Destination:Freedom Newsletter
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 3 No. 35, August 26, 2002
Copyright © 2002, NCI, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - James Furlong
Editor - Leo King

A weekly North American rail and transit update


Next Monday is Labor Day. Destination: Freedom’s next issue will be on Tuesday, September 3.


AEM-7 number 924

NCI: Leo King

No. 174 is led by engine 924, soldiering on when called upon while the Acela Expresses are getting fixed. This was the view in Southampton Street Yard, Boston, in February 2002, in the dead of winter.
Starlight’ derails; lifted speed restriction
contributed to ‘Capitol’ accident
Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, train No. 14, enroute from Los Angeles to Seattle, derailed on Wednesday near Hayward, Calif. after hitting an unknown object in the gauge, slightly injuring seven people, a company spokesperson said. The site is about 25 miles east of San Francisco

There were 287 passengers and 21 crewmembers aboard the train, which runs daily from Los Angeles to Seattle, when the accident occurred about 10:10 p.m., the AP reported.

The locomotive hit an unidentified object on the Union Pacific tracks. Six cars derailed but all remained upright, according to the Amtrak spokesperson. The train was traveling about 60 mph at a junction that allows for speeds up to 70 mph, she added.

Four passengers were treated for minor injuries at the scene and released, and three others were taken to area hospitals for minor injuries. The other passengers were bused Thursday to destinations beyond the accident site.

Meanwhile, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reports a 25 mph speed restriction on a CSX track was erroneously lifted where Amtrak’s Capitol Limited derailed on July 29 near Kensington, Md.

In a press release on Thursday, the NTSB stated the east-west No. 2 track, which was straight iron, “through the accident area was main line double-track consisting of 122 pounds per yard continuous welded rail (CWR) on wooden ties spaced nominally 20 inches apart with every other tie box anchored.”

The Capitol Limited was on track 2 at the time of the accident.

“Interviews with maintenance-of-way workers,” the rail safety agency continued, “revealed that work was done in the area of the derailment on July 22. Spot surfacing and tamping had been performed, which disturbed the track by breaking the bond between the ties and ballast. About half way through the work, the tamping machine broke and the work was temporarily finished using a pneumatic hand tamper.”

The board reported “A 25-mile-per-hour slow order was then placed on the track until the work that was to have been was completed with the mechanized tamper when it was repaired. The track work remained incomplete at the time of the accident due to delays from weather and other work. Several days after the start of the track maintenance, a track supervisor, who thought the repair work had been completed, lifted the slow order, and the maximum allowable speed of 60 miles per hour was in effect for the accident train.”

The NTSB said it has not yet made any conclusions about what caused the accident.

“It’s much to early to determine if this is a factor,” said NTSB spokeswoman Lauren Peduzzi. “We're also looking at others – traffic, temperatures and a whole range of factors,” but weather and delays kept the work from being completed.

CSX spokesman Gary Sease said lifting the slow order “was a procedural error. The slow order should not have been lifted,” the AP reported

The train was en route from Chicago to Washington, D.C. when it derailed. It was traveling at 60 miles per hour through the derailment site, which left 11 of 13 passenger cars on the ground. 101 people were injured and required hospitalization.

The NTSB said, “Investigators are continuing their examination of CSX track maintenance procedures.”

Both locomotive event recorders were downloaded at the scene and were taken to the NTSB recorder laboratory in Washington for readout.

“The recorded events were identical,” said the press release.

“Just prior to the derailment and subsequent stop of the locomotives, the engineer made a 15-pound reduction of the brake pipe (“suppression” brake application) for 13 seconds. He then made a full-service brake application for one second before the train had a train-line induced emergency brake application. Within the next second, the engineer placed his train brakes in emergency. The train went from 60 miles per hour to stop in about 400 feet.”

The NTSB said it found no mechanical problems with the Amtrak equipment.

The train consisted of two locomotives pulling 13 passenger cars. The engines and the last two passenger cars stayed on the track. The train was rerailed and taken to the Amtrak maintenance facility in Washington, D.C. (Ivy City Yard) for inspection by the NTSB mechanical and crashworthiness groups on July 31. “No pre-accident equipment conditions were found that may have attributed to the derailment.”

NTSB investigators interviewed not only Amtrak train crewmembers but also numerous CSX employees.

They spoke with Amtrak’s locomotive engineer, conductor and assistant conductor as well as CSX track workers, including the tamper operator, track foreman, track inspector, and roadmaster.

The investigators also “collected personnel records of the Amtrak crewmembers and has submitted a formal request for crewmember medical records.”

They added, “Follow-up activities will include additional interviews, obtaining results of post-accident toxicological testing of Amtrak crewmembers (when available), and, if necessary, collection of additional personnel records.”

The board found no problems with CSX’s signal system.

Trains are controlled by a wayside signal system by CSX dispatchers in Jacksonville, Fla.

“The signal group acquired recorded data logs from defect detectors and the wayside signal and dispatcher control systems. All signal units and bungalows were found locked and secured with no signs of tampering or vandalism. The signal group has not identified any conditions that would prevent the signal system from operating as designed.”

On-scene activities were concluded the evening of August 1, 2002.

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More Acela cracks found
More Acela Express problems appeared last week as yet more cracks were found, but this time on the locomotive frames. Amtrak removed four express trainsets last Tuesday after inspectors found the cracks.

Amtrak President David Gunn said the cracks are tiny, virtually invisible to the naked eye. Inspectors paint the metal assemblies with a chemical that makes any flaws more obvious.

“We don’t think they’re new,” Gunn said of the hairline cracks.

“We think these cracks have been there, and it’s when we really started looking and knew where to look that we found them.”

On August 20, Gunn sent an e-mail via the company’s Employee Advisory explaining what happened.

He stated, “We planned to run 30 departures with eight trainsets, but “This morning, we took four of these out of service, because our inspections, using a dye penetrant, showed that the side sills to which the bracket is attached had some minute, hairline cracks. Like those on the bracket, these cracks appear stress-related, but these are mostly invisible to the naked eye; thus the dye-penetrant inspections. The repairs are done by welding and grinding.”

He said the “inspections and repairs are continuing.”

Amtrak spokesperson Cecilia Cummings in Philadelphia said “This is really preventative maintenance, but we have no choice but to do it now. If we continued to run these trains, the cracks could get bigger, and then it would be a safety problem.”

Amtrak first found cracks in the locomotive assemblies on August 9 and canceled all the high-speed trips the next day. It put two of the 18 trains back in service August 14 but then pulled all of them again after additional cracks were found Thursday.

The cracks in the shock-absorbing yaw damper assembly are a serious concern because if the equipment breaks loose, it could damage or derail a moving train.

