Amtrak Reports Ridership Increase
Amtrak reports that 11-million passengers rode its trains between October 1 and March 31, a seven percent increase over the corresponding period a year earlier. "As our growth in ridership and revenue continues quarter after quarter, the demand for passenger rail service has become evident," said George Warrington, president and CEO of Amtrak. "Americans want a transportation alternative, and they are increasingly turning to Amtrak to avoid overcrowded highways and airports," he added.
CSX Reports First-Quarter Earnings
CSX Corporation says its first-quarter net earnings were $20-million, or 10 cents a diluted share, compared to $29-million, or 14 cents a share, in the same period last year. The decline was in spite of a strong showing in coal shipments to utilities. Revenue for the quarter was $2.03-billion.
Union Pacific Introduces Boxcar "Shuttle Train" on West Coast
A boxcar "shuttle train" has been launched by Union Pacific that gives shippers truck-like speed and delivery with boxcar economics between the Pacific Northwest and Southern California. UP and logistics provider Speedlink, a subsidiary of Genessee & Wyoming, have teamed to offer "one-call, door-to-door, multiple-stop service with inventory control, direct store delivery," according to a UP report.
Union Pacific Reports Record Powder River Coal Traffic
Union Pacific originated a record 1056 trains in March at coal mines in Wyoming's Southern Powder River Basin, surpassing its own January 2001 record of 986 trains. On March 17, UP loaded its 100,000th coal train out of the basin coal field since UP and the former C&NW completed a 107-mile rail line to the region in 1984. UP's recent major capacity projects on its coal corridor, use of new high-horsepower locomotives and distributed power in coal trains, and the success of the joint UP/BNSF coal train dispatching area at BNSF's dispatching center in Fort Worth, Texas, have helped increase the efficiency of trains, according to UP.
Union Pacific Sells Rail Line in Iowa
Union Pacific announced on April 9 that it has sold about 37 miles of its rail line between Allendorf and Superior, Iowa, to the Dickenson-Osceola Railway Association (DORA). The DORA will be operated by General Railway Corporation. A track to interchange rail cars between Union Pacific and the DORA will be constructed in the near future near Superior.
BNSF, Norfolk Southern Introduce Non-Stop Intermodal Service
Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Norfolk Southern have announced they are partnering non-stop intermodal service for container loads between California and the East Coast. The new service reduces transit times by at least a day. West Coast cities of Los Angeles, San Diego and San Bernardino will be linked to Eastern cities including Harrisburg, Baltimore, Norfolk, and the New York area. The service, which was announced April 19, became effective immediately.
BNSF Settles Genetic Testing Lawsuit
Burlington Northern Santa Fe has settled a lawsuit filed by the federal government over workplace genetic testing for carpal-tunnel syndrome. BNSF agreed not to conduct any more testing, not to analyze blood previously obtained, and not to retaliate against employees who had opposed the testing.
Wisconsin Central Shareholders Approve Acquisition by CN
The shareholders of Wisconsin Central have approved the company's acquisition by Canadian National for $800-million and assumption of $400-million in WC debt.
Sweetener Business Gets Sweeter
[CSXT Employee News, 4/5/01]... In a bitter blow to trucks, CSXT's sweetener traffic grew seven percent last year and is on track to increase another six percent in 2001. Most of the increase is coming from market share, as improved service and strategic pricing are winning customers' businesses. Sweeteners, primarily corn syrup and sugar, constitute nearly 17 percent of CSXT's ag products revenue. The key to growth has been the expansion of the TransFlo network, as well as consistent service provided by the operating department.. "Inventory levels are a big concern to sweetener customers," said Jeff Goodrich, market manager. "Consistent service means they can reduce inventories and lower costs, which makes us that much more competitive." Continued conversion of truck market share, expansion of TransFlo volume and import potential from Mexico promise to keep the sweet stuff flowing, Goodrich said.
