Archive for June, 2017

NS Manager Gets Environment Award

June 30, 2017

A Norfolk Southern manager has received the 2017 John H. Chafee Environmental Excellence Award from the Association of American Railroads.

Andrew Paul was honored for  having demonstrated a high level of environmental stewardship.

As a senior manager of energy and facility services for the past five years, Paul had outfitted more than 100 shop facilities, rail yards, and offices with longer-lasting, energy-efficient lighting and ventilation systems.

In a news release, the AAR said those improvements have generated a savings of $4.9 million in annual energy and maintenance costs and reduce emissions by nearly 36,000 metric tons.

Paul has also helped local NS managers better understand how energy is being used across the railroad through an energy audit program that highlights strategies to save money and reduce environmental impacts.

He is leading a three-year, $53 million energy conversion project at the railroad’s Juniata locomotive shops in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

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Services Saturday for Dennis Taksar Sr.

June 29, 2017

Services for Dennis Taksar Sr., 65, of Fairview Park, will be Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Hopko Funeral Home, 6020 Broadview Road, in Parma.

Dennis Taksar Sr.

Mr. Taksar was the father of Akron Railroad Club member Dennis Taksar Jr. He died unexpectedly on June 23.

Visitation will be at the funeral home on Saturday starting at 10 a.m. and continuing until the time of services.

Mr. Taksar is survived by his wife, Patricia (nee Peterson) Taksar; another son, Kevin Taksar; and two step children.

He was preceded in death by his parents Margaret H. (nee Skladany) and John M. Taksar; and a sister, Jean Tisza.

LSL Boston Section Disrupted by Track Work

June 29, 2017

CSX track work will disrupt the operations of the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited through July 27,

Passengers traveling to Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, Framingham and Boston (South Station) will take a bus from the Albany-Rensselaer station on the following dates:

  • June 24-29
  • July 8-13
  • July 26-27

Train 449 will not operate between Boston (South Station) and Albany on the following dates with passengers being bused from Boston (South Station), Framingham, Worcester, Springfield, Pittsfield.

  • June 25-29
  • July 9-13
  • July 27, 2017

No alternative transportation will be provided to Boston Back Bay. Passengers are urged to contact MBTA for travel to and from Boston Back Bay.

Passengers at Boston South Station should go to the Amtrak Information Desk for instructions on boarding the buses while Framingham passengers will board all buses at the drop-off/pick-up area track 2 platform (at Waverly Street).

In Worcester, passengers should go downstairs to the intercity bus area and board the bus marked Premier Bus.

Last Hour Trains

June 29, 2017

The last train of the day during the 2017 Akron Railroad Club’s longest day outing passes Wheeling Tower as it rumbles in off the Fostoria District.

We would not get shut out during the last hour of the ARRC longest day outing. This train from the Fostoria District made sure of it.

The Akron Railroad Club longest day outing to Bellevue was winding down. It was the last hour of the day and the crowd of about a dozen people had dwindled to just five of which four would have dinner at the Bob Evans restaurant in Norwalk once the train watching was done.

The last hour of a railfanning expedition has a distinctively different feel than the first hour.

When the day begins, you’re filled with optimism. Anything can happen. Who knows what we will see today?

By the last hour that optimism has given way to a hard-edged realism. Unless it has been one of those rare days where everything you touch has turned to gold, the realization has set in that those sighting you had thought possible at the start of the day are not going to materialize.

The best images of the day — whatever they might have been — have probably been made and now the best you can hope for is one last surprise or at least one last good photo before calling it quits.

We ended the day having not seen any NS heritage units. There had been a Wheeling & Lake Erie sighting and I was pleased with what I was able to get during an afternoon foray south of town on the NS Sandusky District.

We had decided to stick it out until 7 p.m. and then move on to Norwalk and dinner. Truth be told I would have been OK with going to dinner an hour earlier had that been the majority view.

Everything seemed quiet in Bellevue and there was no guarantee we would be seeing any trains.

But within that last hour a couple of manifest freights came in from the Fostoria District, so the longest day outing had a good outcome and we were able to make a last round of photographs.

Observers Give Their Take on New Amtrak CEO

June 29, 2017

So who is this former airline executive that Amtrak has chosen to take over as its CEO later this year when Charles “Wick” Moorman retires?

Richard Anderson

Richard Anderson was the head of Delta Air Lines, but he also at one time served as a prosecutor and the vice president of an insurance company, United Health.

His father, Hale, worked for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe in Texas and the family moved multiple times as the elder Anderson held office jobs at posts from Galveston to Dallas and Amarillo.

When he was in college, the younger Anderson’s parents died of cancer and he subsequently had to raise his two younger sisters as he worked to earn college tuition money.

After earning his law degree, Anderson worked in Texas for nearly a decade as a prosecutor.

His entry into the airline industry began in the legal department of Houston-based Continental Airlines.

