Railroad Newsline for Friday, January 12, 2007
Compiled by Larry W. Grant
In Memory of Rob Carlson, 1952 – 2006
CONFERENCE TO ADDRESS TEXAS FREIGHT RAILROAD GIRDLOCK; PASSENGER RAIL EXPANSION IN JEOPARDY
Unless Texas and other Southwest states embark on an ambitious project of upgrading rail infrastructure, you can look forward to freight train gridlock in the future and that means no desirable way to expand any higher speed passenger rail service at the regional and statewide level.
"Texas and most other surrounding states have railroads operating with a single track over much of their system," according to Peter LeCody, President of Dallas, Texas based Texas Rail Advocates. "It's like operating an interstate highway with a single traffic lane and making vehicles go both ways at the same time." According to LeCody, as the economy has grown and rail freight traffic increased, the system is now near or at capacity for handling commerce. "In some parts of the state we already have true rail gridlock", said LeCody.
The congestion challenge will be addressed later this month at the South Central High Performance Rail Corridor Conference. Among presenters will be Michael Behrens, Executive Director of the Texas Department of Transportation; John Horsley: Executive Director, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and key officials of Union Pacific Railroad and BNSF Railway Company, the largest railroads in the state. In addition, rail shippers and other users will discuss the future direction of rail transportation in Texas and the Southwest. The South Central High Performance Rail Corridor was designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2000 and covers segments in Oklahoma, Arkansas and with two legs in Texas that roughly parallel I-35 and I-20. The rail corridor conference will be held Thursday evening, January 25 and Friday, January 26, 2007 at the DFW International Airport Hyatt Regency Hotel.
"Here's an example of a major congestion problem," said LeCody. "Railroads that operate through Tower 55 near downtown Fort Worth must sometimes hold backed up trains for hours until they can proceed across the grade-level junction. This not only delays the movement of goods to their destination, but it virtually chokes the expansion of any future passenger rail services at the regional or corridor level to other cities until solutions can be found." The Tower 55 complex is said to be one of the most congested rail junctions west of the Mississippi River.
"The railroads can work in public-private partnerships that will benefit both the companies and the public", according to LeCody. "It has been done in other parts of the country and it can be done in Texas if elected officials are willing to make a commitment." Those partnerships could mean improved air quality by not idling trains at congested points, eliminating dangerous highway rail crossings, moving some truck traffic off congested roads and onto trains, giving businesses and industries a faster, more fuel efficient way to quickly move goods to market and make room for new technology to enable frequent, dependable passenger rail service."
Friday afternoon, the North Central Texas Council of Governments will spearhead a coalition of entities along the tri-state corridor to plan for an initial feasibility and engineering study.
More information on the conference can be found at [www.SouthCentralRailCorridor.org
] or [www.TexasRailAdvocates.org
Presenters at the South Central High Performance Rail Corridor Conference include
* John Horsley: Executive Director, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
* Michael Behrens: Executive Director, TxDOT
* Jennifer Moczygemba: Multimodal Section, TxDOT
* Joe Adams: Chairman's Special Representative, Union Pacific Railroad
* Mark Rosner: General Director, Public Private Partnerships, BNSF Railway
* Jim Edmonds: Port of Houston Authority
* Gilbert Carmichael: Senior Chairman, Intermodal Transportation Institute at the University of Denver
* George Elking: Board Member, Southwest Rail Shippers Association
* Russ McGurk: Public Affairs Director, Go21
* Gene Skoropowski: Managing Director, California Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority
* Joseph Schweiterman: Executive Director, Chaddick Institute of Metropolitan Development, DePaul University
* Bill Blades: Dallas City Councilman
* Ross Milloy: Austin-San Antonio Corridor Council
TWO JUVENILES ARRESTED IN RAILWAY MUSEUM VANDALISM SPREE
SIOUX CITY, IA --
Two additional juvenile suspects have been charged in the vandalism spree that occurred in Riverside between Jan. 1 and 8.
A 12-year-old was charged with first-degree criminal mischief and criminal trespass. An 11-year-old was charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief and criminal trespass. Five juveniles have now been charged in the case.
