Railroad Newsline for Saturday, 06/16/07
Author: Larry W. Grant
Date: 06-16-2007 - 00:02

Railroad Newsline for Saturday, June 16, 2007 (Happy Father’s Day one day early!)

Compiled by Larry W. Grant

In Memory of Rob Carlson, 1952 – 2006



I live somewhat far from a railroad line, but there are times when it is cool and the air somewhat heavy, that I can hear the train engine whistles. And I think of my Dad.

It was in the mid-1950s, when Dad and I drove from San Diego to St. Louis. Just getting over the mountains outside of San Diego was a big deal. Near the peak, Dad pulled over. It was still dark. From the place we parked the car, we walked a ways and then stopped.

Dad told me to pick up a rock and throw it out in front of me and listen for it to hit. I did and waited and waited and waited and finally I heard the rock ricochet on the unseen canyon walls. I backed away. For a young teen, in the dark, there was one thing I dearly wanted. My Dad at my side.

Going through El Centro, the temperature dropped as we were in cropland, specifically onions. My, what a fragrance. We carried a canteen of water and drank some near the water tank that showed that the road and we were below sea level. Dad asked, "How is this possible?" "Well," I said, "we have a mountain range between us and the Pacific Ocean." Dad said nothing, but I felt proud. It was good to be able to answer Dad's question.

In Arizona, we stopped at what my Dad thought was heaven on earth, the Stockyards restaurant. One thing about it. It smelled. I mean we were in the midst of steers and their droppings. It was kind of difficult for me to eat in that smell, but Dad had a huge steak and loved every bite. He called me a cream puff.

In Texas, I shot my BB gun out of the car widow. Now my dad was a straight up, law-abiding man, but when he had a teen son going stir crazy, he simply said nothing. I shot at power poles. I never hit one. I simply could not overcome the wind. The BBs never got to the poles.

Now mind you, we were not busting the sound barrier with our speed. We were at 50 mph or less from San Diego to St. Louis. In the mountains, 35 mph was interesting, but 50 mph in Texas is slower than a snail going up Pike's Peak.

One time, again in Texas, the car almost stopped. I asked Dad why we were going so slowly, perhaps 30 mph. He said that was as fast as the car could go. I did not believe him. Always a good idea to question one's Dad. So he pulled over and stopped. He said, "Get out."

Whoa there Dad, I thought. Just because I questioned your assessment of a situation was no reason to leave me high and dry. He said again, "Get out." I put my hand on the door handle, and it clicked, but the door did not open. He said, "Get out." So I pushed on the door. It barely opened. He said, "Get out."

So now, partially mad, I really pushed on the door and managed to get it open enough to get caught between the door and the frame of the car. I was impinged. I was embarrassed. I could not get out. But now I knew why the car was going so slowly. The head wind was mighty. So mighty that it held the door against my body so I could not get in or out. It was good Dad was there. He got out, went around to my side of the car and pulled the door open. I dove back in. Nothing more was said.

In the distance, a long distance away, we saw something in the road. Finally, we could see it was a man, but bent over facing the ground. He was in bad shape. We stopped and Dad got out. The man said he had been out there three days without water. He begged for water.

I was scared. He looked wrinkled and his eyes were almost closed, and he talked funny. For a young teen, this was discomforting.

Dad opened the trunk where we had extra water. He took a gallon and a rag. The man begged for the gallon jug. Dad refused. What Dad did do was soak the rag and give it to the man to suck on. Dad put the man in the back seat, let him lie down sort of and then promoted me to be a guardian angel. I was to soak the rag and give it to the man every time he gave me the rag. I was not to give him the gallon jug. Now, I was the bad guy.

Later in life, I personally learned the terrible consequences of jugging down water after being severely deprived. Dad did the right thing.

By the time we came to the next city, the man was able to walk. We bought him a meal. He said he wanted to stay there, so we left.

At about four in the afternoon, it was hot. I mean hot. The windows were down but the wind was like a knife. Then we saw it. A roadside stand. Maybe they would have something cool. We pulled up. What they had was ice-cold watermelon. Dad bought a whole one, but they took a huge knife and cut the melon on four sides. All that was left was red, cool watermelon. It was heaven on earth for me. That was the moment I understood the word succulent.

On we went.

We arrived at St. Louis. The reason for the trip was that I was to attend school there, and Dad was driving me so he could say good bye.

I cried when he left. Dad hugged me. I cried some more, and he held me. I waved as he drove away.

I was frightened.

Dad later recounted to me how late that night he had pulled off the road to sleep. Suddenly the whole car lit up like it was on white fire. The ground shook and then more light and mightier shaking. The car was bouncing. And then he heard what I hear on the cool nights on Dobson Ranch, a train whistle. Only this whistle was some 50 feet away. It scared the wits out of my Dad, or so he said when he told the story.

Dads are sometime frightened too.

The next time I saw my dad, I hugged him so hard that I thought I would pop his eyes. He was delighted to see his son too.

It was Mom that said that she knew it was difficult for me to stay in St. Louis and have my Dad leave, but she said that my Dad said that leaving me was the most difficult thing he had ever done in his life. In his life!

So tonight, as I hear the train whistle, and it is near Dad's Day, I remember my Dad, a man who I loved and who loved me. My Dad passed on some 40 years ago, but the train whistle still connects us. - Leo Crocker Rogers, The Arizona Republic


BAYTOWN, TX -- Doug Moyers knew something was wrong. It was the middle of the night and his 12-year-old daughter was not in her bedroom.

He stepped out the front door and gave a sharp whistle, just like he's done a hundred times before at dinner time. He expected to hear a girl's voice from the yard, as he always does. He would scold her for staying up too late and then go back to bed.

Nothing. He called her cell phone. No answer. He sat in the driveway, in the darkness, and waited.

Loral Moyers never made it home. A few blocks away, crammed into the back seat of a stolen Jeep Cherokee, she and three friends died early Thursday when the vehicle slammed into a train at an ungated grade crossing in east Harris County.

Her father, who had heard the crash, rushed to the scene barely a quarter-mile from the family's Baytown home after an older daughter who had been scouring the neighborhood came across the accident. He arrived in time to see paramedics pulling Loral's lifeless body from the smashed vehicle.

