Railroad Newsline for Wednesday, 06/13/07
Author: Larry W. Grant
Date: 06-13-2007 - 00:00






Railroad Newsline for Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Compiled by Larry W. Grant

In Memory of Rob Carlson, 1952 – 2006






RAIL NEWS

RUSK REWRITES RAILROAD CONTRACT

RUSK, TX -- On paper, the Rusk City Council didn’t do much at Thursday night’s meeting. After much discussion and two executive sessions, the only action taken by the city during the two-hour session was to vote in favor of paying the bills.

The main topic of the evening was the Texas State Railroad, as council members discussed a sale agreement with American Heritage Railroad. City Attorney Forrest Phifer briefed the council with the latest news regarding the trains.

According to Phifer, a draft copy of the sale agreement has been sent to AHR. Upon further review, Phifer added two amendments that he believes should be included in the finished product. AHR has yet to respond to the city of Rusk’s contract.

“Basically there were two items of concern that I felt needed to be incorporated into the amended contract. One, in the draft it had the city of Rusk transferring the property to the Texas State Railroad Operating Authority and then they, they transferred it to America Heritage,” Phifer said.

“It was my understanding from the get-go that the TSROA was the agency that was taking over the state property, and that the campgrounds and any property owned by the city was going to be a separate deal directly with AHR.”

Phifer indicated to AHR that he was uncomfortable funneling the money in that manner and asked that that language be removed.

The second issue was that extra emphasis needed to be included on the fact that the campgrounds are to be used only for specific, prescribed purposes.

“I wanted to be very, very specific in the contract regarding the restricted use of the campgrounds. That is, the campground could be used by that agency only as long as the adjacent property was being used as an operating railroad – not as a museum or a park,” Phifer said. “This restricted use runs with the land, and will be made a part of any transfer, assimilation or assignment.”

If AHR transfers the lease to another agency or is absorbed into another agency, the restricted use clause will remain in place.

“I felt that the restricted use aspect of the contract was important, so I requested that a subsection be placed in the agreement saying that this restricted use is an ‘essential element’ of the contract. If there is litigation in the future, it cannot be rendered irrelevant,” Phifer said.

According to Phifer, he sent the amendments to Ron Stupes, city attorney for Palestine, who then forwarded them to AHR.

“I don’t believe we have gotten a response from them yet. We are now awaiting word from AHR to whether they find that contract acceptable. If they do find it acceptable, the council can choose to then sign it and make it a done deal,” he said.

One bit of concern that remains is the $12 million in funding from the state that AHR has made a requirement of any sale.

“The authority has been created. The only possible wrinkle could be the $12 million. The state did not authorize a blanket $12 million. The money is coming from two places, there is actually $10 million and $2 million,” Phifer said. “You have to use up all of the $2 million before the $10 million becomes available. If this is acceptable to AHR, then we still have a plan. If not, then we are back to ground-zero.”

The governor has not yet signed the bill that would transfer the TSRR to the operating authority, but it did pass the legislation with more support than the two-third majority it would need to over-ride a veto. If the bill is neither signed nor vetoed, it will come into effect Sept. 1, 2007.

“If they send back this contract without making the changes, it will be up to you whether or not to accept it as is. My recommendation to you is to accept the amendments -- they make it a cleaner contract with more teeth to it,” Phifer said.

No action was taken regarding the TSRR, and no motions were made in response to the two executive sessions. - Kelly Young, The Jacksonville Daily Progress




BNSF SERVICE RESTORED TO SHAWNEE, OKLAHOMA BEGINNING JUNE 12, 2007

The Arkansas-Oklahoma Railroad (AOK) rail line between Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Shawnee, Oklahoma, has returned to service following repairs to the line after a bridge derailment. The BNSF Railway Company will resume train service to/from Shawnee beginning Tuesday, June 12, 2007.

BNSF operates over this line via trackage rights with the AOK. As a reminder, there is a 263,000 lb. gross weight limit restriction on this line.

Thank you for your patience during these repairs. - BNSF Service Advisory




CN TARGETS MAJOR GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES IN NORTHERN ALBERTA'S OIL SANDS SECTOR

EDMONTON, AB -- E. Hunter Harrison, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian National Railway, said Tuesday the railway is strongly positioned to seize growing freight opportunities driven by Alberta’s booming oil sands energy sector.

