cowardly attacks in New York and Washington. - Ed.
World Trade Center destroyed, Pentagon
damaged, transportation system disrupted
By Leo King
In an act of war, both World Trade Center towers in New York City were targets of terrorists in jumbo jet aircraft highjacked after departure from Logan International Airport in Boston on September 11. Three days later, President Bush termed it as "The first war of the Twenty-first Century."
Within an hour of being struck, both 110-story buildings in New York collapsed. Later, building No. 7 in the trade center collapsed following a fire, and other structures remained perilous. At about the same time, another commercial jumbo jet was highjacked after departure from Dulles International Airport and was deliberately crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
A fourth jumbo jet was highjacked after departure from Newark, N.J. airport, but some men aboard were able to overcome the terrorists. The airplane crashed about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, injuring no one on the ground.
The Federal Aviation Administration shut down all airports within U.S. borders, and international flights inbound to the U.S. were diverted to Canada. The U.S. transportation system ground to a halt - airlines nationwide, including air freight operators and charter aircraft, as well as railroads, particularly in the eastern half of the nation.
U.S. DOT Secretary Norman Y. Mineta would not permit the air traffic control system nor airports to reopen until 11:00 a.m. Thursday, and even then, on a limited basis and with much greater security. General Aviation aircraft were not permitted to fly again until Saturday, and all pilots were required to file flight plans.
Greyhound bus lines were also affected.
The death toll was still unknown in both cities by our deadline on Friday afternoon, but unofficial estimates placed the count up to some 5,300 people, and perhaps more. New York mayor Rudy Giuliani said at least 350 firefighters and police officers died. Pentagon officials revised the death toll estimate downwards to about 190 soldiers and civilians. The number included the people on the airplane.
Major league baseball games were cancelled or postponed until Monday. The National Football League cancelled all of Sunday's games, perhaps to be made up at a later date. The Red Sox rode Amtrak, three buses and several taxies in a 29-hour journey home from Tampa to Boston.
The stock market and Wall Street remained closed until today, although the bond market opened on a limited basis on Thursday.
Amtrak was affected by the events, and all service on the Northeast Corridor was suspended for about six hours. Service around the nation was also affected, with slowdowns and inspections, as were freight railroads, with service slowdowns and some service stops, particularly in the eastern U.S.
Amtrak conductor Dave Bowe of Boston was online shortly after the first airplane slammed into the World Trade Center. He wrote, "My Amtrak information pager stopped working about 9:30 a.m. EDT, so I imagine the Motorola Skytel transmitter was on top of the World Trade Center. The last message I received was that Acela Express lost overhead power on Hell Gate Bridge about 9:15 a.m. The message continued saying the train regained power and continued into Penn Station. This is going to be a long week."
Worldwide, nations pledged their support to help the United States find the terrorists responsible for the attacks. Aiding the resolve was the notion that at least 100 British citizens, 75 Australians, numerous Japanese, Koreans and people of other nationalities died in the World Trade Center disaster. Some 265 floors in the three buildings collapsed. Virtually all nations had some of its citizens there.
The Senate and House passed a joint resolution on September 12 expressing their collective outrage of the sneak attack from within a day earlier on America.
All bridges and tunnels leading to and from the city were closed for at least two days halting bus truck commerce as well as ordinary auto traffic.
By Friday, investigators were still trying to discover exactly who was behind the atrocities.
For the first time in its 30-year history, Amtrak operated its entire system under national emergency conditions - a step away from wartime operations.
Top railroad management in Washington sent a message around the system that stated, "On Sep 11, 2001, a series of terrorist activities began affecting the New York and Washington, D.C. metropolitan areas at about 8:48 a.m., resulting in significant loss of life and property damage."
Amtrak ordered a system-wide stoppage of trains "at 10:30 a.m. (EDT) in conjunction with contracting railroads:
BNSF - Following inspection, trains operated at 60 mph. Speed restriction lifted at 5:00 pm CDT.
UP - Following inspection, trains operated at 50 mph to next crew base, where they were held while tracks were further inspected. The hold was canceled at 5:30 p.m. CDT.
CSX - Passenger trains operated at 30 mph unless preceded over the route by other traffic. Restriction lifted Tuesday afternoon south of Richmond, Va.
The Boston Line, Hudson Line, Chicago Line and RF&P remained restricted to 50 mph until track inspections were completed on September 12.
CN/IC - No restrictions.
Norfolk Southern - no restrictions.
The railroad alerted travel agents that "Extra equipment, one coach unless otherwise noted, was added to trains departing on September 11: Trains 4, 30, 40, 48 (2 coaches), 305, 41, 48, 49, 89 (1 coach, 1 sleeper), 90, (1 coach, 1 sleeper), 14, 703, 712, 714, 716."
SEPTA and NJT operations on Amtrak property "resumed at 2:30 p.m. Northeast Corridor resumed Amtrak service at hourly intervals, on conventional (neither Metroliner nor Acela Express) schedules, at 3:00 p.m.," Amtrak said.
Steve Kerch of CBS's Market Watch told railroaders and railfans alike that travelers were "flocking to Amtrak as disruptions to the nation's airline system remained suspended."
Amtrak said Wednesday, in a press release, that it was seeing ridership increases on routes between New York and Washington and in other regions of the country. The rail passenger carrier said it would honor airline tickets for travel to the cities it serves during the disruption.
The enormous increase in ridership would continue through the weekend.
"Amtrak ridership to New York City and Washington D.C. had been building throughout the day," said Stan Bagley, Amtrak's operations vice-president.
Bagley added, "In addition to Amtrak's regular weekday service, the railroad is prepared to add capacity to trains to meet the needs of guests as may be necessary."
