Railroad Newsline for Thursday, 11/23/06
Author: Larry W. Grant
Date: 11-23-2006 - 04:04

Railroad Newsline for Thursday, (Thanksgiving Day) November 23, 2006

Compiled by Larry W. Grant

In Memory of Rob Carlson, 1952 – 2006



PORT WENTWORTH, GA -- Sgt. Loren Scholes had just pulled up to the railroad crossing at Gulfstream Road and Highway 21 when he saw something on the tracks.

"I noticed something shimmering here on this corner. I couldn't tell where it was or what it was," said Scholes.

It was a car stuck on the tracks! His first reaction? Get the driver to leave the car and get off tracks.

Time was of the essence!

"I noticed down at Dean Forest Road about two miles south of here, I could see a train coming at us, so I told the guy again to hurry and get whatever he needed out of the car," said Scholes.

The man told Scholes the car belonged to a friend and he was not ready to give in just yet.

"As the arms were coming down and the bell was dinging, as we were leaving the car headed back toward safety he suddenly turns and heads back to the car. I had to get him again and order him away from the car," said Scholes.

And not a moment too soon.

"Unreal, the amount of instant damage to the vehicle was almost like watching a bomb explode. I don't see how people can not respect a train for what it is," said Scholes.

The car ended up more than 400 feet down the tracks, mangled and destroyed. But the man driving it is alive to tell about it, thanks to Sgt. Scholes who was at the right place at the right time.

View this amazing video by clicking on the following link:


- David Hall, WTOC-TV11, Savannah, GA


MOUNT SHASTA, CA -- The McCloud Railroad Company owned by Jeff Forbis has cut its 100 miles of track as of Nov. 14 by 80 miles after a 23 month federal process called “abandonment of common carrier obligation.”

“It's doesn't mean I'm walking off. It means I'm relieved and allowed to dispose of those lines as I see fit,” Forbis said. “We will continue to run the Dinner and Pumpkin Trains and other special runs.”

Forbis said the maintenance cost for track and engines, and rising fuel prices had made running the 80 miles of track from Hambone on the east and Burney to the south prohibitive. The company will continue to operate the line between Mount Shasta and McCloud.

Forbis said his obligation on the lines was for freight only, as the obligation for passenger service had been abandoned long before he bought the railroad in 1992.

“It's a huge cost. We moved approximately 1,000 freight cars a year of lumber and diatomaceous earth. It was not profitable. I was losing money pretty bad,” Forbis said. “We looked at every option for the shippers, but there was no way for it to be financially feasible.”

Forbis explained that railroad owners have a “legal obligation to set prices and move freight if somebody asks,” and the abandonment process is required by the federal Service Transportation Board so other interested parties may file “an Offer of Financial Assistance.”

“An OFA allows anyone the option of buying and continuing to operate the track. Three people filed an intent to file the OFA, but only one actually filed,” Forbis said. “It was Seaside Holdings Inc. from Palm Beach Garden, Florida. They were two airline pilots. I don't believe they ever intended to run the railroad. They were being used by a large corporation to gain control of the assets.”

Forbis said a professional appraisal of the track's worth came up with $3.5 million.

“The airline pilots offered $1.5 million,” Forbis said. “They filed an $18,200 fee to have the STB set the price. They did agree to purchase the line for $3.4 million, but the deal fell through in day 75 of the 90 day option period.”

Forbis said he is now making plans to dispose of the lines including the track itself, ties and facilities.

“Railroad fans will buy portions of track to run their motorized cars,” Forbis said. “A one mile long section could sell for $150,000 to $200,000. A facility with water tower, turntable and infrastructure could bring $750,000. There are perhaps 50 motor car clubs in the United States. People have paid me in the past to bring their cars and run them on the railroad.”

Forbis said the steel tracks will be sold for various uses including being rerolled at mills for other products and for scrap where they will be melted down and recycled.

“The ties can be sold for landscaping, or used for biomass electrical generation,” Forbis said. “I have already made a deal with the biomass plant in Anderson.”

Forbis said it is unfortunate that tracks have to be abandoned and sold for their assets.

“Many states have provisions to buy abandoned lines for rail banks and line rehabilitation grants,” Forbis said. “California has no provisions for maintaining railroad lines.”

