Louie Ursua is a UPRR corruption fighter! And Bakersfield Legend.
> Railroad Newsline for Wednesday, January 10, 2007
> Compiled by Larry W. Grant
> In Memory of Rob Carlson, 1952 – 2006
> RAIL NEWS
> RAILWAY CONSIDERS COAL-TO-LIQUIDS IDEA
> BILLINGS, MT -- The head of BNSF Railway Co. has
> sent an engineering team to Montana to analyze a
> possible coal-to-liquids project to supply diesel
> to fuel-thirsty locomotives, Gov. Brian Schweitzer
> said Monday in Billings.
> Matthew K. Rose, chairman, chief executive and
> president of BNSF, has expressed interest in
> producing diesel fuel with the coal-to-liquids
> process, which has been championed by Schweitzer.
> During a Gazette editorial board meeting Monday,
> the governor said that in July 2005, he met with
> five BNSF executives who tried to convince him
> that Montana farmers were getting fair shipping
> prices for their grain. He said he refuted their
> points about fair prices and the two sides agreed
> to disagree.
> Then Schweitzer said he told the executives that
> they were overlooking their company's biggest
> economic challenge.
> "The most important thing is, you don't know the
> price of your diesel 40 years from now,"
> Schweitzer said. "They just looked at me. They
> were still mad with me about freight rates and
> cleaning up Livingston."
> BNSF has been charged with cleaning up an
> estimated 1 million gallons of diesel fuel the
> company and its corporate forerunners dumped and
> spilled in Livingston during decades of railroad
> Schweitzer said he told BNSF it should build a
> coal-to-liquids plant in Montana to produce diesel
> fuel, especially because the railroad cannot hedge
> its costs that far into the future.
> Then last summer, Schweitzer said Rose telephoned
> him to say, "Brian, I just wanted to let you know
> we were paying attention. The more we looked at
> it, the more we liked it."
> The governor said he laid out all the state's
> potential sites with lignite or coal deposits from
> Otter Creek to Roundup to Nelson Creek in Eastern
> "The best location for you is Nelson Creek,"
> Schweitzer said he told Rose. "Oswego can take 60
> (rail) cars and it's halfway between Minneapolis
> to Seattle."
> Montana's Chief Business Officer Evan Barrett said
> part of developing coal-to-liquids in Montana is
> finding customers for the fuel. Union Pacific and
> BNSF are two of the country's largest consumers of
> diesel, with BNSF's 6,300 locomotives burning 1.4
> billion gallons in 2005.
> Nelson Creek lies west of Circle in McCone County.
> The BNSF Oswego site lies west of Wolf Point and
> about 30 miles north of Nelson Creek. Barrett said
> that is within easy reach of a pipeline.
> "I'm aware of at least two additional sites where
> they've had discussions about locating in
> Montana," Barrett said.
> BNSF spokesman Pat Hiatte said the railroad
> remains interested in at least a study.
> "We are still studying the economic and technical
> feasibility of the technology," he said. "Montana
> locations, along with other locations, are being
> In a September press release, BNSF said it was
> working with independent energy developer Tenaska
> Inc. of Omaha, Neb., on a joint study to evaluate
> multiple locations for a commercial-scale
> coal-to-liquids plant. The plant would use the
> Fischer-Tropsch technology to produce the diesel
> This process was developed in the 1920s in Germany
> to make diesel fuel from coal and helped power the
> Nazi war efforts. The process also is used in
> South Africa.
> Schweitzer said BNSF officials told him they were
> considering Alliance in western Nebraska and
> Guernsey, Wyo., northeast of Wheatland. However,
> the governor said he was told later that those two
> sites are no longer on the list.
> "So, I feel pretty good about our chances,"
> Schweitzer said.
> Montana has 120 billion recoverable tons of coal,
> the biggest reserves in the United States.
> Chuck Kerr, a former Billings resident who now is
> president of Great Northern Properties in Houston,
> said he hadn't heard of BNSF's potential interest
> in the Nelson Creek site.
> His company is developing the Nelson Creek
> reserves to power a more traditional coal-fired
> electrical plant, he said, but the times are
> "We're on a completely different economic and
> environmental arena than we were two or three
> years ago," Kerr said. "I think we would be remiss
> in not looking at other opportunities."
> In the 1990s, vast mineral rights owned by
> Burlington Resources were sold. Great Northern
> Properties bought the coal and other mineral
> rights, including at Nelson Creek.
> Burlington Resources, which was purchased last
> year by ConocoPhillips, owns the oil and gas and
> coalbed methane mineral rights around Nelson
> Creek. - Jan Falstad, The Billings Gazette
> BNSF GETS OK TO USE SYSTEM; TECHNOLOGY DESIGNED TO
> REDUCE ACCIDENTS COULD MEAN JOB CUTS
> Photo here:
> Caption reads: BNSF Railway Company engineers are
> training on the Electronic Train Management
> System, which is designed to reduce accidents.
> 2006 File Photo by The Dallas Morning News
> FORT WORTH, TX -- Federal regulators say the BNSF
> Railway Company can implement new technology that
> promises to reduce freight train accidents but
> could also lead to conductors' jobs being
> The Fort Worth-based railroad is the first to get
> approval from the Federal Railroad Administration
> to use the Electronic Train Management System.
> "It really puts a halt to derailments" caused by
> human errors, said Rick Lederer, BNSF's assistant
> vice president of network control systems.
