Railroad Newsline for Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Compiled by Larry W. Grant
In Memory of Rob Carlson, 1952 – 2006
FIRE AT CONCORD NWS BURNS RAIL TRESTLE
Photo gallery here:
CONCORD, CA --
Fire crews said they contained a grass fire Tuesday at the Concord Naval Weapons Station.
County firefighters had received a report of smoke in the area at 10:20 hours, but weren't called in to help until 10:58 after gusty winds fueled the fast-moving blaze.
The fire continued to spread and at 12:02 hours a second alarm was called. Firefighters from the East Bay Regional Parks District and Cal Fire were brought in to help.
CDF said it is used two helicopters, two tankers and a couple bulldozers.
The fire was moving in an easterly direction and at one point it reached the property of a chemical plant, according to a fire official.
It was declared under control at 13:25 hours.
No injuries were reported and no structures were threatened.
According to Port Chicago Naval Magazine, the Naval Weapons Station is a 12,800-acre site located in the north-central portion of Contra Costa County.
The facility served as a major ammunition transshipment port of the west coast for the Department of Navy. - NBC11, San Jose/San Francisco/Oakland, CA
DM&E SHIEFFER FOCUSED ON $6 BILLION EXPANSION
SIOUX FALLS, SD --
The head of the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern Railroad said Thursday he's focused on moving forward with a $6 billion expansion derailed by a denied federal loan.
Kevin Schieffer, chief executive officer of the DM&E and parent company Cedar American Rail Holdings, responded to a published report that the company is listening to offers for all or part of the company.
Obtaining private financing for the project "is driving everything," he said.
"Whether in the process we end up partnering with somebody else or whether we end up buying somebody or selling somebody or selling something or buying something, there's a lot of things that can happen," Schieffer said. "We've got a lot of options that we're exploring."
Trains magazine, in an article posted on its Web site this week, reported that investment bankers representing Cedar American Rail Holdings approached potential suitors and invited 10 to hear presentations by Schieffer during the past two weeks.
Canadian National Railway Co., Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. and an unnamed shoreline company are among the 10 finalists, according to the article.
Schieffer said anyone on the outside of the process who thinks they have an inside scoop is wrong.
"I read the Trains article and there's an awful lot of speculation in it, and I guess I'll leave it at that," Schieffer said. "We're just not at the stage where we're ready to make any announcements."
Schieffer said he communicates regularly with employees and told them the process would take a while.
The DM&E project, first pitched about 10 years ago, would rebuild 600 miles of track across South Dakota and Minnesota and add 260 miles of new track around the southern end of the Black Hills to reach Wyoming's Powder River Basin. It would haul low-sulfur coal eastward to power plants.
DM&E, a regional carrier with an east-west line across Minnesota and South Dakota, had sought a $2.3 billion federal loan to help finance the project, but the Federal Railroad Administration rejected the application in February.
The DM&E once hoped to be hauling coal by 2007, but getting environmental and regulatory approvals had proven tougher than it expected.
The project also faced opposition from the city of Rochester, Minnsota, and its Mayo Clinic, which argued that the additional high-speed trains could threaten the safety of patients at the clinic located a few hundred yards from the track.
Asked about any changes in the scope or model of the project since the denial of the FRA loan, Schieffer said he didn't want to get into characterizing that one way or another.
"I would just say our focus is getting this project built," Schieffer said. "We think it's very important for the entire country and for the state of South Dakota and for our company." - The Associated Press, Argi News
DM&E STILL FACES MANY COMMUNITY ISSUES
Your June 14th article on DM&E financing is only part of the equation.
Being the object of a fire sale doesn't bode well for DM&E's debt-ridden management or the viability of its coal plan. Additional obstacles still remain:
• No mitigation agreements exist with Rochester, Brookings, Mankato and Blue Earth County -- communities along the proposed route where a majority of people reside.
• Widespread opposition to permitting 30 plus high-speed trains-per-day to haul coal and hazardous materials within yards of Mayo Clinic, putting at risk thousands of patients and staff.
• DM&E doesn't have eminent domain authority in Wyoming. Landowners intervened in South Dakota's eminent domain proceeding and the court ruling is still pending.
• The Corps of Engineers hasn't granted a permit for DM&E's project.
• The Surface Transportation Board prohibits DM&E from hauling Powder River Basin coal over its IC&E lines and has ordered a full Environmental Impact Statement.
• Citizens in Pierre and Brookings have requested a bypass around their communities. No agreement exists with Union Pacific for use of its corridor through Mankato, meaning a 13-mile bypass needs to be built through the rugged valleys of the Blue Earth and Le Seuer.
DM&E's potential sale doesn't change the need to protect local communities, nor resolves many outstanding issues to be addressed before the project could ever move forward. - Letter to the Editor, Kenneth Brown, Rochester, MN, The Rochester Post-Bulletin
GRIZZLY BEAR STRUCK AND KILLED BY TRAIN
A female grizzly bear was struck and killed on the Canadian Pacific Railway line in Banff National Park on Monday morning.
According to Parks Canada officials, the bear was struck just before 09:00 hours by a westbound train about a kilometre from the east end of the Bow Valley Parkway.
