The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.

A Weekly North American Transportation Update

For transportation advocates and professionals, journalists,
and elected or appointed officials at all levels of government

Publisher: James P. RePass      E-Zine Editor: Molly McKay
Foreign Editor: David Beale      Webmaster: Dennis Kirkpatrick

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March 16, 2009
Vol. 10 No. 12

Copyright © 2009
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 10th Year

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IN THIS EDITION...   In This Edition...

  News Items…
NCI CONFERENCE - Former Amtrak Chair John Robert Smith,
   APTA CEO Bill Millar, Will Keynote New Orleans
   Transportation Conference
  Stimulus Lines…
North Carolina Stands To Benefit From High Speed Rail Stimulus $
Amtrak Gets $1.3B Stimulus Appropriation To Supplement
   Decades Of Rail Neglect
  Select Rail Stocks…
  Down-Under Lines…
Bombardier Awarded Contract For Further 60 EMU Cars
   For Queensland
  Across The Pond…
Bosphorus Europe Express Freight Train Demonstrates Faster
   Travel Times via Southeast Europe
British Transportation Department Endorses “HS2” High Speed
   Rail Corridor
  Off The Main Line…
Visitors To Savannah Ride A Streetcar Named “Dottie”
Unseen Victims Get Help
  Publication Notes …

NEWS OF THE WEEK... News Items...

Former Amtrak Chair John Robert Smith,
APTA CEO Bill Millar, Will Keynote
New Orleans Transportation Conference

By DF Staff

NEW ORLEANS --- Transportation leaders, advocates, those who study or work in the transportation industry, and the news media are invited to New Orleans March 26 for “Setting A Vision for Sustainable Development: The Louisiana Transportation Renaissance,” with opening keynote address by former Amtrak Board Chairman the Hon. John Robert Smith, closing keynote by American Public Transportation Association President & CEO William Millar, a featured address by nationally-known author Roberta Brandes Gratz and presentations by a series of national and regional transportation and smart-growth advocates in between.

The all-day event at the Port of New Orleans, 1350 Port of New Orleans Place, adjacent to the Morial Convention Center, will be presented by the University Transportation Center at the University of New Orleans, and the National Corridors Initiative, and takes place starting at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, March 26, 2009. Registration in advance is recommended at: on “UNO Conference”. The registration fee is $25 for students, and $75 for all others. Lunch will be provided.

In addition to Chairman Smith and President Millar, speakers will include Dr. John Renne, Co-Director of the UNO University Transportation Center, as moderator of the conference opening session “Transportation Is Land Use Policy”, with Justin Elizabeth ‘Boo’ Thomas, President, The Center for Planning Excellence, Baton Rouge and Kathryn Lawlor of AARP; followed by a special presentation by Cambridge Systematics, Cambridge, MA.

In the afternoon, Dr. Billy Fields III, Director, Center for Urban and Public Affairs, moderates a panel focused on “Placemaking” with Dr. Karl Seidman, Senior Lecturer in Economic Development, M.I.T. , Cambridge, MA and (Maurice) Pres Kabacoff, Co-Chairman & CEO, HRI Development Team.

Featured speaker that afternoon will be noted urban affairs writer Roberta Brandes Gratz, author of Cities Back From the Edge: New Life for Downtown (Wiley), on “Transportation, Place, Economy and Community: Connecting the Issues”.

The second afternoon panel, “Setting a Policy Agenda” will be lead by James P. RePass, President & CEO, The National Corridors Initiative, as moderator, with Alexander Evans, of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, Jeff Thomas (ORDA), Justin Augustine III, General Manager, New Orleans Regional Transportation Authority, and Kara Mattini Renne, Economic Development and Community Planner, Regional Planning Commission.

A conference resolution on moving Louisiana and the Gulf Coast Region forward to a viable transportation future will be developed during the conference, and issued at its conclusion.

For further information and registration on line, see “UNO Conference” at website

[ Direct link… ]

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STIMULUS LINES... Stimulus Lines...  

Leaving The Rest In The Dust?