He said, "Two additional trains, one northbound and one southbound, will be operating out of New York this afternoon at times to be determined."
D:F learned later Amtrak also issued instructions to its conductors that military or emergency personnel en route to New York City were to be transported free, even if the train was sold out.
The number of passengers departing Washington D.C. to New York at midday Wednesday was more than twice that of an average weekday. A train traveling between Richmond, Va., and Boston earlier that day ran with 200 more passengers than normal for weekday service. A midday Boston to Washington train was sold out, which was unusual for that time of day, Amtrak said. It was an extra train added to the schedule for that day.
Bagley noted, "Other trains across the country are experiencing significant increases in ridership as well. The rail service is responding to increased demand by displaced airline passengers for long-distance trains to cities across the nation as some intercity trains are reaching capacity."
The rail carrier said, "Precautions are being taken to maintain the country's rail passenger system as a safe and secure mode of public transportation."
It did not spell out those procedures.
Amtrak reminded its employees, from its emergency headquarters in Delaware, "Today, September 11, 2001, suspected terrorist attacks occurred at several locations throughout the United States. In light of these events, Amtrak operating departments, the Amtrak Police department, and Safety personnel increased vigilance at all Amtrak facilities and train operating areas.
"It is important for us all to be attentive to security and personal safety measures for co-workers, Amtrak guests, and ourselves. If you believe you are dealing with a suspicious package or item, do not touch the item, move yourself and anyone nearby" to an area that is not in direct line of sight of the item, more than 300 feet away from a small item (hand luggage, and so on)". They also advised staying away from glass and parked cars.
By September 12, the nation was still reeling from the attack, and police, FBI and other security people were at a heightened state of alert.
An armed raid on Boston's Westin Copley hotel resulted in three men being "detained" and then released after it was determined they were not the suspects they were searching for.
In Providence, R. I., an apparently Hindu man, wearing a green turban and sporting a long beard, was removed from Amtrak train No. 173. After questioning, Providence Police and others determined he was not a suspect either, but held him on a weapons charge for having an illegally long knife. The man said it was used as part of his religious practices. The train was delayed about two hours.
Providence Mayor Vincent Cianci said state police bomb sniffing dogs went through the train. He said police were requesting to a request from Amtrak.
Other arrests followed in other cities around the country over the following days, but none resulted in finding terrorists. All were eventually released.
Another Boston Amtrak conductor, Brian Radovich, was having a difficult day. He wrote online, "As some of you know, my girlfriend Nanette is an American Airlines Boston-based flight attendant. Thankfully, she was not working today, but, unfortunately, a good friend of hers, who lives in her town, was a crewmember on LA bound AA flight 11. This woman has two daughters who attend school with my girlfriend's daughter. This has been an awful day."
Rail-related organizations were taking precautions.
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers reported it had "temporarily taken its website offline as a precautionary measure in light of terrorist attacks upon the United States."
BLE official John Bentley said the website had not been hacked.
"It was taken down as a precautionary measure in case cyber-terrorist attacks should begin on the nation's Internet." A BLE press release stated the site would be back online "once the threat has passed. Members will be notified when the website is back online." Its address is http://www.ble.org/utumerger/.
Later on the day of the tragedy, National Corridors Initiative CEO Jim RePass noted, "This terrible day in history is, I know affecting us all, and the aftermath will affect us for the time to come."
NCI's webmaster and 'net guru Dennis Kirkpatrick warned, "The net is operational but according to traces I have run from here [Boston], routes through New York City are limited at present. As I try to get to NCI's system, it makes one hop to an outer limit system labeled for NYC then it jumps to Chicago, which is not normal; however, we remain functional and on the air."
Kirkpatrick noted, "Boston's subway system and commuter rail continued to run, and extra service was added and fares waived as the city went into shutdown for the most part, and to accommodate the wave of people leaving the city." He also wrote he canceled dentist appointments. "Roads in and out of the city were essentially gridlocked."
Norfolk Southern sent out a service alert system-wide following the air strikes. The freight line stated, "Operations are suspended or limited in Northeast" on September 11.
A terse noted stated simply, "In cooperation with local and federal authorities and agencies, Norfolk Southern has temporarily suspended operations in the North Jersey shared asset area. Operations are also suspended or very limited along most of the northeastern corridor, including Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Newark and the Delmarva Peninsula. Customers with traffic moving from, to, or through these areas should expect delays."
NS began moving its trains again the following day.
Crain's Chicago Business News reported on the 11th "Local transportation systems were immediately affected" by the morning's events.
The Chicago Transit Authority continued to operate under rush-hour conditions late in the morning, a spokeswoman said. Morning train and bus drivers, who normally would be taken off duty after the traditional morning commute, were asked to stay on the job, and the full fleet would continue to run until further notice, the spokeswoman said.
Metra, the commuter rail agency, began running unscheduled outbound service during the morning rush hour to help commuters return home early.
"The unscheduled service is effective immediately as needed, on a load-and-go basis," a Metra spokeswoman said.
Extra police officers were sent to patrol Amtrak's Union Station and unauthorized cars parked in the garage beneath the station were being towed, an Amtrak spokesman said. Police had also closed and blocked all taxi stands next to the station.
In Washington, D.C., it was turning into a commuter nightmare. We learned authorities "shut down all bridges and tunnels which effectively shuts down all train service north and south," reported the Virginia Railway Express.
"At this time, we are unable to run train service, and all buses are in emergency mode. We advise our passengers if they have an option to get home to take it. We have been advised by Metro that VRE passengers may use Metro service with their VRE tickets. Metro is advising us that they are having trouble taking to all their station attendants, so not all may be informed."
