Caboose Man of Hyndman Sells His Fleet
[By Don Stewart] . . .
It was more than a decade ago when the Bull Sheet first reported on Don Stewart and his fleet of two C&O cabooses tucked 30 feet from the CSX main line at Hyndman, Pennsylvania. The cars, which he purchased separately in 1990 and 1992, became his home in the country where he could relax, listen to music, and put his mind in the eighth notch as he enjoyed the passage of trains by his domain. He now lives in Arizona, and last year he sold his cabooses to Jason Walter, a member of the Chessie System Historical Society. Here is Don's report:
In the late 90's my arthritis became worse and worse to the point that it was not prudent to climb up into the Cupola without someone being there with me. While these physical limitations became worse and worse my desire to return "home" to the west became stronger and stronger. I had to realize that my days of safely and comfortably being at the Cabooses on my own were drawing to a close. I sold my condominium in College Park MD in May of 2002 and headed to my present location in the Mountains of Northern Arizona - Flagstaff. I'm even more fortunate than I was in Hyndman as far as trains are concerned - the main line of the Santa Fe runs 80 yards out the back door and promises me well over 120 trains a day including the AMTRAK Southwest Chief.
Prior to leaving College Park I had the Cabooses appraised, as my original intention was to donate them to the Chessie System Historical Society. CSX required liability insurance of at least 3 Million Dollars - an amount that the Historical Society was not able to raise - so they backed out of the offer. Randy Broadwater, President of the CSHS knew of several members though who were interested in purchasing the Cabooses from me - Jason Walter being one of them. To make a long story shorter, he made me a reasonable offer, and the fact that he wanted to keep them in Hyndman in their present location made it very easy to accept. He was able to raise the required liability insurance as a part of his Homeowners Insurance Policy - the same way that I insured them over the past years. The paperwork flew back and forth between CSX, me and Jason, and now the lease has been transferred to his name and the Cabooses are safe with a new owner and are still safely tucked away in Hyndman.
One of my major concerns was to try and keep the Cabooses together and in Hyndman - the Borough in which they have become a part. The Cabooses are happy; Don, The Caboose Man is happy; Hyndman is happy; and from what I read and hear, so is the new Caboose Man, Jason. He has already made several friends locally and I have a feeling will soon be enjoying the wonderful chocolate chip cookies from Miss Vicki at the local general store and bakery. Bud Evans, who has cared for the Cabooses and grounds since I left and who is already in contact with Jason, would, I think, continue to help Jason around the grounds and keep an eye on the Cabooses when he is not there. Though my sons will miss visiting the Cabooses with the grandchildren, they realized along with me that it was time to move on to Grand Canyon Country.
The 12 years that I had the Cabooses were filled with wonderful times and will live always with me in fond memory - mainly of the CSX Crews and local townspeople. I was not only a "railfriend," but a friend of Hyndman too. BUT - it was time to move on to new and different things and places. The Cabooses still have their home and will be taken care of better than I could have continued to do.
I was hoping to be able to travel east this month on the SW Chief and the Capitol Ltd to spend a few last nights in 903556, but cannot do so at this time. Time to focus my attention to building a Log Home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, while enjoying the almost constant appearances of trains in my back yard here in Flagstaff - quite a few with CSX Power in the consist. No Hyndman Helpers, though --- they are all remotely controlled here so I cannot hand off chili as the Cabs are empty. I plan on spending spring and fall in Jackson Hole away from the trains - there IS more to life than trains I find - and the rest of the time here WITH them.
Harpers Ferry Station Update
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park Superintendent Don Campbell announced December 12 that the planning phase of the Harpers Ferry train station restoration is underway with the preparation of a draft Environmental Assessment (EA). The EA includes several alternatives for rehabilitating the station's exterior features and the interior of the building for adaptive reuse.
The purpose of the project is to preserve the train station - which was built in 1894 - so that it may be used and enjoyed by park visitors and citizens of Harpers Ferry. To accomplish this, the National Park Service plans to protect and maintain the character-defining features of the building through rehabilitation and restoration and add displays to improve the station's interpretive value.