Two yearling cubs were with their mother when she was killed. One was reported to be injured, but neither has been found by wardens.
“The bad news of dead bears continues -- just a few weeks after the good news of CP Railway’s announced intent to repair defective grain cars,” said Jim Pissot of Defenders of Wildlife Canada.
Defenders of Wildlife Canada renewed its request to the Canadian Pacific Railway for additional measures to conserve wildlife in Banff National Park. These include characterizing collision sites to better understand what contributes to collisions and documenting encounters between trains and wildlife to determine what will alert animals and frighten them from tracks.
“It is time for Parks Canada and the Canadian Pacific Railway to take real steps to reducing wildlife collisions,” said Pissot, “instead of just bragging about how they are cooperating with each other. Another family of grizzly bears has paid the price for years of talk without meaningful action.”
The loss of the sow and two cubs on Monday brings the total to twelve grizzlies killed by Canadian Pacific Railway trains in Banff National Park since 2000. According to Parks Canada, three black bears have been killed by CP trains in Banff and Yoho national parks this year. CP Railway reported striking a additional black bear and her two cubs near the eastern border of Banff National Park, but nothing was found. - The Banff Craig & Canyon
HEARTLAND FLYER PASSENGERS SWITCHED TO BUS
[/b]NORMAN, OK -- Amtrak will bus Heartland Flyer passengers between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth Tuesday due to heavy rains in Texas causing flooding of the BNSF Railway Company tracks in the Gainesville area.
Amtrak crews have determined extensive track repairs are necessary north of Gainesville and are uncertain of other portions currently under water.
Due to the rapidly changing conditions of flood water, it is still uncertain as to when the Heartland Flyer will resume its normal route. Notification will be made when regular train travel resumes. - The Norman Transcript
[b]RC2’S TRAIN WRECK
Caption reads: (Les Klove for the New York Times)
In the toy business, RC2 was the little company that could.
Though much smaller and less prominent than Mattel and Hasbro, RC2 has grown steadily and its stock price has soared over the last five years, thanks largely to a strategy of sewing up licensing deals with big-name brands like Sesame Street, Winnie the Pooh, Disney, Nickelodeon, and Thomas & Friends. Its revenues have risen from $213 million in 2002 to $519 million last year.
Until now the 18-year-old company, which is based in Oak Brook, Illinois, has gone largely unknown by the general public. But many people -- parents in particular -- took note of it last week, when RC2 issued a recall of 1.5 million Thomas the Tank Engine wooden trains and other railroad components that were contaminated with paint containing lead. The toys, sold in retail stores like Wal-Mart and Toys “R” Us, were made in the same factory in Dongguan, China as many of the company’s other popular products.
How the recall will affect the company long term is unclear, but the disclosure has unnerved some parents, who say that they will avoid buying Thomas and Friends products.
“It’s killing me that you’re telling me this,” said Ramya Narayanan, 39, who was visiting the Toys “R” Us in Times Square over the weekend with her son Harish, 3, who will start preschool this fall.
“It’s kind of scary because all his stuff is Thomas stuff,” Ms. Narayanan said.
On Friday, when Carrie Shultz gathered at a regular morning play group in Chicago with her two sons, Eli, 5, and Zach, 13 months, the motherly buzz was all about the recent recall of Thomas toys.
“After this, I’m definitely going to be more cognizant of where my children’s toys are manufactured,” said Mrs. Shultz, 33. “With my youngest son, everything goes in his mouth. I can’t take any chances.”
RC2 is clearly not used to the spotlight. Crisis management experts generally advise companies to be as open as possible early in a crisis to show customers that they are aggressively addressing a problem, but RC2 has been quiet since it first disclosed the recall last week and listed the products involved on a Web site, www.recalls.rc2.com. Company executives did not return repeated phone calls left at their homes and offices. A manager at the RC2 factory in Dongguan detained a New York Times reporter for more than nine hours after he had been admitted to the premises by security guards to ask questions about the operation.
But the stock price of RC2, which went public in 1997, has not suffered since the recall announcement, which said that there had been no reported illnesses or injuries from the products. The company’s share price closed at $42.91 on Monday, which is less than $1 a share below its level before the recall and is two and a half times its trading price five years ago.
Indeed, RC2’s stock, listed on Nasdaq , has steadily climbed since 2003, when the company acquired the Learning Curve, then the maker of many of RC2’s preschool toys -- including Thomas and Friends trains. Last year, more than two-thirds of RC2’s sales came from products for young children.
And business partners seem to be standing by the company. “We’re not reconsidering our license agreement,” said a spokesman for Nickelodeon. “None of our products were affected, and they’re a good partner to us.”
RC2 has emerged in the past few years as a popular link in the toy manufacturing chain, connecting media outlets like Disney, Nickelodeon and Discovery Communications with inexpensive labor in China. RC2’s toys indicate their country of origin, as is required by regulators.
Outsourcing toy making is by no means unusual, and the largest toy makers have operated factories in Asia for decades. But RC2, with a market capitalization of about $900 million, is relatively new to the preschool toy market. Over the last few years, it has turned the focus of its business away from trading cards and model cars as older children began spending more time playing video games.