Forbis said under the leadership of his daughter Jalene, who is a McCloud Railroad Company executive, a bill providing $14 million over three years for short line railroad rehabilitation passed the legislature and went to the Governor's desk.

“Governor Gray Davis vetoed it,” Forbis said.

He said he continues to be committed to the railroad.

“I still love running the McCloud Railroad,” Forbis said.

Related photo here:


- Paul Boerger, The Mount Shasta Herald


RAPID CITY, SD -- Even as the Dakota Minnesota & Eastern Railroad waits to hear whether it qualifies for a $2.3 billion federal loan to reconstruct its line across South Dakota and Minnesota, the railroad has contracted with a company that casts concrete bridges to build a plant in Rapid City to serve the as-yet-unconfirmed expansion.

"The execution of this agreement represents another significant calculated risk for us. In a perfect world, the project would be fully approved and committed before we made this kind of investment," DM&E President and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Schieffer said of the railroad's plan to extend to Wyoming's Powder River Basin coal mines.

"But because of the size of the Powder River Basin project, and the number of component parts required to build the project, plant construction has to begin now in order to be able to produce enough parts to build the line. So we run the risk of spending several million dollars developing this plant that will be lost if the project is not built."

35 new positions

DM&E's new partner, Omaha-based Coreslab Structures, began in 1975 with the purchase of a hollowcore manufacturing operation in Ontario, Canada. It has since expanded to 19 facilities making precast and prestressed concrete components, mostly in the southern United States, according to Mark Simpson, its general manager for railroad sales.

It expects to have the Rapid City plant at full production by June, employing about 35 construction and heavy-equipment workers. It will rely on cement from the GCC Dakotah cement plant in Rapid City and steel from Dakota Steel and Supply to produce 60- to 80-foot concrete girders used in bridge spans.

The privately owned company did not disclose details of its arrangement with DM&E or wages it will pay other than to say, "It looks like we'll be a little over what construction jobs there in Rapid City typically pay," Simpson said.

A Coreslab plant in Florida was fined $45,000 by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration in January for forklift-safety violations, and in 2004, OSHA cited Coreslab for worker-safety violations at a job site at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

The fact the railroad might not hear from the Federal Railroad Administration until next year about its loan did not deter Core-slab, Simpson said.

"We feel comfortable with the financial commitment they're making with us in setting up this plant," Simpson said. He added the DM&E is employing consultants and designers for its expansion project who are nationally recognized in the rail industry.

"We like to know the people we are dealing with are very legitimate. These guys are extremely that," Simpson said.

CEO still confident

The DM&E, which has faced tough opposition from some civic and business leaders along the railroad line who fear that excessive train traffic will divide their cities, expects to know by early 2007 whether it will get the loan. Its chief opponent is the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, which has been critical of DM&E's safety record and is trying to block the loan.

Schieffer, however, remains confident. Since early this year when he announced the DM&E was seeking the federal loan, he has touted economic development that will spring from the project as its chief benefit to South Dakota and the nation.

"The bridge component manufacturing facility is just one of many developments that will come with the rail-upgrade project," Schieffer predicted.

Whether the Rapid City plant is permanent "depends on what happens in the next 2-1/4 or three years. We'll have to see what happens then," Simpson said. However, "The DM&E sounds like there is a tremendous amount of work to be done after" the rail-expansion project. "It does seem like a long-term commitment we're making with them," he said without being more specific.

Coreslab already builds bridge components for several major railroads, according to Simpson, and the products it will make in Rapid City probably will be supplemented by other components made in its existing Kansas City and Omaha plants. "This project is so big, we couldn't make everything there," Simpson said of Rapid City.

"The DM&E rail upgrade holds incredible potential for the whole Black Hills region - not just in terms of the construction phase, but longer term," said Bob DeMersseman, president of the Rapid City Economic Development Partnership. "This is what value-added manufacturing is all about."

Simpson said the combination of available concrete and steel, a reliable work force and proximity to DM&E's planned new rail line in western South Dakota and Wyoming made Rapid City an attractive site for the new plant.

"This project is so big and so fast track, that's why the DM&E went with a company as experienced as ours," Simpson said. - Peter Harriman, The Sioux Falls Argus Leader


Students at Eugene Field Elementary School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, will have a warm feeling this holiday season, thanks to BNSF Railway Company employees at the neighboring terminal.

