Vol. 6 No. 52
December 19, 2005

Copyright © 2005
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

Destination:Freedom
The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - Jim RePass      Editor - Molly McKay
Webmaster - Dennis Kirkpatrick

A weekly North American rail and transit update

For railroad professionals
Political leaders at all levels of government
Journalists from all media

* Now in our Sixth Year *

This page is best viewed at 800 X 600 screen resolution

 

IN THIS EDITION...  In this edition...

  News Items... 
Amtrak given $$$ that aid Congressman’s
   political supporter
Board names Hughes acting CEO
Amtrak train headed to Chicago derails
$65,000 in meth found in Amtrak station
Arlo Guthrie riding rails to aid musicians
Santa’s arrival by Amtrak sparks large downtown crowd
  Building lines… 
Replacement of Thames River bridge underway
  Commuter lines… 
MTA approves $9.3 billion budget as
   strike deadline approaches
Florida Commuter Rail service moves forward
This just in…MBTA revives contract with Breda
  Service lines… 
Mechanics prepare Horizon Fleet to handle freezing
   winter woes
  Across the pond... 
TUI owned airlines sign-up to cooperate with Deutsche Bahn
Deutsche Bahn accepts last of 189 series Multi-System locomotives
European Union clears tolls on small trucks
  We get letters… 
Holidays more special when spent downtown
  Friday closing quotes… 
  Guest editorial… 
Cronyism strikes again
  End notes… 
The elves at Destination:Freedom are now taking their year-end, two-week holiday break. We’ll resume publication on January 9, 2006. A warm and prosperous Holiday Season to you and yours. – Ed.

Amtrak Given $$$ That Aid
Congressman’s Political Supporter

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10 – Amtrak, which is the target of criticism for losing money, was ordered to lose a little bit more by one Congressman this week, until The New York Times caught him at it.

Matt Wald and Glen Justice of the New York Times reported: “Amtrak certainly knows how to lose money, but the railroad says it can lose less if only it can get out of the business of hauling cars of “premium” freight like perishables behind its cross-country trains. Instead, Congress has told Amtrak to increase sharply the number of carloads it hauls or forgo $8.3 million in additional federal money.”

The order was contained in the transportation bill signed by President Bush last month, inserted late in the process by Representative Joe Knollenberg, an appropriations subcommittee chairman from Michigan. The Detroit businessman who owns the only company that supplies such rail cars happens to be a large donor to Mr. Knollenberg, a Republican, and other Michigan lawmakers, The Times reported.

“Mr. Knollenberg acknowledged that the order, known in Washington as an earmark, was likely to help the businessman, Anthony Soave, and his company, ExpressTrak. But he said the main goal was to help Amtrak make money by hauling freight. Until Friday, he had aggressively defended the provision,” The Times reported

But Mr. Knollenberg changed course Friday afternoon. After documents obtained by The New York Times raised questions about lobbying by ExpressTrak and its lawyers to obtain the $8.3 million for Amtrak, Mr. Knollenberg released a statement saying he would work to reverse the legislation.

“I have decided to repeal the provision and rescind the funds in question,” The Times quoted him as saying.

For now, however, the provision remains in place, said The Times.

ExpressTrak is in bankruptcy and Amtrak had sought to discontinue its contract with the company, but the matter is now in the hands of the courts.


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Amtrak board names Hughes acting CEO

Source: Amtrak Ink
On Nov. 9, Amtrak Board Chairman David Laney announced the elevation of Chief Engineer David Hughes to Acting President and CEO in the wake of President David Gunn’s release.

“Together with your hard work, David Gunn made important operational improvements during his tenure,” said Laney in a letter to employees announcing the leadership change. “Now, as we look to the future our priorities are changing and Amtrak requires a different type of leader who will more aggressively tackle the company’s significant financial, management and operational challenges.”

The change at the top of Amtrak’s management was followed a week later with the passage in Congress of the railroad’s funding for FY ’06. The legislation provides Amtrak with $1.315 billion in federal funding, the highest single annual appropriation for the railroad. Congress designated $495 million to subsidize train operations, $500 million to support capital programs and no more than $280 million to cover debt obligations. President Bush signed the bill into law on Nov. 30.

The appropriation should provide adequate funding to support the FY ’06 budget approved by the Amtrak Board. Amtrak officials are also reviewing a number of mandates contained in the legislation, including provisions requiring savings through operating efficiencies in such areas as food and beverage service and First class service, assessments of access fees by the Secretary of Transportation on commuter rail agencies for their use of the Northeast Corridor and limits on ticket discounting.