Amtrak had planned to use eight repaired Acela Express trains starting August 20 to maintain partial high-speed service as repairs were to continue on the rest of the fleet. The cracks in the four trains were discovered overnight, leaving only four fully repaired Acela Express trains to serve morning commuters.

Amtrak again pressed additional conventional trains into service to fill gaps in its schedule.

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Anti-road activists may
hold up Georgia rail funds
Special to Destination: Freedom

A sale of bonds that could give Georgia’s rail passenger program a significant push forward is endangered by a lawsuit brought by anti-road activists.

Former Georgia Attorney General and one-time Republican candidate for governor, Michael Bowers, filed the lawsuit on August 19 in Fulton County Superior Court to stop the sale of $822 million in bonds on behalf of opponents of the planned “Northern Arc” highway.

The Arc, as it’s called locally, is a 59-mile toll road planned to link three major highway arteries in a semi-circle some 20 miles out from the core of Atlanta. Some people considered the original estimate of $2.2 billion to be a low-ball guess – but the Arc is not included in projects funded by the bond sale.

In fact, opponents of the Arc say that they support many of the projects that will be paid for by the sale of the bonds, but it is the mechanism for paying back the interest and principal on the paper that concerns the activists.

The bonds are known as Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles,” or “Garvee” bonds. The money to pay them back would come from future federal transportation funds appropriated to the state. As anyone who follows the federal transportation funding process knows, there is no guarantee that the funds will be available when the state wants them. Virginia and New Mexico are reported to have had some problems with similar issues.

In planning for such a contingency, $5.2 million of the bonds would be used to pay for insurance on the payments.

To some people, that spells danger.

This plan “is a dangerous precedent from which there is no return,” said Gerry Conway, a Northern Arc Task Force director.

The lawsuit contends that the state’s plan violates a 1972 amendment to the Georgia Constitution. The plaintiffs say that the amendment prohibits any state department from entering into a contract designed to secure debt for a state authority, and that for the state to incur this kind of debt the legislature must vote on it.

Gov. Roy Barnes thinks otherwise. Spokeswoman Joselyn Baker said the initiative has been crafted over two years by some of the state’s best bond attorneys.

“We’re confident that there is nothing illegal or inappropriate about the plan,” she said.

Of the $822 million, Georgia’s rail program is slated to get $151 million. It’s not known if this money will go into engineering and construction, or if it will be used to purchase the line from Norfolk Southern that the Macon-Atlanta service will use. Regardless, delays in issuing the bonds will delay the program, says Georgia Rail Passenger Authority Rail Manager Doug Alexander.

“These funds are crucial to getting the line from Macon to Atlanta into service,” said Alexander, who is also a director of the National Corridors Initiative.

“We are hoping for a speedy and positive solution to this suit,” he added.

Presently, there is $32 million in federal funds available for the Macon line work, though the state still needs to come up with $6.4 million to match. The local match for $20.1 million in federal funds for the Multimodal Passenger Terminal (MMPT) in downtown Atlanta has been appropriated, and so that project is moving forward. Planning work on the Macon line, particularly for grade crossings and station siting, is moving ahead, as is an environmental analysis of the line from Athens to Atlanta along CSX’s Abbeville subdivision.

Meanwhile, Georgia DOT officials have decided to try to buy rail lines between Atlanta and Macon for the proposed commuter-train link, rather than lease them.

The decision means that the state will likely pay more up front for the right to use the rail lines for passenger service, but in the long run, it’s a better financial decision, said Paul Mullins, director of planning and programming for the state DOT, according to published reports.

“It gives us more control over our destiny, in terms of expansion of the system at a later date,” Mullins said, “and if we buy the lines and Norfolk Southern runs freight trains over the line, they would pay us a fee for using it.”

Mullins declined to say how much the state is willing to pay. Earlier this year, some lawmakers and political observers said Norfolk Southern wanted $360 million to sell the rail line, while the governor was willing to pay about half that amount.

Before this week’s decision by the state, transportation officials had not said whether they preferred purchasing or leasing Norfolk Southern’s lines. An agreement to use the lines is required before the state can proceed with work to offer passenger rail service.

If the state fails to reach an agreement to buy the lines outright, officials should still be able to find a way to lease them, Mullins said.

Sonny Deriso, chairman of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and lead negotiator for the state, said talks continue with Norfolk Southern, but he would not discuss the specifics.

”We do continue to meet and we do continue to negotiate, and we’ve made a lot of progress,” said Deriso, who is a vice chairman of Synovus Financial Corp. “I feel good about the progress to date.”

Susan Turpay, a spokeswoman for Norfolk Southern, declined to comment.

The state’s passenger-service plans focus on Norfolk Southern’s “S” line, which runs through the towns of Barnesville, Griffin and Morrow. Norfolk Southern rarely uses the line to haul freight; instead the company carries freight on the “H” line, which goes through Locust Grove, Forest Park, Stockbridge, McDonough, Flovilla and Juliette.

Funds for purchasing the “S” line would come from the $151 million in bonds, or from federal funds. Estimates for when rail service to Macon will begin range from 2005 to 2012. Macon city officials last week learned they will receive $600,000 in federal funds to complete the purchase of Terminal Station, which is slated to be used as Macon’s hub for a statewide passenger-rail network and as a base for other modes of transportation, such as taxis and buses.

Also Thursday, the DOT approved its proposed budget for fiscal year 2004. In the budget, the DOT is asking for an additional $314 million in state funds to help pay for local governments’ road-repair and improvement projects, and to acquire abandoned rail lines. The DOT’s total budget of $1.74 billion is funded primarily by federal money and the state’s motor fuel tax.

DOT Commissioner Tom Coleman acknowledged that the request for higher spending isn’t guaranteed approval by Barnes or the General Assembly.

”When you look at the current state of the economy, it will be very difficult for a piece of legislation that’s asking for money to pass,” Coleman said.

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Georgians rally for fast trains
Members of Congress, business executives and transportation workers from six states rallied in Atlanta on August 21to push the idea of a high-speed train from Washington to Atlanta and beyond – but don’t expect to hear the cry of “all aboard” anytime soon.

Rep. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) said he hopes to get federal money by 2004 to study a proposed high-speed rail line through the Southeast. That would be only the first of many steps the $5.3 billion project would have to take, writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Isakson said it could take a decade before the high-speed trains run.

“In terms of this route, there is no reason we shouldn’t plan for the future,” he said.

High-speed rail is a key to continued economic vitality for the region, he observed, and business leaders seem to agree. A coalition of 14 chambers of commerce from major cities along the route, from Richmond to Birmingham, sponsored the rally.