Terminal Superintendent Dave Devault and Administrative Assistant Carol Broome called the school last year, and the principal told them she had students showing up for school cold because they did not own a coat. Devault and Broome, working with BNSF’s Tulsa Diversity Council, started a “Coats for Kids” drive at the terminal, collecting 56 new and used coats.

“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get everyone a coat -- just the most needy,” says Devault.
Broome adds, “It wasn’t near enough. And how can you give one a new coat and another a used one?”

This year, they started the drive early and asked BNSF employees for cash donations instead of coats. They also asked other nearby businesses to pitch in $1,000, and four joined the effort.

In all, BNSF collected $5,400 and bought 331 new down coats -- one for every student at the school.

BNSF formalized its adoption of the school through the Tulsa Metro Chamber’s Partners in Education program and thanks were given to the other sponsoring businesses during a special assembly Tuesday morning, Nov. 21. At the assembly, the principal called for the stage curtain to be drawn and unveiled the “wonderful Thanksgiving gift” to students.

There, stacks and stacks of large boxes filled with coats were revealed. The room erupted in applause, and students pumped their fists into the air.

Devault says he and his co-workers are inspired to do even more. “We plan on doing things for the school all throughout the year, because we want to help,” he says. Broome adds: “Thanks to the employees at Tulsa, we were successful and are grateful for their donations.” - BNSF Today, Source: Tulsa World


CALGARY, AB -- The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train, North America's largest rolling fundraiser, is less than two weeks away from starting its annual journey across Canada, the Northeastern and Midwestern United States and no one could be more excited than the entertainers. From December 1st through to December 19th the Holiday Train entertainers will perform their high-energy festive show in over 100 cities, towns and villages in both countries.

On the Canadian Holiday Train the crowds will rock out with Wide Mouth Mason (comprised of Shaun Verreault, Earl Pereira and Simon Tesfay) and be treated to the soulful sounds of country singer Lisa Brokop. It will be the first time all these musicians will be experiencing the magic of performing on a train covered with thousands of lights performing to more than half a dozen communities a day, raising money, food and awareness for local food hamper programs.

"I've seen a lot of Canada from the highway so I'm really excited to get a different perspective on our country on the train," says Shaun Verreault, lead vocalist and guitarist for Wide Mouth Mason. "But more than that, it's about the opportunity to perform and make such a positive impact on food banks from one end of the country to the other."

Bringing holiday cheer as well as the important message supporting food shelves in the United States will be Holiday Train veterans: country Hall of Famer Tracey Brown, rising star Kelly Prescott, as well as folk-rocker Willy Porter. Those three will be joined by Nashville bluegrass singer/songwriter and acoustic guitarist extraordinaire, Pat Flynn.

"I'm ecstatic about the top-notch show that is going to amaze those who come out to see us on the U.S train this year," says performer and Holiday Train producer Tracey Brown. "This will be my fifth year working on the Holiday Train and there is nothing like great music to warm-up a deserving crowd on a cool winter night."

Since 1999, the Holiday Train program has raised over $2.4 million CDN and close to 1.3 million pounds (about 584 tons) of food for North American food banks. All donations collected in a community remain in that community for local distribution.

Click here for the schedules, musicians' bios and photos, a route map and downloadable pictures of the train:


- Ed Greenberg, CPR News Release


NEW IBERIA, LA -- City Councilman David Broussard argued Tuesday for the city to hang on to some of the federal funding promised for the railroad overpass/underpass project that has been his cause since winning election in 2004.

The New Iberia board voted unanimously to ask the congressional delegation to push for approval of the use of all or part of $1.6 million in federal money earmarked for construction of a railroad overpass or underpass to build railroad crossing lights and arms.

U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-Metairie, had taken up Broussard’s cause in 2005, working to carve out $1.6 million in federal money for the proposed project. But the council Tuesday voted to address the arms-and-lights projects, which would be much cheaper and could be finished more quickly.

Broussard said he wanted to amend the resolution to protect $500,000 strictly for the overpass/underpass proposal, but agreed to let that lie over.

Broussard’s argument has been that New Iberia is split by rail lines (BNSF Railway Company and Louisiana & Delta RR), with both hospitals on the north side of the tracks, creating a dangerous situation in times of emergency if a slow-moving or stopped train is cutting off traffic in the city.