And last week was not the first time that RC2 issued a lead paint recall. In 2003, the company recalled some Lamaze toys because of lead paint on the wires along which toddlers were meant to slide beads.
“People recognized the company is doing the right thing by issuing the recall,” said Timothy Conder, an analyst at A. G. Edwards who covers RC2, in a telephone interview yesterday. “This was caught by the company and they proactively went” to the Consumer Product Safety Commission to issue a recall.
Past recalls, however, received meager attention, perhaps because they were less well-known brands. Analysts that cover the company said RC2 executives were probably hoping to remain under the radar this time, too.
“These recalls happen fairly often,” said Gerrick Johnson, an equity analyst with BMO Capital Market US. “It’s when the recall becomes botched and children are hurt when it takes on a life of its own.”
This recall, he said, “should not have any long-term damage.”
Analysts have issued positive reports about the company for the last several years because of its skill in marketing toys and landing big-name license agreements. Analysts said the Thomas and Friends recall is unlikely to dim RC2’s prospects.
“I think the company does a great job,” said Sean McGowan, managing director and toy industry analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities, a brokerage firm in Los Angeles. “Yes, this should have been caught earlier. But it wasn’t caught by some kid getting sick. They caught it.”
Mr. McGowan said he had spoken with Curt Stoelting, RC2’s chief executive, after the news came out, and that Mr. Stoelting told him the problem was found during a routine quality check.
RC2 works with third-party suppliers in China and Hong Kong to manufacture its products. Last year, 91.8 percent of RC2’s products came from China, the company said in February when it filed its annual report for last year.
“All products are manufactured to our specifications using molds and tooling that we own,” the company said in the filing. “These suppliers own the manufacturing equipment and machinery, purchase raw materials, hire workers and plan production. We purchase fully assembled and packaged finished goods in master cartons for distribution to our customers.”
Yesterday in Dongguan, a factory town that is now the center of the world’s toy production, a group of Chinese suppliers, working under the American RC2 banner, produced miniature-sized John Deere trucks, Nascar racing models and even M&M-branded toy cars.
A manager there denied that suppliers were responsible for coating the popular Thomas and Friends wooden railway sets with lead-based paint.
Just a few hundred yards away from RC2’s main office here, a group of about 30 young workers were seen boxing, folding and packaging the Thomas and Friends products on an assembly line. In interviews over the last two days, several workers said that metal and wooden train sets were often made here, and that the paint for some of those toys appeared to be produced on the factory grounds.
The recall issued last week covered products made from January 2005 to June 2007, suggesting that for two years RC2 failed to noticed that some of its best-selling toys were being produced with lead-based paint.
Yesterday, the factory’s zone’s manager was angered after his security guards allowed several journalists to visit the factory and take photographs. He identified himself only as Mr. Zhong.
“You’re intruding,” Mr. Zhong said in a discussion in his office. “Tell me, why exactly are you here?” Mr. Zhong and the zone’s security staff detained a journalist from this newspaper, photographer and translator for over nine hours. The three were eventually released by police and local government officials early this morning.
RC2, formerly called Racing Champions, built itself as a company that made collectible items and miniature car models, including Nascar-branded cars. The company started migrating toward children’s toys in part because of the lagging popularity of Nascar, Mr. McGowan said. RC2 presented itself to media companies that owned famous characters as a company that would pay more attention to their products than giants like Hasbro and Mattel.
“A $35 million product doesn’t get anyone’s attention at Hasbro,” Mr. McGowan said. But, he added, “$35 million gets everyone’s attention at RC2.”
Some observers said that RC2 may have won some of its prominent brands by offering a bigger cut of profit to media companies. One RC2 notable win from Hasbro in 2005 was Bob the Builder, a brand like Thomas and Friends that is owned by HIT Entertainment, the property of the private equity firm Apax Partners. A spokeswoman for HIT declined to comment yesterday on whether HIT would continue to work with RC2.
RC2 has often stated to analysts that it does not want to own its factories and would rather contract with third-parties. RC2 says in its financial filings that it outsources to seven companies that produce nearly half of its products in China. RC2 notes that it has worked with those companies for several years.
Some people this week have said that companies involved in recent recalls appear to have leaned too heavily on outsourcing.
“Many companies have gone to China lured there by low-cost labor and in many ways, what happens there is they end up not only outsourcing production but outsourcing a lot of the design of their products,” said M. Eric Johnson, a professor of management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. - David Barboza and Louise Story, The New York Times
HISTORIC STEAM LOCOMOTIVE TO TOUR MIDWEST
NORTH PLATTE, NE --
Union Pacific Railroad's historic steam locomotive, No. 844, will travel more than 3,000 miles from its base in Wyoming on a 16-day, six-state tour in the Midwest, to celebrate the railroad's history and heritage.
The train will also celebrate the Spirit of the historic North Platte Canteen. It will pick up tons of goods for troops when it stops in North Platte Friday. The items are being donated by civic groups, churches, individuals and businesses.