VRE added it "procured buses that operated to Fredericksburg on a load-and-go service from Alexandria station. A Manassas train was on the tracks, which would stop at Alexandria and load until full, then run to Manassas Stations.
Heavy internet traffic began clogging Amtrak's site, and commuter rail line sites virtually everywhere.
Norfolk Southern reported its operations were normal the next morning "with the exception of the North Jersey Shared Asset Area where operations remain suspended.
"Operations have been restored along most of the Northeast Corridor. There is congestion in the areas approaching the North Jersey and South Jersey Shared Asset Areas, resulting from suspended operations yesterday. Customers with traffic moving from, to, or through these areas may encounter delays."
CSX stated the transportation giant, including its railroad people, "extend their heartfelt sympathies to the victims of these terrible tragedies today. Our hearts and prayers are with their families."
The freight carrier added, "We are in close contact with the authorities and other railroads and will provide service updates as more information becomes available."
CSXT said it was "being vigilant in protecting our people and system. We will fully cooperate with all national, state and local agencies and officials, including the Departments of Transportation in our service area to ensure the safety of our people and the communities where we operate. We are working with all commuter agencies and Amtrak regarding passenger operations."
CSX stopped all Northeast traffic for a time.
"All traffic in and out of greater New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C., has been suspended," and added, "The Virginia Avenue tunnel in Washington, D.C. is closed to traffic." Hazardous materials were barred through the Howard Street tunnel in Baltimore and the 'Underground tunnel' in Atlanta. The Howard Street tunnel was the site of a freight train derailment and fire about a month ago.
The carrier added that 17 TransFlo terminals were closed, including terminals in Boston, Elizabeth, N.J., Philadelphia, Wilmington, Del., and Baltimore.
Kansas City Southern Railroad told its customers via its web site, "Despite our nation's tragedy today, Kansas City Southern is continuing to serve its customers. System-wide, train speeds have been reduced to 30 miles per hour. KCS is inspecting its track and infrastructure in front of trains, and will update customers tomorrow morning regarding any developments." Union Pacific Railroad posted on its website, "Only UP employees are to be allowed in any UP facility until further notice.
Greyhound Bus Lines of Dallas, the largest U.S. bus line, was also directly affected by the tragedy. It suspended operations in large parts of the country Tuesday as a safety measure after the attacks, the company said.
Reuters news agency reported Greyhound said it had ceased operations indefinitely in the Northeast, as well as in nearly 30 locations nationwide where its terminals are within a mile of federal buildings, from Washington to Billings, Mont.
The shutdown probably affected thousands of passengers, a Greyhound spokeswoman said. The bus line was trying to reroute some passengers and find alternate transportation for others.
"We are a major nationwide transportation company, and we decided to take this step for the safety of our employees and passengers," Greyhound spokeswoman Kristin Parsley said.
Parsley said Greyhound's largest terminal was located in New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal, which she described as being near the World Trade Center twin towers in Manhattan. The company maintains a web site at http://www.greyhound.com.
A Metra locomotive engineer told Chicagoans how the events affected him.
"I brought 333 into Milwaukee at 12:01 p.m. Metra was running all sorts of PXs [passenger extras]. In fact, the BN (Burlington Northern Santa Fe) had the operator in the GB office take a warrant issued to a regular scheduled Metra and change it "To All PXs" and initialed it. CUS [Chicago Union Station] was organized chaos. Metra was running 'Load and go all Stops' service when we left. Let's take a moment to say a prayer for everyone involved, particularly for all FDNY Fire Fighters and the NYPD officers trapped, injured and killed near the World Trade Center."
Boston Conductor Bowe wrote some two hours after his first message, "My Amtrak beeper came back to life at 11:40 a.m. EDT. Effective Immediately, all Amtrak Service "system-wide" is suspended until further notice."
Two PATH lines in Manhattan, using two different tunnels, pass under the World Trade Center. One train was reported missing on Wednesday.
One line terminates under the WTC and has no other stations east of the Hudson; the other runs along Christopher Street and up Sixth Avenue to 33rd Street, one long block east of Penn Station, with four intermediate stops in New York.
In normal weekday operation, there are four routes: WTC to Hoboken and Newark; 33 to Hoboken and Journal Square in Jersey City, midway along the line that continues to Newark.
On Friday, the Congress gave its consent to military action. It provided $40 billion to help cover the cost of retaliation and rebuilding. Partisanship fell by the wayside. The Senate approved a resolution supporting President Bush in military action against those found responsible for the attacks, 100-0. The House vote was 420-1. The body approved the use-of-force resolution night before.
|All rails fill huge gap|
Following air shutdown
"The best bet for shippers seems to be rail."
That comment from Peter Luit, Chief Executive Officer of Livingstone International, Inc., Canada's largest broker and trade services firm.
His statement to the Toronto Globe and Mail came as Canadian truck drivers were stranded at key U.S. border points, and clients were asking him if he really wanted them to spend 15 hours at crossings at Fort Erie and Windsor, Ont., waiting to get clearance from U.S. customs officials.
"Because rail police are on board the trains, they're not only unaffected by highway lineups, but also clearing faster than other modes of transportation."
Association of American Railroads (AAR) spokesman Tom White told D:F Friday that some NS and CSX service in the shared assets area and other parts of the northeast was suspended Tuesday, the day of the terrorist attack, as railroads checked track and equipment and took additional security precautions, but service resumed Wednesday.
"By all accounts, freight service is fluid throughout the region,' White reported, "Border points have been subject to some delays, but not enough to significantly impact service." White had heard of no problems with ports.