State Department of Transportation and Development officials have met with Broussard and other city officials several times about the possibility of either an overpass or an underpass to allow passage from south to north.

Broussard complained that progress on studying proposed locations for such an overpass/underpass has been stopped and he wanted the council to pass something “in writing” that would protect at least $500,000 of the $1.6 million federal appropriation for the overpass/underpass project.

He said that amount would pay for three to four years worth of needed surveys and studies, allowing the city to seek more money for the project.

“I’m getting a lot of flack from a lot of people that the overpass is dead. it’s over, and we had the money,” Broussard said.

Curry said the city would be better served if it acted immediately to ask for the federal government’s blessing to use the money for lights and arms.

She said that would have a faster and more direct effect than holding on to money to pay for a study of a project that might never be fully funded.

“We need the flexibility to do what’s right for the community,” Curry said.

Curry and City Attorney Ted Haik Jr. warned that they had been advised by staffers with Louisiana’s congressional delegation that placing any specific figures in the request for the wider use of the money could jeopardize the chances of receiving it at all.

Councilman Freddie DeCourt suggested the compromise that appeased Broussard, urging the resolution to the congressional delegation go forward without change. He said the council could later vote on the issue of whether to decide for itself on reserving the $500,000 for the underpass/overpass project. - Patrick Courreges, The Baton Rouge Advocate


PASADENA, TX -- A leak from a valve on a rail car caused a fire at the Albemarle Corp. chemical plant in Pasadena on Tuesday that sent one man to the hospital and caused officials to temporarily shut down the Houston Ship Channel.

Some residents in Galena Park also were asked to stay indoors Tuesday evening as a precaution.

The fire broke out about 17:00 as crews were working with aluminum alkyls, which are reactive when exposed to air, said Steve Hawkes, environmental manager for the plant at 2500 N. South.
The fire was extinguished by about 20:30, he said.

One worker was taken by ambulance to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston with minor burns.

"(The chemicals) are loaded in an area called a block house," he said. "They were loading or unloading a rail car in this concrete building, and somehow there was a leak."

Hawkes said the small leak developed as workers were testing a sample of aluminum alkyls from the rail car. The leak came from a valve on the rail car, he said. Hawkes said the company determined an evacuation was not necessary.

Testing samples is a common practice, he said.

The specific aluminum alkyl in the rail car was identified as diethyl aluminum chloride. The rail car was carrying 150,000 pounds of the component.

The aluminum alkyls are used in numerous chemical processes but most often are used as a catalyst in making plastics.

Rusty Cornelius, administrative coordinator of the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said firefighters sprayed water near the fire to create a "water curtain."

Tuesday night, officials were expecting the fire to burn itself out or firefighters to cool the rail car enough for workers to seal the leak.

Hawkes said an emergency response crew of about 40 to 50 people sprayed a mist on the area of the leak. Keeping the rail car cool was expected to prevent the spread of the fire and the release of hydrogen chloride vapors, which can be hazardous and cause respiratory problems, he said.

The burning rail car was about a quarter-mile to a half-mile from the Ship Channel.

Joe Coury, technology-resource manager for Albemarle, said no explosion occurred. As soon as the alkyls interacted with air, there was combustion.

The Ship Channel was shut down from about 19:00 to 20 :15 because of the fire, said Chief Warrant Officer Adam Wine, a spokesman for the Coast Guard. There was "no significant effect" on vessel traffic and "no detectable fumes" from the fire, Wine said.

When the aluminum alkyls burn, they produce a white powder called aluminum oxide, which is a common ingredient in deodorant, Hawkes said.

Cornelius said preliminary environmental tests found no traces of hazardous chemicals that could pose a threat to area residents.

The company's internal fire department battled the fire, along with the Channel Industries Mutual Aid Organization.

The Albemarle plant manufactures a variety of chemical products. The 409-acre facility employs about 300 workers and operates round-the-clock, seven days a week. The company's aluminum-alkyls complex is the largest in the world.

Company officials have notified national environmental officials as well as the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

TCEQ personnel were monitoring emissions from the facility Tuesday evening.

Coury said this plant has been at its Pasadena location for more than 50 years. A similar fire broke out there more than 10 years ago. That fire burned for 24 hours. - Ann Marie Kilday and Ruth Rendon, The Houston Chronicle


OMAHA, NE -- During the next week, millions of Americans will hit the road traveling to spend time and share a holiday feast with family and friends. Union Pacific urges these travelers – motorists and pedestrians alike – to take the extra time and use caution when crossing railroad tracks and at grade crossings, and to please stay away from railroad property.