Suspect Arrested in Train Shooting Incident
[CSXT Employee News, 4/5/01]... Persistence and good detective work by CSX police, in cooperation with local authorities, has resulted in the arrest of a man accused of shooting into the cab of a CSXT locomotive last November between Jacksonville and Tallahassee. The suspect faces charges of shooting into an occupied vehicle, a felony and aggravated battery. CSX special agent Wally Piety, accompanied by a deputy from the Madison County Sheriff's Department, traveled to Tifton, Georgia, to apprehend the suspect. "Special agent Piety did an excellent job of staying with the case and working with Madison County authorities to track down the suspect in this very serious crime," said Jackie Litzinger, superintendent of police on the Jacksonville Division. The incident occurred shortly before midnight near Lee, Florida, as engineer A. F. Hooks, conductor K. W. Trantham, and trainee A. D. Smith were operating a southbound train. A rifle bullet entered the cab from just under the right-corner windshield and shattered against the back panel. A fragment of the bullet lodged in Hooks' jacket, which was hanging behind him. No one was injured.
CSXT Moves Agricultural Machinery
[CSXT Employee News, 4/19/01]... Ships steaming out of Baltimore for South America and Australia are increasingly carrying farm equipment from the Midwest to the East Coast via CSXT. In 2001, CSXT has moved four unit trains of Case New Holland farm machinery to Baltimore for export. Account manager Jason Tate and a team of marketing and service design employees leveraged CSXT's excellent service to win the Case New Holland business, and efforts are underway to pool the business of other farm equipment manufacturers for an additional 13 unit trains to Baltimore via Chicago. Shipments of farm equipment are consolidated at CSXT's Blue Island facility in Chicago for speedy two-day service to Baltimore. The unit trains, typically carrying 50 cars of tractors and combines, depart Chicago Friday and arrive at the Baltimore port on Sunday evening.
CSX Sells $500-Million of Debt
[CSXT Employee News, 3/23/01]... CSX Corporation recently issued $500-million of debt in the form of 10-year notes paying interest at 6.75 percent. CSX will use the proceeds to fund first-half operating needs and to reduce commercial paper.
I'm Driving a Crew Van!
[By Allen Brougham] . . .
Well, LOOKY HERE... You didn't think I could stay away from the railroad very long, did you?
Beginning in March - three months after I retired - I took a part-time position with Professional Transportation Inc. (PTI) which has the contract for driving CSXT crews in these parts. I'm now working two evenings a week in Brunswick, Maryland.
I'm what's known as a "yard" driver (as opposed to a "road" driver), and my duties involve transporting crews within the yard, between the yard and the motel, and between the yard and close-by points within about a 15-mile radius of Brunswick.
There are two vans assigned to Brunswick - staffed by drivers who work either eight or 12-hour shifts. I opted for the eight-hour shift. We assemble outside the yard office in first-in-first-out fashion and await the next assignment. Each van is equipped with a two-way radio with railroad frequencies, and we get our instructions from the yardmaster. On average, there are about ten assignments in an eight-hour shift, covering about 40 miles of travel.
Between runs I get to enjoy the comfort of the van (yes, the driver-side seat does recline), and I read the paper, etc., or simply relax, and listen to the AM/FM radio. (On Saturday, for example, I listen to the Prairie Home Companion at 6, and the Dick Spotswood Show at 10 - each for two hours - otherwise it's whatever I care to hear.)
My boss is Robbie Brzostowski - otherwise known as "Railroad Rob." Remember him? I have known Robbie since the earliest days of my tenure at Miller Tower in 1992 (then he was a kid out of high school), and he has written a number of articles for the Bull Sheet. He started with PTI in January 2000. In addition to being the boss of the yard vans, he is also one of the road drivers. It was he who hired me and taught me the fundamentals of the job. Everyone should have as great a boss as I have!
The job is a lot of fun - although it can get a little boring during long waits between runs - and I have gotten to know a number of railroaders I had only known from waving to at the tower in my railroading era. It's a good tradeoff, too, from the routine I had before I retired. Then, I worked five days, and was off for two. Now I work two days, and then I'm off for five. Neat, eh?
B&P Tower Comes Back to Life
The former B&P Junction interlocking tower, which from 1910 until 1988 served the south end of Baltimore's Pennsylvania Station, is once again alive and well. Its new home is in Sykesville, Maryland, where the building now serves as a welcome and information center.
The story of how this particular building came to find its place so many miles from its traditional haunt, along a different railroad, is somewhat subtle, with a mix of good fortune - perhaps even being a miracle.