Norfolk Southern offered 1,000 of its cars to help with the cleanup at the World Trade Center.
"This is a small but tangible contribution we can make to support the recovery effort," NS CEO David Goode told Trains.com as the cars were lined up across the Hudson River from Manhattan in a New Jersey staging area before hauling the debris off to disposal sites along the rail system.
Chairman Linda J. Morgan of the federal Surface Transportation Board Friday spoke of the efforts of the freight railroads "to continue to provide important rail service to (their) customers." She also credited the industry and its employees with ensuring that "the Nation's vital commerce" would continue as smoothly and safely as possible. Morgan noted the Class I carriers were offering to "provide assistance wherever needed during this difficult period."
The U.S. freight carriers believed they would pick up some extra business in the short term, and Amtrak was expecting more mail and express traffic.
The most immediate and high profile rail-related result of the shutdown and slow resumption of air service was the additional passenger traffic.
Amtrak initially shut down service on the Northeast Corridor, but then resumed in spades. The passenger service added capacity to handle the growing volume of passengers, some of them stranded by the air shutdown and searching for alternatives.
As air service disruption continued, Amtrak upped capacity on its unreserved trains on the NEC by 30 percent. An additional New York to Boston roundtrip was also added.
Additional capacity was added to Amtrak services on the West Coast and on long distance trains serving the rest of the country. The company has reached out to the airlines to assist family and friends of victims of terrorist attacks. Stranded airline travelers found Amtrak honoring most airline tickets for travel to cities it serves.
Amtrak trains have been more full than usual, and both the Amtrak telephone system and website are slower than usual.
On Thursday, Amtrak announced that since Tuesday, its ticket sales had increased by half, with the largest share of that going to the long-distance routes around the country.
No mode of transportation is immune from accidents, as was demonstrated early Thursday when the westbound California Zephyr, loaded with stranded air passengers, smashed into an eastbound Union Pacific freight train on Utah's barren salt flats near the Nevada border, about 120 miles west of Salt lake City. It erupted into a huge fireball that somehow spared more than 277 aboard, according to published reports. There were some injuries, mostly minor.
"It was a wrenching metal sound, a huge jolt and then people started screaming," passenger Cathlin Torrence told the Salt Lake Tribune.
"I was probably dreaming about [the New York and Washington attacks] the whole past week, and then to wake up to it, I just thought, 'Aye-yi-yi'"
There was no indication this had anything to do with the terrorist attacks, though Ron Robusto, chief transportation officer for Amtrak West said he was "not in a position to speculate about what may have happened." Early reports indicated the Zephyr was going at 30 mph, trying to slow down, but not quickly enough, when it hit the side of the UP freight as it was moving onto a siding to get out of the passenger train's way.
Amtrak teamed up with the American Red Cross to run a special train beginning its run out of Washington's Union Station. The Clara Barton Express was named after the Civil War nurse who started the Red Cross.
It headed for New York Thursday with aid, including dust masks for workers clearing the wreckage at the World Trade Center, cleanup kits, and other Red Cross comfort. There will be other relief trains sent to New York as needed.
On Wednesday, the day after the attack, almost all of Amtrak's long-distance trains were sold out. The railroad promised to add capacity as needed.
Ever mindful of its mission, the National Assn. Of Railroad Passengers (NARP) saw a "lesson learned" in all this.
"The tragedy and its aftermath raise the possibility that more Americans will see the need for more modern passenger train," said the passenger and consumer group.
As a by-product of the tragedy, NARP got a call from U.S.-Citizens Aviation Watch, a group that aims to protect people from "aviation industry abuses."
Given that two of the leading U.S. airlines themselves suffered the loss of valued employees and customers, this is probably not the time to harass other transportation carriers, at least not if it originates with rail interests. Not long ago, there was a "Rail Watch" organization that turned out to be nothing but a front for trucking interests. These spitball fights are usually not that effective.
Some useful websites:
All Aboard - http://groups.yahoo.com/group/all_aboard
|Two derailments add to Amtrak's problems|
|Two Amtrak derailments with freight trains also marred the week
Westbound Texas Eagle No 21 collided with a Union Pacific freight train at about 9:30 a.m., between Marshall and Longview, Tex. Six people were hurt; none died. The Associated press reported five passengers were injured, as was the Amtrak engineer.
Eyewitnesses said they saw "many UP trucks and emergency vehicles headed toward Marshall."
The passenger train's consist included P-42DC engines 163 and 151, both of which were derailed and turned on their sides; 1176 baggage car, derailed and turned on its side; 39044 Transition Sleeper, derailed upright; 32011 Sleeping Car, derailed upright; and 38059 Dining Car, derailed upright. Not derailed were 33023 Lounge Car, 31545 Coach/Smoker, and34047 Coach.
In all, 17 cars derailed in Tuesday's wreck. The Amtrak train was carrying 11 crewmembers and 48 passengers.
Mark Davis, a Union Pacific spokesman, said the passenger train had been diverted into a siding to make way for the freight train, but didn't stop when it got to the siding's end.
"We can't comment on cause and fault until an investigation is complete," said Amtrak spokesman Kevin Johnson. Cleanup efforts continued Wednesday at the accident scene, some 50 miles west of Shreveport, La.
A report from a UP source said that Amtrak 21 rear-ended a UP freight, which was fouling the main track.
About half the consist was derailed, "with major damage to the engines and baggage car, which had overturned."
Another Amtrak train carrying stranded airline passengers and others to California on Thursday crashed into a freight train near Wendover, Utah, derailed and caught fire in the western Utah desert. There were no serious injuries. The accident occurred at about 5:30 a.m. in a desolate area of salt flats and desert. Wendover is in west-central Utah on the Nevada line, about 120 miles west of Salt Lake City.
