Amtrak to Expand Long-Distance Service
Amtrak will reportedly make a major announcement this month with plans to expand its long-distance train service by about 10 percent. According to press reports, the company expects to be able to increase its revenue by $65-million annually through the addition of routes and trains and by using the new service as a means to increase its mail and priority express freight business. Included in the plans are:
- Restoration of Florida East Coast service.
- The extension of through Florida service to Boston.
- Two additional trains between New York and Chicago.
- New service between Chicago and Des Moines.
- New service between Chicago and Janesville.
- New service between Milwaukee and Fond du Lac.
- Michigan service to Toledo.
- Service into Mexico.
- An eventual through train between New York and Los Angeles on a 60-hour schedule.
Initially these and other additions would result in equipment shortages and less space being available on current runs, but the company plans to step up repairs to wreck-damaged locomotives and cars currently stored at its Beech Grove facility, and a capital funding plan will be introduced later this year for some new equipment.
CSX Reports 1999 Earnings of $339-million
CSX Corporation reported 1999 earnings of $339-million, or $1.59 per share, compared to $428-million, or $2.00 per share the previous year. Said CSX chairman John Snow, "Results for 1999 were extremely disappointing, reflecting the difficulties we experienced implementing the Conrail integration." He added, "While we expect to make consistent progress driving down controllable expenses in 2000, earnings for the current quarter will be well below a year ago. Results should improve over the course of the year as demand for rail service strengthens and our productivity increases."
Union Pacific to Add Intermodal Terminal Near Chicago
The board of directors of Union Pacific Corporation has approved construction of a $192-million intermodal rail-truck terminal near Maple Park, Illinois, west of downtown Chicago. The 425-acre facility, near Interstate 88, will be built in several phases as business requires. When completed, it will handle more than 500,000 intermodal units annually. The new terminal will be designed to help improve the quality of service for intermodal traffic as well as allow for future expansion capability, according to a UP report.
Tropicana Orders 135 New Juice Cars
Tropicana Products Inc. has placed an order with Millennium Rail Inc. for the construction of 135 new refrigerated railcars for use on its Juice trains.The new cars will reportedly be painted white, to increase their cooling efficiency, and eventually the company's entire fleet will be painted the same way.
CSXT Pioneers Standby Locomotive Generator
[From CSXT Employee Midweek Report, February 25, 2000] . . . An auxiliary power unit being tested by the Mechanical Department is showing tremendous potential for reducing locomotive fuel consumption in freezing weather and providing many other benefits. The system has been in use on a GP38-2 yard-switching engine serving a Westvaco paper mill south of Cumberland, Maryland, since last November. "It's a standby system to keep the main engine warm without having to run it when the locomotive is not being used," explained Larry Biess, mechanical systems engineer, who conceived the system and is spearheading the testing. During freezing weather, the auxiliary power unit runs intermittently, consuming about a quart of fuel per hour. An idling locomotive, on the other hand, uses about five gallons of fuel per hour. In addition to saving fuel costs, the auxiliary power unit lowers emissions and maintenance expense. The unit reduces wear and tear on main engine components and eliminates the need for locomotives to be drained of water in the event of an engine failure during cold weather. The system also will increase battery life and serve as a power source for inexpensive cab air conditioning in locomotives that are not already air conditioned. Biess has asked crews for other ideas of how to utilize the unit, which has been installed next to the air compressor on the test locomotive. A switching engine was chosen for the test because its performance could be tracked more easily. The testing will continue through the summer months, after which data will be analyzed. Biess said trucks have used similar systems for years, but CSXT is believed to be the first railroad to test an auxiliary power unit. "We plan to work with our vendors to develop a production-ready system," he said. "Within five years, we'll probably see this type of system on every new locomotive."
STB Extends Hearing on BNSF-CN Impact.
[From CSXT Employee Midweek Report, February 25, 2000] . . . Originally scheduled for two days, the Surface Transportation Board has extended March's hearing on railroad mergers and the future structure of the North American rail industry to four days, March 7-10. The STB has received more than 150 requests to appear before the hearing. More than half of the scheduled witnesses will represent freight shippers; members of Congress, state and local governments, and railroad executives will make up most of the other witnesses. The hearing comes less than two weeks before the STB expects to receive a merger filing from BNSF and CN. Although no direct connection exists between the hearing and the merger proceeding, some observers say the possibility exists that the STB could use the hearing's record to change the requirements that merging railroads must meet to show that their proposal is in the public interest.
