Triple Crown Signs Memorandum of Understanding With Amtrak for Northeast Freight Service
Triple Crown Services Company (a joint venture of Norfolk Southern and Conrail) has signed a "memorandum of understanding" with Amtrak for increased use of Amtrak-owned lines in the Northeast for high-speed freight service. The lines involved include New York-Washington and Philadelphia-Harrisburg.
CSX Reports First-Quarter Earnings
CSX Corporation has reported first-quarter net earnings of $75-million, or 36 cents per diluted share, excluding a change in accounting. In the prior-year period, the company earned $91-million, or 42 cents per diluted share. Costs related to CSX's commitment to a successful June 1 Conrail integration were the cause of the lower first-quarter numbers compared with 1998, according to John Snow, CSX chairman and CEO. Both export and steam coal carloadings and revenue were weak, reflecting reduced demand from overseas and from electric utilities. Automotive traffic and revenue rose significantly, reflecting continued strong demand for vehicles and parts.
CSXT & UP Announce Pact to Speed East-West Rail Traffic
CSX Transportation and Union Pacific have announced an agreement to streamline east-west rail traffic through major gateways connecting the railroads. Involved will be a formal "structured plan" to direct flows through the most advantageous gateways to speed traffic and maximize the use of interchange points. The railroads' major interchange points are Chicago, St. Louis, Salem (Illinois), Memphis, and New Orleans.
BNSF to Introduce "Ice Cold Express" RoadRailer Service
"Ice Cold Express" is a service being introduced by Burlington Northern Santa Fe in June for temperature-controlled products moving between Southern California, Chicago, and the Ohio Valley. The train will consist of Wabash RoadRailer trailers operating once a week in each direction beginning June 7, according to a BNSF report.
BNSF Tests New Intermodal Container Design
Burlington Northern Santa Fe has been testing a new intermodal wide-lift container design that improves "structural integrity and provides better and safer container handling." The design reduces stress generated by the top container upon the bottom container, when containers are stacked, by more than 50 percent.
UP Begins Service on Repurchased Line
Union Pacific began operating trains over the former Northeast Kansas & Missouri Railroad on April 15 following Surface Transportation Board approval of its repurchase. UP had sold the 107-mile-long line to RailTex in 1990, and repurchased it to add additional capacity to the eastern portion of UP's coal corridor, according to a UP report. UP plans eventually to operate an average of 15 trains a day over the line, which operates from Upland, Kansas, to St. Joseph, Missouri.
UP Reports First-Quarter Earnings
Union Pacific Corporation reported first-quarter net income of $129-million, or 52 cents per diluted share. Results for the quarter also included $9-million in one-time after-tax expenses associated with the implementation of the Southern Pacific merger.
Countdown to Split Date
[Excerpted from weekly updates to CSXT employees]
March 31 . . . The Conrail Integration Program Management Office (PMO) team, headed by Bob Haulter, meets twice weekly to review preparations for Split Date. More than 30 committees have presented their integration plans and follow-ups in the PMO's eighth floor GOB conference room. Now, as Split Date approaches, Haulter and the team advise all employees to get ready. "This event is real and it is fast approaching," Haulter said. "The work of all of our integration teams is reaching its final stages, and we're lined up for the June 1 Split." Despite all of the planning and preparation, Haulter says it is likely that not everything will work according to plan in the weeks after Split. "It is our goal to respond to issues as quickly as possible," Haulter said. Talks are under way this week, and will continue through the next 60 days, with Norfolk Southern and the Shared Assets Areas to contain the effects of the many changes surrounding Split Date.
April 7 . . . "This is probably the most complex, complicated merger in the history of American industry. There's never been anything done like this." This was among the comments about the Conrail integration offered by CSX Chairman, President and CEO John Snow to a group of about 30 national, business and trade journalists in Washington last week. "The future of American railroading lies in the hands of CSX, Norfolk Southern and Conrail. If we fail, we will set the future of railroading back" and focus the attention of legislators in Washington squarely upon us, he said.
April 14 . . . For employees who think Split Date will be moved again beyond June 1, Bob Haulter, assistant vice president-integration planning, says they had better think again. He has a message for anyone who is thinking of putting off doing important tasks. "June 1 is not moving," Haulter said. "It is going to happen." During the remaining 47 days, Haulter says members of the 20+ integration teams will have to practice what they've learned, pay attention to details, and execute. If the CSXT merger with Conrail were being compared to a big football game, said Haulter, "to this point we have worked our game plan well. However, the game will be won and lost by how well every employee executes from Split Date forward."
April 21 . . . When Split Date dawns the morning of June 1, about 140 extra hands will be in field locations to support operations employees. "We started with a matrix from Philadelphia to St. Louis," said Bob Bernard, general manager-service lane integration. "We identified the sites where crews go on duty, where yardmasters are located. Then service lane general managers and our team culled the matrix to see where best to provide coverage." Various skills are represented among the extra people. They include former HPO mentors, experienced yardmaster and conductor trainers, service designers, trainmasters, and experts on both Conrail and CSXT mainframe systems. In large terminals, we'll have two or three levels of technical people," Bernard said, helping to sort through questions on Split Date and armed with advice on who to call and how to access data. Maintaining direction with the least upheaval is the overall goal of Bernard's team.
