Destination:Freedom Newsletter
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 2 No. 43, October 29, 2001
Copyright © 2001, NCI, Inc.
James P. RePass, President
Leo King, Editor

A weekly North American Railroad update

Acela 2150 at Readville, MA

NCI: Leo King

FROM THE TOP - Acela Express 2150 flashes by Readville, Mass at 100 mph at 11:21 a.m. on October 24 nearing the end of its journey from New York to Boston. Two minutes earlier, it left Route 128 (Dedham).
'AF' interlocking back in service;
VRE mulls adding Virginia trains
CSX's "iron mixing bowl" on the main line between Washington and Richmond has been rebuilt with a new interlocking plant, and, say rail officials, traffic should move far smoother and delays be drastically cut.

Two freight railroads, CSX Corp.'s Fredericksburg line and Norfolk Southern's Manassas branch, converge with Virginia Railway Express commuter lines and Amtrak at the Alexandria, Va. interlocking, just south of the VRE and Metro stations. Railroad workers know the section as "AF interlocking," shorthand from the 1800s acknowledging the Alexandria-Fredericksburg line that runs through it.

The interlocking reconstruction job began in July 2000 and was finished on October 19, according to VRE spokesman Mark Roeber. "In the end, we hope it's going to mean a savings in commuter time," reported the Washington Post on October 25.

The final cost of overhauling the interlocking crossovers was $13.5 million, 35 percent more than the initial estimate of $10 million. The cost was pushed upward in part by additional track and adding sophisticated software used to monitor the increased number of trains and rails, Roeber said.

Four tracks and 16 crossovers in the lengthy plant will allow dispatchers (in Jacksonville, Fla.) to move more trains over the tracks without slowing. Instead of 80 trains a day, the crossovers can now handle 160 a day, Roeber said. Previously, there were two tracks and four crossovers.

The trip between Fredericksburg and Washington now takes about 90 minutes, partly because speed restrictions in the construction area have been removed.

Now, VRE is studying whether to add trains, adjust dwell times in the stations or speed up each trip.

Fairfax County Supervisor T. Dana Kauffman (D-Lee) said "VRE has been extremely successful even though there are portions of the line where the train literally slowed to a snail's pace to get through this switch-over area," Kauffman said.

"With the Iron Mixing Bowl improvement... trains don't have to slow down. They can move quickly through there, and it makes it even more of a viable alternative for commuters along the I-95 corridor."

Before the expansion, commuter and freight trains would have to slow from 45 mph or even 70 mph to 10 mph.

"It certainly provides greater ability for managing the fluid movement of all trains," said Robert L. Gould, a spokesman for CSX Corp.

Florida looks for more conventional Amtrak trains
If all goes well, Amtrak will be making six stops in Lakeland, Fla., as well as high-speed trains, according to a report last week in The Lakeland Ledger.

Amtrak's project to operate on Florida East Coast Ry. tracks could add four passenger train stops a day to the downtown Lakeland station within three years, bringing the total daily stops to six.

Amtrak would continue to operate conventional, diesel-powered trains, but High-Speed Rail Authority participants discussed the topic for more than ninety minutes. The authority met October 24 in Orlando. Its members had been concerned that high-speed rail was competing with Amtrak for the same money.

Amtrak's David Carol, who shepherded the railroad's electrification and high-speed program through three New England state legislatures, and Nazih Haddad, the Florida DOT passenger rail director who also serves as the authority's staff director, said a state plan to give $44 million in the next two years to restore passenger train service between Jacksonville and West Palm Beach would complement high-speed rail. Planners are currently searching out the best route for a line in South Florida that will link Tampa and Orlando in the first phase, and eventually will extend to Miami.

A state Constitutional amendment voters agreed upon last November requires the state's seven most densely populated communities to be linked by high-speed rail. It passed with 53 percent of the vote.

Since the 1960s, passenger service to Miami has run inland from Jacksonville through Auburndale and Winter Haven. Under the project with Amtrak, the Florida DOT and FEC Railway, the original route laid down by Henry Flagler in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, would again be used for passenger trains along with the continued service inland. FEC currently is a freight-only railroad.

Cocoa Mayor Judy Parrish said eight cities along the east coast route, including her city, were building train stations.

She told authority member C.C. "Doc" Dockery, in answer to a question, that the new Amtrak station was planned to handle high-speed rail traffic as well.

The realignment of passenger service to the east coast route would add six new Amtrak train trips into Florida without interrupting the current ones, Carol said. As a by-product, it would restore passenger train service between Orlando and Tampa, gone for more than three decades.

Two trains currently stop at Lakeland's station on Lake Mirror - Southbound Silver Palm No. 89 at 7:28 a.m. and northbound No.90 at 9:20 p.m. Both trains operate between Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville and other Florida communities, but the southward train originates in New York City, where the northbound train terminates. Passengers can also book other routes and ride a bus to Winter Haven to ride other Silver Service trains.

