Archive for the ‘Railroad News’ Category

Pa. Gov. Asks NS, CSX to Adopt BNSF Standards

May 22, 2015

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has asked CSX and Norfolk Southern to make operating changes in how the handle crude oil trains in the state.

In a letter to each railroad, Wolf asked the railroads to follow the voluntary safety initiatives implemented by BNSF. Those changes include:

  • Lowering speeds to 35 miles per hour for all shale crude oil trains traveling through municipalities with populations of 100,000 or more.
  • Increased rail detection testing frequencies along critical waterways, going to 2.5 times the current Federal Railroad Administration mandated frequencies.
  • Increased hot box detectors with spacing of 10 miles on all crude routes that parallel critical waterways instead of the current industry standard spacing of 40 miles.
  • Mandatory set-out of all HBD-indicated cars on key trains stopped by a detector.
  • Immediate set-out of all cars on key trains that exceed Level II wheel impact load detector defect (120 – 140 kilopounds) – to be handled as a Level I defect.

“In view of your demonstrated concern for rail safety and your interest in working with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in increasing rail safety, I request that you join BNSF in adopting its improved safety initiatives for all trains with CBR cars operating in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Wolf said. “Additionally, I am requesting that you fully and expeditiously comply with the Department of Transportation’s announced final rule. I will closely follow the status of your compliance with the federal rule and would like to discuss your willingness to adopt the BNSF additional safety measures.”

Amtrak Releases 2nd Veterans Tribute Unit

May 19, 2015

Amtrak has rolled out a second locomotive to honor the nation’s military veterans,

The same livery applied to P42DC No. 42 has been given to ACS-64 No. 642.

Although the locomotive has not been officially unveiled by Amtrak, it was ferried eastward on Sunday and Monday, passing through Northeast Ohio in the motive power consist of the eastbound Capitol Limited on Monday morning.

On Sunday morning, it had left Indianapolis on the northbound Hoosier State after being painted at the Beech Grove shops.

The ACS-64 locomotives are being built in California by Siemens and ferried across the country, usually by the California Zephyr and Capitol Limited.

STB Gives NS OK to Acquire D&H Line in Pa., N.Y.

May 16, 2015

Norfolk Southern on Friday won Surface Transportation Board approval to acquire 283 miles of track from the Delaware & Hudson.

The route is located in Pennsylvania and New York and known as the South Lines. That includes 267 miles of the main line between Sunbury/Kase, Pa., and Schenectady, N.Y., and 15 miles of the running track between Voorheesville Junction and Delanson, N.Y.

“In reaching its decision, the Board found that NS’s acquisition of the South Lines from D&H is not likely to cause a substantial lessening of competition or create a monopoly or restraint of trade,” said STB spokesman Dennis Watson. “The Board found this to be true, even when taking into account D&H’s planned discontinuance of trackage rights that connect to the D&H South Lines, which are the subject of a separate proceeding.”

In reaching its decisions, the STB decided that the move would not lessen competition and that any anti-competitive effects would be trumped by the public benefits of the transaction.

Those benefits include allowing NS to provide more reliable, safe and efficient service for shippers that will offer better competition with such other transportations modes as trucking and water transportation

The Board imposed some conditions, including requiring NS to enter into voluntary commercial agreements with D&H to preserve certain shippers’ access to two carriers, NS and D&H.

NS Names New Marketing Vice President

May 16, 2015

Alan Shaw has been appointed executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Norfolk Southern.

He succeeds Donald Seale, who retired after 39 years in management positions in the railroad’s marketing department. Shaw will report to NS President James Squires.

Shaw joined NS in 1994 and has held positions in the finance and marketing departments. He served as group VP of coal marketing and group VP of chemicals before being named VP of intermodal operations, his current position, in 2013.

In his new role, Shaw will oversee merchandise, intermodal and coal marketing organizations; teams that manage shipping options such as short-line connections and the transload network; real estate services; and the corporation’s industrial development services for companies that want to locate and expand rail-served businesses.

VIA Reports 3.7% Revenue Increase in 2014

May 16, 2015

VIA Rail Canada reported a 3.7 percent increase in revenue for 2014. The passenger carrier earned $280.3 million (Canadian) compared with $270.4 million in 2013.

Operating expenses for 2014 increased to $597.4 million compared with $578 million in 2013.

The figures were contained in VIA’s annual report, which also indicated that the Toronto-Montreal corridor generated the greatest amount of revenue at $173.7 million.

“While challenges abound, VIA Rail’s overall 2014 performance confirms that the traveling public is buying into the solid value proposition train travel represents,” said VIA Rail President and Chief Executive Officer Yves Desjardins-Siciliano in a statement.

