Railroad Newsline for Friday, June 15, 2007
Compiled by Larry W. Grant
In Memory of Rob Carlson, 1952 – 2006
FOUR TEENS DIE AFTER SUV SLAMS INTO TEXAS TRAIN
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BAYTOWN, TX --
Four teens died Thursday morning when an SUV reported stolen earlier crashed into a stopped train at the intersection of East Archer Road and Sjolander near Baytown, the Harris County Sheriff's Department reported.
The crash was reported at 04:12 hours. Authorities believe the accident occurred between 03:30 and 04:03 hours.
"Excessive speed might have been involved," Lt. Darryl Coleman with the Harris County Sheriff's Office said. "We are way early in this investigation and it's going to take a long time to cross all the T's and dot all the I's."
Lt. John Martin, spokesman for the sheriff's office, said a train with about 100 cars was stopped when the driver of a Jeep Cherokee, who was headed east, slammed into it.
"Apparently the driver didn't see the train and the driver hit a tanker car," Martin said. "The impact tore the roof off the Jeep and the rest of the vehicle continued underneath the train."
The four backseat passengers died instantly, he said. Authorities said the ages of the four ranged from 17 to 13 but a family member of one of the dead girls said she was 12.
The 15-year-old driver of the Jeep was taken by helicopter to Memorial Hermann Hospital and listed in critical condition, Martin said. The front seat passenger, also a 15-year-old boy, was taken to Hermann and listed in stable condition, he said. Families and friends of the injured boys gathered at the hospital Thursday morning.
At the scene, accident investigators were checking visible skid marks left by the Jeep as it approached the train. The posted speed limit is 30 miles per hour.
Starting at the intersection of Archer and Russell in the Cedar Bayou Park subdivision, a deputy drove his vehicle as fast as he could and then slammed on the brakes to test the skid marks.
Investigators are trying to determine how fast the Jeep was traveling by comparing the skid marks made.
Crews pulled the Jeep from a ditch where it landed shortly after 09:00 hours. One of the victims' bodies was still inside the vehicle.
Friends and family members at the scene were hugging one another while standing in the sun in an open grassy area near the railroad tracks.
Members of the nearby Baptist Temple brought cases of cold water and ice donated by a nearby Wal-Mart to give to the victims' families.
Martin said the Jeep involved was reported stolen from the Baytown area.
The car owner's name wasn't released but the owner showed up at the scene after seeing the vehicle on television, Coleman said.
Authorities have shut down Archer east of Sjolander as the investigation continues.
Events before the crash
Doug Moyers said that his daughter Loral Moyers, 12, and Loral's cousin, Macy Moyers, 14, died in the accident. Families were still trying to piece together what led up to the deadly crash.
Moyers, who lives with his children and parents on Fleming Street near the railroad tracks, said he first knew something was wrong when his mother woke him up to say Loral was out of the house.
The grief-stricken father said he is strict with his children and monitors their whereabouts as well as their Internet access. His daughter sneaking out of the house was not the norm, he said.
Moyers and Loral's grandmother called his daughter's cell phone number to tell her to come home but could not reach her. "I was out in the driveway waiting for her to come home," he said. "They were almost home."
Moyers said the Jeep clipped the back of the train. He said it appeared the vehicle had skidded about 25 feet before the collision. He speculated the teens were originally too far away to hear the train's warning whistle.
Moyers said another of his daughters located the wreck and "called screaming." He then got into his pickup and sped to the scene. "I saw them pull her out. I recognized the clothes."
Moyers said he has a distinctive whistle he uses to call his children home to dinner when they are out in the neighborhood. But when he blew it this morning, "There was no reaction."
As he went behind a fire truck, he saw rescue workers had already covered his daughter's body. "I looked down and I could see her big toe. I knew that was her foot," he said.
Moyers wailed at the fact that there are no lights or gates at the crossing and noted there was a train collision there several years ago.
As the bodies of the victims lay nearby, Union Pacific spokesman Joe Arbona was berated by the Moyers family and other area residents because of the lack of active signals at the crossing.
"This is a dangerous place and you need to do something about it," grandfather Donald Moyers said. "I'm going to go on a crusade."
Residents complained that the only warnings at the crossing are "crossbucks," familiar black and white "X" shaped signs reading "Railroad Crossing."
The signs are just a few feet from the side of the railroad tracks.
The Moyers relatives yelled at Arbona that the area is dark and the signage inadequate.
Arbona expressed sorrow at the family's loss but the family accused him of being at the scene to "sugarcoat" the situation.
Crossing complies with federal law
Arbona said the signage at the crossing meets federal law.
"Had they obeyed and followed those signals, this would not have happened," he said.
Coleman declined comment on the safety fixtures around the railroad track. He did, however, say that it was not uncommon for trains to be stopped at crossings.
Moyers predicted that in a few weeks people in the neighborhood, who have feared an incident like this for years, will see a crossing gate and lights.
"They only do something when they have to," he said. - Kevin Moran and Ruth Rendon, The Houston Chronicle
DM&E: PLAN ISN'T DEAD, OR EVEN DERAILED
ROCHESTER, MN --
In case you thought the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad project was dead and off Austin and Rochester's radar screens, here are two words for you:
Kevin Schieffer, the railroad's president and CEO, would neither confirm nor deny a Trains
magazine report that DM&E is taking bids from outside investors -- including three other railroads -- to help finance its proposed $6 billion upgrade and expansion.
But Schieffer did say it would be foolish to bet against the project coming to fruition.
"This is a project that makes too much sense not to happen," he said. "Nothing that has transpired has moved that fundamental belief one iota. We are committed to building this project. It will get built."