The "Corn Belt Rocket Tour" will begin on June 22 when No. 844 leaves Cheyenne, and travels to North Platte before circling back through Nebraska and returning to Cheyenne on July 7. The locomotive will make overnight stops and be on display in:
North Platte, Grand Island, Fremont and Fairbury
Carlisle and Boone
Trenton, Liberty and Kansas City
"This will be the first time No. 844 has stopped in the Midwest cities of Carlisle, Iowa, Trenton and Liberty, Missouri, and Fairbury, Nebraska. We look forward to bringing a piece of living history to this part of our rail network," said Steve Lee, Union Pacific's manager of operating practices and locomotive engineer. "We are extremely proud of our collection of historical railroad equipment, which is the largest of any U. S. railroad."
No. 844, also known as Union Pacific's "Living Legend," returned to service in 2005 after one of the most extensive steam locomotive overhauls in the United States since the 1950s. The work began in 2000 and affected its running gear, pumps, piping, valves and springs, along with replacement of its firebox and extensive boiler work. The cab interior also was refurbished. No. 844 was the last steam locomotive built for Union Pacific Railroad and was delivered in 1944. A high-speed passenger engine, it pulled such widely known trains as the Overland Limited, Los Angeles Limited, Portland Rose and Challenger.
When diesel-electric locomotives took over all passenger train duties, No. 844 was placed in freight service in Nebraska between 1957 and 1959. It was saved from being scrapped in 1960 and held for special service.
No. 844 has run hundreds of thousands of miles for UP's Heritage program. It has made appearances at Expo '74 in Spokane, the 1981 opening of the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, the 1984 World's Fair in New Orleans and the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Los Angeles Union Station in 1989.
A Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) transmitter was installed on one of the rail cars that will travel with No. 844. The GPS system has been integrated with a map on UP's Web site [www.up.com
] . Enter the word "Steam" in the search box on the homepage for a shortcut to the map. Web site visitors will be able to access route maps with varying amounts of detail. The GPS system will update the map every five minutes showing No. 844's location.
About Union Pacific
Union Pacific Corporation owns one of America's leading transportation companies. Its principal operating company, Union Pacific Railroad, links 23 states in the western two-thirds of the country and serves the fastest-growing U.S. population centers. Union Pacific's diversified business mix includes Agricultural Products, Automotive, Chemicals, Energy, Industrial Products and Intermodal. The railroad offers competitive long-haul routes from all major West Coast and Gulf Coast ports to eastern gateways. Union Pacific connects with Canada's rail systems and is the only railroad serving all six major gateways to Mexico, making it North America's premier rail franchise.
Steam Locomotive No. 844
Steam Locomotive No. 844 is the last steam locomotive built for Union Pacific Railroad. It was delivered in 1944. A high-speed passenger engine, it pulled such widely known trains as the Overland Limited, Los Angeles Limited, Portland Rose and Challenger.
Many people know the engine as the No. 8444, since an extra '4' was added to its number in 1962 to distinguish it from a diesel numbered in the 800 series. The steam engine regained its rightful number in June 1989, after the diesel was retired.
When diesels took over all of the passenger train duties, No. 844 was placed in freight service in Nebraska between 1957 and 1959. It was saved from being scrapped in 1960 and held for special service.
The engine has run hundreds of thousands of miles as Union Pacific's ambassador of goodwill. It has made appearances at Expo '74 in Spokane, the 1981 opening of the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, the 1984 World's Fair in New Orleans and the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Los Angeles Union Station in 1989.
Hailed as Union Pacific's "Living Legend," the engine is widely known among railroad enthusiasts for its excursion runs, especially over Union Pacific's fabled crossing of Sherman Hill between Cheyenne and Laramie, Wyoming. - The North Platte Bulletin
WABTEC UNIT RECEIVES LOCOMOTIVE ORDERS
WILMERDING, PA --
Railroad equipment supplier Wabtec Corp. said Tuesday its MotivePower unit received orders worth $33 million for 12 commuter locomotives from California, Minnesota and New Mexico transit agencies.
The locomotives will be made in Boise, Idaho, and are targeted for delivery in 2008 and 2009.
The Southern California Regional Rail Authority, the Metropolitan Council of Minnesota and the Mid-Region Council of Governments in New Mexico exercised options to buy an additional four locomotives each. - The Associated Press, The Houston Chronicle
NORFOLK SOUTHERN ON RIGHT TRACK
Norfolk Southern Corp. is chugging along with steady stock value gains and plans for a $2 billion upgrade to its railroad tracks that run through the outskirts of Washington.
The Norfolk-based company operates the nation's fourth-largest freight railroad, with more than 21,000 miles of track in 22 states, the District and Ontario, Canada.
Its stock value rose in April after billionaire investor Warren Buffett reported in Securities and Exchange Commission filings that his company, Berkshire Hathaway Inc., bought stakes in Norfolk Southern and two other major railroads. The reports brought in a wave of new investors to shares of the railroads.
The investment also offset a disappointing first quarter of 2007 for Norfolk Southern.
Declines in the housing and domestic automotive industry have resulted in fewer shipments for Norfolk Southern and other railroads.