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David Hughes

Photo Courtesy of Amtrak Ink

David Hughes

 

Amtrak train headed to Chicago derails

From wire sources

UTAH--December 14 - An Amtrak train traveling from California to Chicago derailed after hitting a tractor trailer near Cisco, Utah. The train was the California Zephyr which runs daily from the San Francisco Bay Area to Chicago and was partially derailed when the front wheels on the first two engines of the train came off the track.

Initial reports indicate one person in the truck was killed and a passenger on the train suffered minor injuries. There were 119 passengers on board at the time of the accident.


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$65,000 in Meth found in Amtrak station

STAPLES, MN --- December 13- Four people were arrested after authorities found four pounds of methamphetamine at an Amtrak station in Staples, reported the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Three of those arrested were from Minnesota, one from Oregon. Two of the people will be charged with conspiracy to distribute Meth and will be arraigned in federal court. The other two are being held in the county jail on local charges, according to the Tribune.


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Arlo Guthrie riding rails to aid musicians

CHICAGO -- Arlo Guthrie famously sang about the train called the “City of New Orleans,” writes Tara Burghart in a story for the Associated Press. “Now he’s riding the rails himself, performing in cities along the route to benefit musical venues and musicians who suffered in the wake of Hurricane Katrina”.

Guthrie kicked off his “Arlo & Friends” benefit tour last week at Chicago’s Vic Theatre. He and his fellow musicians boarded Amtrak’s City of New Orleans on Tuesday night for the 70-mile trip to Kankakee, where he was to perform last Wednesday.

Guthrie, who made the late Steve Goodman’s song City of New Orleans a hit in 1972, said the idea for the tour came as he was watching television coverage of the hurricane’s aftermath and saw that Amtrak had resumed its service to New Orleans on the City of New Orleans.

“I thought, ‘There’s something we can do’ -- a light bulb went off, as it were,” he said, the AP reported.

Guthrie is performing with various musicians during the 13-day tour, including his son Abe with his band Xavier, his daughter Sara Lee Guthrie, Cyril Neville, Guy Davis, Ramsay Midwood, Kevin Kinney with “Drivin ‘ N’ Cryin” and the Burns Sisters.

Guthrie will disembark for shows in Urbana, Effingham, Carbondale and Memphis, Tenn. Willie Nelson is scheduled to perform during the final show Saturday at Tipitina’s in New Orleans, the AP reported.

The money being raised and equipment being donated will be distributed by MusicCares, a program of The Recording Academy, and Tipitina’s Foundation to performers, along with churches, schools, clubs “and anywhere where music is being played,” Guthrie said.

“We all saw images of famous people like Fats Domino being rescued, and if he’s in those kind of dire straits, what must it be like for the nameless musicians who are playing these little clubs, mostly maybe for tips?” Guthrie said. “I really can’t imagine what they’ve been going through these past few months,” the AP reported.

Goodman’s song -- with its chorus of “Good morning America, how are you?” -- was based on a train operated during the day by Illinois Central before the creation of Amtrak.

The name was discontinued in 1971, but Amtrak christened an overnight train that runs much the same route with the City of New Orleans name in 1981 -- partly because of the popularity of Guthrie’s recording, according to Amtrak officials.

Guthrie had just finished a late set at a Chicago club in 1970 when he met Goodman, who came in and asked Guthrie to hear a song he had written. Guthrie was tired, but he said if Goodman bought him a beer, he’d sit and listen until his drink was finished -- and Goodman played City of New Orleans for him.

“I don’t know how Steve Goodman managed to write a song that captured the hearts and the spirit of so many people, but the genius really belongs to him, and I was just thrilled to be a part of it,” Guthrie said. For further information see: www.arlo.net; www.GuthrieFoundation.com; www.grammy.com/musicares/; www.tipsevents.com/foundation/


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Santa’s Arrival By Amtrak
Sparks Large Downtown Crowd

By DF Staff

New London, CT – One of the ways in which rail travel contributes to American society is the way in which it can bring people together. This past week in New London, CT, a special Santa-arrives-by-train event sponsored by New London Main Street was the catalyst attracting a crowd of over 300 men, women, and children, and a brass band to the downtown area around Union Station. Amtrak conductors and crew were especially helpful with the large crowds at New London, ensuring safe arrival for Santa and his elves.

New London, which has struggled economically as the suburbs and malls around it have grown, has been working to revive its downtown with a number of projects, both private-sector and publicly-supported, including the rebuilding of Union Station, a new sculpture park and art space, and a number of new restaurants, as well as, for the first time in decades, large numbers of new residential housing units downtown.

A letter to The Day, New London’s independently and locally-owned newspaper, captures the spirit (from The New London (CT) Day Letters to The Editor of December 12, 2005)


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Santa Claus departs Amtrak Train

BUILDING LINES...  Building lines...