It is essential to practice safety at highway-rail grade crossings and to heed the warnings of automated crossing gates, flashing signals, stop signs, yield signs and crossbuck signs. When traveling, please remember these important safety guidelines to keep your family safe this Thanksgiving:

· Never walk along tracks and only cross tracks at designated pedestrian roadway crossings when on foot.

· Observe and obey all warning signs and signals.

· At a multiple track crossing waiting for a train to pass, watch out for a second train on the other tracks, approaching from either direction, before proceeding.

· Do not be fooled, the train you see is closer and moving faster than you think. If you see a train approaching, wait for it to go by before you proceed across the tracks.

- Mark Davis, UP News Release


GLENDALE, CA -– Just like the property’s steam engines of old, the pressure is cranked high in Glendale, California. The Timber Heritage Association, Humboldt’s keepers of railroad history, has mere weeks to transport tons of riveted iron giants to Samoa or potentially face the torch.

THA President Marcus Brown is warning that unless a savior is found – and preferably one ready to wield heavy equipment – before Dec31, the area could lose over a century-and-a-half of historical machinery.

For decades, Simpson Timber Company has granted the train enthusiasts space. It was an excellent deal for the association, and one that couldn’t last. Several months ago, Simpson called with the dreaded phone call... the Glendale yard would be sold. “Time’s up,” Brown shrugs.

Trinidad Rancheria Tribal Chair Garth Sundberg bought the Glendale parcel. On excellent riverside viewshed, he was less interested in interring train parts and reportedly has plans to develop a truck service garage there. He gave THA time to find transport, but that comes up at the end of the year.

Sundberg did not respond to a call prior to press time, but according to Brown, he’s ready to move forward with his plans.

The veteran volunteers of THA are handy with wrenches and rail hammers. They can build and take apart a section of line in short order. But there’s no way they’re rebuilding the decayed, rusting standard-guage track that comprised the Annie & Mary Rail Road. They’ll need huge flatbed trucks and cranes at both ends to make the transport.

Former Pacific Lumber owner Woody Murphy is adamant about keeping railroad history alive and has offered space at the old Hammond Line yard adjacent to the Samoa Cookhouse. And Brown is enthused about the possibility of opening up the collection to the public (he also has hopes of seeing an excursion train disembarking from Samoa for bay loops), currently not afforded at the Glendale yard. The dozen or so miles between Glendale and Samoa looms large, however.

At risk are six locomotives and 22 logging flat cars collected by THA over the years. Of the half-dozen engines, one remains under City of Arcata ownership - the old A&MRR No. 7. Built in 1918, the 50-ton two-truck “Shay” was in service until 1956. With a little TLC, Brown says the Shay can be back on track.

California’s first rail line was here in Arcata – the Annie and Mary Rail Road – running out to Korbel for timber, loading up with 50 tons of logs and chugging back to the Arcata Warf for shipping. That engine technology was replicated by John Dolbeer here, inventing the steam donkey that pulled timber up slopes and stopped the need for oxen teams to drag logs through creek beds.

Lines continued spreading through the late 19th Century – running down to Scotia along the North West Pacific Rail and out to Samoa on the Hammond. Most of the area’s infrastructure became established along those lines. Until December 31, all that heritage sits in Glendale, the only such train collection comprised of strictly local equipment.

After late-summer publicity about the collection’ predicament yielded naught, Brown has scrapped his original plan of finding a company willing to donate equipment for the move. Instead, he figures THA will have to pay for the service. “There are only a couple trucks in this whole county and there are a couple people that can pull this off,” he said. A non-profit, THA doesn’t have deep pockets. He’s turning to the public to help fund the move. He’s taking as many donations as he can collect in the next several weeks at THA, PO Box 6399, Eureka CA, 95502. More information is available at [www.timberheritage.org].

Brown remains realistic about the heavy duty, however. “I give it about a fifty-fifty chance,” he said.