Norfolk Southern's first quarter profit fell 6.6 percent. It reported net income of $285 million, or 71 cents per diluted share in the first three months of 2007, down from $305 million, or 72 cents per diluted share, one year earlier. Revenue fell 2 percent to $2.25 billion from $2.3 billion in the first quarter of 2006.
"We are encouraged with our performance in the first quarter, especially in light of the softness in the economy," said Wick Moorman, Norfolk Southern's chief executive officer.
Stock analysts say despite any weakening in the railroad industry, the long-term outlook for Norfolk Southern looks good.
"Soft transport demand and increased competition from [the trucking industry] are near term pressures that are likely to continue," said Thomas R. Wadewitz, a research analyst for the financial firm JP Morgan Securities.
However, long-term prospects for the company are much better, particularly for its intermodal transport, he said. Intermodal normally refers to hauling containers that can be switched quickly among rail cars, trucks and ships.
Rick Paterson, an analyst for financial firm UBS, said Norfolk Southern is benefitting from its investments to expand track and other infrastructure to handle more freight while making its operations more efficient by computerizing its rail network.
"While it's benefitting from the same strong pricing trends as the rest of the [railroad industry] sector, what sets it apart is its superior operations," Mr. Paterson said.
Among its infrastructure investments are the Crescent Corridor, a project announced this month to upgrade its rail lines that run from Louisiana through New Jersey. In the Washington area, the tracks would run through Front Royal and Winchester in Virginia and Hagerstown, MD.
The rail line would roughly parallel Interstate 81 in an attempt to compete more directly with truck traffic. Norfolk Southern officials said the Crescent Corridor would eliminate the need for about one million truck trips per year.
"It's certainly designed to add more volumes on the intermodal side," said Rudy Husband, Norfolk Southern spokesman. Work on the project is scheduled to begin next year and be completed by 2013.
Edward M. Wolfe, analyst for financial firm Bear Stearns, said "volumes could remain negative for the full year" for Norfolk Southern but that its stock offered "arguably the lowest valuation and the best returns and cash flow" among major railroads. - Tom Ramstack, The Washington Times
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE TO RECOGNIZE RAILROADS FOR ENVIRONMENTAL EFFORTS
LONG BEACH, CA --
Tickets are on sale for the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce's 116th Annual Inaugural Gala, "The Movement Towards a Green Environment."
The event is Thursday at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach. A reception begins at 17:45 hours and the dinner and program follow at 18:45 hours. A crowd of more than 700 is expected.
The black-tie-optional evening honors outgoing board chairman Byron Schweigert, CEO and government affairs officer for MemorialCare Medical Centers, and welcomes incoming chairman Matthew Kinley, managing partner of Tredway, Lumsdaine & Doyle LLP.
BNSF Railway Company and Union Pacific Railroad will both receive the Destination Tomorrow Award presented to transportation companies for a commitment to protecting the environment. - The Long Beach Press-Telegram
STARR'S DREAM TO OWN A RAILROAD GREW INTO REALITY
DUNN COUNTY, WI --
William J. Starr loved railroads. What kid, at the age of 39, doesn’t? But Starr not only loved railroads, he needed one!
In 1898, Starr, a resident of Eau Claire and active in various civic affairs, and an owner of extensive timber land in Polk County, saw a great potential for profit in logging the dense hardwood forest in the Weston Township area of Dunn County.
Lawrence Johnson’s excellent paperback book, “Early Railroading in St. Croix County,” is, perhaps, the best book ever compiled and written about railroading, not only in St. Croix County, but in westcentral Wisconsin.
Johnson knew why Starr “loved railroads,” and he tells us why. Almost all of the information included in this article should be attributed to this dedicated rail historian. Although brief, his description of the Weston spur line is the best I’ve read.
By 1900, Starr had purchased 14,000 acres of land in that area built a sawmill about two miles northeast of the hamlet of Weston — at that time located at the junction of County Highway X an County Highway D.
That was fine and dandy, but then he had to figure out how to move the product of the mill to market. Actually, he already knew what he was going to do — get the railroad to come to his mill, a rail line that had already been extended to Elmwood, only four “crow flight” miles from his hardwood mill site.
Of course, the range of hills were blocking a straight rail line between the two settlements, so extending the tracks to Weston would require a circuitous route of nearly nine miles.
That was not a problem. Railroads were looking for business in those glory years and Starr, who was a real estate operator, farmer, banker, merchant, lumberman and a respected civic leader, convinced the owners of the Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Omaha line to build the spur line from Elmwood to his mill. It was good business for both.
On May 2, 1902, the first train arrived in Weston to begin moving the hardwood lumber to market. It wasn’t long before there were four trains with two full crews working on the Weston branch of the line. Many of the 300 workers in the woods and the mill were residents of Elmwood, and with two round trips each day, it made access to work much easier.
Soon after Alfred E. Boe (assigned as the station agent of the railroad) arrived in the village in 1902, he took on the additional chore as postmaster for Weston. It was a bustling community with new businesses arriving to serve the public.
Starr’s mill was turning out an average of 50 million board feet a year until 1910, the year he closed his operations in Weston.
