Railroad Newsline for Tuesday, 06/12/07
Author: Larry W. Grant
Date: 06-12-2007 - 00:20






Railroad Newsline for Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Compiled by Larry W. Grant

In Memory of Rob Carlson, 1952 – 2006






RAIL NEWS

PORT OF EVERETT'S PIER FOR 787 NOW JUST BACKUP

Graphics gallery here:

[seattletimes.nwsource.com]

EVERETT, WA -- The Port of Everett's new 900-foot-long pier was dangled in front of Boeing several years ago as an incentive to keep production of the company's new 787 Dreamliner from moving out of state.

Now the barge-to-rail transport facility is close to completion near Mukilteo, but Boeing won't be using it to receive large parts for the 787, the first of which is scheduled to roll out July 8.

The company opted early on to fly in parts from suppliers around the world, using modified 747s called Dreamlifters. As a result, the newly named Mount Baker Terminal has become in part a $30.6 million "insurance policy" -- a backup for Boeing in case anything happens to one of its Dreamlifters.

"We don't necessarily know if we'll ever use it [for the 787]," said Boeing spokeswoman Mary Hanson.

That doesn't mean the terminal will sit idle, though. Boeing and other aerospace suppliers and companies plan to use it when it's finished in December.

Boeing says it will use the terminal to receive oversize parts for other airplanes.

And Boeing and other users will help repay the costs of the terminal's construction in user fees over the next several years.

"Our anticipation is that in two or three years, we'll see five-day-a-week delivery at the terminal," said John Mohr, Port of Everett executive director.

In 2003, when Boeing announced it was looking around the country for places to build its new airplane, state legislators panicked. They desperately wanted to hold on to production of the airplane, along with its jobs and other economic benefits.

The terminal became part of the incentive package to keep Boeing from looking around, and the state chipped in $15.5 million toward its construction. At a groundbreaking ceremony in 2005, it was heralded as an economic boon to Washington by Gov. Christine Gregoire and other officials.

From the start, Boeing knew that flying in parts for the 787 was more cost-effective and efficient than waiting up to a month for shipments across the ocean, said Hanson.

But the Port said it already was planning to build the barge-to-rail terminal anyway.

Boeing's need for a backup facility and the state's cash infusion sped up the process, said Mohr.
"The facility was already under design prior to the 787 being announced," Mohr said.

The Mount Baker Terminal will free up traffic on the BNSF Railway line. When oversize parts are delivered from a downtown Everett terminal, the railway line -- also used by Sound Transit commuter trains and Amtrak -- currently has to be closed for about two hours.

With the new terminal, such rail-line shutdowns will have to last only about 15 minutes because the transportation time to Paine Field next to Boeing's Everett plant is shorter, said Port of Everett spokeswoman Lisa Mandt.

The first phase of the terminal project was completed in 2006, and the Port is waiting for a crane to be constructed and delivered before the facility will open.

The project originally was scheduled to be finished in time for the 787 rollout but was delayed a year because the Port was working with Boeing on specifications for the crane. - Kirsten Orsini-Meinhard, The Seattle Times, courtesy Dick Seelye




BNSF OPERATES A SERIES OF 10.000-FOOT-LONG INTERMODAL TRAINS

Photo here:

[www.bnsf.com]

In mid-May, the BNSF Railway Company ran the first of what is now a series of 10,000-foot-long intermodal trains across the Southern Transcontinental line. The initial 10,000- foot international intermodal stack train departed Los Angeles May 12, and arrived at Logistics Park-Chicago May 15. The train operated over the 2,200-mile Transcon, which is now almost entirely double tracked, and used distributed power with four locomotives in the front and two in the back.

To operate a train of this size took a lot of advance planning by BNSF employees, including coordinating delivery and schedules with customers, and planning railcar supplies and locomotives to pull the heavy tonnage. Tasks also included a large distribution list to inform other BNSF employees and ports that the 10,000-foot-long train was coming through.

"Employees have responded extremely well," says Richard Ebel, general manager, Los Angeles Division. "All team members involved took full ownership of the building of the train and its departure."

According to Steve Pierce, director, Service Design, multiple work groups resolved challenges unique to this extended-length train, such as fueling and inspection locations. The success of the initial trip allowed BNSF to implement regular weekly operation of similar 10,000-foot-long trains, and the service will be expanded in the coming months.

If all goes well, these trains could be the wave of the future at BNSF; 10,000-foot-long trains could increase capacity and velocity. - BNSF Today




COUNCIL TURNS DEAF EAR TO WHISTLE WOES

Photo here:

[www.modbee.com]

Caption reads: Chris Buckhout of Manteca, who lives so close to the train tracks that he can see the engineers' facial expressions, is concerned about hearing loss from the train horns. (Sam Tenney/The Modesto Bee)

MANTECA, CA -- Freight trains are synonymous with life in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, and depending on whom you ask, their horns are a nuisance or a comforting sign of home.

