Railroad Newsline for Friday, 12/01/06
Author: Larry W. Grant
Date: 12-01-2006 - 01:12




Railroad Newsline for Friday, December 01, 2006

Compiled by Larry W. Grant

In Memory of Rob Carlson, 1952 – 2006






RAIL NEWS

TWO CSX TRAINS DERAIL, WRECKAGE INJURES THREE IN VEHICLES AT CROSSING

NORTH BALTIMORE, OH -- Two freight trains derailed Thursday in the middle of a small northwest Ohio town, injuring three people in automobiles hit by wreckage while waiting at the crossing, authorities said.

One person was hospitalized and two were released from hospitals after treatment for their injuries.

At least 15 cars of a train carrying steel and other items derailed when rail cars started to go onto a side track used to get to a nearby grain elevator, North Baltimore police chief Gerald Perry said.

"Somehow it started going down the siding instead of going down the main line," he said.

The wreckage hit a coal train traveling 5 to 10 mph in the opposite direction on a different track, knocking four of its cars off the rails, authorities said. The tracks are lined by houses, and high school is nearby.

Matt Swartz of North Baltimore was in the second car waiting at the tracks, which had the crossbars down and warning lights flashing. Swartz said he was shaken up, but only needed treatment for minor injuries.

"I just seen everything coming at me," he said. "I thought, 'Oh my God,' this is it."

The next thing he knew the cars were tumbling all over and his vehicle was picked up and spun around, he said as he sucked on a cigarette. "It must have thrown the car 30 or 40 feet."

Flat pieces of steel flew off the train and hit the car closest to the tracks, Perry said.

The car was flattened to the top of its doors, and rescuers had to pry off the top to free the driver, Bob Loe, the village street superintendent. Loe was treated at Wood County Hospital before being released late in the afternoon, a nursing supervisor said.

"I'm very surprised he survived," Perry said.

A hospital would not give a condition for the person in the third car, whom authorities had not identified.

CSX Corp., the trains' owner, is investigating how the derailment happened, spokesman Gary Sease said. Investigators will look at the condition of the track, the trains and railcars and operating procedures.

People working at the scene for CSX reported that the train carrying mixed freight was traveling west when it derailed about 12:30, Sease said from the company's headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida. The other train, which had 119 cars filled with coal, was going east on a different track.

Jeff Arterssia of North Baltimore said he just drove across the tracks when he saw a train approaching.

"It was moving pretty fast," he said. "These trains come through here flying."

He was within a block of the crossing when he heard a loud bang. He parked his truck and made his way back to the crash site. By the time he got there, residents were running all over the place and paramedics were trying to free a man from inside a teal automobile.

"There was stuff all over the place," he said.

Brenda Wittenmyer was making lunch when she heard a crash that shook her apartment building, less than a block away from the tracks.

"It was so loud, then it got real quiet," she said.

Wittenmyer ran outside and saw the rail cars thrown about all over the place. Within minutes, rescue squads were cutting off the top of the teal car, she said.

"I just hope to the Lord he's OK," she said.

Freight traffic was shut down on the track that CSX says is a busy one for the company. Perry said the train company expects cleanup to take up to two days. CSX was looking to reroute its trains to other tracks while the accident was cleared but had not yet developed alternative routes, Sease said.

About 75 trains pass through the area each day, and people who live along the tracks say the trains pass every 10 minutes during the busiest times of the day.

The mixed-freight train was traveling from northwest Ohio to Cincinnati, and the coal train was headed to Chicago.

CSX operates 2,100 miles of track in Ohio and handles 280,000 carloads of freight annually.
Products shipped through Ohio include coal, automobiles and steel. - John Seewer, The Associated Press, The Akron Beacon Journal




STEAM CLEANING: KEEPING PUFFY THE RAILROAD ENGINE IN SERVICE IS A DIRTY JOB

GRAPEVINE, TX -- Climbing from the smoke box of a 110-year-old steam engine, Tommy Faifer was covered in grease and grime. He'd been removing charred black sand that had circulated through boiler tubes to keep them clean.

"Sometimes I want to call that guy from the Discovery Channel's show, Dirty Jobs, and have him come out and do this," Faifer said.

Faifer, 52, is the mechanic in charge of keeping Puffy, the Grapevine Vintage Railroad's antique locomotive, rolling. The locomotive's maintenance record is clean, but keeping it that way isn't.

"Sometimes when he gets home," said his wife, Donna Faifer, "it's like he's got a dark tan."

Laurie L. Ward, a Fort Worth Star-Telegram photographer snapped the following photo of Tommy Faifer at work:

[www.dfw.com]

Puffy is one of six active steam locomotives in the Federal Railroad Administration's five-state region that includes Texas, said Tom Tulley, a federal railroad inspector. It was built in Patterson, NJ, in 1896.

Puffy's job is to make two 65-mile round trips each weekend between Fort Worth and Grapevine.
Faifer, volunteer Jerry Barnes and the three-person train crew work through the week to make sure Puffy is ready.

The dirtiest tasks:

Climbing into the firebox, where fuel oil is burned to heat water and create the steam, and using a hammer and chipping tool to clean out residue.