"They were almost (home)," Moyers said. "But out of the darkness appeared the train."

Landing in ditch

What started as a foolish lark — a wee-hours illicit joyride — ended in a tragedy that was still hard to comprehend as the sun rose over the wreckage. Driving fast down East Archer between 03:30 and 04:00 hours, Bobby Davis slammed on the brakes, to no avail. The purloined 1993 Jeep Cherokee, taken earlier that night, hit a tanker car so hard it sheared off the top of the SUV, with the rest of the vehicle continuing underneath the train and ending up in a ditch.

In that instant, Loral Moyers, her 14-year-old cousin Macy, friend Colette Windham, 14, and Austin Davis, Bobby's 14-year-old brother, lost their lives. Investigators still are not sure how Davis, who was not licensed to drive, and a passenger in the front, Blake Barger, survived.
Both of the 15-year-old boys were flown to Memorial Hermann-The Texas Medical Center where Davis was in critical condition. Barger's injuries appeared less severe, and he was talking, authorities said. He was in fair condition Friday.

Relatives and friends of the other teens assembled throughout the day at the accident site, bringing flowers and balloons and erecting a homemade cross.

When rain began falling Thursday evening, residents close to the site put up a shelter to protect the makeshift memorial. More than 200 turned out to sing Amazing Grace and recite the Lord's Prayer during a late-night candlelight vigil.

Doug Moyers, struggling to come to terms with a parental nightmare come true, said he was strict with his children and said Loral's sneaking out was out of character. Just that evening, he had set ground rules for his daughters' summer plans. They would have to be in early, and his youngest, Loral, would have to bring the computer into his room by 10:30 p.m. so she wouldn't spend all night on MySpace.

What he did not know when he went to bed is that Loral and Macy had been seeing two older boys and planned to sneak out that night. Loral's friend Hannah Robinson said she talked to her on her cell phone between 01:30 and 02:00 hours.

"When she told me she was going to sneak out, I told her to be careful and don't do anything dangerous," Hannah said.

Loral, who had just finished sixth grade at Gentry Junior School, had become closer to Macy, who had just finished eighth grade at the same school. Through Macy, Loral met Blake, a popular freshman-to-be who loved motocross, dirt bikes and skateboarding.

Blake's grandmother, Sharon Spurlock, said she had warned the teen many times not to sneak out and to be careful.

"We're so thankful he's alive," Spurlock said. "But it's such a tragedy for the other families."

Colette Windham, also a Gentry student, spent Wednesday night at Macy's. The two left Macy's house and met up with Blake and his friends, the Davis brothers.

"The five kids came over and picked up my daughter," Doug Moyers said. "One thing leads to another, and the next thing you know they end up under a tank car and in a ditch."

Bobby and Austin Davis' mother, April Davis, said the teens had not been drinking.

"Bobby was just trying to get that little girl (Loral) home as fast as he could ... He didn't see that railroad car on the track."

No decision has been made on bringing charges against the driver of the Cherokee, sheriff's Lt. Darryl Coleman said.

Anger at railroad

Moyers' immediate anger was directed less at the boys who lured her out of the house than at Union Pacific Railroad, whose trains often idle on the tracks as they wait to enter a switching yard nearby.

The Cherokee slammed into the 80th car of a 126-car train, far enough back for Bobby never to have heard the train whistle as it approached the crossing.

"Two times I've called my mother and said, 'Call the police on that train, let them know there's a disaster sitting there on the tracks waiting to happen,' " Moyers said. "Now, I'm standing here part of the disaster."

He and other relatives berated a Union Pacific representative who showed up at the site, which was recommended for a lighted crossing gate last year. Construction of the gate is the responsibility of the Texas Department of Transportation.

"This is a dangerous place, and you need to do something about it," grandfather Donald Moyers said to railroad spokesman Joe Arbona. "I'm going to go on a crusade."

Residents said the only warnings at the crossing are the crossbucks, the familiar black-and-white X-shaped signs reading "Railroad Crossing." The unlighted signs are just a few feet from the side of the tracks.

Arbona expressed sorrow over the family's loss but said the signage complies with federal law.
Hard to see

In the dark, a stopped rail car straddling Archer does not show up well in headlights, in part because the tracks are raised well above street level, Harrelson said.

"I came through here at about 11 one night ... and I didn't realize until I was real close that there was a train stopped," Harrelson said. "It looked like fog up there across the road. It scared me to death."

Coleman declined to comment on the safety fixtures around the track. He did say it is not uncommon for trains to be stopped at crossings.

Today Doug Moyers plans to meet with Loral and Macy's friends, so many of whom visited the accident site Thursday, to warn them about taking risks.

"We know that things like this can happen, but they don't want to believe us." - Kevin Moran, Robert Crowe and Mike Tolson, The Houston Chronicle

(ED. Note: This story sickens me on so many levels, I hardly know where to begin.

This is a true tragedy any way you want to look at it.

Very sad for the families of the dead teens, their friends and relatives, and also for the train crew involved.

The Houston Chronicle seems to make little of the fact that this was a crime. They call it "a lark". I did some dumb things as a teenager myself, but stealing a car and taking friends for a ride was not one of them.

For crying out loud -- it was 04:00 in the morning folks -- where were the parents in all this?

Bottom line, the car was stolen, being driven by an unlicensed 15-year-old, speeding....and on and on and on.

But you mark my words, by next week we will all be reading about the lawsuits filed against the Union Pacific Railroad -- mostly because their pockets are a bit deeper than some.

I am climbing down off my soap box now. - lwg)


BAYTOWN, TX -- Unlit rail tracks where four teens were killed in early morning darkness Thursday near Baytown were to be equipped with flashing red lights and crossing gates in about six months, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

The stolen Jeep Cherokee that the teens were riding in plowed into a stopped freight train sometime between 03:30 and 04:00 hours, investigators estimated.

Residents said the site is very dark at night and had badly needed more safety equipment than the X-shaped crossbucks, stop signs, and pavement markings it had.

Local TxDOT spokeswoman Janelle Gbur said a team of personnel from TxDOT, Precinct 2 Commissioner Sylvia Garcia's office and Union Pacific Railroad had recommended in June 2006 that flashing signals and gates be installed.

