Destination:Freedom Newsletter
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
  NCI Logo Vol. 1 No. 31, November 20, 2000
Copyright © 2000, NCI, Inc.
James P. RePass, President
Leo King, Editor

A weekly North American Railroad update

Acela Express at Thames River Bridge

NCI: Leo King

Amtrak's Acela Express inaugural train from Washington to New York City to Boston crosses Thames River bridge between New London and Groton, Conn., at 3:46 p.m. on November 16, 2000.
Acela Express takes first flight
NCI's Wes Vernon and Jim RePass were each able to ride different legs of the inaugural Acela Express train last week. Wes rode from Washington to New York City, and Jim from New York to Boston. These are their accounts, in chronological order, and both are personal stories as well as pieces noting the day's events. - Ed.

By Wes Vernon
Washington Correspondant

The last time I rode a train this smooth, I was in France. It was 1991. At that time, we were served a bounteous breakfast from a rolling aisle cart, as the countryside whizzed by at 180 miles an hour between Brussels and Paris. Of course, the Europeans around me were nonchalant about it all. For this American, it was an amazing experience.

On November 16, 2000 those memories came flooding back as my own country launched its high-speed rail era. Not at 180 mph. Even the Acela Express'; very highest speed of 150 mph was to be confined to a couple of New England states. But you have to remember we';re playing catch-up here for the "lost generation" of the mid-20th Century that abandoned trains and forgot about them.

And now the Acela Express was about to escort American railroading out of the 20th Century with a modicum of dignity.

"The American people want trains. And they';re going to get them," assured Virginia's former Governor and Amtrak Board member Linwood Holton, as he addressed the group of invited guests in Washington Union Station's ornate B. Smith's restaurant which, earlier in the century, served as the Presidential waiting room for every chief executive from William Howard Taft to John F. Kennedy.

And talk about a bounteous breakfast! The buffet spread in the upscale B. Smith's was appropriate to the occasion.

Bombardier Flag

Bombardier's flag could flutter freely in the breeze last Thursday

Out to the platform where Amtrak Chairman and Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, a cheerleader whose positive attitude on anything he pursues knows few bounds, declared "We deliver!"

For me, this ride was personal. I can recall what can diplomatically be called "leaner times." That was Amtrak's original inauguration May 1, 1971. On that day, a group of us boarded the locomotiveless Metroliner equipment inherited from the bankrupt Penn Central. That train was built to go 160 mph. Fat chance on the track of that era!

But when we arrived at Penn Station, then Transportation Secretary John Volpe escorted us across the platform where he took our questions in an old, inherited refurbished coach. There he told us of all the wondrous things Amtrak would accomplish. The official line was that in two years Amtrak would make a "profit." Most of us knew better, but there were political reasons for that goal.

Once today's train was out on the road, having left Washington at 9:55 a.m. so as to give some small leeway to the Metroliner that was to leave at 10, I knew that I would never look at the Metroliners in the same way again. I had forgotten that train rides could be this quiet.

For Governor Thompson, the ride was personal. His heart and soul was in this project.

"I know you've supported Amtrak for a long time," he said, "and we really appreciate it," and on he went down the aisle greeting the other guests. In 1996, he and I had discussed Amtrak on the old CBS Radio Crosstalk program.

For Larry Tkachenko, this ride was personal. The veteran railroader was rewarded for his long loyal service to the company with an assignment as conductor for this inaugural run of Amtrak's entry into the high-speed era.

Tkachenko has been with Amtrak since 1973, working Metroliners, inter-city long haul trains.

"Every piece of equipment that's run up and down the corridor, I've been on." He's had some freight experience too.

Conductor Tkachenko, who doubles as Legislative Representative of the United Transportation union (UTU), has memories of Amtrak's bad old days back in the 1970s when much of the time air conditioning and heating systems would break down on the trains.

"I think at that time, we had a collection of equipment, basically donated, and we were at the mercy of the system with regard to maintenance and the parts that were available. We were capital-starved at (that) point in time."

The computer age has helped to "tell us how good or how bad" the train's air conditioning or heating systems are.

And as for the High-Speed Rail Investment Act, now pending on Capitol Hill, this UTU lobbyist says, "Every person has a stake in it in the U.S. whether they realize it." The HSRIA is aimed at bolstering high-speed trains, not just in the Northeast Corridor, but in corridors throughout America.