Crawling through the round hatch of the smoke box at the front under the headlight to dump charred sand out through an opening at the bottom of the chamber.

The chores are endless. Myriad moving parts must be inspected, lubricated, adjusted, cleaned, machined or periodically replaced. Bushings must be machined, brake shoes replaced.

Among the more complex and time-consuming tasks is maintaining steam injectors, which draw water from the tender, combine it with steam and force it into the boiler. The locomotive has 65 grease fittings that must be constantly lubed, and five oil reservoirs that must be constantly refilled.

"It's a big teakettle," Faifer said.

The locomotive burns fuel oil in the fire box just forward of the cab. The boiler, a cluster of 268 tubes surrounded by water, turns that water into steam, which moves two great pistons mounted in housings on each side of the front of the locomotive.

Puffy is well-maintained, inspector Tulley said. And he should know. For each 31 operating days, Puffy must undergo a safety inspection by the Railroad Administration. An annual "tear-down" inspection can take 30 to 45 days of very close scrutiny.

A surprising challenge

Faifer learned about the job through a help-wanted ad in 2001 and thought it seemed like a good fit for him.

"It said, 'heavy equipment, with a locomotive,'" Faifer said. He applied for the job and got an interview. But until he arrived in Grapevine to talk to his employer-to-be, he didn't know he would be charged with maintaining a steam locomotive that was more than a century old.

"They said locomotive, they didn't say steam engine," Faifer said.

After looking it all over, Faifer decided he could do the job.

"It's just another piece of equipment," he said.

Steam railroad locomotives weren't covered in the coursework when Faifer was training to be a diesel mechanic at Austin Community College in the late 1970s. The new job meant a lot of learning along the way.

Soon after he came on board, the locomotive was completely rebuilt, and consultants hired for that job taught him much of what he needed to know in what he called a kind of apprenticeship.

These days he says he gets help from a national network of steam locomotive mechanics who exchange information to help one another deal with technical questions.

Faifer decides what needs to be done, and Barnes helps him.

"If he needs something, I go get it -- I'm a go-fer," said Barnes, a retired safety inspector and licensed boiler inspector, as well as a railroad buff and model railroader.

Everything about Puffy is an involved process, Barnes said, including starting it up for a run.

"It takes about five hours to steam the engine up," he said.

New chapter

The locomotive was once part of the Fort Worth & Western Railroad's Tarantula excursion service. The city of Grapevine is buying the locomotive and passenger cars under a lease-purchase agreement. Until Nov. 1, crews operating the train were Fort Worth & Western people, but since then the Vintage Railroad has hired its own crew, and it now operates with no outside help.

The railroad needs some more hands to help care for the trains and to host visitors to the railroad. Tom Wayne, head of the Grapevine Vintage Railroad, is accepting names for a list.

Not all of the volunteer jobs would involve getting very, very dirty, officials said.

PUFFY FACTS

Puffy, or Engine 2248, is an 1896 locomotive built by Cooke Locomotive & Machine Works in Patterson, NJ.

Puffy is one of six active steam locomotives in the Railroad Administration's five-state region that includes Texas.

To volunteer or find out about train schedules, call the Grapevine Vintage Railroad at 817-410-3123 or go to [www.grapevinesteamrailroad.com]. - Bill Teeter, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram




CREWS BATTLE COLD AND SNOW TO COMPLETE NEW SECOND MAIN TRACK

Snow and wind chills down to 19 degrees below zero couldn’t stop about 90 BNSF track and signal employees from putting 7.6 miles of new second main track into service Tuesday, Nov. 28, between Rozet and Moorcroft, Wyoming. This trackage, will improve the flow of empty and loaded coal trains to and from the northern Powder River Basin (PRB).

New PRB trackage placed in service this year includes 18.4 miles of new third main track between Reno and Milepost 58 on the PRB Joint Line and a new six-track yard at Donkey Creek, Wyoming. As part of its improvements in the Donkey Creek/Rozet area, BNSF will place in service later this year additional trackage to provide better access to and from BNSF’s Campbell Subdivision, which serves six mines at the northern end of the PRB.

"BNSF’s ability to add this much track capacity to serve our coal customers is a real testament to the hard work, dedication and commitment to safety of the employees in all departments who have worked on these projects during 2006," says Greg Fox, vice president, Engineering. "In addition, thanks to their efforts, we have been able to improve maintenance of existing trackage in the PRB and on other coal routes."

"Handling 10 percent more PRB coal tons while performing the track capacity additions and maintenance of way activity during 2006 is an amazing accomplishment," says Steve Bobb, group vice president, Coal. "We’ve made critical progress at enabling BNSF to meet our customers’ growing demand for PRB coal."

To minimize the amount of track time required for the Rozet-Moorcroft cutover, the area was divided into three zones, with crews, equipment and material positioned to begin work as soon as a "window" of track time became available. Work included removal of four turnouts, shifting a total of 4,700 feet of existing track by up to 10 feet, and elimination of the stations at Moorcroft and East Rozet.

"The team encountered several problems, worked through them as professionals do and achieved the goal under extreme winter conditions," says Dave Hestermann, assistant vice president and chief engineer, Central Region.

