New Railroad Retirement Legislation Signed into Law
President Bush has signed into law the Railroad Retirement and Survivors' Improvement Act of 2001. It will permit railroaders with 30 years of service to retire at age 60 with full benefits and an interim health care plan financed by the carriers, and will increase widow and widower benefits by an average of $300 per month. The new law will also reduce to five years the vesting period for coverage under Railroad Retirement. A similar bill introduced in 2000 failed to reach a vote in the U.S. Senate.
Canadian Pacific Forms Less-Than-Truckload Pact
Canadian Pacific Railway has entered into a 10-year agreement with Consolidated Fastfrate, a Canadian company, to offer less-than-truckload service in Canada, the United States, and Mexico.
NTSB Cites Flaws in BWI Light-Rail Accidents
The National Transportation Safety Board has found "flaws in personnel screening and safety equipment" as contributing to two light-rail accidents at the BWI Airport station in 2000. The board blamed both accidents - in which trains crashed against the bumping block - on operator error, but faulted the MTA for not being more vigilant in requiring its employees to report their use of medications to management.
BNSF Forms Perishable Goods Pact
Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Swift Transportation Company have formed a pact to provide "seamless" transportation services for perishable goods between the West Coast, Midwest, and Southeast. BNSF will provide boxcar transportation for long-haul shipments, and Swift will provide highway transportation for short-haul shipments. Both companies will coordinate transload and cross dock moves.
Washington Metro to Activate Toxic Chemical Sensors
Washington DC Metro will activate sensors this month in two of its underground stations to detect a release of toxic chemicals.
CSXT Lauded for Corporate Philanthropy
CSXT has been recognized for its outstanding leadership in corporate philanthropy in the New Orleans community by the Friends of New Orleans Recreational Department. The award recognized CSXT's corporate donations, its contribution to the refurbishment and improvements of local playgrounds, and its sponsorship of after-school educational and recreational programs.
Burkeville, Virginia, Depot Moved to New Site
The town of Burkeville, Virginia, has moved its 1915 railroad depot 200 yards from its original location into a park for use as a transportation and community center and museum. The building had been donated to the town by Norfolk Southern.
Sand Patch Tower Demolished
Sand Patch ("SA") Tower in Pennsylvania was demolished on December 21. Located at the "Summit of the Alleghenies," the 87-year-old brick tower had closed as an interlocking office on November 7.
GE Gives Big Praise for Big Shipments
[CSXT Midweek Report, Dec. 19, 2001]... Attention to detail and careful handling have earned praise from General Electric, which shipped more than 500 high/wide loads of generating plant equipment on CSXT in 2001. "GE is very pleased with our service and professionalism," said Joe Boehle, senior clearance engineer. "Every mechanical and transportation department employee who participated in these high-revenue moves deserves congratulations. And these moves would never happen without the prompt rating service that GE receives from our marketing department." The equipment, including generators, turbines and transformers, is shipped from GE plants in Schenectady, N.Y.; Newport News, Va.; and South Greenville, S.C. Plus, GE recently purchased a former Westinghouse plant near Pensacola, Florida. The equipments' dimensions (13 feet, 4 inches wide for a turbine) and weight (500,000 pounds for a generator), make coordination crucial for moving the power plant shipments safely over the railroad. Dispatchers, yardmasters, trainmasters and train crews all have to pay close attention to the handling and placement of the heavy-load cars. In addition, car inspectors play a key role by measuring each load and ensuring that it is properly tied down. Power plant equipment moves have increased as a result of power companies' need to add generating capacity. That's good for CSXT in two ways: it brings equipment shipments to the railroad and creates new outlets for coal. GE has forecast a 75 percent increase in high/wide shipments in 2002, and CSXT has formed a Six Sigma team to help the customer by reducing transit times and car hire costs.
CSXT Attracts Industrial Development
[CSXT Midweek Report, Nov. 29, 2001]... In the midst of a softening economy, CSXT continues to see significant new investments by customers expanding their businesses and moving traffic over CSXT rail. During October, 12 industries announced plans to locate or expand facilities that will be serviced by CSXT. When in full production, these customers are expected to produce more than 7600 carloads annually. One such customer is C&F Foods, a California-based food packaging and distribution company. The company has announced its second expansion with CSXT, with plans to open a new rail-served operation in Raleigh, North Carolina, in January 2002. At full production, CSXT expects to handle 1300 annual inbound carloads. "Although activity levels have decreased, customers are still seeing growth opportunities," said David Hamphill, assistant vice president-industrial and economic development. "These new and existing customers are making long term investments with CSXT because they foresee significant growth potential in the long term, based in large part on reliable rail service."
