Railroad Newsline for Thursday, 06/21/07
Author: Larry W. Grant
Date: 06-21-2007 - 00:12

Railroad Newsline for Thursday, June 21, 2007

Compiled by Larry W. Grant

In Memory of Rob Carlson, 1952 – 2006



WASHINGTON, DC -- Amtrak and Union Pacific Railroad have reached an agreement on a performance plan to reduce passenger train delays attributed to track conditions. Under the agreement, Union Pacific will limit speed restrictions that can cause Amtrak trains to fall behind schedule on Union Pacific's routes.

Union Pacific is the nation's largest railroad and is one of the three biggest hosts of Amtrak service, including short-distance trains and parts of four overnight routes in the West, Pacific Northwest and Midwest.

Imposing temporary speed restrictions is a common railroad practice. Frequently called "slow orders," these restrictions are put into effect when track conditions require reduced speeds and are then removed as normal track conditions are restored. On routes with heavy traffic, it is often difficult to make track improvements without affecting schedules.

"This agreement defines in detail the maximum number of minutes of 'slow order' delay allowable on each Amtrak route operated on Union Pacific, while Union Pacific makes track improvements that will increase service reliability and satisfaction in the long term," said Paul Vilter, Amtrak Assistant Vice President, Host Railroads. "On-time performance is the single largest determinant of passenger satisfaction and these changes will make a real difference."

"This agreement is instrumental in helping our crews complete the necessary track maintenance that will further enhance safe and timely railroad operations in these corridors as well as improved ride quality," said Tom Mulligan, director of passenger train operations, Union Pacific Railroad.

"These track improvements are part of more than $1 billion Union Pacific is planning to spend in 2007 to maintain its track across the 32,400 mile system," Mulligan added.

Amtrak corridor routes governed by this agreement with Union Pacific include the Amtrak Cascades (Oregon & Washington); Capitol Corridor Service, Pacific Surfliner Service and San Joaquin Service (California); Lincoln Service (Illinois) and Missouri Mules.

Union Pacific also hosts some or all of the routes of the California Zephyr (San Francisco Bay-Chicago), Coast Starlight (Los Angeles-Seattle), Sunset Limited (Los Angeles-New Orleans) and Texas Eagle (San Antonio-Chicago), which are also covered by this agreement.

California Zephyr Schedule Changes

In return for Union Pacific's commitment to limit slow orders, and to allow more accurate passenger expectations and planning, Amtrak is making limited temporary schedule adjustments to the California Zephyr, starting June 21. The longer schedule will allow improved on-time performance before slow orders have been removed.

"During Union Pacific's track work on the California Zephyr route, the time added to the schedule corresponds to the minutes of slow orders to be removed, and both will decrease as the work progresses, until we resume our current schedule when the slow orders have been removed," Vilter said. "Throughout this time, Union Pacific has committed to use the extra time to significantly improve on-time performance."

Some shortening of the schedule is possible later this year and incremental changes are expected through the end of 2009, as Union Pacific completes track work.

"Our schedule will immediately become more reliable and will continue to improve as Union Pacific finishes its work, largely between Reno and Salt Lake City," Vilter added.

Amtrak Background

Seventy percent of the miles traveled by Amtrak trains are on tracks owned by other railroads. Known as "host railroads," they range from large publicly traded companies based in the U.S. or Canada, to railroads owned by state and local government agencies and small businesses. Amtrak pays these host railroads for use of their track and other resources required to operate Amtrak trains, with incentives for on-time performance. The three largest host railroads for Amtrak trains in the past fiscal year were:

· BNSF Railway, 6.5 million train miles

· CSX Transportation, 5.5 million train miles

· Union Pacific Railroad, 5.4 million train miles

Amtrak provides intercity passenger rail services to more than 500 destinations in 46 states on a 21,000-mile route system. For schedules, fares and information, passengers may call 800-USA-RAIL or visit Amtrak.com.

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. - Marc Magliari, Amtrak and James Barnes, Union Pacific, Joint News Release


RUSK, TX -- Work is well under way to make sure the Texas State Railroad can make a seamless transition from being operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to being run by a private company come Sept. 1.

Over the weekend, legislation that creates an entity that can lease out the railroad to a private company to operate, officially became law, though work on the transition had already started.

The governor signed the legislation, even though he could have allowed it to lapse into law without his signature.

"The governor was happy to sign this legislation and he's glad that this legislation will allow the railroad to continue to operate and to continue to be an attraction for tourism and economic development in the area," said Katherine Cesinger, a spokeswoman for the governor.

Texas Parks and Wildlife had made it clear least year that without additional funding or a different operator, the tourist train that travels between Rusk and Palestine would become a static display come September.

Efforts have been under way since to save the train by residents of Anderson and Cherokee counties and East Texas legislators.

Under this new law, a local operating authority will be created that can lease the train to a private company to operate. The current operating agency, which will dissolve once the authority is in place, has already chosen American Heritage Railways as the company to operate the train.

American Heritage operates the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Colorado and the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in North Carolina.

State Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, authored Senate Bill 1659, which creates the operating authority and paves the way for it to lease out operations. Nichols said by phone Tuesday that he wanted to thank the governor for signing the bill and for his support.

"Now that we know what direction we're going, I know the operating entity and American Heritage have a lot of work to do," he said.


Steve Presley, president of the railroad operating agency, said staff members from American Heritage have already met with the staff of the railroad. Texas Parks and Wildlife's attorney has also met with the operating agency about what needs to be done to effect the transition by the beginning of September.

"We've looked at some of the issues and all feel like everything can be accomplished, and we should have it by Sept. 1 and be in full operation under American Heritage on Sept. 1," Presley said.

With the legislation now a law, the formation of the operating authority can now begin.

Both Rusk and Palestine city councils must appoint three members each to the board. Those six will then appoint a seventh member. The first six members will "draw straws" and have staggered terms of one, two and three years, Presley said. The seventh member appointed will have a three-year term.

"Once those members are all appointed, the board will elect officers and get to work and continue the work that has been being done by the operating agency," he said.

