Archive for the ‘Railroad News’ Category

Flooding Strands CVSR Patrons in Independence

June 29, 2015

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad canceled all trains on Sunday after flooding marooned nearly 100 passengers aboard a train Saturday at the Rockside Road station in Independence.

Heavy rains triggered rising water that cut off Rockside Road near West Canal Road, thus closing the road in and out of the station.

Although a spokesperson for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park said the train wasn’t stuck due to the flooding, the 60 or so vehicles in the station’s parking lot were stranded.

Railroad officials ended up sending some of them home in cabs while others were put up in nearby hotels. Most of the passengers were able to cross a pedestrian bridge and have a friend or relative pick them up.

The train had arrived at the station at about 4:15 p.m. CVSR personnel had warned the passengers in Peninsula that the area was experiencing flooding, but that the water should recede by 8 p.m.

But by 7:30 p.m., water had not receded enough for vehicles to exit the station’s parking lot.

“We have been here since 12:45; we’re from Erie,” said Brad Anderson as he and his two children got into a cab to travel to a nearby hotel. “It’s been a two-hour drive to get here and we’re done. The three-hour tour was a little longer than expected.”

Video posted by Cleveland TV stations showed water beneath the wooden platform used at the Rockside Road station.

The National Weather Service in Cleveland said that the predicted moderate flooding had changed to major severity for the Cuyahoga River at Independence.

Flooding also prompted the closing of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park from Lock 39 to Hunt House.

By Sunday, though, the Park Service had reopened the closed portion of the trail after the flood waters receded.

All Amtrak Indiana Stations ADA Non-Compliant

June 28, 2015

Many Amtrak stations fail to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, including all 11 stations in Indiana, a Department of Justice probe has found.

Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services, the state’s disability advocacy agency, is one of several organizations around the country that filed complaints against Amtrak with the Department of Justice.

The agency’s executive director, Dawn Adams, says the report it sent to the DOJ was based on extensive inspections of Amtrak stations after the state received numerous complaints.

Adams said the violations included inaccessible parking and inadequate counter height, and even refusal to sell tickets to customers with disabilities.

“If the station at the other end that the person wanted to go to was inaccessible, then rather than making that station accessible, they just refused to sell tickets to people with disabilities,” Adams said.

The Department of Justice says it will work with Amtrak to ensure the stations become compliant. Amtrak has indicated that it will cooperate with the effort.

Cleveland RTA needs $150M to Repair Tracks

June 26, 2015

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority estimates that it needs $150 million to rebuild its tracks to eliminate slow orders that have dropped speeds to as low as 5 to 10 mph on some stretches of straight track.

Place the blame on aging ties and instability in the track bed.

RTA said it has cut speed limits on about six miles of track scattered across the system, slowing trains that normally would travel 35 mph to 55 mph by 20, 30 or 40 miles an hour.

Last week, for example, 19 sections of the Red Line and one section where the Red, Blue and Green lines run together had speed restrictions.

Most of the restrictions are expected to be lifted between August and November and RTA says that no part of its 63-mile rail network is unsafe. Workers regularly inspect the tracks to assess the condition of ties, rails and ballast.

“We’re paddling as fast as we can trying to fix stuff,” said Joseph Shaffer, RTA’s director of engineering and project development. “We keep trying to get more funding for transit and this is why.”

RTA replaces about 6,000 wooden ties each year with concrete ties that last longer, about 35 to 40 years.

But with 160,000 ties in its network, it would take 25 years to replace all of the ties, said RTA General Manager and CEO Joe Calabrese said.

“We would love to replace more ties than we’re replacing, but we have a schedule that we’re adhering to,” Calabrese said.

RTA officials say the agency is spending about half its $55 million capital budget on rail this year, even though rail accounts for just 1 in 5 customers.

Most of the current slow orders are on the Red Line between West Boulevard and West 25th Street.

Starting in September, workers will begin replacing the track bed and rail from 117th to the top of the S curve, which wil result in a likely 14-day shutdown of rail during the $1.4 million construction. Passengers will be transported by buses between West Boulevard and Tristkett.

“We still have a lot more work between West 98th and the (Superior) Viaduct,” Shaffer said.

In 2013, RTA completed a $7 million rebuilding of the S curve on the Red Line between the West 98th and West 117th street stations. It also completed that year a $10.3 million rebuilding of the tunnel under Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

Elsewhere, RTA has replaced 7,400 ties over 2.5 miles of double track between East 79th Street and the Cedar-University Station and laid new ballast and realigned track at other East Side locations last year. Crews are almost done with a $2.6 million rejuvenation of the Shaker Square junction.

“We’re putting as much money as we can into rail,” Calabrese said.

RTA is not the only Ohio public transportation agency needing an infusion of funding for capital repairs.

A report done for the Ohio Department of Transportation found that Ohio will have to spend roughly double its $900 million current annual outlay on public transit ($1.8 billion) to meet expected demand.

The ODOT study recommends that the state portion of the budget rise to 10 percent instead of today’s 3 percent.

As for Cleveland RTA, it also needs to spend $250 million for new trains.