As temperatures topped out at 8 degrees, the crews kept working. Track surfacing was completed on the new main track and it was placed in service at 19:35, Central time, Tuesday, Nov28. The previously existing main track was shifted as necessary, surfaced and returned to service at 00:20, Central time, Wednesday, Nov29. Loaded and empty coal trains immediately began moving through the area.

"Very nice job to everybody involved," said TD Smith, general superintendent transportation, Central Operations, in an e-mail message to the crews who did the work. "I know the conditions were not good but this will pay big returns to the operation. Thanks."

To view a diagram, click on the following link:

[bnsfweb.bnsf.com]

- BNSF Today




TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY COMING TO MINNESOTA TO DISCUSS DM&E

WASHINGTON, DC -- Transportation Secretary Mary Peters will travel to Minnesota next week for meetings on the expansion plan by the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad, according to Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn.

Coleman said in a prepared statement that he will accompany Peters on the visit to Rochester, Minnesota on Monday.

The DM&E secured federal regulatory approval for the project earlier, but it is now seeking approval for a $2.3 billion loan from the Transportation Department's Federal Railroad Administration.

The Mayo Clinic and the city of Rochester oppose the project, arguing the increased rail traffic could threaten the safety of the clinic's patients.

"I've made it clear that if I don't see a mitigation plan before the end of this year, I will not allow this project to move forward," Coleman said in the statement. "I appreciate the secretary's willingness to see firsthand the safety concerns this community is facing."

The project would rebuild 600 miles of track across South Dakota and Minnesota and add 260 miles of new track to reach Wyoming's Powder River Basin coal mines. It would cost an estimated $6 billion, with $2.3 billion coming from the federal loan and the rest from private funding. - The Associated Press, The West Central Tribune




HIGH-SPEED RAIL PROPOSED FROM CASPER TO ALBUQUERQUE

DENVER, CO -- Front Range Commuter Rail, a non-profit group, wants to study the possibility of creating high-speed rail lines running from Casper, WY, through Denver to Albuquergue, NM.

At a total cost much cheaper than the proposed Super Slab concrete roadway, the high-speed trains would run on existing railroad rights-of-way.

The group says the study will cost about $4.4 million. It will examine existing rail lines, the cost of improvements and the cost of relocating existing coal and freight train traffic.

Front Range Commuter Rail wants to collect money from Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico to pay for about half the cost of the study in order then to be eligible for matching money from the federal government.

Randy Bruns, chief executive officer of Cheyenne LEADS, said Wyoming would be crazy not to participate in the study.

"This is not pie in the sky," Bruns said. "Somebody could be physically running passenger service to Denver tomorrow."

Completion of the high-speed rail project is set for the year 2016. It's intended to meet the transportation needs of the rapidly growing Rocky Mountain region.

"You just can't build lanes of highway fast enough to alleviate congestion," said Bob Jensen, CEO of the Wyoming Business Council.

The study must be completed before Congress could designate the Casper to Albuquerque line as a high-speed corridor.

Congressional designation of the high-speed corridor would allow the rail project to seek federal money. There are already 10 such designated corridors in the country. - The Associated Press, The Denver Post




CITY EYES NEW COMMITTEE TO WORK ON DM&E AGREEMENT

BROOKINGS, SD -- The City Council plans to form a committee aimed at reaching a new agreement with the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern Railroad, which wants to upgrade its track and eventually run coal trains along its line.

During the general election, voters in Brookings rejected an earlier agreement between the city and the Sioux Falls-based railroad 56 percent to 44 percent.

That agreement outlined what would be done on "safety and quality of life" issues such as fencing and street crossing barriers that could arise during the DM&E's proposed $6 billion expansion. The rejected agreement also said the city would support and promote the rail project.

The city should hire consultants to advise the new committee and negotiate with the railroad, said Gary Larson, a member of the Committee for a Safer Brookings.

"No city should have to put itself in a position of promoting a project or a huge government loan in order to 'earn' mitigation of safety and quality of life. Nor should the city need to be rushed into another partnership," Larson said.

"We believe that a citizen's committee is the essential first step in developing an agreement, if one is attainable."

Ed Hogan of Brookings also said the city of Brookings should hire a professional negotiator. A negotiating committee will allow for more citizen input, he said.

"This city has turned down numerous businesses in the past because we thought they would not be good for Brookings," Hogan said.

"Now we need to do what's good for Brookings five, 10, 25 years down the line. We need to do what it takes to protect the future of Brookings."

The committee is wasting its time if it tries to stop the DM&E expansion because the panel doesn't have that kind of power, said Mike Bartley, a city council member. The committee should focus on getting the best and safest agreement it can get with the railroad, he said.

"It's not our purview to make a loan or not to make a loan. Our purview is safety."

The DM&E has applied for a $2.3 billion Federal Railroad Administration loan.

Mayor Scott Munsterman said a new mitigation agreement is needed because the U.S. Surface Transportation Board's safety requirements are inadequate.

On Dec. 12, the council plans to discuss formation of the proposed nine-member committee.

Earlier, DM&E President Kevin Schieffer said that pursuing a new agreement right now would be pointless, considering the hard feelings in the community.