North Carolina Stands To Benefit
From High Speed Rail Stimulus $

From The Southern Political Report Of March 11, 2009
By Tom Baxter

CHARLOTTE-RALEIGH / DURHAM --- North Carolina has been a rail-friendly state, as a matter of policy, going back to 1848, when the legislature authorized the construction of a rail line to connect the piedmont with the coast.

The 300-mile corridor which began with that decision is now the property of the North Carolina Railroad, a private company owned by the state, which bought the required railcars so that Amtrak would provide service on the line. Alone among states in this region, North Carolina’s Department of Transportation has a full-fledged Rail Division with a staff of planners, engineers and technicians. And the state was a leader in the development of the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor (SEHSR), which envisions a high-speed passenger line between Charlotte and Washington, D.C.

The SEHSR is one of 10 high-speed corridors designated in the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, which former President Bush signed last October. That bill only gave out a few million dollars in planning money, but it has become the avenue to a much larger trove of federal assistance. With $8 billion set aside in the stimulus package for development of intercity high-speed rail service, North Carolina’s longstanding policy leaves the state positioned to benefit from an infrastructure windfall.

“What I say when I talk to groups in the region is that North Carolina is the only state that has a more aggressive plan than we do,” said Ross Capon, president of the National Association of Railroad Passengers.

Despite “tremendous untapped potential” in Texas and Florida, the work which has already been done to develop the Southeast corridor leaves North Carolina and its partner Virginia as the only Southern states likely to benefit directly from this portion of the stimulus package, Capon said.

The result, over decades, could be as crucial to the development of the economic spine of the emerging piedmont megalopolis as the old coast-to-piedmont line was to the opening of North Carolina.

“If you look into the future and how we’re growing, the Southeast is hot. Where are they going to put all those people, and how are they going to move them around?” asked Patrick Simmons, who has headed the Rail Division since its formation in 1994.

Simmons, whose college training was in marine biology and psychology, speaks with enthusiasm of how communities can become invested in the rail system through programs like the one for station improvements which won the state a National Trust for Historic Preservation Award. The state finds itself in an advantageous position relative to most of its neighbors, he said, because “We’ve been at it for a while.”

The next step in the process of doling out the high-speed money comes April 18, when Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is required to come up with a comprehensive plan for spending the high-speed rail money, with guidance to applicants by June 17. (By the way, might LaHood possibly be the most powerful Republican left in Washington, D.C.?

North Carolina isn’t unique in the investment it has made in the potential for passenger rail, Capon said, just unique in the South.

“I don’t think they even know what a train is in Georgia,” the passenger advocate said.

Which means that most of that $8 billion will likely end up being spent elsewhere.

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Amtrak Gets $1.3B Stimulus Appropriation
To Supplement Decades Of Rail Neglect

From The White House

WASHINGTON, DC --- Standing at Washington, DC’s Union Station, one of the most traveled railway stations in the nation, Vice President Joe Biden announced that Amtrak will receive $1.3 billion in grant funding from the recently enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to expand passenger rail capacity. He was joined by Jo Strang, Acting Federal Railroad Administrator, along with several members of Congress, including: Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA); Senator John Kerry (D-MA); Senator John D. Rockefeller, IV (D-W.Va); Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL); Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ); Senator Ted Kaufman (D-DE); Congressman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.); Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL); Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD); Congressman Rick Larsen (D-WA); Congressman Christopher Carney (D-PA); and Congressman Andre Carson (D-IN).

“Over 28 million passengers ride Amtrak each year. That’s about 500,000 passengers a week or 80,000 a day,” said Vice President Biden. “For too long, we haven1t made the investments we needed to make Amtrak as safe, as reliable, as secure as it can be. That ends now. The funds in the Recovery Act for Amtrak will help create jobs and at the same time, repair and update critical needs of our nation’s infrastructure.”

“This is the Obama Administration keeping its promise to America,” said Secretary LaHood. “We are investing in jobs that will allow Amtrak to add and modernize cars and engines and upgrade its tracks. We are getting transportation money to Americans quickly in order to get the American economy going again.”

ARRA funding will roughly double the size of Amtrak’s capital investment program over a two-year period. It will be used to upgrade railroad assets and infrastructure and for capital projects that expand passenger rail capacity.