As an interim measure, the agency could spent $80 million to modernize the electrical power system with low-maintenance, constant-tension catenary wires.

RTA has struggled to find replacement parts for the air conditioning systems of some of its cars.

It would not be easy for RTA to abandon any of its rail lines. If it did, it would be on the hook for repaying tens if not hundreds of millions of federal rail grants received over the past 10-20 years for station, track, bridge and substation projects.

Accident Hospitalizes CSX Buffalo Conductor

June 24, 2015

A CSX conductor in Buffalo, New York, was hospitalized with burns over 18 percent of his body after his train struck a truck and one of its three gas cylinders exploded.

The accident occurred on Tuesday on an industrial spur near a General Mills plant. The train was making a shove move when it struck the truck at a grade crossing.

The truck was carrying flour and the driver was also hospitalized.

Algoma Central Service Temporarily Halted

June 24, 2015

Passenger service on the former Algoma Central was shut down this week after a Canadian National crew reported an alleged rules violation by the crew of an AC passenger train.

The incident occurred on the heels of a decision by the city council of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, to refrain from signing a funding agreement with Railmark Canada to operate the service until the company can produce evidence that it has secured a line of credit from a bank.

The alleged rules violation occurred on June 19 and under the rules of Transport Canada the crew that is being investigated cannot operate a train for 48 hours while the complaint is probed.

Railmark Holdings, a Michigan-based company, had taken over operating the Algoma Central service earlier this year.

At present, it has just one crew that is qualified over the former Algoma Central line, which is owned by CN.

Passenger trains on the Algoma Central have been operated since last month by CN employees under oversight by Railmark, which eventually plans to have more of its own employees become qualified on the line.

Some passengers were stranded by the suspension of service and forced to try to arrange their own transportation from remote wilderness lodges.

Some were able to arrange to fly out in bush planes while others were transported by CN employees driving hi-rail trucks.

CN towed the stalled passenger train Sault Ste. Marie and Railmark said it expects its crews to be cleared to return to service in time to operate the northbound train on Thursday.

As for the dispute with the Sault Ste. Marie city council, Railmark  CEO B. Allen Brown said he was expecting that decision, which he described as disappointing.

“I intend to return to Michigan to get the rest of the requested financial information together and finish the process,” he said.

The council had said earlier that it would not help fund the Algoma Central service until Railmark produced evidence of having secured a line of credit from a bank.

The council’s decision also means that it and the Algoma Central Railway Passenger Service Stakeholders Working Group will explore selecting another operator to provide the service, which CN had provided until this year with federal government financial assistance.

CN tabbed Railmark to operate the Algoma Central service from among three competing bidders.

Railmark received the contract after what the working group described as a “thorough analysis of (Railmark’s) bid.”

The Sault St. Marie City Council approved a pact with Railmark in late 2014, but the council’s leadership has since changed.

“We’re very pleased that the city is willing to work with us to find a positive solution and that the Council is considering our recommendations,” said Linda Savory-Gordon, a professor at Algoma University, a director of the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains, and a member of the Working Group. “We hope that the city will continue to support our joint efforts with CN and Transport Canada.”

CN has indicated that it has no interest in operating the Algoma Central passenger service.

What a Difference a Month Made on the GRR

June 23, 2015

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On May 27 2015, just under a month ago, I explored the new Grand River Railway in Painesville.  The photos I took left a lot to be desired if this railroad was going to be operational as soon as this month.

Well, I returned last Sunday and what a difference. The tracks near Morton Salt that looked to be variable gauge and buried had been completely fixed up except for another siding that isn’t being used.

Looking south from the Headlands Road crossing, a small three-track yard has appeared. Again, what a difference a month makes.

The GRR is temporarily leasing a CSX GP38-2 No. 2773 until the railroad gets its own power. Two SW1200s will be painted in a scheme similar to the Baltimore & Ohio passenger colors.

The first three covered hoppers have already been delivered  to Morton Salt and are behind the fence. There are approximately 80 covered hoppers in the CSX yard waiting to be delivered.

I returned on Monday to see if I could catch any action, but the GP38 did not move all day. The track crews were out in force, however.

I will try again later this week. I can’t wait to catch some trains moving on this formerly abandoned track.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

 

Parsec to Operate NS W.Va. Intermodal Terminal

June 23, 2015

The West Virginia Public Port Authority has awarded Parsec Inc., a contract to operate a Norfolk Southern intermodal terminal in Pritchard, West Virginia.

The terminal will be used for container traffic from the Port of Virginia along the railroad’s Heartland Corridor between Norfolk, Virginia, and Chicago.

Parsec will begin operating the terminal in late summer to prepare for its opening in December.

“The Heartland Intermodal Gateway serves as an example of how the collaborative efforts of a few can have a significant impact on the lives of many,” said the West Virginia governor’s office in a statement. “Not only will this facility have a lasting effect and help expand West Virginia’s economy, it will improve the productivity of [our] existing manufacturing plants and factories.”

 

Retiring INRD Chief Hoback Lauded at Dinner

June 22, 2015

Tom Hoback likes to collect toys. Unlike most men, though, he can afford really big ones, like a former Santa Fe office car that he and his wife own.