According to the Sioux City Police Department, officers obtained information concerning the vandalism of two school buses and a suburban at Sacred Heart School on Jan. 3. During that investigation, police said it became apparent that a vandalism spree had occurred where damage was in excess of $20,000. Light fixtures at Kirk Hansen Park were destroyed and considerable damage was done to the Siouxland Historical Railroad Museum. - The Sioux City Journal
DEER DESTROYED AFTER LEAPING ONTO MRL TRAIN
Caption reads: A young deer apparently leapt from the I-15 overpass in the Sixth Ward area to find itself atop a boxcar last week.
HELENA, MT --
A young mulie buck survived a jump from the I-15 overpass above Helena’s Sixth Ward train depot onto a boxcar last week, but had to be destroyed after being further injured by a leap from the boxcar to the ground.
Linda Frost, spokesperson for Montana Rail Link, said no employees saw the buck make his leap of faith. However, once they noticed the stranded animal atop the boxcar, employees called for help from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Game Warden Randy Arnold took the Jan. 2 call, and asked Warden Dave Loewen to accompany him.
“I figured this presented some additional manpower issues,” Arnold said.
From the ground, the game wardens could see that the buck had a broken front leg. But deer can survive with that — the main problem facing them was how to get the buck from the boxcar to the ground.
“We were kind of pressed to get the best way to get the deer off the boxcar,” Arnold said.
They worried that tranquilizing the deer to lower it to the ground, or wrestling it down, wasn’t going to be effective and might be too stressful on the animal.
“We decided that the only way to get him off of it was for it to jump on its own,” he noted. “We wanted to give it a chance.”
Loewen climbed atop the boxcar and the deer took a flying leap.
“He landed on all four feet,” Arnold said. “But then we could see that he also had a broken back leg, too.”
They decided that the buck stopped here, and shot it. The wardens transported the carcass to the wildlife center, where it was fed to the few bears that hadn’t yet gone into hibernation.
Arnold said that while they don’t get a lot of calls to rescue deer from the top of trains, this isn’t the first time a deer has leapt from the interstate in the area.
He recalled that along with the occasional deer on boxcars, FWP has picked up numerous dead deer from off of the ground, which apparently also died after leaping off the overpass.
Arnold theorizes that the deer get trapped on the overpass and frightened by passing cars, then take the plunge as a final way out. - Eve Byron, The Helena Independent Record
CN SPELLS OUT COMMITMENT TO RAIL SAFETY IN MEETING WITH MONTMAGNY, QUEBEC, OFFICIALS
MONTMAGNY, QC --
Senior Canadian National Railway operations and engineering officers met Thursday with the mayor of Montmagny and other area politicians to underscore CN's commitment to safe operations across its network.
Jim Vena, vice-president, operations, of CN's Eastern Region, said it's in CN's best interest, and in the best interests of its customers, employees and the communities through which it operates, to maintain safe, fluid operations.
Vena said CN will take specific measures to address municipal concerns following a CN derailment in this community on Jan. 7, 2007:
· Limit freight train speeds through the community to 64 kilometers per hour (40 miles per hour) pending the conclusion by CN of its internal accident investigation.
· Increase annual rail flaw detection runs over the line through the town to 10 times the Transport Canada regulatory requirement - CN already exceeds the Transport Canada requirement for rail flaw monitoring of the section of line through Montmagny by eight times.
· Conduct four track geometry inspections annually, twice the regulatory requirement.
· Institute twice-monthly walking inspections of the track one mile on each side of the CN rail bridge in Montmagny, as well as the bridge.
· Remove the switch on the CN main line where Sunday's derailment occurred.
According to its preliminary investigation, CN believes a broken bolthole on a switch component caused the accident. The rail will be subject to laboratory tests. In CN's experience, such rail breaks are uncommon. Further investigation will have to be carried out by CN and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) to establish the definitive cause. The TSB is the federal agency responsible for official findings on the cause of transportation accidents in Canada.
In CN's view, speed was not a factor in the derailment. At the time of the accident freight train 308 was traveling at 82 kilometers per hour (51 miles per hour). As per Transport Canada's Railway Track Safety Rules, the maximum speed permitted at Montmagny is up to 96 kilometers per hour (60 miles per hour) for freight operations. - Julie Senécal, CN News Release
BICYCLIST SEEN RACING TRAIN HIT AT CROSSING
SAN ANTONIO, TX --
A Union Pacific train struck and critically injured a man on a bicycle who witnesses said tried to beat the locomotive across some North Side tracks Wednesday morning, officials said.
