Archive for the ‘Other News’ Category

C&O Restoration Could Run WMSR Out of Business

August 11, 2017

The head of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad is warning that the cost of restoring Chesapeake & Ohio No. 1309 might drive the railroad out of business.

“I’m a realist,” said General Manager John Garner. “At some point in time, we are going to run out of money. We’re looking to be able to finish the locomotive, but there’s that chance we’re going to be hung up on something else.”

That could be an unexpected and expensive repair such as the one that workers discovered last month. Corrosion on the axle boxes of the 2-6-6-2 Baldwin will mean that the axles will have to be sent to a contractor to be machined at a cost of $200,000.

That work is also expected to delay by two or three months the date when the locomotive can be steamed up and sent on a test run.

To bolster its cash flow, the WMSR has revived the WMSR Foundation to collect donations.

The foundation had been dormant for two years and links on its website for donations did not work.

“At some point in time we’re going to have to get the word out that our systems are up and functioning, and our foundation is respectable now,” Garner said. “I’ve been telling my friends, if you really love and want to support the Western Maryland, the best thing you can do is to buy a ticket.”

He was referring in part to a planned shop tour on Aug. 12. Tickets are available for $40.49 and can be purchased from the railroad’s website.

Plans Set for Annual New River Train

August 10, 2017

Plans have been announced for the annual New River Train, which will roll on Oct. 21, 22, 28, and 29 between Huntington, West Virginia, and Hinton, West Virginia, through the New River Gorge.

New this year will be a consist of all heritage cars from private owners.

Gone are the Amtrak Amfleet and Horizon  coaches that have characterized the makeup of past trains.

All of the 30 cars on the New River Train will come from private owners. Three Amtrak P42DC locomotives will pull the train.

Some of the passenger cars expected to be in the consist include California Zephyr vista-dome car Silver Solarium, Pullman-built Milwaukee Road Super Dome, Budd-built full-length dome car Summit View, the Overland Trail, a former Southern Pacific barber shop car, and Great Northern full-length dome car Prairie View.

Other cars will include lounge and passenger cars built for the New York Central, Pennsylvania Railroad, Baltimore & Ohio and Central of Georgia Railway

Sponsored by the the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, the 51st running of the New River Train will travel CSX’s Kanawha and New River subdivisions, both of which are former Chesapeake & Ohio.

The train has a capacity of 1,200 passengers per day and usually sells out by early September. Some heritage coach tickets remain at $179 per person.

Sumwalt Confirmed to Head NTSB

August 9, 2017

Robert Sumwalt has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate for a two-year term as chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

He succeeds Christopher Hart who remains a member of the board. Sumwalt has served on the board since 2006. Prior to joining the NTSB, he was manager of aviation for the SCANA Corp.

Group Formed to Protest NKP Branch Abandonment

August 8, 2017

A group has formed in Hamilton County, Indiana, to seek to overturn the decision by local officials to convert parts of a former Nickel Plate Road branch line into a hiking and biking trail.

The group, known as Save the Nickel Plate, is seeking to get supporters of keeping the rail line to write to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board in opposition to approval of the line’s abandonment.

Hamilton County along with the cities of Fishers and Noblesville filed a petition with the STB on Aug. 1 to gain regulatory approval to pull up nine miles of the line between Noblesville and Indianapolis.

Through 2015 the line was used by the Indiana Fair Train and other excursions sponsored by the Indiana Transportation Museum.

The Save the Nickel Plate group has raised concerns about what it termed the lack of public input regarding the trail plan, the lack of train service, impediments to rail service caused by the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority’s suspension of rail operation, and concern for the process of selecting a new railroad operator that only runs on the northern portion of the railroad.

The group has established a website at http://www.savethenickelplate.org/

Ports of Indiana to Benefit From DOT Grant

August 8, 2017

The U.S. Department of Transportation has proposed nearly $79 million in grants for freight-related rail, port and roadway infrastructure projects under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.

One of those grants would involve $9.85 million to the Ports of Indiana-Burns Harbor for enhanced intermodal facilities with rail and truck marshaling yards projects.

Once completed, the project would allow the Ports of Indiana to increase its cargo-handling capacity.

The project includes construction of a new 2.3-acre bulk berth facility, a truck-barge-truck conveyer system, a new westside rail yard and new rail connection that will connect the port’s main terminal with the new rail yard; dockside improvements, and construction of a truck marshaling yard.

DOT sent a notice to Congress on Aug. 2, thereby starting a 60-day period during which Congress could vote to disapprove the proposed projects if it finds a project objectionable.

The proposed awards would be distributed under the Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies grant program, which the Trump administration now refers to as the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program.

DOT is accepting applications until Nov. 2 for fiscal year 2017 large projects and FY2018 large and small projects under the INFRA grants program.

Amtrak Offering $5 Tickets to Detroit

August 4, 2017

Amtrak is offering $5 tickets for travel to Detroit through Sept. 4. The fares are good for travel originating on the Wolverine Service route at Dearborn, Ann Arbor, Pontiac, Royal Oak and Troy.

Once in Detroit, passengers can ride the new QLine, a streetcar route that is offering free rides through Labor Day.

The 3.3-mile route on Woodward Avenue features 12 stops, including Comerica Park, the Fox Theatre and Midtown.