He would later join Northwest Airlines and became its CEO three years later. As Delta Air Lines was emerging from bankruptcy in 2007, its board of directors asked Anderson to become its CEO, which meant that he succeeded Gerald Grinstein, a former CEO of the Burlington Northern Railroad.

“Richard has a hands-on, roll-up-your-sleeves, let-me-see-how-this-thing-really-works kind of approach,” John Dasburg, Northwest’s former president, told USA Today in 2008.

During his time at Delta, Anderson sometimes sought unconventional solutions to solve problems.

For example, in an effort to cut fuel costs, Delta purchased an oil refinery near Philadelphia in 2012.

Industry reaction to Anderson being named co-CEO of Amtrak – Moorman won’t be retiring until late December – has been mostly positive.

He received unqualified endorsements from Linda Bauer Darr, president of the American Short Line and Regional Rail Road Association, and from Ed Hamberger, the president of the Association of American Railroads.

Jim Mathews, head of the National Association of Railroad Passengers lauded Anderson’s transportation experience.

“NARP is very pleased Amtrak is making the sensible move of bringing in an executive with strong management experience in a customer-service oriented transportation company,” Mathews said.

Former NARP executive director Ross Capon said the fact that Moorman will be Amtrak’s co-CEO through December shows the two men will likely have a good working relationship and that Anderson will be able to learn from Moorman.

Not all advocacy groups were enthusiastic about Anderson’s appointment.

Charles Leocha, chairman of Travelers United and an airline consumer advocate, said in an interview with Trains magazine that Anderson is “a real charger” who “has not been a friend of consumers, but ran an efficient airline as consolidation was completed . . .”

Richard Rudolph, the president of the Rail Users Network, said Amtrak needs someone who knows railroads, knows how to run a company and can stand up against Congress and President Donald Trump.

Also expressing skepticism was former Amtrak President and CEO David Gunn.

“If he can’t coax people at Amtrak who know how to run a railroad out of their fox holes, he’s doomed,” Gunn said in an interview with Trains. “And you have to convince them you have a plan that makes sense operationally and is not driven by politics.”

Gunn said the best hope is that Anderson has some knowledge of railroad operations.”

Jackson McQuigg, a railroad historian and passenger advocate based in Atlanta, told Trains that he sees in Anderson a man with a demeanor similar to that of W. Graham Claytor Jr. between 1982 and 1993.

“He had a stellar reputation in Atlanta and cared about the city and its history,” McQuigg told Trains.

While at Delta and Northwest, McQuigg noted, Anderson had a reputation for being a tough guy who wasn’t afraid to mix it up with the airline unions.

“Maybe that bunch in the White House will listen to him,” McQuigg said of Anderson. “It will be interesting to see if that happens or if Anderson presides over dismemberment instead. All I know is that the long-distance trains had better be preserved or the whole thing will go up in political flames.”

ITM Plans to Sue over Denial to Use Rail Line

June 29, 2017

The Indiana Transportation Museum plans to file suit against Hamilton County and the cities of Noblesville and Fishers, seeking damages for losses sustained from being unable to use a former Nickel Plate Road branch line for excursion service last year.

The museum sent the notice to leaders of the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority, which oversees the tracks, the mayors and deputy mayors of Noblesville and Fishers, all three Hamilton County commissioners and several other county officials. The notice of intent to file suit in federal court was also sent to Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and Attorney General Curtis Hill.

“We have tried to find ways to work with these entities and our efforts have not been successful,” said John McNichols, the museum’s board chairman. “Our efforts have been met with indifference and opposition.”

The museum in past years has used the tracks for excursion trains and the popular Indiana State Fair Train.

But last year the Port Authority refused to allow ITM to use the tracks, citing concerns about the museum’s financial condition and its failure to adequately maintain the tracks for safe operation.

Earlier this year, Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness spoke about pulling up the rails and putting in a hike and bike trail. The mayor rejected a proposal by ITM to construct a trail alongside the tracks.

The track in question extends for 37 miles between Indianapolis and Noblesville, where the ITM is based.

In its notice to sue, ITM said it lost more than $350,000 in revenue because it couldn’t operate its Polar Bear Express trains and another $150,000 from being unable to run the Fair Train.

The notice said the museum was “current on all terms and conditions” of the operating agreement with the port authority at the time it was prevented from using the tracks.

Being prohibited from using the rail line, ITM said, violated its rights under the Fourteenth and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

Further, ITM alleges, some public officials defamed the museum, interfered with an established business, breached an agreement, failed to engage in fair dealing, failed to comply with the Indiana Open Meetings and Records Act, and engaged in abuse of process.

In the meantime, four groups have responded to a port authority call for proposals to be the new operators of the rail line.

They include ITM, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Railway of Indianapolis, Hoosier Heritage Railroad of Fishers and Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad of Arcadia.

McNichols said he hoped the parties involved could reach an agreement before the Indiana State Fair begins on Aug. 4.

The port authority had earlier ruled out making a decision in time for an operator to offer the fair train this year.