It's not clear when the six will be appointed. Presley, also a Palestine City Council member, said. Palestine will likely appoint its members on Thursday.

The operating agency and the operating authority will likely meet jointly until the agency dissolves, he said.

Once the members are in place, they will work on a contract revision with American Heritage, Presley said. Although the operating authority received the $12 million requested from the state to accompany the transition, most of it is coming in the form of transportation enhancement funds.

"We have to work with TxDOT to make sure that we're going to get it and what the terms are ... and to make sure the contract we have with American Heritage allows them to do what they need to do and protects the railroad at the same time," he said. "We have to work on details on the funding as it was passed, but we think that is a manageable problem."

Issues related to transferring real estate and property to the railroad operating authority as well as doing inventory, ensuring appropriate amount of staffing and a number of other issues will be examined prior to Sept. 1.

Presley said the operating entity is also helping American Heritage plan their fall and winter events, such as Thomas the Tank Engine, which will come Oct. 19-21 and 26-28.

American Heritage is working on the schedule for runs at the Texas State Railroad as well.

"There are a whole host of issues that have to be dealt with when we have a transition that's going to occur overnight," Presley said. "It'll take us several months to gear up ... We'll work harder now than we have up to this point to get it done by Sept. 1."


Nichols said Texas Parks and Wildlife employees have a lot of concerns and it is important for the operating entity and American Heritage to work with those employees to eliminate any fears.

Nichols noted the talent and "institutional knowledge" embodied in current employees.

Presley said while he does not know what Parks and Wildlife is doing for current employees of the railroad, he said that American Heritage would like to hire as many of them as possible.

Current railroad employees receive state benefits. Of course, under American Heritage those employees would not keep their state benefits. They would have to take another job within Parks and Wildlife or go to work for another state entity to retain those, officials have said previously.

Presley said it will be up to each employee what to do.

"We hope a bunch will stay," he said. "American Heritage is trying their best to accommodate the needs of every employee."


There was opposition to the legislation that paves the way for a private operator to run the train. But even before the governor signed the bill, one of those vocally opposed to the railroad leaving the control of Texas Parks and Wildlife, said he wished the new operating authority the best with its endeavor.

"I'll do anything possible to make it be successful. ...," Michael Banks, president of Save Texas Parks and a Jacksonville resident, said. "We're not going to be a thorn in their side. ..."

His group had opposed the transition for several reasons, including a belief that it would be better for the state to operate the train.

"The state made the decision not to do it, and I accept that," Banks said.

Nichols said he believes everyone is together in regard to the railroad.

"No one wanted it to be a stagnant site," he said. "Everybody wanted to keep it running. There were differences of opinion of how it should be kept running, and we all understand that, and respect everybody's view. Even those parties who wanted it to be kept open in a different manner ... are in line to try to make sure this is successful. It's in everybody's interest to make this successful."

Presley said looking ahead at the future of the railroad is exciting.

"We've felt like we've been on the edge of being cut off for the last eight years, and finally we see that there's life ahead of us for the long term." - Megan Middleton, The Tyler Morning Telegraph


FRESNO, CA -- The derailment of two tank cars carrying flammable gas Tuesday blocked traffic at one of Fresno's busiest intersections and forced cancellation of classes at Fresno City College. The tracks were not expected to be cleared before 3 a.m. Wednesday.

The train derailed at Blackstone and McKinley avenues just after 4:30 p.m., Fresno Fire Department spokesman Ken Shockley said. The results "could have been catastrophic" had one or both tank cars carrying propane and butane ruptured and ignited, Shockley said, but he added that firefighters were quickly able to ascertain that the cars were not leaking.

The derailment occurred after the engineer of the northbound freight experienced difficulty driving the train at Divisadero Street, Shockley said. The engines shuddered to a stop just south of McKinley, and the tank cars derailed just north of the intersection. The 67-car train blocked intersections as far north as Princeton and Maroa avenues.

Fresno police quickly closed streets leading to McKinley and Blackstone, and officers circulated on foot, warning passers-by of the potential danger from the tank cars as firefighters tried to determine what they carried.

A heavy crane capable of lifting the tank cars off the track was en route from Pixley, Shockley said, but he estimated that the intersection was not likely to be open before 3 a.m. The material in the cars would have to be off-loaded and trucked away, as would the cars, he added.
The derailment prompted Fresno City College President Ned Doffoney to cancel late classes at the school and send students, staff and faculty home. Doffoney said about 60 summer session classes attended by fewer than 1,000 students were affected. - James Guy, The Fresno Bee, courtesy Coleman Randall, Jr.


GRAND ISLAND, NE -- Union Pacific Steam Engine No. 844 will be rolling down the line this weekend and stopping in Grand Island, Nebraska for Hall County Railroad Days.

Roger Clark, co-planner for the weekend, said the steam engine was already coming through town, carrying packages for U.S. troops to Omaha.

Clark said he asked the engine crew to stop in Grand Island overnight.

"We thought it would be neat to have a celebration while it's here," Clark said.

He and other volunteers, including co-planner Steve Snook, and the Grand Island/Hall County Convention and Visitors Bureau planned the rest of Railroad Days around the train's arrival.

While the engine is on display between in the area of Pine and Oak streets on the train tracks, people will be able to meet the crew and take pictures. The train will arrive mid-morning Saturday and depart early morning Sunday.

Other events include scale Union Pacific and BNSF models of steam trains, children's train rides and railroad displays and memorabilia.

"All these things are going to be free," Clark said.

The Grand Theater will also hold railroad-related events on Saturday. Railroad movies will be shown from 1 to 5 p.m., including a steam train documentary featuring Engine No. 844.

The Tri-City Model Railroad Association will also have a display from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday about Grand Island railroads during the 1940s that will be open to the public at Plum Street Station at Sixth and Plum streets, Snook said.

A tour of Plum Street Station will take place from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday. After the tour, the Great Plains Chapter of the National Historic Railway Society will show historic railroad footage at the depot. The model railroad display will also be open from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Renee Seifert, director of the Grand Island/Hall County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Grand Island has more trains going through it each day than most other cities, so its residents know how important trains are.