"They've been here for decades; they're almost part of the fabric of the community," Manteca Transportation Analyst David Vickers told the City Council last week before it decided unanimously against quieting the horns.

The decision against installing less intrusive wayside horns at nine Union Pacific Railroad crossings confounded others.

Chris Buckhout, who lives near the tracks, worries about the searing noise on his eardrums.

"I think the City Council heard my words but not my message, which is that this is something potentially dangerous to me and others in community," Buckhout, 27, said. "That is really my concern, and I would hope someone would look into that."

Wayside horns, which are like speakers mounted on poles, focus sound toward motorists and pedestrians and away from everybody else. Oncoming trains activate them by triggering a circuit on the track.

A few dozen trains pass through Manteca daily and can easily be heard as they pass intersections on a diagonal path from the southeast to the northwest.

Sound engineers working on the city's general plan in 2003 measured the horn's strength at 101.3 decibels from 125 feet. That's enough to possibly cause hearing loss after about 15 minutes, according to The Dangerous Decibels project, a public health campaign in Oregon. Closer to the train, the decibels increase and the time it takes to do damage decreases.

But train horns are constantly moving, noted Kathy Wold, planning manager for Manteca. An accelerating motorcycle a few feet away, in comparison, is measured at 110 decibels, which is twice as loud as 100 decibels.

After 40 years of listening to trains pass her Manteca home, Georgianna Reichelt scoffed at any health risk.

"I don't wear a hearing aid," Reichelt, 76, said. "It reminds me of people moving in and then wanting to change it. They are here a little while and all of a sudden, they don't like chickens, they don't like farming. They don't like the smell."

A storied past

And the trains have been here pretty much as long as the chickens. They have a storied past.

Councilman Vince Hernandez, 44, remembers listening to the train from his back yard near Powers Avenue and Moffat Boulevard in the 1960s, and letting his imagination sail.

In the summertime, the trains brought sugar beets to the Spreckels Sugar Co. -- and also wanderers. As a reserve police officer, Hernandez's father got to know them. His mother would make them burritos. They would camp awhile alongside the packing sheds along Moffat and then be gone, he said.

"You would hear Johnny Cash and the old country singers sing about the freedom brought to those who rode the train, and as a kid, you always have some imagination," Hernandez said. "I would be in the back yard playing and imagining seeing the countryside, hopping trains and seeing where it takes you. I would think 'Where are they going?' if the trains were going west. You couldn't go much farther west. 'Was it San Francisco or Oakland?' Those places are pretty close now, but in the '60s, they seemed like a whole other world."

Those memories occasionally come to mind when he hears the trains.

All fondness for the railroad aside, Escalon resident Sandy Russell welcomed news of plans for more quietude in her city.

Escalon City Manager Greg Greeson is negotiating a price for wayside horns at four intersections.

Greeson expects to bring a price to the City Council next month. The city discussed addressing train noise about two years ago when the number of trains rose to nearly 60 a day. Now, the city estimates it at 70.

"The sound of the train is kind of soothing, but the horn is annoying," said Russell, 59, who hears the trains in the middle of the night.

"It's terrible," said Wayne Taylor, 54, sitting in a lawn chair among friends at Escalon's Main Street Park.

In the two hours they had been sitting there, four trains blared past.

"When that train is going by, we have to stop our conversation," he said. "I've lived here all of my life, and the (train) traffic has multiplied tenfold."

He even hears it at his home several miles from the track.

Randy Price, 37, has gotten to know the engineers from afar by their honking styles, he said.

"Some are pretty quick on the horn," he said. "Others lay on it all the way through town. Those speakers on the wayside horns would be much better."

Escalon conducted a test last year in which Police Chief Doug Dunford reportedly couldn't hear the horn from four blocks away.

Riverbank considering changes

Escalon also plans to redesign gates and medians to make it harder for motorists to bypass the signals and wind up in front of a train.

That persistent problem was tragically illustrated last month near Riverbank when a 23-year-old Ceres woman drove into the path of an Amtrak train traveling 79 mph. She and her five passengers died.

Riverbank, which, like Escalon, is along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe track, is considering wayside horns.

Any changes the city makes, including the horns, have to take safety into account, said Riverbank Community Development Director J.D. Hightower. "Obviously, safety is paramount. We want to do anything we can to avoid any further tragedies."

Wayside horns do not preclude engineers from hitting their horns if they sense a problem.

Railroads absolve themselves of any responsibility should an accident occur involving the wayside horns. So they require cities get insurance, and that is ultimately what dissuaded the Manteca City Council.

Administrative Services Director Joe Kriskovich told the council that Manteca would have had to add from $2 million to $6 million in liability insurance for each of the nine crossings, a sum other cities in its insurance group could not support. Moving forward could have left the city looking for new insurance.

The city of Merced dropped discussion of wayside horns for the same reason, said City Manager James Marshall.