Following strict bureaucratic protocol, the 98-page document - including introduction and attached correspondence - outlines infrastructure, topographic, geological, economic, environmental, ethnographic, vegetation, wildlife and other considerations, along with four plans (alternatives) on how the work should proceed.
The "preferred" alternative - the one with the strongest recommendation - would involve rehabilitating the building to its appearance when it was moved to its current site in 1931. Earlier, the depot was situated several hundred feet south along what had then been the mainline. The move to its current site was due to a realignment of the track.
The most distinctive feature of the building at the time it was moved was its two-story interlocking tower. The tower was removed c-1950. Under the preferred alternative, that tower would be rebuilt - at least cosmetically - in order to replicate its 1931 appearance.
Another alternative presented was to replicate the building to its 1894 appearance - complete with bay windows and dormers on both sides - but this, it was felt, would misrepresent the historical accuracy of the building at its current site.
Cost of the project is estimated at $2.2-million. Congress authorized $1.9-million in FY-2003, and a West Virginia state grant of $320,000 is also available. Completion is expected in 2005.
The station continues to function as an active passenger rail operation and is an essential part of the transportation system at Harpers Ferry. Both MARC and Amtrak trains stop here on a regular basis.
CSX Studying Sale or Lease of Line Through Charlottesville, Virginia
The 200-mile-long stretch of CSX track through Doswell, Gordonsville, Charlottesville and Staunton, Virginia - linking Richmond and Clifton Forge - is the subject of a proposal that the line could be sold or leased to a shortline carrier, according to news reports and persons familiar with its operation.
A December 21 article in the Richmond Times Dispatch quoted a CSX spokesman saying that the company was in "very preliminary stages" of considering such a sale or lease.
Meanwhile, for an eight-day period in November and then for a three-week period shortly thereafter, CSX conducted a "test" of the feasibility of not running through trains that would normally use the route by running them on an alternate route through Gladstone, Virginia, instead.
CSX has two lines between Richmond and Clifton Forge. The one through Gladstone, known as the James River Line, is the preferred route for eastbound tonnage trains - notably coal - because of its absence of steep grades. The one through Charlottesville has challenging mountain grades, but has been used for the movement of westbound empty hopper trains to avoid congestion on the James River Line. Typically, two to eight through trains would use the Charlottesville line on any given day.
The Charlottesville line - comprising the Piedmont, Washington and North Mountain subdivisions - is also served by local freights three days a week. Amtrak's Cardinal also uses a portion of the line - also three days a week.
This is not the first time that CSX has considered disposition of this route. In 1989, the line was posted for abandonment. CSX withdrew its application when it reconsidered the line's role within the company's core system.
CSX Termination Procedure Explained
Within the next six months, up to 20 percent of CSX's non-union workforce may be expected to be terminated as a result of the management streamlining initiative announced by the company on November 10. An item in CSXT's Midweek Report, distributed to employees on December 4, explains how the process will work for those selected for termination:
"The employee meets privately with a supervisor and Human Resources representative as the termination announcement is made. Necessary paperwork is reviewed and explained, and the employee is given the opportunity to ask questions. Affected employees are then able to return to their work station, speak to colleagues, pack belongings and perform other measures they feel necessary before departure that day."
The explanation continues: "It has not been the company's policy in recent history to provide guards to escort departing employees from the building, and the current termination process will remain consistent with that policy."
Aboard the Acela Express
[By Dave Larrabee] . . .
During the first week of December, I had a business trip planned for Boston. Contrary to typical office travel methods, I opted to take Amtrak, and ended up using Acela from BWI Station to Route 128 just south of Boston. A review of costs determined that taking unreserved, non-Acela service, would cost about $210 round trip, and Acela would be $352. The government contract airfare for a round trip from BWI to Logan was $279. So I opted for Acela, and paid the $73 difference out of pocket.