David Velez, 24, was in critical condition at Brooke Army Medical Center.
The train was traveling south to Laredo when it struck Velez around 07:30 as he rode a bike around a railroad-crossing arm near Stahl and Bulverde roads, UP spokesman Joe Arbona said.
A police officer's report also stated the crossing arm was down when the collision occurred.
Witnesses said the warning lights were flashing at the time, Arbona said.
UP employees aboard the train blew the horn and applied the emergency brakes but could not stop it from striking Velez, Arbona said. It usually takes a train at least half a mile to come to a stop after its brakes are applied. - The San Antonio Express-News
YES, MOVE UNSIGHTLY CARS
Cheers to Moline and Rock Island (IL) officials working to remove unsightly ethanol-laden freight cars from key redevelopment areas in both towns.
On Tuesday, Moline aldermen agreed to apply for a $60,000 state grant to pay for the Moline-Rock Island Metropolitan Rail Study with the goal of moving the cars from behind the proposed site of the Western Illinois University Quad City Riverfront Campus. Rock Island will also consider joining in the application to move ethanol-filled cars from key Rock Island areas.
If the two cities win the funding, each will contribute $3,000 in local matching funds for the key project. We urge them to do so.
The cars are eyesores that do not belong in re-development areas. Moving them, however, can be more complicated than it seems. Indeed, as anyone who has dealt with railroads knows, there's nothing simple about it.
"The study is really geared at trying to motivate the Iowa Interstate Railroad to address this problem, and we have to correct the problem of the storage of the same cars in Rock Island," city administrator Lew Steinbrecher said. "We can't do that until we find a new rail yard. It is really a regional problem."
It is also a complicated one as Renew Moline's Jim Bowman noted Monday. "From day one, since we started the planning process with the campus and the private sector developers ... rail issues have stood out as a significant challenge," he said. "We assume that we probably need state and federal transportation dollars to implement solutions, but first we need to identify our options and what those solutions need to be."
Now is the time to address such issues before they get in the way of development. Cheers to all who are looking forward. - Editorial Opinion, The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus
TOWN COUNCIL TALKS ABOUT RAILROADS
HUMPHREY, AR --
"Big companies are scared of exposure."
Humphrey Alderman William Coleman said those words in response to resident Jean Sherman during Monday night's council meeting when she asked for something to be done about the prolonged stops at Union Pacific's railroad tracks.
Sherman said she was "very concerned" because UP trains had blocked cars from crossing railroad tracks for nearly two hours. She noted it could be a problem when police and fire vehicles need to get through or when someone has an asthma attack and requires immediate attention.
"It's all times of day and night," Sherman said. "It's not one certain time. As a nurse, I know minutes are critical in life and death."
Sherman said she thought the maximum amount of time the railroad crossing locations could be blocked was 20 minutes. She questioned what recourse there could be for violating the 20 minute regulation, adding the city should not wait until something bad happens to children.
If the problem cannot be fixed, Sherman said "some alternative needs to be reached."
According to City Attorney Sharon Nichols, the Arkansas Department of Transportation is in complete control of the trains. She suggested citizens document the time railroad tracks are blocked when it is more than 20 minutes, write down the engine numbers and file a complaint with the Arkansas Department of Transportation in Little Rock. - Josh Troy, The Stuttgart Daily Leader
PART OF BRIDGE ROADBED BEING REPLACED
VICKSBURG, MS --
Although it may never be used by vehicles, roadbed concrete on the Louisiana side of the U.S. 80 bridge over the Mississippi River is being replaced, part of a nearly $2 million project.
Workers from T.L. Wallace Construction of Columbia are using a truck with a hydraulic hammer to shatter concrete from the westernmost 44 panels of the bridge's highway deck, Superintendent Herman Smith said.
Caption reads: A work crew for T.L. Wallace Construction Inc., pulls up the remaining concrete and iron rods from a section of the Old U.S. 80 Mississippi River Bridge Wednesday. (Matt Lantrip . The Vicksburg Post)
The reason for the replacement, he said, is the danger posed by falling chunks to anyone who might be below the deteriorating roadway.