Buckhout said he understands the liability argument and doesn't blame the city but would like the city to explore the risk of doing nothing.

"Who knows," Buckhout said. "Maybe the decibel level is within a safe level, and at that point, I'll be satisfied. But to me, not knowing, and everyone not caring about not knowing, is kind of troublesome." - Inga Miller, The Modesto Bee




'PINE ISLAND BRANCH' REACHES END OF THE LINE

Photo here:

[www.postbulletin.com]

ROCHESTER, MN -- The rail tracks that carried trains north from Rochester were mostly ripped out decades ago, eventually paved over for new traffic: bicyclists, runners and horseback riders.

Today, we know the 12.5-mile pathway that stretches from the west side of IBM north to Pine Island as the Douglas Trail, named for the little community at the halfway point of the trail.

Just a few weeks ago, work crews were digging, lifting and pulling, as they removed the final remnants of what railroad aficionados around here knew as the "Pine Island Branch" of the Chicago Great Western.

The 2.2 miles of track began along Seventh Street Northwest and went north were along Valleyhigh Drive Northwest near 19th Street Northwest. George Ellis Enterprises made steady progress, tearing up the wooden ties and carting away the steel rails.

According to the book "The Chicago Great Western in Minnesota", the CGW put this section into operation in 1903, building south to Rochester from Zumbrota.

That connected with their existing line running up from the south, which until then, dead-ended at Riverside Depot on Fourth Street Southeast in downtown Rochester.

When completed, this branch of the CGW ran from McIntire, Iowa, to Mankato, through LeRoy, Spring Valley, Rochester, to Red Wing, then back southwest through Randolph and Faribault.
The line to Pine Island was taken out in the 1970s and became Douglas Trail.

That was a few years after the line north of Pine Island -- to Zumbrota, Goodhue, and Red Wing -- was taken out.

After 1968 it was owned the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, and since 1986 it has been owned by the Dakota Minnesota & Eastern Railroad.

Locals also referred to this stretch as the "GWC spur," because of the General Warehouse Corp. building, a long-time customer, was at the end of the track. - Mike Doughterty, The Rochester Post-Bulletin




RAILROAD'S EXPANSION PLANS TOPIC OF MEETING

YUMA, AZ -- Once again Union Pacific's plans to expand its operations through Yuma County will be the subject of a public meeting.

The Arizona Corporation Commission is holding a town hall meeting regarding the railroad company's plans to add a second set of tracks to its Sunset Route through Arizona. Local officials and residents are invited to share their comments and concerns with the commissioners.

The meeting will be at 18:00 hours Tuesday at Yuma City Hall Council Chambers, One City Plaza.

This is the second public meeting called by the ACC in Yuma to discuss Union Pacific's double-tracking plans.

While the ACC cannot dictate where a railroad runs, through a relationship with the Federal Railroad Administration, it oversees safe operation and maintenance of crossings, signals, track and cargo containers.

At a May meeting, Commissioners William Mundell and Gary Pierce expressed concerns about Union Pacific's plans for safety at crossings. Union Pacific had said it did not feel that any of the current road crossings on the railroad's Sunset Route through Yuma County needed a grade separation, which is either an overpass or underpass so vehicles don't have to cross the tracks.

Currently an average of 45 trains go through Yuma each day, a number that railroad officials expect to increase with double tracking.

Commissioners at Tuesday's meeting also plan to discuss rail issues in general and the potential for a new line connecting the Sunset Route with Punto Colonet in Mexico, even though Union Pacific officials have said they no longer intend to bid on the project. - Joyce Lobeck, The Yuma Sun




TRAIN 2.0: HERMANN PARK TRAIN COULD SEE A $4 MILLION UPGRADE

Photo gallery here:

[www.chron.com]

HOUSTON, TX -- For 50 years, it's been one place in Houston where the destination is the journey.

The 35-horsepower locomotive of the Hermann Park train pulls its little open-air cars through a dark tunnel, weaves under tall pine and live oak trees, winds past playgrounds and ponds, goes over a bridge and chugs back into the station.

All of that could change in September, when the Slusky family's "Buffalo Rides" concession at Hermann Park comes to its final stop.

Under a proposal from the Hermann Park Conservancy and the Houston City Council's quality-of-life committee, the little train could be getting a $4 million upgrade, with new tracks and trains, a new train station and three new train stops.

Two new stops will be located near the MetroRail depots at Hermann Park/Rice and at the Houston Zoo. The third new train stop will be near the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Houston Garden Center and Miller Outdoor Theatre.

The proposal, part of an $11 million improvement plan for Hermann Park's Lake Plaza, will be considered on Wednesday by the Houston City Council, Councilwoman Pam Holm said.

As they waited in the blazing, hot sun for the trip around the park, many train riders expressed support for the idea of an updated train with additional stops.

Two-year-old Carter Jones didn't seem to care.

"I love the train!" the little boy said. "It's a sunny day!"