Additional Tampa-Orlando service would mean two trains headed to Tampa and two to Orlando for a total of four new stops in Lakeland.

"That is good news," Lakeland Mayor Buddy Fletcher said, "because this is going to bring us closer together with Tampa and Orlando, but it is not going to take the place of the need for high-speed rail.

"The high-speed rail from Tampa to Orlando will operate at a very fast speed with fewer stops, but hopefully with Lakeland among them," Fletcher said.

The authority voted to send its chairman, Fred Dudley, to a meeting of the Transportation Outreach Programs (TOPs) advisory committee to tell its members that funding the Amtrak project would not conflict with the high-speed rail project, but Dockery said he does not favor the TOPs program, which gives money largely to non-road transportation projects, and which was partly funded with money originally set aside for the old High-Speed Rail Commission, which Gov. Jeb Bush ended.

Mark Dysart, president of the High-Speed Ground Transportation Association, told the gathering "We had scheduled our annual conference next year for New Orleans, but when we saw how active you were in high-speed rail in Florida, we moved the meeting to Orlando next May to highlight your efforts."

The Florida High-Speed Rail Authority will hold its next meeting at The Lakeland Center at 9 a.m. Nov. 13.

Truck driver found at fault in derailment
The National Transportation Safety Board blamed a truck driver in an Amtrak collision in Jacksonville, Fla., in February 1997.

The board reported on Friday "The probable cause of this accident was the tractor-semitrailer driver's improper turn on a narrow road that resulted in fouling a grade crossing, and the truck driver's failure to use available communication devices to warn authorities that his vehicle was fouling the tracks."

At about 4:45 p.m. on February 5, 1997, Amtrak's No. 98, the Silver Meteor, hit a tractor-semitrailer combination, operated by Coastal Transport, Inc., of Savannah, at Old Kings Road in Jacksonville. The locomotive and four leading cars derailed from the CSX tracks. Fifteen people were injured of 182 passengers and crew aboard. There were no deaths. The injured passengers were treated and released the same day, but the locomotive engineer and assistant engineer were hospitalized and released after 48 hours with minor injuries.

The tractor-semitrailer was destroyed, and its driver had exited the vehicle before the collision. He was not injured.

Damages were estimated at $1,410,000. Weather at the time was clear, and the temperature was recorded at 70 degrees.

The driver said he tried to turn his vehicle around near the grade crossing, but, he said, trailer hung on the crossing, and the drive wheels left the pavement and lost traction. The driver of a passing pickup truck stopped and attempted, unsuccessfully, to use a chain to pull the larger truck back onto the pavement.

Amtrak train No. 98, with one locomotive, one baggage car, and nine passenger cars, was northbound from Miami to New York. Approaching Old Kings Road at milepost 631.8 on the CSX's Nahunta Subdivision, the engine crew observed that the crossing gates were down and that a truck was on the track. When he realized that the truck was not moving, the engineer applied the train's emergency brakes.

The locomotive event recorder indicates that the train was traveling at its authorized track speed of 79 mph when the emergency brakes were applied 1,721 feet from the crossing. The train had slowed to 23 mph at impact, but the collision caused the locomotive and the first four cars to derail. The locomotive and baggage car came to rest on their sides, but all the derailed passenger cars remained upright. The train crew evacuated their passengers. Police and emergency medical personnel arrived on scene shortly after the accident.

The NTSB stated the truck was equipped with both a CB radio and a satellite communication system. The satellite communication system was designed to allow text communication between the truck driver and his dispatcher, but, the NTSB stated, "The truck driver did not attempt to use the CB radio or the satellite system to contact anyone about fouling the track at the crossing."

Amtrak dedicates a P-42 to Thompson
Amtrak is going to dedicate a new P-42 locomotive on November 1 in Washington.

Through the pages of the railroad's weekly Employee Advisory, the carrier said on Thursday, Nov. 1, it will hold a ceremony Washington Union station and dedicate a 4,000 hp diesel engine to Thompson. Amtrak president George Warrington will host the event.

The locomotive, with an inscription that reads, "Governor Tommy G. Thompson," will be displayed on Track 20.

Following remarks by Warrington and Thompson, the locomotive will be formally dedicated and will receive a champagne christening. A reception in the Starlight Room will follow.

Thompson broke a ceremonial champagne bottle across the nose of Amtrak's new Acela Express train one year ago when the first trainset, 2020-2009, entered service. Thompson was Amtrak's board chairman who helped to celebrate the debut of America's first high-speed passenger train service last November.

Since then, the former Wisconsin governor was appointed to President Bush's cabinet as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

 A Reminder...

Tick-tocks tell 'standard' time tale

In case you missed it, standard time returned to our clocks yesterday - in the wee hours, at 2:00 a.m. Clocks were set back one hour Sunday morning, except for those place that never went to Daylight Savings Time to begin with.