The improvements would have cost about $170,000 and been paid for with 10 percent state and 90 percent federal funding, Gbur said. Because they would be on Union Pacific property and wired into the railroad's operations, the railroad would do the work and had drawn up plans late last year, she said.

The railroad recently submitted a cost estimate for approval by TxDOT officials in Austin, Gbur said.

"We are very cognizant of the fact that this needs to move forward with great speed," she said.

Although East Archer Road, where the wreck occurred, is not maintained by TxDOT, Gbur said the agency has some oversight of all rail crossings in the state and always has a member on the inspection teams for various crossings.

Local government and the railroad also have team members, she said.

900 vehicles cross daily

The teams typically base their recommendations on a history of crashes or near-misses, an increase in rail or vehicle traffic or requests from residents and local officials, Gbur said.
Then they examine the crossing visually and perform traffic counts, she said.

At this crossing, Gbur said, the team noted non-injury crashes in 2002 and 2001, train traffic that included "10 to 17 slow switching-type train moves" a day, "and a lot of going in and out of the switch yard immediately to the north -- which would explain why there would be a train sitting idle, waiting to switch into the yard."

Nearly 900 vehicles cross the tracks daily, the inspection team found.

Previous wrecks, no injuries

Federal records show four vehicle-train accidents at the site from 1979 to 2002, none involving injuries. Two accidents happened in pre-dawn hours and involved vehicles traveling below 25 mph, the records say.

Federal Railroad Administration spokesman Warren Flatau said the SUV "hit the 80th car in a 126-car train."

In three of the previous crashes at the site, the motorist failed to stop, and in the other the driver's view of the train was obscured by vegetation, accident reports said. In two crashes, the vehicle struck the train and in the other two, the train struck the vehicle.

A Federal Highway Administration manual on traffic control devices suggests the crossing might also need street lighting. Examples of conditions where "illumination should be installed," it says, include "where a substantial amount of railroad operation is conducted at night, when train speeds are low and (the) crossings are blocked for long periods."

Lights may also be needed, the manual says, where "crash history indicates that drivers experience difficulty in seeing trains or traffic control devices during hours of darkness."

Flatau said it is common for crossings at low-traffic sites to be equipped only with "passive" devices such as signs and pavement markings.

"About half of all car-train collisions occur where there are active devices (such as lights or gates) that are functioning," he said. "So there is evidence that to put lights and gates at every crossing would not prevent all the accidents."

Studies done by the county and local agencies concluded it would cost $4 billion to reroute railroad tracks away from some major roadways in the region and to install signals, gates and other improvements at other crossings, said Art Storey, director of the county's public infrastructure department.

More, but not $4 billion

Legislators said some funding -- but not $4 billion -- was possible, Storey said. He said TxDOT is working on a more modest proposal.

Texas led the nation in motor vehicle-train accidents at railroad crossings last year, with 338 of the 2,910 nationwide, said Steven Kulm, also an FRA spokesman. The state also led in fatal motor vehicle-train accidents at railroad crossings with 44 out of the 366 such deaths in the U.S., Kulm said. - Rad Sallee, The Houston Chronicle

(ED. NOTE: ......Sigh..... -lwg)


ORR, MN -- Trains exceeding a 30-mph speed limit in Orr will be ticketed by the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Department, but it will be up to the city to prosecute the railroad if it fails to pay the citations.

Undersheriff Dave Phillips met with city and Orr Safety Committee representatives on Friday to discuss how the law, upheld by a federal judge’s ruling announced May 30, will be enforced.

Phillips said he didn’t have the staff to monitor train speeds 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but said officers would be told to check train speeds with radar guns periodically.

As another option, he offered to supply Orr with a radar gun and provide training for citizens who could monitor train speeds.

City Attorney John Cope opposed the idea, saying it posed too many risks. “We don’t want to go to court on the competency of the radar gun,” he said. “The St. Louis County Sheriff’s office is charged with enforcing the law and that’s who should be enforcing it.”

Mayor Dale Long agreed and said it was understandable that officers would not be available round the clock to track train speeds.

Tickets would likely be issued to the railroad and not the engineers, Phillips said, adding that there would not be attempts to stop speeding trains. Speeding violations would be considered misdemeanors with a fine of up to $1,000 and possible jail time.

Should the railroad fail to pay the fines, St. Louis County Attorney Melanie Ford had determined it would be up to the city to take them to court, Phillips said. That was the practice with all misdemeanors, he said.

Canadian National consultant Kevin Soucie would not comment on whether the railroad would abide by the speed limit and would not say if the railroad intends to appeal the ruling.

The railroad increased train speeds from 49 mph to 60 mph in December 2003, prompting Orr citizens to start a petition to reduce train speeds. The petition cited the close proximity to the Orr School and the dangers posed by a derailment of cars that sometimes contain hazardous substances.

Area legislators entered the dispute in 2005 with legislation that allowed the city to prohibit trains from exceeding 30 mph in city limits. The city enacted the speed limit in August 2005, which prompted a lawsuit by Canadian National.

The railroad sought a summary judgment to have the law declared unconstitutional, but U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. Davis rejected its arguments and upheld the law. The railroad has 30 days from the date of the ruling to file an appeal.

Phillips said it would be in the railroad’s best interests to comply with the judge’s ruling even if they seek an appeal. Unless another ruling reverses the decision, he noted, the speed limit is the law now.

He noted at Friday’s meeting that the railroad may be reluctant to comply, fearful that it will set a precedent and encourage other communities to impose similar limits.

But Dave Glowaksi, former Orr mayor and a member of the Safety Committee, said the judge noted that Orr’s situation was unique because of a combination of factors, including the potential risk of contamination to Pelican Lake and the surrounding watershed.

Phillips added that the best long-term solution may be to move the tracks away from town, reducing potential safety hazards and preventing the risk of closing off a portion of an important throughfare such as Highway 53 in the event of a derailment. - Tom Klein, The Orr Timberjay


CENTRALIA, WA -- Thurston County Sheriff's deputies have nabbed a woman they believe stole copper wire from railroad tracks that have already had service interrupted once this week because of theft.