New Hump Computer at Louisville
[From CSXT Employee Midweek Report, February 25, 2000] . . . CSXT's newest and most advanced hump computer is helping employees at Louisville's Osborn Yard reduce freight damage and human-factor yard derailments. The improvement is the result of the computer's vastly increased processing capacity. Dozens of sensors feed data into the system on car type, weight, speed, weather conditions and the distance a car must travel before coupling. The system instantly computes optimal settings so the car will couple at four MPH or less, a critical requirement for preventing damage to products, such as automobiles. Meanwhile, the "pin puller" who releases cars at the top of the hump watches a lighted sign instead of continually looking down at a paper switch list to know which cars to release. Even the speed of the locomotive pushing cars over the hump is controlled automatically.
Ray Saunders Joins the Railroad
[By Allen Brougham] . . .
Raymond Saunders, the whimsical enthusiast so often mentioned in the pages of this publication for his prowess in cooking at train-watching picnics, and who has long been a contributor of news for the good of the railfanning community, is now employed by CSXT.
He began his career last month following a five-week conductor-training course at the Community College of Philadelphia. He then took a week of advanced training at the railroad's training center at Huntley Yard in Atlanta, Georgia, and he is now assigned to CSXT's Baltimore Division at the former Conrail facility in Benning, Washington, D.C., where he has been a trainee on local freights B701 and B702 to gain on-the-job experience.
The next step in the process is to be promoted to conductor, and later to engineer.
Ray, 44, who lives in Alexandria, Virginia, was for nine years the editor of High Green, the monthly publication of the Chesapeake Division of the Railroad Enthusiasts (now the Chesapeake Railway Association), and for two years the division's president. He is also a member of the Washington and Potomac Chapters of the National Railway Historical Society, the Old Dominion Division of RRE, the C&O Historical Society, and a charter member of the Southern Railway Historical Association. He has been active on a number of trip committees, often serving as the "ground man" performing support work en route and at destination. His work as chef and picnic coordinator has become legendary.
He has contributed a number of photographs and articles to various publications, including this one. With impeccable timing, he has regularly provided late-minute news items for use in the Bull Sheet, always seeing to it that they arrive at the precise deadline for submission.
His interests, in addition to railroads, include attending sports events. He is somewhat of a "mileage collector" in his quest to attend baseball games in different ballparks, and has been to most major league stadiums throughout the country and a number of minor league parks as well. It was at one of those parks, in 1995, at Frederick, Maryland, when his car was voted the "Dirtiest Car in the Parking Lot." I was with him that day, and an item about the incident was published in the July 1995 issue of the Bull Sheet. That particular car, a Ford Club Wagon, which he no longer owns, had gone over 200,000 miles, and had seen yeoman service in the carting of picnic supplies to the many outings Ray had coordinated over the years. The car was also adorned with the hallmark license tag reading "RAILFAN," which has since been retired as well.
A 1979 graduate of George Mason University with a degree in business administration, Ray worked with Sears Roebuck & Company until 1993, and with Bon Ton Food Products from 1993 until 1999.
"Big Mac Attack"
[By Railroad Rob Brzostowski] . . .
Here in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, we have a branch line that runs from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, to Strasburg Junction, Virginia, by way of Winchester, Virginia. It is known as the Shenandoah Subdivision. For two years now our stone train out of Millville, West Virginia, has had two, sometimes three, SD70AC's for power. An occasional GE CW44AC might be lashed up with a 70MAC. The train that runs to Winchester has just about any 4-axle power there is. But during the week of January 31, that all changed....
An SD70AC (CSXT 775, ex-CR) and two GP40's were used to pull the local from Brunswick, Maryland, to Winchester. Then, on Friday, February 4, the local came to Brunswick to drop off its train from Winchester and to pick up its train to go back. But the normal swap did not happen this time. The Winchester-bound train was made up with its cut of cars and new power. To my amazement, its power was two SD70AC's, CSX 778 and 779. I asked around if this was true. Sure enough, it was. A train that for umpteen years was powered by geeps and slugs was now being pulled by 6-axle power only.
On Sunday, February 6, the two MAC's and two straight GP40's came back from Winchester, after having picked up cars at Stephens City, Virginia. It was a sweet sight to see two 70MAC's in Winchester.
"I Saw it Happen"
Grade crossing accident at Decatur Street, Hyattsville, Md., wye...
[By Gilbert Elmond] . . .