Milton Jones, president of Bank of America, Georgia, and a member of the coalition, said trains averaging 90 mph or more could be competitive with airlines for trips of up to 300 miles.

The coalition would like federal and state governments to pay for the track, and public-private coalitions to run the operations.

Dylan Glenn, from the office of the president’s assistant for economic policy, said that idea was in line with President Bush’s policies, but warned there are no self-supporting transit systems in the country.

The government has had to bail out Amtrak yearly. Most recently it gave Amtrak $270 million to keep trains running through the summer.

Amtrak’s high-speed Acela Express trains connecting Washington, New York and Boston has been one of the line’s most heavily used routes.

Amtrak’s problems were on the minds of those at the conference. U.S. Rep. Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House railroads subcommittee, attended the Atlanta meeting and encouraged the coalition to lobby Congress for approval.

He said, “I think for that Northeast Corridor, that could not have happened at a worse time, but I don’t think there is a direct negative effect for elsewhere in the country.”

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Florida fast trains gain momentum
The formal process for soliciting proposals to design, build and operate a high-speed rail line between Orlando and Tampa will begin in October.

Adrian Share of HNTB Corp., the Florida High Speed Rail Authority’s (FHSRA) management consultant for the fast trains gambit, told the authority’s board members the news on August 13.

“We’ve met with four of the 11 vendors who have expressed an interest in the project,” Share said.

The Florida Constitution mandates high-speed rail.

“The comments we received from vendors have been extremely helpful in developing the ‘Request for Proposals,’ which will be issued in October.”

Vendors will then have until early 2003 to prepare proposals to design, build, operate, maintain, and finance a high-speed rail line between Orlando and Tampa.

The 90-mile route between Orlando and Tampa will be the first segment of a statewide high-speed rail system the authority has planned. A “preferred vendor” is slated to be selected during fall 2003.

The schedule reflects recent discussions with the Federal Railroad Administration, Share explained to authority members gathered at their monthly meeting in Orlando.

The schedule is directly related to completion of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which is required to be completed before federal money can be used to finance a transportation project. The EIS documents outline all of the routes identified as possible for the rail line to travel, the social, cultural and natural environment impacts to each route and the methods to mitigate the impacts. The EIS will eventually identify a preferred route that is eligible to receive federal funding.

“The FRA has indicated that the technology for operating the rail system must be identified before the EIS document is completed, since the technology will influence the impacts of the rail lines proposed,” Share said.

The authority members also learned that data still is being gathered regarding potential ridership on high-speed rail. Highway surveys are complete and airport surveys are slated to begin this week. Meanwhile, a public outreach program to help inform and educate Floridians about high-speed rail has begun.

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Downeaster is on time, in the green
Amtrak’s five-car train, the Downeaster, set new records for ridership and revenues in July, bringing the service just $280,000 shy of its revenue projections for the first year of operation.

This month, the Downeaster will surpass its projection of $3.3 million in ticket sales with nearly four months to spare, said Nate Moulton, deputy director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.

Ridership numbers are tracking closer to projections, with 60 percent of the projected 320,000 passengers by July 31, according to the AP.

“Ridership looks to be on pace to meet or exceed projections, as well. Obviously, we’re very pleased. There are people who said we’d never come close to that,” Moulton said August 20.

Revenues have far outpaced expectations because the average ticket price has exceeded expectations. In July, the average ticket was $15.70, compared to the projection of $10 before the service began. That was because the majority of people riding the Downeaster travel the full length between Portland and Boston. Also, first-class seating for an extra $8 has been popular with riders.

The Downeaster has continued to ply between Portland and Boston largely oblivious to problems afflicting Amtrak, which is suffering from money problems and equipment shortages elsewhere.

In July, 29,683 passengers rode the Downeaster with ticket sales of $465,914. Both figures beat the previous best month of April, which was bolstered by school vacations in Maine and New Hampshire.

The July numbers were given a boost by the addition of stops in Old Orchard Beach and in Woburn, Mass.

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority has made adjustments by adding another car to each four-car train to boost seating capacity from 216 to 276, and negotiating new arrival and departure times at Boston’s North Station. This fall, the rail authority hopes to begin running later departures on weekends from Portland and Boston, allowing people to stay longer in those cities before returning home, Moulton said.

The Downeaster went into operation on Dec. 15 with four daily trips in each direction between Portland and Boston.

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No new station for Manchester
A zoning amendment that would have allowed a Manchester, N.H. entrepreneur, Ben Hauben, to seek a permit for a 25,000-square-foot train station was defeated by an overwhelming margin August 20.

The 423-173 vote was hailed by project opponents as an opportunity to explore other options for an Amtrak station and condemned by project supporters as the fruit of a misinformation campaign.

Hauben had plans for a two-story railway station at the former “Grabbers” site on Route 11-30. Most of the building would have been given over to retail, restaurant and office space.

The building was to have a footprint of about 12,500 square feet, but the town’s zoning bylaws limit building footprints to a maximum of 3,000 square feet in the Commercial-1 zone. The proposed amendment would have granted a development bonus for a railway station, reports the Manchester Herald.

While the change would have affected the entire zone, few sites other than Hauben’s have been identified as suitable for a station. Opponents argued that the change was tailor-made to benefit Hauben, likening it to spot zoning.

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Amtrak loses its odd logo
“Until their psychedelic colors fade and peel, there will still be plenty of Acela-scheme Amfleet cars plying the Northeast Corridor, resembling sideways lava lamps with their weird colored blobs floating around the cars’ windows, but now it seems that what you see now is all you are likely to ever get.”

Travel agent Gene Poon of San Francisco is not one to sit still and be quiet. He is a frequent poster on Yahoo-dot-com’s “All_Aboard” e-mail list for people who like to watch trains.

“Amtrak has released the first Amfleet coach with the new, Gunn-era revival of the “Phase IV” scheme, which first made its appearance in 1995,” writes Poon. He is a reliable source who honestly knows what he is writing about.

“This is the scheme with the blue window band, and red pin-striping within a white band at the top. The new version has a slightly different shade of blue, and has a reflective red safety stripe at the bottom edge of the carbody.” He added, “The Amtrak ‘Three sheets to the wind” logo is featured; small car numbers appear in the blue window band.”

So what happened to the “bra” logo?

“Nowhere is there any evidence of the name Acela or the Acela bra cup logo. Lovers of lingerie and lava lamps may mourn, but most others regard the Phase IV scheme as the classiest to adorn Amtrak rolling stock since the company began in 1971.”

A conductor in Boston, Dave Bowe, wrote he “noticed this paint scheme over the weekend while switching out cars in Southampton Yard. I figured they were some of the Clocker cars pressed into Regional service. They had the word “Coachclass” next to the vestibule doors using the same font as the Regional and express service. The navy color around the windows seemed a darker navy, and the new logo was present as well.”