Among the service highlights for 2014 was the addition of new service between Toronto and Ottawa, which increased the level of service in the corridor to 48 departures per week in each direction.

VIA also completed refurbishment of its LRC business class fleet in 2014.

STB to Begin Rule Making on Train OT Standards

May 16, 2015

The federal agency that oversees transportation will begin a rule-making process designed to define intercity passenger railroad on-time performance for purposes of Section 213 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008.

“The Board intends to issue in a subsequent decision a notice of proposed rule making in this matter, inviting public participation and comment,” said Surface Transportation Board spokesman Dennis Watson. “This decision follows a series of events surrounding the constitutionality of Section 207 of PRIIA in the federal courts, as well as a petition filed by the Association of American Railroads requesting a rule making on this matter.”

“The Board fully recognizes that when Congress enacted PRIIA, it placed importance on the efficient and timely adjudication of on-time performance,” said Watson. “Therefore, the Board will develop a definition of on-time performance with public participation through a formal rulemaking so that a process will be in place as Congress intended.”

The board’s notice can be viewed at

Marketing Seen as Key to Hoosier State Succcess

May 13, 2015

Ed Ellis has a simple idea how to boost ridership on the Hoosier State. It begins with a marketing effort that is rooted in giving people a reason to ride the train.

He expects to offer highly-marketed travel packages that will take passengers to sporting events and cultural attractions.

Ellis, who heads Iowa Pacific Holdings, told the Journal & Courier of Lafayette, Indiana, that travelers can be sorted into three groups: Those who need to get somewhere in a hurry, those who just need to get somewhere and those who are looking for a reason to go. The latter are much on Ellis’ mind these days.

“The way they ran trains back in the day, they spent a lot of time thinking about events and reasons people need to ride the train,” he said. “Substantial costs of running trains were paid for by people who didn’t have to go but wanted to go.”

Iowa Pacific is in the process of hiring employees to support the Hoosier State, including a marketing manager who will plan trips.

It won’t be just Hoosiers traveling to Chicago for the day. “You can be sure we’ll be selling Purdue football packages,” Ellis said.

Iowa Pacific will provide and maintain the passenger cars for the quad-weekly Chicago-Indianapolis train that will continue to be operated by Amtrak and funded by the Indiana Department of Transportation and the online communities that it serves.

The same route and communities are also served by Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Cardinal, which operates on the three days a week that the Hoosier State does not run.

Iowa Pacific also will provide food and beverage service, something that has had scant availability in recent years. Amtrak will provide engineers and conductors, and sell tickets.

Ellis said that he saw an opportunity throughout months of sometimes contentious negotiations among INDOT, Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration over operating the Hoosier State.

He is optimistic that the Chicago-Indianapolis route can become a self-supporting enterprise.

That vision is rooted in a railroad career that included a five-year tenure as a vice president at Amtrak between 996 to 2000.

As an example of what he meant by creating demand, Ellis said his company, which is also in the business of hauling freight, built an outdoor concert venue on top of a mountain near Alamosa, Colorado. The only way to get there was to ride an excursion train that Iowa Pacific operates.

“We created that (concert venue) to give people a reason to ride the train,” he said.

Ellis understand what he is up against marketing a train that doesn’t get anywhere in a hurry.

“What has to happen when you have a train that doesn’t provide fast frequent on-time service is you have to figure out how to get more people on the train,” he said.

Increasing service on the route is going to take about $500 million to be used for rebuilding the tracks. Finding that money will be tough going.

Yet such work is necessary if Ellis is going to reach his goal of 12 passenger trains a day.

Brian Farkas is a locomotive engineer and chairman of the Indiana legislative board of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

“Some of his ideas are good, but I’m curious to see how he’s going to get $500 million when our legislators are reluctant to fund $3 million for the train,” Farkas said.

Some have pointed toward federal grants, including the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program.

“There is a renewed willingness on the part of Amtrak, CSX and INDOT to pursue economic development funding, including TIGER grants, to improve the rail infrastructure,” said Greater Lafayette Commerce member Arvid Olson.

“We do have a history of cooperation with railroads in this community,” added Liz Solberg, who oversaw Lafayette’s relocation of Norfolk Southern and CSX tracks to create a rail corridor adjacent to the Wabash River.

Douglas Yerkeson, a rail supporter and partner at Faegre Baker Daniels law firm in Indianapolis, is impressed with Ellis’ approach.

“Having a balanced transportation system is critical to economic development for the state,” he said. “And given the government of Indiana’s interest in partnering with a private company, this may be the impetus for culture change.”