Of Keystone Heritage
[By Rich Ballash] . . .
Well, I just experienced my first "cosmic event." On a recent Friday, Lee Hegan and I made another "Farewell to Conrail" pilgrimage to Altoona, which, if anywhere, is a city steeped in Pennsy heritage. Why, how can it NOT be, when even its pop music FM radio station proudly proclaims "100.1 - WPRR!" And Lee has to laugh as I eagerly await that one hourly prerecorded station I.D., where the deep-voiced announcer simply says, "P-R-R." Wow! I go NUTS! Now wait folks, this gets better... MUCH better! We spent three hours videotaping the action from the 17th Street overpass atop "ALTO" Tower. "ALTO" ... What a CLASSIC structure, with its fishscale shake siding, and classic Pennsy paint. It is so nice, SO nice, to be riding around town hearing the super friendly operator Jeannie (who was so kind to stop to talk with me on the bridge as she headed for the tower), talking on a first-name basis to the trains, helpers, and maintenance-of-way technicians. Going through my mind as we drove south on 36 was the thought... I wondered if the local residents and fans tuned in on 160.800mhz realize how lucky they are to have one of the very last of the 400+ genre of ex-Pennsy interlocking towers on the air! Watching those operators climb that old wooden stairway, hearing the occupancy bell on that wonderful old interlocking machine ring behind their radio chatter, and best of all, HEARING in their voices that these folks REALLY love their job... Wow! Lee and I then capped our outing with the day's final three hours of daylight at Brickyard Crossing, located at the eastward home signal bridge for "CP SLOPE," just west of Altoona. Neither of us had ever been here, but man, this is one SPECTACULAR railfan vantage point indeed! The head ends of the westbounds stop here for helpers, on a grand sweeping curve. The classic Pennsy signal bridge displays westward automatic spacing signals (position light, of course!) on Tracks 2 and 3 ahead, while one looks down on it all from the overhanging hillside. There are even talking defect detectors here on Tracks 1 and 2 (#2's didn't talk for some reason). We started off with a 3-TRAIN meet! Afterward, the third unit of three on MAIL-3, Conrail's South Kearney to East Saint Louis intermodal, stopped directly, EXACTLY beside us. As helpers were being attached, Lee pointed at the GP40-2's cab. There, in bright, white letters on the blue background, "PRR." I could have died! Or was I already dead and in heaven? Needless to say, my day was complete! Yes, this was, unfortunately, just the legalese way to indicate future NS ownership of this unit, but for a minute... for just one minute... behind that golden Pennsy "Clear" beckoning MAIL-3 west, recollections of 5-stripped power were pulling #13, at Pittsburgh to head southwest out the Panhandle Mainline. In the twilight of Conrail, here was MAIL-3, which for the past 31 years, has truly been a train OF KEYSTONE HERITAGE.
Henkel's Restaurant - The Very End
[By Pat Stakem - April 16, 1999] . . .
Henkel's Restaurant, a landmark in Annapolis Junction, Maryland, for decades, closed its doors in early November of 1997. Right by the tracks of the B&O Washington Branch line, and across from the gravel plant, Henkel's was a favorite lunch spot for railfans and normal people alike. A major clientele was the lunchtime crowd from nearby Fort Meade. It was known to CSX engineers, truck drivers, and railfans across the country. However, business had been in a decline, and the decision was made by the owners to close up shop. Another homey, friendly eatery bites the dust!
Henkel's Restaurant did not advertise, and you would not accidentally trip across it. If you learned about Henkel's, you were told about its massive sandwiches by someone who had already been there. While you were eating inside, there was no question about when the train passed. Trains rocked the old wooden building for a century.
Milton Henkel had founded the restaurant in the 1930's as a gas station/pool hall/notary/grocery store/beer store and hangout. Back then, beer was 10 cents, the sandwiches were 35 cents. The restaurant was most recently owned by the Duggan family.
Although Annapolis Junction, just south of Route 32 on Brock Bridge Road, is best known for Henkel's Restaurant, it is also the site of Wimpey Minerals, recently renamed "Tarmac." That site receives a rock train from quarries near York, Pennsylvania, several times a week, usually with two 6-axle CSX units. The facility has a blue, ex-Conrail U23B. There was also an old Alco parked in front of Henkel's that belonged to a previous owner of the stone works. It was scrapped in place recently, a profoundly distressing process to watch. Tarmac receives dry bulk gondolas of cement. Just south of the facility is a lumberyard with a rail siding as well. Adjacent is the MARC Savage commuter rail station. On the line between Baltimore and Washington, the tracks see a constant stream of heavy haul, including autoracks for the ramp in Jessup just to the north, the Emerald Express trash train from the transfer facility, and the multi-weekly Tropicana cars.