The tower, named for the old Baltimore and Potomac Railway, stood vacant from the time it closed in July 1988 until just before it was slated for demolition to make way for the Penn Station light-rail extension in 1995. To its rescue came the city of Bowie, Maryland, which decided to acquire the building for its "historical and esthetic value," but not necessarily to use it as a railroad-related artifact. Bowie already had one tower - the one that had served Bowie itself until 1988 and then got moved to a nearby park. It was decided that B&P could be put to use in one of the other city parks, possibly as a boat house.
B&P Tower's top floor was dismantled (its base remained at the original site and remains there today) and its parts were stored in an unprotected state. Plans for the park project never reached fruition.
Enter then the town of Sykesville, Maryland. In 1999, the salvageable parts (those that had not deteriorated too badly for use) found a new home in Sykesville, and there, within a few steps of the town's historic train station (now a restaurant), B&P Tower sprang back to life. Its upstairs office portion is now open to the public the first Sunday of every month where members of the S&P (Sykesville & Patapsco) Railway are modeling the area in N-scale. It is an ongoing project. The new base of the building includes public restrooms plus some additional space currently used for storage.
The Snake and the Thief on the B&O
[By David P. Johnson] . . .
My interest in railroading is a direct result of the influence of my dad, Paul Johnson, and my grand dad, Emmett Johnson. Both were locomotive engineers on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's Ohio Division. Our hometown was Chillicothe, Ohio, where Dad and Grand Dad ran trains to and from Cincinnati, Ohio, and Parkersburg, West Virginia. They also worked on B&O's Portsmouth, Ohio, branch. I saw these two heroes of mine run both steam and diesel locomotives as well as freight and passenger trains. Dad and Grand Dad had a passion for their careers in railroading. Railroading was much more than a job or a means to support their family. Each time the callers' office would telephone our home with the next train assignment, Dad would exhibit his passion for railroading with a noticeable anxiousness for that next run across the rolling hills of Southern Ohio. The challenges of inclement weather only added to the excitement. Each trip was a new adventure for the both of them. The few photographs I have of them in the locomotive cab display a look of pride and confidence in their abilities as locomotive engineers. How I miss standing beside the tracks as a young man waving to them as their locomotives roared past me devouring the rails beneath them.
Our families would often get together for meals and visits. After dinner, the subject of railroading would inevitably come up. When this happened, Mom and Grandma would retreat to the kitchen for discussions more to their liking. I, on the other hand, would become absolutely enthralled as the stories of their experiences would begin to be spun. I spent countless hours listening and learning about real railroading. I have often thought that if I had expended as much enthusiasm and interest towards my schoolwork as I gave to Dad's and Grand Dad's railroad stories, I would have earned a Ph.D. in some academic discipline.
The following is a story that always brought a hearty laugh from those who had the privilege to hear it first hand. In the mid 1940's, Grand Dad was on the engineer's extra board and at the same time my dad was a fireman. Sometimes the two worked together and later they even shared a regular pool turn for some time. Dad always relished the times he and his father could work together because Grand Dad taught him how to run a steam engine and how to handle a train. This was something that a lot of older engineers were very reluctant to do. It took many years of service to earn the right to run a steam locomotive. To allow the fireman some time in the right-hand seat would require the engineer to fire the engine. Old timers weren't fond of firing as they felt as though they had served their time on the left-hand side of the locomotive.
On one occasion, while working together, they were called for an extra west from Chillicothe to Cincinnati. Their train orders instructed them to take the siding at Harper's, approximately 18 miles west of Chillicothe, to meet eastbound manifest train #88. While sitting in the siding at that rural location, the two were discussing the remaining details of the trip. One of the discussion topics centered on a problem that train crews were having at the Midland City, Ohio, water stop. According to Dad, laborers employed by the B&O at Midland City had been stealing gloves, flashlights and other such items from under the fireman's seat box while the engine crew was busy taking on water and oiling around on the engine's valve gear and drivers. Engine crews placed their grips in the seat box and usually placed spare gloves and a flashlight in the handles of the grip for easy access in case they were needed during their run. The perpetrators were so slick that their kleptomania was seldom noticed until it was too late.
While this discussion was taking place, my dad just happened to look out of the fireman's front window of their class Q-3 Mikado and noticed a very large black snake making its way across the tracks just ahead of the engine. For readers not familiar with these members of the king snake family in rural Ohio, black snakes regularly grow to approximately six feet in length. Dad was always one for a good practical joke and he immediately knew what to do with the snake. Even though he was personally fearful of snakes, he took his coal shovel and climbed down from the engine in pursuit of the snake.