Smith said sections 1- to 2-feet across had fallen and stuck in the ground at a depth of from eight to 10 inches. "So if it hit a person it would kill them," Smith said.
The area under that stretch of the elevated bridge is undeveloped dry land, marsh and sandbar, depending on the river stage. Bridge workers mow and do other work in the area, Smith said.
Wallace was awarded the contract in October, Smith told Vicksburg Bridge Commissioners who met Wednesday.
"They're breaking it up pretty quick," Smith said of the work.
The bridge, owned by Warren County, is used only by trains and for utility and communications lines. It was opened in 1930 and has been closed to vehicular traffic since 1998. Vehicles cross the Mississippi River on the Interstate 20 bridge, which opened in 1973.
Supervisors have ruled out any possibility of reopening the roadway to vehicles, citing its failure to meet width minimums.
For years, the future of the bridge has been debated with proposals ranging from outright sale to the Kansas City Southern railroad company to creation of a pedestrian park on the roadway. Supervisors have taken multiple positions, most recently authorizing members of the management commission they appoint to seek a grant for the park idea.
KCS has written to grant authorities protesting any such allocation and has pledged to sue if the county moves toward actually allowing people on the bridge.
The concrete being replaced was poured in 1930 and, at 6 inches, is thin in relation to other sections. It flexed as vehicles crossed it and began to develop cracks over time, Smith added.
"Water would seep down to the rebar and rust it," Smith said. "As the rust grows, it would break out big sections of concrete."
Maintenance vehicles will be able to drive on the new surface a few days after it is poured, Smith added.
An annual inspection of the bridge in December deemed it safe overall but facing challenges with pier movement and smaller parts.
Built beginning in 1928 by private interests, the bridge was bought by Warren County in 1947.
The bridge is part of a stretch of railroad known as the Meridian Speedway that runs from Dallas to Meridian. KCS and a company that operates a connecting rail network to the east and north, Norfolk Southern, announced in late 2005 a plan for $300 million in upgrades to the stretch over four years. The goal is to meet increasing demand and may double to about 40 the number of trains crossing the bridge daily. - Sam Knowlton, The Vicksburg Post
GREYBULL ETHANOL PLANT BACKERS LOOKING TO SECURE LOAN
CODY, WY --
Backers of a planned ethanol plant along the BNSF Railway Company's line in Greybull, Wyoming are looking to complete bank financing for the project by the end of the month, with the goal of helping the town secure state funding in February for roads and utilities to the proposed site.
Big Horn Basin Ethanol has already completed private equity financing for the project, said Tom Johnson, president of the company. Debt financing will likely come from a bank in the Midwest, he said.
Shoshone First Bank in Cody had been working last year to secure a loan guaranteed through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Johnson, but funding for that program was not available until next month at the earliest.
"We just didn't feel it was prudent to wait until February, or perhaps March, to resubmit that USDA finance package and have nothing else under way," said Johnson.
Shoshone First Bank President Richard Petersen said poor communication had hampered bank efforts to fund the project.
The bank had not received "many critical and fundamental pieces of required information from Big Horn Basin Ethanol, as requested," he said in a prepared statement.
"We continue to believe that an ethanol plant would have tremendous positive economic impacts for the Basin, and we wish this group nothing but the very best of luck in their endeavor," Petersen said.
Plans originally called for construction to start last July, but delays have resulted from financing complications and management changes as corn and gas prices have seen wide fluctuations.
Johnson said the plant would be fired by natural gas, rather than coal, as originally called for. Backers had pointed to nearby supplies of affordable coal as a major competitive advantage in energy costs.
"This plant will initially fire on natural gas, and the project is still slated to bring a coal-fired system into production at a later date," Johnson said.
He said steep drops in natural gas prices have "drastically changed the economics to initially fuel or fire the plant." Construction costs were also lower for gas systems, rather than coal, he added.
Recent drops in gasoline prices and increases in corn prices will mean the venture is less profitable than it might have been last summer, Johnson said.
"But even with the present corn price and present ethanol price, there is still adequate profit margin for us to want to move this project forward and continue on," he said. "The plant will still be profitable at these price levels."