Deputies think a 33-year-old Centralia woman stole about 400 feet of copper wire from the tracks. She was arrested near the scene.

The stolen wire connected an alarm system that warns railroad workers when there is a landslide in the area.

Police responded to the area after an alarm was received by a BNSF Railway Company office in Texas around 04:45 Thursday morning.

When they arrived, deputies found a man sleeping on the tracks. He told officers he was on the tracks after leaving his home because of a fight with his wife.

Lieutenant Chris Mealy said deputies left the man for only few minutes and then discovered the stolen wiring. When they returned, the man was gone, said Mealy.

While looking for the man, deputies encountered a woman with wire cutters, a flash light and other metal parts. Deputies arrested the woman on suspicion of malicious mischief, theft and criminal trespass. "She's not cooperating and she's not identifying the other male," said Mealy.

On Saturday train service to the area was suspended for 3 hours because of a wire theft. In that case, deputies say the thieves stole only about 20 feet of the copper material; the value of the wire was estimated at $10.

"Anybody with a pair of wire cutters could the railroad and public a lot of headaches," said Mealy. - KING-TV5, Seattle, WA


SPOKANE, WA -- The state of Washington expects to seek bids in late summer or early fall for a project that will capture imaginations in this railroad town -- a 1,330-foot-long at-grade tunnel that will carry the BNSF Fe Railway Company’s tracks underneath the long-awaited north-south freeway.

The state Department of Transportation is deep into design work on the tunnel, and though it doesn’t have a cost estimate to release yet, it has designated $38.2 million in gas-tax money for the project, says Tom Brasch, assistant project engineer on the freeway, officially known as the North Spokane Corridor.

“Because our project necessitated the need for the changes, basically DOT will cover all the costs,” Brasch says.

The tunnel will carry BNSF’s tracks at their current grade underneath the new freeway, which will cross the tracks between Piper and Hawthorne roads, just south of where the freeway will go over Market Street on a bridge that’s already under construction. Not long after opening bids, DOT hopes to award a contract for constructing the tunnel, building and shaping the long incline that will carry the freeway’s northbound leg up and over the tunnel, and paving the northbound leg between Piper and where it will cross over Market, Brasch says. The freeway will come back to grade north of Parksmith.

The DOT should have a more firm schedule for the project four to six weeks from now, Brasch says. Just the northbound leg of the highway will be built at first, along with a bike path just to the east, because DOT only has enough money to build that part now.

One aspect of the job should be of particular interest to railroad buffs: At 54 feet wide, the tunnel will have room for a second BNSF track alongside the set of rails that carries freight trains through the Hillyard neighborhood now, Brasch says.

BNSF hasn’t said, though, that it has definite plans to build a second track, he says.
“How it’s been presented to us is that they have the right of way there for a second track,” Brasch says. “What they’re doing is they’re protecting their investment for the future. They don’t want a choke point there.”

The words “ railroad tunnel” bring to mind the labor-intensive drilling, blasting, and rock clearing that crews did to claw their way through mountain ranges when the first intercontinental rail routes were built. This tunnel is a lot different. Rather than being dug through a mountain, it will be erected as a concrete arch structure -- and the incline that will carry the new roadway then will be built up over the tunnel with earth stockpiled after being extracted elsewhere along the North Spokane Corridor route. At first, the northbound leg will cover the tunnel, and later, the southbound leg will cover it, too.

“We go over the track. It’s much easier to do that than change the grade of the railroad,” says Brasch.

The tunnel structure will be built with about 260 precast concrete arch sections, each of which will be 6 feet long. The sections will be assembled and connected to one another in a structure that will be high enough, at 28-1/2 feet from the top edge of the rails, for freight trains to chug through.

Each arch section will be made from two half-sections, each of which will weigh 21 tons. One to two cranes will lift the half-sections into place, setting their lower ends into footings. When two half-sections have been placed, they will be “pinned” at the top to secure them, Brasch says.
The tunnel will be built to accommodate the “lean” of the rail cars as they move along the curving track, Brasch says.

“There’s a handful of issues that we’re working on with BNSF,” Brasch says. “They have some guidelines. They want to make sure that they’re covering their bases correctly.”

DOT and BNSF still are working on tunnel lighting and ventilation issues, but have worked out track realignment and drainage issues, Brasch says. The contract requires the acquisition of crossing easements and airspace for footings from the railroad company, as well as construction and maintenance agreements, although the latter agreements will move forward when the other matters are resolved, he says.

It’s too early to say when work will start on the project, Brasch says.

“Right now, we’re charging hard to meet our late-summer schedule,” he says, adding that the project could begin in the fall, and the early part of it would be similar to building a bridge.
“You have to set the footings,” Brasch says. “While you’re setting the footings, you’re having your supplier cast the arches. By late winter, maybe by March, you could potentially be setting in the arches.”

The project is expected to be done in the spring of 2009, and it’s possible the contractor will be able to work during part or all of the two winters that will come before then, he adds.

DOT intends to keep a commitment to the Legislature that motorists will be driving on part of the north-south freeway in the spring of 2009, and “this contract, once it’s finished, would complete the drivable link from Francis to Farwell,” Brasch says. - Richard Ripley, The Spokane Journal of Business


SIOUX CITY, IA -- It must be heartwarming to the management of the Quality Inn, Best Western and Holiday Inn to learn of the city's concern about train noise for the yet-to-be-built Stoney Creek Inn. And let's not forget the residents of the city who live near railroad tracks who have heard train noise all their lives.

Perhaps it would be less expensive to launch an ad campaign extolling the nostalgia of the clickety-clack and train whistles taking us back to a simpler time. I can remember as a child growing up in a Texas railroad town, the fun of running down to the tracks and watching the trains go through town, waving to the crew and thinking of the romance of their travels. I'm sure the kids of Sioux City did, too.