Unfortunately for the snake, Dad caught up with it and killed it. He then carefully curled it up on the shovel and brought it back to the cab of the engine. Without saying a word, the headend brakeman, with one eye on Dad and the other on the snake, immediately opted to exit the other side of the cab. He then went on out to the switch to wait for the oncoming manifest train. Grand Dad, on the other hand, had a major fit about a snake being in his engine cab. Grand Dad very emphatically asked Dad, "What in the HELL are you doing with that snake on my engine?" He went on to order Dad, "Get that damned snake out of here right NOW!" Laughing at Grand Dad's reaction to the snake, Dad knew better than to tease him. With a devilish look on his face, he stood in the center of the cab exhibiting the snake on the shovel waist-high and in full view. Knowing that this was as close to Grand Dad as he dared, he began to explain that he was going to place the snake in his seat box for the thief at Midland City. Once the plan was fully explained, Grand Dad's anger immediately abated and he began to chuckle and shake his head in disbelief that his own son would devise such a mischievous plan. Neither of them could wait for what was about to happen in Midland City.
Later in the day as the shadows lengthened, Grand Dad eased his train up to the penstock in Midland City to take on water. Dad had already placed the dead snake in the seat box by curling it around the handles of his grip. Once the engine stopped, Dad checked the fire and adjusted the blower. He then went up over the coal pile on the tender as he would normally do to open the tender hatch, swing the penstock over and begin taking on water. All the while, he kept looking out of the corner of his eye for any movement around the cab. The front brakeman, wanting no part of the snake scheme, went to the operator's office in the small depot to retrieve new train orders.
Grand Dad got off the engine, oiling and inspecting the fireman's side first. Moving around the other side of the locomotive, he kept his eye open for any sign of action on the other side. It didn't take long until the perpetrator, thinking the crew was engulfed in their engine servicing duties, began his felonious assault. Once movement on the ground toward the left side of the engine cab was noticed, Grand Dad silently signaled Dad that the intruder was making his move. He then slipped to the front of the engine and peaked around the firemen's side for a better view. Dad kept one foot on the penstock spout and quietly leaned over to the left side of the tender to get a bird's eye view of what was about to happen.
The laborer quietly grabbed hold of the grab irons and slipped up the cab steps just far enough to reach in and run his hand under the seat box cushion. He blindly felt around and pulled out what he assumed would be a prize of gloves and possibly a flashlight. When he pulled his hand out from under the seat box cushion, the unknown object in his hand came out in full view. The laborer came totally unglued when he suddenly realized he was holding a very large reptile. Due to the recoil action from quickly pulling the snake out from under the seat box, the snake appeared to be alive as it wrapped itself around the laborer as he hung onto the side of the locomotive. For all he knew at that moment, that snake was alive and ready to inflict venomous harm.
Dad's account of the event, much the same as Grand Dad's, was that the laborer's eyes became as large as saucers. He frantically let out a scream like a teenage girl, turned in mid air and came off that engine without touching grab irons or steps. Dad went on to explain, "During his uncontrolled fall off the engine, his arms were thrashing around wildly in an attempt to rid himself of the snake and all the while the snake seemed to cling that much more to him!" Once on the ground there were more frantic gyrations and utter panic. After the brief but frantic struggle, the laborer finally freed himself from the mortal clutches of that lifeless reptile. In unison, Dad and Grand Dad concluded their account of the event by saying, "The next thing we saw, he was running back toward the train still squalling like a young girl. He ducked under the train a few cars behind the engine tender and that was the last we saw of the thief." Each time Dad or Grand Dad told this story, tears of laughter usually resulted from their listeners. Needless to say, no more personal items were reported stolen from the fireman's locomotive seat box at Midland City, Ohio.
As I remember listening to this story as a young man, I am reminded that I would love to have worked with my dad on the B&O much the same way he worked with his father. I did have the opportunity to ride several times in the locomotive cab with him. Dad's and Grand Dad's love for their railroading careers inspired me to become a lifelong railfan. But much to my disappointment, my career has taken me away from railroading.