Thames Bridge

Three Photos: Amtrak Ink

A team from Amtrak and Cianbro, the contractor on the Thames River Bridge replacement project, studies the existing Thames River Bridge’s bascule operation. The four million pound counterweight that enables the bridge to raise will be removed as part of the bridge replacement project.

 

Replacement of Thames River Bridge Underway

Three-Year Project Replaces Nearly 100-Year-Old Connecticut Bridge

Source: Amtrak Ink

 

Work to replace the Thames River Bridge, a key link for the railroad between New York and Boston, began last month. The $76-million project is one of the biggest ticket items in the Engineering department’s FY ’06 budget and involves replacing the nearly 100-year-old Strauss Trunnion Bascule movable portion of the bridge span with a vertical-lift bridge span.

The contract for the three-year construction project, which was approved last May by Amtrak’s Board of Directors, was awarded to Cianbro Corporation, based in Pittsfield, Maine.

The work on the bridge, which is located between New London and Groton, Conn., includes fabrication and erection of two lift towers and a lift span, relocation of the bridge tender’s control house, the installation of new machinery, electrical system and underwater communications and signal cables.The project also calls for modification of the piers and a new marine fender system that protects the piers from marine traffic, as well as removal of the old bascule span, which includes a four-million-pound counter-weight ‹ all done while the railroad continues to operate with minimal interruptions during the course of the job.

The bridge’s four approach spans, which are fixed, are in good structural condition and do not require replacement.

This monumental project also requires a lot of preparatory work, including the construction of office trailers and electrical and signal work to move the bridge tender’s control house. “The bottom line is that the bridge, now an aged drawbridge prone to malfunction, will be replaced by a more efficient vertical lift bridge that rises between two towers,” said Peter Finch, project engineer. “Once done, Amtrak will have a reliable lift span for the better part of this century.”

The machinery currently operating the bridge and the bridge’s parts have reached the end of their life spans. An engineering study conducted in the early 1990s recommended then that the lift span be replaced. However, budget constraints prevented that project from moving forward. Consequently, the railroad has instead kept the bridge working through short-term fixes and many emergency repairs over the past 15 years.

If the bridge becomes inoperable, it could block rail traffic in the busy Northeast Corridor and possibly obstruct the channel’s local commercial and private marine traffic. The channel is also used by the U.S. Naval Submarine Base and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, located a short distance up river.

The project is a concerted effort between the contractor, Cianbro, and Amtrak, with each taking on clearly defined roles of responsibility. While the vast majority of the work will rely on the resources and expertise of the Cianbro team, a variety of Amtrak Engineering crews will play a supporting role in the replacement of the bridge span. Below are some of the highlights of Amtrak’s role.

Bridges and Buildings Work

To accommodate the installation of the new lift tower on Pier 2, Amtrak Bridges & Buildings crews will assist Cianbro with the relocation of the bridge tender’s control house, which contains the electrical controls, machinery and backup engine generator to operate the bridge. Located on Pier 2 and abutting the bridge, the house will be moved to the edge of the pier, which is about 25 feet from its current location. Amtrak will also assist Cianbro with moving the engine generator and fuel tank, used for backup power for the bridge’s openings, out of the control house. Amtrak will retrieve these units and, using the railroad’s rail-mounted crane, move them to Midway Maintenance-of-Way Base for storage or later sale.

Amtrak crews will also assist Cianbro with modifications to the two bridge piers that will support the new lift towers and to the new pier fender system, which protects the piers from marine traffic strikes.

Track Work

The new lift span, being provided by Cianbro, will have new track and walkways. Amtrak will assist Cianbro with the installation of new timber ties and tie spacers supplied by the contractor.

Amtrak track crews will install the running rails, guard rails, joint bars and tie plates. Amtrak crews will also install the long-point miter rail and miter rail joints and expansion joints, all of which will be supplied by the railroad. Amtrak track gangs will also perform the final track alignment.

Amtrak will build trenches that run directly below the ties and house the conduit carrying the electric cables between a junction box and the new generator.

Electrical

To accommodate the relocation of the bridge tender’s control house to the end of the bridge pier, Amtrak electrical crews will extend existing power and control cables, so that they reach the new control house and the electrification equipment. Amtrak will also monitor the installation of the new power control system and cutover to service, replace the navigation lights on the bridge and install lighting on the new pier fenders.

Communications and Signals

To continue passenger rail operations over the bridge during construction, Amtrak crews have repositioned and modified the underwater cable junction box connections and supports for the relocation of the control house. The crews will also install signal system cables and make all signal system connections to the local control panel in the new control house.

Amtrak C & S crews will also install the telephone service once the control house is moved and will maintain the radio communication devices during the relocation of the control house.