Oh, and let's not forget that for every train arriving in Sioux City, several people have a job. -- Gene Hill, The Sioux City Journal

Reader's comments:

gerlach wrote on Jun 14, 2007 7:50 PM:
" Why am I not surprised that the council is busying itself with this kind of trivia when they face so many other more real problems. Searching for a way for railroad trains to be silent to pacify imaginary guests in an un-needed and as of yet non-existant hotel. Even without the whistle trains make a good deal of noise. I wish the council would read these comments from people who are going to have to help pay for this nonsense. Right on letter writers. "

LM wrote on Jun 14, 2007 11:12 AM:
" Again, this agenda-based and uninformed council thinks their new pet project is the best thing and will make the public and businesses love them. I'd love to know where they get these crazy ideas? Who is telling them to push these "great" ideas? They need to stop listening to these people, they're making our council look like idiots! Why not bring in more business/residents/visitors to fill the hotels we have before opening another hotel? DUH! "

Todd in KC wrote on Jun 14, 2007 10:05 AM:
" Surely there are better things for the city council to be worried about up there than train noise. "

JJ wrote on Jun 14, 2007 8:46 AM:
" Talk to those other hotels and find out how they feel about the city backing such a project and you will find a lot of hostility - and rightly so! The occupancy rates do not support another hotel! What was our city thinking?!? "

Obwerver wrote on Jun 14, 2007 6:21 AM:
" Your first paragraph sums it up, Gene. I too, wondered why the city is suddenly concerned about train noise downtown, when these other hotels have been there for years. Makes you wonder who's back is being scratched.


FORT WORTH, TX -- A man lost his legs Thursday while trying to hop off a train while it was moving.

He was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital in undetermined condition, said Lt. Dean Sullivan, a Fort Worth police spokesman.

Police did not release the man's name Thursday pending notification of family. He is expected to survive, police said.

"He got caught in the coupling and fell to the ground," Lt. Sullivan said.

The man's legs were severed when he fell under the wheels of the Union Pacific train, officials said. The accident happened around noon about 100 yards east of Forest Park Boulevard near Vickery Boulevard.

Last year, a rail yard worker in Cleburne lost his legs when he was run over by a train. Truman Duncan called 911 and told an operator he had been run over by a rail car. The accident occurred June 25 at the Gunderson Southwest rail yard in Johnson County.

Mr. Duncan and a co-worker were attempting to join several cars at the time of the accident, police said. He was apparently trying to cross the tracks when he was struck and trapped under one of the cars. - Debra Dennis, The Dallas Morning News


MAPLE PARK VILLAGE, IL -- With the costs involved in creating a railroad quiet zone the key factor, Maple Park Village President Ross Dueringer said the village will have to wait before silencing the whistles for good.

At a June 5 meeting, Dueringer said that residents must wait until Union Pacific Railroad makes the necessary upgrades.

“It doesn't happen overnight,” he said. “Maple Park does not have the funds to do this project.”

There are three crossings in Maple Park, and Dueringer said that there are approximately 90 trains a day, some of which travel 60 mph.

Jim Graziano, of the Crystal Lake-based engineering firm Baxter and Woodman, said Maple Park has a few obstacles before the village can achieve peace and quiet. These obstacles include updating the railroad crossings’ circuitry and the lack of full-crossing quadrants and raised medians that would be required by DeKalb County. Until these improvements are in place, the whistles will continue blowing.

Graziano explained that the upgrades would cost the village $150,000 per crossing, plus an annual fee for equipment maintenance. Raised medians for 100 feet on either side of the crossing, like those installed in Cortland, bring the crossing below the risk index required at the cost of $60,000.

“We could meet the risk index by installing the four quadrant gates and the median work, but we still have the hang-up of not having the right circuitry,” he said.

The circuitry runs $300,000 to $400,000, Graziano said.
“The Village Board decided to wait until the railroad comes in and fixes everything,” he added.

Union Pacific plans to re-do one of the two tracks in Maple Park that is dilapidated, Graziano said.

“Their overall scheme is to do the south track and also upgrade the circuitry at the same time,” he said.

Graziano said that railroads, especially Union Pacific, have traditionally not been in favor of quiet zones because the safeguards have not been proved reliable.

“If somebody gets hit, the railroad could be sued, but the Federal Railroad Association says it's okay, horns or no horns, as long as you follow (their) guidelines,” he said.

The bottom line, according to Graziano, is that the project simply costs too much. When Dueringer was asked why the village isn't doing more to reduce the noise, he responded that the village looked into it and decided against spending any more money until the railroad makes its replacements and upgrades.

“I live one block from the train tracks and have for 60 years,” Dueringer said. - Lynn Meredith, The Elburn Herald


CHEHALIS, WA -- An Amtrak passenger train struck and killed a 16-year-old boy on a BNSF Railway Company trestle about two miles south of Chehalis, Washington Friday afternoon.

Railroad spokesman Gus Melonas says the boy died immediately. The boy was not immediately identified.

The train was en route from Seattle to Portland, Oregon, and was delayed one hour by the accident. - The Associated Press, KNDO-TV, Yakima, WA


Photo here:


FRANKFORT, KY -- Modern trains - they're taller - will soon be running through Frankfort, Kentucky, according to the R.J. Corman Railroad Group, the company that owns the city's track system.

The tunnel between Broadway and East Main Street is being renovated to accommodate double-stacked container railroad cars, said Noel Rush, R.J. Corman vice president for strategic planning and development.

"We're raising the height of the tunnel," Rush said.

Rush said work has been underway for about a month, he anticipates the tunnel will be finished by Aug. 1.

"It depends on the progress we make in grinding," Rush said.

To make the ceiling of the tunnel higher, an excavator with a special grinder attached to the front is grinding rock from the ceiling of the tunnel. Rock and debris fall into a dump truck and are hauled away to keep the site clear, Rush said.

Rush said while crews of four to five members are working 12 to 15 hours daily, smaller trains are still running through the tunnel during the roof raising.

Photo here:


R.J. Corman crew member Clifford Couch said four feet of limestone rock is being cut away from the top and sides of the tunnel. He said the tunnel used to be more than 16 feet tall, but when the project is finished will be 20 feet 6 inches high.

He said not many people have asked about the project but he hasn't heard any complaints about the work, even though the machine is noisy.

Crew member Jerry Norton said in addition to raising the tunnel, new steel railroad ties will be installed along the section running near the tunnel and the track will be lowered.

Making way for new cars is the reason the tunnel is being excavated, Rush said.

