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December 1993


CSXT Signal Improvement Project for MARC Completed

Switches and signals at East Brunswick, Maryland, including new main track crossovers in service, are now controlled from the CSXT dispatching center in Jacksonville, Florida. This completes the CTC project which began in 1990 to upgrade signaling on the Capital and Metropolitan subdivisions on behalf of MARC commuter service. Shown below is a schematic of the territory as printed in the June 1990 issue of the Bull Sheet when the project was announced:


New Plan for Potomac Yard

[By Greg Mazzie] . . .

After the failed attempt at building the Washington Redskins stadium at Potomac Yard, a new plan has been announced. RF&P Corporation (real estate developer) has announced plans to build a transportation hub at Potomac Yard.

The transportation center would consist of an Amtrak station, VRE Commuter Rail, MARC Commuter Rail, Metro subway, Metro bus, and local bus lines. The proposed station would be called Potomac Central. According to a report in the Washington Post, RF&P would pay the $35-million construction costs and would like to have it built by 2001. This would be in addition to the 12 million square feet of townhouse, condominium, office and shop space already approved by Alexandria city officials. This would be the first Metro station to be built with private funds.

Operational plans would have to be worked out with Conrail and CSX to run MARC trains from Washington Union Station south to Potomac Yard. RF&P officials see few complaints from the zoning boards because no taxpayer money would be utilized.


Station at Alexandria, Virginia, to Get Overhaul

[By Greg Mazzie] . . .

The Alexandria, Virginia, passenger station is due to receive a major overhaul. The city of Alexandria received a $672,000 federal grant as part of the 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, and Amtrak and the RF&P Corporation will be contributing an additional $168,000.

In 1980, the station was being considered for closure because of its deteriorating condition. However, in March of 1982, Amtrak and RF&P paid for extensive exterior renovations which included removal of the rotting front porch. The brick work was chemically cleaned and the building was repainted. Ceremonies celebrating the renovation were held on January 24, 1983.

Future renovations will be even more extensive. A new front porch will be built to match the one that was removed. A white suspended ceiling which was installed in the 1950s will be removed and the original stained pine vaulted ceiling will be exposed. This will also allow natural light through the original dormers. The black and white mosaic tile floor will be restored. Outside, turn of the century cast iron street lights will be installed and trees and shrubs will be planted. Also, part of the renovation will be construction of ramps, curbs and accessible restrooms to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The original station was opened on September 15, 1905, and was named "Union Station" because it consolidated the functions of four separate passenger stations throughout the city of Alexandria. The new station was jointly used by the Washington Southern Railway, Southern Railway, and Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. On February 24, 1920, the Washington Southern was merged into the RF&P Railroad.

The original station consisted of a main passenger depot and baggage building separated by an open passage and connected by a roofed shed. On the east side of the tracks was a 370-foot platform that served northbound trains. A Railway Express Agency building located south of the baggage building was erected in the 1930s.

A tunnel connects the east and west side passenger platforms and is located on the north side of the station. The station was the last railroad depot built in Alexandria and is the only one to survive. It was built in the Federal Revival style at a time when most depots were designed in bolder styles.

The station was jointly operated by RF&P, C&O and Southern until Amtrak came into being in 1971. The station is still a major stop for Amtrak trains en route to New Orleans and Florida. It also serves Virginia Railway Express trains. The building is being considered for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

The city of Alexandria is looking for an architect for the project. Construction work should begin next fall and be completed in the spring of 1996.


CSXT Donates Equipment to B&O Museum

CSXT made a substantial donation of equipment last month to the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore. Included were:


West Virginia Northern to Become a Tourist Line

A group of investors has reportedly purchased the West Virginia Northern between Kingwood and Tunnelton, West Virginia, including its two locomotives, for $400,000. They plan on making it into a tourist line to be called the Kingwood & Northern.


CSXT Adds New Auto Shipping Lanes for Chrysler

CSXT recently began shipping new automobiles for Chrysler from Twin Oaks, Pennsylvania, to distribution centers in Nashville, Memphis, Birmingham, Jacksonville, and Tampa. The automobiles are trucked to Twin Oaks from Chrysler's assembly plant in Newark, Delaware, in a subcontract arrangement on a through-rate basis with CSXT. Over 2,000 carloadings are involved annually. The business had previously been a joint move with Conrail, which originated the loadings and interchanged with CSXT at Cincinnati.


Burlington Northern Orders Chassis-Railer Trailers

Burlington Northern has ordered 25 Chassis-Railer trailers from the Wabash National Corporation. The Chassis-Railer is a container chassis capable of carrying a 48-foot domestic container on rail or highway.


