Archive for the ‘Railroad News’ Category

Amtrak Marks 40th Anniversay of Blue Water

October 1, 2014

Amtrak will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Chicago-Port Huron, Mich., Blue Water on Wednesday.

There will be brief ceremonies at each of the Michigan stations along the route. Nos. 364/365 serve Port Huron, Lapeer, Flint, Durand, East Lansing, Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Dowagiac, Niles and New Buffalo. At some stations there will be refreshments, presentations and a gift drawing.

The train will carry an extra café car and gift bags will be handed out to passengers.

The Blue Water is funded in large part by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The train began service on Sept. 15, 1974. It was renamed Blue Water Limited on Oct. 26, 1975.

In a bid to reduce the train’s losses, Amtrak proposed extending the route to Toronto with the Canadian sector of the train operated by VIA Rail Canada.

That came to fruition on Oct. 31, 1982, when the train was renamed the International Limited, a nod to a pre-Amtrak train operated over much of the route by Grand Trunk Western and Canadian National. The word “Limited” was dropped from the train name in June 1983.

Falling ridership at Canadian destinations led Amtrak to suggest to the State of Michigan that the train be shorted to Chicago-Port Huron and be renamed Blue Water. This was fully implemented on April 25, 2004.

In 2013, the Blue Water carried a record 191,106 passengers.

 

W.Va. CSX Derailment Cleanup Continues

September 30, 2014

 

CSX on Monday continued to clear a derailment site in the New River Gorge of West Virginia that sent two loaded grain hoppers plummeting into the river near Fayette Station. The cars spilled soybeans into the water.

The National Park Service said the grain hoppers are expected to take several days to remove from the riverbank due to the inaccessibility of the location. The derailment took place within the New River Gorge National River park.

An eastbound loaded grain train derailed several cars about 10 p.m. on Friday while en route to Rocky Mount, N.C., from Cincinnati

The accident, which remains under investigation, occurred on the New River Subdivision (former Chesapeake & Ohio) between Handley and Hinton.

There were no injuries reported. Rail traffic was detoured via a parallel main line south of the river while crews worked to reopen the line. Throughout the weekend, many trains operated on the south side until track was fully restored across the river.

 

 

Marathon Runners Halt Train in Indiana

September 30, 2014

Runners participating in a marathon in Columbus, Ind., on Saturday halted a freight train on the Louisville & Indiana Railroad with some runners climbing over and under it.

The incident occurred during the second annual Mill Race Marathon. The course twice crossed the L&I tracks.

A Witness told WRTV-TV in Indianapolis that the runners stopped for the train on their first meeting. But at the second crossing the train’s conductor ordered the train to stop because running were crossing in front it.

But neither race organizers nor railroad officials expected a train to be moving in the vicinity of the race course once the marathon got underway at 7:30 a.m.

Bartholomew County Emergency Operations Center Director Ed Reuter told The Republic of Columbus that marathon organizers had been assured by L&I officials that no trains would come through.

“We always cooperate and stop train traffic,” said L&I President John Goldman. “That was our intent this morning as well.”

Columbus Mayor Kristen Brown said the railroad had planned to send the train through town before the race began.

Goldman said a young supervisor thought he had more time than he did to get the train through. Goldman said the railroad intends to investigate and is confident that there will not be similar incidents in the future. He noted that nothing like this had happened before.

The witness told WRTV that some runners then climbed over and even ducked under the locomotive.

“There were so many people, and they just wanted to make their time, that they just didn’t care,” the witness said.

Nearly 300 runners completed the marathon. No injuries were reported as a result of the stopped train.

The L&I train began moving through Columbus less than 20 minutes after start of the race.

Andy Pajakowski, a race organizer, tried to negotiate with railroad personnel on the scene, to no avail. Eventually, the train blew a long blast from its horn and started to move forward with runners in the vicinity.

Police held runners back, but could not control the runners and spectators once the train came to a stop.

“We had no clue this would happen,” Pajakowski said. “We worked extra hard to make sure no trains would come through. There were supposed to be no trains.”

After the train halted, some runners crossed in front of it. The course became so clogged with runners that some began curved around the front of it to cross the tracks. Eventually, the course became so clogged that climbing between the rail cars to get back into the race.

“Over, under or around?” was the joke at the finish line, as participants recounted how they bypassed the train.

Columbus police tried to stop runners from climbing between the cars, but as soon as police would stop one stream of runners, although would begin a few cars down.

A photographer for The Republic reported that the locomotive engineer yelled at the runners to stop or they would be arrested, saying “the train has the right of way.”

Not all runners sought to cross the tracks in front of the train or between the rail cars.

“I was yelling at people to stop, but no one was listening,” said Melissa Burgin of New York.