Among the improvement projects that will be undertaken are replacement of a major drawbridge on the Northeast Corridor (NEC), repairs to Amtrak facilities nationwide, the repair and return to service of nearly 70 stored and damaged passenger cars, and the rehabilitation of major elements of the NEC electrification system.

Repairs to passenger cars will be performed at Amtrak’s facilities in Beech Grove, Indiana, and Bear, Delaware, where Amtrak plans to hire skilled workers laid off from jobs at recently shuttered manufacturing facilities located nearby.

In addition to helping Amtrak achieve a state of good repair for its critical infrastructure and assets, the projects to be funded through the ARRA will result in tangible benefits to Amtrak’s passengers, including increased capacity (with fewer sold-out trains), improved operational reliability, and increased passenger comfort and accessibility at stations. Refurbished rolling stock that is returned to service may also be available for use on new State-supported routes.

The Vice President also noted that Amtrak’s hiring for ARRA projects represents a major investment not just in infrastructure, but also in the railroad’s employees. As a large portion of Amtrak’s skilled workforce nears retirement age, workers hired for ARRA projects will be trained and ready to step in to a long-term role on the railroad.

The economic recovery funds will be managed through a formal grant agreement between the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Amtrak, consistent with ARRA transparency and accountability requirements, including those related to job creation, assisting those areas most impacted by the recession, making investments that increase economic efficiency and provide long-term economic benefits. The grant agreement will also ensure timely expenditure of the funding within two years and ensure that Amtrak complies with newly established financial, operational, and customer service standards.

Click here for more information on the impact the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will have on passenger railroads.

Examples of Amtrak Projects to be Funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA):

Niantic Bridge, CT

Photo courtesy of: The Day

Boats pass under the Niantic River rail bridge in November 2004. Amtrak will use $105 million in federal stimuls funds to replace the 102-year-old span in a project that is expected to take about two years. A start date has yet to be announced.
Replacement of the movable bridge over the Niantic River on the Northeast Corridor in Connecticut - $105 million

In the largest single Amtrak project to be funded through the Recovery Act, Amtrak will replace the 102-year-old drawbridge which carries the Northeast Corridor over the Niantic River near East Lyme, Connecticut. The replacement of this aging bridge has been planned for over 20 years, but has been repeatedly deferred due to a lack of capital funding for Amtrak. Any further delay in replacing the bridge would result in the imposition of significant speed restrictions over the bridge (with resulting increases to passenger’s travel times), and potentially a major disruption to passenger rail service between New York and Boston were the bridge’s moving machinery to fail in the open position. Amtrak estimates that the bridge replacement will result in 860 person-years of work for those directly employed in the bridge construction.

Rehabilitating and returning to service 68 stored or damaged passenger cars - $82 million.

With $82 million in Recovery Act funding, Amtrak will rehabilitate and return to service 68 passenger cars that are have long been in storage due to damage and lack of funding for necessary repairs. Once returned to service, many of the cars (which include among them both corridor and long-distance equipment types) will be used to alleviate capacity constraints on heavily-traveled trains, while others may be made available for new State-supported Amtrak services. The cars will be repaired at Amtrak1s maintenance of equipment facilities in Beech Grove, Indiana, and Bear, Delaware, both located near recently closed manufacturing facilities in areas that have been hard hit by the economic downturn. Amtrak anticipates hiring 125 workers to work on this project.

Rehabilitation of the Lamokin frequency converters in Chester, Pennsylvania - $63 million.

Using $63 million in Recovery Act funding, Amtrak will entirely rebuild three rotary frequency converters, which form a key element of the power supply system for the Northeast Corridor, located in Chester, Pennsylvania. Known as the “Lamokin Converters,” they were placed in service in the 1920’s as part of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s electrification of its mainline between Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware (on what has since become Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC)). Since that time, the three 16 megawatt motor-generator sets located at the site have been in continuous use to convert commercial electric power, which operates at 60 Hertz alternating current, to the 25 Hertz alternating current that powers Amtrak and commuter trains along the NEC south of New York City.