DM&E officials have focused on running a coal route through downtown Rochester but have considered an alternate route of using the Iowa, Chicago & Eastern railway that runs north and south through Austin's east side down into Iowa. DM&E owns the ICE line.
Austin city officials, who couldn't be reached for comment this morning, haven't talked much in public about the potential coal route through Austin. At a meeting last October, though, City Engineer Jon Erichson mentioned there's a chance that train traffic could increase significantly more if the DM&E runs coal trains on the ICE railway.
published an article on its Web site on Tuesday by correspondent Fred W. Frailey reporting that DM&E's parent company, Cedar American Rail Holdings, was receiving final offers this week from about 10 bidders for a full or partial stake in the company, which includes two railroads, the DM&E and the Iowa, Chicago & Eastern Railroad. The railroads encompass more than 2,000 miles of track in eight states.
The article relied on anonymous sources, whom Frailey described as "insiders," either with DM&E or with one or several of the bidders.
Frailey also referred to anonymous sources to report that the Federal Railroad Administration's professional staff "actually recommended approval" of DM&E's $2.3 billion loan application.
However, the agency ultimately denied the loan in January on the stated grounds that DM&E's financial health was too precarious to reasonably assume loan repayment.
Schieffer did not specifically deny the facts presented in the Trains
article, but denounced the report as "rumors" which his company did not release.
"I don't get in the business of responding to rumors," he said. "I would say this: It is ridiculously premature for anybody to be guessing or speculating as to what comes out of the process."
Rochester and Mayo Clinic officials have considered previously the possibility that DM&E would be sold to outside investors.
So the current news regarding DM&E, if true, is "not a surprise, really," said Ken Brown, an Olmsted County board member who represents the county on the Rochester Coalition of groups opposed to the project.
Local officials have not yet considered a response in the event that the DM&E is sold, said Brown and Mayo Clinic spokesman Chris Gade.
Gade noted that there is still no mitigation agreement between Rochester and he DM&E. However, the railroad has the necessary regulatory approval to perform the upgrade, and that approval would likely be conveyed as part of any sale, said Keith O'Brien, Mayo Clinic's attorney for DM&E issues.
article reports that DM&E initially received inquiries from 30 potential bidders. The railroad invited 10 bidding groups to submit bids, and three of the groups include railroad companies.
The railroads involved are Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, and a shortline company that was not named. - Jeffrey Pieters, The Rochester Post-Bulletin
DINNER TRAIN MAKES TRACKS TO TACOMA
The Spirit of Washington is pulling out of King County -- at least for now.
The historic dinner train, which has traveled from Renton to the Columbia Winery in Woodinville since 1992 and is credited with helping to revive downtown Renton, will move to a Tacoma route beginning Aug. 3.
The announcement surprised supporters of a proposed Woodinville-Snohomish route, who have been in negotiations with dinner-train owner Eric Temple for months.
Temple said the move to Tacoma on a trial basis does not preclude a dinner train between Woodinville and Snohomish -- a route that both cities, and King County, have supported.
"We are absolutely planning to go to Woodinville as well," Temple said.
But the deal with Tacoma was easier because the city owns the rail tracks there, while the Woodinville-Snohomish route requires a complex agreement among the county, the Port of Seattle and the railroad's owner, BNSF Railway Company, Temple said.
"We kind of ran out of time because the deal was so complicated," he said.
Temple had a deadline. BNSF, owner of the current route, is selling it and has agreed to let the state Department of Transportation tear down the Wilburton tunnel in Bellevue in order to widen Interstate 405.
The train, which has had 100,000 yearly riders, will run its old route -- to the winery -- for the last time July 31.
The new Tacoma route will run from Freighthouse Square to Eatonville, a 3-1/2-hour round trip heading south to Lake Kapowsin, as part of a 10-month pilot agreement between the Spirit of Washington and the city of Tacoma, which owns the tracks. If it's successful, a 20-year contract might be negotiated.
The move to Tacoma shocked some who had been working to create a northern line.
"It's a slap in the face to everyone who's been involved" with efforts to create a northern route, said John C. Erdman, executive director of the Greater Woodinville Chamber of Commerce.
He said he had no idea Temple was talking to Tacoma, and he's skeptical that the Spirit of Washington will start a Woodinville-Snohomish route now.
"My gut feel is if it makes a move, then it's gone," he said.
Without a looming deadline, Temple and BNSF have no real motivation to bring a dinner train to the area, Erdman said.
"The pressure is absolutely off him to finish the deal," he said.
But BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said the northern route is "under discussion."
And Temple says he will purchase additional rail cars to start another dinner-train line once a Woodinville deal is finalized. That could happen as early as December, he said.
"There is equipment out there," he said of the vintage rail cars for which the line is known.
Kurt Triplett, chief of staff for King County Executive Ron Sims, said Sims is hopeful that Temple would either shift the train from Tacoma to Woodinville at the end of the 10-month trial or start a second train.
He called the Tacoma deal "a nice temporary solution. They haven't stopped the conversations, nor have we, about moving them to the north."
Temple had unsuccessfully sought $10 million from the state Legislature to build depots at both ends of the northern route.
Colleen Hill, president of the Snohomish County Chamber of Commerce, remains optimistic.
"We've been told we're still in the running, that this is just an interim situation," she said. - Amy Roe, The Seattle Times, courtesy Dick Seelye
BNSF RAILROAD RELOCATION
Three relocation options offered by engineers studying Lee County and Tupelo, Mississippi railroad issues offer enough potentially controversial routing to fill to capacity a planned July 12 public meeting at BancorpSouth Arena.
Hundreds of people almost certainly will seek more information and put in their two cents' worth about the three options for rerouting and/or elevating miles of the BNSF Railway Company tracks on a northwest-southeast axis.