QLine streetcars operate Monday through Saturday between 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

FTA Proposes Waiver of Rules for Certain Projects

August 4, 2017

The Federal Transit Administration has proposed a rule that it says will make it easier for public-private partnerships to be formed in public transportation projects.

In a notice of proposed rule making, the FTA said that its proposed Private Investment Project Procedures for public transportation capital projects will help the federal government develop “more effective approaches” to spurring private participation and investment in project planning, development, finance, design, construction, maintenance and operation.

Under the rule, entities that receive federal funding for public transportation projects would be allowed to identify specific FTA regulations, practices, procedures or guidance documents that may be an impediment to the use of a public-private partnership or private investment in that project.

The proposed rule calls for those receiving federal funds to apply for a waiver of specific FTA requirements if the recipient can show that the requirements would discourage the use of a public-private partnership in a project. The FTA administrator would have the discretion to modify the requirement or grant a waiver.

However, the new rule could not be used to waive requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act or other provisions of federal statutes.

Public comment on the rule will be accepted until Sept. 29.

WMSR Head Expresses Regret about Taking on 1309 Restoration

August 3, 2017

The head of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad said steam may return to that line by the end of September, provided that a number of things fall into place.

Speaking during a radio program, John Garner said the cost of restoring ex-Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 has skyrocketed to $1.8 million and if he had been head of the WMSR in 2014 when the the locomotive was acquired he would never have agreed to acquire the engine from the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum.

Instead, Garner said he would have favored putting money and effort into rebuilding former Lake Superior & Ishpeming 2-8-0 No. 734, which ran on the WMSR until April 2016 when it was removed from service for its federally required 1,472-day inspection. Restoration of the 734 will cost $1.2 million.

“1309 is a magnificent locomotive; however, I think it is way too much of a locomotive for us. I think I would have restored 734. It’s much more appropriate for us,” Garner said.

“The 1309 project has been a huge project that’s eating us out of house and home,” Garner told Trains magazine. “However unfortunate it may be, that’s the gospel truth.”

Nonetheless, Garner said the WMSR is going to see the 1309 project through.

During his radio interview, Garner said that boiler work has been completed and a hydrostatic test will be performed in the next two or three weeks.

Garner said restoration work was delayed after contractors found corrosion pits on the locomotive’s axles, meaning they will need to be turned on a lathe. Wheel boxes and crank pins will have to be rebuilt as well.

The WMSR is also rebuilding its passenger car fleet to make it compliant with Federal Railroad Administration regulations.

A $250,000 grant from the State of Maryland is helping pay for that work. Thus far six cars have been rebuilt.

“WMSR does not have the funds to do heavy rebuilds on passenger cars,” Garner said during the radio interview. “The days of 14-car trains, 1,000 passengers a train, those days are over for now. We know we can do better, and as time and money permit, we’ll acquire additional equipment and bring more riders to Allegany County.”

Ridership on the WMSR this year has been up by 42 percent from 2016, but is below the 2015 ridership numbers.

“We’re hanging in there, but with the additional costs of restoring the locomotive, insurance costs, and maintenance on equipment we have done a boatload of right-of-way maintenance,” he said.

Intermodal Volume Rose 4.5% in Second Quarter

August 3, 2017

The Intermodal Association of North America said that intermodal volume rose 4.5 percent to nearly 4.5 million units in the second quarter of 2017 when compared with the same period of last year.

In a news release, IANA said the increase marked the strongest growth in nearly three years.

International intermodal traffic — which surged 5.6 percent to 2.2 million units the second quarter of this year — was the primary driver of the overall increase.

The shipment of domestic containers increased 3.2 percent to nearly 1.9 million units, while trailer volumes jumped 3.9 percent to 302,372 units in the quarter compared with the same period a year ago.

“Growth in Q2 indicates that economic conditions continue to improve for all segments of the intermodal market,” said IANA President and CEO Joni Casey. “Year-to-date performance is a healthy 3.3 percent, notwithstanding a weak year-over-year comparison for the second quarter.”

The seven highest density trade corridors accounted for 63.4 percent of total intermodal volume. Collectively, volume in those trade corridors rose 4 percent in the quarter over the year-ago period.

NKP 757 to be Acquired by Bellevue Museum

August 2, 2017

Two museums have worked out an agreement that will result in a former Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive moving to Ohio.

The Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum said this week that the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania has agreed to send it NKP No. 757.

In Bellevue, the 757 will be placed on static display. NKP 757 is a 2-8-4 Berkshire-type that was built by Lima Locomotives Works in 1944.

“We are very excited to be able to bring the 757 back to Bellevue,” said Made River museum President Chris Beamer. “The absence of a mainline steam locomotive in our collection has been something we have wanted to correct for a long time.”

No. 757 last operated on June 15, 1958. The Nickel Plate had intended to donate it to the city of Bellevue, but it lacked a suitable place to display it.

The locomotive was stored in Bellevue for several years before being donated to the Pennsylvania museum in 1966.

Moving the 757 will cost $250,000 and the Mad River museum is raising funds to pay for that. It has launched a website http://www.bringback757.org to provide further information about the fundraising campaign.

The Mad River museum has more than 50 pieces of equipment displayed or stored on 10 acres of property and five buildings. It describes itself as having the most extensive collection of NKP equipment and artifacts of any museum.

Negotiations to bring NKP 757 to Bellevue began earlier this year. The Mad River museum will own the 757 once it has been removed from its current site in Pennsylvania.