Union Pacific to Test Natural Gas in Locomotives

Union Pacific will begin a three-year test in January using a blend of liquefied natural gas in six of its locomotives to determine operating and environmental benefits compared with diesel fuel.


Conrail to Establish Four Service Groups

Conrail will establish four service groups effective January 1. They include Intermodal, Automotive, Unit Train, and General Service. Each group will be headed by a vice president reporting to David LeVan who has been named executive vice president, formerly senior vice president- operations.


Charlottesville, Virginia, Gets Grant for its Amtrak Station

The city of Charlottesville, Virginia, has received a $762,000 federal grant to renovate its Amtrak station.


Norfolk Southern Sells Orange, Virginia, Depot to the Town

Norfolk Southern has sold the depot at Orange, Virginia, to the town.


CSXT Yardmaster Functions at Newport News Moved

CSXT yardmaster functions at Newport News, Virginia, were transferred to a consolidated office in Huntington, West Virginia, on November 15.


CSXT Tie Gang Sets Record

A CSXT tie gang has set an industry record for the number of wood ties installed in a single day. The gang, working on the Wilmington Subdivision on October 6, installed 4,024 ties. The old record was 3,919 ties, set on the Rock Island Railroad in 1977.


Disney Theme Park Could Stir Rail Service

[By Greg Mazzie] . . .

Walt Disney has announced plans to build an American History theme park in Haymarket, Virginia. Probably the biggest concern of the proposed park is traffic. Residents and state officials fear that the current road system cannot handle the additional traffic. The planned site is less than a mile from Norfolk Southern's Front Royal branch which runs from Manassas to Riverton Junction. Planners are looking toward the possibility of running a commuter rail service to the park.

The Front Royal branch is a highly maintained, welded-rail line which has seen an increase in freight traffic since Hagerstown, Maryland, became a busy interchange with Conrail after Potomac Yard was downsized. Virginia Railway Express could be in a position to take advantage of this market.


Tragedy at Gaithersburg

[By Ron McElrath] . . .

"Expect a train on any track, from any direction, at any time." This maxim should be observed by ALL persons, not employees only. About 5:10 P.M., Friday, October 29, 1993, at Gaithersburg, Maryland, two persons suffered the consequence of failing to stand clear of an active railroad track.

Train 29, Amtrak's "Capitol Limited" for Chicago, departed Washington Union Station on time at 4:40 P.M., alongside a MARC commuter train. Clear of the yard limits, tempo picked up as clogged highways were bridged with disdain. From the dome, scattering leaves could be seen with some kicking high above us. No. 29 was operating on the south track, or "wrong main," due to commuter traffic.

At 5:02, the Rockville stop was made on time, and it seemed as though a routine trip was in the offing. Two boarding passengers took a front seat in the dome, commenting, "This is better than the plane."

But minutes later, just past the MARC station in Gaithersburg, we went into emergency. Smoke rose from the wheels beneath the two diesels, which stopped part way into the curve west of downtown. Few suspected anything amiss, for an emergency stop is not all that sudden. And I had noticed nothing unusual at the time. About 15 minutes later, a news helicopter hovered above. Add the ambulance and three police cars, and we all knew something bad had happened!

The first announcement to passengers simply confirmed the delay. Passengers talked, read, complained, ate dinner - the atmosphere was notably subdued as darkness fell. Lights from the TV crews shone on the train as interviews were conducted. Of course, I stayed on board, as did all other passengers. Just after 7 P.M., the four MARC trains were cleared to pass us, slowly. Delayed commuters, those not asleep, gave curious stares at our train. Police walked the train. One radio transmission indicated the individuals who were struck may have been intoxicated. Perhaps they expected us to stop, as a MARC train would have, or they had not anticipated we were on the "wrong" track.

The engineer is always the first witness, and the scars never completely heal as long as he lives. In such events, he is instructed to remain in the cab and not climb down. He was later relieved at Cumberland instead of having to go to Pittsburgh. At the time of the accident, our speed was about 65 MPH.

Underway about 7:40 P.M., the P.A. confirmed to passengers what by that point had become obvious. Some of the MARC trains were overtaken, and we traveled alongside one for a couple miles into Point of Rocks. Racing BN E-units from a dome reminded me of a similar sight back in the 1970s on the "Q" out of Chicago.

Through the night, a full moon shone above as the beauty of the mountains and rivers surrounded us. But the reality of what had taken place tempered the usual feelings of joy such sights usually produce. We, along with the engineer, were partakers of a needless human tragedy.