> The technology, which was developed by Wabtec
> Corp., uses on-board computers, global positioning
> satellite receivers, dispatchers and track switch
> detectors to monitor track conditions and keep a
> train from exceeding its authorized speed.
> It can stop a train if an engineer fails to
> respond to warnings, preventing collisions.
> Federal safety regulators are eager for railroads
> to adopt such technologies. But unions have
> expressed concerns that the systems could be used
> to help railroads reduce the size of their train
> crews from two people to one.
> The Federal Railroad Administration supports the
> technology but hasn't taken a position on
> one-person crews, said spokesman Warren Flatau.
> "We have no intention of permitting one-man crews
> at this juncture," he said.
> Using one-person crews could save railroads more
> than a billion dollars a year in labor and other
> costs. The issue had been a major obstacle in
> current labor contract talks, until the railroads
> dropped the subject.
> Frank Wilner, a spokesman for the United
> Transportation Union, which represents 40,000
> conductors, said federal approval of the
> technology won't make it easier for companies to
> reduce the size of train crews.
> The union's contract doesn't allow for crews
> smaller than two people.
> BNSF plans to deploy the Electronic Train
> Management System on 35 stretches of track in 17
> states, including Texas.
> It's been testing the system in Illinois since
> October 2004 and will launch another test on a
> 300-mile rail line from Fort Worth to Arkansas
> City, Kansas, in the second quarter.
> After the second test, the railroad will submit a
> request to safety regulators to roll out the
> system across two-thirds of its network, Mr.
> Lederer said.
> Implementing the system will be expensive, he
> said. The railroad doesn't have an estimate of the
> total cost. - Katherine Yung, The Dallas Morning
> KRATZMEYER ROAD RAILROAD ARMS TO BE READY IN
> BAKERSFIELD, CA -- Crossing arms for the deadly
> Kratzmeyer Road railroad crossing should be
> installed and ready to roll by the end of March.
> That's according to Brad Welte, BNSF Railway
> Company's superintendent of operations, during a
> conference call with state Sen. Dean Florez Monday
> Since 2005, two people have died after their
> vehicles were hit by trains at that location. A
> November accident claimed the life of Rafael
> Carrillo, 41, of Bakersfield. Mary Young Williams,
> 79, of Buttonwillow died in February 2005 after
> her car was struck on the tracks.
> Her grandson, Buttonwillow farmer Mike Young, said
> he wishes the government had done something about
> the tracks three years ago.
> But he was happy to hear of the progress.
> "If they can expedite it that quickly, at least it
> will bring some finality to it," he added.
> Florez arranged the call with the railway, Kern
> County Roads Department, California Public
> Utilities Commission, Caltrans and others.
> He said he wants weekly calls with the project's
> major players to make sure it's moving forward.
> Construction is set to start mid-February, Welte
> The county will widen the road and install a
> concrete median in the center of Kratzmeyer Road,
> a move that should discourage drivers from
> navigating around the crossing arms, said Mark
> Evans, engineering manager for the roads
> Rudy Salas, Florez's district director, said
> everybody came to the table to settle the plans.
> Florez's office made calls to the agencies to try
> to cut through red tape, he said.
> In an e-mail, Florez said, "I'm committed to
> improving the safety of Kratzmeyer Road to the
> bitter end. And if it means personally keeping in
> check all parties involved, then so be it."
> "It's what the public expects and it's what they
> should get from their government -- no excuses,
> but answers," he added.
> Salas said such grave accidents motivate officials
> to move quickly. He noted safety concerns for
> Frontier High School students who will be driving
> in the area.
> Representatives from the California Public
> Utilities Commission, which approves projects
> involving railroad crossing arms, said they're
> done with their side of business, while Caltrans
> just needs to finish paperwork.
> It wasn't so smooth in mid-December, when the
> agencies were still going back and forth over the
> It was reported last month the crossing arms would
> be ready by August. That timeline would have
> placed the finish date two years after the
> commission first approved the project.
> Commission representatives had said they had been
> waiting for the county to submit design plans for
> road improvements near the crossing.
> Those road plans came about six months after they
> were originally expected.
> The commission signed off on the plans in December
> after the county made corrections to them, Salas
> Kratzmeyer Road Timeline:
> Feb. 17, 2005: Buttonwillow resident Mary Young
> Williams, 79, dies at the Kratzmeyer Road railroad
> crossing when an Amtrak train hits her car after
> it becomes stuck on the tracks as she crosses.
> Feb. 23, 2005: State Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter,
> announces the formation of a commission on local
> railroad safety.
> Jan. 5, 2006: A big rig is clipped by an Amtrak
> train as truck driver Brent Tso, 23, of
> Bakersfield attempts a sharp turn onto Santa Fe
> Way. Tso receives minor injuries.
> August 2006: Florez reports the state's Department
> of Transportation approved BNSF Railway's plans
> for the Kratzmeyer upgrade.
> Nov. 29, 2006: Rafael Carrillo, 41, of Bakersfield
> dies instantly when an Amtrak train strikes the
> car he's driving across the tracks. Carrillo
> failed to yield to the train, officials say.
> Nov. 30, 2006: Florez holds a news conference at
> the crossing of Kratzmeyer Road, Rudd Avenue and
> the Santa Fe Railroad tracks to announce he would
> propose a bill requiring arms at all California
> railroad crossings.
> December 2006: Crossing arms are slated to be
> installed by August. The California Public
> Utilities Commission said it had been waiting for
> the county to submit design plans for road
> improvements near the crossing. The commission
> signs the plans after the county makes
> Jan. 8, 2007: Officials with the Kern County Roads
> Department, BNSF Railway, California Public
> Utilities Commission and Caltrans say the crossing
> arms will be up by the end of March.