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Commuter lines...
Colorado Rail Car Design

Colorado Railcar

No sales yet, but Colorado Railcar is looking
Colorado carbuilder displays newest product;
Pueblo is next
Colorado Railcar, a luxury car builder, unveiled on August 15 its solution to the nation’s traffic woes – a $2.9 million self-propelled commuter rail car that rides on standard gauge tracks.

The Fort Lupton, Colo. company showed a prototype of the dome-nosed, diesel-powered rail car at Union Station in Denver before heading to Pueblo for a three-week stopover at the AAR-FRA Transportation Technology Center test site.

The 92-seat “DMU,” for “diesel multiple unit,” is the first self-propelled passenger rail car to meet the FRA’s new rules for structural safety, a crucial step in the company’s plans to break into the $500 million-a-year commuter rail car business, The Rocky Mountain News reported last week.

Among the potential customers is Denver’s Regional Transportation District, which has proposed high-speed lines to Denver International Airport, and Boulder from Denver’s Union Station.

Liz Rao, planning director at the Regional Transportation District (RTD), said the 165,000-pound prototype is drawing keen interest among transit officials nationwide because it uses existing mixed freight tracks, unlike light-rail systems.

“The implications are pretty significant,” Rao said. “You can mitigate the cost of building commuter rail type lines just by sharing the same track with the freight railroads.”

European rail car manufacturers have built their own DMU commuter cars, which don’t need a locomotive but are powerful enough to pull one or more additional passenger cabs, but they have yet to produce a product that meets U.S. government standards.

Colorado Railcar Vice President Tom Janaky said the Colorado-built DMU is designed with enough horsepower to pull at least two trailing cars. The company envisions selling single- and double-story trailer cars, similar to its popular glass-dome-topped luxury rail cars used by railroads in Canada and Alaska, to DMU customers starting at $1.9 million each.

Janaky said privately held Colorado Railcar, formerly known as Rader Railcar, has invested $3 million in development research on the DMU power cars.

RTD is considering the DMUs for two of its proposed transit corridors – Denver to Boulder and the line from Union Station to DIA Airport. The certification could spare RTD the multimillion-dollar expense of having to build parallel passenger-only tracks in those corridors.

The Denver-Boulder commuter rail corridor follows the Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks between the cities, while the DIA line would follow the Union Pacific right-of-way to Peña Boulevard.

Light rail, the electric-powered train system RTD already uses between downtown and Littleton, isn’t practical over the long distances on the Boulder and DIA routes.

Rao said the need for quick acceleration, stopping and higher operating speeds favors the use of so-called “heavy rail” over the electric light-rail system.

“This works better for the longer corridors with fewer stops,” Rao said.

The diesel units can operate up to 90 mph and there are fewer stops planned on the airport and Boulder lines.

“We need to be competitive with auto traffic in I-70 to the airport,” Rao said.

RTD hasn’t made a decision whether to choose the self-propelled diesel multiple units over the more traditional inter-city commuter train arrangement of diesel locomotive-passenger cars, but the development by Colorado Railcar of a safety-certified DMU makes the playing field a lot more level.

It’s like a bus on the railroad tracks, or as some insiders call it, “cordless light rail.” The engineer sits in a control cab up front.

Some dimensions and performance figures demonstrate what the train can do.


Single Level
Length (over couplers) 85' 85'
Length (over body ends) 83' 6 1/2" 83' 6 1/2"
Width (over side sheets) 10' 10'
Height (rail to roof) 12' 10" 18'
Height (rail to lower floor) 50" 18"
Headroom (center aisle) 7' 6" 6' 8"
Doorway width 34" 9'
Doorway height 7' 7'
Step height (above top of rail) 18" 18"
Truck centers 60' 60'
Truck wheelbase 8' 6" 8' 6"
Track gage 4' 8 1/2" 4' 8 1/2"
Wheel diameter 33" 33"
Aisle width (lower deck) 24" - 32" 24" - 32"
Aisle width (upper deck) N/A 24" - 32"

Weight and Capacity...

Single Level
Empty weight (trailer car) 142,000 lbs 157,000 lbs

Empty weight (cab car)

148,000 lbs 163,000 lbs
Seating (trailer car) 102 190
Seating (cab car) 98 185


Single Level
Maximum design speed 100 mph 100 mph

Maximum operating speed

90 mph 90 mph
Service braking 1.5 mphps 1.5 mphps
Emergency braking 1.8 mphps 1.8 mphps
Min horizontal curve radius 250 ft. 250 ft.
Min vertical curve radius 2,000 ft. 2,000 ft.
MAcceleration to 55 mph 38 seconds 49 seconds
EMU Acceleration 49 seconds N/A

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Seattle light rail design gets green light
The Feds have okayed Seattle Central Link Light Rail project’s advancement into the final design stage of development.

USDOT Secretary Norman Y., Mineta approved the plan last week. He also signed off on Sound Transit’s grant application for $49.5 million in transit “new start” funds for work in the final design phase. The cash will be made available to Sound Transit for eligible and approved final design activities. Congress appropriated the money in the fiscal year 2001 Transportation Appropriations Act.

Mineta said the Congressional delegation for the Seattle region “worked long and hard with all parties to bring the Central Link Light Rail to this approval, furthering our mutual goals to address the serious mobility and congestion challenges facing the region.”

Final design is the last stage of development of a public transportation project. It includes activities such as the preparing final construction plans, getting detailed specifications and cost estimates, bid documents and real estate acquisition.

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‘Gold Line’ cars arrive near Pasadena
The railway connecting Pasadena to downtown Los Angeles received its first shipment of light-rail cars last week.

Its builder said both “Gold Line” cars, each about 100 feet long and costing about $2.3 million, arrived recently at a stretch of track near South Pasadena. They initially will be used to test track on the railway, expected to open next July, according to the Los Angeles Times of August 20.

“It’s a huge milestone for this project,” said Rick Thorpe, chief executive of the consortium building the Gold Line.

Thorpe said the South Pasadena segment will be finished and tested first, probably by November. The $725-million railway is expected to have 26 cars covering the 14-mile route in 30-minute trips.

Construction is proceeding rapidly. Concrete columns now rise nearly 25 feet over parts of Chinatown. Overhead power lines extend along the Pasadena Freeway, and stations from Mount Washington to Highland Park are almost finished.

Construction was delayed early this year when local activists asked the state to review their safety and environmental concerns. In May, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the state agency in charge of rail safety, rejected most of the activists’ complaints in a vote that allowed construction to continue.