Recently, I took my son with me on a railfan trip to the Cumberland, Maryland, area so I could pass on to my son some of the B&O Railroad heritage that my dad passed on to me. As we observed and photographed CSX's operations of what used to be the old B&O, I immediately noticed the removal of interlocking towers and B&O's signature color-position light signals. I became painfully aware that the B&O was becoming a fading memory in and around the old Cumberland Division just as the Ohio Division has in and around Chillicothe, Ohio.
A Falls Road Contribution to Safety
[By T. K. Kraemer] . . . Based on a true story of an accident investigated and reported by the Railroad Commissioners of New York State, 1884.
They say on the Railroad that someone's been either hurt or killed for every rule established in "the book." Railroading, like many other institutions in our history, has graduated to become safer on the mistakes and misfortunes of poor decision, dated practices and even the trials of technology. Every incident forwarded refinement, and back in 1884, the process still had a long way to go
It was on the Rochester and Niagara Falls branch of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad that our story begins. The "Falls Road" had become yet another important link in Vanderbilt's empire of "New York Central Lines" having been consolidated to the system from the privately-built Rochester Lockport and Niagara Falls Railway in the 1850's. By May of 1884, it was operating fluidly serving small upstate New York towns such as Sanborn, Medina and Spencerport to name but a few along its single-track mostly tangent route. It was an era before automatic block signals or traffic control - a road ruled by telegraph, block stations and the almighty timetable. The human element was the key to success (and failure) of the system.
According to himself, H. F. "Marty" Martineau was never meant to be a farmboy. The Falls Road tracks that ran along the edge of his folks' property in Orleans County hosted the trains that called on his curiosity and wonder of transportation. Ever since he was old enough to stray from his home on his own accord, his extra time was spent observing how the railroad operated, learning the language of Morse, and questioning the local telegraph operators on their duties and actions. Of course, Marty was not exclusive to the railroad by any means - at his age, growing up near the small community of Murray, Marty had more than a few chums to disappear into the woods with, capture garter snakes in the spring and play games with into the long evenings at home. Little wonder then that Marty became the envy of them all when, at the tender age of 14, he was hired by the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad to be an operator at Murray's own block station.
It wasn't a truly glorious position - second trick at a small wooden "depot" (if you could even call it that) that rarely saw much more than the passing of the trains. One side track, a spur to the mill, and a block station. His post was sandwiched between two much more significant stations, Albion and Brockport, where activities seemed far more diverse and exciting.
But he had his job to hold down - hired on a handshake by a dispatcher of the line, Joseph Drexilius, who had done business in the past with Marty's father. All things considered, Marty was young. But at a small station like Murray, what couldn't be handled? Marty was competent enough to follow directions, and old enough to think on his own. Marty had passed a full year at his post with no trouble whatsoever. He was a young "brass-pounder" oddly fitting in with the boomer and regular operators who shared his occupation elsewhere along the line. He became quite comfortable. The rules, however, were still as young as he was in terms of being time-tested by the trials of experience.
On the cool evening of May 28, 1884, the sun poked through the mist as it set to the West of a shiny-wet Murray depot after a spring rain. Marty had relieved the first-trick operator as usual that afternoon and had settled into his position. A few trains had already passed, none using his siding. He had no orders to deliver to engine crews, and he, like the other operators along the line, kept his semaphore signal set to "clear" (indicating it was OK for trains to proceed by the station without stopping or receiving orders). At the time, it was the method of operation to keep signals normally set to clear unless instructed by the dispatcher to do otherwise. This being the case, Marty rarely had much more to do than report the passing times (OS) of trains to the dispatcher. He had limited contact other than that. Basically, Marty came to work day after day to watch the trains steam by, wave to familiar faces in the cabs of their locomotives, and continue a long-term checkers tournament with a close cousin who visited regularly.
The boys' game was well underway at 8:05 the night of the 28th as train #53, a local freight, struggled its way west out of Rochester already having been delayed for numerous reasons that any railroader would understand. At about the same time, mixed train #50, carrying both freight and a few passengers, had departed Lockport heading east. #50 was no crack passenger train, but it had "right of track" over train #53, and, according to the timetable, #53 should have been sitting clear in the siding at Albion allowing #50 uninterrupted passage to the East. #53 wasn't there, of course; he was still miles away pulling into the siding at Brockport, well aware of his timetable and train #50's approach. He would have to wait longer, and let his late train become later still.