> - Shellie Branco, The Bakersfield Californian
> THOSE AUBURN FLAMES
> AUBURN, WA -- At times it may look like the BNSF
> Railway Company's yard in Auburn, near the 2900
> block of A Street Southeast, is on fire. But it's
> a planned and controlled blaze.
> BNSF is removing residue from four damaged
> railroad tank cars that were involved in a
> derailment a few months ago in Colorado.
> The "flaring" process, which the railroad says
> meets all national and local codes, is likely to
> produce flames visible to the surrounding area.
> The work, which started early Monday, is scheduled
> to continue through Thursday. - The Seattle Times
> EX-SOUTHERN PACIFIC ENGINEER STILL DREAMS OF THE
> TEHACHAPI, CA -- He is an old fashioned kind of
> train man. Louis Ursua seems to know every inch of
> rail line between Bakersfield to Barstow.
> Ursua said, "To this day I dream about it," as
> evidenced by the mural he had commissioned on his
> fence adjacent to his driveway, depicting the
> Southern Pacific # 9801, and commemorating the
> last run Ursua made.
> He ran the rails between 1978 and 2000 and before
> that he worked at Monolith running the train that
> carried rock from the quarry to the plant below.
> That was before the conveyor system was
> He can talk for hours on the technical aspects of
> engineering. When he bleeds, it's Southern Pacific
> "There's a lot of things you have to know," said
> He pulled out an engineers's manual that was four
> inches thick and Ursua said he knew it cover to
> He began in 1978 as a brakeman and a switchman. He
> said at that time he had to take a second job to
> make ends meet but was told by a veteran to make
> it his goal to be an engineer.
> From 1978 to 1982 he did what was called
> "sharpshooting," taking any work he could get at
> the railroad.
> Ursua said it was a management person, Dan Burke
> who kept him on the railroad path.
> "Louie, I know you're getting discouraged but stay
> with the railroad, it will be worth it," Ursua
> remembered the words of encouragement from Burke.
> Ursua took the advice.
> He described railroad life as "a different world,"
> recalling his early years when he used to
> encounter hobos in the Colton yard. He said the
> economy was depressed at that time so there were a
> lot of illegal riders, but Ursua showed compassion
> giving them sandwiches or any food he could share.
> When Ursua began his railroad career, there were
> four occupants in the engine. An engineer, who
> Ursua said was completely responsible for getting
> from point A to point B; a conductor, in charge of
> all the necessary paperwork and balancing the
> load; a brakeman and a fireman, who acted as an
> assistant engineer.
> Ursua became a conductor in 1980 and then became a
> fireman in 1984, when he first got a taste running
> the train from the engineers that saw his passion
> and trusted him with the reigns once in a while.
> Then in 1986, he finally had the chance to fulfill
> his dream of becoming an engineer. That
> opportunity came with risks as well.
> He spent six weeks in engineer's school studying
> and practicing in a simulator.
> "You had to make it or you were out in the
> streets," he said. Ursua passed.
> He said, "I learned a lot from the old heads," the
> veteran engineers who educated him beyond studying
> books and taking tests. Over the years, Ursua
> passed on that information to many railroad
> workers himself.
> When he began there were still cabooses and
> "highballs" who road in them giving the engineer
> information from the rear of the train.
> Now the caboose is gone replaced by a helper unit,
> the engines that are located at the back end of
> the train. Ursua said there used to be a spotter
> at the end of the train that would keep the
> engineer apprized of the conditions at the rear.
> Now he said a remote device is utilized.
> Without the helper Ursua said it used to take six
> to 12 hours to go from Bakersfield to Tehachapi
> depending on the load and the tonnage.
> "We used to pull a lot of tonnage," he said,
> "4,000 to 15,000 tons," he said. "This mountain is
> different, it's a 2.3 percent grade," he said.
> Ursua said although the Tehachapi Loop might be
> one of the wonders of the railroad world, he said
> it was not an easy feat to traverse.
> "You got to know what you're doing or it will get
> away from you," as an "old head," once told him,
> "You control the train, don't let the train
> control you."
> Ursua's career was cut short in 2000 when he
> suffered a back injury, but a gleam in his eye
> exists when he thinks about going back, doing
> whatever job he can, just to be near the trains
> again. - Matthew Chew, The Tehachapi News
> EDUCATION, TRANSPORTATION, WATER GET GOVERNOR'S
> PHOENIX, AZ -- Gov. Janet Napolitano pledged more
> funding for roads, schools and health care today
> as she set a course to ready Arizona for the
> changing global economy and the demands of rapid
> She laid out that course through her State of the
> State address, her fifth since taking office in
> 2003 and the first of her second and final term.
> The address came as the 48th Legislature convened
> for regular session at the Capitol.
> "Face it: Arizona is going to continue to grow,"
> she told lawmakers and others who gathered for the
> roughly 25-minute address. "The question is how we
> grow so that we Arizonans have a high quality of
> Napolitano, a Democrat, took an aggressive tact,
> signing a handful of executive orders before the
> afternoon speech. Among them, she sought to free
> up immediate state funding for water projects by
> allowing longer, 30-year state bonding, required
> that all construction projects on state land
> reduce their discharge of dust and ozone-causing
> pollution and expanded the scope of the Growth
> Cabinet she created last year.