Rail cash comes in

Rail enthusiasts’ other tall order – that of re-establishing train services along 316-miles of retired track. received a shot in the arm on November 9 as the California Transportation Commission (CTC) approved the North Coast Railroad Authority’s (NCRA) request for $43.2 million in state and federal funds to initiate repairs on 142 miles of trackway between Lombard (south of Napa) and Willits. The CTC also approved $3.9 million to initiate environmental review of the Eel River Canyon North of Willits, and allocated $3.5 million to begin the engineering phase of the restoration work between Lombard and Willits.

Repairs would be made in three sections, with the final connection crossing the dreaded Eel River Canyon before relinking Humboldt Bay with the southern tracks. Just the first section, the 62 miles between Lombard and Willits would include trackwork, bridges, and replacement of 53 crossing signals. Brown would like to see the bay loop prioritized, in order to get that excursion train running and says that the line remains in decent shape.

Former NCRA Executive Director and former City Manager Dan Hauser was optimistic about the $40 million. “I’m glad to see it finally. If we’d had a fraction of that money in 1998, we could have kept the line open,” he said. “This is a start to making it happen.” - Terrence McNally, The Arcata Eye (The mildly objectionable weekly newspaper for Arcata, California)


Turkeys are turkeys. Sure, you might shell out for a rare-breed heritage bird or a presalted kosher turkey. You might brine it or swaddle it in cheesecloth, but most everyone who celebrates our country's great nonsectarian holiday (vegetarians and manly turkey fryers excepted) roasts a turkey come Thanksgiving. But stuffing, or dressing as it's called in the South, is special. Equally essential to the holiday table, it's a far more expressive medium than turkey. Its bland base of bread or rice invites embellishment, both traditional and irreverent, and in dressing recipes, sausage, nuts, fruit, mushrooms, and shellfish combine in countless permutations. In contrast to the more predictable turkey, stuffing is the frisky, occasionally outlandish, personality of the holiday table.

What kind of stuffing you favor making is part tribal—having to do with your origins—and part vanity—the desire to hear that your stuffing is unlike any other. Some people, and I suspect there are fewer every year, are oyster-stuffing traditionalists. This particular surf-and-turf dish is an old one—dating to the beginning of the 19th century, if not earlier. One might consider it a coastal habit, but, thanks to railroad distribution in the 19th century, oysters, and oyster stuffing, penetrated the middle of the country. Great gastronomical doyenne M.F.K. Fisher argued that it was probably a bigger deal in the middle of the country than along the coasts: "Not every man could buy [oysters], God knows, and a Middle Westerner was even prouder than a man from Down East to have those shell-fish on his feast-day." Today, unless you're cooking your great-grandmother's recipe, as you've done for years, an oyster stuffing is a knowing, young-fogey move, like white gloves or a bowtie (even this recipe's diction is purposely retro). I prefer my mollusks outside the turkey, on ice.

Speaking of traditionalists, of course, the Southern dressing tradition is a fine one, calling for corn bread instead of pasty white bread, which means for a livelier texture and flavor. This is a good choice for the timid improviser, as it's the simplest of upgrades. But corn bread also invites a certain amount of showboating and regionalizing—adding andouille sausage gives it a Cajun vibe, green chiles offer a Southwestern inflection.

There are those who did not grow up with elaborate holiday tradition but who are eager to compensate with ultratraditional, nearly Dickensian feasts like this one. They probably do best with chestnut stuffing—which can't help but channel a rosy-cheeked British festivity. It is little surprise that Martha's official menu boasts a chestnut stuffing made with apples. (I am surprised, however, that a recipe from spare-no-effort-Stewart suggests jarred chestnuts instead of fresh—seems like progress to me.)

Then there are those cooks, full of bravado and big gestures, who favor burly food with lots of spice, meat, and smoke. They are the ones who most likely fry their turkeys (unstuffed, please, for safety's sake). On the side of such a spectacle, there is no reason to be delicate: While sausage stuffing might overwhelm everything else on the table with its spice and heft, if it's tasty enough, who cares?

More esoteric cooks are unswayed by bread as a stuffing base and are given to regional idiosyncrasies. Those looking for an even starchier stuffing option may find stolid comfort in the Pennsylvania Dutch potato filling—substituting mashed potatoes for bread. Then there are the Tex-Mex tamale stuffings and rice stuffings, many in a Cajun mode. Wild rice stuffing, on the other hand, is usually graced with dried cherries, cranberries, or apples and is either advocated by people from Great Lakes wild-rice states or those earnest, drawn people who try, usually in vain, to make Thanksgiving a healthier affair. While the dark, chewy rice is nice, I find it better served with gamey meat like wild duck or venison.