Greybull Mayor Frank Houk said the town has applied for $3 million in infrastructure funding from the Wyoming Business Council to bring roads and utilities to the site of a former oil refinery.
The town hopes to develop a 70-acre industrial park on municipally owned land near the town's main street, train depot and the Bighorn River. Big Horn Basin Ethanol would be the first business in the park.
"They have bought two plots from us, with options on two more," Houk said of the company.
"We're hoping and expecting things to go well for them."
The State Loan and Investment Board will decide in February whether to award a $1.5 million grant for the first phase of infrastructure work, Houk said.
Funding would cover bringing raw water to the ethanol plant site, installing sewer and water lines throughout parts of the rest of the park, and initial road construction.
A second $1.5 million grant for further road and infrastructure work would be sought next year, he said.
Barbara Anne Green Reno, Big Horn County economic development director, said several companies could potentially benefit from infrastructure improvements to the planned industrial park.
"The infrastructure is needed in place for business in the area to grow," she said. "I'm encouraging people to contact their legislators and ask them to increase funding for these kinds of infrastructure grants." - Ruffin Prevost, The Billings Gazette
RAILROAD DEPOT TOPIC OF TOWN HALL
GLOBE, AZ --
All interested members of the public are invited to an informal and informative Town Hall Meeting to be held at 18:00 Thursday, Jan. 11, in the Council Chambers at the Globe City Hall, 150 North Pine Street.
The purpose of the meeting will be to overview the current status of the planned project to stabilize, restore, reconstruct, and rehabilitate the fire-damaged, one-story building adjoining the historic Railroad Depot Complex on South Broad Street.
During the past year, the City has received bids from a professional team of architects, engineers and building contractor for this project to complete the scope of work that was developed based on the public's input at a Town Hall Meeting in April. Since then, the city has received significant input about this project from team members of the Environmental and Enhancement Group of the Arizona Department of Transportation and officials of the Federal Highway Administration. Their important input has brought to light new elements of environmental analysis, findings and related additional construction and remedial requirements that further affect the above project.
During the Jan. 11, 2007 Town Hall Meeting, the city plans to bring everyone up-to-date on all information it has on this project and will share ideas on the future of the project as well. City officials look forward to meeting with all interested members of the community at the Town Hall meeting. - The Globe Arizona Silver Belt
STALLED PROJECT SET TO ROLL AGAIN, THANKS TO RAILROAD CROSSING PACT
FLORENCE, AZ --
A long-delayed housing development is suddenly on the move again with the Town Council's approval of an agreement for access to the property over the railroad tracks off Hunt Highway.
The future Heritage Creek subdivision will have approximately 375 lots in the vicinity of Poston Butte, the U.S. immigrant detention center and Caliente Casa de Sol. The project stalled more than a year ago amid questions of access to the property. Caliente residents were not in favor of extending Maricopa Boulevard to allow access, and that appears unlikely to resurface as an option now.
In response to questioning from a member of the public, Mayor Tom Rankin declared, "Maricopa (Blvd.) is a dead issue."
The agreement approved at last week's Town Council meeting provides for a crossing to be built at track level, allowing vehicles to turn off Hunt Highway into the subdivision. The crossing will be built across Copper Basin Railway tracks on U.S. Bureau of Land Management right-of-way adjacent to the development. A majority of the council approved the agreement at last week's regular meeting.
The town will incur no cost in construction of the crossing. The developer or a homeowners association will be responsible for maintenance of the crossing, unless maintenance is performed by Copper Basin Railway.
The town will be reimbursed by the developer or homeowners association for any costs to maintain the approaches to the crossing.
The agreement approved last week allows the town to negotiate with the Arizona Corporation Commission on the crossing. The town is involved because the developer alone doesn't have the authority to make a crossing over the tracks, Town Attorney James Mannato told the council.
"The intent here is to begin designing a crossing with Copper Basin Railway, then jointly present the case to the Arizona Corporation Commission," Town Manager Himanshu Patel told the council.
The agreement also "makes sure the town is legally divested of the costs and liabilities of the crossing," Mannato told the council.
Vice Mayor Tom Smith asked who is handling the arms blocking the track for a train. Mannato said the railroad is responsible for maintaining the track and apparatus in its right-of-way.