Harrison, speaking to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, said CN’s extensive network in northern Alberta, coupled with its continental reach and access to three coasts and beyond, make it a leading transportation services provider for the oil sands and other industrial developments in the region.

Transportation opportunities are significant for CN. The oil sands reserves in northern Alberta are second only to Saudi Arabia’s, and, according to the Conference Board of Canada, industry will invest more than C$100 billion over the next decade in oil sands development, construction and infrastructure upgrading.

Harrison said CN’s main line through Edmonton will play a key role in another major economic opportunity for the company – the new Port of Prince Rupert container terminal, scheduled to start operation in the third quarter of 2007. The terminal will create a new North American gateway for products and commodities moving between Asia and key centres on CN’s rail network.

Harrison said CN has invested heavily – and will continue to invest -- in Western Canada to prepare itself for these major developments. These investments will improve transportation for shippers and aid regional economic development.

In Western Canada alone, CN in 2007 plans to invest nearly C$350 million in track infrastructure to enhance the plant and to take advantage of growth prospects in North American trade with Asia and the boom in the West.

CN also announced today construction of a C$1.6-million transload facility at one of the company’s main Edmonton rail yards off Yellowhead Trail. The Edmonton Bissell CargoFlo operation, to be operated by CN WorldWide North America, will permit rail-to-truck transfer of products such as methanol, sodium hydroxide, drilling mud, ethanol, and biodiesel.

CN has leveraged its continental freight franchise to attract methanol imports to the Edmonton area from Kitimat, BC, Ste. Rose, LA, and Limoilou, QC.

For more information on CN’s oil sands freight franchise, visit [www.cn.ca] - Jim Feeny, CN News Release




SOY POWER

Disneyland, in an ongoing effort to become more environmentally friendly, has switched to biodiesel for its trains.

This spring, the steam locomotives on the Disneyland Railroad were retrofitted with new parts that allow them to operate on SoyPower brand biodiesel, a 98 percent biodiesel and 2 percent diesel blend. By using biodiesel, Disneyland is cutting emissions by 80 percent and saving 150,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year.

The switch also means cleaner air for those who visit the theme park.

SoyPower is a product of Renewable Energy Group Inc. of Ralston, Iowa. It is distributed to Disneyland by SC Fuels.

It is made from renewable sources such as soybean oil. - Victoria Sizemore Long, The Kansas City Star




TULE LAKE SPAN MAY BE A GONER

Photo here:

[www.caller.com]

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX -- After 47 years of service, the Tule Lake Lift Bridge might be headed toward retirement.

The bridge, built in 1960 as a result of the tearing down of the old Bascule Bridge built in 1925, lifted about 34 times a day for barges and ships until its partial closure in September.
It remained lifted except for railcars and the occasional maintenance, which require it to be lowered.

Port of Corpus Christi commissioners will decide today whether to sign a resolution directing staff to begin removing the bridge. If the resolution passes, the next step would be to get together with city, county and railroad officials to begin planning its removal, said John LaRue, the port's executive director.

The removal would not occur until the end of the year at the earliest, as port officials cannot remove the bridge until the completion of the Joe Fulton International Corridor, an almost 12-mile road and rail project scheduled for completion by the end of the year.

The corridor will alleviate commercial traffic on the Harbor Bridge and eliminate traffic at the Tule Lake Lift Bridge. The new rail will run parallel to the corridor's road and cross the Viola Turn Basin at the end of the harbor where it will join the Union Pacific rail, said Frank Brogan, the port's director of engineering services.

"The two are tied together. We can't remove one without completing the other," LaRue said. "We haven't figured out how we'll remove the bridge. We'll have to bring that back to the commission for a vote."

The cost or method of removal has not been investigated, LaRue said, but he hopes most of the structure would remain intact and floated out of the harbor on a barge.

"I'm confident the commission will take action but, if they do, work won't start anytime soon," LaRue added. - Fanny S. Chirinos, The Corpus Christi Caller-Times




CENTURY PRODUCTS GRANTS LICENSE TO DEVELOP COMPOSITE RAILROAD TIES

Southern California-based Century Products LLC has granted a commercial license to Ameren Energy Fuels and Services Company (AFS) of St. Louis, Missouri, to develop, manufacture, market and sell polyurethane composite railroad ties made of Century Products’ LifeTime Lumber technology.

Details of the agreement were not disclosed.

John Taylor, president of Century Products LLC, commented, “We are excited to work with AFS to develop an eco-friendly composite railroad tie. We are confident that the new composite railroad tie we develop will meet or exceed industry performance specifications for the creosote-treated wooden ties currently in service.”