"We have to have more rail cars that are taller on that track to get more modern rail cars through Frankfort so commerce can be more efficient," Rush said.

Rush said R.J. Corman's trains typically carry aluminum ingot, sand and CSX rail cars.

The tunnel is 518 feet long; currently two trains run through the tunnel each day, Rush said. He said the improvement to the tunnel doesn't mean there will be an increase in traffic.

"This will allow the transportation of more modern rail cars, not necessarily more cars a day," Rush said.

Rush said the original tunnel was probably constructed before the Civil War, in the 1860s, but has undergone changes over the decades. Rush said the last time Frankfort's tunnel underwent significant change was when R.J. Corman purchased the track system three years ago. He said it's pretty common for tunnels to be remodeled to accommodate modern train cars, which are larger.

R.J. Corman Group is based in Nicholasville and provides an array of railway services to more than a dozen states, according to the company's Web site. - Sarah Gividen, The Frankfort State Journal


Photo here:


IN THE LOETSCHBERG BASE TUNNEL, SWITZERLAND -- With a ceremony that went off like a classic Swiss timepiece, officials Friday inaugurated the world's longest overland tunnel, a 21-mile-long rail link under the Alps meant to ease highway traffic jams in the mountainous country.

The tunnel, which took eight years to build and cost $3.5 billion -- will trim the time trains need to cross between Germany and Italy from 3-1/2 hours to just under two.

The first train through the tunnel was a freight carrying Swiss Transport Minister Moritz Leuenberger, arriving in the town of Frutigen at the tunnel's north entrance. It burst through a banner declaring "Loetschberg -- Connecting Europe" to the cheers of more than 1,000 people and the popping of fireworks.

A priest and a minister blessed the tracks and several bands played. At one point, the festivities moved along so briskly that officials had to slow them down for the punctually arriving train.

After the inaugural journey, a second train carried journalists and other passengers southward -- a smooth and quiet ride on rubber-cushioned rails that are suitable for high-speed trains from Germany, France and Italy. Freight trains will be able to travel at speeds up to 100 mph and passenger trains at up to 150 mph.

Midway through the tunnel, the train stopped so that officials could show off the emergency and maintenance area, and they served white wine, Swiss cheese and dried beef called buendnerfleisch. Cell phone reception was strong throughout the ride, even at points where the tunnel was 6,500 feet below the mountain surface.

When it arrived on the other side, travelers were greeted by the Valaisian Alps -- some still snowcapped -- and hundreds of children in the city of Visp waving Swiss flags and cheering "Bravo."

Loetschberg is the longest land tunnel, surpassing Japan's 16.4 mile Hakkoda Tunnel. But it is shorter than the 33-1/2-mile undersea Seikan Tunnel, also in Japan, and the 31-mile Channel Tunnel connecting France and England.

The Loetschberg was dug parallel to an even more ambitious project -- the 36-mile Gotthard Tunnel, which will be the world's longest when it is completed in 2017.

The Loetschberg tunnel will get skiers to Swiss resorts more quickly. The trip from Bern, at the northern end of the tunnel, to Visp, near ski regions like Switzerland's Zermatt and Italy's Courmayeur on the southern side of the Alps, will be cut in half - from 110 minutes to 55 minutes.

By running at low elevation, the tunnel will be able to accommodate trains and cargo loads that cannot negotiate the long climb and switchbacks to existing tunnels higher up the mountain.

As villagers in Frutigen watched the inaugural ceremony, the steady stream of freight and passenger trains on the old track on the hill above the tunnel underscored the importance the connection will serve to traffic between Italy and Germany.

For Swiss taxpayers -- who are paying for the twin, multibillion-dollar construction projects -- the main selling-point is that it will move heavy trucks off their crowded highways and onto trains.

Switzerland is at the center of a north-south European axis where traffic has increased more than tenfold since 1980. The Swiss have tired of traffic jams caused by big rigs and vacationers filling their narrow valleys.

Passenger trains will start traveling through the tunnel on Dec. 9. From then on, 72 freight trains and 43 passenger trains will pass through the tunnel every day.

Due to cost constraints, only the eastern tube of the Loetschberg has so far been completed. It remains open whether the parallel western tube will be finished as well, but until that might happen, trains will alternate traveling in opposite directions on the finished side. - Bradley S. Klapper, The Associated Press, The Billings Gazette



OGDEN, UT -- The first $80 million in federal funds for the FrontRunner commuter rail project has been freed up by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The Utah Transit Authority expects to receive that money in the next few weeks.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is expected to provide a total of $488.8 million for the project. The total expense is estimated at $611 million.

The project is about 70 percent complete and expected to be finished next spring. It will provide commuter rail service from Pleasant View to Salt Lake City with seven stops along the line.

Fares for the train will be $2.50 from one station to the next and 50 cents for each additional station. - The Associated Press, The Salt Lake Tribune


Map here:


ST. PAUL, MN -- Is light rail on University Avenue - also known as the Central Corridor project -- on the ropes? Is it gasping for life?

"It absolutely is not in jeopardy," asserts, state Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, who chairs the House committee that oversees bonding requests. She's an ardent supporter of the Central Corridor project.

The proposed rail transit link enjoys broad support among a range of Twin Cities lawmakers and county commissioners.

Hausman says she's confident the line will be built is because there's wide agreement it's the next step in an overall regional transit system.

"It is the only way that east Metro and west Metro connect," she says.

The Metropolitan Council is the agency doing what's called the preliminary engineering for the light rail line.

Met Council chairman Peter Bell echoes Hausman's confidence the line will be built.

However there is a problem.

Supporters want lawmakers to approve borrowing authority for medium to large size bites of the project. Because there's competition for money at the Capitol, the bites are easier to win approval for than one big gulp.

The supporters wanted lawmakers and the governor to approve $40 million borrowing this past session and then OK another $100 million next session to keep the $900 million project on schedule.

The governor's veto of the bonding package has Hausman urging him to call a special session to reconsider the measure, among other issues.

Otherwise, the light rail borrowing request for next session would total $140 million.

Hausman doesn't relish asking for that much money all at once when there'll be a blizzard of requests from higher education, environment, road and bridge supporters and a host of interests asking for money.