"We have a lot of rail fans that come through the city to watch the trains," she said.

Seifert said Railroad Days is also another way to celebrate Hall County's 150th anniversary and Grand Island's history.

There will also be a Great Train Raffle benefitting the railway society, Clark said. By purchasing tickets at the Railroad Antique Mall, either Skagway or the CVB, people can win train rides around the country. Tickets cost $2, and the drawing will be on Sunday at the Plum Street Station.

Snook said Grand Island residents should come to learn about the history of trains.

"It was steam locomotives that built the nation," he said. "It's another reason to get people together in one spot and support Grand Island." - Katie Nieland, The Grand Island Independent


It was time for a family adventure, and as a fan-of-anything trip that involves two bands of seamless rail, it was time for an Amtrak experiment. It was time to take the train with the reputation as the pride of the system, the Empire Builder.

This train runs from Chicago through Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana and Washington. In Spokane, it splits into two trains, one snaking through the Cascades to Seattle, another curving along the Columbia River gorge to Portland.

I chose Portland as the destination. And on a recent sunny day in Chicago, I descended into Union Station with son Max and daughter Charlotte to find the Empire Builder waiting on a track underneath the bustling city above. It was long and silver. Its double-decker coaches and sleepers, built in the 1980s, were crisply refurbished. Soon it glided silently out of the station, and once in the suburbs, hit the top speed, 79 mph. Before long the lounge car was filled with passengers waiting for dinner in a real diner with real chefs below, linens and china above.

Amenities like this were once standard on all Amtrak trains, but now the Empire Builder is a rarity. Why has this train survived with some dignity and style? I asked frequently. The answer was always the same. This train doesn't run on the tracks owned by the Union Pacific Railroad, which operates every Amtrak train that runs through Sacramento. The Empire Builder runs on the tracks of a railroad that has a different culture, the BNSF Railway Company system.

Amtrak isn't really a railroad. It's a struggling train service that runs almost always on somebody else's tracks. If the railroad happens to have its act together, its rails maintained and its dispatch system carefully synchronized, the Amtrak train is afforded safe, speedy passage. If the railroad has too few sidings, too many trains and too little track maintenance, one delay piles on top of another. If you don't believe me, go to the Amtrak Web site and look at the recent on-time performance of the Empire Builder into Portland vs. the train that heads to Sacramento from Chicago, Union Pacific's California Zephyr. The last two days I could check, the Zephyr made it into Sacramento about 500 minutes late each run. The Empire Builder rolled into Portland, 35 minutes early. Yes. Early.

It can't be fun working on a train that is a shadow of its former self like the Zephyr. On the Empire Builder, an upbeat dining car staff had to turn away customers. The train had to pick up 90 extra chicken dinners in Montana to keep up with the passengers' appetites. Just about every seat in the coaches was taken. The views of the Mississippi River, the Rockies, the green plains, the Columbia, all absolutely stunning. The train was 25 minutes late into Portland, however, the conductor horrified, repeatedly apologizing. But it was a grand run, thanks not only to Amtrak, but also to the proud cultures of the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe railroads that live to this day. - Opinion, Tom Philp, The Sacramento Bee


DUNSMUIR, CA -- Railroad Days is right on track and headed for Dunsmuir, Friday through Sunday, July 6 through 8.

This year's event features tours of railroad locomotives and cars from the Portola Museum and Union Pacific, rides on speeders (motorcars once used to inspect the tracks) and UP's mini-train, children's circus, parade and the first ever Rugby Tournament.

Dunsmuir's largest festival began in 1940 when it was organized by a group of railroaders known as the Southern Pacific Club. At that time the new event was called Railroaders' Celebration until being renamed Railroad Days following World War II.

The club, with the backing of city fathers and community members, felt there was a need to celebrate Dunsmuir's railroad history, which dates back to 1886. It was then that Central Pacific, in its goal of connecting Sacramento and Portland, Oregon reached Cedar Flat, about one mile south of the current historic downtown Dunsmuir district.

Early surveys indicated the upper Sacramento River canyon was the most viable route for linking California and Oregon by rail. Arriving at Cedar Flat, the town of Pusher was formed, comprised of little more than a boxcar and a few outbuildings.

Named for the helper engines that were hooked onto the back of trains to push them up the steep grade to the north, Pusher was renamed Dunsmuir in 1888. According to historic accounts Alexander Dunsmuir, son of British Columbia coal baron Robert Dunsmuir, was so taken by the beauty of the area that he offered to donate a fountain if the residents would rename the town in his honor.

The offer was accepted, the town was moved a short distance to the north, and the fountain arrived.

At the height of Dunsmuir's association with the railroad, by the mid-1920s the town's population swelled to 3,100, making it the largest community in Siskiyou County, bigger even than the county seat of Yreka.

Railroad Days 2007

Friday, July 6 - “Meet the Trains,” 5:30 p.m. hosted by the Dunsmuir Railroad Depot Historical Society at the Dunsmuir Amtrak Depot on Sacramento Avenue.

There will be speakers and local country band Tulsa will perform until 9. It will be an opportunity see the Feather River Rail Society's Union Pacific Centennial, No. 6936, named in honor of UP's 100th anniversary, Western Pacific GP20 and F-7A and B locomotives, baggage, sleeper, and business cars and two UP cabooses.

The society's railroad display room, adjacent to the depot, will be open Friday until 9 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The public is invited to stop by and see locomotive photographs over the past 100 years and railroad memorabilia. Railroad videos will be shown in the depot waiting room during the same hours.

Saturday, July 7 - The main day of the celebration will get underway at 7 a.m. with the Dunsmuir Rotary Club's Pancake Breakfast.

There will also be the parade at noon; Lil' Mr. and Miss Engineer Contest at the Children's Park; Kent Family Magic Circus; children's circus including the Siskiyou County Arts Council Arts Bus; model railroad layouts; speeder rides; Rugby Tournament; rides on the UP mini-train; tours of the trains on exhibit; the Dunsmuir Certified Growers Market at the Children's Park; pool games at the Dunsmuir Community Pool; and art and food booths.