Mike Mueller, president of AFS, commented, “We are pleased to take the lead with Century Products in developing this new product for the railroad industry. We believe that in addition to the new LifeTime Lumber® composite ties being better for the environment than the old creosote-treated wooden ties, we think they also can help improve the efficiency and economics of railway operations through their longer service life.” - E-Composites.com




IMMIGRANTS RUN GAUNTLET OF DANGERS IN QUEST FOR BETTER LIFE

Photo here:

[www.elpasotimes.com]

Mari, 33, started her journey to the United States with a simple dream: that her daughters in Mexico would have a better life than she had. As a child, Mari was forced to quit school and work for poverty wages and later was left to fend for herself and her children by a philandering husband.

"I immigrated so that my daughters won't have to come here," said Mari, who asked that her full name not be used because she is an undocumented immigrant.

She did make it to the United States late last year, but her dream stayed behind. While crossing into El Paso, a train rolled over her left foot, leaving her maimed. She spent several months recovering at a migrant shelter Downtown before leaving last week to continue her trek to the interior of the United States.

Stories of dead migrants fill the news but those permanently injured in their travels don't register in official statistics.

Other tallies from non-governmental agencies, rehabilitation facilities and the Mexican consulate show migrants have been left handicapped by car accidents, train accidents and falls from international bridges more often than one might think. Staff at Precision Prosthetics in El Paso, which helped Mari after her amputation, said that they have cared for three migrants who lost limbs in the past six years.

Train accidents are most unforgiving.

Last year, 530 people died and 466 people were injured while trespassing on railroad property around the nation, according to statistics by the Federal Railroad Administration.

In the El Paso area, the last case of immigrants killed by trains took place in 2005, according to the Border Patrol and the Mexican Consulate. Officials at Annunciation House, the shelter where Mari stayed, said they see about one migrant per year who's been seriously injured by a train.

Some were trying to board trains; others were walking or even sleeping on the tracks, believing erroneously that it would protect them from snakes.

Mari, a short, stout woman with braided hair and thick, curled eyelashes, did not mean to be on railroad tracks last December. She just wanted to cross the train yard and carry out a plan set in motion months before.

Fateful calculations

Mari comes from a small town in Central Mexico called Amecameca, population 25,374, nestled at the foot of volcanoes. The picturesque setting does not shield residents from poverty, however.
Mari's husband had left her for another woman and Mari was living with her mother and her two daughters, ages 13 and 15, Mari said. Mari worked at a stocking factory, making 800 pesos, or $74, a week.

This was fine when the girls were small, but now that the oldest was in preparatoria, or high school, the fees were adding up. Each week she had to pay $23 for transportation and $7 for attendance fees. Soon, her youngest daughter would be in high school as well and her oldest daughter was already talking about going to medical school. Mari's wages just weren't going to be enough.

For months, the family discussed the possibility of Mari going to work for a while in the United States. Mari's sister had done so eight years earlier. She said it was easy, that she had just walked across the river holding her husband's hand. She offered to help Mari with the smuggling costs and to find her a factory job in the Midwest.

On Nov. 15, 2006, having paid $400 upfront to a smuggler and promised another $2,000 when she started working, Mari boarded a plane to Juárez. The plane ride cost $112, but Mari didn't want to waste time and money on buses, hotels and thieves on the way. She wanted to get to the border fast.

She landed the same day and took a taxi to Downtown Juárez to a safe house. That night, she tried crossing the Rio Grande for the first time. With hearts beating, Mari and other migrants waded through the ankle-deep water and hid to wait for the Border Patrol SUVs to pass them. But they were spotted and ran back to Mexico.

The trains

The group tried to cross seven times, sometimes going far into the valley of Juárez, sometimes staying closer to Downtown. Five times, Mari was caught by the Border Patrol, fingerprinted and returned to Mexico.

"There were children in the holding cells. I felt horrible, I was thinking of my family," she said.

Before their final crossing, Mari made a pact with another female immigrant.

"You know what? This is going to be the last time I'll try," she told her friend. They agreed to return home if they failed.

But that day, Dec. 4, 2006, they finally made it to El Paso. Their guide pulled a chain link fence up and they snuck under.

On the other side were trains.

