Archive for the ‘Railroad News’ Category

BLET Reaches Pacts with W&LE

September 28, 2016

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainman said it has reached tentative agreements with the Wheeling & Lake Erie.

W&LE logo 2The union said the two agreements will cover 150 locomotive engineers and trainmen regarding work rules, pay rates, and health and welfare issues. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

BLET members will vote by mail on the agreements with the voting to end on Oct. 25.

Wolverine Summer Sked to Stay Through Oct. 30

September 28, 2016

The reduced summer schedules of Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service trains have been extended through Oct. 30.

Amtrak logoAmtrak said in a service advisory that the extension was agreed to by the Michigan Department of Transportation, which funds the Wolverine Service, to accommodate additional track and signal improvements.

The track rehabilitation is expected to result in improved reliability, a smoother ride and an expansion of the Midwest’s first 110 mph Amtrak service.

Wolverine trains will operate on the following schedules:

  • One Wolverine round-trip (trains 351 and 354) operates between Chicago and Pontiac seven days a week.
  • Wolverine trains 355 and 358 operate between Chicago and Pontiac Monday through Saturday.
  • The regular schedule of all Wolverine trains (Nos. 350 through 355) will operate between Chicago and Pontiac on Sundays only.

Amtrak Great Dome to Operate on Adirondack

September 28, 2016

amtrak-dome

Amtrak is bringing back its Great Dome car for the fall foliage season aboard the Adirondack in update New York.

The car will operate on the New York-Montreal train between Sept. 29 and Nov. 1.

The dome will operate northbound on Train 69 from Albany-Rensselaer, New York, to Montreal on Thursdays, Saturdays and Mondays.

It will return south on Train 68 Fridays, Sundays, and Tuesdays. The dome will not operate on Wednesdays.

There is no additional charge to ride in the dome section. Seats are unreserved and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

On some trips, National Park Service Trails and Rails volunteers will offer historical commentary between Saratoga Springs and Westport, New York.

Among the scenic features of the route are Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains.

Passengers can take advantage of the I Love NY 15 percent discount off the regular (full) adult rail fare, valid for sale through May 2017. Reservations are required.

Up to two children ages 2-12 may accompany each adult at half the discounted rail fare.

FCC Fines Company That Tracked Freight Cars

September 28, 2016

The Federal Communications Commission has fined a New York-based data company $195,000 for setting up unauthorized freight car trackers near railroad tracks around the nation.

train image2The FCC determined that ClipperData LLC violated federal law because it was installing and operating automatic equipment identification (AEI readers) without a proper license.

When ClipperData was found to have installed the readers last summer, it insisted that what it was doing was legal and that it planned to sell the information that it gleaned.

However, railroad officials contended that the company had trespassed in order to set up the tracking devices.

The FCC determined that ClipperData only had a license to install and operate one AEI reader but had at least 39 unlicensed devices set up.

DTE Energy Ann Arbor Mixed Use Riverfront Development Might Include New Amtrak Station

September 27, 2016

Ann Arbor authorities have responded favorably to a proposal by DTE Energy to develop riverfront property that could include a new Amtrak station.

Amtrak 4DTE is seeking to develop property it owns along the Huron River by creating a mixed used development.

The site is near the current Amtrak station. The city has been studying where to put a new Amtrak station.

Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor said he welcomes DTE Energy’s proposed development and that it might include a new Amtrak station along Depot Street.

City Council Member Jane Lumm also welcomed the possibilities for cleanup and redevelopment of the 14-acre riverfront property, located at 841 Broadway St.

DTE said it is working with a private developer and architect to create plans for a riverfront restaurant, hotel, office space and green space that would be open to the public.

Ann Arbor is served by Amtrak’s Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service trains.

Ohio EPA Recognizes CSX Intermodal Terminal

September 27, 2016

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has awarded gold level recognition to the CSX Northwest Ohio in the Ohio Encouraging Environmental Excellence program.

CSX logo 3The recognition was bestowed for the railroad’s efforts to increase efficiency, lower emissions and conserve resources, the agency said in a news release.

“Through infrastructure redesign and using the most modern equipment, this facility reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 6,000 tons and saves more than 500,000 gallons of diesel fuel annually,” said agency director Craig Butler.

The terminal uses green technology designs, including ultra-efficient, wide-span electric cranes and optical scanners that reduce idling times.

The gold level recognizes comprehensive environmental stewardship programs.

Prospects of Making Amtrak’s Cardinal a Daily Train Discussed at Meeting Held in Cincinnati

September 24, 2016
Map of Amtrak's Cardinal showing its station stops. It more stations in West Virginia than in any other state.

Map of Amtrak’s Cardinal showing its station stops. It more stations in West Virginia than in any other state.

Amtrak supporters met in Cincinnati on Friday to push for making the Chicago-New York Cardinal a daily train rather than the tri-weekly operation that it has been since the early 1980s.

Amtrak CardinalRail passenger advocates and public officials heard Amtrak officials outline the challenges facing daily service as well as how to overcome those.

“We’ve been building toward an event like this for a very long time. If you truly want to make this train better, you’ve got to run it seven days a week,” said Amtrak senior government affairs specialist Charlie Monte Verde. “We’re pitching this as a modern economic engine. We’re not trying to trade on the ghosts of the past.”