It was then that the rapid growth of population was nearly equaled by a rapid dwindling of citizens. But the train remained part of the scene in the little village that had, soon after the coming of the railroad, moved the two miles from its former location to the mill site.
Up until 1913 three trains were running daily, but in that year, a new timetable was announced that scheduled daily trains were to leave Weston at 6:45 a.m., reach Elmwood at 7:05 a.m. and move on to Spring Valley where it would arrive at 9:55 a.m. Then it would turn back to Elmwood, arriving at 10:20 a.m. and move on to Weston where it would arrive at 10:55 a.m.
That new schedule gave the conductor of the train, Mr. Chet Kaiser, time for fishing in the nearby Knight’s Creek before he had to return to the train and head back to Elmwood in time to board the train at 3:45 p.m. and head back to Spring Valley, where it arrived at 4:05. An hour-and-a-half later. And after a hearty supper, the crew would regain a head of steam in the old boiler and head off for Woodville where the engine and crew went to bed.
Despite the fact that the population numbers rapidly declined when the mill closed, the railway continued to serve the community for another 20 years.
In 1917, the round house at Weston burned down, destroying everything combustible, which included the only engine in the building. Henry Faul, the man in charge of maintaining the round house, had built the required fire because of a cold and stormy night, but something happened while he was attending the other structures, and the round house was soon erupting with flames. It was a total loss.
February of that same winter, the snow drifts were so high, and the equipment to remove them so slow, that it took four days to re-open the line.
Passenger traffic on the line almost slowed to a halt in the winter of 1918 because of the flu epidemic that was sweeping the country.
However, the little rail line to Weston struggled on, doing enough business to grant the section men working on the line a boost in wages to a total of up to $4 a day.
In March of 1920, heavy snows again blocked the Weston branch with drifts up to 15 feet high, stopping traffic on the line for four days. Later that same year, Johnson says in his book, a raging fire “all but wiped out the business section of Weston.” Difficulties on the line to Weston continued to plague the railroad. But for another 14 years there was rail service to Weston. The decision to close the branch that had been troubled with winter snows and fire was finally closed by the infamous flood of 1934.
Flood waters rising from the Eau Galle River in that year washed out the line from Elmwood to Weston. That marked the end of service to Weston, and death to any possible recovery to what it once was: a vital Dunn County village. - John Russell, The Dunn County News (Chippewa Falls, WI)
WASHERS, DRYERS FALL FROM TRAIN
LOUISVILLE, KY --
Louisville Metro Police and officials with CSX Railroad were investigating the vandalism or attempted theft of washers and dryers from a passing train early Tuesday, a MetroSafe Communications dispatcher said.
As many as 15 washers and dryers fell or were thrown from the trail beginning in the area of Second Street and Central Avenue, the dispatcher said.
Traffic was not affected, she added. - The Louisville Courier-Journal
FLORIDA BROKER ORDERED TO PAY KCS WORKERS $2.2 MILLION
An arbitration panel ordered a St. Petersburg, Florida, broker/dealer to pay a combined $2.2 million to four former Kansas City Southern railroad workers after finding it had defrauded them.
The panel awarded $1.73 million in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages to Delbert W. Bair of Pittsburg, Kansas, Frank Bair of Lee’s Summit, Larry L. May of Belton and Sammie L. McCain of Blue Springs, Missouri.
The award was directed against InterSecurities Inc., a broker/dealer and registered investment advisor, and two of its representatives, Gregory James Hildebrand and Peter E. Dahlstrom of New Orleans.
The four claimants, who had opened IRA rollover accounts at the firm, alleged that InterSecurities placed excessive amounts of their retirement assets in high-cost, high-fee variable annuities from an affiliate, Western Reserve Life Insurance Co.
The four charged that the accounts were 90 percent invested in equities, which they said were unsuitable for their investment objectives, and that the accounts produced almost no investment income. - Dan Margolies, The Kansas City Star
AMTRAK TRAIN SHEARS CAR IN HALF
CHESTER, VA --
A Chester, Virginia woman who survived a 70-mph impact with an Amtrak passenger train told police that her car got stuck on the railroad crossing.
Linda W. Gilyard, 54, of the 3900 block of Creek Way, was seriously injured when the train split her 2001 Chevrolet Impala in two late Saturday in the 3800 block of Curtis Street, off Harrowgate Road in Chester.
"She's just extremely, extremely fortunate to be alive," said Chesterfield County police Sgt. Kenneth James. "Probably what saved her was that the initial collision was on the passenger side of her vehicle, and of course the vehicle got cut in half."
Gilyard was listed in stable condition yesterday at VCU Medical Center, James said.
The collision occurred about 10:30 p.m. as Gilyard, traveling south, attempted to cross the railroad tracks. She told police that her car tires apparently got stuck in the rails as she drove over the crossing, and the crossing gates came down, James said.
"It's not well-lit at night, so I guess if you make a mistake, it's possible to get stuck on the railroad tracks," James said.
The train's engineer told police that he was traveling about 70 mph when he spotted the car on the tracks, James said.
"He laid on his horn and reduced his speed down somewhat prior to impact," he said. "But it takes a train so long to stop at that speed, probably almost two miles. So by the time he applied his brakes there was nothing he could actually do to avoid the collision."