After over 80 years of continuous use, the Lamokin frequency converters are in dire need of major rehabilitation to ensure their future reliability. As demonstrated by the power outages that crippled Amtrak and commuter rail service in the Northeast on several occasions in 2006 (the causes of which were traced to frequency converting equipment), the reliable supply of electric power is essential to the NEC remaining one of the county’s most energy-efficient examples of transportation infrastructure. Through this project, the three rotary converters will be entirely rebuilt with rewound motor coils, new stator coils, and new collector rings, allowing them to continue to serve passengers on the NEC for generations to come. Amtrak estimates that the project will result in 504 person-years of work for those directly employed in the rehabilitation of the frequency converters.

Repairs to Amtrak facilities nationwide - $105 million.

In the most wide-reaching of Amtrak’s Recovery Act-funded projects, dozens of aging Amtrak facilities throughout the country will be the target of significant repairs, such as roof replacements, plumbing repairs, heating and air conditioning improvements. Throughout the recent history of inadequate capital funding for Amtrak, these projects, which include work on stations, maintenance facilities, crew facilities, and warehouses, have been repeatedly deferred due to more pressing investment requirements. The additional capital funding provided through the Recovery Act will allow these projects (plans for many of which have been sitting on the shelf for years) to move forward quickly. Amtrak anticipates using local contractors throughout the country to perform this work, resulting in an estimated 860 person-years of work.

Wilmington, Delaware Station at Night

At Left: Historic Wilmington, Delaware Station at night.

Restoration of the Wilmington, Delaware station - $21 million.

With $21 million in Recovery Act funding, plus additional funding from the State of Delaware and other sources, Amtrak will make restorations to Wilmington, Delaware’s historic century-old Victorian train station. The project will incorporate the rebuilding and restoration of the interior of the station buildings, improvements to make the buildings entirely accessible for those with disabilities, restoration of the building’s terracotta façade, and the replacement of the track and supporting infrastructure which runs through the station. In addition to increasing comfort and convenience for passengers using Amtrak’s eleventh busiest station, the project includes the construction of a third high-level platform, which will significantly increase the capacity of the station. Amtrak estimates that the project will result in 168 person-years of work for those directly employed in the restoration of the station.

Construction of a new station for the Auto Train in Sanford, Florida - $10.5 million.

With $10.5 million in Recovery Act funding, Amtrak will construct a new station at the Auto-Train’s southern terminus in Sanford, Florida. The Auto Train, one of Amtrak’s best performing long-distance services, and one of the nation1s most innovative forms of intermodal passenger transportation, transports passenger together with their private automobiles non-stop from Lorton, Virginia (15 miles south of Washington, DC), to Central Florida. The new station will replace temporary facilities that have been in place since the destruction of much of the previous station by the 2005 hurricanes, and will provide Auto Train passengers with a more comfortable waiting area and allow for faster, more efficient boarding operations. Amtrak estimates that the project will result in 84 person-years of work for those directly employed in the construction of the new station.

Installation of Positive Train Control

…on the Amtrak-owned Michigan Line (Porter, Indiana-Kalamazoo, Michigan) and the south-end of the Northeast Corridor (New York-Washington). Amtrak will invest $60 million in Recovery Act funding in installing Positive Train Control (PTC) on its Porter, Indiana to Kalamazoo, Michigan line (used by Chicago-Detroit trains) and on the south-end of the Northeast Corridor (between New York and Washington).

PTC is an advanced signaling technology that can prevent train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, train incursions into roadway work zones, and movement over switches improperly lined. The installation of PTC by 2015 on all routes used by intercity passenger trains is mandated by the recently enacted Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. The Recovery Act funding will allow for the acceleration of the installation of PTC on lines owned by Amtrak, and will result in an immediate safety benefit, along with potential trip-time reductions where the advanced signaling system will allow for increased speeds.

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)55.4153.46
Canadian National (CNI)33.3730.54
Canadian Pacific (CP)28.9725.87
CSX (CSX)23.2121.59
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)19.8117.61
Kansas City Southern (KSU)14.3813.53
Norfolk Southern (NSC)29.2827.41
Providence & Worcester (PWX)9.028.50
Union Pacific (UNP)37.1834.98

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DOWN-UNDER LINES... Down-Under Lines...  