"For a country this prosperous not to have a first-class transportation system is ludicrous. Why would people spend their time waiting in cars or waiting in toll booths when they can be riding a train at 150 miles an hour?"

For Amtrak President George Warrington, this ride was personal. When he took over as CEO on short notice, he didn't think he wanted the job on a permanent basis. Now, this super deluxe train was ushering in a new era on his watch.

Competition from the air shuttles? asked the reporters who mobbed the CEO in the car behind first class where the VIPs (board members and elected officials) were seated.

"Our base is Northeast Corridor business of about 12 million trips a year. We expect to grow to 15 million plus per year when we're fully operational, when all 20 trainsets have been introduced." Amtrak's 70/30 air-rail market share between Washington and New York would go even higher with "a significant penetration".

And as for the company's 30/70 rate on the old milk runs between New York and Boston, Warrington sees that being turned upside down once the Acela cuts close to two hours off the current running times at 150 mph. "Absolutely!" says the Amtrak boss, "Over 12 to 18 months;" twenty-four, at the outside.

Former Amtrak employee, now major critic, Joseph Vranich was quoted by the Washington Post as questioning whether the trip time, Boston to New York City, will be enough to compete with air shuttles. He was not quoted as saying whether that counts the time the planes have to wait on the runway in bad weather, while the more weatherproof train glides merrily on its way.

As for the future of other corridors, Warrington repeated what he's said many times, "This is all about money, and you get what you pay for." That is an allusion to the hard fact that if rail passenger service is to provide what Governor Holton described at the B. Smith's breakfast as "the third leg of the transportation stool," think infrastructure - just like the highways and airways‚ and think m-o-n-e-y!

Or as Amtrak boosters would say, think HSRIA.

What a smooth ride! The NEC trackage, although better than in most other parts of the country, is not as smooth as what we found between Brussels and Paris. When we hit the bumps, you could tell they were there, but the Acela handled them. You were not jolted. Its tilt mechanism took those corners, and you felt American railroading had made an early entry into the 21st Century, or what our European and Japanese friends would consider basic to the mid-20th. You felt we were heading toward their league at long last.

For Michael Dukakis, the ride was personal.

"You and I have been following this story for a long time," said the former Massachusetts governor who, in 1975, was telling me how he would forget the chauffeured limo and ride the Boston "T" to work every day. Dukakis had once expressed a curiosity about a private rail car trip I had planned down south in the 70s. He was tracking all this long before he ever became Vice Chairman of the Amtrak board.

And you could say the trip was personal for Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), as well. He was on board one of the earlier test trains at 162 mph a few years back. The co-sponsor of HSRIA wants that bill passed and signed into law before he sings his swan song when leaving the Senate in January. Now he was contemplating 135 mph before the New England segment goes up to 150. I told him I thought the best opportunity for that was the four-track right of way between Trenton and Newark.

Something to nibble on while shooting up the NEC in this "train of the future?"

Of course.

Hors d'oeuvres extraordinaire, served at your seat.

How about cantaloupe with cream cheese, bread and butter or cold open red potato stuffed with cream cheese, just to mention two selections?

We zipped through Baltimore a half hour out of D.C. Metroliner makes it in 35 to 37 minutes. Wilmington in 1:02 hours; Metroliner at 1:23. Philadelphia in 1:24; Metroliner at 1:45.

Even allowing for the fact that the Metroliner has to make some stops whereas we were non-stop from D.C. to New York, that's still a favorable comparison, as was our arrival into New York's Penn Station two minutes early at 2:26. Tell me that you can chalk up the Metroliner's standard 2:59, 33 minutes longer, entirely to our non-stop schedule. I don't think so.

Just a few minutes before our arrival, Larry Tkachenko went on the intercom and invited us to raise our glasses of champagne and toast a remarkable journey on a rare day.

I'll drink to that.

NCI: Leo King

The 2009-2020 trainset was the first to be conditionally accepted from Bombardier-Alstom consortium.
By Jim RePass

Without doubt, history was made last Thursday, November 16 as the first official Acela Express train dashed between Washington, New York, and Boston packed with VIPs such as Amtrak Vice Chair Mike Dukakis, Amtrak Board Chair Tommy Thompson, and Meridian Mississippi Mayor and Amtrak Board member John Robert Smith, with celebrities like Dr. Ruth Westheimer, plus major journalists from all over America including America' s foremost transportation reporter, the Washington Post's Don Phillips, Railway Age magazine publisher Bob DeMarco, and our own Wes Vernon, the former New York-based CBS News anchorman who, in my opinion, writes some of the best and most professional rail news of anyone in America.