Many of the activists are appealing that ruling. The PUC is expected to consider the appeals in a closed meeting set for Thursday in San Francisco.

The Gold Line will be run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and will connect to the MTA’s hub at Union Station, allowing riders to transfer to the subway, Metrolink or countywide buses and Amtrak.

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Labor lines...  Labor Lines

UTU warns: RRB funding is in jeopardy

The United Transportation Union warned last week that the agency that administers the law and makes benefit payments is in danger because Congress is threatening to slash funding for the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB).

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $97.7-million budget for the RRB, which says it needs at least $101 million for the upcoming fiscal year that begins October 1. The RRB already slashed its budget request from $105 million, but said anything less than $101 million for the next fiscal year could hamper its effectiveness.

More specifically, a union spokesman said, “The RRB could be forced to lay off employees and reduce the level of customer service that provides information to retirees and those soon to retire.”

He said e-mails and telephone calls to members of Congress by railroaders and retirees ensured passage of Railroad Retirement reform last year.

The RRB’s labor member could be forced to scale back assistance at union meetings, regional meetings, information conferences and union-officer training sessions. Some field offices could also be eliminated.

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Freight lines...

CN cools to an abandonment idea

By Leo King

“Ontario’s provincial government is hell-bent on the construction of the Mid-Peninsular Highway, which would run between and parallel to the Queen Elizabeth Way and the Canadian Southern Ry. line, said rail activist Raymond Dartsch of Transport 2000 Canada last week.

He said, “The suspicion is” that the Mid-Peninsular Highway (MPH) “will be another toll road to be sold off cheaply to some international consortium, which was the case with Ontario’s 407 highway. The public sentiment is that friends of Ontario’s premier sold the 407 to his friends who are now charging among the highest toll rates in North America (11.7 cents Canadian per km, or 13 cents per U.S. mile). It’s the highway everyone loves to hate, and everyone is hating the MPH in advance for the same reasons. Public response to the highway proposal so far is overwhelmingly negative.”

He said his hometown of Hamilton “is governed by a Chamber-of-Commerce clique that is presided over by Ron Foxcroft, owner of Fluke Transport (and inventor of the pealess Fox 40 whistle, by the way.) Our former regional chairman is now chief operating officer at Fluke. The provincial government basically does everything that these characters want, regarding roads or otherwise. There was a major political amalgamation of adjoining small towns due to a letter from Foxcroft, for example.”

Several months ago D:F reported CN planned to rip out the tracks and sell the lands along the Canadian Southern (former New York Central Railroad) line between Windsor-Detroit and Fort Erie-Buffalo.

The Hamilton Spectator of August 12 reported that The Canada Southern Ry, a historic rail line that runs through the counties of Haldimand and Norfolk, has been given a temporary reprieve from the wrecker’s ball.

Canadian National Railway hoped to have completed tearing up the line between Attercliffe, near Dunnville, and St. Thomas by this month, but it had to shelve its plan after intervention by federal Transport Minister David Collenette.

Municipal and CN officials along the line say Collenette has asked the railway to hold off tearing up the shortest rail route across southern Ontario until seven municipalities have investigated a scheme to buy it. CN, which co-owns the Canada Southern with Canadian Pacific Ry., stated in March it was going to rip up the line in late spring.

The municipalities have until the end of September to come up with a business plan to save the Attercliffe-St. Thomas portion of the line, which hasn’t seen a train since April 1, 1996.

The line, once part of the fabled New York Central Railroad empire of U.S. tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, was built in 1872 and carried the well-to-do between New York City and Chicago, as well as immigrants to the American west. CN and CP bought the line, which runs through Cayuga, Hagersville and Waterford, in 1985, from Penn Central.

Elgin County Warden John Wilson, who is spearheading the effort to save the line, is happy about the reprieve, but isn’t convinced the seven can save it. He said the federal government and some private investors have expressed interest in saving the line. But he’s “disgusted” by the response from the provincial government.

“We constantly have highway congestion,” Wilson said.

“When you have a direct rail route across the province, you can get those trucks off the road. I just don’t understand why they are not interested.”

CN and CP are asking $9 million for the 139-kilometer portion between Attercliffe and St. Thomas. CN and CP continue to operate portions of the Canada Southern between Niagara Falls and Attercliffe, Welland and Fort Erie and St. Thomas and Windsor.

The municipalities are receiving help from The Rail Ways to the Future, which is part of Transport 2000, a national transit lobby group. Ross Snetsinger, a retired teacher who heads the rail committee, has met with provincial officials to talk about preserving the line and written to Premier Ernie Eves. The Toronto resident also sees it as a way to prevent highway congestion.

“It should be dusted off before we get into these big highways. You just can’t build roads ad nauseam,” he said.

Haldimand Mayor Lorraine Bergstrand said being asked for about $800,000 scared her council off.

“I wish them well, but we’re dealing with issues like homes for the aged and bridges falling down,” she said.

Wilson is dismayed Haldimand and Norfolk didn’t get on board. The former Haldimand-Norfolk region joined efforts to preserve the line in 1996, saying the region’s agricultural and manufacturing interests would benefit from its retention and it provided an important connection to the U.S.

CN spokesman Ian Thomson said CN is working with the municipalities, but doesn’t see much use for the Attercliffe-St. Thomas section. “We’ve got all the capacity we need,” he added. TEXT

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NS to operate over Labor Day
Norfolk Southern said on Friday it will continue to operate over Labor Day, next Monday “in order to protect service commitments, local customer requirements, and specific customer production needs” during the holiday. The carrier said, “Delays may occur due to lighter traffic volumes, which may necessitate train consolidations or reduction of local and yard operations.”

It advised customers with questions regarding service to contact Customer Service-Central Yard Operations at (800) 898-4296.

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Freight just keeps a-rollin’
All three measures of freight traffic on U.S. railroads – intermodal, carloads and ton-miles – reached their highest level so far this year during the week ended August 17, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) said Thursday.

Intermodal volume totaled 194,547 trailers and containers, up 8.2 percent from the comparable week last year. Carload freight, which doesn’t include the intermodal data, totaled 350,780 cars, up 3.8 percent from last year, with loadings up 4.1 percent in the East and 3.5 percent in the West. Total volume for the week was estimated at 30.2 billion ton-miles, up 4.5 percent from the comparable week last year.

Fourteen of 19 commodity groups registered increases from last year, with loadings of nonmetallic minerals up 16.6 percent, metallic ores rising 12.5 percent, metals and products gaining 12.1 percent and coal increasing by 5.0 percent from the comparable week last year. Loadings of primary forest products were off 13.7 percent, while coke volume declined by 13.0 percent.