Sunday, July 8 - All train exhibits, children's circus, mini-train rides and arts and food booths continue.

A $1 Railroad Days button, which can be purchased at the Dunsmuir Chamber of Commerce or at the event, provide free admittance to all activities rail activities.

New this year will be mist systems and fans at the arts and food booths.

“No matter what the weather forecast, visitors to RR Days will be able to beat the heat while enjoying the festival,” vendor organizer Joann Christopher said.

The annual Dunsmuir Railroad Days Softball Tournament will be held June 29 to July 1 at the Dunsmuir Ball Park. - Earl Bolender, The Mt. Shasta News


FAIRBANKS, AK -- Borough and railroad officials say it’s unlikely the area south of Fairbanks will ever become home to a new railroad yard. Instead, a new yard -- if the railroad ever moves from its current location just north of the Chena River in Fairbanks -- would likely need to be built miles away from town.

The question of whether the Alaska Railroad Corp., which owns a yard more than a square mile in size, might move to accommodate a possible massive track reroute has risen both in casual discussions around Fairbanks and talks between the railroad and the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

But in the time since the two organizations began talking, developers and local governments have made plans to develop much of the area around Van Horn Road, the area easily identified as a logical site for a new yard.

“Six years ago, that might have looked a lot more reasonable than it does today,” railroad president Pat Gamble said Tuesday.

The railroad uses equipment at its yard to repair rail cars and locomotives, weigh freight, and maintain its track.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly will hold a special meeting tonight to hear a proposed agreement between borough officials and the railroad. The two organizations would team under the deal with a goal of eventually removing some or all train traffic from the core of Fairbanks -- a goal that, if possible, would assuredly take decades to complete.

Even with a reroute, however, the railroad would still require access to a rail yard, and railroad officials think it could cost $500 million or more to secure land for and a build a new one.

While the area south of the city has been mentioned as a potential site in the past, borough Mayor Jim Whitaker said local officials recognize that more usable land would be needed. An area south of Eielson Air Force Base has been identified as a possible site, Whitaker said.

Railroad officials have suggested the Fairbanks community should preserve a new corridor of land if it hopes to see trains rerouted south of town. The challenge of saving right of way for a new train corridor will be tough enough, Gamble suggested, without protecting the square mileage needed in or directly adjoining Fairbanks for a new yard. As an example of what can go wrong without proper planning, Gamble pointed to past problems with a realignment in the Matanuska Valley, where land along a proposed track corridor was subdivided and partially developed before construction began.

Matanuska-Susitna Borough manager John Duffy suggested the railroad could have played a larger role in planning for that project, noting the community went through a comprehensive transportation planning effort a decade ago.

“The railroad could have said something then,” Duffy said.

Railroad officials participated last month in a meeting in Fairbanks to discuss long-term options for the community and the railroad. At that meeting, Gamble urged community members to help the railroad by planning ahead for any preferred reroute.

The assembly’s meeting Wednesday night begins at 5:30 p.m. at the borough’s administrative building. Assembly members will consider the proposed agreement between borough and railroad officials and a request from the borough to drop opposition to a separate track realignment project on Fort Wainwright Army post. - Chris Eshleman, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner


TRUCKEE, CA -- The Sierra Nevada Wood and Lumber Company had its roots in 1873 when Walter Hobart Sr. and Seneca “Sam” Marlette started cutting timbers for the Comstock Lode and the Virginia City water system. They operated a sawmill at Incline on the northeastern shores of Lake Tahoe from 1879 to 1894. Lumber was hauled to the mountain using an incline railroad, giving the area its name.

In 1896 the old machinery from Incline lay scattered around a large flat spot on the north side of Prosser Creek, some five miles north of Truckee. Tents were mostly in evidence, as the sawmill and town site were just being staked out.

A seven mile standard gauge railroad from Truckee was under construction, supervised by Captain John Bear Overton, the long time field general of the SNW&L at Incline. Two standard gauge locomotive engines were at work building the new line, as were many of the loggers and millmen. The new town would be named Overton to honor the captain’s dedication to the company.

Overton, or Hobart Mills as it would soon become known, was laid out on the best modern engineering. It would still be Overton today if not for the Post Office denying that name, as there were too many Overtons already in use. The streets were wide and graveled, it had excellent water pressure with fine pure mountain spring water, had a modern sewage system, electric lights, a fire department and all the requirements of a large isolated mountain town.

The construction work was well supervised by Ab Spencer, who was a master at his trade.

No stranger to lumbering

The immediate area around Hobart Mills was no stranger to lumbering. The flat area below the town was named Katz’s Flat for Fred Katz, a logger of the 1870s who logged the Prosser Creek timber up to just above Hobart Mills.

A reservoir had been built downstream from Hobart Mills by Gilman Folsom when he was partners in the Pacific Lumber & Wood Company at Clinton below Boca. It provided a head of water for sawlogs that were floated down Prosser Creek and the Truckee River to the sawmill.

Just upstream from Hobart Mills was the Nevada & California sawmill, built by Seth Martin in 1872, but owned and run by Oliver Lonkey of the Verdi Lumber Company since 1874. A ‘V’ flume from this mill, plus an old flume from the Banner Mill on Sagehen Creek, passed right by the new town. Lonkey’s mill was still running while Overton was being built, and may have provided some of the lumber for the first houses.

The land that Hobart acquired came from a variety of sources. He bought land from the Central Pacific Railroad, U.S. government lands, other lumber companies, Civil War veteran land scrip, homesteaders and other timber claims. He later bought timber from the Forest Service.

William Tiffany

The man who gets credit for putting together some 70,000 acres of virgin pine and fir timberlands was William B. Tiffany. Tiffany was an experienced lumber and wood man who ran his own operation in the Truckee River Canyon below Floriston in the 1870s. Hobart hired him to cruise timber, survey land lines, measure water resources, and buy the land ahead of others. He had a head for figures, rarely wrote much down, but could remember the smallest detail.