On a snowy Thursday afternoon, January 20, 2000, this accident, which is a fairly common occurrence throughout the U.S., happened at the Hyattsville, Md., wye. This mishap could have caused serious injuries or claimed some lives if circumstances were different. Fortunately no one seemed to be seriously injured in this low-speed collision. I am a railfan of several years who has seen the aftermath of derailments big and small, but nothing in my experience can compare to this. I actually witnessed a grade crossing collision, as it happened, right in front of me. This is an experience I would not have wished to have witnessed, but the past can not be changed. I want to share my eyewitness account of this collision so others can gain insight into this mishap that could have been prevented if a driver simply yielded the right of way to a train.
Here's the story: I was out railfanning in the area of the Hyattsville, Maryland, wye. Many of you have probably heard of this place. It is one of my popular hotspots. It is located in Prince George's County, near Washington, D.C. This is a place where trains can gain access to the south (Alexandria Extension), northeast (Capital Sub.), or west (Metropolitan Sub.) on CSX. JD Tower (Allen Brougham once worked there) controlled this wye until its closure in 1992. The tower stood (until it was destroyed by fire) just north (railroad east) of the wye, where the east leg of the Alexandria Extension joins the ex-B&O Capital Subdivision. I was railfanning the east leg of the wye where the action happened to be at the time. After southbound intermodal trains Q175 and Q173 swung around the east leg, it was eastbound loaded Rock Runner train K951's turn to pull east toward Riverdale and reverse down the east leg of the wye. The train was powered by CSX SD70MAC's 781 and 776 (both still in Conrail whiteface paint). This train sometimes has a shoving platform (caboose) attached to the rear, but on this day it did not.
For those not familiar with the CSX Rock Runner train, it runs loads east from Millville, West Virginia, to a distribution center in Industrial Heights, Maryland. This place is known as the Bladensburg Terminal of Millville Quarry. It is located along CSX's Alexandria Extension at Jones Hill. The facility can be accessed off of Kenilworth Avenue and is located at the end of 52nd Avenue. The facility uses a couple of blue-painted geeps to switch the Rock Runner cars. The facility is off limits to trespassers, and the geeps can generally be seen working from the end of 52nd Avenue. The Alexandria Extension has several grade crossings with flashing lights and some with bells, but only one (not this one) has crossing gates in addition to lights and bells. Of course, these warning devices seem not to deter some morons from playing roulette with moving trains. You have seen it, and I have seen it, and continue to see it, just about anywhere across the country. Hey, everyone has choices, but this is a death wish waiting to happen. I say it's just more potential business for the funeral homes and graveyards.
This grade crossing collision occurred around 12:40 p.m. I was attempting to photograph the former CR MAC's next to the southbound apex B&O-style signal as the train backed down the east leg of the extension. I was standing on the public sidewalk roughly 25 feet away from the tracks along Decatur Street on the Edmonston city limits side of the crossing. As K951 backed toward the crossing, an unloaded flatbed tow truck made a right turn from 46th Avenue onto Decatur Street and went westbound uphill to the crossing. Bells were ringing and crossing lights were flashing as usual . The train approached at a slow 4 mph with the conductor riding on the platform of the Rock Runner car, but I do not remember him blowing his whistle like he usually does. I noticed how the caboose whistle really does not deter most drivers from shooting across in front of a train anyway. Well, the tow truck driver kind of hesitated, looked to his right and saw how slow the train was moving, thinking he could just dart across. I remember the truck's engine being gunned, and then..... BOOOMMM!!!
By instinct , I tried to run away from the collision to avoid bodily harm. Well, that didn't go too smoothly, as I only got about 10 feet and I slipped and fell on the snow-covered sidewalk. I suffered a bruised tail bone, but I feel fine now. There must have been an angel by my side, the tow truck driver, and conductor. I remember vividly looking uphill and seeing the tow truck getting hit on the right passenger side and dragged across the road with the loud sound of the fiberglass hood being ripped open. The tow truck driver's head was just bobbing around in the cab during the collision, and the conductor held onto the Rock Runner car for dear life until the train's rear end stopped about 100 feet from impact. Lots of moving mass here - it does not stop on a dime. The truck came to a rest about 20 feet away from me. CLOSE CALL!!! The impact did not stall the truck's engine, as I remember; it was at idle about 30 seconds after the impact until the driver shut it off. At first, I did not realize the truck's fuel tank had ruptured and was spilling diesel fuel down the sidewalk, until I smelled the fuel. Still, I approached the truck to check on the driver, despite the risk of an explosion. Fortunately, no one else was around this crossing to see the awful collision. Again, I wish not to have seen this, but I happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Before I could ask the driver if he was okay, he blurted out: "I didn't hear the bells ringing or see the lights flashing." He sure had a shocked look on his face. Hmmm. Well, the bells were ringing and the lights were flashing right then as he spoke. Then, the conductor jumped in between the Rock Runner cars and asked if everyone was okay. The driver initially said he was hurt, but I don't know if he ever received medical treatment. He talked to the emergency crews and police as well as myself, conductor, and engineer. I must say the emergency vehicles with crews arrived on the scene in a matter of seconds it seemed. Great response by the fire/police departments. I calmed down somewhat and gave my eyewitness statement to an Edmonston police officer. I sat in the backseat of his patrol car writing my statement while he cranked up the heat and had the radio tuned to some music which helped me to relax. I must say those seats in the Chevy Caprice patrol car were quite comfortable. He told me that the tow truck driver was going to get a couple of citations for his recklessness. Also, he said I may be contacted later about my account.