The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first 33 weeks of 2002: 10,774,143 carloads, down 1.3 percent from last year; intermodal volume of 5,853,302 trailers and containers, up 5.0 percent; and total volume of an estimated 923.4 billion ton-miles, down 0.4 percent from last year’s first 33 weeks.

Railroads reporting to AAR account for 90 percent of U.S. carload freight and 97 percent of rail intermodal volume. When the U.S. operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 96 percent and 99 percent.

The AAR is online at

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Business lines...

Bombardier earnings fall short

Bombardier Inc. said on Friday it will not make its target 10 percent earnings per share growth. The Montreal-based transportation builder said net earnings are expected to reach $0.70 per share instead of $0.89. Also, the free cash flow target for the fiscal year has been adjusted from $1.5 billion to $1.3 billion.

The giant rail and airplane builder said its financial results would be released during a conference call intended for financial analysts and institutional investors tomorrow.

The corporation stated, “These adjustments are required mainly as a result of the severe downturn in the business aircraft market which is affected by the persistent weakness of the U. S. economy.”

It added, “The revised targets also take into account a one-time charge related to used business aircraft and a similar one related to used commercial aircraft, pursuant to the decision of U.S. Airways to file for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.”

Robert E. Brown, President and CEO: Louis Morin, Senior Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer; and Michel Lord, Vice President, Investor Relations, will conduct the conference call.

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Dialogue  Dialogue

Amtrak woes could doom rail’s future

by Thomas Keane Jr.
Boston Herald

Friday, August 16, 2002 – The much-touted renaissance of rail seems to be headed for the dark ages – and Amtrak is to blame.

It’s 6 a.m. Tuesday. Bleary-eyed passengers, having just purchased their tickets, sit waiting. I am one of them. Two minutes before the train is to depart, the loudspeaker brays out. The Acela train from Boston to Washington has been canceled. The next available Acela train?

Try next week.

The last two months haven’t been good for America’s railroads. Amtrak officials threatened to solve their budget crisis by shutting down all operations in early July; it was saved only by a last-minute government loan of $205 million. A few weeks later, a train from Chicago ran off the tracks near Washington, D.C., injuring scores of passengers. Then knuckleheaded Amtrak employees on a commuter train into Boston refused to stop the train to seek medical help for a gravely ill passenger who died of the heart attack he suffered on board.

But it is this week’s embarrassing collapse of Acela that epitomizes Amtrak’s failures. Acela was to be the high-speed, comfortable rail service that would revolutionize travel along the Northeast Corridor. Amtrak spent billions of dollars and a decade on the project. Scheduled to begin operating in mid-1999, the new trains finally made their debut in December 2000.

The trains, seemingly the best that rail technology has to offer, certainly look good. Yet, they are now falling apart. Riders find that about half of the bathrooms on Acela are broken; the locks consistently fail, leaving the toilets inaccessible to passengers (or worse, with passengers stuck inside, desperately screaming for a conductor to release them). Footrests are falling off and remain unrepaired. Table trays are broken. The luggage compartments were misdesigned and riders are constantly hitting their heads. The café car, sold as a restaurant on the rails, is understocked, with many items gone before the trip is half over.

And the condition of the cars is symptomatic of the condition of the rail service. If it’s on time, Acela can make the run from Boston to New York in three hours and 20 minutes; the trip from New York to D.C. is just two hours and 50 minutes.

But that’s a big and frequently improbable “if.” Amtrak has just recently admitted that Acela has the worst on-time record of any of its rail services.

That’s no surprise for frequent riders. Trains are regularly canceled due to breakdowns or malfunctions. And once they get going, passengers are subjected to mysterious and unexplained stops, with the trains sitting dead for 15 to 30 minutes at various points along route.

Acela shares tracks with a wide variety of commuter trains and it is a regular occurrence that one sees those supposedly slower trains zooming past the stalled Acela – with those on the other train waving and laughing at the high-priced passengers stuck in a gleaming new train with no bathrooms and no food.

And the most recent problem with the trains? Cracks in their shock absorbers – cracks that Amtrak officials apparently knew about three years ago.

Amtrak’s too-glib response to all of this is, “money.” If it only had more of it, a lot more, then everything would be fine. It points to congressional requirements that it operate many long-distance lines at huge losses. “We have a policy problem,” Amtrak says, meaning inadequate subsidies, “not an Amtrak performance problem.”

Except that’s not true – and Amtrak’s failure along the Northeast Corridor is proof.

Because while it certainly is the case that railroads out in the hinterlands lose lots of money, that’s not so along the East Coast, where it’s a huge moneymaker. That’s particularly the case with Acela. In the 19 months it has been operating, Acela – despite costing almost as much as air travel – has captured a significant chunk of the market, carrying more passengers than the Delta and US Airways shuttles. Sure, it’s been helped by the Sept. 11-induced fear of flying, but still, Acela has demonstrated that the demand is there.

Yet, this jewel of the system is now falling apart. Contrary to what Amtrak would have us believe, the problem is performance. A government-chartered monopoly, Amtrak is any economist’s proof that competition really is better.

It doesn’t know how to manage its money, it treats its customers as cattle, and it operates more to serve its own many fiefdoms than to provide decent rail service.

That’s why the Amtrak Reform Council – a national group of politicians and transportation experts – is on target when it calls for a complete restructuring of rail operations. The council proposes that Amtrak get out of the business of operating any trains in the Northeast Corridor altogether, with the job going to private businesses.

It’s a radical, but necessary step. Amtrak has long sought to convince the public that it and the future of rail were synonymous. In fact, with Amtrak around, rail may be doomed.

Tom Keane can be reached at

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RePass’ reply:

Don’t blame Amtrak

To the Editor:

Tom Keane’s infuriated diatribe against Amtrak (“Amtrak woes,” August 16), written more in anger than in sorrow, misplaces blame for Amtrak’s woes at a very loud volume, and with a basic misunderstanding of the issues.

Amtrak pulled Acela service when cracks were found in a shock-absorber mounting plate. Since Amtrak didn’t build those sets but merely has to pay for them, and since safety was the issue, Amtrak was right to do that – bleary-eyed passengers or no.

The train that “ran off the tracks” didn’t do so because it felt like it. The freight railroad’s tracks [CSX] – throughout most of the United States, Amtrak runs on other peoples’ tracks – were misaligned, at the very spot where that freight railroad’s automated tamping machine had broken. Amtrak’s Chicago train just happened to be the next one along that misaligned track. [See lead story in this issue. – Ed.]

The Acela service had not “collapsed” and the trainsets are most certainly not “falling apart.” Acela service is suspended until the manufacturing or component defects in the “yaw damper” – a large shock absorber assembly, with four per engine and eight per train – are fixed. That should be a matter of weeks, unless the problem turns out to be a design defect. Then, it will be months. Although that is not good, it isn’t fatal – and it is not Amtrak’s fault, either.