Annapolis Junction got its name from the location where the Annapolis & Elk Ridge Railroad branched off the B&O eastward through Fort Meade, to the Chesapeake Bay.
The restaurant was burned to the ground in a training exercise for firemen on Wednesday, April 14, 1999. The structure consisted of old, dry wood, and went up like a torch. All that remains now are some radiators, and, surprisingly, the doorframe.
Biking the Washington & Old Dominion Trail
[By Allen Brougham] . . .
The biking season has returned! And with it I've gotten a brand new bike. The vintage Schwinn touring bike that had served me so well for over 3400 miles in some 20 years of use has now gone to the Maryland Penitentiary (where inmates refurbish old bikes for the needy), and in its stead is a Schwinn Frontier DLX mountain bike (the wider tires of which make for easier use on rough surfaces such as towpaths).
I got a chance to break the new bike in on some really rough surfaces, April 2 and 6 respectively, on fishing trails of the Gunpowder Falls State Park. The first outing was cut short when I encountered an elderly hiker who had fallen crossing a stream, hurting himself, and I spent nearly an hour helping him back to his car and later into his house. The second outing, on the trail across the Gunpowder from the first one, involved much portaging of the bike over streams, rocky surfaces and fallen trees, and I got a flat tire before the trip was even half completed! Net biking distance from both encounters was a mere seven and one-half miles.
I then resolved to contain future biking efforts to smoother surfaces (towpaths are still acceptable), and on Tuesday, April 13, I undertook to collect some biking mileage on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail in Northern Virginia. I had never been on this trail, and I selected the westernmost 10-and-one-half-mile portion from Leesburg to Purcellville for my initial assault. I was joined for the occasion by Gilbert Elmond, who had joined me on similar adventures late last year. Gilbert is no stranger to the W&OD Trail, having biked eastern segments of it a number of times earlier, but he had yet to cover the portion from Leesburg to Purcellville.
The W&OD (often called the "Wad") Trail has a 45-and-one-half-mile length stretching from Shirlington to Purcellville, following the alignment (except for a few detours due to highway encroachment) of the famous Washington & Old Dominion Railroad, which ended service in 1968. One of the nation's premier trails, it has the feature over most of its length of being a dual-purpose trail - one having both soft and hard surfaces, side-by-side - suitable for use by equestrians as well as bikers and hikers.
It was an ideal spring day, temperatures in the lower 60's, and a little breezy. We joined the trail from the designated parking area behind the Douglass Community Center in Leesburg, heading west at a brisk pace, punctuated by stops at intersections which are rather numerous until we got out of town. School was out for the week, evidenced by the number of school-age folks on the trail, but at no point was the trail particularly crowded. (The eastern portion really does get crowded, especially on weekends, I'm told by Gilbert - but I really do plan to cover the entire trail, crowds or not, in the due course of time.)
"Look, railroad ties!" said Gilbert, pointing to some that were lying along a stream bed near the trail, perhaps discarded by the railroad many decades before. A few miles out of town we noticed the result of beaver activity - a dam, maybe six-feet high, impounding a creek. Beavers, coincidentally, have been in the news of late. If you haven't heard, a trio of the little darlings recently invaded the Tidal Basin in Washington, bringing down a few cherry trees at the height of their blossoming splendor. (The beavers have since been captured).
It was mostly uphill for the first five or so miles of the journey; then it was downhill or nominally level for the remainder of the distance to destination. Along the way we noted a restored waiting shelter, complete with bench reproductions, at Paeonian Springs; and an old combination depot at Hamilton. But the hallmark railroad artifact is the handsome - in the process of being restored - depot at Purcellville, the end of the line. This proud monument is a tribute to this small town whose quaint downtown area is well worth a side visit by anyone using the end portion of the trail. The Purcellville Preservation Association has acquired the station. Once restored, it will contain restroom facilities, visitor center, museum, and a conference room. Outside, semaphore train order signals are in place on the track side of the building.
The railroad was completed to Purcellville in 1874. It had been incorporated in 1847 as the Alexandria & Harpers Ferry Railroad; was renamed the Alexandria, Loudoun & Hampshire Railroad five years later; but construction did not begin until 1855. Train service from Alexandria to Leesburg began in 1860, but much of this and further construction got interrupted by the Civil War. Service resumed in 1867, and the company went through several name changes and ownerships before being purchased in 1894 by the Southern Railway, which named it the Bluemont Branch. Bluemont, seven miles beyond Purcellville, became the line's final terminus in 1900. (Service beyond Purcellville was discontinued in 1939.) The line became the Washington & Old Dominion Railway in 1912; then, in 1936, the Railway became a Railroad. Electric power was used on the line from 1912 until the early 1940's. Passenger service was discontinued in 1951; freight service in 1968.
We had covered the distance from Leesburg to Purcellville in a leisurely one hour and 40 minutes. Returning, with most of the wind to our backs, and mostly downhill as well, we made it in just over an hour. Biking is such a great activity. It does so many wonderful things health-wise, and it's an ideal learning experience, too. I plan a number of biking adventures during the coming months. So don't be surprised to see similar features in upcoming issues.