Archive for the ‘Railroad News’ Category

Hoosier State in Trouble if Indy Pulls Funding

July 26, 2014

Amtrak’s Hoosier State appears to be doomed after the City of Indianapolis decided to cease helping to fund the quad-weekly service between Chicago and Indy.

Indianapolis was one of a handful of communities served by the train that agreed to help fund it last October after a new federal law took effect that shifted more of the burden of funding the losses of short-haul trains onto state and local governments.

“They have told me they are not interested in doing it next year, and take that as a final no,” said Bob Zier, director of multimodal program and planning for Indiana Department of Transportation.

The news comes shortly after INDOT selected a Chicago company, Corridor Capital, to take over management of the train in October.

Corridor Capital officials have been talking about trying to boost ridership on the service, which is among the least patronized of Amtrak’s short-distance trains by assigning differing equipment, providing modest food service and instituting Wi-Fi service.

In the one-year deal approved last fall, IDOT agreed to provide half of the money, about $1.4 million, to keep the Hoosier State operating. Local governments in Indianapolis, Beech Grove, West Lafayette, Lafayette, Crawfordsville and Tippecanoe County, kicked in the other half.

Ryan Vaughn, an aide to Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, said that funding the Hoosier State doesn’t make financial sense for the city. The aide said the city’s participation hinged on improvements for Union Station, which is in desperate need of repairs.

Vaughn said it’s hard for the city to take on funding rail service when the needs at Union Station are so great.

He said if Indianapolis can get a federal grant to help with improvements at Union Station, the city might be able to help fund the Hoosier State.

But the deal would need to be done by Sept. 30 although INDOT can apply for one four-month extension.

That Indianapolis wants to end its funding of the Hoosier State doesn’t surprise Crawfordsville Mayor Todd Barton. “We had a sense Indianapolis wasn’t fully on board from day one,” he said.

Barton doesn’t think the Hoosier State can survive without Indy’s contribution.

“If you look at their contribution, do the math. It doesn’t work out,” he said. “Theirs was a diversion of INDOT funds that they were getting from INDOT anyway. It wasn’t like Crawfordsville, Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County and Rensselaer putting cash on the table.

“I think we’re all confident it can be self-sufficient once you get over the hump, but it will take a year-and-a-half to two years, and it will cost a little more with a private provider. I don’t think the rest of us can make up that difference.”

Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski agreeds that losing the support of Indianapolis might be a death blow for the Hoosier State.

“Without them in that financial mix … there’s a very strong possibility it would mean … the end of the Hoosier State,” he said.

Still, some Indiana officials are holding out hope that the train can be saved and turned over to Corridor Capital.

“We’re all trying to put together a scenario where we can implement the new train service,” Zier said. “I’m still optimistic. I think this is going to happen. It’s just a matter of getting everything to fall into place.”

However, it seems unlikely that Lafayette, West Lafayette, Crawfordsville and Tippecanoe County will agreed to commit more money toward the Hoosier State to make up for the loss of the contribution from Indianapolis.

“We certainly cannot kick in more funds,” said Tippecanoe County Commissioner Tom Murtaugh.

Roswarski, Barton and West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis agreed that their cities don’t have additional money to subsidize the rail line.

Dennis is not as optimistic as Zier, but still has hope that a deal with Indianapolis or other investors might save the Hoosier State because, he said, in the world of politics, things aren’t always as they seem on the surface.

Also holding out hope is Crawfordsville mayor Barton.

“I don’t think it’s final, now. I’m hopeful,” Barton said. “INDOT is still working very aggressively to pull something together, but in all honesty, if we do not secure it by Sept. 30, it’s probably gone forever.”

The end of the Hoosier State would not mean the end of rail passenger service in any of the affected communities. Amtrak’s tri-weekly Cardinal, which operates on the days that the Hoosier State does not operate, would continue to run between Chicago and New York.

C&O 1309 Reaches Cumberland, Unloading Begins

July 25, 2014

Crews were working Thursday to unload the Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 at its new  home on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad in Cumberland, Md.

The steam locomotive arrived at the CSX-WM interchange late Thursday morning and Hulcher and the railroad spent much of the afternoon disconnecting cables and assembling dozers in anticipation of the locomotive’s unloading at the Ridgeley shops.

By mid-afternoon, Hulcher crews had successfully unloaded the locomotive’s front drivers from a flat car to one of the shop’s spur tracks.