Town Planning Director Mark Eckhoff said the other big issue is to complete the zoning process for the Heritage Creek subdivision, and "within the next 60 to 90 days we'll work together to pick up the pieces on that zoning." - The Florence Reminder, Casa Grande Valley Newspapers
AMTRAK TRAIN COLLIDES WITH SEMI, SPILLING THE BEANS
DEKALB COUNTY, IN --
An Amtrak train that crashed into a semi truck literally spilled the beans. No one was hurt, but the mess of loose beans after a truck carrying grain was hit closed a DeKalb County, Indiana road down for almost six hours.
It happened between Waterloo and Butler at the intersection of US 6 and County Road 47. The accident occurred at an the intersection where there is also a railroad crossing. It looked a lot worse than it really was. In the end, all it amounted to was a hill of beans.
It happened about quarter to eight in the morning on Wednesday when the semi was leaving a nearby grain elevator with a load of soybeans. The semi was stopped on County Road 47 waiting for traffic to clear before turning on to US 6. The back of the trailer was blocking the railroad tracks. That's when an westbound Amtrak train headed to Chicago sped by, hit the back of the semi, sheared off the rear axle and threw it 230 feet away. Out spilled tons of soybeans.
Neither the truck driver or any of the 130 Amtrak passengers on board were hurt, but they were significantly delayed on their trip to the windy city because the train was damaged. It took about three hours to find them alternative transportation.
"They off loaded them on to buses and they were transported by bus from there," said Trooper Tom Merkling, who worked the accident.
Clean up was lengthy, taking about six hours, because all the soybeans had to be vacuumed up out of the trailer before the semi could be moved from the road. Crews also spent time sweeping beans off the street.
At the scene, soybeans still surround the railroad tracks, but they are not a hazard to drivers. - WANE-TV13, Fort Wayne, IN
BNSF OTTUMWA, IOWA RAIL YARD TO GET NEW OPERATOR
OTTUMWA, IA --
The Burlington Junction Railway Co. has contracted with The BNSF Railway Company to begin operating the BNSF's rail yards in Ottumwa.
Burlington Junction will provide loading and switching services. It also plans to build a warehouse in the Ottumwa rail yard.
The company will employ two workers, initially.
Burlington Junction, based in Burlington, also operates in Burlington and Mount Pleasant in Iowa and Rochelle and Quincy, both in Illinois. - The Des Moines Register
GETTING TRUCKS OFF THE ROAD IS GOOD REASON TO USE RAIL LINE
What is wrong with a railroad, especially one that once served and still can serve working businesses?
I am referring to the line from Plymouth to Sheboygan Falls, but this is about any existing line for that matter. We already have too many semi-trucks on the road, and in Wisconsin, they go faster than four wheelers. In states like Michigan, there is a lower speed limit for 18-wheelers.
Many of us in recent history have been told, "everybody does it, so should you" or "get with the system." We live in an age of conformity, fads and trends. Right now, everything by truck is the trend. Save money by railroad? "Get with the system" someone will probably say.
This is one time I agree with bigger government and the state of Wisconsin, which wants to buy the line and begin using it again.
Don't listen to hearsay or realtors. What goes around, comes around. Save some railroads for Generation Z. What would one rather have, a train with one or two operators, or a road with trucks and cars?
In this life, there are all kinds of ironies and paradoxes. Like the doughboys who came back from World War I. They liked what they saw in Europe. The fast highway system. Now in the 21st century, Europeans are coming to the U.S. to see old sections of Route 66 the way it was before the interstate highways.
Sometimes, it is change, just for the sake of change. People get bored. But change can become expensive.
Moral of the story: Appreciate what you have. Be thankful. There is nothing perfect in this world. And, if you don't like it, build a fence. - Letter to the Editor, Mike Czysch, Waldo, WI, The Sheboygan Press
ALL ABORAD FOR TRAIN DAYS AT THE COUNTY MUSEUM
SAN BERNARDINO, CA --
If you love trains, Jan. 20 and 21 is the weekend to be at the San Bernardino County Museum.