So far, Gov. Tim Pawlenty has been cool to the idea of a special session, but has left open the possibility if lawmakers can negotiate deals first. He has not signaled, however, that light rail would be a priority of his.

In the meantime, Hennepin and Ramsey County officials advanced their planned spending on the project to help keep the cash flowing.

The Met Council's Peter Bell says his agency is looking at short term financing ideas including borrowing against money the Met Council gets from the motor vehicle sales tax, or MVST, in case lawmakers and the governor can't agree on a special session for a bonding bill.

"Maybe we can bond against some of our MVST receipts and handle some of the capital costs that way," Bell says. "We're looking at a number of different creative ways in which we can find the capital for the Central Corridor.

Bell says the goal is to keep the University Avenue light rail project on schedule.

Why? Two reasons.

First, a delay is expensive. Concrete, steel and other construction material costs are rising at three to five times the rate of inflation.

Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, another light rail supporter, says a one-year delay for the Central Corridor project would add about $35 million to the cost.

The other reason is more worrisome.

The Federal Transit Administration, the agency which ultimately will be asked to finance half of the total cost, might get cold feet.

The Met Council's Peter Bell doesn't think that will happen. He says for the moment the FTA is satisfied with Central Corridor's progress.

Hennepin County's Peter McLaughlin says he's relatively confident the Central Corridor light rail project will ultimately win FTA approval because the projected 40,000 riders a day it would carry would make it the busiest light rail line in the country.

However, McLaughlin warns, the FTA's patience is not infinite nor its pocketbook bottomless.

"There are so many projects around the country clamoring for federal money if we just stumble ever so slightly somebody else is going to get ahead of us and that is not a good thing," McGlaughlin says.

Construction on the Central Corridor light rail project would begin in 2010 under the current plan, with trains running by 2014. - Dan Olson, Minnesota Public Radio


NEW YORK CITY, NY -- Come 2010, the Long Island Rail Road will be safe for trousers again.

The railroad has projected that by the middle of that year it will have finally replaced all 36,366 armrests on its M7 railcars. The armrests are notorious among riders for snagging pieces of clothing and tearing them.

A plan to replace the armrests on both the Long Island Rail Road and the Metro-North Railroad (which has 14,616 of them on its M7 fleet) will be submitted this month to the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

That news should come as a relief to many riders, although some tailors near Pennsylvania Station and Grand Central Terminal may worry about a loss of business from the many commuters who have needed a quick mending before continuing to work since the M7 cars were introduced in 2002.

Because Metro-North has fewer of the M7 rail cars (366 compared with the Long Island’s 836), it expects to provide relief to its ridership a little earlier, by the first quarter of 2009, according to a summary of the plan provided to some board members this week.

The railroads will ask the board to approve a $3.59 million contract to buy the replacement armrests from Multina, the company that manufactured the seats on the M7 cars. Excluding labor costs, that works out to about $70.50 an armrest.

The railroads would use their own workers to remove the old armrests and install the new ones, but the board documents do not include an estimate for labor costs. A Metro-North spokesman said the railroad estimated the labor cost for its portion of the work at $200,000. An estimate from the Long Island was not available.

What the railroads are really buying is goodwill from riders. Together, the railroads have paid out more than $100,000 in claims to hundreds of riders whose clothing has been torn on the armrests. Interviews with riders suggest that hundreds or thousands more have damaged their clothes but never submitted a claim.

The old armrests are made of a rubbery material that seems to latch onto clothes and not let go.
They are also long and tapered and are attached at an angle that allows them to slide unobserved into pants pockets as a rider sits down.

The new armrests are shorter, with a smoother finish, which, according to the board summary, “does not ‘grab’ clothing.”

The railroads said that it would take about 10 months to receive the replacement armrests from the manufacturer and that they would then begin installing them at a rate of 10 cars a week on each railroad. - William Neuman, The New York Times

LAGNIAPPE (Something extra, not always railroad related, for Saturdays only)


CHEBOYGAN, MI -- The other day I overheard a conversation about how time flies by. They said, “Here's June already and I haven't got a thing done.” There's an old saying that “Time and tide waits for no man.” How true!

At one time in the world of the Indian, time didn't mean much to them as long as the garden was planted. Then they waited for the berries to ripen. They knew by what the Mother Earth provided which time of year it was.

They didn't have the Gregorian calendar to go by, but went by when the animal brothers came out and the trees started to bud and the different times of the year when flowers came out. All seasons were recognized by these and many other things that occurred on Mother Earth, which provided them information on when to expect the changes of the weather.

For instance, let's start with Shki-bboon-gissoons (January), Little New Winter Moon. During this time there is a period when the weather gets warm, sometimes above freezing. This is the time that most animals that belong to the rodent family come out and look for a mate. That's why you see some skunks out in January. Squirrels are also out, and possibly the raccoons. I know, because grandfather told me those animals are out then, so he said the rest of them are probably out, too.

Mko-giizis (February,) Bear Moon, means Mukwa (Brother Bear) is sleeping in their dens. The females are probably getting ready to give birth to mukoons (bear cub). When she awakens she finds a little cub. When they are born they weigh about three ounces.

Every month something happens that is special to the Indian people, so they hold those animal brothers in esteem because they bring something that concerns all people.

June is here, and some people say the year is about half over. Indian people know June as Gtige-giizis, or Planting Moon, also known as Dehmin-giizis, or Strawberry Moon, because it has a shape similar to the heart. It is the time that the wild strawberries are starting to ripen.

I can remember in the summertime, right after school let out, mother would give us kids small pails with a sandwich packed in it.

“There, go get some strawberries, so we can have strawberry shortcake,” she said.

So off we would go down the railroad track. We also had regular places to go from previous years.

She also said, “Don't come back until those pails are full.”

Do you know how many of those little berries it took to fill a pail? It seemed to take forever, but we would stay until the pails were full. The best part of that was that we ate our fill before we really started saving them. Someone was always reminding us what mother said.

But picking the berries was well worth the effort. It seemed that the berries were extra tasty with the homemade biscuits that mother made. I later realized that it was a mother's love that made the strawberry shortcake special.