Once unloaded, crew immediately shifted their efforts to the locomotive’s tender, using four “side-winders” to unload it.

The locomotive arrived in Cumberland late Wednesday afternoon on a Baltimore to Cumberland revenue freight led by CSX SD40-2 No. 8870 and GE C40-8 No. 7583

The 1309 was transported on two TTX railcars, which were the fourth and fifth cars in the consist of the manifest freight. Photographers and bystanders stood trackside along the train’s route along the former Baltimore & Ohio mainline.

Corridor Capital Talks Hoosier State Upgrades

July 22, 2014

The company that will take over management of the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State is talking about making major improvements in the route, including the addition of Wi-Fi and a faster schedule.  However, food service is not necessarily among the plans.

Fritz Plous, the director of communications for Corridor Capital, spoke of his company’s plans to improve the Hoosier State during a town hall discussion in Crawfordsville, Ind.

In the short term, Corridor Capital needs to boost ridership, which is now about 85 passengers a day aboard the quad-weekly train.

“We need to see it at double that,” said Plous said, adding that such amenities Wi-Fi and information screens could draw more passengers.

“That’s the first step towards legitimacy: Get people a nice, new train,” Plous said. But, “the funding has to be there.”

Another priority will be reducing the current running time of 5 hours and 10 minutes from Indianapolis to Chicago to about two hours less. Plous did not provide any details as to how that could be accomplished on the train’s circuitous route.

“We won the beauty contest,” Plous said. “We don’t know what mojo made INDOT choose us.”

The Indiana Department of Transportation chose Corridor Capital from among four bidders to improve manage the Hoosier State.

Tim Maloney of the Hoosier Environmental Council said that Indiana has $2 billion in reserves and can afford to fund the train.

“We have the money,” he said. “But it depends on what our priorities are.”

Crawfordsville Mayor Todd Barton urged community members to lobby elected officials to boost the train.

“At the end of the day, you have to have some quality of life that attracts residents to your community,” Barton said. “We all recognize that. Once a line is gone, it’s going to be difficult to get it back.”

 

NS Steam Specials Suspended Until 2015

July 18, 2014

Last weekend’s Detroit Arrow excursion between Detroit and Fort Wayne, Ind., will be the last steam trip for 2014 on Norfolk Southern.

NS acknowledged this week that a lack of road crews and an increase in freight traffic led it to suspend further steam trips for the rest of the year.

The railroad expects to resume operating steam trips in spring 2015.

Some of the steam locomotives that have pulled steam trains on NS will continue to see action, though.

Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum’s Southern Railway 2-8-2 No. 4501 is expected to be back in action next month after a rebuilding. It or the Southern 2-8-0 No. 630 will lead Summerville (Ga.) Steam Specials Oct. 4, 11, 18, 19, 25, 26, and Nov. 1. Details and tickets are available at the museum’s Web site, www.tvrail.com.

Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society’s Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 will return to Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad Sept. 6-7 and Sept. 13 and 14. Rebuilding work continues on Norfolk & Western Class J No. 611. The 4-8-4’s engine and tender were separated last weekend at the North Carolina Transportation Museum .

The engine was placed inside the roundhouse for the next phase of work, which includes ultrasonic testing of the boiler shell. The locomotive is expected to be ready for the main line in spring 2015.

Norfolk Southern Buys 3 Susie Q SD70Ms

July 18, 2014

The latest used locomotives to join the Norfolk Southern motive power fleet are three former New York, Susquehanna & Western SD70Ms.

Built in 1995, the locomotives wear the Susie Q’s yellow-and-black paint livery. The locomotives also have seen service as lease units to CSX and on short line Indiana & Ohio.

Road numbers for the SD70Ms on NS will be 2797-2799, right below the recently acquired SD75Ms.

NS will perform renumbering and minor repairs to the SD70s at its shops in Altoona, Pa. NS does not expect to repaint the three units before placing them in service.

NKP 765 to Return to CVSR in September

July 17, 2014

It’s coming back. Nickel Plate Road No. 765 will pull a series of excursions on the Cuyahoga Scenic Railroad in September.

The Berkshire will be operating two-hour roundtrips with photo runbys on Sept. 6-7 and Sept. 13-14.
The Sept. 6-7 trains will depart at 9:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. Tickets range from $26 to $53 depending on the level of seating.

The Sept. 13 train will depart from Akron Northside Station at 11:45 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. Tickets range from $26 to $53.