I briefly chatted with the young looking conductor and he said: "This time you got more than you bargained for." "It's something I didn't foresee and it was a close call," I told him in response. The track inspector said: "These trains are big and can be dangerous.... people underestimate their sheer mass." We were all fortunate that speed was not a factor in this collision. In rare occasions in the past, I have seen the Rock Runner back down the extension at speed! I think it's quite unsafe going at speed in reverse over road crossings, especially with the conductor hanging onto the rear. Not much protection compared to a locomotive cab, but I realize even that can be of little help in certain collisions. Fortunately in this incident, the outcome was not so bad. Still I was not happy to see this collision, so I left the scene after giving my statement to police and briefly chatting with CSX employees.
In this mishap there are many lessons to be learned. Obviously the tow truck driver has learned the hard way not to attempt to beat a train at a crossing. As for myself, I could have been more cautious around this grade crossing, and trains in general. I should have been on the side of the crossing the train was approaching from to avoid being caught up in a collision. In this situation that was not practical because of the lack of a sidewalk on the other side of the street near the track. This crossing should have been avoided altogether in this incident. Also I could have stood much farther back (like 30 or more feet away) than I was standing. I am not a perfect 24 year old person, so I will try to remember what I have learned here. Since I am not perfect, I do not hold much ill feeling toward the 50+ year old looking driver because life is too short to be filled with hate and anger. We all make mistakes, whether intentional or not, no matter at what age. We just move on and try not to make the same mistakes later. I realize that trains are big and dangerous and can be quite unforgiving in mishaps, but it's a risk I and others take being around trains. You just have to be alert at all times. Try to use common sense and good judgment. Even the unimaginable can happen when least expected. Only fate has it when a mishap occurs. Hopefully God is there in such an event.
Take care, everyone, think safety.. Look, Listen, Live!!!
Nap Time on the Railroad
The Chesapeake & Ohio Railway had as its logo a sleeping kitten. It was the company's way of showing just how restful it was to travel in the line's sleeping cars.
But the railroaders themselves were always wide awake...
Or were they?
Few railroaders can honestly admit that they have never taken a few on-duty winks when the occasion arose. After all, if the work is caught up, and safety is not compromised, what's wrong with a little snooze? Officially, it was a no-no, but health experts have long held that a little cat nap (no pun intended) can be very instrumental in restoring mental alertness. This is especially true for folks putting in long hours with irregular rest periods along the way.
Management now agrees.
A new modification to the no-sleeping rule on CSXT now allows napping within specified guidelines. The rule and its modification are quoted:
THE RULE . . .
D. Sleeping while on duty
- Employees must not sleep while on duty, except as outlined under operating rule D-1 (napping). An employee lying down or in a reclining position with eyes closed, covered or concealed will be considered to be sleeping.
- Employees may nap provided the following conditions are complied with. The word nap means to sleep for a period of time not exceeding forty-five (45) minutes, which includes the time necessary to fall asleep.
- Under no circumstances will an employee on a moving train be permitted to nap.
- A train will not be delayed to take a nap.
- A. Train crews will be permitted to nap, except when the employees are:
- In a situation where the personal safety of the employees, or the safety of the train or the public could be jeopardized.
- In passenger or commuter service.
- In yard service.
- Handling special automotive trains for shutdown.
- Working a single-man crew assignment, including a utility person that is assigned to a crew.
- B. Napping while en route:
- When a train is stopped en route one (1) employee may nap, provided napping is not prohibited by paragraph A, above, and the following conditions are met.
- Conduct a job briefing and determine which employee(s) will nap and which employee will stay awake.
- Condition the train's air brakes as prescribed by rule or special instructions.
- The employee designated to stay awake will remain in the locomotive cab and wake the napping employee when the delay to the train ends or after forty-five (45) minutes, whichever occurs first. Except when inspecting passing trains.