Watch model trains as they chug along their tracks through miniature cities and mountains. Learn more about railroads and play special train games. Hear about Locomotive 3751 from the San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society, and learn about Women in Railroading. Enjoy the Redlands Fourth-of-July Band conducted by Curtiss Allen on Saturday and join the Roundhouse Story Circle on Saturday and Sunday. Trains will run from 09:00 to 17:00 both days. All activities are free with Museum admission, and children ages 5 to 12 are half price with a paid adult during this special weekend.
Several model trains on elaborate layouts will be running in the Fisk Gallery and the Hall of History, including steam locomotives, diesel locomotives, and a circus layout. Members of the Inland Empire Modular Railroaders, the Pacific Coast Modular Club, and the Orange County Module Railroaders are just some of the people who will be on hand to keep things running and to answer questions from young and old alike.
A special concert on Saturday will feature the Redlands Fourth-of-July Band conducted by Curtiss Allen. The band will perform selections from their new release, "Celebrate Redlands," including "Put Me Off at Redlands," written in 1915 by W. H. Pettibone, the city's first train ticket salesperson. The band will perform from 13:00 to 13:45 and 14:30 to 15:15 in the museum courtyard.
The San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society will give a presentation about "Locomotive 3751, the Santa Fe, and San Bernardino" at 12:00 and 16:00 on Saturday and at 14:00 on Sunday.
Women in Railroading will display "Women in Railroading," a traveling exhibit, and show a trailer for their new documentary about the famous Harvey Girls on Saturday and Sunday.
Join the Roundhouse Story Circle at 15:30 Saturday and Sunday in the courtyard to share favorite train stories with other railroad enthusiasts.
Children can play train games with the Museum Youth Club on both days.
Visitors will also learn about the museum's train restoration project and see some railroad-related artifacts from the permanent collections.
The museum's Garden Café will be open from 11:00 to 14:00 on Saturday and Sunday for light lunches, snacks, and beverages.
The San Bernardino County Museum is at the California Street exit from Interstate 10 in Redlands.
The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays and holiday Mondays from 09:00 to 17:00. Admission is $6 (adult), $5 (student or senior), and $4 (child aged 5 to 12), but remember that children are half price during Train Days! Children under five and Museum Association members are admitted free. Parking is free. For more information, visit www.sbcountymuseum.org.
The museum is accessible to persons with disabilities. If assistive listening devices or other auxiliary aids are needed in order to participate in museum exhibits or programs, requests should be made through Museum Visitor Services at least three business days prior to your visit. Visitor Services' telephone number is (909) 307-2669 ext. 229 or (TDD) 909-792-1462. – Highland Community News
STATE JOINS RAIL PROMOTION UNIT
KANKAKEE, IL --
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed legislation Tuesday to add Illinois to the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact, a regional association that promotes the development of intercity passenger rail service.
"That's excellent news," Richard Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, said.
House Bill 4344 adds Illinois to the number of Midwestern states working to advocate for passenger rail service on a federal, regional and local level.
The High Speed Rail Association wants to see an increase in frequency of trains. The work it takes to increase frequency and dependency is the same work that it takes "to make the train faster," Harnish said.
Improvements made for frequency and dependability have the "happy coincidence of taking time out of the schedule," he said.
The association brings together both individuals and cities, mostly cities that have Amtrak service. Kankakee is a member.
Harnish has made trips to Europe twice where he finds incredible rail networks with commuter rail stretching a distance that would run from Chicago to Toledo, he said.
Seeking federal share
The Midwest has not gotten its share of the federal transportation dollar, he said, and the new compact will help the Midwestern states "build that political coalition that we need in the Midwest to start getting our fair share of the federal passenger rail dollar."
"Investment in passenger service" is what is needed to make it an attractive option, he said.
Investment in passenger rail is important, Harnish said, "because we've reached a point where mega-investment in highway capacity doesn't earn mega-returns."
The length of time it takes to travel on the highway between Kankakee and Chicago "will never improve and probably only get worse. "The only way to make it better is with a train."
People want walkable cities around a train station, he said. "The only really good way to make communities walkable again -- you need to create a focus around a railroad station."
Demand is high for living space in communities near enough public transportation because of the convenience, he said. "People want this so much, compared to how much it's available."
That's the reason, he said, the living space carries a high price tag.
The next steps on the Amtrak route through Kankakee should be to add frequency, he said. "It should be five or six trains a day."