A Cincinnati chamber of commerce official echoed those sentiments.

“This is a piece of the puzzle for the chamber’s transportation strategy of connecting people to jobs,” said Jason Kershner, the chamber’s vice president for government relations. “We’ve really put our stake in the ground that transportation is important to business.”

The Cincinnati meeting was billed as a step toward building a coalition of communities along the route of the Cardinal who want better service.

Amtrak officials have said the cost of a daily Cardinal remains unknown. Much of the route uses tracks owned by CSX, which might demand capital improvements before agreeing to host a daily Cardinal.

Monte Verde said once the capital needs are known Amtrak could ask for an appropriation from Congress or attempt to build seven-day-a-week service into its budget somehow. He would not discuss potential costs.

“We think there is the space out there to make this train daily, but the first real step is to work with the railroads to see what their traffic is like,” Monte Verde said.

Amtrak officials said ridership would likely increase with more service because trains become more reliable the more they run.

“A daily Cardinal is a starting point,” Monte Verde said. “From there, you build the kind of awareness you need to have a discussion [about] a Cincinnati-Indianapolis-Chicago short corridor service.”

“It’s a step forward, and it’s going to be a step we build upon,” said Derek Bauman, the southwest Ohio chair of rail advocacy group All Aboard Ohio.

Indiana Northeastern Buys 6-Axle Power

September 24, 2016

The Indiana Northeastern Railroad has acquired a pair of six axle locomotives, its first.

indiana-northeasternUntil now the short line railroad that serves Indiana, Ohio and Michigan had relied on four-axle EMD diesels.

Now Indiana Northeastern has purchased a pair of SD40-2s from Motive Power Resources in Minooka, Illinois.

The units formerly worked for Canadian Pacific and Southern Pacific with the ex-SP unit still having its flared SD45 car-body.

Indiana Northeastern president Gale Shultz said two factors prompted his railroad to seek larger locomotives.

“In the next year, we have to equip for positive train control to get in and out of the Norfolk Southern yards at Montpelier, Ohio,” Shultz said. “We are running 85-car unit trains and I can’t see spending money on one of the old girls.”

Shultz said both SD40-2s have been rebuilt from the frame-up by Alstom Canada and were last used in a CSX Transportation lease fleet.

“’These are sixteen cylinders, new controls and wiring, we hope to have the first one here in a week,” he says.

Indiana Northeastern General Manager Troy Strane told Trains magazine that one six-axle unit will be paired with a four-axle unit to move unit grain trains.

“I think one of these can easily do the work equal to two or three of our four-axles. We have a lot of small hills and curves, its real railroading and moving these unit trains is rough on the power,” Strane said.

The SD40-2s are unlikely to be repainted into Indiana Northeastern colors until next spring because they are needed immediately to help with the grain harvest that is getting underway.

Buffalo Exchange Street Station Closed After Heavy Rainfall Leads to Ceiling Collapse

September 22, 2016

Exchange Street station in Buffalo, New York, has been closed after heavy rain caused the ceiling to collapse.

Amtrak 3The city of Buffalo, which owns the station, has indicated that it will seek cost estimates about repairing the facility, which is served by New York-Niagara Falls Empire Service trains and the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf.

All of those trains plus the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited are also served by another Amtrak station in suburban Buffalo in Depew, New York.

Buffalo Public Works Commissioner Steven Stepniak said a contractor has been sent to the site to evaluate the condition of the building. Stepniak said the city will explore various options before moving forward.

The ceiling collapse occurred near the passenger waiting area last weekend and the station was closed on Monday.

Earlier this month, another portion of the ceiling collapsed, prompting the closure of the station’s ticket office.

Amtrak will continue to serve the station in the meantime. The passenger carrier said it is working with the New York State Department of Transportation, but is not directly involved in station repairs because it does not own the station.

A passenger train advocate said the situation underscores the need for a new station in Buffalo near the city’s waterfront.

“We are very concerned over the immediate safety implications, and the loss of service to the increasingly vibrant downtown Buffalo area,” said Bruce Becker, vice president of operations for the National Association of Railroad Passengers.

Class 1 Employment Continued to Fall in August

September 22, 2016

Employment at U.S. Class 1 railroads continued to fall in August, dropping by 0.02 percent since July, the Surface Transportation Board said.

STBEmployment  for 2016 to date is down 9.61 percent over what it was at this time a year ago.

The STB said that all six employment categories reflected decreases in mid-August compared with mid-July as well as with mid-August a year ago.

The month-to-month comparison showed that the number of executives, officials and staff assistants is down 1.33 percent to 9,153; professional and administrative, down 0.27 percent to 13,658; maintenance of way and structures, down 0.59 percent to 35,986; maintenance of equipment and stores, down 0.72 percent to 28,292; transportation (other than train and engine), down 1.32 percent to 6,035; and transportation (train and engine), down 1.18 percent to 59,629.

In comparing 2016 with 2015, the number of executives, officials and staff assistants decreased 6.68 percent; professional and administrative, down 6.19 percent; maintenance of way and structures, down 6.04 percent; maintenance of equipment and stores, down 8.75 percent; transportation (other than train and engine), down 10.06 percent; and transportation (train and engine), down 13.10 percent.