Schieffer has told Munsterman the company is always open to discussions. "But to make them productive, it seems to us that a few issues need to be resolved before we can have a meaningful dialogue again," Schieffer said, adding that the railroad is proceeding on the assumption there will be no agreement in Brookings. - The Associated Press, The West Central Tribune




CN BOARD OF DIRECTORS APPROVES CONTRACT EXTENSION FOR COMPANY'S PRESIDENT AND CEO

MONTREAL, QUEBEC -- David G. A. McLean, chairman of the board of directors of the Canadian National Railway, announced Thursday that the company's directors and E. Hunter Harrison, president and chief executive officer of CN, have agreed to a one-year contract extension for Harrison through Dec. 31, 2009.

Harrison had signed a five-year employment contract with CN in 2004 expiring at the end of 2008.

McLean said: "The board of directors is pleased to have reached agreement on this contract extension with Hunter Harrison. Hunter has been a tremendous leader, transforming CN into one of the continent's leading railroads."

Harrison became president and chief executive officer of CN on Jan. 1, 2003. He joined CN as executive vice-president and chief operating officer in March 1998, and served in that position until December 2002. He has been a director of CN since December 1999.

Before coming to CN, Harrison was a director and president and chief executive officer of Illinois Central Corporation (IC) and Illinois Central Railroad Company between 1993 and 1998. CN entered an agreement to purchase IC in February 1998 and assumed control of the railroad in July 1999. - MarketWire.com, Source: CN News Release




WEST BEND BUSINESSES STILL WORKING ON THE RAILROAD

WEST BEND, WI -- While the state is working to improve the environment with its Rails-to-Trails program, three local companies still see the beauty of the area’s railroads.

Washington County opened the graded, gravel Eisenbahn Trail in April as part of the statewide Rails-to-Trails program. Twelve miles of the former Canadian National Railroad’s line through the county became history as a result of the effort.

But where one trail ends, another one begins.

The remaining Canadian National rail line, which ends where the trail begins at Rusco Road in West Bend, has become a main attraction for the River Road Industrial Park’s new tenants.

Gehl’s Guernsey Farms is one of three businesses to purchase lots made available by the city of West Bend in the industrial park.

The other two companies, Jackson Concrete and Barton Solvents, also purchased lots within a matter of weeks of each other last summer.

All three companies have different plans for rail usage.

Gehl’s and Barton Solvents will use a spur line to gain access to the rails, while Jackson Concrete, whose business doesn’t depend as heavily on the freight line, will be able to access rail shipments through John Kreilkamp’s WB Warehouse Inc., also in the industrial park.

"It’s great to have that option," said Mike Soener, branch manager of Barton Solvents.

Gehl’s Guernsey Farms

By far the largest new development in the River Road Industrial park is a 117,000-square-foot Gehl’s Guernsey Farms bottle manufacturing plant, which is still under construction.

Germantown-based Gehl’s, a maker of ready-to-serve dairy products that stay fresh without refrigeration, announced Aug. 21 it was constructing an in-house manufacturing plant in West Bend to make its own plastic bottles.

The construction is in the first phase of a two-phase project, said Gehl’s Guernsey Farms CEO John P. Gehl.

He said the first phase consists of building plant and office space, with a second 136,000-square-foot addition of plant space anticipated for 2008.

Construction began in October and the plant is expected to have a total development value of almost $9 million.

"From our standpoint construction is going very well," Gehl said. "We’re finishing the roof now. We’re doing everything we said we would and it’s right on time."

Gehl said the materials to make the plastic bottles will be brought in by rail car.

The company hopes to produce a maximum of 600 to 700 million bottles a year in the future, he said.

Gehl said the plant will not begin producing bottles until next fall. The new technology will take a while to get going, so he said it’s difficult to predict how many employees the plant will employ.

Rail access will be central to operations, he said.

"Of course the bottles are critical to us because it’s a crucial part of our business," Gehl said. "This allows us to keep our costs down and make a good product."

The plant is owned by Gehl’s Guernsey Farms and operated by York, PA-based Graham Packaging. Graham Packaging is involved in the design, manufacture and sale of customized blow-molded plastic containers.

Jackson Concrete

Now located in the town of Jackson, Jackson Concrete is building a $2.5 million cement plant and storage building complex on a 15-acre plot in the industrial park.

The concrete manufacturer is constructing a 36,000-square-foot manufacturing plant along with a 9,600-square-foot storage building.

"Things are progressing very well for us," said Jackson Concrete owner and operator John Meyer of the project to be completed in February. "The plant will be a lot faster, a lot larger."

Meyer said he’s pleased he was able to remain close to the company’s first plant in Jackson.

The short move will allow the company to retain all 21 of its employees and keep serving the same customer base. Meyer said he plans to increase his work force by five or six.

Jackson Concrete differs from the other new tenants in that it does not have direct access to the Canadian National rail spur, but Meyer said he will be able to access the railroad for supply shipments via WB Warehouse.

"We will use it sporadically," Meyer said.

Barton Solvents

Barton Solvents Inc., a Des Moines, Iowa-based stocking wholesale industrial chemical, oil, surfactant and plasticizer distributor, is slightly behind schedule as it builds a new bulk facility to replace its West Bend plant, 2030 Stonebridge Road.