On Sept. 14, the 765 will pull a series of one-hour round trips departing from Boston Mill at 10:15 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 2:30 p.m. Tickets range from $18 to $38.

The CVSR has leased open window passenger cars NKP 62 and 90 from the Midwest Railway Preservation Society.

For more information go to http://www.cvsr.com.

PUCO Approves 11 Grade Crossing Projects

July 12, 2014

Eleven grade crossing projects in seven counties won approval this week by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

Norfolk Southern will install mast-mounted flashing lights and roadway gates at six crossings in Lockland, Rice Township, Sandusky and Sharonville.

CSX will install mast-mounted flashing lights and gates at two crossings in Jackson Township and Trenton; and the Wheeling & Lake Erie will install mast-mounted flashing lights and gates at two crossings in Brimfield Township.

All work must be completed by April 9, 2015, except upgrades to the CSX crossing at Morganthaler Road in Trenton, which must be finished by January 9, 2016. All of the projects are being funded with federal funds.

PUCO also approved a petition filed by NS to close the Stores Road/Township Road 159 crossing in Brown Township. The crossing will be closed within 30 days.

PUCO also will conduct two public hearings in Gallon on July 15 to review CSX’s petition to close the County Road 8 crossing in Washington Township.

 

NS Acquires 16 ex-BNSF Locomotives

July 12, 2014

Norfolk Southern has acquired 16 used locomotives, including nine SD60Ms and seven SD75Ms.

All of the locomotives were previously used by BNSF but had been returned to the lessor when the leases expired.

The SD75Ms are former Santa Fe locomotives and represent a new locomotive model for NS. These units were built in 1994 and featured higher horsepower (4,300) than the 4,000 hp SD70Ms in the EMD catalogue at the time.

The SD60Ms were purchased new by Burlington Northern in 1989 and feature the distinctive three-piece windshield that was standard on early SD60Ms.

NS plans to renumber the SD60Ms to Nos. 6807-6815 while the SD75Ms will receive Nos. 2800-2806.

Allen Rider, the NS manager of locomotive engineering said all 16 locomotives will be sent to Altoona for repairs and minor modifications. The units will not be repainted prior to entering service although the SD60Ms will eventually be placed in NS’s SD60E rebuild program. That rebuilding will give the distinctive looking locomotive cabs of the units a limited life in the NS motive power fleet.

Amtrak 448/449 Canceled on Select July Dates

July 11, 2014

The Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited will not operate on select dates in July as CSX crews undertake a track rehabilitation program on the train’s route east of Albany-Rensselaer. Affected passengers will be bused to and from their destinations.

Eastbound No. 448 will not operates between July 12 and 16, and July 19 and 23. Westbound No. 449 will not operate between July 13 and 16, and July 20 and 23.

Stations affected include Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, Framingham and Boston South Station.  Amtrak will not operate buses to Boston Back Bay station during the service disruption and has instead referred passengers to MBTA service to Back Bay.

Indiana Rail Road Boosting Top Train Speeds

July 11, 2014

The Indiana Rail Road announced on Tuesday that it will increase the top speed for trains using a 6-mile stretch of track in Indianapolis.

Trains will now be able to travel 30 mph over a segment that had been mostly 10 mph since the formation of the INRD in 1986. The affected trackage is between West Street and Stop 11 Road.

In news release, the INRD said the faster speeds resulted from “investing millions of dollars in private capital on the north end of [INRD's] Indianapolis Subdivision this summer, and the results will greatly benefit the general public: faster, quieter-moving trains and smooth at-grade road crossings.”

The railroad said a train passing a grade crossing at 10 mph takes about six minutes. The higher speeds will cut that to two minutes.

Once a track rehabilitation project is complete, the mainline between Indianapolis and Bargersville will have a top speed of 30 mph, thanks to the installation of continuously-welded rail.

INRD also said it has rebuilt 10 road crossings in Indianapolis at West Street, Bluff Road, Southport Road, and at Troy, Epler, Sumner, Hanna, and Edgewood avenues. County Line Road and Stop 11 Road will be rebuilt by the end of August.

In Johnson County, the railroad has or soon will complete rebuilding of crossings at Smith Valley Road, County Road 144 in Bargersville, Peterman Road, State Road 44, and County Roads 250N, 100N and 100S.

The railroad said it will have spent $990,000 to rebuild the tracks and grade crossings in and near Indianapolis.

The INRD mainline to Indianapolis was once an Illinois Central route between Indiana’s capital city and Effingham, Ill.


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