Carter is "a second-generation train rider," said his father, Chris Jones, of Houston. They were spending the day at the Houston Zoo and Hermann Park with Jones' brother-in-law, Doug Keady, and Keady's son, Drew, of Grapevine.

"All the guys are going on the train," Jones said. "I used to come down here as a kid."

The idea of a multipurpose train with additional stops "is a great idea," Jones said. "This is a humongous park, so having multiple drop-off spots would make it much easier to get around."

Laura Vincent, of Deer Park, waiting in line to take her nephew, Cameron Gardiner, 4, on the little train, said she thinks it might be time for a new, improved train.

"I grew up in Houston, and I used to come down here as a kid to ride the train," Vincent said. "I haven't been here in about 10 years, but I do think they might need a new train."

Tunnel lovers

Pamela Gunter traded the cool darkness of a movie theater on Saturday for a day at Hermann Park with her sons, Anthony, 10, and Artrell, 7.

As the train passed a "spray-ground" in the park, both boys agreed that additional stops on the train ride would be "a great idea."

But they had some advice for any changes.

"We like the tunnel," Anthony said.

Holm, who remembers riding the little train as a child, conceded there is some sadness in replacing it.

"It is so special," Holm said. "It is a little bittersweet when some of the things that have been part of our life get a new life. But it is also great to see the development and the partnership (with the Hermann Park Conservancy) for a better quality of life and better environment for our citizens," Holm said.

The new train "will still be a ride," Holm said. "But it will serve a dual purpose. It would still circle through the park, and the track would be similar to where it is now. But it will be upgraded and there will be stops added."

The nonprofit Hermann Park Conservancy would pay all capital costs to replace the train. The conservancy would operate the train and provide 22 percent of the gross revenues to the city. Net revenues would be used to maintain Hermann Park.

The city's Parks and Recreation Department is planning to recognize the Slusky family's contributions to Houston.

Entertaining entrepreneur

Louis Slusky built Playland Park, with its giant Cyclone rollercoaster, as well as Meyer Park Speedway, where hot rods raced on a dirt racetrack. His son, Elliott, has been overseeing Buffalo Rides' management of the train concession, Holm said.

"I think they started the train, Playland Park and the Speedway all about the same time," Holm said. "The family really made a contribution to Houston's history." - Anne Marie Kilday, The Houston Chronicle




ALL ABOARD FOR THE HENDERSON DEPOT MUSEUM COMPLEX

HENDERSON, TX -- In the late 1800s and early 1900s railroads carried passengers, freight and the latest news. This was before radio and TV. Very few people in rural America had a telephone, and the newspaper was the major deliverer of the news. The railroads delivered big-city newspapers to the small towns across America.

The depot was a popular gathering place around the time for the train to arrive. This would be when you could learn what was happening in other parts of the country. The news might be several days old, but it was the latest news available. The Depot Museum in Henderson is the town’s link to this segment of early Texas history.

The story of how the museum came to be is an interesting story as told by curator Susan Weaver.

“The museum has been here 27 years and was a bicentennial project. The depot was located one block from its present location and was moved here and renovated.

“The present museum building was a library. The library was out of room so the librarian contacted MoPac [the Missouri and Pacific railroad], and they said she could have it, just move it off their land. When they acquired the depot building, the librarian wanted to expand the library and put books in the old depot building and make a children’s center out of it because she was out of space. She then found out she would not be allowed to put books in the old building because of some obscure state law about funding.

“They now had the building and needed to find something to do with it,” Weaver said. “A restoration and renovation committee was formed, and they raised about $50,000 to move the building and redo it. There is now a history museum in the waiting room. A children’s discovery center was put in another room. They worked on the building for three years and put it all together.

“The county then hired me to run it, that is, after they tried something else. They tried using volunteers, which did not work very well. The county then hired me part time. I worked part time for seven years. It soon got to where I had so many school groups coming in that I was working all day.

“The county then put me on full time, and now I have a part-time assistant that conducts some of the tours.”

The waiting room area of the depot has been restored and includes a ticket counter, some old timetables, benches and a potbellied coal heater. One thing that caught my attention was the shoeshine stand. This one would seat three customers at a time. The shoe shine stand was an integral part of the old depots.

Early day salesmen traveled by train, and most towns had just dirt streets. After making their rounds calling on customers, their shoes would be covered with dust, mud and no telling what. They would get their shoes shined while waiting to catch the next train out so they would look spiffy when arriving in the next town to start calling on customers.

The railroad first came to Henderson in 1877, and at that time only a freight-loading platform was built. The depot was not completed until 1901. The depot became a community gathering place and shipping center serving the International & Great Northern and Missouri Pacific Lines.

Also on the museum grounds is a barn, syrup mill, country store, print shop, doctor’s office, working saw mill, oil derrick and pump jack. They have located an old cotton gin in the county and are raising funds to have the gin torn down and moved to the museum and rebuilt. These are all representative of the early industry of Rusk County.