Barton Solvents will be packaging its materials on-site at the new 33,000-square-foot manufacturing and warehousing plant.

"Hopefully we’ll be in by the end of the year," Soener said of the project, adding he hopes to increase the current staff of 10 to between 40 to 50 "within the next couple of years."

Soener said the site’s rail access will be utilized often once the spur line is completed in 2007.

"It certainly gives us options," he said, "to bring materials in via rail or for transport. It’s certainly very important to the future growth of our operation."

Barton Solvents operates additional distribution facilities in Iowa and Kansas. The Stonebridge Road plant does not have rail access. - Kyle Zwueg, Greater Milwaukee Today




LUMBERING ON TRACKS

EUREKA, CA -- It’s cold and it’s wet out on Humboldt Bay this time of year, but at this point, there is no other alternative for Timber Heritage Association’s historic railroad equipment, and it must be removed from its Glendale location by Dec. 31.

Humboldt Bay Forest Products owner Woody Murphy came forward to offer some of his Fields Landing parcel for free temporary storage for miscellaneous equipment, flatbed cars and up to five steam locomotives, if someone can transport the latter there.

Related photos by Katie O'Neill of the Eureka Reporter can be found here:

[www.eurekareporter.com]

and

[www.eurekareporter.com]

On Tuesday, Murphy conducted an informal walk-through of the HBFP site and an examination of the materials that have already been transported there from THA’s Glendale Storage Facility.

The Glendale facility contains turn-of-the-20th century materials, including those locomotives, logging rail cars, cabooses, a gravel car and “speeders,” which took loggers into the woods.

Also stored there is logging equipment, including steam donkeys — which pulled logs out of the woods — and sawmill equipment.

THA has been renting the Simpson Timber Co.’s Glendale lot for about 21 years, but that parcel was sold to a private entity two months ago, and THA was told if all the equipment wasn’t moved by Dec. 31 it would be as good as scrap metal and would be discarded, THA President Marcus Brown said.

Murphy’s crew has been visiting the Glendale site since October to pick up smaller items, which are put onto trailers utilizing machines like front-end loaders operated by THA volunteers.

“There is no low-boy in Humboldt County big enough to move our locomotives,” Brown said on Monday.

A low-boy is a flatbed truck, and the center of it between the truck and the rear wheels dips extremely low to the ground. That type of equipment is a must for the THA locomotives, due to their weight.

Murphy said he doesn’t have this type of trailer.

Brown said a trucking firm in Stockton has been recommended, but the cost is substantial.

“Basically we’re looking at $30,000 just to move the locomotives,” he said. “We need to raise $30,000 ASAP if we want to move our locomotives.”

The THA has five steam locomotives. They include the No. 15 “Big George,” which was formerly in Eureka’s Sequoia Park. It was the property of Hammond Lumber Co.

Brown said this locomotive had been moved in two pieces, its boiler unbolted from the rest of it.

But the 90-ton 1910 Pacific Lumber Co. No. 29 was brought onto the Glendale property by track.

The Arcata-Mad River Shay No. 7 belongs to the city of Arcata. It came in by rail also, Brown said.

Murphy said that in the past there were three sawmills located on his property and a rail spur was connected to it, but no more.

A large portion of the equipment already moved from Glendale to Fields Landing is made up of railroad tracks and ties. A rail line has been assembled on Murphy’s site for lightweight rail cars to occupy, but more ties and further reinforcement would have to be added to hold the locomotives, he said.

Also on Murphy’s site is a large pile of wheels or “trucks,” which are attached to flat rail cars.

Much of the estimated 4 acres of THA historic equipment still remains at Glendale. Quite a bit of transporting is yet to happen, but, Murphy said, the worst thing to do is to over-analyze the situation or mar the focus by concentrating too heavily on the looming Dec. 31 deadline.

“You just got to keep on going,” Murphy said.

His own family dates way back in Humboldt County lumbering history, and that’s a large impetus for Murphy stepping forward to help preserve the area’s legacy.

His great-great grandfather Simon Murphy purchased the Pacific Lumber Co. in 1903 and it was part of the Murphy family until 1986, he said.

Murphy is on the THA board of directors.

“The thing is that the timber historical museum does not own any property, so they don’t have the privilege of just putting (the equipment) on their property,” he said. “I told Marcus this several months ago. The first thing we got to do is move all the small stuff, which we’re doing now.”

He said he hopes that will be complete in the next two weeks.

“Now we need the help of the bigger players in the community,” Murphy said. “I’ve done all I can do, putting all the collection I can on my property.”

He said it will be fine on his site for the short term, but the bay is no friend to iron.

“This is our timber heritage, exactly what we have here,” Murphy said. “If we don’t take care of it, it’s going to be gone forever.” - Wendy Butler, The Eureka Reporter




PLANS FOR SHERIDAN RAIL UNLOADING FACILITY OPPOSED

SHERIDAN, WY -- Mayor Dave Kinskey says he opposes plans to unload hydrochloric acid from trains into trucks at a site just outside town.