Dana Smith, retired head of Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, agreed. “If Iowa Pacific can pull this off, it’s going to be an absolute positive for this community,” he said.

Last year, Vicki Burch, a West Lafayette city councilwoman, criticized the prospect of state-subsidized rail transit.

But now she wants to give Ellis and his ideas a chance. “We won’t know until we try,” she said.

Sharp-Trap Containers on Select Amtrak Trains

May 12, 2015

Amtrak is now offering complimentary Sharp-Trap® containers aboard select long-distance trains for passengers to safely dispose of small sharp items including, insulin syringes and needles, lancets and razor blades.

The containers are designed to reduce and/or eliminate passengers’ and employees’ risk of cuts or other injuries caused by sharp personal items. Trains offering the containers include the following:

  • Capitol Limited, Trains 29 and 30
  • Cardinal, Trains 50 and 51
  • City of New Orleans, Trains 58 and 59
  • Crescent, Trains 19 and 20
  • Lake Shore Limited, Trains 48/448 and 49/449
  • Silver Meteor, Trains 97 and 98
  • Silver Star, Trains 91 and 92

The Sharp-Trap containers are available upon request from any Amtrak employee on board the train. Employees can also demonstrate how to use the container, if necessary. Sharp-Trap containers are not available at stations.

Amtrak employees cannot dispose of Sharp-Trap containers and for safety reasons passengers must keep their used containers in their possession until exiting the train.

Passengers who see a Sharp-Trap container in any area of the train or station should notify an Amtrak employee.

Amtrak said the availability of Sharp-Trap containers is expected to be added to additional trains.

Another B&LE Tunnel Motor to Depart

May 11, 2015

Online reports indicate that yet another Bessemer & Lake Erie tunnel motor is about to leave the property if it has not done so already. No. 907 was reported to be ready for interchange to Norfolk Southern at Shenango, Pennsylvania.

That leaves No. 905 as the sole former SD40T still on the B&LE Subdivision of Canadian National. No. 905 led a train into Conneaut on Saturday. The motive power consist of that train included two Illinois Central SD70s and a CN unit.

“Huge Increase’ In Crude Oil Going East by Rail

May 8, 2015

If it seems as though there are a lot more crude oil trains passing through the Great Lakes region in the past year, well there are.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said there has been a “huge increase” in rail deliveries of crude oil to East Coast refineries.

“Monthly rail receipts of crude oil accounted for more than half (52 percent) of the crude oil supply to East Coast refineries in February,” the EIA said. “As U.S. and Canadian production of crude oil has increased, crude supply by rail to East Coast PADD 1 (Petroleum Administration for Defense District 1) refineries has grown, displacing waterborne imports of crude oil from countries other than Canada, such as Nigeria.

“While refinery utilization in PADD 1 in early 2015 has been below typical levels, this still marks the first time in EIA’s dataset that crude deliveries by rail have accounted for such a high percentage of East Coast refinery supply.”

The EIA said that growth since 2010 in inland domestic and Canadian crude oil production created an opportunity for U.S. and Canadian railroads to move crude oil to U.S. refining centers on the Gulf, East, and West coasts as well as to refineries in Canada.

Much of the crude oil moved by rail is extracted from Bakken Shale in North Dakota and eastern Montana.

Bakken crude supplied by rail to U.S. East Coast refineries, along with U.S. crude production supplied by marine vessels from the Gulf Coast, has reduced demand for foreign crude oil at the East Coast refineries.

In January 2014, domestic crude oil accounted for half of all East Coast refinery crude oil receipts, and CBR net receipts to the East Coast surpassed non-Canadian crude oil imports.

“The growth in CBRl shipments to East Coast refineries has been made possible by expansions in the capacity to load and unload crude oil from trains,” the EIA said. “Some facilities handle individual railcars or a small number of railcars [in] manifest trains; others are built for unit trains that consist of 80 to 120 railcars carrying crude oil.”

As a result, rail terminals now are better equipped to load and unload unit trains.

Five years ago, U.S. rail loading capacity for crude oil was almost entirely for manifest freights, but now more than 30 loading terminals throughout the U.S. can accommodate unit trains.

On the East Coast, 10 terminals can unload crude oil unit trains. CBR unloading facilities are located on refinery property and at non-refinery sites with access to additional modes of transportation, including marine and short-distance pipelines, that allow the crude oil to be shipped on to refineries.

EIA expects that as more unit train unloading terminals are added that some volumes that previously transferred to vessels in Albany, N.Y., before moving on to refineries in New York Harbor, the Philadelphia area and Canada will be moved directly by rail closer to their ultimate destinations.


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