The print shop was interesting. There was a rack containing trays of handset type such as was used in the 1800s to print broadsheet newspapers. The type was set one letter at a time by hand. The print shop also contained a Linotype. The Linotype was first produced by Ottmar Mergenthaler in 1886 and used to set type for newspapers up until offset printing took over in the mid- to late 20th century.

A small building in the center of the grounds caught my attention. Upon checking it out I found that it was the Arnold outhouse, the only outhouse in Texas with its own historical marker. A “three-holer,” no less.

The historical marker reads: “Prominent Henderson businessman and civic leader John R. Arnold moved his family to this property in 1908. He added a second story to the home that already existed at the site. He also built a number of structures around the property, including this outhouse. It was larger than most standard outhouses of its day, and the milled pattern on the door and window facings matched that of the large Arnold house. The Arnold outhouse is preserved to illustrate part of the lifestyle of 19th and early 20th century Texans.”

The syrup mill was powered by a mule. The mule would be hitched to a long bar that was attached to a shaft on top of the mill, and he would then walk in circles turning the gears that operated the mill. Here the sugar cane was crushed to release juice, which was then carried to a long shallow pan over an open fire where the juice was boiled down to make syrup. I was told at one time that it took 12 gallons of juice to make one gallon of syrup. This was an all-day process.

In the early days of Texas history, as the leaves were turning in the fall and the air was crisp, families gathered at the syrup mills. This was a time of fellowship and trading and, most importantly, ribbon cane syrup.

Each year on the second Saturday in November the Heritage Syrup Festival is held in Henderson.

The highlight of the Festival revolves around a day of syrup-making demonstrations. The grounds of the historic Depot Museum come alive with more than 30 folk artists demonstrating and selling their crafts. Folk music and rural East Texas soul food round out the festivities. - John Watson, The Cleburne Times-Review




RAILROAD COLLECTORS ON TRACK

ST. CHARLES, IL -- Members of the Delaplante family came from Buffalo, NY, to share their relative’s hobby with others who might appreciate it.

They had inherited railroad memorabilia -- from a 1989 North American Railroads calendar to railroad work orders from 1915 -- and hoped to sell it to enthusiasts.

“We can make someone happy that’s into it,” Jim Delaplante said.

The Delaplantes’ wares were part of the 31st annual Midwest Railroadiana and Transportation Show and Sale on Sunday at the Kane County Fairgrounds.

“We just brought a carload to see where it went,” Karen Delaplante said.

Collectors browsed the tables of books, hats, lanterns, signs, dishes, silverware and other items used on trains.

Don Stark, 70, of Riverwoods, said he came to the event every year and had a large collection of antique railroad paraphernalia. He said he probably shouldn’t buy anything.

“I should be selling instead of buying,” he said.

Ronald Muldowney of Stockton, NJ, said he bought his first train plate, which indicates the year the locomotive was made, for $18 at a flea market.

“I went from having one to having 600 of these,” he said.

Muldowney, who has since sold the first plate he bought, and Tim Moore of North Bend, Wash., had a table full of the heavy plates. One silver plate with black writing from Montreal Locomotive Works Limited had been on a train built in 1907 and retired in 1959. A round black plate with gold lettering had been on a train built in 1941 by The Baldwin Locomotive Co.

“Today they don’t put a real plate on locomotives,” Moore said. “They put on a decal.”

The shows offer collectors a place to buy hard-to-find items.

“You find different stuff all the time,” Moore said. “It’s the hunt.”

Bev Birk of Amana Colonies, Iowa, started the show when she lived in West Chicago. She and her husband Phil Birk had relatives who worked for railroad companies.

Birk’s table had several dining room plates including a white Union Pacific plate with a dark blue edge and gold trim, and a small plate with “Eastern Steamship Lines Inc.” on the top. She displayed passenger timetables for the Rock Island Lines effective March 2, 1969, and the Chesapeake and Ohio Lines for Nov. 30, 1941.

“You meet such nice people and you buy such interesting things,” she said. “You’re always learning.” - Karen Long, The Kane County Chronicle




SQUIRRELS EASIER TO DEAL WITH THAN TRAIN HORNS

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO -- There’s nothing like squirrels and train horns to get people riled up.

Recent Side Streets columns about folks living along railroad crossings and seeking to establish “quiet zones” elicited a cacophony of responses.

Some were the predictable “Why did you move next to the tracks?” squawk.

But the overwhelming majority were sympathetic and urged Colorado Springs and El Paso County officials to aggressively pursue quiet zone status for trackside residents.

A community can qualify for a quiet zone -- muffling the horns -- if crossings are upgraded with expensive lights and gates and medians plus safety sensors and warning devices for approaching trains.

“I am really fed up with the amount of whistle blowing that goes on,” said Charles Roth, who lives in the Monument area. “I realize there are federal laws about when they blow their whistles, but it has gotten ridiculous. Wonder what we can do about this?”