Electric Traction

So that work on the railroad is accomplished safely, much of it will be done at night when there is little or no traffic and the track can be taken out of service. Amtrak will coordinate the power outages needed by Cianbro crews by de-energizing, grounding, then re-energizing the individual catenary circuits, and test the catenary before the track is returned to service.

Amtrak ET crews will also de-energize the traction power underwater cables to permit the underwater cable support brackets, attached to the piers, to be relocated by Cianbro, until the original brackets can be remounted. Amtrak will also extend the existing static wire to the new termination points at piers two and three and will perform final alignment of the trolley breaks at those piers.

Artist Drawing of new bridge  Artist Drawing of new bridge

These graphic renderings of the new Thames River Bridge show the lift span lowered (left) for rail traffic and raised (right) to allow marine traffic to pass underneath. The work to replace the bascule span with the new lift span is expected to be complete the winter of 2007-2008.

 

“We expect the impact of the work on rail service to be minimal, with no major outages during most of the construction, except when the bridge span is changed out,” said Bruce Willbrant, deputy chief engineer for the Northeast Corridor. During the final phase - the channel and rail outage is currently planned to take place in late 2007 or early 2008 - a four-day shut- down of that segment of the railroad will occur. A review is underway to examine what alternate transportation options will be offered to customers during the shutdown period.

Considering the scope of the project, its effect on maritime traffic will be minimal. The work schedule is being coordinated with the boating community, the submarine base and the Coast Guard, including plans to keep a portion of the channel clear, with the exception of a 12-day outage of the waterway that is scheduled during the change-out.

The long-overdue Thames River Bridge project is the first of three major movable bridge projects in Connecticut planned over the next 10 years.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

MTA approves $9.3 billion budget
as strike deadline approaches

From multiple sources

NEW YORK, December 14 -- The Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved a $9.3 billion budget for 2006 despite the objections of transit union leaders who are still threatening to strike as of 12:01 Friday morning, reported the Associated Press.

A contract had not been negotiated when the budget was approved, causing Ed Watt, secretary-treasurer of the Transport Union Workers Local 100, to call the action “an insult to transit workers….”

Demands of the union include an 8% pay raise while the agency is offering 6%. The MTA has a $1 billion surplus this year from real estate transactions but that cannot be used for salaries, say officials, since it is a one-time windfall. Other disputes involve the underfunded pension plans.

A judge granted a preliminary injunction earlier this week, the Press reported, preventing the workers from striking if they fail to reach a new contract. The state’s Taylor Law which bans public employees from striking allows such an injunction.

The city is bracing itself for a strike with several contingency plans: schools would open two hours later than normal, cars entering the city would be required to have a minimum of four riders, Metro North and Long Island Railroad would service the Bronx and Queens with local shuttles, Staten Island service would be extended.

“The city is prepared for the worst-case scenario with a robust contingency plan,” Bloomberg told reporters. “Our contingency plan is designed to move as many people as possible using alternative means of transportation and to make sure that our streets remain passable for emergency vehicles.”

Heavy fines would be imposed on the union and on individual workers: $25,000 per union member the first day of the strike; $1 million fine against the union on the first day. Both amounts would double on the second day.

A transit shutdown could cost the city hundreds of million per day in overtime pay and lost business, city officials have told the Press. Josh P. Hamilton of Bloomberg news cited city and MTA sources in reporting that New York City workers who commute by rail face delays, service changes and queues in the streets for trains if subway and bus workers go on strike, according to contingency plans from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“Expect lines, long waits and delays,” according to MTA brochures distributed today, Bloomberg news reported.

If a strike is called, said Bloomberg, the Long Island Rail Road and Metro- North Railroad will run fewer scheduled trains, with fewer cars, in order to free up trains for service shuttling between terminals in Manhattan and stations in the city’s outer boroughs of Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

New York Supreme Court Justice Theodore Jones this afternoon granted a preliminary injunction barring a walkout, after an assistant attorney general argued that a strike would cause “irreparable harm,׎ the Associated Press said. Strikers risk losing two days’ pay for every day of work they miss, AP said.

The Long Island Rail Road carries an average of 288,000 passengers each weekday, while Metro-North carries 252,000, according to the MTA. New York’s transit system, the largest in the U.S., carries seven million bus and subway riders on an average day.

Some of Metro-North’s Hudson and Harlem Line trains will skip regular stops in the Bronx, while New Haven Line trains will make all regularly scheduled stops. LIRR trains will also skip some stations during rush hour.

Riders using the outbound Metro-North shuttles to the Bronx will have to queue up on 43rd Street between Madison and Vanderbilt Avenues, the MTA said. Riders from Pennsylvania Station, Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, and Jamaica and other stations in Queens also will have to line up on the street for their trains.