The California Zephyr was heading from Chicago to Emeryville, Calif., in the San Francisco Bay area, said an Amtrak spokeswoman. Amtrak said 263 passengers and 14 crewmembers were aboard. Two locomotives were pulling 15 cars, including seven passenger cars.
Authorities said it appeared the collision happened as the eastbound Union Pacific freight train was pulling onto a siding to let the Amtrak train pass. Tooele County Sheriff Frank Scharmann said the Amtrak train was going about 30 mph.
Amtrak officials said at least one locomotive and a baggage car had burned but all of the cars remained upright.
Uninjured passengers were to complete their journeys by bus.
|Railfans feared missing are found safe|
|Two frequent posters on the "All Aboard" and City University of New
York "Railroad" e-mail lists were feared lost in the tragedies. One was
Howie Dash, a sometimes outspoken poster, the other, Michael Ringbauer,
who, almost daily, sends a report on his railroad sightings while riding
the Flatbush Avenue line on his way to work at the World Trade Center.
Another poster, Gene Poon in California, reported, "We had not heard from member Howie Dash in New York City yesterday. As a Metro North Railroad operating official, he was busy getting his railroad ready to resume service by 1 p.m., after everything was ordered stopped at the nearest station and Grand Central Terminal closed as a security measure. He said there will be a lot more to do today, and sends his assurances that he is OK... and thanks all for the concern."
Emotions ran high among many railfans. Most were angry and felt violated, just as much as New Yorkers and Washingtonians.
Richard Einhorn brought some good news to the web regarding Ringbauer. He told railfans on the City Univ. of New York list, "I just spoke to him, he is fine. He was in the No. 7 building, and witness to some of the horror. He is now 'farther uptown working on computer systems,' and he is okay.
"Whew! I am so relieved," he wrote, and added, "WCBS just showed the tape of his office going away. Mike is going to have a new office someplace else for a while..."
Einhorn added, 'If he can get a LIRR train later on, I volunteered to pick him up at any LIRR station [so] he can make it [home] to Long Island."
Another online denizen informed America, "As you folks may have heard, there are many subways under the WTC and the PATH Port Authority Trans Hudson line too. PATH service is totally suspended. Presumably they will be able to resume uptown service when Amtrak and NJT do. Downtown service will probably be truncated at Exchange Place for a long time."
Late Thursday, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey reported one of its subway trains was missing. It is presumed to be underneath the World Trade Center.
An online poster warned, "It might be a good idea to stay away from tracks and other rail facilities until this thing blows over. I suspect the railroads will be on a heightened level of security, particularly at yards and other important locations. Anything that looks even remotely suspicious is likely to be noticed by railroad employees and police. If you must be a railfan right now, pop in a videotape or sift through your old photos. Be safe, and let's focus our thoughts and prayers on the folks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania who faced an unthinkable tragedy today.
NCI's CEO, Jim RePass, wrote to the NCI staff. He said, "This terrible day in history is I know affecting us all, and the aftermath will affect us for the time to come.
"If I may be permitted, I believe we must rise up above the ashes of this terrible deed and go forward, not only with our work to transform the nation's transportation system into a balanced one, but to keep our resolve as a free people to root out and destroy these monsters at their source, whatever the price. But for today, I will be thinking, and praying, for all those people whose lives have been stolen from them, and for their families."
Railfans around the world were helping with information and empathy, too. A Canadian told us, "The Royal Canadian Mounted Police here in Canada are investigating a Boston Globe newspaper report on the Canadian connection, where the thugs came from. Unconfirmed reports have these thugs taking an 11-hour ferry run from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia to Portland, Maine, and then driving for 90 minutes to the Boston airport to start their hijacking."
From "Down Under," a poster told us, "Just to let you know that we in Australia hold dear all the same values of freedom and liberty that Americans do, and as such are appalled and shocked at what has happened to so many innocent lives. I pray that those affected find the strength to go on and that those in power seek a sensible and just outcome. We are at EDT +14 hours here, so it was 22:45 local time when the pictures started coming in moments after the first tower was hit. As such, I got to witness it live as well, and didn't get much sleep last night as more and more video came in.
"God Bless the Aussies, too," wrote yet another poster.
"They fought side by side with us in WW II. They too, like the U.S., were misfits and criminals, so how come their society turned out so grand? "Take a look at the Middle East, what a mess.... The doves died today in NYC; it's time for the hawks to take flight. There is a time and a place, and the time is now, from donating blood, to reporting to your local National Guard barracks. This is war, and America needs to wake up. Can you imagine what the rest of the world would think of this list, watching trains? How weak and insignificant we are? Are we ready to stand up and defend our way of life? The world is a different place today. Are you ready to defend your country, your hobby, your way of life? We need to unite as a nation and destroy the enemies of democracy, capitalism, and most of all, our republic."
|Online, railroaders and railfans alike|
had stories and opinions to write
The online community among railfans was quick to add good information, offer advice, and state their opinions. The borderless internet drew responses from around the world.
A Canadian poster informed us on the first day of our collective national nightmare, "Being on the border of Buffalo, New York, and Fort Erie, Ontario, I'll let you in on what's going on with the border being closed. There are almost zero trucks heading away from the U.S. border on the Canadian side. On the Canadian side, there is about a two-mile line of trucks waiting to get into the U.S. This could be much worse, but I think many drivers have pulled themselves off the road if their companies have not already told them so.