- C. Napping while awaiting train arrival or completion:
- When a crew is waiting for the arrival of their train or awaiting for their train to be completed at their initial terminal, the employees may nap, provided napping is not prohibited by paragraph A, above, and the following conditions are met:
- The employees have completed all duties required of them to this point, such as: securing and reviewing train bulletins, system and general bulletins, train documentation, and other paperwork; and, if possible, inspecting the locomotive consist.
- Unless arrangements have been made with an authorized third party to wake the employees, conduct a job briefing and determine which employee(s) will nap and which employee will stay awake.
- The crew member designated to stay awake must wake the other crew member(s) when the delay ends or after forty-five (45) minutes, whichever occurs first.
- D. Proceeding after delay ends:
- Review their train bulletin and confirm their mutual understanding of the train bulletin's contents.
- Review any form ER and DTC block form in effect and confirm their mutual understanding of the requirements of those documents.
- Conduct a job briefing.
CSX Discusses Drop in Stock Price
[From CSXT Employee Midweek Report, February 25, 2000] . . . CSX's stock price, down substantially since this time last year, in the view of management reflects three conditions. They include earnings that do not meet expectations, uncertainty over the future of industry mergers, and an unfavorable comparison to high-tech stocks. Jesse Mohorovic, group vice president-corporate communications and investor relations, discusses each:
1. Quarterly earnings, impacted by the difficult job of merging CSX and its portion of Conrail, have not been up to our own expectations or those of Wall Street analysts. Throughout 1999, CSX coped with transition costs related to the integration of CSX and Conrail. Merger-related costs depressed earnings and fueled investor concern over when CSX will be able to eliminate them. "The good news here is that most analysts believe that our merger can and will produce benefits - their question is when," Mohorovic says. "That's why it is essential that we prove the benefits of the merger by taking out integration costs, growing revenues, and demonstrating visible earnings improvement in 2000."
2. The BNSF-CN merger proposal has heightened concerns that the industry will be forced into another round of mergers, rather than focusing on gaining the bottom-line benefits of the current mergers. Since the BNSF-CN announcement on December 20, 1999, the rail group (including BNSF-CN) saw stocks decline 25 to 30 percent from an already low point. Investors are concerned that if the BNSF-CN merger is approved, the other major railroads may be forced into another round of mergers to maintain their competitive positions, and focus could be drawn from producing near-term earnings improvements. "This adds uncertainty to the investment equation and the large-value investors shy away from uncertainty," Mohorovic says.
3. The spectacular gains of the "dot.coms" and other "new economy" stocks have made industrial companies, like railroads, currently less attractive. Rail stocks and other, more traditional industry groups have been overlooked in comparison to the high-flying Internet companies, telecommunications, and bio-medical stocks. As more money has flowed into the new economy stocks, less has been available for value stocks such as railroads, where investments traditionally have been made to achieve long-term consistent gains.
"For CSX, our recent earnings disappointments and the uncertainty over the BNSF-CN proposal appear to be the most critical factors in our current share price," Mohorovic says. "The key to regaining the value of CSX shares is to achieve earnings goals and realize the full benefits of our merger. Management believes that would increase confidence and attract positive attention from the investment community. All of us have a role to play to help make this happen."
Fortune Magazine Names BNSF "Most Admired" Railroad for 1999
Fortune Magazine has named Burlington Northern Santa Fe as the "most admired company for 1999" within the railroad industry. Listed 2 through 5 respectively were Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, CSXT, and Kansas City Southern.
UTU, Major Railroads Agree on Key Provision
[From CSXT Employee Midweek Report, February 25, 2000] . . . The United Transportation Union and the major Class I railroads have reached agreement on new standards to be applied for overriding or modifying collective bargaining agreements in major transactions such as consolidations, mergers and acquisitions. Until the agreement becomes law, the major railroads belonging to the National Carriers Conference Committee have agreed to be bound by its terms, said Ken Peifer, CSXT vice president-labor relations. Those railroads include CSXT, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, and Kansas City Southern. Prior to this agreement, those railroads had the ability to override or modify existing collective bargaining agreements to achieve the benefits of a merger. Altering or changing that practice was a condition for labor support of efforts to pass legislation re-authorizing the Surface Transportation Board.
New Webmaster Named for Bull Sheet Site
Matthew Adams of Frederick, Maryland, has been named webmaster for www.bullsheet.com. He replaces Michael Coblenz of CrossLink Internet Services, Springfield, Virginia, who was responsible for changing the site's program files to a new database. Adams, 16, will be responsible for tech support and managing a number of planned additions. There were over 53.000 visits to the site in 1999.