"Stuff happens," he said Tuesday. "I want to see this thing away from town."

The company proposing the unloading facility, EMIT, said no one would be in danger.

The site would unload five to 10 rail cars a week. Each car would carry 20,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid at 36 percent concentration.

Hydrochloric acid can produce chlorine gas when it encounters certain metals, such as zinc, iron or copper.

Although Kinskey opposes the facility, the city might not be able to do anything about it because it would be outside the city limits.

But Kinskey said he would have the city attorney look into the matter. - The Billings Gazette




ETHANOL SPILL CLEANUP CONTINUES IN SOUTHERN MINNESOTA

CAMBRIA, MN -- The cleanup is continuing on 30-thousand gallons of ethanol that spilled when a Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern train derailed between New Ulm and Mankato last week.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency spokeswoman Nancy Miller says government agencies and the railroad expect to have a plan by the end of the week.

On Monday, crews emptied ethanol from derailed tanker cars and removed the cars from the site of the incident near a dry creek bed called the Little Cottonwood River.

Miller says the spill's scale was significant, creek banks kept the fuel from spreading, and dry soil soaked up the liquid rather than letting it reach the Minnesota River.

Miller says there's no immediate threat to groundwater, though there could be a minor long-term threat. - The Associated Press, KTTC-TV, Rochester, MN




FENCE PLANNED TO BLOCK TRACKS AT TRAIN DEPOT

AURORA, IL -- If you're one of the hundreds of people who race to make the train at the Aurora Transportation Center every day, running up the grassy hill near Walter Payton's Roundhouse Restaurant, you're in for a surprise next week.

The BNSF Railway Company has announced plans to construct a metal fence along the western edge of the tracks, joining with the existing fence to the south near Comfort Suites and effectively cutting off access everywhere but the official entry point at the Transportation Center, on the other side of the Roundhouse.

Railroad spokesman Steve Forsberg said the fence is intended to keep people from walking onto or over the tracks.

"This will hopefully prevent people from unsafely and illegally cutting across the tracks," he said. "We've had a persistent trespassing problem there."

The railroad's security employees have seen people in large numbers crossing the tracks, and even stepping on the rail, which could cause serious injury, Forsberg said.

"That's one of the first safety measures you learn," he said. "We've observed a lot of unsafe behavior."

Forsberg said the railroad has worked with the city of Aurora to deter trespassers, using both its own security force and the Aurora Police Department. But the problem has persisted.

The fence, he said, will force people to use the designated stairways.

Police Lt. Brian Olsen said the department has received few calls about trespassing on the train tracks, although he noted that the railroad's own security force likely deals with those incidents more often.

Roundhouse owner Scott Ascher considers the planned fence an inconvenience, especially for the commuters who buy parking spaces in his lot. Ascher said he sells spots for $80 a month, and allows people to park there while they take the train into the city.

Ascher said he sees many more people take the shortcut to the train tracks as well.

"I see 200 people a day go across those tracks," he said.

Ascher said he will open the Roundhouse four hours and 45 minutes early, at 06:15, to allow morning commuters the chance to cut through and avoid the walk around to the Transportation Center. Ascher is even offering an "inconvenience coupon" for a free Starbucks coffee at the restaurant through December.

Forsberg said the new fence, which should be erected next week, is part of a joint project with Metra that will see the north and south platforms of the station renovated.

"I think, in the end, this will be for everybody's benefit," he said. - Andre Salles, The Aurora Beacon News




WALL STREET RESIDENTS STUCK IN THE MIDDLE WITH SOO

WINONA, MN -- Two red-and-white locomotives slowly emerged from riverfront buildings on Winona’s east side Wednesday morning.

With a caboose, six tankers and six hopper cars, the train creeped north on Wall Street as a Witt Vending driver waited to cross. Past the small homes and Boomer’s Quality Plumbing, it veered west off the street.

A Winona Daily News photo by James A. Bowey can be viewed here:

[www.winonadailynews.com]

On Wall Street, everyone is on the wrong side of the tracks, which run down the middle of six blocks of the street, intersecting seven cross streets and 30 driveways. Small strings of railcars traverse the stretch once or twice a day during the week.

The half-mile spur, once the old Milwaukee Road, links Canadian Pacific Railroad’s main line with riverfront businesses such as Winona River and Rail, Modern Transport, Bay State Milling and RTP.

Failed referendum

Trains have operated down Wall Street for more than a century.

A half-cent sales tax proposed by the city of Winona would have raised money to fix the unusual arrangement — along with nine other transportation projects — but voters defeated the measure in a November referendum, leaving the odd piece of infrastructure in place for now.

Juliana Hemmelman has lived there 49 years. For her, the tracks are not a major inconvenience, but an annoyance.

“I’d like to see it gone, because it’s a big vibration,” she said. “Sometimes it’s really long and other times, it’s just a few cars.”

Her neighbor, Brent Decker, has lived on Wall Street for three years. The 30-year-old Winona native leaves early for work and usually misses the trains each morning.

“I’ve never had any problems with it,” he said. “They’re going pretty slow.”

Although track occupies part of a lane for six blocks, there are no signs prohibiting parking on the tracks. Nevertheless, locals have learned that parking there could be hazardous to their cars.