They were in a Union Pacific rail yard, probably in Downtown El Paso. They ran under one parked train, then started under a second one. That's when Mari's loose pants got caught on the rail. She frantically pulled on the fabric as the train started rolling. The wheels rolled over her ankle, crushing it.

"I sat down. I saw how my feet were. But I didn't feel anything," Mari said.

The guide disappeared. Another migrant called the police and an ambulance took Mari to Thomason Hospital. Her last thought before passing out was "I can't walk. How am I going to help my daughters get a better life," she said.

Since 1994, almost 6,500 people have been killed while trespassing on railroad rights-of-way and property, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

"Sadly, we do have a problem -- the railroad industry in general. It's a challenge for us." said Joe Arbona, Union Pacific regional director of public affairs.

Last year, 64,000 people were escorted out of Union Pacific property nationwide, including 40,000 people who did not have identifying documents. Many of them could be immigrants, Arbona said.

People may think they will be able to get off the rails on time, but "Trains are not as loud as they used to be. They don't have that clickety-clack sound," Arbona said.

It takes a train a mile and a half to stop, Arbona said.

Two undocumented immigrants were killed by trains near El Paso in 2005, one in Fort Hancock, and one in Santa Teresa, Border Patrol officials said.

But not all of the trains' victims die.

In 2002, Pablo Umaña, a 16-year-old from Puebla with a pregnant girlfriend, crossed into the United States near the Asarco copper smelter. He fell asleep on the train tracks and lost his left leg, officials from the Mexican consulate said. Officials said Umaña thought it would be warmer to sleep on the tracks. After treatment, the teenager returned to Mexico.

Walking again

When Mari woke up at Thomason Hospital, she found herself in a hospital room with her leg bandaged.

"They said I lost my foot. I already knew it," she said.

Mari's leg had been amputated below the knee, the most common type of amputation, representing more than half of the amputee population, according to the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists.

Her care at Thomason Hospital was paid for by the hospital's indigent care fund. The Mexican Consulate paid $1,500 for her foot prosthesis, done by Precision Prosthesis on Arizona Street.
Her prosthesis was fitted in February and Mari had to learn to walk again with a contraption that rubbed painfully against her stump.

During one of her weekly visits to Precision, prosthetist Bryan Humble tried to reassure Mari, whose eyes kept overflowing with tears.

"Don't worry, it will all be better," he said.

Humble said amputees grieve over their lost limbs and that some go through serious depression.

Most amputations are due to vascular diseases, most often the result of diabetes. Only 23 percent come from accidents. Because accidental amputations, like Mari's, tend to happen to younger people, they have a greater degree of recovery. And because Mari still had a working knee, she would one day walk in a natural fashion, Humble said.

The walls of Precision's offices are plastered with photos of amputees in high-tech prostheses zooming down ski slopes and jumping hurdles, muscular and healthy.

But Mari didn't seem to see them through her tears.

Walking was not what she was worried about.

She worried about being able to work and provide for her daughters.

She often thought about the accident, she said. Had she known it would happen, she would have stayed in Mexico, she said. But now that she lost a foot, going home was unthinkable.

"I can't go back like this, all defeated," she said. - Louie Gilot, The El Paso Times




GREENBRIER WILL SHRINK 2,500 RAIL CARS

Greenbrier Cos., which makes railroad freight car equipment, said Tuesday it received orders from two different customers to reduce the size of 2,500 existing double-stack intermodal platforms.

Greenbrier will cut the platforms to 40 feet from 48 feet. The smaller platforms more efficiently match traffic flows and container loads, the company said. The platforms carry intermodal freight containers, which shippers can transfer directly from seaborne vessels to rail cars and truck trailers.

Greenbrier will perform the work at six different locations during 2008. The company did not provide a financial value on the work. - The Associated Press, Forbes.com




POLICE USE RAILROAD DOCUMENTS TO LINK TWO BODIES FOUND AT RECYCLE CENTERS 1,000 MILES APART

ST. LOUIS, MO -- Two people whose bodies were found at paper recycling plants more than 1,000 miles apart were a homeless couple who apparently went to sleep in a recycling container before its contents were compacted, police said Tuesday.

Officials said there were no obvious signs of foul play.

One body was found last week at the Abitibi Consolidated plant in Snowflake, Arizona, about 175 miles northeast of Phoenix. It was positively identified Tuesday as Thomas Jansen, 53, a south St. Louis County man missing since late last month, authorities said.