Additional arrivals and departures will mean more passengers, he said.
"We need to do something very aggressive now, " he said. "There are lots of things that can be done and should be done," he said.
"People need to be telling their elected leaders that this is a very important issue."
Locally, the Kankakee County Commuter Transit Task Force is studying options to increase commuting choices for area residents. Commuter rail extension south to Kankakee and rapid bus transit options are being studied. - Mary Baskerville, The Kankakee Daily Journal
TRAIN DERAILMENT DIVERTS TRE RIDERS
Related video clip:
DALLAS, TX --
Railroad officials were still trying Wednesday to learn why a freight train derailed near downtown Dallas, causing delays on a separate commuter service.
No injuries were reported after a BNSF Railway Company freight train traveling on track owned by Union Pacific went off the rails about 03:30, said Joe Faust, BNSF spokesman.
The area is near Dealey Plaza.
A total of 114 cars filled with grain sorghum were on the train, which was destined for Teague, Faust said. Four cars and two locomotives derailed.
BNSF summoned Denton-based Hulcher Services, which specializes in derailment responses, to get the train back on track, Faust said. It was unclear how long that would take, he said.
Things could have been worse.
"Sometimes in these derailments, the cars end up on their sides, but these all derailed upright," Faust said.
The derailment prevented commuters on the Trinity Railway Express from stopping at Union Station.
Passengers, many from Tarrant County, were experiencing delays of about 10 to 15 minutes, said Morgan Lyons, spokesman for Dallas Area Rapid Transit, which oversees TRE activity in Dallas.
"It's not on our track and it doesn't involve our train, but it's close, so we can't operate," Lyons said.
Eastbound commuters destined for Union Station had to disembark about three miles away at the Medical/Market Center Station, behind Parkland Memorial Hospital.
From there, they boarded DART buses that took them to Union Station, Lyons said.
"For customers starting at Union Station, you do the reverse,'' he said. ``They hop on a bus and go to Medical/Market Center.
"Certainly with that number of buses, we were able to move a lot of people."
The buses would continue operating until midday, he said. - Bill Miller, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram
HUMAN ERROR PROBED IN FATAL COMMUTER RAIL CRASH
BOSTON, MA --
Federal investigators probing the cause of a fatal commuter train crash have ruled out mechanical problems and are now focusing on human error, officials say.
"We're focusing on several aspects of (the) human element, but there are several people that help operate a railroad," said Ted Turpin, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.
Turpin said the signals as well as the equipment that moves the tracks were working properly. "We haven't found any issues with the equipment or the mechanics," he said. "Everything was working as intended."
Two workers were killed and four were injured Tuesday when a Boston-bound Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority commuter train on the wrong track struck a repair vehicle in Woburn.
Ten passengers on the train suffered minor injuries.
The NTSB interviewed dispatchers and maintenance crews on Wednesday. One dispatcher in the rail system's Somerville control center, whose name has not been made public, has been placed on paid administrative leave. No one has been found at fault.
Meanwhile, the union representing maintenance workers said the accident highlighted safety problems in the MBTA commuter rail system since a private consortium started running it in 2003.
There have been four worker fatalities on the system since the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad began a $1.07 billion contract with the MBTA, according to federal records.
In the preceding seven years when Amtrak operated the system, only one worker was killed on the job, according to Federal Railroad Administration records.
"We are sickened by this tragedy and appalled by the safety record of the MBCR," said Freddie Simpson, president of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees. "This is abhorrent and totally unacceptable."
The four deaths under MBCR management are unrelated and do not reflect a safety problem, a spokesman said.
"MBCR has taken great pains to implement safety training programs, systems safeguards, and, in some cases, daily safety reminders for workers," Scott Farmelant said. "But none of this will prevent human error."
NTSB investigators intend to review audio tapes of the suspended dispatcher's radio calls, and test a number of workers for drug and alcohol use.
Investigators have also gathered digital records of each switch action from the Somerville dispatch center and have downloaded data from the locomotive to determine engine speed and torque.
The workers killed were identified as Christopher Macaulay, 30 of Brentwood, N.H., and James Zipps, 54, of Lowell. - The Associated Press, The Boston Globe