> She immediately gave that cabinet a significant
> hammer: Communities that don't participate in its
> smart-growth process won't be eligible for certain
> state funding, including $400 million that
> Napolitano hopes to make available for
> Education will continue to be a priority for
> Napolitano in her second term. She called for
> schools to toughen their curriculum to make way
> for the future, high-skill economy. She asked that
> high schools require four years of math and three
> of science, and that the minimum dropout age be
> raised to 18 from 16.
> And Napolitano called for the state to build on
> teacher pay raises that were approved last year.
> Under her plan, the statewide minimum salary for a
> starting teacher would be $33,000. Existing
> teachers would receive pay bumps, especially those
> in areas such as math, science and special
> education. "Those incentives should attract
> teachers who are sharp in the areas we expect them
> to teach," Napolitano said. "And to keep sharp
> teachers . . . we need to reward them for their
> performance, mentor them and provide continuing
> teacher education statewide."
> The education revamp goes hand-in-hand with her
> hope to prepare Arizona for the 21st century
> economy. Innovation is the watchword.
> She called for modernization of the state
> Department of Commerce and restoration of the
> state's innovation investment fund. And Napolitano
> said Arizona will place new emphasis on luring
> international firms. "Here's what I have to say to
> the world: 'it's time to wake up to an Arizona
> that's leading the nation in innovation,'" she
> said. "We're going to take it on the road, and to
> the air, to bring business and foreign investment
> home. Call it in-sourcing."
> Gov. Janet Napolitano's Executive Orders - January
> 8, 2007
> Governor Details Plan for Arizona's Future, Orders
> Expanding Arizona's Transportation Options
> · Arizona Is the Fastest Growing State in The
> · To sustain Arizona's growth and prepare for its
> future, new transportation strategies must be
> explored and developed radidly
> Impact of Executive Order
> · Directs the Arizona Department of Transportation
> to provide, within 90 days, a detailed list of
> options for mass transit, commuter rail and/or
> light rail, preliminary cost estimates/financing
> options, and strategies for private sector
> - Matthew Benson, The Arizona Republic, courtesy
> Marc Pearsall
> QUIET ZONE PLANS STALL, BNSF, MCDOT MUST HAMMER
> OUT ISSUES
> PHOENIX, AZ -- Plans to implement a railroad quiet
> zone along Grand Avenue have stalled on the
> Representatives from the BNSF Railway Company
> recently notified the Maricopa County Department
> of Transportation of various concerns regarding
> implementation of the quiet zone on Meeker and
> R.H. Johnson boulevards adjacent to Grand Avenue.
> “BNSF has exercised their option for an additional
> design, review and comment period prior to issuing
> required permits to work in the railroad right of
> way and construct quiet zone improvements,” said
> MCDOT spokeswoman Roberta Crowe. “MCDOT is in
> contact with BNSF and the Federal Railroad
> Administration to get a speedy resolution and put
> the project back on track as quickly as
> According to BNSF Public Projects Manager Megan
> McIntyre, there are a few issues to “fine tune”
> before the permits will be issued.
> “After all the meetings we had with the county,
> the state and other officials, the plan the county
> submitted was not exactly what the diagnostic team
> proposed,” Ms. McIntyre said. “There are some
> problems with curb height, for example. It really
> just needs some fine tuning — I don’t see this
> creating a major delay. The ball is in the
> county’s court now.”
> The disagreement is the latest snag in residents’
> quest to see the quiet zone implemented near their
> In 2005, federal railroad officials adopted a
> regulation allowing the establishment of railroad
> quiet zones. If a railroad crossing meets certain
> safety criteria, it can be requested trains cease
> engaging their whistles when approaching the
> Last year, a petition circulated Sun City West and
> Sun City Grand requesting that both the R.H.
> Johnson and Meeker crossings along Grand Avenue be
> considered for “whistle exclusion.” The petition
> was signed by approximately 2,000 people — 1,300
> signatures were from Surprise residents.
> MCDOT officials then approved creation of the
> quiet zone requiring engineers to cease blowing
> their train horns when crossing R.H. Johnson and
> Meeker boulevards.
> Before the quiet zone became reality, however,
> $20,000 was raised from the community to add
> fencing and signage that would complete the
> “This is a quality of life improvement, not a
> public safety improvement,” Ms. Crowe explained.
> “According to MCDOT draft policy, we can spend
> funds conducting the investigation and the
> feasibility study — but by law, it prohibits us
> from using money to implement the quiet zone —
> that is up to the community.”
> Once the project gathered steam, the money was
> raised quickly and residents began anticipating a
> quiet night’s sleep.
> By law, under normal circumstances, engineers must
> sound their horn five times in a series of long
> and short blasts when approaching a railroad
> crossing, MCDOT officials said. But under quiet
> zone rules, trains will only engage whistles in an
> emergency situation such as seeing something on or
> near the tracks.
> Many residents believe train engineers are abusing
> the privilege when they approach railroad
> Bud Merkel, a member of PORA’s Quiet Zone
> Committee, told Surprise City Council last October
> many residents are being affected.
> “In the middle of the night, certain trains are
> coming through and there is abuse with the
> whistles,” Mr. Merkel explained. “It’s affecting
> many people. This quiet zone is a way to enhance
> quality of life for those who live closer to the
> railroad tracks.”
> MCDOT Signal System Analyst Steve Blair,
> overseeing the quiet zone project, said the
> railroad officials surprised MCDOT officials “at
> the last minute.”