Waiting and Waiting

June 28, 2017

Railroads spend a lot of time waiting, often to get permission from a dispatcher or yardmaster to move ahead.

If you work for the Wheeling & Lake Erie, it is almost a given that you’ll spend time waiting in Bellevue for Norfolk Southern to give the OK to move onto NS tracks.

With NS owning most of the trackage in Bellevue and with NS trains often coming and going, the Wheeling doesn’t have the highest priority.

During the Akron Railroad Club’s longest day outing in Bellevue last Sunday, the W&LE job that interchanges at Moorman yard arrived a little after 8:30 a.m.

It then sat on the Brewster connection for the next three hours.

Finally, shortly after 11:30, the Bellevue dispatcher lined the signal for the Wheeling to enter the mini plant and proceed eastward into the yard.

The motive power consist of the W&LE train included a pair of green, silver and black FURX sD40-2s that were numbered consecutively 6986 and 6987.

The third unit was “tiger stripe” 6351, which once starred as an Allegheny and West Virginia locomotive in the movie Unstoppable.

CSX to Move All Dispatchers to Jacksonville

June 28, 2017

Indianapolis will not be the only city to lose a CSX dispatching office.

The railroad has told the American Train Dispatcher Association that it is planning to more 355 dispatchers from nine offices to a consolidated dispatching center in Jacksonville, Florida.

It would not be the first time that CSX has concentrated its dispatching activities there, where it also maintains its corporate headquarters.

CSX is working to complete the moves by late October.

No dispatchers are expected to involuntarily lose their jobs as result of the move.

The railroad has not yet publically announced information about the dispatcher consolidation plans although the company did indicate during a meeting with investors earlier this year that it was likely to occur.

At present, CSX dispatching officers are organized by division. They are the Jacksonville Division in Jacksonville; Atlanta Division in Atlanta; Louisville Division in Louisville, Kentucky, Florence Division in Florence, South Carolina; Nashville Division in Nashville, Tennessee; Baltimore Division in Baltimore; Chicago Division in Chicago; Albany Division in Albany, New York; and the Great Lakes Division in Indianapolis.

There was a 10th dispatching office, located in Huntington, West Virginia, but it closed last year and its dispatchers were relocated to adjacent divisional offices.
The consolidated dispatching center would be within the existing Jacksonville dispatching center.

Moving of the dispatchers is expected to be phased in over time starting on Aug. 31 and completed by Oct. 15. Dispatchers will continue to oversee the territories that they now dispatch.

CSX began farming dispatching operations out to satellite officers in 2007.

INRD Seeks to Give up Trackage Rights

June 28, 2017

In what may be the first step toward abandonment of the CSX Hoosier Subdivision in Southern Indiana, the Indiana Rail Road is seeking regulatory approval to end its trackage rights on the line.

INRD was the last user of the route, but has not moved traffic over for more than two years.

In is filing with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, INRD said its network has been physically disconnected from the Hoosier Sub after it abandoned 22.8 miles of a former Milwaukee Road line in 2011 between Bedford and Crane, Indiana.

The Hoosier Sub, which was once part of the Chicago-Louisville, Kentucky, route of the Monon, extends for 72 miles between Bedford and New Albany, Indiana.

Most of the Hoosier Sub is out of service except for a portion of it in the New Albany region.

If the STB grants the INRD’s petition, the trackage rights would be discontinued on July 27.

CSX decommissioned the Hoosier Sub in November 2010 after a trestle over the White River south of Bedford burned, in what officials reported to be a suspicious blaze.

There were plans for the State of Indiana to buy the line but a local port authority was unable to raise enough money for that purpose.

The ex-Monon has been abandoned and the track removed between Bedford and Cloverdale, Indiana.

Heath Hall Named to FRA Post

June 28, 2017

Heath Hall has been named deputy administrator of the Federal Railroad Administrator.

Hall, whose position does not need Senate confirmation, was named by Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, who has known him since his days working in the deputy DOT secretary’s office and in the Peace Corps.

Now a vice president in the marketing and external affairs department of non-profit Innovate Mississippi, Hall also manages Pointe Innovation magazine.

He has served as senior vice president of external affairs at the Mississippi Economic Council, the State Chamber of Commerce, and as executive director of Mississippians for Civil Justice Reform/STOP Lawsuit Abuse in Mississippi.

Hall also served as Gov. Kirk Fordice’s director of public affairs, deputy press secretary, and deputy director of communications for Fordice’s re-election campaign.

In federal government service, Hall served as an FRA intern in the public relations office before moving into the USDOT deputy secretary’s office.

During the administration of George H.W. Bush, Hall served as an intern in the White House Office of Political Affairs.

The FRA is still without a permanent administrator. Patrick T. Warren, the FRA’s executive director, is serving as acting administrator.

Railway Age magazine reported that an administrator is unlikely to be appointed before August and that the agency is without an official mandate from the Trump Administration.