There is no doubt that the Acela has been wildly popular with the traveling public, despite design glitches such as sticking bathroom doors. The trains were on time more than 80 per cent of the time in their first full year of operation, a tremendous achievement for a new technology – and the Acela is state of the art, make no mistake about it. You can make a case that Amtrak should have ordered “off the shelf” European or Japanese equipment, but that equipment would have been subject to major re-engineering because of FRA-imposed safety standards that double the weight of those trains when used in America, and would have been just as prone to premature wheel wear and stress to the shock absorber mounts as is the Acela.

It is a fallacy that the Northeast Corridor makes money, and that if only the private sector could get its hands on the Corridor they could do the job. The Corridor throws off operating cash, but comes nowhere near to recovering its cost of capital. In fact, for years Amtrak’s oddball accounting system has buried the costs of the Northeast Corridor by artificially allocating capital and overhead costs across its entire system, which has the effect of making the long distance trains look like enormous money losers (because they require relatively little capital, as they run on others’ roadbeds, but have larger operating expenses because of infrequent service over long distances).

I could write for hours but this will do: Amtrak’s Acela is a brilliant, athletic, and graceful performer that will be among the best trains in the world when all is sorted out. That may take a while; but in the meantime, please stop blaming Amtrak for things that others have done. When they screw up, sure, nail ’em – but just remember that these guys have been getting by with next to no money for 32 years, and they still have maintained, amazingly, a national rail passenger system. Let’s stop whining, and fix the main problem by funding Amtrak the way the Europeans and Japanese fund their rail systems: with adult money, from a dedicated funding source.


Jim RePass
President & CEO
The National Corridors Initiative

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WSJ harsh, NYT stern but understanding on Acela problems
By Jim Furlong

The interruption of Amtrak’s Acela service by locomotive shock absorber cracks provoked press commentary that ranged from denunciation and disappointment to Dutch-uncle lectures mixing sternness with an understanding that insufficient investment is at the root of the railroad’s problems.

Predictably, the Wall Street Journal editorial page offered the harshest assessment, calling for “fundamental reform.”

The Day in New London, Conn., said, “Loving Amtrak is like loving the Red Sox. You know it’s the right thing to do, but sometimes it’s just too difficult.”

While lamenting the latest problems, editorials in The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor and Greenwich Time offered underlying support to the railroad and its new president, David Gunn.

News articles in the Times, Boston Globe and Washington Post provided insights into, respectively, the reasons for Acelas difficulties, rail-plane competitive aspects of the crisis, and a look at why many Amtrak customers remain loyal.

The WSJ said, in an editorial that was among several germane opinion articles that it ran:

“The Acela has been just the disappointment you’d expect from a company with no market to discipline it.” It criticized CEO Gunn for thumbing “his nose at Congress’s repeated demands for self-sufficiency” and for insisting that Amtrak – from Northeast Corridor to long-distance – is an “interrelated” system. The WSJ provided the following “translation” of Gunn’s remarks: “Amtrak isn’t a true national railroad, but a subsidy racket for Northeast states that Congressmen from the rest of the country won’t tolerate unless a train occasionally stops in Omaha too.”

The WSJ concluded, “Congress would never allow a national airline monopoly or a bus monopoly. There’s no reason it should continue propping up a monopoly in passenger rail.”

Just two days after this denunciation of monopolies, the WSJ seemed to be moving in the other direction, with respect to airlines. The op-ed page published an article by WSJ Editorial Department writer Holman W. Jenkins Jr. arguing that antitrust rules forbidding airlines from coordinating fares and schedules may have the effect of reducing airline-service availability in less populous areas of the country. The article said, “In the early 1990s, the airlines lost every penny they had ever made since Kitty Hawk. Now they’re losing every penny they made in the 1990s boom.” It greeted with approval a “growing band of economists” who have “begun to question antitrust’s primitive intolerance for cooperative acts by competitors. An important spur to the new thinking has been the visible shambles of the U.S. airline industry…”

It concluded, “Nobody wins from fratricidal fare wars that end with service being yanked from smaller cities that the low-fare carriers aren’t even interested in anyway.”

The WSJ also published an article by Milwaukee Mayor John O. Norquist, a founding member of the Amtrak Reform Council.

He noted, “The news of the crack in the Acela Express couldn’t have come at a worse time…” He advocated a system of government incentives for Amtrak corridor runs that would rise and fall with ticket sales. For long-distance routes, he suggested a flat per-passenger-mile subsidy. He said long-distance routes that couldn’t “make it” under those conditions might be converted to “the equivalent of cruise ships that sell the vacation experience rather than trying to meet a daily schedule.”

As to Amtrak’s CEO, he said, “Mr. Gunn is Amtrak’s best and maybe last chance to recover enough strength so that there’s anything left to argue over.”

In an exasperated editorial called “Amtrak, oh Amtrak,” The Day lamented not only the mechanical problems but the electrification work that has resulted in “ugly and unsightly lines along some of the prettiest shoreline in the state.” Letters to the editor echoed criticism of the lines. No one asked the self-answering question of whether a superhighway along the shore would be preferable.

The New York Times, citing derailments and the Acela difficulties, said Amtrak “seems to have cornered the market on self-inflicted debacles” in the last year, but it said the Acela problems, while rekindling questions about Amtrak’s competence, also show the consequences of “inadequate investment in rail infrastructure. Congress and Amtrak’s previous management subscribed to the fiction that unlike any other railroad in the world, or any other form of transportation in this country, passenger train service in the United States could become self-sufficient.”

It continued, “Mr. Gunn is making necessary changes at Amtrak, and he should be given a chance to make the railroad more efficient. He will be unable to do so if he has to beg Congress for money every few months… [Congress and the White House] must establish a permanent, dedicated source of funding for railroad infrastructure – principally to build designated high-speed corridors across the country – akin to the trust funds that pay for highways and aviation projects.”

The Greenwich [Conn.] Time said that despite the “candid and plainspoken” Gunn statement indicating that Amtrak shouldn’t have built the Acela from scratch but should have relied on European or Japanese models, “...the Acela trains can’t be scrapped. Years of development and millions of dollars have gone into creation of the Acela service, which even with its problems has been one of the few moneymaking Amtrak operations. If Acela represents the future of Amtrak, it must become both attractive and reliable.”

The Christian Science Monitor said, “The rail system has better management now, with an experienced and shrewd CEO in David Gunn. Its Acela experiment raises the hope of brighter things ahead. What’s most needed now is a Congress willing to make the ongoing investment to keep the trains rolling.”