Roth is correct. A 2005 federal law requires train crews to blow their horns for 15-25 seconds each time they approach a crossing, said Steve Forsberg, Kansas City, Kansas-based spokesman for BNSF Railway.

“It’s a no-win situation for us as well as the people who live near the tracks,” Forsberg said.

The rules also mandate horn blasts whenever work crews are within 25 feet of track, such as through the Interstate 25 construction zone. Wildlife and people also trigger aggressive use of train horns.

“Train crews are not intentionally trying to annoy the public,” he said. “Unfortunately, people who hear the horns aren’t seeing what the train crew is seeing on the tracks.”

That explanation doesn’t satisfy angry readers. Many complained of hearing dozens of blasts. Others complained of long, uninterrupted blasts in the predawn hours.

Some want to know why train crews no longer adhere to the historic pattern of two long blasts followed by a short then another long.

Forsberg said there is no rule requiring a particular sequence. The law simply mandates a minimum 15-second blast at each crossing.

“I’ve lived here 41 years, and it’s out of control,” said Eric Wyatt, who owns several rental homes and a business along the tracks south of downtown Colorado Springs. “They just lay on the horn. It’s just rude. I can’t keep renters anymore because they can’t sleep at night.”

Readers were equally vocal, in a more lighthearted way, after a recent column about Rick Schulte and his effort to rid his yard of squirrels. Schulte traps and relocates them east to the Banning-Lewis Ranch area.

Buzz Steppler of Rustic Hills took issue with an expert who said Schulte is fighting a losing battle because there are so many squirrels in the city that new ones simply replace the trapped rodents and take over their territory.

“I’m a squirrel-catching kind of guy, too,” Steppler said. “I’ve caught 70 squirrels in my neighborhood. I’ve definitely seen a decrease in squirrels. And I’ve got proof. My trap has been sitting empty for a week.”

Al Eden of Brookwood traps and relocates squirrels to the Woodmen Valley area and he, too, disagrees with experts.

“I think I’ve made a little headway,” Eden said.

How does he know the squirrels simply aren’t running home?

“I spray their tails with paint,” Eden said. “I never saw one come back yet.”

Other readers offered simpler solutions to rid yards of squirrels.

Emmi Shoaf advocates hanging moth balls in cloth bags on stakes around the yard or garden.

“I have no squirrels anymore,” she said. “They can’t stand the smell.”

Ireana Campbell swears by garlic powder, which she spreads around her flowers and vegetables.

“This really works,” Campbell said. “Get a big jar of garlic powder. Not garlic salt. That will kill everything. Squirrels hate garlic.” - Bill Vogrin, The Colorado Springs Gazette




TEEN CHARGED IN HOOSICK FALLS DEPOT FIRE

HOOSICK FALLS, NY - A 16-year-old, whose name is not being released pending his possible youthful-offender status, was remanded to the Rensselaer County Jail without bail after being charged with third-degree arson and second-degree criminal mischief, according to a statement issued by Hoosick Falls, New York Police.

The youth is alleged to have intentionally ignited a soda bottle filled with gasoline with a lit cigarette under a set of stairs at the old train depot on Center Street in the village. The result was a mutual aid blaze that destroyed the more than 120-year-old structure.

The fire was reported around 23:00 hours Saturday. When crews arrived on the scene the structure was fully involved and later had to be razed, according to Hoosick Falls officials.

Several fire companies battled the blaze including North Hoosick, Hoosick, West Hoosick, Buskirk, White Creek and the village of Bennington, VT, Pittstown and Hoosick rescue squads also responded to the scene.

The arrest was the result of an investigation and eye witness account, police said.

Hoosick Falls Police Chief Robert Whalen and Ptn Stephen Coonradt and Bernard Davock conducted the investigation.

The old train depot had previously sustained damage in a fire Jan. 18 that was later deemed accidental. At that time it was ignited by a work crew attempting to thaw frozen pipes, authorities previously said.

The structure most recently served as offices and storage for Pan Am Railways, which operates the Springfield Terminal; the line that runs along the former Boston & Maine rails through the village. It sat on the site of the former B&M Railroad passenger station which was used in the mid-to-late 1900s. - Kathryn Caggianelli, The Troy Record




TRANSIT NEWS

STATE OFFICIALS AND NURSING HOME INVESTIGATE LIGHT-RAIL DEATH

Photo here:

[minnesota.publicradio.org]

MINNEAPOLIS, MN -- State investigators and nursing home officials are looking into the death of a 79-year-old woman who fell underneath a train at the Franklin Ave. light-rail station.

Evelyn Cotton was a resident at the Good Samaritan Society-University Specialty Center in southeast Minneapolis for the past seven years.

"It was a very tragic situation," the home's executive director, Sharon St. Mary, said Sunday. "We've known her for a very long time."

Cotton's brother, Alton Musich of Loyal, Wisconsin, said Cotton had tremors and that the nursing home called him several times to say she had fallen. He said her health had been slipping and he thinks she suffered from something like Parkinson's disease.