The Navajo County, Arizona, sheriff's office told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that workers at the Snowflake plant found the body in a large container used to collect material rejected in the paper recycling process.

Using railroad documents, investigators determined that a large bale of material had been shipped to the Arizona plant from the St. Louis area. Jansen's body was identified from partial fingerprints and a description on an expired driver's license.

The body of Jansen's wife, Susan, 48, was found May 24 on a conveyor belt at a recycling center in north St. Louis.

Police believe both of the Jansens, who had recently become homeless, had gone to sleep in a recycling container in south St. Louis County before the container's contents were emptied into a truck and compacted. - The Columbus (GA) Ledger-Inquirer




GOT AN IDEA FOR A ROBOT? DHS WANTS TO HEAR IT

If you're familiar with the BattleBots program on cable television, then you may be a good candidate for what the Homeland Security Department and the National Institute of Standards and Technology are looking.

From June 18-22, NIST engineers plan to hold the fourth Response Robot Evaluation Exercise to test robots that can be used to support first responders' search and rescue efforts.

NIST, which will conduct the evaluations, will test robots that can operate in two types of disasters. The first is a structural collapse of a municipal building, in which a robot must be able to traverse rubble and small openings to find victims and help engineers determine if the building is safe to enter.

The other scenario involves a wreck of a passenger train that also is carrying unknown hazardous materials. The robot must be able to cross railroad tracks, maneuver through wreckage and debris to map the scene, locate victims, find, identify and bring back samples of hazardous materials.

The evaluations will be conducted at "Disaster City" at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. - Allen Holmes, GovernmentExecutive.com




MARTINEZ BOOSTED EFFORTS TO START HOSPITAL

BARSTOW, CA -- A marriage to a railroad worker uprooted Ernestina Martinez in 1947.

She arrived in Barstow, California -- not yet a city -- and wanted to go back to El Paso. She dreamed of moving somewhere with beautiful flowers.

Now 80, Martinez is happy to be in Barstow. She settled in and raised six kids, whom she took to play ball at a park by the Harvey House. She formed ties with the community, partly through her participation in the 1950s to raise money to establish Barstow Community Hospital.

Photo here:

[www.desertdispatch.com]

Caption reads: Ernestina Martinez, right, plays with Roy Flores and Bobby Martinez at the Harvey House in 1950. Martinez's daughter Hermi James submitted this photo to appear in 'Barstow In Pictures IV.'

Everybody, she said, was happy to help. The little hospital where she had two children had only five beds in the maternity ward. It was just too small to meet the town's needs.

Martinez remembers "quarter-a-dip" potlucks, where scoopfuls went for 25 cents, that raised money for the current hospital building. People gave donations in addition to buying food. Many railroad employees gave $50, then quite a sum.

"Barstow's good when time comes to donate," she said. People here have good hearts, she said. They help one another.

In 1958, Martinez had another child - this one born at the community's new hospital. The original structure is part of today's facility.

Though Martinez, for whom Spanish comes much easier than English, declined to speak, she was excited to attend the hospital's 50-year celebration on Thursday. The event was a forum to honor the hospital's past and also to celebrate plans for a new building.

Martinez said that all she wants is a casino and a new hospital building. The casino project looking to locate here is held up at the state level, but the new hospital is slated to open sometime before 2012.

Hermi James, a retired police department employee of 30 years, credits her mother with passing on the importance of helping others. She recalls that Martinez would invite neighbors' family members to dinner until their hosts arrived. That she stopped to help someone with car trouble.
"I love to do charity work," James said. "She taught us well." - Stevie St. John, The Barstow Desert Dispatch




RIDERS FLEE TRAIN, SHAKE OFF PURSUERS

ANGLETON, TX -- Several stowaways aboard a Union Pacific train fled a rail car Monday afternoon in Angleton, Texas after police were alerted to their presence.

About 12 to 15 Hispanic men were reported by Union Pacific personnel aboard the train when the police were notified, said Joe Arbona, spokesman for Union Pacific.

After making contact with Angleton police, engineers on the train and police decided to stop the train near CR 290 at South Walker Street to arrest the men on the train, said Angleton police.

“When the train stopped, they ran northbound,” said Brad Briscoe, an Angleton patrolman who helped search for the men. “We looked for them but couldn’t find them.”

It is not known how the workers on the train found out about the stowaways, but they contacted Union Pacific Railroad’s critical call center who then contacted the police, Arbona said.

“They reported to our communications,” he said. “By then the people had fled and who knows where they went.”