Bombardier Awarded Contract For
Further 60 EMU Cars For Queensland

From Bombardier

AUSTRALIA --- Bombardier Transportation and joint venture partner, Downer EDI Rail, have been awarded an order by the Queensland Government in Australia to build 20 three-car electric commuter trains. The contract is valued at approximately 104 million euros ($131 million US, $205 million AU). Bombardier’s share of the contract will be about 48 million euros ($60 million US, $93 million AU). Deliveries are scheduled to start in August 2010 and continue until December 2011.

This order is a follow on from an order for the SMU260 vehicles currently entering service with QR (Queensland Rail) Passenger and will provide increased capacity across the QR network.

“The new SMU260 trains have proved very popular with our customers,” said Paul Scurrah, Executive General Manager of QR Passenger. “We are very pleased that the addition of these 20 trains to the fleet will provide some much-needed capacity to the network.”

“This order reflects QR Passenger’s confidence in this vehicle that has been proven in service and builds on over 30 years experience in this operating environment,” stated Dan Osborne, Managing Director of Bombardier Transportation Australia. “The delivery of these new trains will see about 650 carriages from the joint venture in service with QR.”

Bombardier’s scope in the project is the overall design of the vehicle, integration of the vehicle systems, bogie design and the supply of propulsion, electrical and communication systems. The trains are stainless steel construction with narrow gauge, 25kV propulsion, utilising a number of mature systems service proven in Queensland Rail’s operating environment, such as the highly reliable BOMBARDIER MITRAC propulsion system. They will operate at up to 130 kph.

Assembly of the new trains will be carried out at Bombardier’s facility and EDI Rail’s facility in Maryborough, Queensland. Propulsion and traction equipment will be manufactured at Bombardier’s plants in Västerås, Sweden and Pittsburgh, USA. Testing and commissioning will be carried out jointly. This order builds on over 600 narrow gauge carriages already in service in Brisbane and Perth.

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Image: Bombardier

ACROSS THE POND... Across The Pond...  

Installments from David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

Bosphorus Europe Express Freight Train Demonstrates
Faster Travel Times via Southeast Europe

Siemens Showcases Its Euro Sprinter and Euro Runner Locomotives

Ljubljana, Slovenia – The special train, number 93985, should leave Munich on Saturday (14th March) at around 10:00 AM and head via Rosenheim, Salzburg, Schwarzach St. Veit, the Tauern Pass and through Villach and the Karawanken Tunnel to Ljubljana. In just 37 hours, the freight train “Bosphorus Europe Express” will run from Ljubljana to the Halkali terminal in Istanbul. The test, which starts on 16 March in the Slovenian capital, is 23 hours faster than the current rail connection. Compared with the truck, the time advantage amounts to 10 to 20 hours.

A Mitsui Rail Capital Europe (MRCE) Euro Sprinter ES 64 multi-system locomotive

Photo: Willi Roth

A Mitsui Rail Capital Europe (MRCE) Euro Sprinter ES 64 multi-system locomotive in Amsterdam at the end point of City Night Line train 312 after an all-night trip from Vienna in Jul 2008.

“The use of modern locomotives makes the record-breaking run through five Southeast European countries possible,” explained Dirk Steffes, Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer of MRCE Dispolok GmbH, Munich, which in cooperation with DB Fernverkehr in Munich has made the locomotives available. The locomotives will have traveled Saturday from Munich to Ljubljana.

Participating in the Bosphorus Europe Express, a project of the Business Advisory Council, the successor organization of the Balkan Stability Pact, are state railways of Slovenia (SZ), HZ (Croatia), ZS (Serbia), BDZ (Bulgaria) and TCDD (Turkey).

Partnership will support and advise the journey of the 500-meter (1640 ft.) long container train by MRCE Dispolok and Deutsche Bahn AG (DBAG), whose chief executive Hartmut Mehdorn personally supports the project.

A Siemens Euro Runner ER20 diesel locomotive in the colors of Austrian State Railways

Photo: Karl Wolter

A Siemens Euro Runner ER20 diesel locomotive in the colors of Austrian State Railways (OBB) in Bad Radkersburg, Austria in summer 2006.