It was my privilege to ride the New York-Boston segment, and then act as MC for the reception afterwards at Boston's One Financial Center building near South Station.

Engine 2020 was polished to a fare-the-well as it sat on Track 10 in Penn Station shortly before 2 p.m. Thursday as the glossy crowd boarded first class coach 3207, business class coaches 3541 and 3543, bistro car Café Acela 3305, business class cars 3546 and 3409, and engine 2009 on the rear.

We pulled out exactly on schedule at 1:50 p.m.

As someone who has been traveling between New York and Boston for more than 30 years, it is difficult to find the words to fairly describe the difference between the Acela Express trainsets and the old Amfleet cars in service - even the refurbished Amfleet cars used on all-electric Acela Regional service.

The first inkling that the world had changed came as we exited the East River tunnel, horns blaring, into the early afternoon sun of New York. Light filled the car as Acela's oversized windows pulled in from every vantage point the kaleidoscopic jumble of Queens and then, as we banked gently to the north and climbed the Hell Gate viaduct, the growing panoramic skyline to our left of America's greatest city.

As the picture of Manhattan grew ever larger outside in the endless sky, our car became, for a moment, still, and the passengers quiescent. One by one, I could see people begin to smile, transfixed. For 30 years I have made a point of looking at the New York skyline, night or day, because of all that it is, and stands for - not simply because it is such an important part of America, but because it is representative of our very civilization as we begin the 21st Century.

For 30 years I have been, if I may borrow the phrase, in cars that forced me to look as through a glass, darkly. On Thursday last, Acela Express removed that barrier, and changed American rail travel forever.

We glided on through New Rochelle and headed east again into Connecticut, passing through the leafy wealth of Cos Cob and Greenwich, and the corporate pile of Stamford on our way up the Coast.

It was then, clearing the station work in Stamford, that I first began to notice the irresistible surge of silky power this train possesses. Even a slight increment of speed was clearly felt, in very much the same way you feel it in a Porsche or a Lotus, where your entire body moves in unison with the highly tuned suspension of the vehicle.

With 12,000 rated horsepower from its fore and aft locomotives - meaning it can draw 18,000 horses for acceleration and deceleration - this trainset has been described as a drag racer. That's not so. It's a Ferrari.

New Haven was here and then gone as the sun got lower in the November sky, and we passed through West Rock, into East Haven and Branford. At Old Saybrook, the coast came in and once again the windows, those glorious oversized windows, filled the train with what I have always felt is one of America's most beautiful vistas, the Connecticut Shoreline. But once again, it was as if I had never observed this scene before. Up until this week if you were on the train and wanted to see the great natural beauty of the Connecticut shore, you had to make sure you sat on the right hand side of the train heading to Boston, or the left hand side heading to New York.

With the Acela Express, the entire view seems to be coming from both sides as the train curves its way east to Old Lyme, past New London, a sharp right and up and across the Thames River as the sun descends, then through the old sea towns of Niantic, Mystic and Stonington. Acela Express is geared to the business traveler, but I think Amtrak is going to see a lot of high-end tourist business on these trains.

"Breathtaking" does not begin to describe the look of late afternoon across a thousand-yard marsh of waving grass, cut through with azure blue inlets leading lazily to the sailboats and pleasure craft, and a distant ferryboat, on Long Island Sound.

At Westerly, R.I., already at a good clip, I feel the seat press against my back and the scenery right next to the train becomes harder to bring into focus in the gathering darkness. From years of travel I know we are approaching the straightest tangent on the route, and sure enough, a bell rings and an announcer says that we are ready to approach the top speed for the trip. Again we hear the announcement bell, and with glasses of champagne or apple juice, we toast the moment: "We are now at 150 miles per hour." Don Lacey in the cab has taken us to the top speed. I have been working toward this instant for nearly one quarter of my life, and I am 51.

While regular service will stop at Providence, we roll through and out, and soon are once again well above 100 miles per hour as we move relentlessly toward Boston. It is dark as we pass the Attleboros and Canton Junction, and Route 128. The red signs light the new station facilities along the route, whizzing past in a blink.