Union Pacific personnel had managed to corner two of the people in the rail car before they both broke in different directions, evading detention, witnesses said.

Police searched the surrounding area for more than an hour and were unable to locate any of them, Briscoe said.

“South Walker has a lot of homes around there,” Briscoe said.

Last year, 65,000 people were escorted off of Union Pacific’s right-of-way, Arbona said.

In 2005, more than 90,000 were escorted off the trains with half of that number being undocumented workers, he said.

Though the number was less than it was in 2006, the problem of unauthorized people and illegal immigrants riding the trains has not lessened, he said.

“We find ourselves dealing with not only people riding on the trains but also walking on the tracks,” he said.

“You have folks who are putting their lives in danger.”

In an effort to reduce the number of people riding the trains or walking along the tracks, Union Pacific set up its critical call center to which people can report suspicious activity, Arbona said.

The center has a toll-free number people can call at (888) 877-7267.

“We really do want to hear from folks,” he said. - John Tompkins, The Brazosport Facts




RATTY TO THE RESCUE

MUNCASTER FELL, ENGLAND -- A miniature train came to the rescue of a fire crew heading for a dangerous blaze.

The engine from West Cumbria’s famous small gauge railway was used to take Bootle firefighters to a grass, gorse and bracken fire on Muncaster Fell on Saturday.

The fire crew jumped aboard La’al Ratty railway carriages to get themselves and their pumps, hose reels jets and generators close to the remote fellside location.

The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, which is a favourite with tourists and rail enthusiasts, was the quickest option.

All the trains on the line are approximately one third of the size of a regular mainline train.

The crew boarded at Muncaster Mill Station. At the scene they joined Seascale crew, who had managed to get to the location on foot from Miteside Loop.

The fire covered about 500 square metres of land. The crews were extinguishing and dampening down the area for four hours.

Water had to be pumped from a nearby stream.

A La’al Ratty train driver and crew had spotted the fire. Railway staff and volunteers tried to put out the fire themselves but dialled 999.

Fire service group manager Barry McNichol, based at Whitehaven, said: “We were kindly offered the services of Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway.

“We utilised the transport to get our equipment there a lot quicker. There were not many routes. It was fairly inaccessible. We are grateful to Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway.”

Martin Cookman, assistant general manager at Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway said: “We were more than happy to help and we are extremely grateful to them.

“A fire like that could have got out of control.”

Fire crews later said the fire was accidental. - The News & Star




TRANSIT NEWS

NTSB: DISPATCHER SAID IT WAS HER FAULT SOON AFTER COMMUTER TRAIN CRASH THAT KILLED TWO

WASHINGTON, DC -- A train dispatcher told her supervisor, “It was my fault,” soon after a Boston-bound commuter train fatally struck two maintenance workers, according to documents released Monday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The comments by Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad dispatcher Lina Maseda are among voluminous interview transcripts, factual reports and other evidence that describe the Jan. 9 crash near a station in suburban Woburn, Massachusetts. Two other workers were seriously injured and ten passengers were hurt when a train on the wrong track slammed into maintenance equipment at 60 mph.

Officials are probing why the train wasn't switched to parallel tracks as earlier trains were. Dispatchers usually block sections of track undergoing maintenance.

“The train dispatcher turned to her supervisor and said, 'We hit some track equipment, and it was my fault. He hit track equipment, and it was my fault ... I pulled down the wrong freaking block and we hit something,'” the NTSB's report said.

Maseda was placed on administrative leave after the accident. Telephone calls made to a phone number listed in Maseda's name went unanswered Monday.

Officials also are investigating whether the track maintenance crew failed to install a required safety shunt on the tracks to warn approaching trains that workers were in the area.

Workers told investigators that shunting devices are usually only used for big jobs, and their crosstie replacement project wasn't considered a big job.

The NTSB won't offer its conclusions, including a determination of probable cause in the crash, until the final report is completed. No timeline was given for the final report. - Andrew Miga, The Associated Press, The San Diego Union Tribune




POLICE CONTINUE HUNT FOR LIGHT-RAIL STATION GUNMAN

RICHARDSON, TX -- Police continue to look for a gunman they say attempted to force a woman at the DART Spring Valley Station to leave with him on Sunday afternoon.

The woman, who had just gotten off the northbound Red Line light-rail car, was sitting near the platform elevators with her 1-year-old daughter when she was approached by a black man in his mid-20s, according to a report filed by the DART Police Department.