The close cooperation of the five national railways, the streamlining of border crossing processes through integration of the respective customs authorities and the continuous traction on the 1,577 km (980 miles) route permit significant travel time reduction. “Because in Serbia and Bulgaria there are two sections still not electrified, the trip will be accomplished with both an electric locomotive and diesel locomotive,” says Alex Dworaczek, fleets and technology chief at MRCE Dispolok. “This permits a flexible operation and allows for a lean process and it saves time.”

From Ljubljana to Istanbul the train has to not only transverse four border crossings between EU and non-EU countries, but also two different power systems, single track sections and climbs over 2.9 percent climb gradients. For these technical challenges, MRCE Dispolok provided a Siemens multi-system locomotive Euro Sprinter ES 64 F4, which is already operational in ten European countries and with the European train control system ETCS equipment. A total of 260 kilometers long, non-electrified sections between Nis (Serbia) and the Serbian-Bulgarian border crossing between Dragoman and Plovdiv (Bulgaria) and Svilengrad to the Bulgarian-Turkish border, will be powered with a Siemens Euro-Runner ER 20 diesel locomotive.

New high-speed EMU train set from CAF in Spain

Photo: Ali Aksin.

New high-speed EMU train set from CAF in Spain arrives via a freight train consist in Istanbul in December 2007.

“When the Bosphorus Express Halkali arrives at Istanbul as scheduled on Tuesday evening (17 March 2009), it will indicate not only that the technical requirements of this transport corridor can be handled,” says Alex Dworaczek, “but also the competitiveness of rail in South East Europe.”

In a separate and unrelated development, Turkey opened the first section of a high speed rail line between Istanbul and Ankara. The section between Ankara and Eskisehir was opened on the 13th of March by Turkey’s prime minister, Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The route will be operated with 250 km/h EMU train sets built by CAF of Spain. This new rail corridor, along with the Marmaray undersea railroad tunnels under construction between Europe and Asia, are indications of the developing steel “Silk Road” between Europe and Asia.

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British Transportation Department Endorses
“HS2” High Speed Rail Corridor

High Speed 2 will link London with Scotland in under four hours

London – In a letter dated 9th of March the British Department of Transportation indicated its support on a public-private plan to construct a high speed rail corridor from London northwards via the British West Midlands to Scotland. The new rail corridor will be called High Speed 2 (HS2), and if completed, will become only the second rail line on the island to be classified “high speed”, which is defined in Europe and Asia as any train which is faster than 200 km/h (125 mph) in revenue service.

The first high speed rail line in Britain, now know as HS1, began full operations in late 2007 between London and the Channel Tunnel entrance in Folkerstone, on the English Channel coast. HS1 is served predominantly by EuroStar high speed trains underway between London, Paris and Brussels. HS2 will provide a third mail line route to northern England and Scotland, and unlike the existing West Coast Main Line and East Coast Main Line, will offer true high speed train services. Both the ECML and WCML are generally limited to 200 km/h operations, although a few stretches on both lines are approved for 220 km/h speeds with certain newer train sets.

An exact route for HS2 shall be decided upon in 2010. The new route will be designed with the latest technologies to enhance environmental protection and energy conservation. The proposed rail route will provide much needed relief to the existing WCML and ECML rail corridors, which have been operating at maximum capacity for several years.

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OFF THE MAINLINE... Off The Main Line...  

Savannah's 'Dottie' Streetcar Visitors To Savannah Ride
A Streetcar Named “Dottie”

By David Peter Alan

Tennessee Williams made a Streetcar Named Desire famous in the 1940s. The Desire streetcar has not run in New Orleans for many years, but visitors to Savannah’s River Street can now ride a streetcar named Dottie. (*)

* [ Editor’s note: Plans are in the works now, after all these years, to revive the streetcar name “Desire” and bring it back into service along the original “Desire” route in New Orleans. ]

Dottie was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1935, with number 756. She was given her new name at the Warren Railcar Co. in Warren, Pennsylvania, where she was outfitted last year for service in Savannah. The rebuilding job included installation of a diesel engine to deliver power to the motors, so there is no need for the overhead wires that power conventional streetcars. Fuel tanks, batteries, capacitors and other components are installed under the floor. She was named in honor of her new owner, Savannah’s Department of Transportation or DOT.