Some who know the train schedule will park there when it’s safe, Decker said.

Because of the tracks, Wall Street is exempt from the wintertime alternate-side parking rule.

The future of Wall Street

Judy Bodway, the city’s economic development director, said even though financing fell through on the ballot question, the city still plans to remove the Wall Street track.

Canadian Pacific owns the spur. On the west side, Union Pacific owns another short line that comes to the riverfront. The two spurs meet at Bay State.

The railroads, at the city’s urging, will begin negotiations early next year to create a joint powers agreement, allowing CP to use the UP’s spur, Bodway said. Then it’s a matter of coming up with funding to remove the tracks, she said.

If you lived here, you’d be used to it

Juliana Hemmelman’s husband, Clarence, said when the train comes down the street, he watches out the window to admire the “fancy” spray-painted graffiti on the rail cars.

The track used to have a junction switch, sending cars either to the Winona Knitting Mills or to a Mississippi River drawbridge, Juliana Hemmelman said.

Years ago, the brakeman would come stand on her front porch to pass the time, she said.

The tracks are lumpy in places, causing rough driving, she said, and the Wall-Sanborn intersection is to be avoided. “If you’ve lived here that many years, you get used to it.” - Jeff Dankert, The Winona Daily News




NEW CEO BOARDS SCENIC RAILROAD

PENINSULA, OH -- Steven W. Wait never had a model train, never had dreams of being a railroad engineer.

But the 53-year-old Wait became a railroad man for 31 years and now finds himself president and chief executive officer of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

His chief tasks include upgrading and expanding rail operations in the Cuyahoga Valley and south to Akron and Canton, extending the railroad into downtown Cleveland and raising funds for the tourist railroad.

Wait came to the Peninsula-based railroad Nov. 6, replacing Doug Cooper who returned to corporate law in Cleveland after five years.

``In Steve, CVSR has found a seasoned manager and motivator with a multitude of skills in strategic planning, finance, marketing operations and government relations,'' said Richard M. Enty, chairman of the railroad's board of trustees.

Wait, a father of five and grandfather of six, began his railroad career in 1974 while in college because he could make $50 a day as a switchman for the old Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Co. He later joined the Kansas City Southern Railway before coming to Northeast Ohio.

He worked for the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway Co. from 1995 to 2005 when he retired as president and chief operating and marketing officer for the Brewster-based freight hauler.

He and his wife, Connie, who live in Stark County's Washington Township, then started a mission in Massillon with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. That ended Nov. 5.
The Cuyahoga Valley rail job appealed to Wait.

``It was something new, something different, something fun,'' he said of the railroad that carries about 110,000 riders a year through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

In Wait's brief time in charge of the railroad, the California native said he is impressed by the railroad's partnership with the park, the condition of the rail infrastructure and the volunteers that help keep the railroad running 220 days a year.

The park owns and maintains the track, and the railroad owns the engines and cars.

The tracks are in pretty good shape with trains able to go 25 miles an hour in most places, which is fast enough for a scenic railroad, he said.

The railroad needs to do more to promote and develop its summer weekend service from the park and Akron to Canton, he said.

Getting the railroad from Rockside Road in Independence eight miles north to Cleveland's Tower City complex will be a big challenge, Wait said.

That will involve heavy negotiations with CSX, and it's difficult to predict how long it might take to get that extension built, he said.

The railroad -- with an annual budget of $3 million and 23 paid full-time and part-time staffers -- relies heavily on special events such as wine-tasting trains, Thomas the Tank Engine visits and the highly popular Polar Express holiday rides, Wait said.

Part of the challenge will be to continue to offer special events that will draw additional riders to the railroad, he said. - Bob Downing, The Akron Beacon Journal




TRANSIT NEWS

FIRST LIGHT-RAIL TRAIN TO ARRIVE IN VALLEY NEXT WEEK

PHOENIX, AZ -- The Valley's first light-rail train will arrive next week and will be assembled at a Phoenix maintenance yard, Metro chief Rick Simonetta said Thursday.

Photo here:

[www.azcentral.com]

The first train was to be tested in New Jersey, but instead was loaded onto three flatbed trucks from the Baltimore harbor that are on their way to Arizona. Until recently, Metro didn't expect the first Japanese-manufactured trains to arrive until late January.

Simonetta also said that Metro's maintenance yard near Sky Harbor International Airport will be used to assemble the 50 light-rail vehicles. Japanese manufacturer Kinkishayro International had been eyeing properties in Flagstaff, Buckeye, Los Angeles and elsewhere.

The switch to Phoenix will save taxpayers an expected $1.5 million, Metro officials said. They say the assembly work could create around 30 mechanic jobs paying close to $20 per hour.

"This gets our arms around the rail cars. We know the vehicles aren't going to hold up the project," Metro's operations chief Joe Marie said. - Sean Holstege, The Arizona Republic, courtesy Marc Pearsall




DERAILED THIS YEAR, MASS TRANSIT IDEA IN KANSAS JUST IFFY

The Kansas Legislature let a mass transit bill die in committee last session and odds of getting a similar bill further in 2007 remain iffy, Mid-America Regional Council Transportation Director Mell Henderson said Monday.