Tiffany spent years hiking the forests of Lake Tahoe, but had especially focused on the lands north of Truckee from Alder Creek, Prosser Creek, Sagehen Creek, Independence Lake, Webber Lake, almost to Sierraville and to the east to Stampede and Sardine Valleys. The virgin forest contained over 1.5 billion board feet of lumber and millions of cords of wood.

Hobart’s plan had always been to hold off logging these thick forests until other lumberman cut off the easy timber and prices rose. Both Hobart Sr. and Jr. understood the organization and attention to detail that was required to build a run such a large operation and make a profit.

A great enterprise

The flurry of activity at Hobart Mills in 1896 was impressive. The railroad broke ground on July 6, and was completed to Overton on Sept. 7. A 1,000-foot wooden trestle, later replaced by concrete and steel, was built over Prosser Creek, right over the reservoir created by Gilman Folsom 25 years before.

By October of 1896, George Giffen was making daily trips on the new line. Work on the narrow gauge logging line that ran into the forests was also under construction, utilizing the Incline rails and locomotives. Giffen had the honor of running the former Virginia & Truckee railroad’s engine, J.W. Bowker. This Baldwin-built locomotive had been hauling the lumber of the SNW&L for years from the company’s lumber yard at Lakeview Station, the end of the long flume from Incline.

The Bowker is still around, having been preserved rather than scrapped. It was a Hollywood favorite, and was used in 1939 for the filming of De Mille’s classic, “Union Pacific.” It also starred in the movie version of The Wild Wild West, and is now in the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento.

Work on the sawmill commenced on September 20, and the sawmill began operations on July 31, 1897. The saws were set up to cut 130,000 board-feet a day, a huge amount for the time, and additional capacity was soon added. This was industrial logging and lumber production on an immense scale, far bigger than the Incline operation.

The 16-foot long logs were run through a band saw capable of slicing a seven-foot diameter log. Smaller logs were cut directly on circular saws, followed by gang saws that cut the lumber into one- or two-inch thick boards. Further trimming produced strong fine lumber.

Visitors to the sawmill and factory were constant. It became a popular part of mountain vacations to stop for a night at Hobart Mills Hotel and tour the mill. A catwalk carried a visitor’s gallery over the whirring saws, providing an excellent view. Guests were amazed at the speed and efficiency at which logs were turned into lumber.

A very diverse operation

The largest amount of rough lumber was planed into fine grain, finished pine lumber, and most of that was used to make wooden boxes. In the days before cardboard and plastic, just about everything was shipped in wooden boxes. The majority of the boxes were used in the California agriculture business, for shipping fresh citrus fruits and vegetables eastward on the railroads.

An example was an order from Southern California for 999,000 orange boxes that filled 222 railcars, and took 111 days to fill. Other portions of the massive factory that ran year-round were used to produce doors, windows, paneling, flooring, and a variety of finished furniture.

A separate small sawmill was in operation on Alder Creek from 1901 to 1904. It was connected to the Hobart standard gauge railroad by a two-mile spur. In addition to logging pine for lumber, white and red fir were cut into four-foot lengths, split and cured in piles out in the forests. When dry, the wood was transported to the Floriston paper mill.

The sawmill and factory complex was powered by a self-feeding, sawdust fired steam plant, whose five boilers powered two large steam engines that ran the machinery and the electric plant. The larger of the two engines was named Beast, while the smaller was called Beauty.

Water for the boilers, sawmill, and town came from Hobart Reservoir, located a half mile to the north. The reservoir was fed by a three-mile pipeline from Sagehen Creek. It supplied 120 pounds of pressure, enough to power direct current electric lights and small machinery.

A huge field of piled lumber was always air drying in the flat to the south, and wood fired dry kilns cured the lumber to perfection. One of the first large shipments out of the yards didn’t go very far. Three million feet were sent to Floriston in 1899 and 1900 to build the town and the Floriston paper mill.

But after that, pine lumber was shipped all over the West, and regularly to the east coast. Sailing and steam ships took it across the Pacific Ocean, such was the demand for Sierra Pine.

Once Hobart Mills was up and running, life settled down to a predictable and profitable lifestyle. - Gordon Richards, The Truckee Sierra Sun


PHOENIX, AZ -- A controversial rail yard set for construction near Picacho Peak is likely to face another layer of public scrutiny under a bill given final legislative approval Tuesday.

Despite criticism from Tucson Democratic Reps. Steve Farley and Tom Prezelski, the measure found strong bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate.

Sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Paton, a Tucson Republican, the bill allows the Arizona Corporation Commission to review rail projects and hold public hearings if they involve the use of eminent domain or public auction.

But acknowledging the reality that railroads are controlled federally, the bill stops short of granting the state the power to stop projects.

Two recent projects in Southern Arizona spurred the legislation. Union Pacific Railroad wants to build a large rail yard two miles south of Picacho Peak. In Yuma, the railroad sought to build a line through a heavy farming area but has now backed off that proposal.

Bucking a consensus of support between environmentalists and property- and states-rights advocates, Farley strongly opposed the bill, fearing it could damage relations with the railroad. Farley said he wants a commuter rail line between Tucson and Phoenix and said making that happen requires supporting railroad projects.

"If you're going into negotiations with somebody, you don't go in by spitting in their eye," he said.

But Paton suggested that Farley was against public discussion, fearing that if there were hearings about commuter rail the plans might fall apart.

Paton pointed to a phrase coined in the 1800s, saying: "They don't call it being railroaded for nothing."

Prezelski and Farley said they think that although the bill does not really add public input, it will be declared unconstitutional because it creates an additional process on a federal issue.

Paton said the constitutional issues have been worked out and questioned why, if the bill doesn't do anything, it was so strongly opposed.

"Apparently, it was important to the railroad, because they did everything they could to kill this bill," he said.

