DOT Inspector General to Review PTC Progress

July 25, 2017

At the urging of a South Dakota senator, the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation will review how railroads in the United States are implementing positive train control.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, asked for the review out of concern that freight and passenger railroads are not moving fast enough toward meeting a 2018 deadline.

The review will consider how railroads are using federal funds to install PTC, which can stop or slow trains that are speeding.

At present, PTC is in operation on 27 percent of freight-rail route miles and 23 percent of passenger-rail route miles.

The technology was to have been installed by the end of 2015, but at the prodding of the railroad industry Congress reset the deadline to the end of 2018.

The industry said it was struggling to meet the original deadline due to the cost of implementing the technology.

It’s 1973 on the Arcade & Attica

July 24, 2017

Recently you posted photos of the Arcade & Attica. Here are a couple photos from when Mike Ondecker and I visited the A&A on July 23, 1973. These were both taken in Arcade, New York. In the top image, A&A Nos. 14 and 110 sit outside the old wooden engine house. Yes, No. 14 has the orange handrails. In the bottom image, A&A 111 has been making up a train.

Photographs by Robert Farkas

 

Railroads of Cuba To Be Featured at July ARRC Meeting

July 24, 2017

Ron McElrath has traveled the globe in search of railroad operations. He will present a program at the July 28 Akron Railroad Club meeting that focuses on railroads in Cuba.

His program will open with a 10 minute lecture about railroad operations on the island in the Caribbean.

Then he will show about 40 minutes of video that he made during a visit there recently.

The meeting will begin with a short business meeting at 8 p.m. followed by the program at approximately 8:30 p.m. The club meets at the New Horizons Christian Church, 290 Darrow Road, in Akron.

Members are reminded that the Roundhouse Rubble silent auction will also be held at the July meeting. Bidding will begin before the meeting and resume after the program ends.

Following the meeting, some members gather at the Eat ‘n Park restaurant at Howe and Main streets in Cuyahoga Falls for a late dinner, dessert or an early breakfast.

Visitors are always welcome at Akron Railroad Club meetings.

CSX Seeking to End Pusher Locomotives

July 24, 2017

CSX is seeking to end pusher locomotive operation various accounts say.

Trains magazine said on its website that United Transportation Union Local 1162, which represents employees on the former Clinchfield Railroad in eastern Tennessee, reported the news on its Facebook page on July 14.

“Our office is being informed that the carrier has made the decision today to cut off all the pusher assignments on our property,” the union said.

Trains said it has learned that CSX is also attempting to remove pusher locomotives from the former Baltimore & Ohio mainline over Sand Patch grade in Pennsylvania.

The magazine reported that is learned from a CSX employee that pusher assignments in Brunswick, Maryland, have been abolished.

The efforts to end pusher service out of Hyndman and Connellsville did not work well, creating a traffic log jam. Those pusher assignments have reportedly been reinstated.

CSX also is reportedly seeking to end pusher operations on its Mountain Subdivision at Grafton, West Virginia.

Management has instructed crews to double the hill or borrow motive power from other trains to assist them.

In some instance, CSX has shortened train length, particularly on the former Chesapeake & Ohio lines in West Virginia and Virginia where unit coal trains are common.

Unit trains of 150 cars have been cut to 100 cars and three locomotives are being assigned to the head end rather than using two locomotives and a pusher on the rear in territories where grades are steep.

“As part of an ongoing comprehensive review of company operations, CSX continues to make changes across its network, including changes to operating rules, to improve safety, efficiency and service to customers,” CSX representative Rob Doolittle told Trains. “As these operational changes are made, CSX managers are communicating with employees and any other stakeholders who may be impacted to implement changes safely and effectively.”

House Committee Increases Some Transportation Spending

July 24, 2017

A House appropriations committee has approved a transportation spending bill for fiscal year 2018 that saves funding of Amtrak long-distance trains and increases spending on passenger rail by $360 million.

Much of the funding increase would be channeled toward fixing infrastructure in the Northeast Corridor. The bill allocates $900 million toward the Gateway program in New York and New Jersey.

However, the bill is less favorable toward funding of public transit. It cuts some funding by $662 million even as it keeps a key investment program that has funded rail transit and commuter rail projects. The TIGER grant program would also be cut.

The funding bill was approved primarily along party lines with many committee Democrats voting against it because they want to see more infrastructure spending.

But Republicans countered that adding additional funding would cause the bill to fail on the House floor.

The full House must still act on the bill while the Senate has yet to take up its own transportation spending bill. FY 2018 will begin on Oct. 1.

Congress May Delay Infrastructure Plan Until Next Year

July 24, 2017

The Trump administration’s infrastructure plan is taking a back seat to other issues before Congress, including rewriting the U.S. tax code.