“It was dangerous; the conductor was still trying to move. Shows how runners are stubborn.”

She plans to email race organizers to ask if her time can be adjusted, although organizers said that may not be possible.

Organizers estimated that some runners who were in the middle of the pack of marathon competitors were delayed up to two to three minutes by the train.

Goldman was apologetic about the conductor cutting it close and said he was thankful that no one got hurt. But he insisted that the runners should have stopped.

“I get that it impacts the race outcomes for individuals, but there are a lot of things that can go wrong by climbing through the equipment,” he said, adding that the trade-off for runners trying to get a personal record easily could have turned into fatal mistake.

Craig Dismore, of Columbus, was at the front of the pack and saw the lights flashing.

“I thought, ‘Am I going to get stopped by a train? Really? Is this real?’ ”

Dismore was one of the last runners to make it over the track before the train rolled through the intersection.

New Grand Rapids Amtrak Station to Open

September 28, 2014

The new Amtrak station in Grand Rapids, Mich., is expected to begin boarding passengers next month.

The last hurdle to opening the station is the rebuilding of a CSX crossing at Century Avenue SW. That work is expected to be finished on Oct. 10.

The $5.2 million station was supposed to open in 2013 but had become bogged down with numerous delays.

Named after former West Michigan congressman Vern Ehlers, the station will replace an existing depot built by Amtrak on Wealthy Street.

The station will be the eastern terminus of the Chicago-Grand Rapids Pere Marquette, which is funded in part by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

“The track work has to be inspected by CSX; that’s a separate agreement, as we own the railroad spur,” said Peter Varga, CEO of The Rapid.

Rapid officials touted the convenient location of the new Amtrak station, saying that Central Station, which serves all of the six-city bus system’s busiest routes and the new Silver Line bus rapid transit system, is just down the street.

Chicago-Detroit Route EIS Completed

September 28, 2014

Public comments will be taken on a Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement that evaluates planned improvements to the Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) rail corridor used by Amtrak.

The study was prepared by the Federal Railroad Administration and the departments of transportation in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois.

The statement reviews the project’s purpose and need, identifies reasonable route alternatives, describes the affected environment, and analyzes the potential environmental impacts of the alternatives considered, including the no-build alternative, FRA officials said in a news release. Public comments must be submitted to the FRA by Dec. 19.

The study will also be the subject of public hearings in Michigan (Oct. 28), Illinois (Oct. 29) and Indiana (Oct. 30).

To view the study documents, or offer comments online, go to www.greatlakesrail.org.

 

Transportation planners are working to upgrade the corridor for high-speed rail service. The State of Michigan owns much of the route between Kalamazoo and Dearborn, Mich., while Amtrak owns the route between Kalamazoo and Porter, Ind.

Michigan is currently overseeing a project to rebuild the tracks over the portion that it owns. The Amtrak-owned section has already been rehabilitated.

Amtrak operates three daily Wolverine Service roundtrips between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac). The Chicago-Port Huron, Mich., Blue Water and the Chicago-Grand Rapids, Mich., Pere Marquette use a portion of the route.

 

INRD Sets 25th Running of Santa Train

September 28, 2014

 

The Indiana Rail Road has announced plans for the 25th running of the Santa Claus train in southern Indiana and Illinois.

The train will operate on Dec. 5-7 and feature a festively-decorated train complete with Santa and Mrs. Claus. A cast of costumed characters will be brought to life by railroad employee volunteers, their families, and friends of the company.

Santa’s helpers will also give away coats, hats, and gloves to help families in need of warmth this winter. More than 6,000 people are expected to visit the train during its three-day tour, which for many small-town children is the only opportunity to visit Santa in person.

There is no charge to for children or their parents to visit the train.

“The Santa Train is our most treasured community service activity and has truly taken on a life of its own,” said Thomas Hoback, a founder, president and chief executive officer of the Indiana Rail Road. “Our employees have created a very special tradition with the Santa Train, and their legacy will no doubt last for many generations to come.”

The Santa train began in 1989 as a volunteer project of Indiana Rail Road employees. Many of Santa’s earliest Santa Train visitors bring their own children to the event each year, and most of the founding volunteers have retired from railroading.

For more information, including a schedule of appearances, go to www.inrd.com.

 

 

Private Cars Face Oct. 1 Amtrak Rules Deadline

September 27, 2014

Private car owners are facing an Oct. 1, 2014, deadline to comply with Amtrak regulations that all wheels and axles must be ultrasound tested before being allowed to operate on Amtrak trains.

As of Sept. 22, Amtrak had tested 89 cars of which five failed the standards announced in early 2013.

Lee Trombecky, Amtrak’s manager of regulatory compliance, said of the five cars that failed inspection, seven axles were found to have condemnable defects.