The three options are somewhat a midpoint in a long, expensive ($2.2 million) study of options for railroad relocation and improvement sought by many different agencies, governments at several levels, and other interests, including the editorial support of the Daily Journal. All three proposed options are breathtakingly expensive, ranging from $406 million to $670 million.
The genesis of interest in the project lies in traffic congestion at grade level crossings in Tupelo - especially intersections like Main and Gloster streets, called Crosstown, where traffic can back up for many blocks for an extended time. Then, there's the issue of train horns, which sound more or less constantly as the trains move through Tupelo and in outlying areas at every road crossing.
We aren't ready to support any of the options offered officially Tuesday by MDOT, but we strongly encourage widespread participation in a meeting that's tentatively scheduled 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., July 12, at BancorpSouth Arena, site of a previous public session in August 2006 on potential routing.
The stakes are important.
One of the routes would place tracks in areas outside the city limits on the western side of the city, near the Pontotoc County line. That route, probably not coincidentally, appears to link closely with the Toyota Mississippi site near Blue Springs in Union County. A railroad spur from the existing main BNSF line is planned to serve the Toyota's $1.3 billion assembly plant.
Another site would build an elevated viaduct through Tupelo, flowing closely to the existing railroad route but 23 feet in the air. If that is chosen, a major question involves residential and commercial real estate occupied for decades along the existing grade-level tracks. And what of the switching yard tracks in Tupelo? Would those remain or would an elevated railroad require relocation work for those tracks serving many businesses, industrial interests, and the railroad's yard operations?
Another route would follow the planned Coley Road extended from a new interchange near the Belden area in western Tupelo, extending to the Barnes Crossing Road in the Barnes Crossing commercial district in north Tupelo. The railroad on that route would come close to several fully developed and developing residential neighborhoods.
All the routes would require bridging or tunneling under the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Thousands of Lee County residents, businesses and industries have a potential stake in where a relocation might be finally approved.
Mark calendars for the July 12 meeting. Analyze the maps and information, question the official presenters. Express your convictions and opinions for the record. - Editorial Opinion, The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (Tupelo, MS)
OFFICIALS ANNOUNCE SECOND AMTRAK CASCADES TRAIN TO CANADA
SEATTLE, WA --
On June 8, 2007, Governor Chris Gregoire and Premier Gordon Campbell announced an agreement between Washington State, British Columbia, BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) and Amtrak to make infrastructure improvements that will permit a second daily Amtrak Cascades
train between Seattle and Vancouver, BC. The announcement was made at the King Street Station in downtown Seattle.
The Province of British Columbia, Amtrak, and BNSF are funding this $7 million project, which includes construction of a new 11,000-foot siding track near Colebrook Road in Delta, BC. The new siding track will allow for passenger and freight trains to pass one another at this location. The new passenger rail service could begin operating in summer 2008. Construction is scheduled to begin next month.
In 1995, Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and Amtrak began operating a single daily round trip train between Seattle and Vancouver, BC. In 1999, WSDOT and Amtrak began operating another daily round-trip train between Seattle and Bellingham, Washington. This second train went into service with the expectation it would be extended to Vancouver, BC once rail line improvements were added in British Columbia.
When the new service begins operations, Amtrak Cascades
will depart from Vancouver, BC in the morning, travel to Seattle, and then continue on to Portland, Oregon. Each afternoon, another train will depart Portland, travel to Seattle, and then continue on to Vancouver, BC.
This service will supplement the existing train that makes a round trip between Seattle and Vancouver, BC, departing Seattle in the morning.
Washington communities served by Amtrak Cascades
include Bellingham, Mount Vernon, Everett, Edmonds, Seattle, Tukwila, Tacoma, Olympia/Lacey, Centralia, Kelso/Longview, and Vancouver, Washington.
"This is an important step toward improving passenger rail transportation in Washington," said Governor Chris Gregoire. "The additional service between Seattle and Vancouver will provide more options for Pacific Northwest travelers, as well as visitors coming to our region for the 2010 Winter Olympics."
"We are extremely pleased to continue our long-term partnership with the Washington State Department of Transportation, BNSF Railway, and the British Columbia Provincial Government," said Alexander J. Kummant, Amtrak President and CEO. "This project allows us to advance corridor development along an already highly successful Amtrak route. We look forward to enhancing our services to our passengers by extending a second frequency to Vancouver, British Columbia in the near future."
service extends 466 miles from Eugene, Oregon to Vancouver, BC. The corridor service is provided in partnership with the states of Washington and Oregon. - Vernae Graham, Amtrak News Release
BNSF DIESEL FUEL CONSERVATION EFFORTS ARE WORKING DUE TO EMPLOYEES
The message to conserve fuel is not only spreading, it’s working. May brought BNSF its second-best fuel efficiency record in 12 years and the best May usage ever recorded. BNSF has reduced diesel fuel consumption by 1.7 percent in 2007, compared with the same time period in 2006.
"This is great news," says Cheri Carlson, assistant vice president, Transportation and Fuel Management. "It really shows that many employees across the system are taking action to conserve fuel. The accumulation of their efforts is making a tremendous difference for BNSF. And it is exactly that, an accumulation of efforts of many that will produce the benefits of conservation for the United States as well. These benefits include reduced dependence on oil, reduced emissions and fewer dollars spent at the pump."
Through employees’ efforts thus far in 2007, four of five months have been above plan in fuel savings. Last month, BNSF recorded 786.5 gross tons per mile/per gallon (GTM/GAL) versus 752.8 GTM/GAL in May 2006.
Saving fuel has taken many forms, ranging from the larger conservation programs to more grassroots efforts by employees. Everything -- from monitoring locomotive idling and locomotive engineers’ expert train handling and proficiency, to use of efficient locomotives, improved track structure and better building of locomotive consists to conserve fuel -– has helped to decrease fuel usage.