CSXT Locomotive Named for Employee
[CSXToday, November/December 2001]... Western Region engineer Nick Goebel has not only worked for the railroad for more than 50 years, but he has also remained injury-free. To celebrate this great accomplishment, a locomotive was named after him. Unit 2745 is now officially named "Nick's Engine." District superintendent David Hagerman has been a long-time friend of Nick's. "Nick has always been extremely concerned about safety, along with all other aspects of work. He has arrived an hour early for work ever since I have known him, rain or shine. Nick is a great role model for all of us."
Shortlines Commend CSX for a Great Year
[CSXT Midweek Report, Dec. 19, 2001]... CSXT's performance in 2001 is cause to celebrate, so said the Shortline Caucus, whose members recently convened for the 13th annual Shortlines Workshop. "CSXT improved in eight out of nine service activities this year," said John Levine, Shortline Caucus chairman. Improvements in transit time, car availability, car quality, and responsiveness were among the measures cited by the group. 2001 has also been a year of expanded business opportunities for shortline-CSXT partnerships. Nearly three-quarters of the shortline group said they'd been successful attracting new joint business, and 72 percent of that new business was initiated by the shortlines. It's that kind of partnership that will boost the impact of freight railroads in the future, said Bill Flynn, senior vice president- merchandise service group. "The shortlines are key to helping us identify and prioritize new opportunities, and converting those opportunities to new customers," Flynn said. "2002 will bring an even stronger focus on making it easier to do business with the railroads and bringing truck business to rail." CSXT has more than 230 shortline connections along its system.
Wedding With a Railfan Twist!
Vic and Becky get married at the train station...
When Victor Stone proposed to Rebecca Woodford about a year ago, he did so while the two of them were railfanning. They were on location at Doswell, Virginia. So it was only natural that the two of them, both being railfans, should tie the knot someplace indigenous to their hobby.
Such as it was on December 8, on the second floor overlooking two railroads, at the Charlottesville, Virginia, train station, that the big event took place. Actually, it was at the "old" station, immediately next door to the town's current Amtrak station, in one of the original waiting rooms recently converted into a trendy restaurant. About 50 people were in attendance, most all of whom were railfans themselves. And they even arranged for a railfan minister to conduct the service.
The station is flanked, front and back, by the Norfolk Southern and CSXT, respectively. There is a lot of activity at this spot, and one need not hope for long that something would come by to add spice to the occasion. In fact, just at the time the ceremony was to scheduled begin, a Norfolk Southern stack train did rumble north. This was all that was needed to delay things for a few minutes, but history will duly record that a second train, this one a southbounder (with Conrail power) came by midway through the processional.
Once the bride and groom and the rest of the wedding party were at their appropriate posts, and all of the guests were seated, the minister, David Leonard, offered an explanation for what would, or maybe "could," follow. Said he, "Normal people might not understand..." as he described how some of the wording of the ceremony had been incorporated specifically for the occasion. And as to any interruptions that might occur if other trains should happen by before it was all over, he added, "I am not responsible for what happens."
No further trains came by as the as the rest of the ceremony progressed, but the conclusion was one for the record books. The closing words, as spoken by the Rev, were as follows:
"Dispatcher to C&E Extra Becky and Vic, wedding special December 8, 2001: Permission to proceed from CP-Charlottesville, Virginia, in whatever direction you choose, watching out for the maintenance of way and support of your friends who make your journey possible. Trains and track cars ahead: none. Proceed past stop signals at all mile posts, and through all blocks at maximum speed authorized for your train. Vows repeated correctly, time effective 11:18 AM, dispatcher GOD.
Operating a Streetcar
[By Allen Brougham] . . .
As a kid, I was enamored by the sleek PCC streetcars that plied their way through Baltimore. First they were green; then they were yellow. The house where I lived, between the ages of one and five, was just a short distance from the Govans Loop, which was replete with a small holding yard. And my grandparents lived just a couple of blocks from the York Road carbarn. Both locations were along the number 8 line, said to be the longest streetcar line anywhere. Somehow, the number 8 line seemed to get the newest equipment, while older cars (such as the Peter Witt) got relegated to other lines in the city's system - consequently, much of my exposure was to the PCC's, which garnered my affection.
My mother called it the "banana line," a reference to the many occasions when service got disrupted - first a lengthy wait while nothing came, and then a number of cars would show up all at once "bunched" closely together. Whether they be green, or yellow, the comparison to bananas seemed appropriate.
As a student in high school, I often rode the cars from downtown to Towson. Then, shortly before streetcars were eliminated from the scene, a friend and I rode the entire line - just for fun.