Port Authority Trans-Hudson, or PATH, commuter trains linking New Jersey to Manhattan will operate shuttle service between 33rd Street and the World Trade Center, every seven minutes during the morning and evening rush hours, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said in a statement.

New Jersey Transit will post extra workers in New York’s Penn Station and the Port Authority Bus Terminal at 42nd Street to help with increased passenger traffic and congestion, spokeswoman Courtney Carroll said. Extra workers will also be on hand in the Newark and Hoboken stations in New Jersey, she said.

The MTA advised commuters to work from home if possible, or avoid taking trains that arrive in the city between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. or depart between 4 and 7 p.m.

Drivers entering Manhattan south of 96th Street between 5 a.m. and 11 a.m. will be required to carry at least three passengers, city officials announced earlier this week.

The restrictions will be enforced at the East River crossings and the Holland and Lincoln tunnels. There will be no restrictions on the George Washington Bridge, the port authority said today.

Although state law prohibits strikes by public employees, Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents 32,000 workers, has a history of walking off the job when its contract expires. The union last went on strike in 1980, for 11 days.

[ Editor’s note: At press time, the strike deadline had been pushed back to midnight Tuesday December 20. ]


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Florida Commuter Rail Service Moves Forward

From The Miami Herald

MIAMI --- The idea of new commuter service on the Florida East Coast Railway corridor, after years of studies but no action, is once more rising from the ashes, reports Larry Lebowitz in the Miami Herald.

Service on this 82-mile corridor which runs through 45 downtowns from Jupiter to Miami would give millions of South Floridians an alternative to driving and would take advantage of a redevelopment boom along the tracks east of Interstate 95.

The Herald reported that supporters tout the opportunity such a rail service would bring for transit-oriented homes, shops and offices in the downtowns. “Several major residential and retail projects, such as Midtown Miami, are already taking advantage of the boom and would be strategically poised if passenger trains returned to the area for the first time since 1968,” writes Lebowitz.

Unlike Tri-Rail, which runs along a largely industrial and warehouse corridor dominated by Interstate 95, boosters say an eastern train would provide an accessible alternative that is much closer to where people live and work.

The FEC corridor would also provide local governments with a linchpin to entice transit-oriented homes, shops and offices to redeveloping downtowns. Local officials coveted the FEC corridor when Tri-Rail was being developed in the 1980s, but FEC management at the time refused to sell, the Herald reported. Tri-Rail, developed in the 1980’s, ended up on the CSX tracks that run on the less populated and more industrial areas from West Palm Beach to Miami International Airport because the FEC at the time refused to sell their corridor.

“Right idea, wrong corridor. That’s always been the problem with Tri-Rail,“ Jonathan Nelson, a Miami Beach high school teacher and train enthusiast, told the writer.

The Herald reports that new FEC corporate leadership, headed by former Miami banker Adolfo Henriques, is willing to sell a portion of the corridor. Some estimates are $500 million to $600 million. But when you add the construction of new tracks and dozens of stations, the cost rises to $1 billion. A study being undertaken now will look at different types of transit and will take several years, the consultant told Lebowitz.


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This just in…

MBTA revives contract with Breda

Compiled from sources

Though plaged with serious mechanical problems and derailments, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has resurected a $220 million deal for trolleys from Italian manufacturer Breda.

The agreement with Breda ends a standoff of close to a year that left the “T” struggling to provide Green Line service with trolleys that were breaking down at three times the normal rate.

“They were lemons,” said MBTA General Manager Daniel Grabauskas.

According to Grabauskas, Breda has restructured its management team and has agreed to pay to fix the trolleys’ mechanical problems.

The restructured agreement averts an expensive legal battle and requires Breda to provide an additional 45 trolleys by 2007 as well as meet a series of performance benchmarks. “When we get the (trolleys), if they don’t operate, we’re not going to pay,” Grabauskas said.

The MBTA has already has spent $9.5 million to upgrade Green Line tracks to fit the new trolleys and is considering a plan to spend another $2.4 million to complete modifications to older trolleys so as to run the Breda cars in tandem with them.


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SERVICE LINES...  Service lines...

Sheet metal worker Paul Gundberg

Photo: Amtrak Ink

Sheet metal worker Paul Gundberg attaches a water line to a car to flush out the sanitation tank.

 

Mechanics Prepare Horizon Fleet
to Handle Freezing Winter Woes

Source: Amtrak Ink

This winter, Brighton Park mechanics don’t expect the Horizon fleet to encounter the same problems it had in previous years, due to the work being performed at the Chicago maintenance facility to ready the equipment for the frigid winter weather.

Operating mostly on Midwest corridor routes, the Horizon cars are often plagued by snow and freezing temperatures that in the past have caused the equipment to malfunction during the winter months.