There are about 450 private cars, including railroad-owned equipment, that could be Amtrak-certified, but no more than about 125 actively operate in Amtrak service.

“We are planning to bring the defective axles to Wilmington and cut them open so our engineers can investigate what we’re finding inside those axles,” Trombecky said during the recent convention of the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners. “I know everybody was upset why we were doing this but it is all about safety. We don’t want cars out on the railroad and something breaking, and we know (testing) has been painstaking and costly, but we appreciate what you’re doing.”

Brian Gallagher, Amtrak’s operations director, said that that poor Empire Builder on-time performance precluded picking up a private car in Fargo, N.D., that its owner wanted to send to the AAPRCO convention.

“But I called the division and we had to say ‘no’ because that 25 to 30 minutes (needed to add the car and complete a brake test) could make or break the rest of that trip,”  Gallagher said.

He says that anytime a train loses time, host railroads “lose more for us. If we’re not where we say we are going to be, we get sidetracked – literally.”

Gallagher said that costs are “through the roof on late trains. If you have to charter a plane to fly a crew to some little grass strip in the middle of Montana, that’s significant.”

Gallagher also said that Amtrak is looking at a plan to rebuild more P42 and P40 locomotives. However, it lacks funding for the project and can’t afford or to buy new locomotives.

“We’ve had some catastrophic failures out there but we’re doing the best we can do,” he said.

Despite Amtrak’s meager financial resources, Gallagher said, “the board (of directors) and the administration has made a decision: We’re not cutting any trains. That I can tell you.”

Train 48 Where Are You?

September 25, 2014
Amtrak's eastbound Lake Shore Limited overtakes a CSX ethanol train in Conneaut, Ohio, last Friday. At the time, No. 48 was running nearly 3 hours behind schedule. Late running has become the norm for Amtrak trains that serve Northeast Ohio. (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited overtakes a CSX ethanol train in Conneaut, Ohio, last Friday. At the time, No. 48 was running nearly 3 hours behind schedule. Late running has become the norm for Amtrak trains that serve Northeast Ohio. (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

This might be old news, but Wednesday was a bad day for Amtrak trains that serve Northeast Ohio. OK, Amtrak has a had a lot of bad days this year. So what was so bad about this one?

At 7 a.m. on Thursday morning, the eastbound Lake Shore Limited that had departed Chicago on Tuesday night had still not reached New York City, according to the Amtrak website.

Or maybe it had and no one bothered to report the train’s arrival. The website estimated that No. 48 would arrive at Penn Station at 4:31 a.m., making it 10 hours late.

That train had left Cleveland just before 2 p.m. on Wednesday when it was 8 hours late.

No. 48 would lose nearly another two hours between Cleveland and Buffalo and was almost 10.5 hours late by the time it left Syracuse, N.Y. The last report for the train was out of Croton-Harmon, N.Y., at 3:51 a.m.

The excessively tardy eastbound Lake Shore had begun in what these days is all too typical fashion by departing Chicago Union Station just over an hour late on Tuesday night. By the time it reached its first stop, South Bend, Ind., it was 3.5 hours late.

No. 48 then needed nearly three hours to travel 17 miles to its next stop at Elkhart, Ind. The scheduled travel time is 23 minutes.

By the time the train left Toledo it was more than eight hours behind schedule.

An online report, though, indicated that an hour of that tardiness was due to the crew making a lengthy inspection of the two locomotives while parked at Toledo Central Station.

The report did not indicate why that inspection needed to occur, but it did report that Norfolk Southern’s Toledo Yard dispatcher was annoyed to learn of it when she called the train on the radio to ask if it was ready to go east. That was 20 minutes after it arrived.

The dispatcher had the 22W waiting for those 20 minutes to follow No. 48 out of town. This is a hotshot intermodal for NS and it, too, was running hours late according to the online report.

Earlier on Wednesday, the eastbound Capitol Limited also fell victim to the NS “black hole” between Chicago and South Bend.

No. 30 left Chicago one minute late but by the time it rolled out of South Bend, it was 5 hours, 12 minutes late.

It needed nearly 1.5 hours to reach Elkhart and was 8 hours, 15 minutes down when it departed Waterloo, Ind. The distance between South Bend and Waterloo is 72 miles and in “normal” circumstances No. 30 travels that distance in an hour and 14 minutes.

But conditions on the NS Chicago Line this summer have been far from normal with trains stacking up all over the place and the railroad pressed to find enough available crews to move its freight trains.

The eastbound Capitol Limited on Wednesday continued to lose time as it headed eastward, although in smaller increments. It arrived in Cleveland at 10:44 a.m. and pulled out 13 minutes later. By now it had topped the 9 hour tardiness mark.