> “We thought our plans with this were sound,” he
> explained. “But on the last day of the 60-day
> review period, BNSF sent us a letter indicating
> this was not the plan the railroad people agreed
> “Unfortunately, the person who wrote the letter
> was not even in attendance at the diagnostic
> meetings,” Mr. Blair added. “Basically, the
> railroad is demanding more sophisticated plans
> before they will issue the permit to work in the
> Mr. Blair questioned BNSF’s request considering he
> views the quiet zone as a simple project.
> “The new signs are going to be placed on existing
> signposts,” he said. “There is some fencing to be
> installed. We’re not talking about moving the
> tracks here — we’re talking about bureaucracy
> within BNSF. To me, it’s all pretty simple — but
> to get the permit and move forward with the quiet
> zone, we’ve got to have more complex plans drawn
> The signal system analyst said the new plans
> should be sent to BNSF officials this week.
> “Hopefully within two weeks, we’ll have their
> approval,” Mr. Blair added. “It will take MCDOT
> less than two weeks to complete everything we need
> to do.
> “Right now, I’d say the whole thing could come
> online within two months.”
> MCDOT will eventually send BNSF a letter of
> implementation. The quiet zone goes into effect 21
> days after the letter is sent.
> Mike Hirschbein, a Surprise resident a member of
> PORA’s Quiet Zone Committee, was disappointed upon
> hearing about the delay.
> “It seems silly what the railroad did. I think
> BNSF is delaying this just for the sake of
> delaying it,” he said. “They were at those
> meetings — I don’t understand why now they have a
> problem with MCDOT’s plans.”
> He said he will remain patient.
> “Train noise doesn’t affect me as much as some
> other people,” Mr. Hirschbein said. “But residents
> need to remember that the quiet zone will be a
> reality — now it’s just a matter of when.” - Matt
> Loeschman, Independent Newspapers, newszap.com
> THE ROCKY MOUNTAINEER: ONE OF THE MOST SPECTACULAR
> TRAIN RIDES IN THE WORLD
> Is this any way to run a railroad? You bet your
> life it is. Based in Canada, the Rocky Mountaineer
> offers one of the world's leading travel
> experiences by train. Their premium GoldLeaf
> Service has been voted tops in a recent poll of
> 200,000 travel professionals.
> It has a magnificent staff, one of whom is
> gesturing dramatically at a huge black or brown
> bear resting in the clearing just below the
> double-decker Vista dome car's panoramic windows.
> The Rocky Mountaineer travels at Kodak speed,
> allowing passengers to take their pictures at
> leisure. This is just one of many reasons for the
> immense appeal of this privately owned luxury
> train, which has two classes, GoldLeaf Service and
> RedLeaf Service, the equivalent of coach class.
> In the GoldLeaf Service, breakfast and lunch are
> served on the lower level, and the cuisine is
> reminiscent of food served on crack trains of
> yore, such as the 20th Century Limited. It is
> impeccable and served with panache by a trained
> crew who take their responsibilities seriously.
> Tables are covered with white linen, and the
> cuisine is excellent all the way. A la carte
> breakfast is made to order with regional
> specialties in the GoldLeaf cars. Lunch is an
> elaborate three- and four-course bonanza with
> award-winning British Columbian wines flowing
> throughout the service.
> Passengers in the RedLeaf cars are served in their
> seats by a rolling cart.
> From the Rocky Mountaineer, you watch the Canadian
> wilds go by, complete with mountain goats and big
> horn sheep and bald eagles. Among the sights,
> there are large, sharp peaks looming high above
> and jagged pyramids too steep to hold snow, their
> bases wrapped in white blankets of glaciers. It is
> a feast for the eyes and soul.
> The Rocky Mountaineer has unsurpassed views of the
> Canadian Rockies. It takes you places automobiles
> can't -- it is a train traveler's kingdom, and
> those traveling aboard the train are Kings. On a
> recent journey, the train carried three engines
> forward, given the weather and the steep upward
> climbs. The train's descent is in a semi circle
> entering spiral tunnels so that the passenger can
> see the tail end of the Rocky Mountaineer as the
> G.M. engines pull away on a totally different
> level. It is a triumph of railroad engineering as
> the engines climb through so many extraordinary
> spirals and tunnels that they resemble model
> engines under the Christmas tree, racing through
> complicated loops, bridges, cloverleafs and
> dramatic overpasses that only an ingenious toy
> shop display can conjure.
> The ride is picturesque beyond words. There are
> precipitous drop-offs near the narrow shoulders of
> mountains as the train crosses high above rivers
> and treetops, riding the summit of an unseen
> viaduct without guardrails at a very cautious
> The Rocky Mountaineer only travels during daylight
> hours. It promises that guests will not miss any
> of the scenery. In the two-day voyage between
> Banff Springs and Vancouver, passengers are tucked
> away at a hotel in Kamloops at the end of the
> first day with a promise that all of their luggage
> will be in their hotel rooms by the time they
> arrive in town. How's that again? Not only does
> this train offer a safe and luxurious way to reach
> some places most people would normally not visit,
> but they make rash promises about luggage arriving
> at the hotel on time, before the passengers do.
> Indeed, suitcases and bags are in the rooms long
> before the passengers arrive.
> On a journey on the Rocky Mountaineer during
> Christmas week, the train slows to a stop in rough
> mountain terrain to pick up a colorful Santa Claus
> stranded in the snow next to the tracks. Radar had
> picked up his flight from the North Pole, and he
> boards the train complete with a large bag of
> gifts for children and adults. Santa strolls
> through the cars, cordially shaking passengers'
> hands and passing out lively red scarves with the
> railroad's logo as well as stuffed animal toys
> while a combo in the club car plays lively
> Christmas music.