"Trains in the Niagara Region, from what I understand, are at a halt. I didn't have time to inspect the Niagara Falls Terminal, which is the last terminal before the border on a Toronto-Buffalo CN run. I'd imagine there are trains piling up on the mainline between the border at Fort Erie all the way into St. Catharine's and up into Hamilton. More on that tomorrow, I'll have a look during a break from college classes.
"I'll repeat what everyone else has been saying: my condolences to those in the heat of it all, and the prayers of myself, family, and friends are with you. While on vacation in August in New Jersey this year, I attended a blood donor clinic to give up a pint. I had no idea it would be needed so quickly, but I feel better knowing that even one person may be alive because of that."
Many, many voices were heard last week, ranging from restrained to strident and harsh.
A restrained voice wrote, "Remember that the attack on Pearl Harbor killed [2,500] servicemen. This attack has killed untold hundreds if not thousands of innocent civilians."
Another poster wrote, "My sympathies go out to all those injured and killed in today's multiple terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C."
Looking back at American history, a poster wrote, "About 1945, a bomber crashed into the Empire State Building. The building survived. There is a difference in 1920-30 and 1960+ building construction.
"Old days, structural steel is surrounded by thick cement or firebrick to shield the steel from melting heat.
"New days, structural steel is covered with a light spray on coating of asbestos till about the mid-1970s. After asbestos was banned, it was a light spray coating of gunnite."
Last week, "The steel melted in less then 45 minutes and the buildings collapsed."
The airplane from that earlier era was relatively slow, was propeller-driven and was much smaller that a jumbo jet.
Yet another writer stated, "I don't know really know what to say. The events that took place today tend to leave one speechless. We can get angry, we can get mad, but we must remain calm, and above all else, we must be sure that any retaliatory measures are directed at the correct party. I am a pacifist, I am not a fighter, and I am not signing up for the military. I don't think a war will result from these events, but if it does, and a draft does occur, I will go for my country. The act that took place today was cowardly and strikes at the very heart of what makes our country great. It's too bad the people who did this can't read what I have to say. Whoever you are, I am not angry, I am saddened, saddened by the tragedy that has taken place and the great number of innocent people who have been killed. I promise you this. We are not fazed, we will not let this stop us from continuing on with our lives, and we will not lose sleep over this. However, you can be damn sure, that whoever you are, you will be found.
I hope Allah loves you. You'll be meeting him shortly."
A strident voice wrote, "Nuke 'em all, and let Allah sort 'em out..."
Another poster wrote, "From this day forward it must be the sworn and sacred duty of this nation to fulfill the wishes of those lunatics - all of them - and send them to meet Allah. The sooner the better. No civilized human being engages in this type of activity or blows up school busses or woman and children in Israel or here.? It is time the full fury and vengeance of this nation is leashed upon them.
"I never thought I would look forward to a war, (and it's potential war draft), but after this all I can say is...'Show me where to sign!' This shouldn't end until everyone responsible for it is captured and shot. I think it is time for us to prove once again who has the upper hand, and this 21-year-old is ready to kick some ass! It looks to be a good day to lay low.
Another poster wrote, "A day of infamy. I suspect that some country or countries will learn that the U.S. does not always turn the other cheek."
I've never been through a major war, and most of us on the list have not been, either. For those members like Jim McClellan, who were living in 1941 and aware of what was happening, this is the last thing they would have wanted to see again. But as one TV commentator said, "This is war..."
A Boston poster noted, "The Green Line is operating. My wife and I walked home from the financial district though and got on at St. Mary's on the C line, thus avoiding any subway. Very scary to see this on TV and wonder whether or not to leave work, especially working in buildings that could be targets. My wife's building was evacuated mid-morning."
Another Boston online citizen observed, "I saw a graphic on one of the Boston channels that stated the MBTA was to add more service to aid city workers in their commute home."
From Florida, a poster wrote, "Shortly after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the architect of the attack, Admiral Isoruoku Yamamoto, said that Japan had 'awakened a sleeping giant and instilled in it a terrible resolve.' I hope somewhere, in some tin shack, somewhere in a country where Islam is the preferred religion, somebody is thinking about the terrible resolve that's just been awakened 5,000 miles away, and somewhere, in that country, someone is watching the live coverage from CNN, and muttering to themselves, 'what have we done,' knowing that there is a very real possibility that he will not be around to see his next birthday. Wake up, rest of the world. For the giant is stirring and is hungering for blood."
Some voices were shrill.
"For each and every American who died, there must be thousands of them killed and I have no soft spot in my heart any longer for sex or age. It has got to be our sworn duty to fulfill their wishes and send thousands upon thousands of them to meet Allah.
"Okay I'm in... Seth said it right... 'War has been declared on the USA. Pure and simple. War has been declared. If this was a Middle Eastern group, there needs to be a new desert where a city once stood. As we said during the Gulf War, "Nuke 'em till they glow, then shoot 'em in the dark!"
Yet another poster wrote, "There has to be a full scale retaliatory strike, and as soon as possible."
Elsewhere, railfans everywhere on the internet stopped all their regular chatter to watch CNN, Fox News, and all the rest as the story unfolded. A few had stories to tell. One was the missing Metro-North employee Howie Dash. Another was John Albert, an Amtrak engineer running between New Haven and New York, who told the world (via the newsgroup misc.transport.rail.Americas), "Like everyone else here, I turned on the television yesterday morning and couldn't believe what I was seeing; but it was another working day. I tried to call, to find out what might be running. Didn't get through. I didn't try very hard to contact them - I knew there would be a train to run.
"So, I left for work on my regular time." He continued his essay in story format:
"When I got to the crew room at New Haven, I found that many of the daytime trains had been canceled, including mine, No. 173 on Tuesdays. In the chaos, the tunnels into and out of New York had been closed and then inspected before traffic would be allowed through. However, some trains were starting to run again, so I waited around to be available in case they needed me for something.