He also has 200 locomotives in his model railroad collection and his wife says he’s looking for more.

Of course, Hoback also bought a few 1 to 1 scale locomotives during his lifetime as a co-founder of the Indiana Rail Road.

Hoback will step down on June 30 as the president and CEO of INRD and more than 160 of his friends and colleagues gathered on June 12 at the Columbia Club in Indianapolis to salute his 30 years in the railroad industry.

That Hoback owns a former Santa Fe passenger car is hardly surprising given that he grew up in Illinois as a fan of the railroad for which his father once worked.

During their time at the podium, Hoback’s friends also portrayed him as a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan with an addiction to Starbucks coffee

Some even described him as a single-minded taskmaster with a Type A personality who was prone to giving others “the look,” which they described as a piercing stare with steely blue eyes.

Hoback is widely credited with leading the transformation of a down and out former Illinois Central branch line from an abandonment candidate to a thriving regional railroad.

Today the INRD operates 500 miles of track, most of it in Indiana, and employs 200.

Much of focus involves hauling coal, but it has diversified its traffic base to hauling consumer and industrial products.
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard presented Hoback with a framed proclamation declaring June 12  as Thomas G. Hoback Day.

Mark Ahearn, general counsel for the office of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, presented Hoback a Sagamore of the Wabash award, the highest civilian honor bestowed in Indiana.

INRD Senior Vice President of Operations and Business Development Bob Babcock presented Hoback with a painting that depicted the various locomotives that the INRD has used over the years.

The painting, which was commissioned by the railroad’s employees, included a CF7, an SD40-2 and an SD90MAC.
Babcock said it was best to avoid the “r” word around Hoback, who refers to his next chapter as “a career change” instead of retirement.

Some of the gifts presented to Hoback were for laughs.

Indianapolis Power & Light Manager of Fuel Supply Harold Leitze gave Hoback a cane with a railroad whistle on top.

Leitze also got a few chuckles by recounting his dealings with INRD account executives.

“When I worked for Hoosier [Energy], I was told we were their No. 1 customer. Now I work for IPL, and I’m told the same thing. I guess that’s what they tell everyone,” Leitze said.

Pete Mills, who served as a CSX executive for 26 years, will succeed Hoback at INRD.

“I am following a legend. The success is a testament to Tom,” he said. “I will do everything I can to be the best steward I can be.”
Finally, Hoback got his turn at the microphone amid a standing ovation.

“It’s been a remarkable ride. I’m extremely honored and extremely humbled,” Hoback said. “The railroad was more than I expected it to be. We did some pretty incredible things.”

Grand River Railway Set to Begin Operations

June 19, 2015

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The Grand River Railway is poised to begin hauling salt from a Morton Salt facility near the village of Grand River in Lake County.

The startup-railroad has been rehabilitating about three miles of track that was once mostly owned by the Baltimore & Ohio, although the New York Central actually owned the spur into Morton Salt.

Until it can acquire its own motive power, the GRR has borrowed a locomotive from CSX. On Friday that locomotive was sitting near Grand River.

An online report indicated that CSX has also dropped off some covered hopper cars that the GRR will move to Morton Salt for loading.

The GRR will move the cars to Painesville for interchange with CSX.

Photographs by Jeff Troutman

CSX, L&I Finalize Easement Agreement

June 19, 2015

CSX and the Louisville & Indiana have completed an agreement whereby the Class I carrier will receive a permanent easement to use L&I tracks between Indianapolis and Louisville, Kentucky.

The 106-mile long route is a former Pennsylvania Railroad line that once carried the fabled South Wind passenger train between Chicago and Florida. CSX will pay L&I $10 million for the easement.

The agreement also sets out terms for a $90 million program of track improvements that will take place over the next several years.

The project calls for laying 20 miles of new rail on the southern section of the route as well as other infrastructure improvements.

The two railroads have also been meeting with local officials and residents along the route since May to explain the track rehabilitation project as well as address concerns related to public safety, anticipated increases in freight volume and construction plans.

“As we undertake the first phase of construction, we will continue to collaborate with local officials to plan and execute construction activities to minimize disruptions to communities along the corridor,” said L&I President John Goldman in a news release.

The two railroads began talking about upgrading the route and CSX’s use of it in 2011.

L&I, which is based in Jeffersonville, Indiana, acquired the route from Conrail in 1994.

“CSX’s investment of approximately $100 million will provide enhanced rail access for the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville, increase capacity and efficiency along this corridor and improve connectivity to CSX’s broader network,” said Oscar Munoz, president and chief operating officer of CSX in a news release. “These critical infrastructure improvements include the installation of new rail, upgrades to the rail bed structure and bridge improvements to enhance safety and service for customers in the Midwest and provide more efficient rail service throughout the region.”

The L&I is one of several short-line railroads held by Anacostia Rail Holdings. Anacostia’s railroads operate in seven states and also include the Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad, Gulf Coast Switching Company, New York & Atlantic Railway, Northern Lines Railway, LLC and Pacific Harbor Line, Inc.


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