On the Southwest Corridor outside of Boston, we slow to await outbound commuter traffic and then, ahead of schedule, and with the popping, booming noise of fireworks overhead, attain our berth at South Station. A red carpet awaits us, and Mike Dukakis, smiling broadly, describes our trip and the importance of this new arrival. A few more speeches and introductions, and the happy crowd heads out into the night, some to the reception at One Financial Center, some to their hotels.

It was only three hours and 11 minutes since we had left Penn Station in New York and emerged into the afternoon Knickerbocker sun, on the 16th of November 2000. Three hours and 11 minutes, but in that short span of time an age had changed. Sometimes it is hard to tell when one era starts and another begins. Sometimes we invent arbitrary dates to mark when one period begins, and another ends. But this day, it is easy. This day, although it may take a while for some to realize it and understand why, America left the 20th Century behind. This day, November 16, 2000, America's transportation system joined the 21st Century. It is only a beginning. But it is the beginning.

Time only will tell if we seize this moment, and build upon it.

I believe we will.

A tip of the engineer's cap to Bud Smith at Groton.

NCI: Leo King

In October, the 2009-2020 set rested inside Boston's Southampton Street yard facility.

Regarding electrification

NCI, Claytor, Acela, and the utilities

By Jim RePass

Victory has a thousand fathers, so on this important, celebratory date, NCI wants to make clear how many people and organizations there were who have fought for rail development in the United States. The National Corridors Initiative played a unique role in winning the battle for the Northeast Corridor, and in laying the groundwork for rail corridors elsewhere, but there were so many others.

We need more.

We need you.

This message is aimed at developing support for a true national passenger rail system among people whom, like yourself, are well disposed toward the idea of regional and intercity rail, but who may not realize how close we are to actually winning, across America, what has been a long, twilight struggle for rail, fought by a handful of partisans.

We are close. But we are also therefore at that most dangerous of times, the critical hour before dawn, just before the battle, when all resources must be gathered, organized, and launched. We can win, but only by significantly broadening the historical base of support for the cause of robust American passenger and freight rail. This means we need you.

Let me introduce, and explain, myself.

I am a management consultant. In April 1989, having promised my two-year-old son I would be home to Boston by nightfall from a New Jersey business trip, I found myself instead on a six-hour plane ride to nowhere that, finally, brought me home - by bus.

My disappointed two-year-old was asleep, and I was angry, because weather delays are not that rare in Boston, but when I looked at a train schedule to see if I had that alternative, I found Amtrak offered ghastly five-hour service each way on a 231-mile trip to New York - a ludicrously poor standard, and one no businessman could accept.

Having vowed to attack this problem so that I, and other businessmen and women, could get home at least some of the time to see our kids, I telephoned W. Graham Claytor, the Chairman of Amtrak, and hotly asked him why his service stunk so much. He politely explained that he could offer much better, three-hour service if he could electrify the line to Boston, but that Congress wouldn't give him the money - $500 million or so for the basic wiring, although much more would be needed.

Well up on my high horse, I told him I would get him the money. And that is what we did.

I explained that in the course of business I had often consulted to the electric utility industry, and that since they would sell the juice if he electrified his line, maybe my CEO friends would help get the money. He agreed that sounded plausible, and sent his office car, the Beech Grove, the entire Amtrak senior management, and his magnificent personal staff (brought over from the Southern Railroad) to Boston for me, where he put on an elegant dinner for our invited guests, the utility CEOs. All but one showed up, and he sent his top exec. And we all agreed, that, by golly, electrification was a good idea.

And so we went to work, assembling a board of directors for what we called the Northeast Corridor Initiative. Very deliberately, we created a bi-partisan board, so that both sides of the political aisle would understand that we were serious. We made sure that all of our board members were people who would get their phone calls returned. That was an elitist thing to do, but it was deliberate, and it was necessary. In the course of doing this, we discovered there was a Congressional authorization for$125 million for the Northeast Corridor project that was being embargoed by the Bush Administration.

By great good fortune, one of my board members, Governor Joseph Garrahy of Rhode Island, ran into President George Bush's head of the Office of Management and Budget, Dick Darman, and got us invited to the White House to discuss just why they were blocking that money.

After three visits, we negotiated its release. I called Graham Claytor that day, and asked him what he was going to do with the money.

"Don't worry, Jim," he said, "It's already spent."