No. 149 was going to run on time from Springfield, Mass., to D.C. That would be mine. I asked the New Haven Motor Storage engine dispatcher for my engine: the 915 - it was the only one there. It's one of the last "old-time" AEM-7's, not rebuilt, no ACSES, and still has the old-time cab signal display. It's an engine that remains a pleasure to run, rather than a contest. Indeed the 915 has changed very little since my first trip on it many years ago.
The inbound train arrived on time from Springfield, and we left on time as well, but waited at South Norwalk for a Metro-North extra heading up the Danbury branch. Their schedules had been disrupted as well, and they were running what they could trying to get things back together.
We stopped at Stamford, finished the run down the New Haven line with clear signals all the way - unusual then headed down the Hell Gate Line for New York.
Perhaps the most spectacular view of Manhattan island and the boroughs of New York City is one that most people will never witness: from the cab of a locomotive on the Hell Gate Bridge. You're up in the air, but not so high that you lose the breadth and magnificence of scope. You may get a similar, fleeting glimpse from the Triborough Bridge, but on the Hell Gate you have more time to appreciate what's before you.
Back in 1986 when I first got a computer, one use I found for it was to keep a database record of all my jobs. At first, I kept only essential data: engine numbers, terminals, mileage, times, etc. But then I decided I should include something more, a place to record comments about the day's trip.
The View from the bridge was one of my first experiences on my first trip over the road as a promoted engineman back May 1981, and it has earned entries in my "comment log" through the years. Here are a few:
October 28, 1990 (Conrail):
"Saw a complete rainbow stretching from the Bronx to Long Island - the most perfect I've ever seen."
July 1, 2001 (Amtrak):
"Saw a bolt of lightning hit the World Trade Center just before going into tunnel on the trip in." Two days ago, Sunday, September 9 (Amtrak):
"There was no one to run 57, so I took that instead of 163; on the way back, NYC looked very nice under clouds overhead."
Coming westward on the Hell Gate Line, you pass by Oak Point Yard on the left with the elevated Bruckner Expressway on your right. You're down below street level here, but at the west end of the yard you start the climb. You're slowing down here, from 60 to 40 for the sharpest curve, as you leave the South Bronx. You turn right, go across the Bronx Kills bridgework, then continue upward past the tollbooths of the Triborough Bridge. As you climb towards the 50 mph curve at the east side of the main span, that's when you really see it.
And of course, they were gone.
We arrived at Penn Station with six cars, two trainmen, five passengers, and no one on the platform waiting.
When I don't see him, I'll leave a note for the outbound engineman, saying how many cars, and condition of the brakes and engine. But last night I added:
149, 6 cars
Penn Station was very quiet. I walked out to Eighth Avenue and 31st Street.
Looking downtown towards the darkness, I saw what might be flashing lights far off, couldn't tell how far. I walked eastward on 31st Street. The taxi stands were blocked off with police vehicles; I heard they commandeered the taxis for emergency service. Seventh Avenue was closed south of 34th Street, being used as an "emergency vehicle corridor." It was eerily quiet in midtown, almost no one there.
Back inside, there was no eastbound work for me. All earlier trains were gone and the ones coming later would have crews arriving, available to work back.
So I could deadhead home.
There weren't going to be any eastward trains from Penn for a couple of hours, so I decided to take Metro-North back to New Haven. I walked to the Seventh Avenue Subway entrance by the Long Island Rail Road side, with money out for a subway token, but the clerk at the booth waved me through the open gates. There was no service south of 34th Street. Downtown trains were terminating there, then heading back uptown.
Waiting in the subway car to leave, I listened to a gentleman who worked for Jersey Transit. From his window he had seen it all: the second plane hit, the first collapse, the second collapse.
Grand Central was all but deserted. In the quiet there, one can take in what must be the greatest public space in America. I caught the 10:17 p.m. for New Haven. The guy running it had hired out one man behind me.
The ride home in a deadhead car gave me time to consider the day, turning everything over inside.
In 1941 about 3,000 lives were lost at Pearl Harbor. We went to war, against known enemies, known countries. Yesterday we lost... well, who has any idea yet of how many? Certainly thousands. Could it reach 20,000?
But this time, our war must be not against a country. It must be against a culture. We must fight it and do whatever it takes to win. If we are not willing to do this, we will certainly face a greater Hellfire next time.
I got home three hours behind my regular time.
I have yet to finish my timeslip for yesterday, and then enter it into my records. I'm unsure what I can put into my comment log to fully represent yesterday's events.
I didn't sleep long last night. The televisions keep looping videos of the planes slicing into the buildings. How many times can you watch it?
There are going to be more videos, perhaps more chilling than before. At once, the most awful and compelling sight I've ever seen. I am hard-pressed to keep my composure when I stop to think of those hundreds or thousands of doomed people in those buildings. Those who chose to jump rather than be burned alive.
May God have pity on their souls.
Last night just after sunset on the bridge, I looked in the distance and saw the ashes of their lives floating up from Manhattan and across Brooklyn.
Tuesday, September 11, 2001:
The view will never be the same.
Howie Dash of Metro-North, who had been among the missing, or so railfans thought for a time, let his on-line friends know he was okay.
He tapped out on his computer, "Well, I am too exhausted to write a long description of what happened in New York and Metro-North yesterday and today, but here is the general story." He continued:
It was shortly before 9:00 a.m. and I was at my desk working on equipment and track assignments for the upcoming Jewish holiday getaway for next Monday. (Rosh Hashanah is on Tuesday). My coworker next to me told me a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I went into the conference room down the hall to see what was going on on the TV, and was there just in time to see the second plane crash into the second tower. At that moment we all knew it was an act of terrorism and not an accident. I went back to my desk to try to continue my work.