"What can I say? This is fantastic!" says Carlson. "And it brings the June goal of 801 GTM/GAL within target range."
To continue conservation efforts, employees should use these fuel-saving measures:
· Reduce idling -
An idling locomotive burns an average of five gallons of fuel an hour. Switch engines idle as much as 75 percent of the time.
· Avoid stretch braking -
It’s estimated that each event of stretch braking consumes an average of five gallons of fuel.
· Maintain railcars -
Low-torque bearings can reduce torque on loaded railcars by 38 percent.
· Lubricate wheels -
As much as half of the rolling resistance on level tangent track is attributable to wheel/rail friction. Good lubrication can reduce this by 40 percent. - BNSF Today
SIMS WANTS TO PICK UP SPEED ON LAND-SWAP DEAL
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SEATTLE, WA --
A complicated deal in which King County would trade Boeing Field for an Eastside rail corridor may not be in final form by the end of this month as negotiators hoped, but officials have pledged to make commuter trains part of the corridor's future.
County Executive and dealmaker Ron Sims kicked his public campaign for the land swap into high gear Wednesday when he stood beside the BNSF Railway tracks in Renton and signed an agreement about its future use with biking, transit and open-space advocates.
The Cascade Bicycle Club, Cascade Land Conservancy and Transportation Choices Coalition joined Sims in a "statement of principles" intended to assure skeptics that putting a trail in the 40-mile corridor from Renton to Snohomish wouldn't preclude its eventual use for high-capacity rail transit.
The statement envisions "a dual-use transportation corridor that should ultimately be rails with trails," and says any trail should be publicly marked as interim and should be rerouted to accommodate rail lines when money is available for transit.
"Let's get it into a trail right away and save it for a dual use in the future," said Cascade Land Conservancy President Gene Duvernoy.
Sims said a trail could open in 2009 or 2010.
His chief of staff, Kurt Triplett, has begun drumming up support for Sims' plan from labor organizations, chambers of commerce and other organizations. Those groups are expected to lobby the Metropolitan King County Council and Seattle Port Commission to approve the land swap.
King County, BNSF and the Port of Seattle are working on a deal in which the Port would buy the rail corridor for $103 million, trade it to King County for Boeing Field, and give the county $66 million to build a trail from Renton to Woodinville.
Negotiators have been trying to complete the agreement for review by the County Council and the Port Commission by the end of this month, but Triplett said Wednesday that the schedule "may slip a little bit." If approved by the council and the commission, the real-estate deal would close Dec. 31.
Port Commissioner Bob Edwards joined Sims Wednesday, saying the land swap is important to the ports of Seattle and Tacoma because it is linked to agreements that would enlarge BNSF's Stampede Pass tunnel and build a regional truck-to-train freight yard somewhere in South King County or northern Pierce County.
Without those kinds of improvements, Edwards said, Puget Sound ports could lose key customers to the Canadian ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert.
County Councilmember Larry Phillips, who opposes trading away county-owned Boeing Field, said Sims' dual-use statement "is a long ways from where we started out, with the executive's sudden, almost middle-of-the-night announcement that this is the granddaddy of all trails."
Now that Sims recognizes the BNSF Corridor as a major transportation route, Phillips said, the county should drop the land swap and purchase the land with money from county, city and state governments and Sound Transit. - Keith Ervin, The Seattle Times, courtesy Dick Seelye
SNOW FOILED THE RAILROAD OVER BOREAS PASS
Caption reads: A railroad cut on Boreas pass created passage for The Denver, South Park and Pacific narrow gauge railroads to connect the bustling gold rush towns of Breckenridge and Como. (Courtesy of the Colorado Historical Society)
BRECKENRIDGE, CO --
Like everything else in Breckenridge, the arrival of the town's railroad proved a feat against the treacherous mountain climate. The Denver South Park and Pacific Railroad first chugged over Boreas Pass into Breckenridge in 1882 and quickly became a significant contributor to the area's growth.
Known as the High Line, the train brought great promises of an improved quality of life to Breckenridge residents. It hauled mail over the pass and transported mining products. It brought fresh ice cream, oysters and French wine from Denver, luxuries for residents of the once-isolated mountain town. It also carried passengers from Denver in Pullman cars, known for their plush interiors and gas lights.
But as important as it became to the town, the mountain rail brought with it trouble from the start. Perched at 11,481 feet, Boreas Pass was one of the highest and most foreboding in the nation. The winding route, steep grade and inclement weather made for dangerous working conditions and required expensive track and train maintenance.
Caption reads: A railroad cut on Boreas pass created passage for The Denver, South Park and Pacific narrow gauge railroads to connect the bustling gold rush towns of Breckenridge and Como. Today the importance of Boreas Pass as railroad artery has faded into history but is now bustling with recreational activity. The hikers who posed for this then and now portrait are from left, Mike and Debbie Bolton, Logan Sheilds, Helan Friedrich and LuAnn Beeman. (Summit Daily/Eric Drummond)
"A lot of people don't realize the incredible effort of common men up against the greatest odds to keep the train going," said Ken Knapp, Rotary Snowplow Park volunteer.
As winter rolled around each year, heavy snow and ensuing avalanches created the ultimate obstacle to the town's outside access. Snow removal from the tracks became a major problem.
For several years, snow removal techniques remained primitive and largely ineffective, including the use of the wedge plow, like the ones seen today attached to the front of trucks. "Bucking the snow," when an engine got a running start and slammed through the snow, proved limited in success. The train also carried men who would jump out to shovel away snow and other avalanche debris. Sometimes dynamite was even used to clear the tracks, which effectively removed the snow but damaged the rails.