This year, mechanics have taken steps that will improve equipment reliability during the cold season. When Horizon coach, dinette and club/dinette cars cycle through Brighton Park to undergo their 92-day preventive maintenance visits, mechanics install a number of modifications to prevent the snow and freezing temperatures from affecting the equipment’s operation.

“Through November, 57 of the 82 Horizon cars serviced at the Brighton Park facility have undergone these winterization procedures and we expect to complete the remaining cars this month,” explained Master Mechanic Mike Heffner.

Heffner explained that the design of the Horizon fleet, which is similar to Amfleet equipment, makes the equipment extremely vulnerable to winter weather conditions.

“The major components are located in steel boxes underneath the car and are exposed to all types of inclement weather,” Heffner said. “The doors on these cabinets do not seal shut, and as a result, we’ve had problems with snow, rain, wind and dirt entering the cabinets that house the electrical panels, air conditioning and water raising systems.”

When this happens, the heating and air conditioning systems become inoperable and the water cannot be carried from the tank to the restrooms and other areas where fresh water is used.

“To address these problems, we are installing new doors that lock shut and insulate the mechanisms in the cabinet from the elements,” explained Assistant Superintendent Richard Navarro.

Another improvement to the Horizon equipment is a modification to the rinse line. The rinse line contains fresh water used to flush out the sanitation tank and runs from the exterior of the car to the equipment room in the car. In below-zero temperatures, the water in the rinse line outside the car freezes, often causing the line to split. Depending on how extensive the damage is to the line, it can take as much as a day to repair.

To combat this problem, the rinse lines have been removed from the Horizon cars and the sanitation tanks are completely emptied manually, rather than being emptied and rinsed automatically during everyday servicing.

During the car’s 92-day preventive maintenance visit, the tank is biochemically rinsed by connecting a water line to the car as part of the sanitation process. Over the winter months, Amtrak’s Public Health group monitors the system to evaluate sanitary conditions.

Sheet Metal Worker Paul Gunsberg, who performs this task, explains the process. “First the sanitation tank is drained, and then it’s rinsed with water and a biochemical agent that destroys the waste. After the solution sits in the car for 24 hours it’s drained out and the tank is rinsed with fresh water.”

To further address cold winter temperatures, mechanics install insulation in the equipment room to prevent the water pipes from freezing. Additionally, to keep the cold air out of the passenger area of the cars, three of the four fresh air vents in the ceiling are covered.

Other measures are also taken as part of regular preventive maintenance to help keep the fleet in good operating condition during the winter.

For example, it is extremely important that the mechanics check, and repair if necessary, the temperature- sensitive Ogontz® valve that prevents water from freezing in the water lines and in the fresh water tank, which holds between 300 and 500 gallons of water. “If the car is sitting without power and the temperature drops below 45 degrees, the Ogontz valve automatically triggers the release of water from the tank,” explained General Foreman James Mitchell. If the valve is not functioning properly, it could split the water lines.

“We also walk through the car and check the heat that comes out of every vent,” explained Electrician Ernesto Avendano. “We use thermal infrared guns to check the floor heat (and air conditioning) to make sure that proper temperature is consistent throughout the car. By shooting an infrared beam at the floor heater, the temperature is displayed on the thermal gun.”

The guns, which were designed for food service use, are also used to measure the external temperature of the grills, freezers and refrigeration units.

“By taking these steps to winterize our Horizon fleet,” stated Heffner, “our passengers should enjoy a more comfortable journey and more reliable service.”


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ACROSS THE POND...  Across the pond...

Three installments by David Beale
NCI Foreign Correspondent

 

TUI owned airlines sign-up to
cooperate with Deutsche Bahn

Source: Hannoverische Allgemeine Zeitung News

Low cost airlines HLX (formerly Hapag Lloyd Express) and Hapagfly, bith owned by travel conglomerate TUI Group, signed an agreement with Deutsche Bahn - German Railways - whereby passengers can use their flight tickets to travel to the airport on board Deutsche Bahn trains in 2nd class starting on 20th December. The agreement covers only travel on the two airlines to international destinations, it does not apply for flights within Germany.

The agreement is the latest evidence of the love-hate relationship between airlines and railroads in Europe. Deutsche Bahn currently faces fierce competition for intercity passengers from the new wave of low cost airlines, including HLX and Hapagfly, but at the same time the rail company’s trains transport thousands of passengers per day to numerous German airports which have rail stations within or near to the airport terminal. Furthermore in recent years European railroads have partially or even completely substituted for airline travel on certain city pairs such as Paris-Brussels, Frankfurt-Stuttgart, Paris-London, Cologne-Frankfurt and many others with the introduction of new high-speed rail corridors. Introduction of ICE and TGV trains on new high speed lines from Paris to Frankfurt and Paris to Stuttgart in 2007 will likely replace a number of direct flights on these routes operated by Air France and Lufthansa.