> On still another run, The Frazer Discovery Route,
> the Rocky Mountaineer climbs almost 3,000 feet in
> half an hour -- by far the longest, highest
> railroad climb in North America today. One
> passenger, freshly arrived from the United States,
> sighs and notes, "We're in the most remote places
> now, and that is the charm of this railroad
> journey -- it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
> In a time when railroad travel can indeed be a
> trial, Rocky Mountaineer's hallmark remains
> unchanged. Its purpose in providing top-notch
> service - some veteran passengers compare
> the experience to being on a cruise ship - is to
> discriminating passengers coming back
> in an age of frequently declining transportation
> standards. These are, in all respects, among the
> most spectacular train trips in the world. Even
> for a veteran traveler, it is the experience of a
> For additional information or to book a Rocky
> Mountaineer vacation, please call 1-800-665-7245
> or visit [www.rockymountaineer.com
]. - Ralph
> Collier, Main Line Times
> TRAIN ACCIDENT LEADS TO FROZEN TURKEY SPILL
> SAN ANTONIO, TX -- A slew of frozen turkeys were
> spilled over a South Side road this morning after
> a Union Pacific train hit a truck carrying the
> frozen food.
> The accident happened around 09:30 at Center and
> Southton roads.
> A fire chief says a driver for Varsacold did not
> yield for the oncoming train and wasn't able to
> get his truck across the railroad tracks.
> No one was injured in the accident. - KENS-TV5,
> San Antonio, TX
> SCHUMER CITES CSX FIRE AS JUSTIFICATION FOR
> PROPOSED SAFETY LEGISLATION
> A chemical fire at the CSX terminal facility in
> Selkirk on Jan. 4 is another reason Congress
> should approve his Rail Crossing and Hazardous
> Materials Transport Act legislation, U.S. Sen.
> Charles Schumer, D-New York, said.
> Schumer said he will reintroduce the legislation
> in the new Congress.
> "The federal government is quite literally asleep
> at the switch when it comes to protecting our
> communities from deadly train derailments,"
> Schumer said. "This incident reminds us that there
> are thousands of gallons of extremely dangerous
> chemicals rumbling through Capital Region
> communities. What we need is a real plan to
> protect our communities -- and tougher penalties
> for railroad companies who disregard our safety."
> On Jan. 4, a CSX car carrying 28,000 gallons of
> methanol caught fire in the rail yard in Selkirk.
> The tanker car was being held adjacent to more
> than two dozen other cars carrying the dangerous
> and highly flammable chemical, but thankfully the
> fire did not spread. More than 50 Town of
> Bethlehem homes within a half-mile radius of the
> accident were evacuated.
> The Selkirk Yard is CSX Corp.'s largest switching
> The bill sets age restrictions for cars carrying
> hazardous materials. Each car must be inspected
> and upgraded every fifteen years. The legislation
> would require all rail cars fifteen years or older
> to be inspected and brought up to federal code
> within one year. The bill would also create a new
> infrastructure grant program that would authorize
> $50 million in federal funding to complete vital
> infrastructure improvements.
> CSX spokesman Robert Sullivan declined to comment
> on the specifics of Schumer's legislation.
> The Selkirk incident was handled smoothly and in a
> text book manner by both the railroad and local
> emergency responders, Sullivan said. CSX has
> offered to cover the out-of-pocket expenses of
> homeowners who were forced to evacuate.
> Rail accidents are declining and it is the safest
> way to move potentially hazardous cargos, Sullivan
> CSX is investing about $1.4 billion annually in
> infrastructure upgrades that improve safety, he
> said. - The Albany Business Review
> TRANSIT NEWS
> TWO PEOPLE DEAD AFTER COMMUTER TRAIN HITS TRACK
> WOBURN, MA -- An inbound commuter rail train
> crashed into a track maintenance crew Tuesday,
> killing two workers and seriously injuring two
> others, transportation officials said. Two other
> workers and about 10 passengers were treated for
> minor injuries.
> One of the workers killed was identified as
> Christopher Macaulay, 30 of Brentwood, NH,
> according to the Massachusetts Bay Commuter
> Railroad Co., where the workers were employed. The
> company identified John Hickey, 50 and Edwin
> Olson, 55, both of Lowell, as the two more
> seriously injured workers.
> The company has withheld the name of the other
> worker killed, and the two workers with minor
> injuries, pending notification of their families.
> The afternoon train was headed from Lowell to
> Boston with 43 passengers about 14:00 when it
> struck a piece of track repair equipment head on
> near the Anderson station in Woburn.
> One worker was on the equipment and five others
> were nearby, said Joe Pesaturo, a spokesman for
> the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
> The MBCR is a transportation consortium hired by
> the MBTA in 2003 to manage and operate the
> commuter rail system.
> Hickey was taken by medical helicopter to Boston
> Medical Center. Olson was taken by ambulance to
> Lahey Clinic in Burlington. Two other workers who
> received minor injuries were taken to Winchester
> Hospital, said Scott Farmelant, a spokesman for
> "MBCR is stunned and deeply saddened by today's
> horrific tragedy. Our hearts go out to the family
> and loved ones of these workers," MBCR General
> Counsel Richard A. Davey Jr. said.
> About 10 passengers were taken to area hospitals
> with minor injuries and because they were "shaken
> up," Pesaturo said.