In 1989, the railroad purchased its first of two Leslie Rotary snowplows. The nose of the plow held what looked like a sideways ceiling fan, which cut through the snow, sucked it up and blew it out a shoot over the side of the mountain, reminiscent of a modern-day snow blower.
"I lovingly call the plow, 'The Savior of Breckenridge,'" Knapp said. "The train was its lifeblood."
The plow didn't have an engine of its own and often required several locomotives to push it through the heavy snow drifts to clear the tracks. The railroad still brought out shovelers and dynamite to clear avalanche debris, but the snowplow was a more effective method than some of the previous ones.
The snowplow remained an instrumental part of the railroad's success, and in 1900, the railroad, then known as the Colorado and Southern, bought an additional snowplow. That plow turned out to be too heavy for the narrow gauge tracks and was only used a few times.
Although the train played a critical role in the town's development, it grew less economically viable each year once trucks began driving over the pass. In 1937, the railroad shut down the service over Boreas Pass into Breckenridge and began to pull up the tracks.
The original snowplow ended up clearing rails between Leadville and Climax Mine until 1951 when it broke down and was sold for scrap.
Today a cousin of the second snowplow, one of the five remaining narrow gauge rotary snowplows in the country, sits at the Rotary Snowplow Park in Breckenridge, a constant reminder of the railway's contributions to the former mining town. - Julia Connors, The Summit Daily News (Frisco, CO)
RC2 RECALLS WOODEN THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE TOYS
Toy maker RC2 Corp. on Wednesday voluntarily recalled specific wooden railroad toys and set parts from its Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway product line.
The company said that the surface paint on certain toys and parts manufactured between January 2005 and April 2006 contain lead, affecting 26 components and 23 retailer SKUs. The recalled products represent about 4 percent of all wooden railwood units sold by RC2 in the U.S.
RC2 expects a second-quarter charge between $1 million and $2 million relating to the recall.
The company said there have been no reports of illness of injury as a result of the paint. It has isolated the manufacturing facility where the paint issue originated and is correcting the problem. - The Associated Press, Forbes.com
UTAH HIGH COURT REVIVES SUIT IN RAILROAD CROSSING DEATH
SALT LAKE CITY, UT --
The Utah Supreme Court on Tuesday revived a wrongful death suit brought by the widow of a man who was killed when a freight train struck his dump truck at a crossing in Nephi nine years ago.
The court, in a unanimous ruling, sent the lawsuit back to 4th District Court for the litigants to present evidence on whether the city had a responsibility to remove a line of trees that allegedly obstructed Shelley Elder's view of an oncoming train. The trees were on land owned by Nephi and ran parallel to the railroad tracks. Elder, 37, was killed in May 1998 when a Union Pacific train pulling 91 cars struck his vehicle at a Center Street crossing.
His wife, Nan Elder, sued the railroad and the city in 1999.
A trial judge dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that neither defendant had a duty to assure that foliage did not block motorists' ability to see approaching trains. The Supreme Court agreed that Union Pacific had no control over the trees and therefore no responsibility to remove them.
The city's obligation could be different, though. "The common-law duty of a governmental entity to safeguard those who travel its roads may . . . extend to visual hazards located on its land outside the bounds of the roadway itself," the Supreme Court said. - Pamela Manson, The Salt Lake Tribune
RESTORING RAILROAD HISTORY
Caption reads: Volunteers who are donating their time to restore this 1930 caboose that was once used by Great Northern Railway and the McCloud River Railroad, line up the wooden-framed body with the wheels.
MOUNT SHASTA, CA --
A wooden railroad caboose that was damaged by fire and decaying in a remote wooded area off Highway 89 is now being restored.
Once used by both Great Northern Railway and the McCloud River Railroad, the 1930-built caboose has been moved to the south Weed site that used to be the home of Black Butte Auto Dismantling.
It is being renovated by a group of railroad enthusiasts headed by Bruce Shoemaker of Minnesota.
Last Wednesday a crane and two flatbed trucks provided by Cartlon Enterprises of Burney moved the caboose -- but only after a family of wood rats was evicted.
The caboose was moved in two sections: the main body and the wheels.
“It was pretty tight getting it out of the woods,” said crane operator Les Carlton.
The caboose arrived at its new home amidst cheers from Shoemaker and the volunteers who are camping out for the summer to restore it.
Everyone, men and women, went to work helping place the wheels on two track sections and then putting the main body in place, all in just over an hour.
Former caboose owner Jim Nile, a retired forester who lives in Mount Shasta with his wife Velma, was receptive to turning the caboose over to Shoemaker.
“I'm glad to see that there are so many people interested in restoring it,” Nile said.
The caboose was initially put into service by Great Northern Railway (1890 to 1970), which was the northern most transcontinental railroad route in the U.S., running from its headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota to Seattle, Washington.
“Great Northern turned the caboose over to the McCloud River Railroad in the early 1950s,” Nile said. “McCloud operated it until, I believe, 1962.”
After its retirement the caboose was sidelined about 100 feet from the McCloud railroad tracks in the McCloud Basin's tree farm.
“We used it as a tree farm cabin, primarily during the winter months,” Nile said.
The caboose was first brought to the attention of Shoemaker by friend and colleague “North Bank Fred” Versyp of Edgewood.
When Versyp told Shoemaker, the St. Paul, Minn. resident immediately began making inquiries into the caboose's availability.
“This caboose originated in my home town,” Shoemaker said. “At first I thought about painting it in the Great Northern colors. But, because of its location in this beautiful area, I think I'll paint it with the McCloud Railway Company logo on it of a bear with a fish and Mt. Shasta in the background.”