Saturday's wreck remains under investigation. Police plan to review the case with the Chesterfield Commonwealth's Attorney's Office.
At least two other train incidents have occurred near that crossing in recent years.
In February 1998, two teenagers escaped injury when their car was split in two by an Amtrak train that hit it after it got caught on the railroad tracks. Police said the teens were attempting to push the car off the tracks when they saw the southbound passenger train approach and trip the crossing gates. They escaped before the train hit.
About a month later, a Chesterfield man was hit by an Amtrak train near that location. The victim was hit on his left side as he tried to jump from the train's path. He suffered leg and shoulder injuries but survived.
The victim and another man were lying between the rails about 150 yards south of the Curtis Street crossing when the engineer of the northbound trail spotted them and blew his horn. But they didn't move until the train was almost on top of them, police said.
Crashes involving cars and trains are rare. There were only 24 such crashes reported in Virginia last year, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. - Mark Bowes, The Richmond Times-Dispatch
REPORTS: CENTRAL ASIA-IRAN RAILROAD PLANNED
ASHGABAT, TURKMENISTAN --
The Turkmen leader said he had secured Iran's consent to jointly build a railway that would link ex-Soviet Central Asia to the Persian Gulf ports, official Turkmen media said Tuesday.
Turkmen President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov, who visited Tehran last week, said he received Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's support for the "North-South" railway that will cross from Kazakhstan to Turkmenistan and on to Iran's Persian Gulf coast, the official daily Neutral Turkmenistan said.
"Our Iranian brothers have agreed to implement this large-scale project," Neutral Turkmenistan quoted Berdymukhamedov as telling his ministers.
The newspaper said the railway deal was to be signed during a summit of leaders of Caspian Sea nations in Tehran later this year.
Turkmenistan is the second-biggest natural gas producer in the former Soviet Union after Russia. Turkmenistan's immense natural gas resources and Kazakhstan's booming oil industry play an increasingly important role in regional geopolitics.
The United States has long opposed the plans to export Central Asian hydrocarbons via Iran and supported new export routes bypassing the existing ones through Russia.
Russia scored a victory last month by securing a deal with Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan to build a pipeline that would carry Turkmen natural gas to Russia and on to Europe.
The railroad -- that could carry up to 10 million metric tons of cargo annually -- is part of a planned transport corridor that could link Russia and Eastern European countries with the Gulf countries and the Indian subcontinent. - The Associated Press, The Houston Chronicle
CARVER COURTS RAIL, BUT BIG DAY IS FAR OFF
MINNEAPOLIS, MN --
It's 10, 15, maybe 20 years into the future, but already the idea of commuter rail or light-rail through Carver County is picking up steam.
Representatives of Twin Cities & Western Railroad are making the rounds at local meetings, asking city and county leaders to consider mass transit uses for the rail line's tracks -- which run through Chanhassen, Chaska and Cologne before continuing west to Appleton, Minnesota.
A Carver County route could eventually link up with the west end of the Southwest Transitway, the light-rail line that cities along its route, including St. Louis Park and Eden Prairie, want funding to study, then build. That project is scheduled for after 2020.
"Southwest would have to come first," said Carver County Administrator David Hemze. "But with that line there, this is relatively obvious."
Some officials see such a route as a way to convince people that living in a city like Cologne -- roughly 35 miles from downtown Minneapolis -- wouldn't keep you from getting quickly to a job in the Twin Cities.
Chaska Mayor Gary Van-Eyll said either light-rail or commuter rail would be "such a positive for our growing community."
The line could be built with relative ease, Hemze and railroad officials say, because Twin Cities & Western is a willing partner, and much of the infrastructure is already there.
The railroad line has double tracks. Its freight trains -- 90 percent of them carrying agricultural products -- only travel along one of the tracks.
"The nice thing is that parallel tracks mean there's already a spot for it," said Bob Henry, vice president for marketing and sales for the railroad headquartered in Glencoe. "Every bridge has room."
Commuter rail would be substantially easier to start than light-rail, Henry pointed out, because all the route would need is stations.
"If we wanted to run commuter rail, we could start tomorrow," he said.
The popularity of the light-rail Hiawatha Line, which opened between downtown Minneapolis and the Mall of America in 2004, got communities all over the metro thinking about lines to serve their residents.
Carver County joins a list of potential commuter legs. At the top of that list now are the Northstar commuter line between Minneapolis and Big Lake and the Central Corridor line through St. Paul.
And though eventually these lines could all fit together "like spokes on a wheel," Hemze said, for now, they're competing for funding.
The first step is studying the idea, the cost of which seems insignificant compared with the cost of building. But sometimes even that money is tough to get.
For two legislative sessions, Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, has worked on getting $500,000 to study building a light-rail leg along the Interstate Hwy. 394 corridor. She's gotten the proposal added into every piece of legislation she could find. But it never has passed.
A study is necessary to determine whether the route would work and whether the area has enough population to support it, Hemze said. "You really need to spend some time and money on a relatively in-depth study to answer those questions."
Ryan Ware lives between Chaska and Victoria, no more than 2 miles from where he boards a Southwest Metro Transit express bus to Minneapolis each weekday morning.