December 1, train 2158: The train was 20 minutes late departing Washington due to delays in prepping the train, so we left BWI at about 9:40 a.m. instead of the scheduled time of 9:21 a.m. There was an additional 10 minute delay in southern New Jersey, so I ended up watching the trailing Acela locomotive leave Route 128 Station at 3:45 p.m. instead of the listed 3:18 p.m.
Like many of the recent Amtrak trips I've made, the train was filled to near 100 percent capacity most of the time. This poses a little problem for me, as I really like to observe the condition of the Northeast Corridor and study railroad archeology during the trip. Accordingly, getting a good window seat is critical. When I boarded at BWI, the train was about 75 percent filled, but there were a few window seats of which I took one. The lead car was first class followed by the 'Quiet Car,' where no cell phones are permitted and only whispered conversations. The third car in the consist was the Cafe, followed by three more coaches and the trailing locomotive.
If you haven't ridden Acela, you're missing a treat! It's clean, new and quiet. Entrance to the vestibules feature automatic sliding, all glass doors, and the between-car passageways are wide and easy to move through. Also in each vestibule is a dandy graphic display of the train's originating station, its destination station, as well as the next station. On the northbound train the 'next' station display was in sync with our location each time I glanced at it. On the return, southbound trip, it was out of sync about half of the time.
The seats were quite comfortable, but the arm rests a tad narrow. Enough legroom, but with my 6'4" frame, I couldn't call it spacious. But it was certainly much better than any aircraft seat, except first class. The Acela coaches were a little better than the Amfleet cars I've ridden in that they had a window ledge you could 'almost' rest your elbow on. As large as I am, and with my interest in keeping an eye on the country flashing by, this feature has been a common desire on all recent train travel. Another important feature is the windows. They are very large and are lower than most other windows in Amtrak equipment.
A few other items: Music was available on the armrest. Headset costs $5.00. Coffee was great, sandwiches were 'okay,' microwaved if they were supposed to be hot. Corned beef on rye was $9, and with coffee totaled $10.50. The hot breakfast sandwich was $6. Crackers & cheese (with sample portions of four cheeses) was $3.25.
Service, however, was a bottleneck. There was one steward who never got a break between Washington and New York, and between New York and Boston. The line was always half the length of the car, and at one point into the vestibule of the adjoining car. Typical wait for service was about half an hour. I've got to give the steward a lot of credit. The three I watched doing business were professional and really tried to provide good service. They had an uphill task, though, with an unending line of sometimes fussy customers (like the lady who insisted on a particular wine and had to settle for second best!).
I did meet some great folks while waiting for lunch and got to watch over the conductor's shoulder as he counted tickets in his office in the Cafe car. He had a computer display in front of him showing technical information about the train along with speed - which for the five minutes I was standing there was between 88 and 93 MPH in southern Connecticut. It's my understanding that each car has a computer and that they are all managed on a LAN. I did overhear radio chatter about a door sensor indicator noted by the head end as showing a fault. The crew checked, and said it was okay.
The return trip was on Friday the 5th, on train 2159. I was supposed to board at Route 128. However, I ended up getting a ride to the 'T' station a couple hours early, so I rode into South Station and boarded there. I'm glad I took the extra time to go early. The train was 95 percent full upon leaving Back Bay, the station prior to Route 128. There were practically no window seats available, and the train was overbooked from Providence to New York. The crew announced frequently that a large number of family groups were on the train and that all 4-seat table sections (four such units in each car) were reserved for them. On this train there was no Quiet Car because of the number of families with children. But the Quiet Car was in effect south of New York.
The train started experiencing snow in the Stamford area. From there on it was snowing, at times quite heavily. Passing trains surely threw up a lot of flying snow, which blinded the view for a minute or so after they passed. Even so, the windows stayed quite clear.
We slowed for track work in Maryland, which caused a loss of time into Baltimore (14 minutes late), and the train arrived at BWI at 3:39 p.m. (18 minutes late).