What Claytor did was to immediately go to bid on the design engineering for the Northeast Corridor Electrification Project, using most of that $125 million. The rest was used for signaling and track work. Without going into all the details, with luck, we had won a significant victory, and had, in effect, re-started a long-stalled Northeast Corridor Project.

The next year we helped get $155 million. The following year, $168 million. The year after, $204.5 million, then $199.5 million, and so on up through today. On November 16, 2000, we rode the first official Acela Express from New York to Boston, inaugurating high-speed rail in America.

There were many, many crises in those numbers, and stories that you just would not believe. Suffice it to say that in Washington, no one gives you anything. You have to take it. But we learned the importance of vigilance, and of swift action. But - and this is important - we did not put out any press releases. In Washington, if you tell all the world how important you are, pretty soon you become ineffective, because everyone knows you will run to the media every time you execute. We decided to be effective, rather than blabbermouths. But let me tell you, we were there fighting like tigers, and all of the real players know that, too.

What we did do, in 1996, was to begin running conferences on what we saw as a potential "national corridors" movement, and we gave it that name as we began looking beyond the Northeast Corridor to see if anyone else was doing what we were.

We found people.

In spades.

It is a sad but amazing thing, but unless we kill a busload of nuns at a grade crossing, the news media doesn't cover the national rail story at all. Sure, regional stories get covered. But Tom Brokaw? Only if it bleeds.

And yet, when we began looking for other business and environmental rail advocates, we found them in Chicago, in Wisconsin, in Ohio, in Indiana and the rest of the Midwest; in the Pacific Northwest, in the Carolinas, in Georgia, in the Deep South; in Florida, in Vermont, in New York State - region after region after region, working away with not a peep of acknowledgment from the national news media that a national rail revival was underway, because the national media doesn't know it. So, naturally, each group thought it was fighting alone.

We decided to bring them together.

In 1996, our group held the first of its "National Corridors" conferences, in Rhode Island, inviting all the regions we could find to come and share experiences. In 1997, we held two more national corridors conferences, in Atlanta and in New Orleans. In July 1999 we met in Washington, with keynoters Gil Carmichael (head of the Federal Railroad Administration under George Bush) discussing his Interstate II proposal for a national intercity rail system, and Mike Dukakis, Amtrak Vice Chair and former Democratic Presidential nominee, who has taken what could have been a political appointment only, and turned it into a vibrant crusade for national passenger rail, plus two-score speakers from the leadership of the movement that we helped to create - the National Corridors Movement.

What is the National Corridors Movement?

It is our name for our attempt to organize, advocate, create, design, and help to build interstate rail corridors that are fashioned to sustain themselves economically. It is also our attempt to make sure that the regions know about each others successes and failures, triumphs and struggles, so that each one doesn't have to invent the wheel that the other has built.

It is also our name for the growing number of academics, legislators, businessmen, financiers and environmentalists who have joined with us over the past decade, and who are leading the charge. These are advocates of their own regional and intercity corridors, whose success and ultimate interconnection will create the national corridors system we have been espousing.

NCI advocates the creation of a cost-effective rail passenger operation free of federal operating subsidy, by removing the barriers to capital formation needed for right-of-way construction, and by earning state support for improved regional rail service. We seek to do this not just for passenger rail, but to expand freight capacity as well, on the theory that improved freight and passenger capacity increases throughput and thus lowers all transportation costs, which in turn cuts the cost of living for all of us. Much work remains to be done to make this possible.

But the groundwork has been laid.

We need your help to win.

For 11 years, the National Corridors Initiative has been at the forefront of a battle unknown to most. As we related above, beginning in the Northeast, we reversed a long-standing Administration policy against rail investment, and have now spread our story nationally, and built bridges between scores of people who otherwise might have labored on alone.

The breakthrough some of us have been working towards for a decade, twenty years, or more, is at hand. We have indeed been to the mountaintop, and by God, we do want to cross over. Now is the time to create the groundswell that will overwhelm our opponents, especially the narrow interests who would restrict federal funding for intercity rail, as it has in the past, to the point of absurdity.

We need you to join us.

As this first step in taking the National Corridors Initiative and the National Corridors Movement over the top, we ask you to e-mail or "snail-mail" us to sign up as individual members of NCI, at a cost of $45 either by check or credit card (include expiration date) payable to NCI, 35 Terminal Road Suite 210, Providence, RI 02905. In doing so, you will support the following:

The work of NCI in spreading the word among regional advocates - and to the national news media, which is, at last, beginning to listen - that advocates like you are not alone, and that there is a growing national base of support for rail. You, by joining, will become a member of that all-important base.