In a news article, New York Times reporter Matthew L. Wald quoted sources as citing several possible causes for the Acela’s problems:

  • A weak U.S. railway equipment manufacturing industry.

  • The heavy Acela car, required by U.S. standards of crashworthiness that was mounted on a European-derived undercarriage, which a source likened to a “tank chassis on a Ferrari suspension.”

  • The ambitious testing schedule for the Acela that was necessitated by Congress’s demand that the railroad achieve self-sufficiency by late this year.

Boston Globe reporter Matthew Brelis wrote, “Schadenfreude – taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others – is alive and well in the airline industry.” He said that strong gains by the Acela in the Boston-New York market after September 11, at the expense of Delta Air Lines and U.S. Airways, could be eroded by the Acela’s problems.

Michael Barbaro, staff writer for The Washington Post, took a ride on Acela Express No. 2172 and found out why passengers favor it for traveling between Washington and Boston: the 150 mph pace on some stretches, the convenience of downtown dropoffs, the dead quiet (except for a few offending cell phones), ample room for legs and elbows, and the absence of the security concerns and hassles that characterize airline flights. He said the technical problems have made Acela passengers jittery and cancellations have caused frustration.

He quoted Clifford Black, an Amtrak spokesman, as saying, “We are testing the loyalty of our customers, and there is disappointment.” However, reported Barbaro, the spokesman thinks the riders will return when the complete Acela service does.

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Dear Editor:

As an Amtrak employee, for years I have heard the scuttle about the Acela, hot wheels etc., also we have asked why a proven train was not purchased and instead someone ordered the “new” trains without a proven track record.

We think it’s about time an inquiry into some of these “ideas” are question and someone is held accountable.

I now read in your most recent article that Mr. Gunn touches on this subject, there are numerous instances like the Acela experience that go unnoticed all the time with Amtrak. The Acela debacle was let out of the bag only due to notoriety.

It’s funny, time after time, high level management screws up, nothing ever comes of it, but they never forget to go after the little guy who hasn’t had a raise in four years and counting, all the while they never miss a beat.

Keith Kovaleski
Monroe, N.J.

Dear Editor:

“A possible result will be for Metro-North Service to be extended to New London when the high-level platforms are completed, thus making Shoreline East service redundant.” (D:F, August 19, “Station woes beleaguer communities”).

Current Metro North equipment can’t handle the 25kv 60hz trolley wire east of their yard entrance in New Haven. Since Metro North currently runs on 12kv 60hz, it ought to be a relatively easy task to move the voltage change point east to New London. Note however that this change would lead to double the current demand by the existing Amtrak trains to maintain the same service – and thus stringing additional feeder wire ought to be required, or restrictions in current acceleration rates accepted during periods of peak railroad demand.

Note that the first statement is from a remembered bit of correspondence from a Metro-North engineer and must be verified. The remainder is from an understanding of Ohm’s law learned in a long ago high school physics class.

Kenyon F. Karl
Wentworth, N.H.

It is my understanding that when electrification came along between New Haven and Boston a few years ago, when the division post was moved eastward to its current location to MP 72.9 from MP 72.8, the catenary voltages remained at 12kv up to the new location, or near it. The New Haven interlocking tower is at MP 72.3, CP 273 (a new interlocking) at MP 72.4, CP 274 (formerly Fair Street) is at 72.7 and Mill River Interlocking (a junction where the Springfield Line diverges from the Shore Line) at MP 73.6. You are correct. IF M-N does intend to go farther east than the Division Post, they will have to modify their equipment for 25kv. New London station is at MP 122.9 – Ed.

Dear Editor:

The board of the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), which operates Metro Bus service in Greater Cincinnati, [last] week unanimously approved to place a one-half cent sales tax on the November ballot to fund bus expansion and a regional light rail system.

Here's a link to one article,; A “pro” web site with information is, and the transit authority's site is

This is the first transit tax ballot attempt since 1980.

David Dawson

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September 22-25

American Public Transportation Assn. annual meeting and expo

Las Vegas, Nev.
Las Vegas Hilton Hotel and Las Vegas Convention Center

September 22-25

AREMA conference and exposition

Washington Hilton & Towers, Washington, D.C.
Contact Shane Boyle, AREMA Director of Marketing,;
(301) 459-3200 ext. 705; Fax. (301) 459-8077;website

September 22-25

RSA Global Railway Tech 2002
Convention and Coordinated Mechanical
Associations Technical Conference

Hilton Chicago & Towers Hotel, Chicago
Contact Howard Tonn, (630) 393-0106 or fax (630) 393-0108.

October 6-22

European railway technology and infrastructure study trip

Co-sponsored by AREMA. This study trip leads up to EurailSpeed 2002 in Madrid. Trip itinerary will include visits to the UK, Germany, Switzerland, France, and Spain. For information, visit or contact Desiree Knight at (301) 459-3200, ext. 703.

October 15,16

Ninth Annual Passenger Trains on Freight Railroads Conference

Washington Marriott Hotel
Washington, D.C.

Passenger train operations on freight railroads, including high-speed, offer excellent opportunities to develop new commuter and intercity rail services, but while they offer attractive sources of revenue to freight carriers, they also pose perplexing problems-compensation, liability, grade crossing safety, signaling and train control requirements, right-of-way capacity constraints, and maintaining freight service integrity. The conference will offer a thorough, candid airing of these topics, and an in-depth look at some of the important projects being undertaken in this area. This two-day event will feature recognized experts from both the passenger and freight sides of railroading.

Register On-Line at

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The way we were...

Georgia 300 Private Car

NCI: Leo King

I ask you, what could be more classic and finer in the morning than waking to the smell of eggs, grits and coffee? Consider Georgia 300, which is still an active Pullman lounge car. Its number for Amtrak’s bookkeeping is 800111. The business car was Pullman-built in 1930 (but this photo was snapped August 14, 2002) as 10 section-lounge General Polk. It was converted to Business Car 300 by the Georgia Railroad in 1954, and retired 1982. The current owner bought it in 1986, and it was fully upgraded then and again in 1989, 1995, and yet again in 2000. It is stored serviceable in Orange Park, Fla., just south of Jacksonville, on a short two-track spur off CSX’s “A Line” at milepost 657. For a fee, the car can be rented. We haven’t researched its costs. Its capacity is eight people during the day, six people overnight, and it features a master bedroom, two bedrooms, two showers, two seats in a sectioned-off dining area while the dining room seats up to eight folks with full meal service as well as an observation room, a classic open rear platform, TV/VCR, stereo, terminal and cellular phone. Y’all come back now, hear?

The American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners is online at

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 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.

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