Little has been done thus far to advance infrastructure and some in Congress say it might not be taken up until next year.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said, “I’d like to see infrastructure get done. But I’ve always said, that in terms of how things are sequenced, it’s more likely that they would do tax reform first. And that might push infrastructure into sometime next year.”

Thus far no legislation has been introduced reflecting the administration’s infrastructure plan, which would, presumably, providing funding for road, bridge, railway and other projects.

The Singing Wire Now at NORM

July 23, 2017

Back in July 2005 when the Akron Railroad Club held its annual picnic at the Northern Ohio Railway Museum, we were told to come back in a few years and there will be an opportunity ride one of the museum’s cars.

A few years turned into nearly a decade, but this past June NORM finally began selling tickets to ride in former Shaker Heights Rapid Transit Car No. 12 over a demonstration track that that is approximately 1,000 feet in length.

The first public trip ran on June 10. Trips are offered on the second Saturday of each month through October.

These images were made during the second Saturday of operation on July 8.

 

Car 12 in the background was built in 1914. The car in the foreground was built in 1967.

 

Oddball Sightings on NS in Cleveland on Friday

July 22, 2017

On Friday afternoon Norfolk Southern train 17N came through Cleveland.

What made it special was an ex-Conrail E33 electric engine, No. 4601. Originally built for the Virginian Railway, it was on its way to the Illinois Railroad museum.

I also got the L13, which runs between Bellevue and Rockport and return. The past few weeks it has had a pair of former Burlington Northern SD60M engines.

These are somewhat oddballs on the NS diesel roster the past few years. Along with new locomotive purchases NS also has bought several hundred used locomotives.

Called tryclops by railfans because they have an unusual third window and also nose headlights where the NS standard is above the cab, another bonus is they are consecutively not numbered 6807 and 6808.

The 17N was at Sheldon Rd and the L13 was across from Hopkins airport.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

NOACA OKs $15.8B Transportation Plan for Greater Cleveland

July 22, 2017

The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency has approved a $15.8 billion, 20-year transportation plan for Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties that has been named AIM Forward 2040.

More than 90 percent of the funds identified in the plan will be used to maintain existing infrastructure and support new transit and livability projects.

“We heard over and over again that adding more lanes and widening roads was not necessarily a priority,” said NOACA Executive Director Grace Gallucci. “What we did hear was a strong desire for more options for getting around and fixing what we already have.

NOACA plans to invest $45 million to renew rail infrastructure of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s Red Line from Tower City to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

The line sees nearly 30,000 weekday riders and in recent years deteriorated tracks and poor drainage have slowed trains.

Also on the docket is spending nearly $68 million for replacing 260 transit buses in Cuyahoga and Lake counties.

This does not yet include the replacement of RTA’s rail fleet, some of which dates back to the middle 1970s. RTA wants to replace its two models of light and heavy rail cars with a single type of equipment during the next four-year cycle of urban formula grants.

The price of replacing the rail car fleet with nearly 70 light-rail cars may be as much as $300 million.

Also in the works is planning of transit-oriented development around RTA rail stations. This will include a pilot program focused at the West Boulevard/Cudell station on the Red Line and the East 116th Street station on the Blue and Green Lines.

Additional transit-supportive land-use planning is occurring near RTA’s two East 79th Street rail stations that are in need of major rehabilitation.

Some development has been built, is under construction or is planned within walking distance of dozens of rail and bus rapid transit stations.

In the longer term future, NOACA wants to expand the number of rail stations from 50 to 162, and expand rail service to improve job access in places such as Euclid, Lorain, Westlake, Lakewood, Solon, Strongsville and Medina, as well as promote walkable communities around rail stations.

NOACA officials say that under existing flexible transportation funding provisions, the financial resources already exist to expand the existing transit system.

The Ohio Department of Transportation has awarded to NOACA $200,000 to begin planning a multi-county transit system as an overlay to connect and enhance existing county-based transit networks to improve access to job hubs.

Only 10 percent of available jobs are within a 60-minute one-way transit ride in Greater Cleveland.

Amtrak to Skip Buffalo Exchange Street on July 23-24

July 22, 2017

Amtrak’s New York-Toronto Maple Leaf and New York-Niagara Falls Empire Service trains will not stop at Buffalo Exchange Street Station on July 23 and 24 due to track work being performed by CSX.

Alternative transportation will be provided between the Exchange Street station and Buffalo-Depew station.

Affected are Trains 63, 64, 281, 283, 284 and 288 on July 23, and trains Trains 63, 64, 280, 281, 283 and 284 on July 24.