But both Musich and St. Mary said they didn't know of any restrictions that would have barred Cotton from leaving the nursing home as she pleased.

St. Mary said that the center has reviewed surveillance video, and it appears that Cotton left the home about 1 p.m. Friday, a half-hour before arriving at the light-rail station. Police said Cotton fell between a two-car train that had just started to leave the station on its way to downtown Minneapolis.

Security footage suggests Cotton lost her footing -- before she fell onto the tracks, she might have tried to stop herself by reaching out to grab the car.

Cotton was the fourth person to be killed by a light-rail train since the service began operating nearly three years ago. Her death was the first involving a light-rail customer. - The Associated Press, Minnesota Public Radio




KIDNAPING ATTEMPT AT DART LIGHT-RAIL STATION

Video here:

[www.wfaa.com]

RICHARDSON, TX -- Dallas Area Rapid Transit Police and the Richardson Police Department are investigating the attempted kidnaping of a woman at the Spring Valley Station of the commuter rail line Sunday afternoon.

A man grabbed a woman by the arm and tried to drag her out of the station about 15:00 hours, Richardson Police Sgt. Harry Helliwell said.

A pedestrian started yelling for police, and the kidnapper ran away. The woman was not injured. - Scott Farwell, The Dallas Morning News




CONSTRUCTION PINCHES DOWNTOWN BUSINESSES: PHOENIX SHOPS, HOTELS EAGER FOR LIGHT RAIL TO FINISH

Photo here:

[www.azcentral.com]

PHOENIX, AZ -- The seasonal summer slowdown and massive construction projects have put the squeeze on many downtown and central Phoenix businesses.

The impact has been sweeping, touching everything from hotels to downtown lunch spots to mom-and-pop pet shops. Some have lost 60 percent of their revenues, and the convention center construction has cost hotels thousands of bookings over the past two years.

But many merchants still are upbeat about the future. The 20-mile Metro light-rail line, the new convention center, the 1,000-room Sheraton hotel and other projects will help fatten future bottom lines, they say.

Some merchants are investing in upgrades or new shops, hoping to cash in when crowds return. The light-rail line -- which will connect Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa -- the convention center and the hotel are expected to be completed in 2008.

But many painful months lie ahead. For instance, Duck and Decanter may not be around much longer after light rail is finished.

Loyal customers and profits from two other locations have kept the 5-year-old downtown sandwich shop afloat, President Randy Mettler said. The family, which started the chain 35 years ago, hasn't decided if it will stay after its lease is up in 2009.

"Possibly it's our heart more than our head that makes us want to be here," Mettler said.

Merchants are upset

Some Central Avenue businesses have held weekly meetings and are pressuring city leaders to offer more help to shops that lost customers because of light-rail construction.

City and transit officials say they offer marketing advice, loans and other help to shops. They are considering upgrading signs, beefing up marketing and increasing customer access.

Councilman Tom Simplot said he sympathizes with merchants. His district has been the most impacted by light-rail construction, he says.

"It's time to think of new ideas, be creative and to work together," said Simplot, who has asked Metro's board to use some construction bonus money to aid merchants.

Metro's marketing efforts are ineffective, shop owners say, and only about a dozen businesses out of an estimated 4,000 along the line have used the loan program.

Many complain the loans can't help because merchants can't afford to make loan payments.

Metro considers the loan program a success, spokeswoman Marty McNeil said.

Metro didn't want businesses to feel that they were being forced into taking out loans. "Our goal was to offer options and let that be their choice," she said, adding that businesses had three years to prepare for construction. "There is no simple solution this late in the game."

Dale Madonick, who owns Flight of Phoenix, 4723 N. Central Ave., said on many days business is down more than 60 percent at her tropical bird care shop.

"You have to understand, when your expenses are still 100 percent the same and your income is less than 40 percent of what it was, it's an impossible situation," said Madonick, who is relying on donations to stay open.

Tourism has suffered

Tourism has taken a hit, hotels say, because the old Phoenix Convention Center's North Building was razed and the new one isn't finished yet.

Downtown hotels are on track to book fewer convention-center-related stays for the second consecutive year, according to a recent report. In 2006, downtown hotels booked 116,000 room nights, down from 195,000 in 2005. This year there are 97,000 confirmed hotel room nights and 3,500 tentative room nights booked, according to the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau.

After the new convention center and the 1,000-room Sheraton are complete next year , hotel room nights are expected to spike to 193,000.

Some downtown event venues, such as Chase Field, say they have anecdotal evidence that light-rail construction impacted attendance.

It's tough to say precisely how many people may have stayed home, said Derrick Hall, president of the Diamondbacks.

"I'm not complaining," said Hall, adding that it's never a good time to do big projects and that light rail will benefit the ballpark. "In the end, we will have fans dropped off at our doorstep."