Being a train dispatcher takes a mind that can keep track of many things - always keeping in touch with progress and having the flexible insight to make changes to expedite all moves to their furthest point possible. Joe Drexilius was dispatcher of the line that evening, and as the OS reports came in concerning train #53's lateness, his mind automatically came up with a way to keep a bad situation from getting worse. It was his job - he had control. As he studied his train movement sheet, there was only one thing to do besides just letting train #53 sit at Brockport waiting on the opposing train. Joe could put a hold order on train #50 at Murray, allowing him to still make some eastward progress, and let #53 out of the hole at Brockport to allow him to continue on to Murray as well to stage their meeting point there. Not a perfect meet, but the move would not delay #50 all that much, and #53 could advance many helpful miles. The move to be made then at Murray was a routine hold-and-meet - nothing unusual as far as operations, yet maybe a bit irregular as far as the location, trains, and time of day.
The DS executed his plan. First, he tapped in the call letters for Murray station. No answer. He tapped them in a second time
At Murray, a somewhat distracted Marty looked up from his ensuing checkers game.
"Hey - DS is calling me! What could he want?" Marty opened his key.
"MU...Trn...fifty...50SF...Trn...fifty-three...53...MU..." tapped his sounder as Marty turned to look at his game partner, who obviously seemed awfully busy during all the tapping. What was he up to? Rearranging the pieces on the checkerboard?!? Marty turned to his cousin, "Hey..what do you think you're..." His sounder tapped again and repeated the order. It was the order to stop and hold train #50 in the Murray siding. An important order - THE important order. Between angry glances to his discovered less-than-honest cousin, Marty tapped in a quick code "13" to indicate to the dispatcher that he understood the order, and instantly returned his focused attention to the game that he was now in the process of loosing unfairly! Cousin? Family? Ha! Family or not, a fair game was a fair game. Rearrange the pieces at a turned back? Deny it? The argument ensued. Marty's signal remained at a normal "clear" indication...
The dispatcher, now in a rush due to his extra time spent while in contact with Murray, passed over an important extra step, mandatory on some other railroads, and more-or-less used when time permitted on his: Instead of waiting to confirm understanding with train #50's crew to take the siding at Murray, in spite of the operator's sole understanding, he moved directly on to contact Brockport and get train #53 moving again. Every minute he spent tapping orders was more time #50 would have to wait. He hammered out the following order to Brockport and train #53 (translated):
"Train 53 run to Murray regardless of train 50, use main track at Murray."
Against the ruling of the timetable (but not illegal, of course), the order was followed. True, it was the business of train #53 to keep out of the way of train #50 (which it had already attempted), however the dispatcher's order superseded and train #53 pulled west onto the main track at Brockport.
At Murray, Marty's signal displayed "clear" as train #50 approached. The crew of #50, seeing the expected indication, whistled a friendly greeting to the Murray operator as they passed - completely unaware of, not only a change in plans, but also the fact that they were now sharing a single track with an opposing train.
Just outside of Holley occurred the head-on collision between trains #50 and #53. Alertness of the crews, and the good fortune of having a level, straight line of railroad, were the only things that prevented loss of life that evening. Both crews had a few slow seconds to see the impending crash and to apply brakes, jump, pray, or curse as necessary before the pilots of the two locomotives fused together at the onset of the "cornfield meet." Both trains had derailed in the collision, and the resulting damage to property was deemed beyond considerable. Engineer O. Chamberlain, who stayed with his train, ended up badly bruised and having two broken ribs.
In a review of the circumstances leading to the accident by the Railroad Commissioners of New York State, it was stated that although on the surface it appeared that a far-too-young operator was the obvious and easy target for the blame, the New York Central needed to take a closer look at its rules...
What if an operator, regardless - age 15 or 51, had not been "careless" by his own ways? That is, what if he had received the order, and had come into an accident himself before being able to set his signal to "danger" or "stop"? An order could be received and completely understood by the operator, yet never reach the train it was meant to affect.
Dispatcher Joe Drexilius also testified that, on his railroad, it is considered "safe" to give an order to hold a train at an unscheduled stop by giving a directive to the local operator... a practice already proven disastrous in some cases on other roads. The wreck at Holley most likely would not have occurred if the dispatcher had also received an "OK" by the crew of train #50 that they too had understood the order...