Shoemaker, whose father and grandfather were railroaders, has spent time camping in the area. When he found out the Black Butte property was for sale, he purchased it last year.
“I'm not what you would call a traditional railroad buff,” Shoemaker said. “I'm not big on photographing trains. I just like being around them.”
After purchasing the 34 acre property, Shoemaker and friends, primarily from Oregon and California, formed the non-profit organization, Black Butte Center for Railroad Culture.
“It's the ideal location,” Shoemaker said. “There's the old water tank right across the tracks and this is where two railroads, Union Pacific and the Central Oregon and Pacific, converge.
“Both railroads are supportive of what I'm doing,” he said. “In fact, Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad donated the ties and tracks for the caboose.”
Although Shoemaker said he does not have any immediate plans for the property, he said having the caboose on the property could eventually lead to creation of a railroad museum.
“I'm definitely interested in obtaining more historic railroad equipment,” he said. “There are other communities that have railroad backgrounds, Dunsmuir, McCloud and Yreka. Why not add Weed and make this a tourist destination.
“But that's going to take time,” Shoemaker said. “Right now we're working on improving the site. We have received a lot of support from the community. Local community members are offering their help.”
In addition to caboose restoration, the group is working to improve the grounds, including replacing the fencing and general clean-up of the property.
Shoemaker said he plans on turning the wood-framed building, one of two structures on the site, into a replica of the Black Butte railroad station, including the sign that once stood nearby.
“I have old photographs of the station, which is about the same size as this building,” Shoemaker said. “I have some good carpenters in this group who are helping with the replication of the station and caboose restoration.
Donations are also being provided for the caboose's renovation.
“I have a friend who has the same type of wood for the caboose's flooring,” Versyp said. “If we had to buy it, it would cost a fortune. It's just great to see so many people interested in the restoration.”
The caboose includes a small windowed projection on the roof known as the cupola, which was the most common form of caboose in America. The crew sat in elevated seats in the cupola to inspect the train for problems such as shifting loads and broken or dragging equipment.
Cabooses were phased out in the 1980s when technology was developed that made their use obsolete. - Earl Bolender, The Mount Shasta Herald
RAILROAD EXPERT DISCUSSES STATE'S VANISHING HISTORY
OLNEY, IL --
Dr. Simon Cordery first became interested in trains as a student in north London.
From the ages of 11-15, he remembers the excitement of taking a one-hour train ride every day to school.
“It was the best part of my day,” Cordery said. “I loved taking that train.”
Though a yellow school bus was the mode of transport once he moved to the U.S. with his family at the age of 15, Cordery never lost his interest in the railroad.
An Associate Professor in the History Department in Monmouth College, Cordery was at Olney Public Library on Monday to present a brief but detailed history of the rails in Illinois and how that history, especially as it pertains to this area, is becoming lost.
Cordery has received several awards and fellowships for his research projects, and has been the Historical Advisor to the National Railroad Hall of Fame Project in Galesburg since 2002.
Monday's program was made possible in part by an award from the Illinois Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Illinois General Assembly.
Cordery began his lecture presentations about two years ago after an unsuccessful attempt to find a book on the history of railroading in Illinois for his class.
“There's not one,” Cordery said. “I put together this presentation as a way to inspire interest in railroad history in Illinois.”
Cordery also hopes to encourage people to research how the rails played a part in local history.
Cordery's presentation centered on the 19th century and the development of railroads in Illinois.
A main topic was the building of the Illinois Central, which began with the signing of a land grant by President Millard Fillmore.
The main line went from Cairo at the southern tip of the state, to Galena in the northwest corner, with a branch going to Chicago. Cordery said the railroad was the longest in the world at the time.
Labor on the project was extensive and iron rails were shipped England because all the iron production was on the East Coast of the U.S. at that time. Rails produced there stayed in the east for railroad projects.
Cordery said approximately 100,000 laborers filtered through the state to work on the rail, and conditions were difficult.
Approximately 6,000 workers died in cholera epidemics and there was ethnic strife between German and Irish workers.
Cordery recounted an incident in which a rival company would not let the Illinois Central build a crossing over its rail, even posting an armed guard.
Cordery said that one night, Illinois Central workers kidnaped members of the guard and built the crossing.
A four-way stop had to be installed after a wreck at the crossing and because of the danger it posed. A proper overpass was eventually constructed.
Cordery said there is so much that is not known about how the state, particularly small rural areas, was affected by the rails.
He said the response to his presentation has been positive so far. “There's a real sense of something having been lost when the passenger railroad dried up,” he said.
“People are surprised how central Illinois was to the history of railroads in the nation.
History's been hidden on how important Illinois was to the history of railroading.” - Matt Courter, The Olney Daily Mail
FORMER CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS RESCUE KITTEN TIED TO RAILROAD TRACKS
Caption reads: "Tracks" was rescued by two men who saw the cat tied along the railroad. (Robert McLeroy/Express-News)
SAN ANTONIO, TX --
Former correctional officers Jacob Salinas and John Hernandez were use to spending their time guarding inmates at the Wackenhut Correctional Center. But, early this morning, the pair found themselves playing the role of heroes as they saved a kitten from being run over by a train.
"We were driving on Villamain down by Shane when we saw this couple with a cat in their hand," said Salinas. "She looked like she was going to let this cat go."
According to police, that's not what the couple was doing in the 3000 block of Shane at around 03:00 hours. The couple tied a grey and orange patched kitten to a piece of wood and placed the animal on the South Side railroad track for a train to run over.
"They had placed the cat upside down and I could her it crying," said Hernandez.
The men say they untied the kitten. Next, they called police and started to follow the couple's 2006 Saturn towards Military Drive and Villamain to get a license plate number. But, that effort would be met with potential violence.