> Farmelant said the workers were using a piece of
> equipment called a "speed swing," which uses a
> hook to lift heavy rail ties. He said the crew had
> been replacing ties since about 09:45 as part of
> scheduled maintenance work.
> Farmelant said other trains had passed through the
> area earlier in the day, but had been switched to
> other parallel tracks. For unknown reasons, the
> train that struck the equipment and crew was on
> the inbound track, where the crew was working,
> Farmelant said. - WHDH-TV7, Boston, MA
> THE BOTTOM LINE: DART PROPOSAL UNDULY INCREASES
> REDUCED FARES
> (Read additional details on proposed fares here:
> =271 )
> The Dallas Area Rapid Transit board is taking the
> wraps off proposed new fares that appear to be a
> fair deal for riders - almost.
> Considering DART's rising expenses and need to
> maintain long-term budgetary plans, it's time for
> users to shoulder part of that higher cost of
> doing business.
> But it doesn't make sense to impose the same
> increase on all classes of riders - not when
> seniors, many of whom are on fixed incomes, would
> end up paying proportionately more.
> For example, the basic one-trip adult fare would
> go up a quarter, from $1.25 to $1.50 - a 20
> percent increase. The fare for seniors also would
> go up 25 cents, from 50 cents to 75 cents - a far
> steeper 50 percent increase.
> The same problem exists throughout the proposed
> fare structure. The price of a monthly pass would
> go up $10 across the board, regardless of
> category. For a basic adult pass, the cost would
> rise 25 percent, from the current $40 to a
> proposed $50. For a senior pass, the cost would
> rise 67 percent a month, from $15 to $25.
> Talk about a shock to the system for pensioners
> and those who live on Social Security.
> What's more, children and high school students pay
> the same reduced fares as seniors. That means
> sharply higher costs for parents whose youngsters
> use DART to get to school.
> Starting with a hearing this evening, DART
> officials will gather feedback from the public on
> its proposed new fares. We hope residents can help
> transit officials come up with some creative
> solutions and help soften the blow for riders who
> can least afford higher fares.
> One strategy may be to step up efforts to bring in
> revenue - and new riders - through sales of
> monthly or annual passes that businesses buy for
> That could help DART adhere to its fiscal plan and
> also ease the pressure on riders who benefit from
> reduced fares.
> All in all, traveling aboard DART trains or buses
> is a bargain for most riders. It needs to remain
> an option - and not a luxury - for those who count
> their pennies to make it through the month. -
> Editorial Opinion, The Dallas Morning News
> ORANGE COUNTY TRANSIT AUTHORITY NEW CHAIRWOMAN
> WANTS GREATER SCRUTINY OF RAIL PROJECTS
> ORANGE COUNTY, CA -- For the last year, Orange
> County transportation leaders have recited the
> same mantra: Increase rail service. But with a new
> chairwoman elected Monday to head the county's
> largest transportation agency, that may change.
> Orange Mayor Carolyn V. Cavecche, the new Orange
> County Transportation Authority chairwoman, said
> she would like to see the agency address the
> "negative impacts" of adding rail projects.
> She also said the county ought to have a larger
> voice on the levels of international trade coming
> through the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles
> that is carried on local rails and freeways.
> "We're expanding Metrolink, and that's going to be
> the backbone for mass transit in the county,"
> Cavecche said.
> "But when you increase rail service, you're going
> to cause impacts, some of them negative, to
> surrounding communities."
> Cavecche, who has been on the OCTA board of
> directors for two years, succeeds Buena Park Mayor
> Art Brown, who served as chairman of the authority
> and of the Southern California Regional Rail
> Authority, or Metrolink. Brown's tenure as
> Metrolink chairman ends this month.
> Cavecche will oversee a transitional year for the
> agency, as it completes transportation projects
> funded under the old Measure M sales tax approved
> in 1990.
> In November, voters re-approved Measure M, which
> is a half-cent-on-the-dollar tax expected to raise
> nearly $12 billion during the next 30 years.
> Under Brown's tenure, OCTA approved a major
> expansion of Metrolink service and construction of
> Metrolink stations in Buena Park and Placentia.
> Cavecche voted for the expansion but said
> transportation planners should mitigate the
> effects by helping cities deal with noise and
> Orange, she said, has 16 railroad crossings and is
> tied with Anaheim for the most in the county.
> Horn blasts from trains at night have jarred
> homeowners awake in Orange, Placentia, Irvine and
> other cities, she said.
> "Horns blowing at 10 or 11 in the morning are not
> a problem," Cavecche said.
> "But now, when you're blowing those horns at 2 or
> 3 in the morning, you've got a problem."
> Train horns can legally reach 110 decibels,
> roughly equivalent to standing next to a chain
> saw. Train engineers are required to sound their
> horns - one short blast followed by a long one -
> 1,000 feet before reaching a pedestrian or vehicle
> Cities can earn quiet-zone status for train
> crossings by installing improvements such as
> enhanced flashing signals, gates that can't be
> driven around, and overpasses or underpasses.
> But such steps cost about $1 million and up.
> With port traffic expanding and truck traffic
> increasing, Cavecche noted that Orange County is a
> pass-through county for freight and passenger
> trains. By 2009, Metrolink trains will be running
> every 30 minutes from 5 a.m. until midnight in the
> "Is there enough capacity on our rail lines?" she
> "I understand the positive impacts to business and
> the community, but we need to know some answers,
> and the people who move the trains have to
> mitigate these issues."