It gained a few minutes en route to Pittsburgh, departing Alliance 8 hours and 54 minutes late and leaving the Steel City 8 hours, 51 minutes late.

But it would gain no more time. By the time it left Rockville, Md., at 10:21 p.m., No. 30 was just over 10 hours late.

Schedule padding enabled the train to halt at Washington Union Station 9.5 hours late at 10:45 p.m.

By then every same-day connection that No. 30 can make was gone. Well, not quite. No. 66, the Northeast Regional train to Boston that is scheduled to leave Washington at 10:10 p.m. was held and departed at 11:24 p.m.

Most passengers ticketed for connections in Chicago from the westbound Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited also were able to make their connections to Amtrak’s westbound trains.

The westbound Capitol was doing all that bad, relatively speaking, in its timekeeping. It left Alliance and Cleveland nearly 1.5 hour late on Wednesday morning. It got  out of Toledo 1 hour, 41 minutes late.

It would lose 26 minutes by the time it left Waterloo, but then fell into the NS “black hole,” leaving Elkhart and South Bend 4.5 hours late and halting at the Chicago Union Station bumper post at 2:36 p.m., nearly 6 hours late.

The westbound Lake Shore Limited faced the same story. It left New York City on time and was just over an hour late leaving Cleveland. That had increased to 1.5 hours late out of Toledo.

The tardiness reached 2.5 hours out of Bryan, Ohio, 4.5 hours out of Elkhart, and 5 hours, 18 minutes from South Bend. No. 49 reached Chicago at 3:25 p.m., 5 hours, 40 minutes late.

Amtrak held the westbound Southwest Chief for 50 minutes, which enabled connecting passengers from Nos. 29 and 49 to continue their trip uninterrupted if a bit frazzled.

The westbound California Zephyr was held for more than an hour before leaving at 4:03 p.m. The outbound Texas Eagle was held nearly 2 hours to accommodate connections from both trains.

But if you were connecting to the westbound Empire Builder, you were out of luck. No. 7 left at 2:17 p.m., two minutes late and didn’t connect with either No. 29 or 49.

Today (Thursday, Sept. 25), things are looking slightly better for the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited.

No. 30 departed the Cleveland Lake Front Station at 7:55 a.m. That is 6 hours late. No. 48 was not far behind and arrived at 8:09 a.m., That is 2 hours, 34 minutes late.

As for the westbound trains, No. 49 was running nearly 3 hours late and No. 29 was plugging along 48 minutes late. But it was on the brink of the NS “black hole,” so it’s anyone’s guess how it will fare into Chicago.

As for the New York-bound Lake Shore Limited that left Chicago on Tuesday night, the Amtrak website was finally updated. No. 48 arrived at Penn Station at 4:33 a.m., 10 hours and 10 minutes late.

Semaphore Blades Stolen in Indiana

September 25, 2014

A report on a chat list devoted to discussing railroads in Indiana says that seven semaphore signal were stolen recently from the fallow CSX Hoosier Subdivision.

The thefts occurred near Orleans and Smedley on a portion of the line that has been out of service since July 2009. CSX ceased freight operations on most of the Hoosier Sub the same year except for a segment in the New Albany area near Louisville, Ky.

The thieves reportedly wore hard hats and were driving a white truck. Police interviewed neighbors in the area where the blades were taken and other residents living near the line were warned to watch out for suspicious activity.

The Hoosier Sub is the remains of the south end of the former Monon. CSX abandoned the ex-Monon between Bedford and Bloomington in 1993, which effectively severed the line as a Chicago-Louisville route.

CSX separated the ex-Monon into the Hoosier Sub between Bedford and New Albany and the Monon Subdivision between Munster and Cloverdale, Ind. The latter is primarily used north of Crawfordsville by CSX freights and Amtrak’s Cardinal and Hoosier State.

Pa. Short Line Acquires GE Center-Cab Diesel

September 24, 2014

The Stewartstown Railroad in New Freedom, Pa., has received a 45-ton General Electric center-cab diesel.

The unnumbered locomotive, which arrived by truck, was acquired by an unidentified investor in the railroad from the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley in West Virginia.

Stewartstown president David Williamson said the side-rod unit is in running order but needs several updates to meet Federal Railroad Administration rules.

Williamson was unsure when or if the locomotive will enter service on the 7.4-mile short line. The Stewartstown owns two other locomotives, No. 9, a 35-ton Plymouth, and No. 10, a GE 44-tonner. The latter unit is being leased to the nearby Steam Into History tourist operation.

Members of the affiliated Friends of the Stewartstown Railroad have been replacing ties and cutting brush in an effort to re-open the line, which has not operated since 2004. Motorcar rides are available at Stewartstown on select weekends.

 

 


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