Five minutes later, I got a call from the superintendent of train operations who told me to go to the Operations Control Center right away. I packed up my belongings and immediately went there.
The first thing I did was sit down with the yardmaster and make an assessment of every piece of equipment and what track it was on in Grand Central. Service was still being operated at this point, but at about 9:45 they stopped northbound service and at about 9:55, they stopped southbound service, all at the request of the police.
About 10:20, we received a call to evacuate Grand Central. Those of us in the Operations Control Center stayed to make sure that every train still on the road got to a major destination. The Rail Traffic Controllers (dispatchers) all started leaving but a handful of managers and rail traffic controllers stayed around, including myself, to button things up. It was at his point I started to wonder if I would ever see my wife again as we all figured Grand Central could be a major target.
Finally, around 10:40, we lined a route north from four tracks in the terminal to the four Park Avenue Tunnel tracks, so that we could run some trains out of the city without dispatchers. We lined four diesel (not electric) powered trains out in case we lost our third rail power. We then all left and went out to 42nd Street.
Once I got to the street, people were kind of milling around and I wondered if I was really safer on the street than in the building. The police didn't let us walk down Park Avenue because there was a Ryder truck parked outside that they were checking for explosives. Looking down Park Avenue, the sickest feeling was looking where the World Trade Center used to be and seeing nothing but a huge cloud of smoke. Finally, at 10:55, we got another beep telling us it was safe to go back into Grand Central.
I went back into the Control Center and the plan was to run an all-stops train on each line. The plan was to load up a train and when it was filled, let it go. Then we started loading another train for the same line. I immediately called Fleet Management and told them not to dispatch any trains from the outer terminals unless they were 8, 10 or 12 cars. I helped the GCT yardmaster switch all his trains in the terminal to that size. I then gave the Grand Central Terminal Superintendent what tracks I had equipment on for each line so they could load them.
The first northbound train left Grand Central around 11:45 a.m. It was load-and-go from that point on. We were not initially operating any southbound trains into Grand Central. The first train for each tunnel track had a police officer and a road foreman of engines on the head end to inspect the tunnels at restricted speed. Once the train cleared that track, it was okayed for normal track speed.
Around 2:00 p.m., I asked one of the top managers if when most of the people were out of the city if they had a plan on what kind of service they wanted to run. He had no answer but told me a few minutes later they got approval to run a Saturday schedule starting at 3:00 p.m. At that point, I helped the yardmaster assign his cars to the scheduled trains.
From 3:00 to around 730 p.m., when I finally went home, I worked toward getting the cars to the proper terminals so that we could run a normal rush hour this morning [Wednesday]. I also closely managed the diesel-hauled trains so they didn't run out of fuel (none did).
I went home on the 7:53 p.m. Hudson Line train to Poughkeepsie very tired, but satisfied that I had done my job and happy to go home safe and sound.
When I got home, I spent about an hour unwinding with my wife, so that I could go to bed then get back up at 4:00 a.m. to go back to the city and do it again. Fortunately, today was a fairly normal rush hour, and most of our equipment was back where it belonged. Most of the trains were even of the right size, even though our ridership was only 25 to 60 percent of normal, depending on the train. I am now happily home and ready to go back to what I hope will be a normal day of work tomorrow.
I would like to thank my co-workers, both union and management for rising to the occasion and putting the riding public first, again. The hours of service law was suspended because of the national emergency and we had crews all day long to get the people home. I was even thrilled that most of the second trick workers came in, even though there was very limited transportation around the city.
Finally, my prayers go out to the thousands that may have perished at the World Trade Center (and Pentagon) and their families. Let's hope that the bright side of this national tragedy is a national understanding that passenger railroads must be an integral part of our nation's transportation system and even our national defense.
Our thanks to web posters Mike Murray, Dan Learn, Steve Grande, Gene Poon, Eric Hauchens, Tom Shultz, Jim Norton, Cy and Wynema Martin, Harris Cohen, Ethan Haslett, Dennis Duffy, Joseph Hill, Richard Einhorn, Edward Sirovy, Howard Bingham, Seth Bramson, Mike Harbour, Joseph Oates, R.T. Dowling, Lance Pinkerton, Peter Phillips, Mal Smith, Adam Sullivan, Rob D. and many, many others.
Now is the time for meticulous planning, resolute will, and a ruthlessness which most Americans normally disdain, but which is called for here. We should and must possess the controlled fury of a great democracy grievously wronged, yet unbound in its will to survive, with a united people determined to triumph over the forces of darkness which would destroy our way of life.
Our prayers are with the families and friends of all who have suffered, and also with the employees of Amtrak, all of the commuter and regional rail authorities, the airlines, and of all of the nation's transportation system, which is about to undergo a difficult transformation. We must be especially alert for continued probing and testing by the trained murderers who are without question still in our midst, and at the same time we must be careful not to harm anyone merely because of his or her appearance.
We will be sorely tested by what has happened, and by what is yet to come. Many of our friends and fellow advocates have emailed us since Tuesday with the idea that we must redouble our efforts to balance our national transportation system which was woefully inadequate before Tuesday's mass murders in New York and Washington, and which will become even more strained, and they are right: we need to begin aggressively building modern rail capacity, as Rep. Don Young of Alaska, and Rep. John Mica of Florida, and others, have called for. But for now, we need to concentrate in the days and weeks and months ahead on one thing: freeing the world from the evil of terrorism.
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