Dottie’s manager, Richard L. Jones, Director of Savannah’s Mobility Management Board, says that Dottie is the “greenest streetcar in America and possibly in the world.”

She sports the color green, as she did in Melbourne, and she runs on bio-diesel fuel. According to Jones, it takes one gallon of fuel to run the car for an hour and “the fuel can even be made from cooking oil from the restaurants on River Street.”

The line runs for about 1.5 miles along River Street, which was developed in the 1830s, when Savannah became a center for the cotton trade. The street is still cobble-stoned, with a single track running down its center. This track originally served the docks along the Savannah River and the warehouses across the street. The cotton trade was gone by the 1950s, and the warehouses were converted to shops and restaurants for visitors in the 1970s. Since then, the street has become a popular tourist destination.

The streetcar is part of the city’s tourist operation, and part of an initiative to bring visitors to River Street without their cars. DOT also provides bus shuttles to River Street and a ferry across the river to the newly-built Trade Center and nearby hotels. There is no fare charged on the streetcar, ferry or shuttle buses. There are also plans to make River Street a car-free street.

The streetcar runs from 12 to 7, Wednesdays through Sundays. There is no operation in the morning, to allow the street to be used for deliveries. Service began on March 4th, and Jones is pleased with the ridership and the operation so far. He says there are plans to expand the line and buy another car. This marks the first time that a streetcar has run in Savannah since 1946, and it is the only light rail operation in the State of Georgia.

The River Street Streetcar experience is designed for visitors, but Jones says that Savannah locals ride it, too. It is a tourist experience, rather than a conventional transit experience. Driver Ricky Blanton greets every rider with a hearty “Welcome Aboard” and drives the car with a controller, as with conventional streetcar operation. While not quite historically accurate, the car has a “heritage” look. During the ride, passengers hear a recorded history of the streetcar, along with some jazz, over the PA system. (SEE BELOW)

The Savannah operation is one of a growing number of “heritage” streetcar operations in the South. The most famous is the St. Charles Avenue line in New Orleans, which still uses vintage cars from the 1920s. Newer lines on McKinney Avenue in Dallas and Main Street in Memphis also use historic cars, while lines that recently opened in Tampa and Little Rock use new cars with a heritage look.

The Savannah operation is unique. It uses an unusual streetcar as a tourist circulator, serving a popular and historic part of town. The experience it provides is unique and may serve as a good example of efficient transportation in a historic area for other cities.

David Alan is chair of the Lackawanna Coalition in New Jersey and a board member of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP).


{music interlude}

Hello and Welcome Aboard. I am Dottie, Savannah’s new, Environmentally Friendly, River Street addition.

I am a green-powered, fully restored, 1930s-era streetcar. In fact, I am the very first hybrid streetcar in North America. I am powered by batteries that recharge while I drive, and bio-diesel fuel produced with recycled cooking oil from local restaurants. I guess you could compare me to the city of Savannah with a beautifully restored historic exterior and the modern technology of the 21st century.

I am named dottie after the Savannah’s fare free dot transportation system that includes a shuttle, ferry and of course me, the streetcar.

I am 47 feet long and weigh 20 tons. At full throttle I could go as fast as 30 miles per hour but I like to stick to 5 or 6 miles per hour on River Street. I can seat 45 passengers and have I have standing room for another 40. So, almost 100 people can ride at the same time. I travel back and forth along River Street, from the Waving Girl Statue on the east, to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on the West. That is about one mile each way. There are seven stops that you can get on and off at. All of them, except the waving girl stop, line up with a historic square in downtown Savannah.

Do you know how I turn around at each end of my track? Well, I don’t have to! You see, I have two fronts and can be driven from either end of my cabin. I have doors on both sides so that passengers always load from the sidewalk no matter which direction I am running in. So, when I get to the end of my track on the east or west, the driver removes the key from the ignition and walks to the opposite end of my cabin and begins the drive back in the other direction along River Street.

