm which otherwise pervades these areas.

Solutions to this problem – if it can be termed, “a problem” – run the gamut from employing less “conspicuous-sounding” train horns to outright crossing closures or overhead or underpass bridges.

While one cannot expect each railroad to outfit its locomotive fleets with less conspicuous-sounding horns, or cities to avail themselves to all-encompassing, across-the-board crossing closure or grade separation replacements, a more feasible approach might be what the city of Roseville, Calif. is engaged in at this very moment at its Tiger Way and Yosemite Street railroad crossings.

During August, according to an August 13 report in The Press Tribune of Roseville, Calif., is what the city – primarily in conjunction with the Union Pacific Railroad – is installing “is one of the first, stationary automated train horn warning systems to be installed in California,” the newspaper reported.

The systems, expected to cost $170,000, consist of crossing-affixed loudspeakers which provide audible horn-warning sounds as trains approach and pass through these crossings. The FRA is contributing $15,000 and the rest coming from the city’s general fund.

The automated horns at the crossings will obviate the need for locomotive engineers aboard trains to sound their horns at these locations except in emergency situations or should the automated system break.

The writer noted, “The goal is to provide more localized and better-directed train horn warnings to the vehicle drivers who are stopped at these intersections and to reduce the noise pollution experienced by residents who live near these railroad crossings. Because the loudspeakers are at fixed locations, they are better suited than a moving train to keep the warning noise at the crossings instead of drifting through the neighborhoods.”

We agree with that thinking.

This action (or reaction) came about in response and as a result of complaints lodged by residents living near these crossings. City staff for the last two years working cooperatively – not in competition – with residents, the UP, state and federal officials, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and the United Transportation Union, helped bring the project to Roseville, and became the first such installations in the Golden State.

In the U.S., there are a dozen or so automated horn systems. The Roseville system is expected to be in service by the end of August.

A special signal will also flash at the oncoming trains as they approach the railroad crossing to tell locomotive engineers that the automated system is working or if they need to activate their own horn.

Roseville’s automated system will be used for the next two years during a test-and-evaluation phase before any decisions are made to keep the horns-at-grade a permanent safety feature.

The project can be shelved at any time if the system is deemed unsafe.


Return to index
WE GET LETTERS...  We get letters...

Dear Editor:

The statement that rail ridership has “not noticeably reduced the number of cars on Interstate 5 or 80” (D:F, August 11) should be viewed with this in mind:

The number of automobiles registered in California increases by about 100,000 vehicles each year (DMV statistics), therefore, no noticeable reduction in the number of automobiles in use means an actual reduction. Californians are addicted to their automobiles, and I doubt that this situation will ever change. What has changed is the way in which more and more Californians are using their automobiles.

Jack Finn
Los Angeles


Dear Editor:

Re: Texas considers closing station (D:F, August 11). This is a microcosm of the challenges faced trying to put together multi-state partnerships. Didn’t the USDOT make the same suggestion for the national network trains? Cooperation at the local, regional and state level is tenuous at best. Can you imagine what it would like between states?

Tim Geeslin
Arlington, Texas


Dear Editor:

In future editions of the monthly on-time statistics (D:F, August 18), I hope you will distinguish between the Albany and Niagara Falls Empire trains; and likewise, between the Acela Express trains that go to Boston and the Acelas that just run New York to Washington.

Do biathletes make the same time on land and in water?

No, of course not, so how could a train score the same on-time performance going to Niagara Falls as to Albany? I am sure Amtrak terminates some trains in Albany and New York solely to jack up its averages. Prove me wrong!

Phil Wolf
Undisclosed location

We cannot differentiate between Albany and Niagara Falls Empire trains, nor Acela Express trains that operate solely New York to Boston nor those between New York and Washington. We get the numbers from Amtrak, but they don’t subdivide, at least not publicly. – Ed.


Return to index
THE WAY WE WERE...  The way we were...


NCI: Leo King

In May 1994, 93-year-old South Station in Boston was getting a facelift (opened in 1899 by the Providence & Boston, Old Colony and Boston and Albany Rail Roads). The façade facing the tracks was covered with scaffolding ten years ago, and the interior was being renovated with the notion that airy space could be leased to the likes of B. Dalton, Bookseller, Rosie’s Bakery, Au Bon Pain, and the like. Even a McDonald’s went into an upper tier. The trains, like No. 803 departing for Providence, slipped in and out under the control of the operators at Tower 1, to the left of the camera and out of view. The original tower – the real thing built with bricks – had been shut down a year or two earlier, and now the tower was a temporary trailer up on stilts. That, too, would fade away when the first Chrysler Engineered Train Control system would be installed. In short, dispatchers took over with their DOS-based computers. Later, because the Chrysler product was so bad, Amtrak replaced the software with code written in it Philadelphia offices and changed its name to Centralized Electrification and Train Control.

End Notes...

We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, we'd like to hear from you. Please e-mail the crew at leoking@nationalcorridors.org. 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 webmaster in Boston.


|| Home Page || Destination: Freedom Past Editions || Contact Us || Article Index || Top of Page

This edition has been read by || || people since date of release.


Copyright © 2003, National Corridors Initiative, Inc. & Leo King.