The correctional officers say the woman got out of the vehicle belligerent wanting to fight. They say the man got out brandishing a Glock handgun.
Salinas and Hernandez left the area with the couple now following them, but when they reached Military and South Presa Street the car vanished.
"I thought this was that story with the guy who threw those cats out the window, "said Hernandez. "I thought it was him...just in a different area."
He's referring to an animal cruelty case that happened in late May, when two good Samaritans saw a man toss three kittens out of a vehicle on Babcock Road. The kittens were rescued and handed over to the Humane Society.
The former correctional officers were able to give police a license plate number from the incident. Police say they will use that to track down the suspects who will likely face animal cruelty and deadly conduct charges.
"This is heinous," said Animal Care Service spokeswoman Lisa Norwood. "The intent here was obvious."
Norwood says they plan to assign a cruelty investigator to the case, and plan to talk with Salinas and Hernandez about the kitten's future.
A future that appears to be brighter than the nearly fatal situation the kitten found itself in earlier. In fact, the men have started calling the kitten "Tracks," because of how and where they found it.
"I have dogs. I'm not much of a cat person, "said Salinas. "But, I don't want to see anybody harm any animal." - Marvin Hurst, KENS-TV5, San Antonio, TX
AAR REPORTS ANOTHER OFF WEEK FOR RAILROAD TRAFFIC
WASHINGTON, DC --
In continuing what has been an off year to date, carload freight and intermodal traffic on United States railroads were both down for the week ending June 9 compared to the same timeframe last year, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported Thursday.
The AAR said that intermodal volume totaled 238,957 trailers or containers for the week ending June 9, which was down 3.2 percent from the corresponding week in 2006. Intermodal container volume was down 0.6 percent, and intermodal trailer volume was down 11.9 percent.
And carload freight, which does not include intermodal data, came in at 330,767 cars for the week, down 5.6 percent from the same week last year. Carload loadings were down 4.0 percent in the west and 7.8 percent in the east. The AAR said total volume was estimated at 33.5 billion ton-miles, which is down 5.1 percent from 2006.
Of the 19 carload commodity groups tracked by the AAR, 14 were down from last year, with non-metallic minerals products down 21.7 and lumber and wood products down 18.3 percent. Chemicals were up 3.2 percent, and grain mill loadings were up 2.5 percent.
The AAR said that cumulative volume for the first 23 weeks of 2007 totaled 7,418,108 carloads, which was down 4.4 percent from 2006. Trailers or containers were down at 5,229,787 were down 1.3 percent, and the total volume of an estimated 754.9 billion ton-miles was down 3.1 percent. - Logistics Management
PRICE OF SHIPPING: KALISPELL GOODS DON'T COME CHEAP
Caption reads: Mergenthaler freight division employees Jim Auger, left, and Todd Barstow unload a semi-truck at their service center in Kalispell. (Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon)
KALISPELL, MT --
Looking at a map, Kalispell doesn’t make sense as a business hub. It’s Montana’s only commercial center not on an interstate, which is problematic. It can be expensive and inefficient to get goods here.
Semi-trucks hauling freight have to veer off their main truck route along U.S. Interstate 90, drive 120 miles north on U.S. Highway 93, navigate Kalispell’s Main Street, drop off a load, and then turn around to head back toward I-90.
“You get to Kalispell and you’re done,” said Jeff Steeger, director of operations for Montana’s Mergenthaler freight division in Helena. “Kalispell’s a gateway to nowhere.”
Steeger explained that trucks hauling freight have certain hubs along the interstate. For example, if a semi-truck hauls a shipment from Spokane to Billings, both freight hubs, it stops in Missoula, Butte, Bozeman, and other towns, dropping off and picking up goods along the way. Kalispell is a substantial detour.
Tariffs are one issue. Freight carriers are taxed from zip code to zip code. The Rocky Mountain Tariff Bureau taxes Mergenthaler based on a destination’s location and what it has to offer in manufactured goods. Kalispell is not a big enough commercial center nor does it have enough manufactured goods to compensate for the inconvenience of the U.S. 93 detour. Therefore, rates are higher, Steeger said.
Great Falls, which is Montana’s other commercial center off I-90, is still on a major interstate, U.S. Interstate 15. On top of that, it’s a major grain center and often sends back full loads of flour.
“You go up (to Kalispell) full and come back empty,” Steeger said. “They’ve got some jerky and furniture up there. But it’s not like there’s a Boeing.”
Also, Mergenthaler and other carriers impose gas surcharges on businesses that vary depending on diesel prices. Right now, with high fuel prices, Mergenthaler’s surcharge is 18.5 percent of total freight charges, which are determined by a shipment’s weight and value. Twenty pounds of fine china will have a higher freight charge, and thus fuel surcharge, than twenty pounds of chicken wings. The 240-mile round trip detour to Kalispell creates high fuel expenditures compared to cities that are already on the I-90 route.
Kevin Pitt, general manager at North Bay Grille, said although fuel surcharges are fairly minimal per shipment, they add up over time.
To compensate, many local businesses in Kalispell have recently imposed their own gas surcharges, usually between 3 and 8 percent, increasing the prices of their services or products.
Steeger said it’s a state trend to bring in more goods than it sends out. On average, he said, Mergenthaler hauls 1,100 shipments per day to Montana and sends out less than 150.
“We are a consuming state,” he said.
If freight doesn’t come to the Flathead on a national carrier like FedEx or a store-specific truck like Albertsons, most likely Mergenthaler carries it, said Dan Palmer, service manager of Mergenthaler’s Kalispell freight division. His company runs three line-hauls a day from Missoula to Kalispell, each one with up to 50 different shipments. Palmer said 90 percent of Mergenthaler’s business is bringing in goods, not sending them out.