"The jury's still out on that," he said.

New legislation could let Johnson Countians consider funding to help improve regional mass transit, primarily using buses, but with potential for light rail.

A major move to improve regional mass transit on the Missouri side of the state line took place Nov. 7. After a year of gas prices that sometimes topped $3 per gallon, Kansas Citians approved a light rail tax.

The vote may have some influence on what happens with mass transit in Kansas, but formidable obstacles remain, Henderson said.

"There were some concerns expressed last session by some of the local elected folks, particularly in Johnson County, who weren't quite ready to move forward yet," Henderson said. "Conversations that are under way now are really trying to figure out if there is sort of an area of common ground."

Some Johnson County leaders worry that mass transit funds generated here would commute east to Kansas City.

Former Kansas Rep. Bob Vancrum, Leawood, is the Mid-America Regional Council's lobbyist working for mass transit. He said changes in the Kansas Legislature after the election might help mass transit.

"I do think some of the strongest people against regional cooperation are gone," Vancrum said.

One criticism heard about mass transit from Johnson County, he said, is that Jackson County seemed unable "to get its act together" on mass transit. By passing the light rail issue, Kansas City voters might have curbed that concern, Vancrum said.

"Light rail is probably, on the surface at least, more popular on both sides of the state line as far as the public is concerned," he said.

Henderson said what Johnson County community leaders think about light rail and other mass transit would dictate what, if anything, happens in Topeka next year.

"It has more to do with the opinions of local officials here than it has to do with the state legislators," Henderson said. "We need to find a place where the local folks are comfortable before anything moves forward at the state level."

The issue gets down to priorities, Vancrum said.

"There's still such an attitude of, 'Yeah, this is probably a great idea sometime, but we've got this, this and this that are more important,'" he said.

Area officials wrestled in the last election with tax issues such as a countywide soccer complex, a city hall in Fairway and a bond issue for De Soto schools - all of which failed.

Leaders from cities and the county also clashed during the last legislative session over how to share a planned county sales tax, with the end result being that no one got anything.

If local officials and lawmakers agree to let voters at least consider mass transit, then a plan could be drafted. Ideas might include a rail line to serve Johnson Countians in ways such as carrying workers to and from Jackson County.

"It opens up some possibilities for a limited pilot project involving light rail, which could perhaps include parts of Johnson County, and that's part of what I would anticipate (in) the plan for next year," Vancrum said.

For now, there is no plan, just ideas about what might happen if Johnson County's community leaders signal lawmakers that now is the time to decide whether to pursue a regional mass transit system.

"We're probably in a planning mode at this point in time, just trying to gauge the interest of local officials," Vancrum said. "Without local officials supporting, at least behind the scenes... we're going to be in trouble in Topeka." - Jack "Miles" Ventimiglia, Editor, The Johnson County Sun




TRANSIT SYSTEMS GETTING $15.7 MILLION FROM U.S. DOT

NEW ORLEANS, LA -- The U.S. Department of Transportation said Thursday that it is making available $2.1 million to continue a bus shuttle system between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The free service, meant to carry workers or displaced residents some 60 miles one way into this city, was set to expire Thursday.

The agency also announced that $13.6 million would go to the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority to run streetcars and buses and repair Katrina-damaged vehicles. Most of RTA's 372 buses were damaged or destroyed by the floodwaters that followed last year's hurricane, and the 24 new, bright red streetcars that ran on the Canal Street line were destroyed.

A spokeswoman for the RTA said Thursday she had not been notified of the award.

A month ago, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced $43 million to help repair New Orleans' storm-damaged, public transit system.

Street cars from the historic St. Charles line now run on Canal in place of the cars built for that line. Katrina damaged the electrical system of the St. Charles line, and it remains out of order.

For more than a year, FEMA funded the worker shuttle between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. A FEMA spokesman said the agency had spent $8.5 million on the service from Oct. 31, 2005, when it started, to Thursday, and that the funding periods had been extended twice.

The service, free to riders, was set to expire Thursday. It had been carrying about 1,000 people a day on 19 trips to and 19 from New Orleans, said Brendan Rush, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation and Development.

With the announced funding, freed up through the Federal Transit Administration, the service will continue through March, he said. There will be fewer trips, he said.

Mark Lambert, communications director for the state transportation department, said this isn't new money. He said the federal government let the state use the money, originally set aside to help with startup costs for rural transportation systems and accumulating for many months, so the shuttle could continue.

Lambert said the money also buys time for policy makers to decide how or whether the service will continue past March.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said the funding is "as much about bringing energy and vitality back" to New Orleans as keeping buses and street cars running. "Nobody should be left without a way to get to work because of a set of rules that don't take into account all this incredible city has been through."

The DOT said the funds were released Thursday, and that, since the storm, about $120 million in funds administered by the Federal Transit Administration have been allocated for New Orleans and Louisiana. - Becky Bohrer, The Associated Press, The New Orleans Times-Picayune




THE END



Subject Written By Date/Time (PST)
  Railroad Newsline for Friday, 12/01/06 Larry W. Grant 12-01-2006 - 01:12


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