I've grown up as a fruit-nut stuffing type—semitraditional but not afraid to add a little something mirthful to the mix. My go-to stuffing comes from the long-defunct magazine the Pleasures of Cooking (which was an evangelical effort by Cuisinart), and it's pretty simple—onions, celery, bread, butter, walnuts, bourbon, and dried apricots. Here's the recipe, if you're curious.

It's not clear what kind of stuffing, if any, was used by settlers at that Plymouth Plantation feast in 1621, which was refashioned by 19th-century sentimentalists into "the First Thanksgiving." Bread at the event would have been made of corn, not wheat, and perhaps some made it inside the wild fowl—the concept of putting something edible inside the cavity of something else is practically as old as recipes are.

In the only surviving classical cookbook, Apicius proposes stuffing sardines, squid, dormice, hares, and chickens. The book's recipe for gardener's-style pig, porcellum hortolanum, shows stuffing at its most byzantine: a pig's body stuffed with quenelles of chicken forcemeat, finely cut thrushes, fig-peckers, little pork sausages, lucanian sausage, stoned dates, edible bulbs, unshelled snails, mallows, leeks, beets, celery, cooked sprouts, coriander, whole pepper, nuts, eggs, and broth (and you thought turduckens were elaborate). Europeans, particularly the French, embraced the Roman idea of stuffing meat with meat, which led them to the most baroque examples of charcuterie: the galantine, in which a large piece of a boned-out animal—a boar's head, say, or a whole chicken—was stuffed with the meat paste known as forcemeat, then usually glazed with an opaque chaudfroid sauce. Along these lines, Escoffier, who published Le Guide Culinaire, the canonical guide to modern French cooking, in 1903, had a decidedly fancy approach to stuffed turkey. "Bone out the young turkey as for a galantine and stuff it with very good sausage meat mixed with ¼ dl brandy per 1 kg of sausage meat plus some large dice of ham or bacon and dice of raw truffle. Place a very small and very red ox tongue, wrapped in slices of salt pork fat in the centre of the stuffing." It seems the impulse to surprise the diner with a hidden treat is fundamental; at the risk of sounding crude, pretty much any animal cavity was, and still is, an invitation for the cook to fill it.

Of course, plenty of cooks today, including me, don't actually stuff our turkeys. Food safety guidelines recommend cooking the stuffing inside the bird until everything is at least 165 degrees, which will surely overcook your turkey breast, and you'll more than likely wind up with a soggy, puddinglike stuffing concoction. I like to get my bird in and out of the oven as quickly as possible, and packing it with stuffing slows things down.

Stripped of its original cavity-filling, juice-sopping purpose, stuffing is forced to justify its existence with other vivid flavors. Cooking sites and magazines have responded with portmanteau stuffings that can't say no to a flavor—spiced raisin-pumpkin bread and mushroom stuffing, or corn bread stuffing with bacon, sweet potatoes, greens, and pecans. Personally, I adhere to a stuffing rule of three—three distinctive ingredients beyond the basics are OK, as long as they are harmonious. Beyond that, it's too much. But then again, in the Apician tradition, is there really such a thing as too much? - Sara Dickerman, Slate Magazine



SALT LAKE CIYT, UT -- The demise of the Delta Center - now the EnergySolutions Arena - caught the Utah Transit Authority by surprise, but by Tuesday morning the agency had adapted its TRAX trains to the new reality.

Headers on northbound TRAX cars have been changed to read "Salt Lake City" instead of Delta Center. The Delta Center station signs will stay the same until UTA comes up with the new name. The recorded voice announcing stations will change in a few weeks, pending a new script and taping.

Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller and EnergySolutions president Steve Creamer announced the arena's name change Monday.

Updates to the printed timetables and the Web site are still to come. UTA spokesman Justin Jones said he didn't know when the Delta Center station would be renamed, but said it wouldn't become the EnergySolutions stop. That's because the mass-transit agency's Board of Directors has decided not to use corporate names on stations any longer.

"Their desire is that we select a name that is beneficial and helpful to our passengers," Jones said.

The two most recently opened stations on the north-south TRAX line were named 900 South and Sandy Expo. "Delta Center was the only station named after a local company," Jones said.