Every year about this time reminds me of how my sisters and I had to go pick berries. But now it is a different feeling that I get when I think about it. - Simon Otto, The Cheboygan Tribune


Photo here:


Caption reads: Cheyenne photographer Joseph Stimson reclines in his Ford with meerschaum pipe in hand in this image that was taken around 1910. (Courtesy the Wyoming State Archives)

CHEYENNE, WY -- A woman stands in a wheat field, her shy and proud smile half-hidden behind her baby's curly head.

In this iconic black-and-white photograph, the implied man of the house -- both pioneer and farmer -- is nowhere to be seen.

But we see everything he has.

The emotion it invokes is familiar, along with the spreading radiant heat of a dream.

Yes, you can have this ... if you dare cross the plains in a covered wagon ... if you build a shanty and break the land and haul water with your back and bare hands ... if you follow the laws of God.

This photograph is among thousands at the Wyoming State Archives by one of Wyoming's most important photographers.

When Joseph Elam "J.E." Stimson died in 1952 at the age of 82, his family offered to sell the collection to the State Archives for a mere $2,000.

But they are priceless.

"His work is so eclectic," said Cheyenne author Larry K. Brown. "It covers almost every aspect of life in Wyoming, from the mundane to the lavish, obscure to prominent."

The photos show humankind's accomplishments in a wild land in an idealized but artful way, says Mark Junge.

He published a collection of the work in 1985 and wrote a narrative called "J.E. Stimson: Photographer of the West."

We see railroads, busy downtowns, covered wagons in the middle of brisk plains, horseless carriages, American Indians standing in full regalia, mountain peaks, Old Faithful.

They all say, "Look what we did."

Stimson's life

Stimson was 16 years old when his physician father died.

There was no talk in those days of the "delayed adulthood" of youth. The boy had to hustle.

He soon packed off to Wisconsin to study portrait photography with his cousin.

In 1889 the 19-year-old was ready to seek his fortune, and he picked Cheyenne. Here, he spent $500 to buy a studio from pioneer Cheyenne photographer Charles D. Kirkland.

A few years of running a portrait studio seemed to go swimmingly well. In 1891, he took a portrait of 16-year-old Anna Peterson. Three years later, she became his wife.

The year he was wed brought a visit that projected his career from being planted within the studio's four walls to becoming a traveling photographer who crisscrossed Wyoming and the West.

As Stimson told the Wyoming State Journal in July 1936, the state's first engineer, Elwood Mead, came to his studio with a packet of glass plates to develop.

What Stimson saw impressed him.

"He had been up in the Big Horns on an irrigation study. I asked him if there was much scenery in Wyoming like that.

"'Like that,' he said. 'Why, man, that's just a sample of Wyoming's magnificent scenery.'"

Mead took Stimson on his next trip out, probably by horse and buggy. Stimson's batch of photographs did not turn out, but that didn't seem to discourage him.

"My life was changed from that trip," he told the unnamed reporter. "It was Wyoming for me from then on, and I have been making thousands of scenic pictures through the years."

He drove to the Tetons and other places remote from Cheyenne for photo and fishing trips for the rest of the decade. From his studio he sold prints and postcards of his beloved scenics.

Stimson got a lucky break in 1900 when his photos wound up in the hands of the Union Pacific Railroad, whose new leader was trying to reconstruct a good reputation from its scandal-plagued and bankrupt remnants.

One tool was public relations, and the railroad turned to Stimson's images.

Here's what the mighty train can do, and here's where it will bring you.

His job for the next decade was to travel anywhere he liked on the railway and snap away.

"Nothing in Union Pacific County was unworthy of public notice," Junge wrote in his book.

Stimson snapped trains and tracks and places they went to across 10 states: towns, cities, wilderness.

He shot Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in Omaha.

He visited fields of corn and wheat.

One image of a mustached man leading two pack mules is simply labeled "Gold Seekers."

He got power plants, oil rigs, mines, tie drives, soda works, sugar beet factories, breweries.

He shot photos of women dressed in white having a garden party at a fine new house; strings of electric lights spanning the streets of Deadwood, South Dakota; citizens boarding a street car in Venice, California; bathers at Salt Lake Beach in Utah.

He took an eight-month break for another gig. He was to bring the best of Wyoming to the World's Fair in St. Louis in 1904.

The state also tapped the photographer to help it lure new settlers.

Look at how Wyoming is prospering.

Selling a dream

Look at the simple image of a set of railroad tracks curving though a clearing between two large rocks.

Today, we see that pretty often as we drive along any Western interstate.

At the time, Stimson's image was meant to show off a railroad's power to tame with dynamite.

See the man wearing the straw hat and dapper vest and white shirt sitting inside the Hecla Mine in 1902, about 20 miles west of Cheyenne. The giant pulleys and electric lights convey the promise of wealth.

But as Junge notes in his 1985 book, Hecla was typical of other mines in its day: "They left almost as quickly as they came, finding little to sustain their hopes."

While Stimson's black-and-white images tell a story about a Wyoming that no longer exists, in some ways they tell a story about Wyoming that never existed, Junge said.

They show only the best part of the story behind the towns and the mines and the workers.

"They idealize a conception of Wyoming, and they were meant to sell an idea," Junge said.

This isn't documentary photography like you would see in a newspaper or magazine. These aren't freeze frames of people and things as they are in that natural moment in time, warts and all.

"Even though his purpose was to sell, it was done in a beautifully classic way, with an artful, meaningful, intelligent view," Junge said. "It makes this not just a sleazy ad - it was art."

Despite this, Brown uses the images while he is doing research for his books, many of which center on criminal history in the Cowboy State. The most recent is "Bad in the Good Old Days."

The images are of such high quality, he can see everything in crystal-clear focus.

"When you look at a Stimson picture, you can literally walk into the store and see what's on the shelves, how people have sleeve holders on their shirts," Brown said. "That's the only way you can bring accurate color to the story. For that, Stimson is just super."

Added Junge, "He was one of the best. And I think he always will be the best." - Jodi Rogstad, The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle


Subject Written By Date/Time (PST)
  Railroad Newsline for Saturday, 06/16/07 Larry W. Grant 06-16-2007 - 00:02

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