The National Corridors Institute, established in 1999.

After a decade of ground-laying advocacy by NCI, the National Corridors Institute will publish peer-reviewed scholarly articles and information bulletins about the social, economic, and environmental benefits of investing in passenger rail, and distribute those findings to the national news media in an effort to counter the active disinformation campaign of rail's implacable opponents.

Discounts on attendance at National Corridors conferences.

It is expensive to mount successful conferences, but it is also expensive for individuals to attend them unless they are backed by large organizations. NCI will offer a minimum $50 discount to its own individual members, for any conferences it holds, so you'll get your annual membership fee back if you attend, and more.

NCI's conferences are regarded as the strongest, most substantial of any rail organization's, because they attract the very best of the industry, and always go well beyond the rail industry to bring in the most creative and innovative thinkers in America. Check out the speakers at our past conferences, and you will see what we mean, or we will send you information on past conferences when you join.

E-mail communication of advance copies of our newsletter, Destination: Freedom, with important developments and news that affect the movement.

The opportunity to purchase books selected by us that are of interest to anyone supportive of the rail movement in the United States.

That, in a nutshell, is what NCI is all about. If you want to make a difference, join, support us, and attend our conferences. The next annual conference is scheduled for May 10 and 11 in Washington, D.C. Save the dates!

Jim RePass
President & CEO
The National Corridors Initiative

Amtrak publishes Acela's first timetable
Here is the first Acela Express timetable, which is posted on the Acela website, at The schedule is effective December 11. Tickets go on sale Nov. 29.

Northbound Place Southbound
Read down   Read up
5:00 a.m. Dp
7:44 Ar
8:03 Dp
BWI Airport
New Haven
Dedham (Rte 128)
Back Bay
Ar 11:43 p.m.
Dp 9:00
Ar 8:40
5:12 p.m

Slater okays Farley Station loan
Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater last week joined U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) in signing a $140 million Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan agreement with the Pennsylvania Station Redevelopment Corp. for the Farley-Penn Station project in New York City.

Designed to expand and refurbish the James A. Farley Post Office building and portions of the existing Penn Station complex, the project is intended to create a safe and efficient passenger complex for Amtrak, commuter rail, subway, airport access, and bus and taxi passengers.

The project also provides a new Manhattan terminal to accommodate Acela Express high-speed rail service between Boston and Washington, which begins in three weeks.

Moynihan remarked the he was "most gratified by the efforts of Secretary Slater and Deputy Secretary [Mortimer] Downey to help enact TIFIA into law and ensure its success. They understand that the days of simply pouring concrete are over, and that federal dollars must be used to leverage private capital."

Moynihan added, "Today is a great day for the future of federal transportation policy and for New York, which will use this innovative tool to help finance the first truly magnificent transportation project of the 21st Century - a new Penn Station."

Selected as part of the inaugural year of the TIFIA credit program, the $800 million Farley-Penn Station Project is expected to increase station capacity by 30 percent, double passenger circulation space, and transform the building and Penn Station complex into an intermodal transportation facility and commercial center that will meet regional transportation needs in the Northeast well into the 21st Century.

"TIFIA is a federal credit assistance program to major transportation investments of critical national importance," according to a USDOT press release, "including intermodal facilities, border crossing infrastructure, highway trade corridors, and transit and passenger rail facilities with regional and national benefits. The TIFIA credit program fills market gaps and leverages substantial private co-investments by providing supplemental and subordinate capital providing almost $2.3 billion in credit.

International Lines...

Bombardier lands French MU order

Bombardier Transportation and Alstom Transport have again joined forces, this time from French National Railways (SNCF) for electrical multiple unit trainsets, consisting of 30 two-car, 25 three-car, and 17 four-car units. The units are designated as "72-TER-2N-NG (New Generation)" cars.

Bombardier stated, on November 15, it would build 89 of 203 vehicles as well as 203 power trucks. The order is valued at $520 million (Cdn) (415 million euros), with Bombardier's share to be $130 million. Deliveries are expected to begin in October 2002 and to be completed by October 2005.

The contract includes an option for 426 additional vehicles. Should this option be exercised, Bombardier's share would reach approximately $376 million.

Bombardier is based in Montreal and Alstom in Paris.

Freight Lines...