UTA is bucking a trend. Other transit agencies sell naming rights, while UTA doesn't even allow advertising on platforms. "We want to keep them very clean and simple so the passengers are able to notice the safety information . . . and not be bombarded by advertising," Jones said. - Patty Henetz, The Salt Lake Tribune


SALT LAKE CITY, UT -- They don't know how to pay for it, but Salt Lake City Council members agreed Tuesday night to increase the amount of money the city will put toward the planned extension of light rail from the EnergySolutions Arena - formerly the Delta Center - to the transit hub at 600 West and 300 South.

The original estimated cost was $32 million, with the city paying $8.45 million and the Utah Transit Authority chipping in the rest. But bids came in higher. The cost is now $41.7 million, with the city set to pay $11 million. UTA has urged the city to vote quickly because construction costs are rising and the route needs to be completed to connect with commuter rail, which could be built by the end of next year and will initially terminate at the transit hub.
But the council has been holding the money hostage until members met with UTA to gain assurances that the transit authority prioritizes a proposed light rail route to the airport.

The line would be paid for through a sales-tax bond voters approved earlier this month, but is competing with other transit and road needs. That meeting was held last week. Council Chairman Dave Buhler declined to discuss it in detail, noting the sensitive nature of the negotiations. "They understand the priority we put on the airport line." - Heather May, The Salt Lake Tribune


KANSAS CITY, MO -- Nearly 50 years after they disappeared from Kansas City streets, an electric streetcar has been restored and returned to Union Station.

The vintage street car, freshly painted in authentic pale yellow, arrived at the station Tuesday to be put on display.

One of the people waiting for the streetcar was Harold Ambrosius, who operated the power and brake pedals in the cars -- including the renovated one -- for 11 years before they were put out of business in 1957 and replaced by buses.

He drove the buses for 33 more years, but said he liked the streetcars better.

"A lot of people were sad when they got rid of them, because they were a pretty smooth ride,” Ambrosius said.

The Kansas City Regional Transit Alliance, a nonprofit corporation, restored the streetcar with a $125,000 federal grant.

The project began long before Kansas City voters approved a plan to introduce light rail to the city in this month's elections.

"But with the November 7 results, it is somewhat symbolic that we bring back a restored version of what was our streetcar from the '40s and '50s,” said the Greg Lever, executive director of the Transit Alliance.

Union Station provided a section of rail for the car to be placed on permanent display under a shelter near the north parking garage. Visitors won't be able to go inside the car.

The car put on display was in service in Kansas City from 1947 to 1957. It also was used in Toronto and San Francisco before being retired in 1979.

It had been in an electric rail museum near Oakland before coming back to Kansas City on the back of a flatbed truck. - The Associated Press, The Topeka Capital-Journal


NEW YORK CITY, NY -- The state report that blamed Minnesota teenager Natalie Smead for her death at a Long Island Rail Road station was "pretty ugly" and should instill fear in LIRR riders, Smead's father said Tuesday.

"Every parent whose kid drinks or they think might be drinking should be fearful of them riding the railroad," Peter Smead said. "Any other parent of a teenager, beware."

Smead spoke a day after the state Public Transportation Safety Board absolved the LIRR and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of any blame in Natalie Smead's Aug05 death. Instead, the report found that the inebriated teen likely was responsible for her own death.

Natalie Smead, 18, fell through a gap at the Woodside station, crawled under a platform and was struck by a train on the other side, the report said. Smead's blood alcohol level was measured at .23 percent, or about three times the legal limit to drive a car.

Speaking from Minnesota, Peter Smead said that despite requesting information about his daughter's death, he has yet to receive the autopsy or toxicology reports cited in the report.

"How all this information gets to all these different people and I don't know a damn thing about it, it's pretty painful," he said. "I find out after the media does, I find out after everyone else does. Somebody got that information, but her mom and I didn't. It's pretty harsh.

"To blast my daughter the way they did was very painful," he said of the report.

LIRR spokeswoman Susan McGowan said only that "the Long Island Rail Road is reviewing the PTSB report."

Smead's parents have filed a $5 million legal claim against the MTA and the railroad. - Reid J. Epstein, Newsday


Subject Written By Date/Time (PST)
  Railroad Newsline for Thursday, 11/23/06 Larry W. Grant 11-23-2006 - 04:04

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