Now please sit back and enjoy the ride and I will tell you a little about myself and how I came to River Street and the history of my Streetcar predecessors in Savannah.

{music interlude}


By the time I went into operation on River Street in 2009, I had already had a long and prosperous career, as far as streetcars go. Before becoming Dottie, I was known as Melbourne Streetcar 756. I was one of 120, W5 class streetcars built in Melbourne, Australia between 1935 and 1939. For the next 50 years, I carried passengers around Melbourne. I was decommissioned in 1990 and shipped to the U.S. There were only two W5 streetcars that have made it to the U.S. and I am the first of my class to go into operation here. There are still plenty of W5 class streetcars in operation in Melbourne where they are called trams and are part of the largest streetcar system in the world!

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Unseen Victims Get Help

Nonprofit Offers Counseling And Workshops To Rail Workers Who Experience Suicide By Train

From The Internet

A story in the Boston Globe two weeks ago opens up a longtime problem for rail crew members who are traumatized by experiencing suicide deaths by train while they are on duty.

“On an autumn night in 2000,” writes Globe Correspondent John Guilfoil, “Walter Nutter was at the controls of the No. 577 Commuter Rail train in Natick, when he came around a hairpin curve to see the back of a blond woman’s head as she stood in the middle of the track. Not the emergency brake, the piercing train whistle, or the engineer’s terrified scream could prevent what happened next. Someone committed suicide using his train. It was the third time Nutter had to watch his train hit a person.

“She never even flinched,” Nutter, 57, recalled in a recent interview. “She just stood there until we hit her. It’s horrifying to imagine somebody doing that. I don’t know if there’s any way to prepare somebody for that.”

People have killed themselves on tracks as long as there have been trains. There may be no way to prepare or prevent this type of tragedy, but there are ways to help the engineers and other workers who unwittingly play a role in a stranger’s death and are deeply affected by it. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co., a private company, have teamed up with a non-profit organization, “Samaritans,” who counsel workers who have been through such an experience.

According to transit officials this happens about once a month on local rail lines.

Counseling courses and workshops are being offered by Samaritans and a confidential hot line is open 24 hours a day for those workers who have witnessed a suicide.

Since 2006, at least 20 people have used commuter or T trains to kill themselves, according to the MBTA.

The issue of suicide on the tracks has largely gone under the radar, the story continues. Until recently, records of death by train kept by the federal government did not differentiate between accidents and suicides.

Nutter estimated that on average, engineers hit two to three people during the course of their careers.

“I think it’s a big problem, and this is a program that has been sorely needed for a long time, allowing people to know about and seek help at that very moment when they’re making a decision,” said Richard Davey, general manager of the commuter rail company.

Samaritans’ workshops also provide training to help prevent suicides if someone notices a person who might be on the verge of stepping in front of a train. But most of the time, it happens so fast, there is no time to intervene.

Notices giving phone numbers have been posted in subway stations and on the street in an effort to reach out to people who are contemplating suicide but might respond if they find out there is a place to call for help.

“We’re trying to see if there’s some way to get to people who might be thinking these kinds of thoughts,” said Daniel Grabauskas, MBTA general manager.

Grabauskas said he has talked with crew members immediately after a suicide on the tracks and has seen the effects on them. Those painful memories can stick with them for the rest of their lives, even though it’s not their fault.

“One employee held a person in his arms while the victim passed,” said Richard Davey, general manager of the private commuter rail company. “It can be a very traumatic experience for even the toughest among us.”

The Samaritans held their first workshop for a class of new rail engineers in December.

Roberta Hurtig, executive director of Samaritans, said that the group is not only working to educate the rail employees on the issue of suicide, but also provide them with support if they are involved with a suicide.

Samaritans is an international organization founded in the United Kingdom in 1953. Samaritans of Boston was formed in 1974 and merged with a Framingham group in 2005 to become a statewide nonprofit agency. It says it is the only suicide prevention organization for Greater Boston.

Samaritans’s mission is to provide relief from isolation, despair, and suicidal feelings among people in the community by education, compassion, and a 24-hour, confidential help line, 877-870-HOPE.

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