> Other goals include relieving congestion on the
> Riverside Freeway; seeking more federal
> transportation funds; and creating a relationship
> with transportation counterparts at the Los
> Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation
> "We don't have the type of close relationship with
> board members in Los Angeles as we do with
> Riverside, so when things come up like the freight
> corridor issue, we can approach it together,"
> Cavecche said. - David Reyes, The Los Angeles
> COOL 2 KNOW: ART HUNEKE
> Photo here:
> Caption reads: Art Huneke visits LIRR's past on
> his Web site. (Photo by Genevieve Benjamin)
> MELVILLE, LONG ISLAND, NY -- After a 900-ton train
> gains speed, it's tough to stop that momentum. The
> same can be said for 185-pound Art Huneke. Ask him
> even one question about his lifelong passion for
> railways, and you're propelled onto a nonstop
> express that visits the rich, entertaining,
> sometimes troubled history of his former employer,
> the Long Island Rail Road.
> Photo here:
> Caption reads: Long Island Rail Road historian Art
> Huneke documents the history of the rail road.
> This photo is of the Greenpoint freight crossing
> Marie Street in Hicksville in 1954. (Photo by Art
> Huneke, 70, shares his fascination with the LIRR -
> the world's busiest commuter rail - at
]. His site features
> hundreds of his photos (available for sale),
> archival documents from the 1800s and a plethora
> of head-turning anecdotes. Founded in 2001, it's
> dedicated to the late Bob Emery, who worked for
> the LIRR during the steam era, and to fellow train
> buff Bill Slade.
> "Both were obsessed with preserving the history of
> the Long Island Rail Road," says Huneke, who lives
> in East Islip with his wife, Doreen. "Bill's big
> accomplishment was 40 albums of photos of the
> LIRR from 1925 when it was at its peak. He was
> also fascinated with the Brooklyn Rapid Transit
> Company." The albums are available at Stony Brook
> University's library.
> Behold some history nuggets at
]: Did you know that
> the LIRR did not have a fare increase from 1918 to
> 1947? Or that the LIRR is America's oldest
> railroad operating under its original name and
> Ironically, it was aviation history that helped
> introduce Huneke to Slade and Emery in 1954.
> Following Charles Lindbergh's 1927 trans-Atlantic
> flight, a speedy locomotive gained fame among rail
> buffs for transporting film footage of the pilot's
> arrival in Washington, D.C. Since the reels were
> developed in a darkroom behind Engine 460, the
> movies were immediately shown in theaters upon
> delivery to Manhattan. A plane that also was
> carrying the footage finished a distant second.
> "So the locomotive became famous," Huneke says.
> "After that, it ran on Long Island a lot."
> When Huneke got the chance to ride Engine 460, the
> men became acquainted. Their common ground?
> Photography. "I was shooting slides of the last of
> the steamers when I saw two men with cameras," he
> recalls. "One of them was Slade."
> The shutterbug trio often encountered resistance.
> "The railroad police had a reputation for hassling
> people taking pictures," says Huneke, who took his
> first shots in 1950 with a box camera. "Many
> people said I was crazy: 'Why would you take a
> picture of a train?'"
> Huneke is indeed crazy for trains. So what's his
> loco motive? "Even as a kid, I seemed to have an
> innate feeling for trains," says Huneke, who
> earned $1.55 an hour as a trackman, then worked as
> a signalman, a lineman and in the tower department
> during his 33-year LIRR career. "I can remember
> being 10 and riding trolley cars to Norton's Point
> in Brooklyn."
> Sadly, he claims one entity is not sentimental
> about the LIRR's roots: the Long Island Rail Road
> "They have absolutely no interest in their history
> and heritage," Huneke says. "The Transportation
> Authority has a museum in Brooklyn, but the LIRR
> does nothing to preserve its heritage. On my
> birthday in 2004, they destroyed East Williston's
> station. It had been neglected so bad, it almost
> collapsed on its own when they wrecked it."
> Such indifference isn't new, Huneke says. "In
> 1939, they tore up the tracks to Wading River and
> Sag Harbor. There's been a history of the railroad
> growing smaller and smaller. They can't provide
> the service the Island deserves."
> The LIRR very much appreciates its heritage, says
> a spokeswoman. "The LIRR is proud of its history,"
> says Susan McGowan. "We were chartered in 1834, so
> were were instrumental in the development of many
> of Long Island's communities."
> Huneke also rails against the Public Service
> Commission, which he calls "an oxymoron." The
> commission, he says, stood idle while the MTA
> abolished stations such as Center Moriches and
> Southampton College in 1998: "It would have cost a
> small amount of money to upgrade the platforms.
> Ron Ziel told me that to justify closing the
> college station, the MTA did the study during
> winter break, when they knew students weren't
> "The MTA doesn't care about the people who live
> here," Huneke adds. "In the city, you can close a
> line and people will walk to the next stop. You
> can't do that on Long Island."
> All aboard these other sites
> Art Huneke's fondness for railways isn't uncommon.
> Several other unofficial sites chronicle LIRR
> history, including:
> There's also the terrific [www.rmli.org
> operated by the Railroad Museum of Long Island.
> Oddly, the LIRR's official site offers no
> nostalgic photos. Nor does it plan to, it says.
> "We were owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad from
> around 1900 to the 1950s," says spokeswoman Susan
> McGowan. "After that, they took all their
> archives, so we don't have an awful lot of
> historical photos here." - Joseph Dionisio,
> THE END