The change will provide an additional hour of daylight in the morning.

"When changing your clocks, remember the old saying, 'Spring ahead, fall back,'" DOT secretary Norman Mineta said.

Next spring, the nation will return to DST on April 7.

Among the 48 contiguous states that don't change their time are Arizona, Hawaii, and the part of Indiana located in the Eastern time zone.

In 1918, Congress made the railroad zones official under federal law and assigned the responsibility for any changes that might be needed to the Interstate Commerce Commission, then the only federal regulatory agency. In the Uniform Time Act of 1966, Congress established uniform dates for daylight saving time and transferred responsibility for the time laws to the U.S. Transportation department.

Freight lines...

BNSF Freight

BNSF: Louis Bencze   

MOVING FREIGHT - Container freight still moves across BNSF and the nation, the AAR reports, but there is a general traffic slowdown nationwide. This container train is a Seattle-to-Chicago run near East Glacier, Mont.
BNSF net falls 13 percent;
carrier to lay off 400 employees

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp.'s third-quarter earnings fell 13 percent as costs rose, and the second-largest U.S. railroad said it will eliminate 400 management jobs.

Net income slid to $225 million, or 58 cents a share, from $259 million, or 64 cents, company spokesman Patrick Hiatte said. Sales were little changed at $2.34 billion. The non-union jobs being cut are 1 percent of the workforce of 39,597 as of September. 30, Bloomberg News reported.

BNSF reported its costs rose 3.9 percent to $1.84 million as the company paid more for labor and fuel. At the same time, automobile shipments fell 13 percent as the railroad lost a contract to carry General Motors Corp. vehicles to rival Union Pacific Corp., according to the Association of American Railroads. BNSF's total rail shipments fell 0.8 percent.

"Burlington Northern has hit a wall in terms of cost cutting," said James Valentine, a Morgan Stanley Dean Witter analyst who rates the Fort Worth-based company an "outperform" and doesn't own its shares.

"It is even more evident in this quarter's numbers. Given the weak economy, they did a good job keeping revenues flat," he said.

The results included $32 million, or 5 cents a share, from a contract settlement, the company said. Hiatte didn't specify which customer made the settlement. The company also said it had investment losses equal to 3 cents a share. Including those items, the third-quarter earnings per share were 56 cents.

That matched the average estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial/First Call. BNSF shares rose 15 cents to $26.75 last Tuesday, and they had fallen 5.5 percent this year.

NS reports lower results in quarter
Norfolk Southern Corp. on Wednesday reported third-quarter net income of $79 million, or $0.20 per diluted share, compared with net income of $99 million, or $0.26 per diluted share, in the third quarter of 2000, which included a gain of $46 million, or $0.12 per diluted share, from the sale of timber properties.

"An improvement in revenue yield and effective cost controls allowed us to improve operating income by 16 percent in the third quarter, although continued weakness in the U.S. economy impacted carloadings," said David R. Goode, chairman, president and CEO.

For the first nine months, net income was $260 million, or $0.67 per diluted share, and included an after-tax gain of $13 million, or $0.03 per share, related to the 1998 sale of Norfolk Southern's former trucking subsidiary, North American Van Lines, Inc. This compares with reported net income for the first nine months of 2000 of $167 million, or $0.44 per diluted share, which included a work-force reduction charge and gains on the sale of timber rights and certain interests in oil and natural gas properties.

Railway operating revenues for the quarter were $1.51 billion, down two percent, and for the first nine months were $4.64 billion, unchanged compared to the same period last year. Coal revenues improved one percent in the third quarter and climbed six percent in the first nine months, reflecting increased utility shipments.

The slow economy affected general merchandise revenues, he said, which declined two percent in the quarter and three percent in the nine-month period. Automotive revenues showed the greatest decline during both periods due to soft sales and related production cutbacks.

The economy also impacted intermodal revenues, which declined five percent in the quarter but were two percent ahead of last year for the first nine months.

Railway operating expenses for the quarter were $1.26 billion, a reduction of five percent and for the first nine months were $3.90 billion, down three percent, excluding last year's work-force reduction charge.

"With the opening of our southeastern intermodal hub at Austell, Ga., near Atlanta, we are introducing new freight service to the Northeast, Southwest and Northwest," Goode said.

"We also are establishing coast-to-coast train services with western carriers, offering certain guaranteed on-time deliveries and making strides in reducing transit times. Our strategy will be to continue to focus on tightly controlling costs while we continue to launch new services to meet our customers' needs."

The railway operating ratio for the quarter improved to 83.8 percent compared to 86.3 percent for the same period of 2000. For the first nine months, the operating ratio improved to 84.2 percent compared with 88.8 percent in 2000. Excluding the work-force reduction charge, last year's nine-month operating ratio was 86.7 percent.