Thrall cuts jobs, predicts more layoffs

Thrall North American Rail Car, a major freight car maker, said last week employees could expect more layoffs in January, according to Crain's Chicago Business News.

The firm announced layoffs last month, and last Thursday issued another warning that more employees will lose their jobs in January.

The carbuilder employs about 500 people in the Chicago area. It said that 30 of its shop management and administrative staffers will face job cuts within two weeks beginning on January 15. By federal law, the manufacturer has to give employees 60 days' notice prior to layoff.

In early October, the company plant told 173 hourly employees at the Chicago Heights, Ill., plant that they would lose their jobs, and in two separate announcements last month, Thrall's Winder, Ga. plant announced layoffs totaling more than 500 hourly employees.

A Thrall spokesman said the privately held company and other railcar makers experienced a boom in business in the late 1990s. Thrall expanded its operations to accommodate a flood of orders, but later found its market saturated. According to the spokesman, the entire industry is experiencing a 30 percent drop in orders from last year, and a 50 percent decline from 1998 demand.

"Early in 2000, railroad efficiency improved and the economy kind of slowed down," the spokesman said.

"It's very difficult to project. We have a number of orders pending now, and that would have a direct effect on our workforce."

An industry expert said the industry "is very cyclical. We're clearly going through a down cycle. People tend to over-order, and that's what happened in 1998 and 1999."

Editorial lines...

Rail measure could help nation

A bill now pending before Congress, the High-Speed Rail Investment Act, which, for the first time, will provide substantial investment capital, $10 billion, to build the rail infrastructure needed not just in the Northeast but throughout America, to relieve our self-inflicted over-dependence on the automobile, and to end gridlock and winglock. If you want other Americans to have what we are about to enjoy in the Northeast, I have four words for you: pick up your phone. Get the name of your Representative and Senator and call them both. Tell them that the bipartisan bill is essential, and that you want to have in your region what the East will have: decent rail service that frees the traveler from auto-dependence, and provides an alternative to flying for cities 100 to 600 miles apart. This is high-speed rail that we can build tomorrow, not some perfect technology that will always be just over the horizon.

Off the main line...

Edaville's Christmas railroad is open

The lights are on at Edaville Railroad in South Carver, Mass.

The narrow-gauge line's Christmas Light Festival is ablaze with color as thousands of lights illuminate the night sky during this annual holiday tradition, designed to delight kids of all ages.

New this season is the Anne Elizabeth, a fully restored steam locomotive. It made its holiday debut on, Nov. 17. The engine was built in 1936 by Hudswell Clarke & Co. of Leeds, England, and ran for 40 years at a sugar plantation on the Fiji Islands before being acquired by a U.S. collector.

The Edaville staff is building new passenger cars, at the rate of one per month, to run three trains and reduce long lines. The railroad theme park is decorated for the holidays with scores of exhibits and plenty of activities for visitors.

Ellis D. Atwood founded the Edaville Railroad in the 1940s. He bought a defunct narrow-gauge railway in Maine to help with the harvesting of his cranberry bogs. At Christmas, he decorated his huge cranberry plantation and took friends for rides. Later, he turned Edaville into a popular New England attraction, which operated continually until 1991.

Cranrail Corp. reopened the railroad theme park last year. The company said it is spending up to $5 million to bring back the Edaville Railroad to its former glory as part of a major renovation project. Last year, thousands of visitors flocked to the railroad theme park to witness the return of this traditional holiday event.

The Christmas Light Festival runs through Sunday, Jan. 7, 2001, between 4:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. on weekdays, and 2:00 to 9:00 p.m. on weekends and holidays. The railroad is closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

The way we were...

NCI: New Haven Railroad, Collection of Leo King

In the heyday of steam, and toward the end of the steam era, the NYNH&H drew their speedy merchant clippers with I-4 and I-5 beauties - the Acelas of another era. Pacific (4-6-2) 1372 was among the class. We don't know where the photo was taken, nor even when, although we suspect near Canton Junction, Mass., ca. 1950.
An end note...

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.

Destination: Freedom'seditor, Leo King, also writes for "ThemeStream," a forum for writers and readers. King's articles are all rail-related, and chronicle events over the last ten years on the Northeast Corridor, particularly in New England. Look for his articles at under the heading "Travel," and the sub-heading, "Riding the Rails."

In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we are planning a page where we will feature 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 Site Webmaster in Boston.

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