Overall, businesses in the downtown core are doing well, said Brian Kearney the president of Downtown Phoenix Partnership.

Although some construction may have caused problems for some businesses, others such as Bar Smith on Washington and Sonoma Casual Dining on Van Buren Street have opened.

City figures show that sales-tax revenues from the Copper Square area rose from $4.2 million in 2005 to $4.6 million in 2006.

Thomas Jetland, a co-owner of Fez restaurant on Central, said his business has remained strong thanks to easy alternate access from Third Street.

Another owner says his convention-center business is down 10 to 15 percent, but he's planning for future crowds.

Paul Dallman has a UPS Store franchise in the convention center's West Building, but he's buying a kiosk in the South Building and plans to have a kiosk in the North Building when it opens in 2008. - Jahna Berry and Casey Newton, The Arizona Republic




COMMUTERS COUNSEL: RIDERS CALL ON LIRR'S NEW LEADER TO FIX WOES IN SERVICE, SAFETY AND COMMUNICATIONS

NEW YORK, NY -- They want smaller platform gaps and shorter waits, bigger parking lots and faster e-mail alerts.

Riders of the Long Island Rail Road have requests for Helena Williams.

Williams, who takes the helm of the LIRR next Monday, has said she would focus on safety, security and reliability of service, and will be laying the groundwork to meet future transportation needs.

In recent interviews, many Long Islanders said they want those things - and much, much more.

"She needs to mind the gap," said Brookhaven Town Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld. "Whether it's the gap between the train and the platform, or it's the gap in the expectation of when the trains will arrive ... [or] a gap in the expectation of the amount of noise they're making through our communities."

Residents, civic leaders and elected officials contributed to a laundry list of contenders for Williams' list of top priorities. Among them: clearing trash from the right-of-way, fixing up neglected stations, increasing reverse-commute service and muffling sharp train horn blasts.

And, by the way, riders don't want fares to rise.

"We pay too much to wind up standing on the trains, morning or evening," said Brian Watson, 50, who commutes from Merrick to Manhattan.

Barry Parker, a commuter from Oyster Bay, suggested that Williams ride the trains every day -- "just sit there through the good and the bad, so she can experience what the riders experience."

Long Islanders who live near the tracks - and whose communities will be affected as construction projects move forward - also want her ear.

"It's a tough spot she's in, isn't it?" said Mineola Village Mayor Jack Martins, who opposes the LIRR's proposal to build a third track on its main line.

"I think the number one priority for the new president should be to reach out to the Long Island community."

Many cited safety as a concern, including grade crossings, which are one of the top causes of railroad deaths nationwide.

As railroad service increases, "you're going to make a dangerous crossing even more dangerous," said Laura Schultz, vice president of Residents for a More Beautiful Syosset.

Others see the railroad as a solution for vexing traffic problems on the East End.

"The situation out there is hair raising," said Chris Bodkin, an Islip town councilman. "Those people could be put on trains and kept off the roads."

Ask just about anyone who rides the rails, and they will complain about one of two things: parking and communication.

Sure, they concede, it's not easy to find space to put cars, but issuing e-mail alerts and on-board announcements?

"It's not rocket science," said Gerry Bringmann, chairman of the railroad's commuter council.

What should the new Long Island Rail Road president's priority be?

"Sometimes you don't see any security, no police, nobody - especially at night."

- Mariza Belaez, 31, of East New York

"The kids drinking on the trains, they get rowdy. They need to stop the drinking on the trains."

- Debra Cordaro, 50, a waitress from Deer Park

"I want more trains. Sometimes I wait one hour for one train. And the price is a little bit expensive."

- Taku Yamamoto, 20, a language student from Westbury

"It gets crowded during rush hour. Definitely more trains during rush hour."

- Adeeb Huq, 22, of Astoria, an investment banker

"They have these padlocked waiting rooms with all these benches in there. That's why I'm leaning on a trash can. I want something to sit on. "

- Pat Langenbach, 72, of Kearny, NJ, a retired manicurist

"Physical improvement of stations, for instance, Far Rockaway. There are no electronic displays. The ticket booth is closed almost year round."

- Herbert Fair, 28 of Far Rockaway, an archivist for the Town of Huntington

"Keeping people on the train quiet. No cell phones should be allowed. I leave at 4:30 a.m. every day and I plan that hour on the train as sleep time."

- Rick Klarish, 62, a carpenter from Babylon

"More trains at nighttime and on weekends. After 1 a.m., it's impossible. I've had to sleep here [Jamaica station]."

- Fernando Tola, 25, of Jackson Heights

"The gaps between the trains and the platform. I know they're working on it, but when is it going to be fixed?"

- Lisa Mills, 33, nurse's aide from Bay Shore

- Jennifer Maloney, Newsday




THE END



Subject Written By Date/Time (PST)
  Railroad Newsline for Tuesday, 06/12/07 Larry W. Grant 06-12-2007 - 00:20


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