Separately TUI Group received approval of German anti-trust authorities for the sale of its VTG rail transport division to a Luxembourg firm, Companie Européene de Wagons. VTG owns one of the largest fleets of tanker cars in the European rail sector. Deutsche Bahn had earlier expressed interest in by the tanker car transport company from TUI.


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DB-Railion 189 series electric locomotive Deutsche Bahn accepts last of
189 series Multi-System locomotives

Source: Deutsche Bahn /Bahn TV

On the 14th December Siemens Transportation Systems delivered the last 189 Series multi-system locomotive from a 1999 order for 100 units to Deutsche Bahn freight subsidiary DB Logistics Railion. The 189 Series is based on the 152 series electric freight locomotive, but is equipped with additional pantographs, transformers and power conversion systems for operation from 25 kV 50 Hz AC common in France, Denmark, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Slovakia, and 3000 VDC used in Italy, Belgium and Poland, in addition to 15 kV 16.7 Hz in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden and Norway. The locomotive has headlamps made from a matrix of high intensity LEDs, so that the headlight color and brightness can be varied almost infinitely to suit local locomotive light standards and rules. Some configurations of the 189 series can also operate from 1500 VDC used in Holland and on certain routes in France. The 189 series has provisions for installation of multiple cab signaling and train control and protection systems unique to each country. The 189 series locomotive is a critical part of DB’s plans for expansion in international rail freight.

DB and Siemens continue to work on obtaining full licensing of the 189 series locomotive from other countries such as Italy, Belgium and Poland. All three major locomotive suppliers - Siemens, Bombardier and Alsthom - offer multi-system electric locomotives, however all three OEMs have faced numerous and different hurdles in obtaining operational certification from various European countries, sometimes lasting for years, for their multi-system locomotives, due mostly to entrenched governmental bureaucracy and local rail labor unions eager to ward off competition. Many rail consultants and advocacy groups remain frustrated with the on going bureaucratic delays in certifying the new generation of multi-system locomotives, noting that trucks, busses and passenger cars face no such restrictions in daily international operations.

At left: DB-Railion 189 series electric locomotive running near Mannheim-Seckenheim during Summer 2004 - Photo: Deutsche Bahn AG

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European Union clears tolls on small trucks

Source: Hannoverische Allgemeine Zeitung news

The European Parliament cleared member countries of the EU to impose tolls on small trucks (between 3.5 and 7.5 metric tons) starting in 2012, provided the tolls imposed by individual countries meet certain conditions and requirements. Currently tolls may be collected on commercial vehicles over 7.5 metric tons gross weight. Germany’s transport minister, Wolfgang Tiefensee, welcomed the development as an additional measure to help pay for the maintenance and capital costs of the highway network as well as a means of making the environmentally friendly transportation mode of rail transit more financially competitive with over the road trucking

Germany began collecting tolls in 2004 on large commercial highway vehicles (over 12 metric tons) which use the autobahn network, after a lengthy and technically troublesome test phase of the fully electronic system, which consists of a complex combination of GPS navigation, video cameras and on-board tracking units to calculate and charge tolls. Since introduction of German autobahn toll on heavy trucks, numerous German cities and towns have begun to place restrictions on the increasing number long distance trucks trying to use local and state highways to bypass the tolls on the autobahn network.


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WE GET LETTERS...  We get letters...

Holidays More Special When Spent Downtown

Dear Editor,

Community spirit is alive and well in Southeastern Connecticut — if only local people will venture out of the malls and big-box stores to find it. I spent a wonderful Saturday afternoon recently with my nephews, ages 4 through 11, enjoying the simple pleasures of downtown during New London’s “Celebration of Lights & Song.”

Ice sculptures, cookie-decorating, the arrival of Santa via Amtrak and even helping to drag home a Christmas tree purchased during the festival all were enjoyed, but they took a back seat to the fun of being able to judge local merchants and their window-decorating skills. The boys cast their own votes after carefully weighing the virtues of each display. I’m assuming that the “flashiest” windows are the ones that garnered the most votes from this particular young crew.

Business owners and restaurateurs were welcoming, and offered extra time, attention and little gifts to these kids who, I hope, now have a better understanding of the difference between shopping in large chain stores and spending money with local merchants in their own back yard. I hope more people will be thinking about where they spend their hard-earned money this holiday season, and determine that they can make a difference by deciding to spend in their downtowns.