Marc Rold, chairman of Kalispell’s transportation committee, said Kalispell in fact does have important goods to offer like wood products and aluminum, but it’s no Billings, which has a huge warehouse district.
“People don’t really know it, but a lot of our goods still come from Billings,” he said.
Another difficulty besides truck transportation, Rold said, is that Kalispell’s nearly defunct railroad is not a mainline. A mainline runs along I-90 and another also runs along U.S. Highway 2 through Whitefish. Kalispell’s spurline brings in little freight today.
“It’s amazing how many goods pass through (Whitefish’s mainline),” Rold said. “But not a lot stay.”
Transportation throughout non-coastal Western states is expensive, Rold said. He cited three reasons: greater distances between cities, distances from coasts and small populations. Also, I-90 itself is not a major truck route compared to U.S. Interstate 80 or U.S. Interstate 10.
“We in Montana think I-90 is a big truck route,” he said. “But it’s very small.”
Rold acknowledged, however, that I-90 is by far Montana’s largest truck route.
Rold points out that all businesses in Kalispell are on a level playing field to each other and therefore transportation costs are relative. Relative to Missoula or Billings, costs might be higher, but no businesses have significant advantages over each other within the Flathead. Another factor to remember is that the airplane freight sector is fairly strong in Kalispell, he said.
Lad Barney of Kalispell’s Small Business Development Center agreed.
“All businesses have to deal with it here,” he said. “It’s just like any other business cost, whether it’s utilities or transportation or whatever.”
One more transportation issue, Rold said, is that companies such as some chain stores are at the end of their respective companies’ distribution routes, which makes them vulnerable.
“If you need to cut out one of your stores,” he said. “Do you take it from the heart or the outside?” - Myers Reece, The Flathead Beacon
ACID LEAK AT CHEMICAL PLANT DISRUPTS METROLINK
Photo gallery here:
LOS ANGELES, CA --
An acidic gas leak at a chemical manufacturing plant in the City of Industry this morning forced the evacuation of more than 130 workers in the area and disrupted Metrolink commuter train service, officials said.
The leak at the Ecolab plant in the 18300 block of Railroad Street was reported about 07:30 hours, said Inspector Ron Haralson of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The plant's 68 employees along with about 70 other workers at neighboring businesses were evacuated, he said.
There were no reports of injuries and the leak posed no immediate danger, Haralson said.
A hazardous-materials team was at the scene to evaluate any potential danger posed by the leak of an unidentified acid from a 25,000-gallon storage tank. "We are attempting to cool down the tanks," Haralson said.
The railroad tracks behind the plant, believed to be used by Union Pacific, were shut down in the east and west directions on Valley Boulevard.
The incident also delayed a Metrolink commuter train traveling from Riverside to downtown Los Angeles' Union Station, said Denise Tyrell, a Metrolink spokeswoman.
The train, departing from Riverside at 8:15 a.m. and scheduled to arrive at Union Station at 09:38 hours, was unable to pass through Industry, so three buses were dispatched to transport about 170 passengers downtown, Tyrell said. Passengers were delayed about an hour, she said.
"We're hoping that this will be the only train delayed," Tyrell said. "We were fortunate that only one got stuck there. Our next one through the area won't be until 15:00 hours, so hopefully the area will be clear. Better safe than sorry, though."
Ecolab, a Fortune 500 company, is one of the world's main commercial providers of cleaning, food, safety and health protection products and services to hotel and restaurant chains, said Frank Lomeli, an Ecolab plant manager at a different plant in the City of Industry.
Ecolab has two plants in the area, one on Railroad Street, where chemicals are manufactured and the spill was reported, and another in the 16600 block of East Johnson Drive, where equipment is manufactured. - Francisco Vara-Orta, The Los Angeles Times
COMMUTER RAIL WORK WILL CLOSE PART OF LOMBARD AVENUE
BEAVERTON, OR --
Work on Washington County’s commuter rail project will close roads and rail crossings in Beaverton, Tigard and Tualatin, Oregon.
The 14.7-mile project will carry passengers during morning and evening rush hours on existing freight tracks from Wilsonville to the Beaverton Transit Center.
The project is expected to open in September 2008.
Work so far has covered about 14 miles of track and seven of 11 public rail crossings.
Starting this week, contractors will begin work on the Lombard Avenue realignment in Beaverton.
The project will requires construction of a short spur track along Lombard from Farmington Road to Beaverton Transit Center on the north side of Southwest Canyon Road.
Construction to add 2,000 feet of track and realign Lombard will occur at the same time. It involves demolishing some buildings and tearing up sections of streets.
The first phase of the project began last week with the permanent closure of the block-long Old Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway. Traffic is rerouted to Broadway Street, Lombard Avenue and Farmington Road.
Crews are demolishing and grading between Farmington Road and Broadway. The second phase of the project includes demolition of Lombard, relocating utilities and paving.
Work on Lombard between Farmington and Broadway is scheduled to be completed in early fall.
In Tualatin, construction of the Hedges Wetland Bridge began last week. Pile driving and other construction activities will continue Tuesdays through Fridays from 07:00 to 18:00 hours until September.
The second part of Tualatin’s North Railroad Bridge will be replaced from 19:00 June 22 to about 05:00 hours June 25. Crews will remove sections of the old bridge, replace the deck and track and close the pedestrian underpass.
In Tigard, work will close the intersections of Southwest North Dakota Street and Tiedeman Road from 19:00 June 22 until about 05:00 hours June 25.
Crews will remove existing rail track, install new track and resurface the intersections.
Traffic will be detoured around the construction zones using Greenburg Road, Pacific Highway, Tigard Street and 115th Avenue. - The Beaverton Valley Times