One last thought: The high speed, 150-MPH areas in eastern Connecticut and Rhode Island were really impressive. The countryside was flashing past at a terrific rate. Frankly, I thought it was a lot of fun. As we were leaving Providence, the conductor announced that we were on Train Set 17, and that we were going 140 MPH behind a locomotive that was 'geared for 160 MPH.' It sure beats flying, for my time and money.
Next time, take the Train!
Caboose Celebrates B&O Anniversary
[By William Allen] . . .
Yes, Virginia, there will be a special commemoration of the 175th Anniversary of the start of construction of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. It will take the shape of a specially painted, former B&O caboose which still is in service on CSX.
The project was the brainchild of B&O caboose historian Dwight Jones, who conceived the idea in early 2002 as a way to support the special birthday celebration scheduled at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore during July 2003. Jones planned to get CSX to loan a caboose that could be specially painted into a commemorative paint scheme, then have CSX ship the caboose to the museum for display during the celebration, after which it would return to its normal duties on CSX, wearing the special paint and graphics applied for the event.
The catastrophe that befell the museum in early 2003 changed those plans drastically. But Jones didn't give up. He continued to work with CSX officials in Jacksonville. Not until the fall of 2003 were details finally worked out.
An authentic and original B&O caboose was selected which still was in active service on CSX. The selected car was shipped to Columbus, Ohio, and it was placed into the old Chesapeake & Ohio roundhouse for repainting. Of significance, this is one of the last roundhouses left on CSX.
Jones worked on the cab on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as evenings during the week, assisted by his brother David. The car was finished during late November. Jones paid for all of the supplies himself, assuring CSX that it would be a no-cost project to them.
Following a CSX practice of naming certain rolling stock as "Spirit" equipment, this cab was christened as the "Spirit of the B&O." It becomes the second caboose on CSX to be given the special "Spirit" identification. A number of locomotives and other equipment already bare "Spirit" lettering.
To assure the car had a B&O flavor, it was repainted red with black trucks and underframe, and window sash and screens were painted medium green - bringing back colors not applied to B&O cabooses for several decades.
The completed car has been assigned to specialized service which will allow it to travel routinely over the entire CSX system, where it can take its special anniversary message over the entire eastern United States. Keep an eye open for it - you never know when it might show up.
Photo caption: The "Spirit of the B&O" special anniversary scheme caboose is shown at Columbus, Ohio, on November 23, 2003, upon removal from the old Chesapeake & Ohio roundhouse where it was repainted. The car is shown wearing a temporary number highlighting the year that construction began on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Photo by Dwight Jones.
CSX Decides 'Layer 3' Staffing Alignment
CSX on December 11 decided upon its 'Layer 3' staffing alignment as part of the restructuring initiative announced November 10. In a letter to employees, Michael Ward, chairman and CEO, said: "I believe these announcements will show a new CSX emerging and the commitment we have to transforming our approach to the business." He continued, "Throughout the Organizational Effectiveness initiative, a number of our colleagues and friends who have contributed years of dedicated service will be leaving CSX." The letter did not specify who may have been affected by the Layer 3 staffing alignment, but according to a news report, about 20 'top-level' managers had been given notice.
Amtrak Stop at Lehman Place, Pennsylvania, Planned
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Lancaster County officials have announced plans for construction of a station along Amtrak's Harrisburg line at Lehman Place, also known as Paradise. The station will make connections to the Strasburg Rail Road, but will also serve county buses, according to the National Association of Railroad Passengers. The station will feature a circular driveway, a passenger drop off area, and hitching posts for horses and buggies for the large Amish presence in the area.
Genesee & Wyoming to Acquire Three Georgia-Pacific Shortlines
Genesee & Wyoming (GWI) has reached an agreement with Georgia-Pacific Corporation to acquire three shortlines for $55.6-million, and provide Georgia-Pacific facilities rail service for 20 years. GWI will acquire the 15-mile Chattahoochee Industrial Railroad; 53-mile Arkansas, Louisiana & Mississippi Railroad; and 57-mile Fordyce & Princeton Railroad.