Carolyn Johnson
New London


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: MarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)67.2967.00
Canadian National (CNI)79.4080.02
Canadian Pacific (CP)42.0442.10
CSX (CSX)49.3449.05
Florida East Coast (FLA)42.6742.50
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)35.3235.33
Kansas City Southern (KSU)24.9824.61
Norfolk Southern (NSC)43.0142.91
Providence & Worcester (PWX)15.0515.05
Union Pacific (UNP)77.8375.82


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GUEST EDITORIAL...  Guest editorial...

Cronyism strikes again

By Edward Wytkind, President
Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO.

Published December 15, 2005 in The Baltimore Sun

 

Here we go again. President Bush puts highly unqualified political supporters in charge of a vital public service, and Americans pay the price.

But this time it isn’t the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It’s our national passenger railroad - Amtrak.

Amtrak’s directors, appointed by the Bush administration based on cronyism, not competence, are shirking their responsibilities and dismantling - through outsourcing and privatization schemes - the very rail company they are charged with strengthening. If we don’t stop this runaway train, millions of passengers will lose vital rail service along the Northeast Corridor and across America.

Defying the wishes of a bipartisan Congress, Amtrak board members are pushing a disastrous "reorganization" plan that would dismantle the rail carrier, abandon passengers, dump billions of dollars in costs onto Maryland and other states and allow profit-driven speculators to cherry-pick Amtrak’s most prized assets. Other than the White House and its handpicked Amtrak board, few are for this plan.

The Bush administration wants to eliminate federal funding for Amtrak, and the Amtrak board of directors wants to separate the Northeast Corridor from the rest of the network and open the system up to competition/privatization.

The current board chairman, David M. Laney, a Texas attorney, sits at the helm of Amtrak after raising more than $100,000 for the Bush-Cheney campaign.

Another board member’s qualification to serve as fiduciary for a multibillion-dollar passenger railroad is his experience as the CEO of Kmart and the Museum Co., both of which ended up in bankruptcy. Undoubtedly, Floyd Hall’s $360,000 in "soft money" contributions to the Bush-Cheney machine since 2000 did not hurt, either.

The third private-sector member, Bush-booster Enrique Sosa, told Democratic Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey in June 2004 that he had never ridden on an Amtrak train before his appointment.

Meanwhile, the board has operated without a quorum for several years, casting grave doubt on the legitimacy, if not the legality, of its actions, the most recent of which was the firing of CEO David L. Gunn, a 40-year rail professional. We had strong differences with Mr. Gunn’s labor-management practices, but he has forgotten more about passenger rail than the three private-sector Amtrak board members combined have ever known. Mr. Gunn was fired because he refused to take a blood oath to carry out the "kill Amtrak from within" strategy.

Key Republicans are also fed up. House Railroads Subcommittee Chairman Steven C. LaTourette of Ohio recently called the situation "pathetic" and "such a mess that I have heard it said that you couldn’t think up a hypothetical case this loony if you tried."

This would be laughable if the travel needs of 25 million passengers (including 2 million Marylanders), the jobs of 20,000 dedicated Amtrak employees (including 2,600 Marylanders) and the health of our transportation system were not at risk.

Cronyism is leading Amtrak over a cliff. The White House and its Amtrak board want to emulate the British rail privatization debacle. That catastrophe caused years of rampant delays, steep fare increases, higher accident and injury rates, and apoplectic passengers. The British government had to end this half-baked scheme and reportedly could face a $40 billion tab - $10 billion more than we’ve spent on Amtrak in 35 years - to clean up the mess.

We need a clear-eyed look at Amtrak. Every industrial country needs a strong national passenger rail system to be competitive, and all provide subsidies because it is in the national interest - just as the U.S. government rightly subsidizes our mass transit, highway, aviation and waterway systems.

Congress recognizes this, which is why the Senate recently voted 93-6 to authorize $11.6 billion for Amtrak over the next six years, and why lawmakers rejected the administration’s zero budget in 2006, instead appropriating $1.3 billion this year. These actions give the railroad, passengers and employees renewed prospects for upgrading service, equipment and infrastructure, addressing overdue maintenance and improving safety and security.

So why is the Amtrak board trying to flout reality and the bipartisan will of Congress? Perhaps it has something to do with the administration’s five-year pattern of making public assets instruments of private gain. Just as Dick Cheney’s Halliburton has made billions off the Iraq war, maybe they want to let their friends profit from Amtrak’s breakup. Instead of blocking this plan, as responsible stewards of Amtrak would, the board has embraced it.

The story of the current Amtrak board is a civics lesson about how it matters whom the president entrusts with managing critical public services. Congress must stop this out-of-control Amtrak board before 25 million travelers become the latest victims of cronyism run amok in the Bush administration.


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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 editor at editor@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write. For technical issues contact D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCI’s webmaster at webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.

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