I got yet another chance to ride the entire line - along with all remaining trackage still in service - on the last day (and night) of operation in November 1963. Then it was all over.
Well, not exactly... The foresight of visionary historians saw to it that prototypes of Baltimore streetcars - including the heralded PCC - were kept aside from the scrap heap, and today they joyously do their thing at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, next to Falls Road, using a portion of the old Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad right-of-way.
By a happy coincidence, the museum's visitor center is where the Baltimore Chapter NRHS holds its monthly meetings. And once or twice a year, the friendly staff of the Streetcar Museum (many of whom are also chapter members) bring out some of their equipment to offer everyone a ride. It was there, on December 10, that a number of cars from the collection were brought out, and rides were offered - with the addition of a special treat: those choosing to do so would be allowed to operate them.
It took no hesitation for me, fond as I was of the PCC, to opt to test my talents upon that one. Car, #7407, now resplendent in its majestic green livery, had been in service until the end of Baltimore operations. And there it was!
I was given a quick primer by museum member Mark Dawson, who explained the function of the car's three foot pedals. The pedals resemble those of an automobile with a stick-shift transmission, except that the left pedal serves the "deadman" function rather than as a clutch. Also, the brake is the first pedal to be activated - and the last to be released. "Where's the steering wheel?" I asked. Ha! I was only kidding, of course.
Once situated at the controls, under Mark's watchful eye, we were under way. There were jerky motions as I slowed for switches, then sped up for straightaways, and next made a stop for the grade crossing leading to the old roundhouse (now a city salt-storage area). Oops! I gave it too much brake... An alarm sounded. It was a loud, ear-splitting alarm that could be heard throughout the car. The remedy is one that takes diligence - a careful manipulation of the brake and deadman, in a certain sequence, or the alarm will continue to sound infinitum and the car will refuse to budge. At this point, I could only imagine the humiliation of an operator - not yet versed on the idiosyncrasies of PCC-braking - on his or her maiden run. Of course, Mark was there to make things right, and we were once again on our way.
The next order of business was to stop and line our route at the entry to the loop at the north end of the museum's trackage. Some switches can be controlled from within the car, but not this one. This switch required the use of a "switch iron," working the switch manually on the ground. Wow! Such fun!
Mark Dawson remembers the Baltimore streetcars as a kid, but he did not attend any of the last-day activities in 1963. Still, his love for the things called him into service at the museum in 1975. By profession, he is the owner of a copier repair business. Streetcar operating is his hobby. As for the job description - the person who runs the car is known as an operator. But on the two-man cars, the person who runs the car is known as a motorman; the other is known as a conductor.
For the record, I did get to operate (again, briefly) a PCC several years ago on a visit to the National-Capital Trolley Museum near Silver Spring. That was fun, too. But operating a Baltimore car has now made the thrill more complete!
MARC Frederick Service Begins
[By Allen Brougham] . . .
For the first time in more than half a century, regularly-scheduled passenger train service has returned to Frederick, Maryland. The fruition of a $56-million extension project came on December 17 as three weekday commuter trains began runs in each direction between there and Washington using the Frederick branch and the Old Main Line, connecting to CSXT's Metropolitan Subdivision at East Rocks.
Thirty-seven passengers, some of them mileage collectors, boarded the first train leaving Frederick at 5:17 in the morning. An additional 43 passengers boarded at the Monocacy station several minutes later. There was no ceremony to mark the occasion, and the train made an uneventful run, arriving at its destination a few minutes ahead of schedule.
The December 19 issue of the Baltimore Sun had a four-column photo on its front page showing the first evening train following its arrival in Frederick, but mis-stated the opening day of service as having been the previous day (Tuesday, the 18th), although the first trains had actually run on Monday. A more accurate report appeared in the December 18 issue of the Frederick Post which included a two-column photo taken inside one of the coaches of the first morning train and an accompanying article about the trip.
For my part, I debated the logistical challenges of attending the first trip myself, with the result that I found other things to do that day. But I did get the opportunity to partake of an earlier event: On November 9, as a crew van driver, I did have the honor of transporting back from Frederick some officials and the crew of the first assigned "test train" following its run from Brunswick to Frederick to get it in position for a month-long EMS drill and signal-testing project.
"He's on the Bell!"
[By Jim Bradley] . . .
Jim Bradley is a retired newspaper photographer living in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He has graciously provided the Bull Sheet with a number of photographs he has taken on the topic of railroad interlocking towers. It is the intention to present this collection from time to time within the pages of the Bull Sheet using the title "He's on the Bell!"
This is the first in the series, and the photographs presented herewith focus upon Lemo Tower.