The man, wearing a plain blue shirt, black pants and black shoes, asked her for money and wrapped his arm around her when she told him she did not have any. He then pulled a gun, pointed it against her rib cage and began walking her down the sidewalk running along the bus lines, the police report said.

Another man came out of the stairwell and began shouting, and the gunman fled, possibly toward the nearby Green Valley Apartments, the report said. - Michael Lindenberger, The Dallas Morning News




JUSTICE IS PULLING IN TO STATION

Photo here:

[www.nydailynews.com]

Caption reads: The wheels of justice may soon cause the Long Island Rail Road to resume stopping in Corona after nearly five decades of blowing past it with an upturned nose. (Richard for News)

NEW YORK, NY -- The wheels of justice may soon cause the Long Island Rail Road to resume stopping in Corona after nearly five decades of blowing past it with an upturned nose.

For almost a century, the LIRR stopped regularly at the modest little station at what was then National Ave. in Queens. Residents were able to reach Penn Station in little more than 15 minutes.

Then, railroad officials decided to spare the suburban commuters an unnecessary stop that cost them a precious minute and brought aboard scruffier types for whom work was not just a noun but a verb. Never mind how many minutes the closing cost people in Corona. In 1963, the station in Corona was shuttered and the steps to the platform were dismantled. Officials also closed the Elmhurst station in what was presented as a cost-saving move.

Never mind that this was the same year the LIRR announced plans to build a new station "of pure Colonial design" in suburban Islip, in keeping with "local preference." The inside would be done with ceramic tiles.

"Commuters will be asked to choose from four colors for the interior walls," a reporter noted.

That was also the year the LIRR developed a special new cocktail for suburban commuters, the "Dashing Dan," consisting of 1.6 ounces of vodka on the rocks, a triple dash of orange bitters and a sliver of fresh orange. The drink cost 95 cents, but you got to keep the Dashing Dan glass emblazoned with the same logo painted on all LIRR trains. The logo depicted a man in a suit and tie running as he checks his watch.

"The Route of the Dashing Commuter," the logo read.

Real-life Dashing Dans sipped the new cocktail or whatever else they fancied as they now roared on past what was demoted from National Ave. to National St. The route of the Corona commuter was now the packed No. 7 subway, where the travel time to and from midtown was tripled and where having so much as an open beer would get you a summons. But even the relatively cushy LIRR was not good enough for commuters who remained Driving Dans. They began and ended each weekday by making the traffic and air in Manhattan all the more intolerable.

Along came Mayor Bloomberg, who is not averse to riding the subway and who wants to charge people each time they bring a car into Manhattan. In his effort to make "congestion pricing" a reality, Bloomberg has secured the backing of several politicians, including Rep. Joe Crowley, the Democratic boss of Queens.

On his part, Bloomberg has said some of the proceeds from congestion pricing could be used to build new LIRR stations in Corona and Elmhurst as well as new Metro-North stations in Parkchester and Co-op City in the Bronx, all of which happen to service Crowley's district. Bloomberg has indicated construction could begin soon after his congestion plan is approved.

All of which gave you a sense of impending justice yesterday as you traveled nearly an hour by subway from Penn Station to Corona, then walked the six blocks to the former LIRR station. You watched an LIRR train roar overhead, the people aboard having made the same trip in a quarter the time.

The concrete abutment was inscribed with "1930," the year the tracks and the station were elevated. The only other vestiges of the old stop were the faint outlines where the stairs once stood. "As you can see, there are no steps," 82-year-old Frances Rienzo said from her tidy home and its splendid garden nearby. "They took the stop away."

Rienzo was uncertain why the station was closed. She is too deeply decent and dignified a person to imagine that officials would turn their nose up at her. She noted that a local boy was killed playing on the tracks shortly beforehand, though such accidents have not led to closings on Long Island.

"Maybe they felt this stop wasn't necessary," she said.

More likely, LIRR officials were so intent on coddling the Dashing Dans they did not want to bother losing a minute at Corona, however many minutes it cost the people there.

All these years later the money from the Driving Dans just might get the trains stopping there again and once more whisking people to Penn Station in less than a third of the time it takes by subway.

I'll drink to that. - Michael Daly, The New York Daily News




THE END



Subject Written By Date/Time (PST)
  Railroad Newsline for Wednesday, 06/13/07 Larry W. Grant 06-13-2007 - 00:00


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