Paton expects to the Corporation Commission to hold hearings once the bill becomes law, which, if signed by the governor, would be 90 days after the end of the legislative session. - Daniel Scarpinato, The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, AZ)


JEFFERSON PARISH, LA -- Massman Construction Company and Boh Brothers Construction Co., LLC have been making progress on the Huey P. Long Bridge Widening Project. The $413-million project will widen the current four 9-foot lanes to six 11-foot lanes along with two 8-foot outside shoulders and two 2-foot inside shoulders.

Massman Construction Company won the bid for the first phase of the project, and began work in April 2006. The $83-million Phase I of the project includes widening four river piers and one land pier to support additional lanes.

Early work included installing a Limpor cofferdam that uses hydrostatic pressure to hold itself against the pier. Massman installed high-strength Williams rods in the distribution block that ties new concrete to the existing piers. The bottom portion of all four piers is now complete, and crews are working on the upper portion of the piers.

Thirty feet of the original piers are comprised of 3-foot by 3-foot by 6-foot granite blocks. In order to extend the bridge piers 86 feet, rebar is added to the existing structure by drilling 1-1/2-inch holes 15 inches deep and installed 4-foot-long rebar. Concrete is then poured around the existing structure.

"Concrete is poured in up to 12-hour placements," says Mike Neyman, senior inspector Louisiana TIMED Managers. "Nine yards of concrete per barge is transported to the piers, individual pours consist of 50 to 500 cubic yards. A chemical accelerator is used to speed up the hydration process which reduces the pressure on the forms."

Train and automobile traffic is currently unimpeded on the project. To protect workers from items falling from trains and passing traffic, netting was added to the underside of the bridge.

Boh Bros. Construction Co., of New Orleans, LA, was awarded the $12.1-million contract for Phase II of the project, which includes railroad modifications of select railroad supports.

The railroad modifications consist of building new columns on the west and east banks of the project and removing old railroad towers to make way for the new approaches that will be built for the bridge at a later date.

"Currently, we have two footings poured and we're going to pour another soon," says Ricky Hogan, project manager for Boh Brothers Construction Co., LLC. "We're also ready to begin setting one of the columns over one of the footings."

Five sets of footing will be added to the west side of the project. Seventy-three-foot-6-inch sections of piling are being driven for the new railroad supports. In areas where the railroad bridge impedes placement of piling at that height, the contractor is driving each pile in four sections, with welds at each section.

"Once the columns are completed, we'll pour pedestals beneath existing towers which will be a support for a jacking assembly," says Hogan. "The railroad tracks will then close for 24 hours so that we can jack the bridge 3 inches, remove the existing towers, p ut up the new girders, bring the railroad bridge back down on the new girders, and secure it."

G&G steel of Alabama is fabricating the new girders for the west bank of the project. AFCO Steel is fabricating girders for the east bank of the project. There will be a total of two 24-hour closures -- the first for the westbound train tracks and the second for the eastbound train tracks.

The demolished towers in the railroad modifications are clearing the way for new approaches to the bridge that will be part of Phase IV of the project. Boh Brothers anticipates a completion of the railroad modifications by the end of the year.

Widening of the trusses (Phase III) was slated for June 28, 2007. Construction of new approaches (Phase IV) is expected to let later this year. The entire project is scheduled to be complete by December 2011. - Lisa Doyle, Construction News, Associated Construction Publications


BRIGHTON, CO -- Relocation of major Union Pacific Railroad operations from central Denver to the Brighton-Fort Lupton area could generate an $8 billion economic boost to the region over the next 10 years, officials said Tuesday.

The Regional Transportation District needs two Union Pacific yards near the Denver Coliseum for its FasTracks rail expansion and has pledged to relocate them in a move that is expected to cost RTD more than $100 million.

UP officials have identified a swatch of land -- nearly 3 miles long and a third of a mile wide -- between Brighton and Fort Lupton as the preferred location for a new intermodal, bulk-commodity loading and switching center.

Some local residents are fighting the move.

The railroad hired economist Patricia Silverstein to examine the economic impacts on the area if the rail facilities are relocated.

On Tuesday, Silverstein, of Development Research Partners, revealed results of her study to local officials at a meeting sponsored by Brighton Economic Development Inc.

Among her findings:

· The 640-acre UP rail facility would spur construction of 13 million square feet of industrial and warehouse development on up to 1,000 acres adjacent to the railroad's property over a 10-year period.

· Such new development could result in jobs for about 19,000 workers over the same period, with a payroll totaling $3.8 billion.

· UP- and rail-related development would generate about $242 million in sales, use and property-tax revenue to local jurisdictions over the 10 years.

"This is very exciting data," Fort Lupton city administrator Jim Sidebottom said after Silverstein's presentation.

"It would almost double our city," he added, referring to projections on job and housing growth for Fort Lupton.

Still, Sidebottom and other officials said they're awaiting results of a second, larger Union Pacific study -- one that will examine environmental impacts of moving the UP yards to the area and identify the total cost of making the move.

That study, which will look at projected truck traffic and air- quality, water-quality and noise impacts, should be completed in November, said senior UP official Richard Hartman, who presented the railroad's case at Tuesday's meeting.

Union Pacific is only considering the move at the request of RTD, Hartman said. If the cost of relocating the yards ends up being too much for RTD, "we'll stay where we are," he added.

That would be a fine outcome for Bob Oman, who with his wife, Ellen, runs an 85-acre horse, cattle and haying operation on Weld County Road 6, just east of the proposed UP facility.

"We planned on being here for the rest of our life," Oman said.

Yet if the rail complex is built, "we'd be gone in a New York second," he added.

"They haul every kind of hazardous material known to mankind," Oman said. "The environmental impacts will be devastating."

A website started by opponents of the rail relocation, [www.nouprr.org], lists Union Pacific-linked Superfund cleanup sites and asks, "Do we want a future Superfund site in Fort Lupton?"

From its construction of other major railyards, UP has learned how to minimize environmental impacts, Hartman said.