AAR reports sharp gains in grain, ore loads
"Largely because of sharp gains in loadings of grain and metallic ores, freight traffic on the nation's railroads rose during the week ended October 20, in comparison with the corresponding week last year," the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported on Friday.

Carload volume totaled 347,554 cars, up 0.7 percent from the comparable week last year, with loadings up 7.9 percent in the West but down 7.5 percent in the East. Intermodal volume, which is not included in the carload data, totaled 187,603 trailers and containers, down 3.0 percent from last year. Total volume was estimated at 30.7 billion ton-miles, up 0.3 percent from last year.

Loadings of metallic ores jumped 30.9 percent (3,933 cars) from the comparable week last year. Grain traffic rose 9.7 percent (2,310 cars), while petroleum products increased 7.3 percent and coke volume gained 6.6 percent. Loadings of metals and products declined 12.1 percent; primary forest products dropped 11.7 percent; and motor vehicles and equipment were off 8.1 percent. Overall, twelve of 19 commodities were down from the comparable week last year.

The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first 42 weeks of 2001: 13,996,252 carloads, down 1.3 percent from last year; intermodal volume of 7,235,586 trailers and containers, down 2.8 percent; and total volume of an estimated 1.1982 trillion ton-miles, up 0.6 percent from last year's first 42 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. Railroads provide more than 40 percent of the nation's intercity freight transportation, more than any other mode, and rail traffic figures are regarded as an important economic indicator.

Intermodal traffic was up marginally, but carload freight was down on Canadian railroads during the week ended October 20. Intermodal traffic totaled 40,160 trailers and containers, up 0.3 percent from last year. Carload volume was 63,528 cars, down 5.3 percent from the comparable week last year.

Cumulative originations for the first 42 weeks of 2001 on the Canadian railroads totaled 2,591,615 carloads, down 2.1 percent from last year, and 1,479,120 trailers and containers, up 2.0 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 42 weeks of 2001 on 16 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 16,587,867 carloads, down 1.4 percent from last year and 8,714,706 trailers and containers, down 2.0 percent from last year.


No more D:F 'split' editions

For the last year we have attempted to offer editions of Destination: Freedom that are viewable to a wide diversity of web browsers over numerous computer platforms. Our design is simple and straightforward, and we plan to continue to lay out the e-zine in the same fashion, for the foreseeable future, but effective with the November 5 edition, we will no longer be able to offer split, two-part editions for those who may still be using ancient web browsers of limited capacity.

We do not seek to exclude anyone, but we must consider web storage space within our server and a host of other practicalities.

We also plan to remove existing split editions from our newsletter archives when we do routine "house cleaning" at the end of this calendar year (after the holidays).

If this imposes a serious inconvenience on any of our regular readers, please contact our webmaster by e-mail via available links at this web site to discuss alternatives.


November 1

RPI annual meeting, banquet

Washington Hilton and Towers
Washington D.C.
Call 703 836 2322 or fax 703 5498 0058

November 4-6

83rd Annual Railroad Tie Assn. Convention

La Mansion del Rio
San Antonio, Tex.
Contact its website at,
or call 770-460-5553; fax 770-460-5573

November 7

AAR and TTCI Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Town Hall meeting

Dallas, Tex.
Contact Jessica Franklin, Texas A&M Univ.
E-mail or call
979 845 5817

Leaf peeping...

NCI: Leo King

LEAF-PEEPING - AGAIN - Amtrak's No. 173, drawn by a new HHP-8 (high-horsepower at 8,000 hp per unit) flashes past Latimer Point Road (MP 133.4) at about 60 mph., and a brand-new "smart crossing," some 1.5 miles east of Mystic, Conn. The date was October 16. Last week, we had the wrong photo with the cutline. What you saw was Passenger Extra 907 near Westerly, R.I. close to the former High Street tower.

High Speed Crossover

NCI: Leo King

Before there were high-speed - as in 80 mph - crossovers in place, somebody had to design them. After that, steel was poured at a foundry, in this case, in Great Britain, and the castings were made. After they were shipped to the U.S., Amtrak loaded the parts onto flat cars and shipped them northward to New England, where local track crews assembled them. Consider this one, with its frog not lined for any route. The rusty steel (rusty for a short time) lay on the ground at Westerly Yard where track department people assembled them, noting the markings on top of the rails to identify which piece it was. Eventually, the loosely assembled sections were loaded onto the railroad's "Switch Exchange System," a lengthy flat-car-like device that tilts the switches upward while they are transported to the insertion points. It takes ten switch machines to make each crossover work properly. The rust is long gone, and burnished steel now feels burnish wheels of the Acela Express trains... which often have to slow down to take the crossovers. This half of a crossover eventually was inserted one mile east at a new "High Street" interlocking.
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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