He rides the bus because it's "dirt cheap," he said. His employer subsidizes the monthly fee, so he pays $35 a month. Parking at work would cost him $18 a day, he said.
Ware is interested in the idea of light-rail because it might be faster than a bus. But he doubts it would be self-supporting.
"We'd probably need a lot more population density for that," he said.
Mayor Van-Eyll pointed out that rail could not only carry commuters from cities like Chaska to the Twin Cities -- the reverse commute could be just as important.
Chaska's manufacturing industry is growing, he said, so rail could help workers who live in the cities get to their jobs in the suburbs and exurbs.
Chaska is always trying to find a way to create more housing for those workers in its own community, Van-Eyll said. But "to have enough affordable housing to serve all the people who work here -- that's a tall order." - Jenna Ross, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune
GATE MALFUNCTION PROBED IN FATAL TRAIN CRASH
LOS ANGELES, CA --
Investigators looked into the possibility Monday that a crossing gate malfunction led to the weekend crash in Covina of a car and a Metrolink train that killed a 53-year-old man and his 10-year-old niece.
Metrolink officials said they continue to believe that the equipment at the crossing was working properly when the collision occurred Sunday afternoon and that the driver of the car may have tried to outrace the train or drive around the gate. Covina police agreed that those are possible explanations, but they also reported that two witnesses said an arm of the gate failed to come down.
More information is expected to be released this morning after Metrolink officials finish an evaluation of computerized records tracking the performance of the gate at the Barranca Avenue crossing where the crash occurred.
Authorities identified the dead as Earl Lorenzo Brown, 53, the driver, and his niece, Raven Elizabeth Smith, 10, both of Covina. The name of the car's other passenger, Brown's 12-year-old daughter, was not released, but officials said she was being treated for injuries that are not believed to be life-threatening and that her medical outlook is good.
The two deaths Sunday raised the number of fatalities in Metrolink accidents to four this year. - The Los Angeles Times
BART TRAIN STRIKES PERSON IN SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- A person appears to have been stuck today by a Bay Area Rapid Transit train on the platform at the Balboa Park station in San Francisco.
The incident occurred at about 11:30 hours, BART spokesman Linton Johnson said.
The person was struck on the platform heading toward San Francisco.
The station has been shut down. Commuters cannot get on or off at Balboa Park.
A bus bridge is being set up. - Bay City News Service, The San Jose Mercury News
NEW LEADER OF THE LIRR LOOKS NORTH FOR INSPIRATION
Caption reads: Helena E. Williams, the new president of the Long Island Rail Road, at Pennsylvania Station Monday. (Joe Fornabaio for The New York Times)
NEW YORK CITY, NY -- For years, the Long Island Rail Road has had to suffer the indignity of being compared unfavorably, and perhaps not always fairly, with its sister railroad, Metro-North, which routinely scores better on performance measures like customer satisfaction and the ability to make trains run on time.
Now, the Long Island Rail Road has a new president who is hoping to go beyond the rivalry and capture some of that Metro-North magic.
Even before she officially took over yesterday, Helena E. Williams made plans to hire a former president of Metro-North, Donald N. Nelson, to conduct a top-to-bottom review.
“I think there is a recognition we need to take a step back and assess where we are and what we can do to make it better,” Ms. Williams said in an interview yesterday, as she took a break from a tour of Pennsylvania Station on her first day on the job.
“It’s an opportunity for the railroad to maybe put a new face on its operations,” she said.
She said she did not think that Mr. Nelson’s history at Metro-North, which he led from 1991 to 1999, would be a barrier. “I think that Long Island Rail Road employees will quickly see that Don is more than just a Metro-North guy,” she said. “He is a professional with rail experience that goes well over 50 years.” Mr. Nelson has been working as a consultant to the rail industry for the past several years.
Ms. Williams said that Mr. Nelson would work with her as a consultant during her first 90 days to analyze the railroad and come up with “a blueprint of what are the next steps.”
The Long Island has more riders than Metro-North, but it lags in other categories. Last year, the Long Island reported that 93.3 percent of its trains reached their destinations within 5 minutes and 59 seconds of their scheduled arrival time, the two railroads’ definition of an on-time arrival. Metro-North reported that 97.5 percent of its trains arrived in that window.
The contrast is not that simple. Metro-North has more track capacity than the Long Island to ease tie-ups during rush hours. It also benefits by having exclusive use of Grand Central Terminal while the Long Island shares Penn Station with Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.
Ms. Williams acknowledged the disparity. “I would love to have the success they’ve had with on-time performance,” she said. But she said she believed the railroad had many strengths to build on.
Before taking the railroad job, Ms. Williams was a deputy county executive in Nassau County. She ran the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Long Island bus division from 1993 to 1998.
Mitchell H. Pally, a board member of the authority who lives on Long Island, was enthusiastic about Ms. Williams’s move to hire Mr. Nelson. “Don Nelson is considered one of the foremost commuter rail experts in the country,” Mr. Pally said. “I don’t think it matters if he comes from Metro-North or Boston or Philadelphia.” - William Neuman, The New York Times