Posts Tagged ‘Maryland’

CSX May Change Mind on Baltimore Tunnel

December 21, 2017

In what might be the first post-Hunter Harrison turnabout at CSX, the railroad met with Maryland officials this week to discuss continuing the Howard Street Tunnel expansion project.

Last month CSX said it was pulling out of the project to enlarge an obstruction to operating double-stacked container trains in the Interstate 95 Corridor between New Jersey and Florida.

But this week acting CSX CEO James M. Foote met with the Maryland congressional delegation, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and representatives of Gov. Larry Hogan to discuss the project.

Maryland officials had requested the meeting and Senator Ben Cardin said Foote “agreed to have an open mind” about the tunnel project.

Although the Maryland officials said CSX indicated it would reconsider its decision to pull out of the project, the railroad stopped short of describing the meeting that way.

“CSX had a productive discussion about the Howard Street Tunnel with the Maryland Congressional delegation and representatives from the offices of Gov. Hogan and Mayor Pugh,” a CSX spokesman said. “CSX appreciates the partnership we have developed with the state, city, and port and we look forward to continuing the dialogue with them about our plans moving forward.”

Harrison, who died on Dec. 16, had criticized the project, saying he was philosophically opposed to receiving government money because then government officials “want to try to tell you how to run your company.”

He also said he thought the East Coast has too many ports vying for traffic.

“Nobody wants to be told their port’s not the superport,” Harrison said. “But somebody’s got to wake up to that and sometimes it’s got to be us by saying we can’t invest in that with shareholder money because it’s not a good investment.”

CSX would not say if Foote agrees with Harrison’s point of view on the Howard Street tunnel.

The $425 million tunnel clearance project was seen as a public-private partnership that would have relied on a combination of federal, state, and railroad funding with CSX providing $145 million.

When it initially agreed to participate in the project in 2016, CSX said the project would remove additional trucks from highways and create more than $640 million in benefits to 25 eastern states.

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State Money Now Flowing to WMSR Project

May 19, 2017

State money is finally starting to flow into the coffers of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad and its contractors who have been seeking to restore a former Chesapeake & Ohio steam locomotive to operating condition this year.

Trains magazine reported this week that the WMSR and its contractors have received payments totaling $128,772

A spokesman for the Maryland State Treasurer’s Office said checks for $30,000 and $24,396 are expected to be written by next week, bringing total payments to $183,168.

Restoration work of C&O No. 1309, a 2-6-6-2, is being done at the railroad’s shop in Ridgeley, West Virginia.

Earlier this year, the restoration work was halted due to the lack of funding from the state, which had agreed to give a $400,000 capital grant to help pay for the restoration of the locomotive to operating condition. The restoration is expected to cost $1 million.

The locomotive was originally scheduled to make its first revenue trip in early July, but that has been canceled.

Trains said that the WMSR doesn’t expect to announce a date for the first run for another two weeks. That is expected to be in the fall.

WMSR bought No. 1309 from the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum in 2014. The ex-C&O Class H6 is one of the last locomotives built by Baldwin Locomotive Works for use in the United States.

1309 Restoration Work Halted for Lack of Funds

April 28, 2017

Financial issues are preventing the completion of restoration of Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 to operating conditions.

The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad had said No. 1309 would make its maiden journey after restoration on July 1.

But slow reimbursements from the State of Maryland have jeopardized that. John Garner, superintendent of the WMSR, said all restoration work was halted in early March due to lack of funding.

Last year the Maryland governor’s office earmarked $400,000 in a matching grant to help with the restoration of No. 1309.

Garner says that the WMSR must spend its own capital dollars before reimbursement can be processed by the state.

Seeking to raise the railroad’s matching share of $400,000 while trying to continue regular operations has proven difficult for the WMSR.

Garner said state officials are working to give railroad vendors the status of approved state contractors and to also approve vendors’ invoices.

“It’s all up to the state now; if [the state] cuts a check loose tomorrow, we go back to work,” he said, adding that he can’t predict when the 1309 restoration will be completed and when the locomotive will operate.

He did say that another eight weeks of work is needed to get No. 1309 operational.

Among the remaining work to be completed is a hydrostatic test for the boiler and reassembly work if the test shows the locomotive will safely hold steam and water under pressure.

Those who have purchased tickets for the planned July 1 runs are being given refunds or re-booked on a July 4 weekend excursion. The WMSR is offering $10 vouchers good for train rides, gift shop purchases or on-board services.

WMSR Returns to Frostburg on May 6

March 10, 2017

The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad said its first trip to Fostburg, Maryland, in nine months will run on May 6.

The railroad’s general manager, John Garner, said a retaining wall has been built at the sites where landslides last year severed the route.

Garner said railroad personnel will spend the next nine weeks inspecting the track that has been out of service. They will clear brush and make any needed repairs to the track.

With trains unable to operate to Frostburg in 2016, ridership fell by about 10,000.

Another factor in the decline of patronage was that Western Maryland Scenic 2-8-0 No. 734 was removed from service last April for a 1,472-day inspection.

WMSR Repairs Track Damaged by Landslide

March 9, 2017

The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad has repaired its tracks at the site of a landslide that kept the railroad from reaching Frostburg, Maryland.

The landslide was found in July 2016 at Woodcock Hollow, about 10 miles from Cumberland, Maryland. Another landslide had occurred near there in February 2016.

The landslides resulted in trains operating only as far as a siding at milepost 174.

Repairing the tracks cost right of way owner Allegany County, Maryland, $1.5 million, some of which was reimbursed by federal funds.

Landslide Cuts WMSR Route to Frostburg

March 2, 2016

Western Maryland Scenic Railroad passengers will be making a shorter journey after a landslide severed the tracks between switch No. 9 and Frostburg, Maryland.

Officials said that track damage will prevent WMSR trains from reaching Frostburg for more than half of the 2016 season.

Western Maryland ScenicInspectors found the landslide damage during a routine track inspection. Land below the right of way has slipped an estimated 2 to 4 feet.

Maryland Bureau of Mines staff recently visited the site of the landslide are expected to take up to 45 days conducting field tests.

It remains to be seen who will pay for the track repairs. WMSR General Superintendent John Garner said if the railroad has to fund the repairs they will not likely be made this year and service to Frostburg would remain suspended.

If the state bureau of mines determines that a mine caused the landslide, then it would be able to fund emergency repairs. In a best cast scenario, service to Frostburg would not resume until July.

Garner said that for now the railroad will renovate switch No. 9 to create a runaround siding. It also hopes to create a small picnic-type area next to the siding.