"It is in our best interest for employees, customers and the public to make sure all these environmental concerns are taken into account," he said. - Jeffrey Lieb, The Denver Post



MILWAUKEE, WI -- Milwaukee Ald. Mike D'Amato is calling for money from downtown development districts to be used to pay the local share of costs for Mayor Tom Barrett's proposed streetcar loop.

D'Amato, the chairman of the Common Council's Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee, will seek to change four existing districts' funding plans to shift money into public transit.
He said he also will insist that transit funding be included in any future development districts downtown.

Earlier this year, Barrett unveiled a plan to use $91.5 million in long-idle federal transit aid to run modern streetcars on a 3-mile downtown loop and create two express bus routes. That $107.6 million plan is under review by the Milwaukee Connector study committee, which is studying ways to link downtown attractions to neighborhoods with public transit.

Barrett has ruled out direct property taxes to cover the remaining $16.1 million of the price tag. He has suggested the required local match could come from the city's investment in renovating the Amtrak station into a combined bus-train depot; a station-related tax incremental financing district; money set aside for a downtown shuttle to serve riders using the planned KRM Commuter Link trains; plus cash from parking garages and hotels in exchange for streetcar passes for their customers.

In a tax incremental financing district, the property tax revenue from new development is typically used to repay the city's investment in the streets, sewers and other infrastructure that supports the development. But in recent years, some districts also have generated money for job training, which D'Amato said could be the model for transit funding as well. He said streetcars would be a key to downtown development.

"The lack of an attractive, in-line transit option that runs on clean fuel and connects attractions and neighborhoods is the most limiting factor to the future growth of our city," D'Amato said.

D'Amato said he would look into moving funds from districts set up for train station renovation, new Manpower headquarters, Pabst Brewery redevelopment and North End development.

Barrett agrees D'Amato's idea is worth considering, mayoral spokeswoman Eileen Force said.

County Executive Scott Walker and County Board Chairman Lee Holloway have proposed rival plans that don't include streetcars. Walker wants two express bus routes, with a possible future third route. Holloway wants express buses and a regional commuter bus depot.

The commuter bus terminal could be combined with the Milwaukee County Transit System's existing Downtown Transit Center, which is "highly underutilized," Holloway wrote in a recent memo to other supervisors. Other possible locations are the intersection of N. 27th St. and W. Wisconsin Ave., where Walker's proposed express bus routes would intersect, and the Milwaukee County Grounds, he wrote.

Holloway's plan will be considered by the County Board on Thursday. - Larry Sandler, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


DENVER, CO -- Communities along two FasTracks corridors want a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T from RTD.

Don't tell them the past few years that they had a say in selecting what type of trains would go through their areas, only to impose a different choice.

People along the East Corridor to Denver International Airport and the Gold Line to Arvada and Wheat Ridge had a message for the elected RTD board at its meeting Tuesday.

Ongoing environmental studies in which they've heavily participated have zeroed in on electric commuter trains as the preferred choice, and for RTD to consider substituting diesel-powered trains at the end -- even in the effort to save money in the over-budget FasTracks program -- is bad form.

Faced with enormous cost increases in construction that it can't cover with its current finances, RTD is considering short-circuiting longstanding studies with years of public input and imposing diesel-powered commuter trains.

That has some people upset enough to protest to the RTD board five weeks before the decision may be made at next month's board meeting.

"We unanimously believe any action taken by the board must respect the current environmental review process," said Angie Malpiede, of the FasTracks Citizens Advisory Committee, a group RTD set up to review and offer advice on the now $6.2 billion program.

With only about $5.5 billion in financing identified, RTD faces a $670 million shortfall in the ambitious transit expansion, due to be finished by 2017. Many board members say RTD can save up to $142 million of that by running diesel trains on those two corridors.

Two other commuter rail corridors, North Metro to Commerce City and Thornton and Northwest Rail to Boulder and Longmont, were initially planned with diesel trains.

Residents, from inhabitants of new loft projects and conversions to the urban poor who live around the inner city industrial areas where the trains would leave Denver Union Station, say their area is saddled already with a long history of environmental impacts.

They believe diesel trains would add to the problem.

Several board members disputed that and said the new self-propelled diesel cars RTD is considering are nothing like belching diesel locomotives.

"This ain't your father's diesel," said board member Bill Elfenbein. "I think there's a huge perception that DMUs (diesel multiple units) are like the old smoking engines, and they're not."

That aside, said Craig Kocian, Arvada city manager, RTD promised the people would have input into FasTracks.

"RTD made a promise and consequently has an obligation to the voters of the district to provide electrification on the Gold Line," he said. - Kevin Flynn, The Rocky Mountain News


Are objections to urban sprawl legitimate public policy concerns or just aesthetic snobbery? All week, author Robert Bruegmann and activist Gloria Ohland debate the shape of America's cities.


The outward sprawl of our cities has clearly caused some problems that need to be addressed. However this sprawl has also had enormous benefits, and it is not at all clear that any alternative urban form would work better.

After doing a considerable amount of research on this subject for my book I concluded that very little of what was said about sprawl was either accurate or useful. The accepted wisdom today is that sprawl is recent, peculiarly American and caused by increasing automobile ownership and use. In fact, if we define sprawl in the most basic way as the decentralization of cities at constantly lower population densities and without any over-arching plan, it is fair to say that it has been going on since the beginning of urban history. Whether in imperial Rome or 19th century London, whenever a new group of people could afford to escape the congestion, noise and unsanitary conditions of city centers, they did so. In fact the exodus from central London in the 19th century, made possible by the newly invented railroad and public transportation, was at least as great as anything seen in the United States after World War II.

And every time a new group moved out there was an intellectual and artistic elite that was affronted and wished to stop it. In 19th century London, for example, "right-minded" individuals condemned the miles of brick row houses then being constructed for middle class families as ugly boxes erected by greedy developers. They considered these new neighborhoods a blight on the countryside and were sure that they would become a slum in a generation. Of course, within a generation, this same class of people had decided that these very row houses were the essence of central London, the antithesis of the new sprawl they saw at the urban fringe.

And so it has gone over the centuries. Today we are told that sprawl is economically inefficient, socially inequitable, environmentally damaging and aesthetically ugly. The current lead argument is often environmental, based on the notion that high-density compact settlements are more energy-efficient and less polluting than lower density, more scattered ones. However, there is little evidence that this is the case. The old 19th century cities were environmental horrors and only worked as well as they did because they were so much smaller than today's cities and most people were so poor that they had few choices in where they lived or worked. The most likely scenario to solve our energy problems and avert global warming is not to remake our cities at 19th century densities so that they can sustain 19th century technologies like the internal combustion engine, but instead to find new fuel sources and more efficient ways of using them at whatever densities people choose to live.

In any event, even if I am completely wrong and sprawl is a terrible thing, the record of attempts to stop it are not promising. In London, for example, where planners instituted a green belt and some of the toughest restrictions in the world immediately following World War II, they were unsuccessful. Indeed, the urban population of London has now scattered across much of the South of England. Throughout Europe, people are buying and using cars at a much faster rate than in the US and their dense, old cities are now sprawling outward faster than most American cities, particularly places like Los Angeles. In fact, the L.A. region has become so much denser over the last 50 years that it is currently the densest urbanized area in the United States. It is this increase in density and not density-lowering sprawl that lies at the root of many of the woes experienced by L.A. today. - Robert Bruegmann, The Los Angeles Times (Robert Bruegmann is professor of Art History, Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His most recent book is Sprawl: A Compact History, published by the University of Chicago Press in 2005.)


I agree that sprawl has worked very well for this country, spurred on by seductive incentives such as the mortgage tax deduction and promoting the growth of the auto and oil industries that have propelled our economy. But while the American dream of a house in the suburbs and two cars in the garage was particularly appealing during the last century, it just doesn't have the same appeal anymore. All moralizing aside about sprawl and the loss of open space, the effect of driving on greenhouse gas emissions, and our dependence on foreign oil, the fact is that the real estate market is changing, driven by changes in the demographics of the U.S. population. American households are older, smaller and much more diverse. Whereas the largest demographic group used to be households with children, singles are becoming the new majority and that has profound implications for how and where people want to live—and for the most part it's not in the suburbs. Moreover, traffic makes driving to and from the suburbs increasingly untenable.

Add the high cost of land to the equation and suddenly it becomes clear why new apartment buildings, row houses, live-work spaces, condominiums, lofts, and other high-rise residential buildings are springing up in urban neighborhoods and suburban town centers all across the land. Times change. The homogeneity of our auto-oriented suburbs suited the homogenous population of yore. But a more diverse America wants more housing choices, and more transportation choices. That's why all the biggest homebuilders have opened urban infill divisions. That's why transit is in a building boom, with every region in the country either planning or building a new rail line. If suburban living was yesterday's fashion, today's American dream is much "greener." More and more households want "a room with a view" within walking distance of coffee shops, restaurants, yoga, a dog park, art, film and culture. "Small is the New Big," trumpeted the cover of Dwell magazine last year. "Smaller is Smarter," read the cover of last month's issue.

But the question we were to address is whether sprawl is a legitimate public policy concern, and quite frankly I can't believe anyone would argue otherwise. What follows is a partial list of reasons why an increasing number of cities and regions in this country should be and are beginning to promote more compact development near transit:

· It's more sustainable;

· It makes ore efficient use of land, energy and resources;

· It helps conserve open space and habitat, thereby helping to maintain biodiversity and endangered species;

· It results in less oil and gas consumption, therefore reducing dependence on foreign oil;

· Less driving to far-flung neighborhoods means less air pollution (the increase in asthma in children is just one related concern);

· It minimizes traffic increases;

· It encourages more walking;

· It concentrates development and activity and the tax base in a way that allows for focused "value capture strategies" like taxes and fees; this captured value can then be reinvested in our communities to make them better, and the increased revenues allow communities to lower tax rates;

· It increases transit ridership;

· It increases property values, lease revenues and rents;

· It increases foot traffic for local businesses;

· It creates opportunities for mixed-income housing;

· Height and density can pay for community benefits and affordability;

· Less time in the car means more time with family and friends;

· It reduces transportation expenditures;

· It promotes healthier lifestyles;

· Neighborhoods are safer because there are more people on the street and more "eyes on the street."

Research in Portland has shown that the residents of neighborhoods with good transit access and mixed-use development own fewer cars and use their cars less than residents of suburban neighborhoods. Only 58 percent of trips are by auto in mixed-use neighborhoods with good transit access, compared to 87 percent in suburban neighborhoods. Research in California has shown that people who live in more compact development near transit are five times as likely to use transit as residents of the region at large, and people who work in transit-oriented development are three and a half times as likely. I believe that given our increasing concerns about traffic and climate change and our unhappiness with the Iraq war, reducing the amount of driving should be our number-one public policy goal!

But here's one final argument, one of the most important of all: Research done by the national nonprofit organization I work for has shown that while households that live in auto-dependent exurbs spend 25 percent of household income on transportation, households in "location-efficient" neighborhoods with higher-density mixed-use development and good transit access spend just 9 percent—a savings of 16 percent! This savings can be critical for low-income households: While the average household spends 19 percent on transportation, very-low-income households spend 55 percent or more! So building higher-density housing near transit is a key affordability strategy as well.

Have I convinced you, Bob? We've got to build more compact communities near transit instead of more sprawl. - Gloria Ohland, The Los Angeles Times (Gloria Ohland is vice president for communications for Reconnecting America, a national nonprofit organization that works with the public and private sectors to promote best practices in development-oriented transit and transit-oriented development (TOD). She is co-author and co-editor of the award-winning Street Smart: Streetcars and Cities in the 21st Century; The New Transit Town: Best Practices in TOD; and Hidden in Plain Sight: Capturing the Demand for Housing Near Transit, a national market study funded by the Federal Transit Administration and released in 2005.)


Subject Written By Date/Time (PST)
  Railroad Newsline for Thursday, 06/21/07 Larry W. Grant 06-21-2007 - 00:12

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