And so, the refinement of rules continued. The NYC&HRRR updated their books to insure the understanding of the operator AND the crew before making an unscheduled meet... And, secondly, signals at all train order stations were to be normally set at "danger" until released, by order, from the train dispatcher. The principles of these rules are still in practice to this day on most railroads. Orders given by radio to train crews are to be fully repeated and understood by the crews themselves, and a train must be stopped (in most cases) before a change can be made to its route or meeting point in a block system. At the few remaining interlocking towers open in the US, operators line up routes and clear signals only after speaking with the train dispatcher first. These are just more examples of the process of refinement by misfortune... and with the above illustration, the Falls Road of the New York Central had contributed its share.
So what became of Operator H. F. Martineau? Well, the Railroad Commissioners of New York probably left that to another more personal volume in history.
As usual, I enjoyed the latest issue, and the account of your trip. If you remember, in 1994 I traveled out to Idaho and back, using the Capitol and Pioneer going out and the CZ and Cardinal returning. I can vouch for the country east of Salt Lake City - actually almost south of there. Having been raised on the border of the Idaho desert, I can state that some of the desert country is stupendous... good scenery is not always the mountains. I have also driven the Salt Lake City-Grand Junction-Denver route and first traversed it by bus in my college days in the late 1950's, so have been through there dozens of times. It's really too bad the area is usually traversed in darkness or at best in early morning light in summer eastbound.
About the "problems" west of Salt Lake City... many are caused by the need to run more trains than planned over the old WP line due to the "sinkhole" problem in the Great Salt Lake fill. The WP line has very short sidings by today's standards, also they are fewer than one might expect. While the WP line is noted for its easy gradients (nothing over 1%, except on the old high line north of Keddie, purchased by BNSF), the tracks also do some contortions, witness the Arnold Loop (not a complete loop like Tehachapi or Williams, but close), and the whole Silver Zone pass area, between Wendover and Wells, Nevada. Also, the WP line is longer than the SP route.
As you know, there is directional running between Wells (Alazon) and Winnemucca (Weso) using the old WP tracks for eastbounds and the SP trackage for westbounds. UP has stated that studies are in place for running in both directions with crossovers. But that would be a problem, since in many areas the two tracks are miles apart; only in a few places are they side by side. The UP has built up its facilities on the east side of Elko, and only at Elko and Carlin are there provisions for changing tracks. BNSF, which has rights over the UP from Denver west to Salt Lake City, and over the old WP, was to acquire the Carlin facilities, but has yet to get enough business over that route (now running a train per day each way, need it or not). That's why you were able to bypass the freight in Carlin. Sidings on the old SP were longer, which is why you could bypass the piggyback west of Colado.
About the depots in Salt Lake City... In 1994, Amtrak used a wing of the old Rio Grande station, which was a museum. The old SP station, which I think is larger and more ornate than the Rio Grande station, was at that time closed (but by looking through the windows I saw rugs, furniture and everything needed for operation). It was believed at that time that Amtrak operations would go over to the UP station, which obviously did not happen.
Several other things... As you mentioned, the lounge was not full. I noticed that on my trip, too. Amtrak touts the CZ for its scenery, yet few people seem to use the Sightseer Lounge. Also, if the CZ was run over the UP from Chicago for the whole trip, at least five hours could be saved - over two alone between Denver and Salt Lake City. The ex-Northwestern tracks between Chicago and Omaha are also better and shorter than BNSF.
And while they are worrying about adding trains, how about a revival of the Pioneer? In 1994 that was the biggest problem, to get space on that train, which was run almost at capacity for the three days per week it ran. Amtrak provides a bus service north from Salt Lake City, to Pocatello and Idaho Falls, up to Yellowstone - also bus service to Boise by a roundabout route off of the Empire Builder - but the majority of Idaho's population, between Pocatello and Boise, do not have anything. Ordinary Greyhound service is very sparse, and one has to do all sort of backtracking and waiting for airline service. Now they are floating a proposal out there for a train to run east from Seattle to someplace in Montana, then south to take in Casper and Cheyenne, and on to Denver and further south, to Dallas, I believe. As there was in 1994, there is today a market for something to run through Southern Idaho, west along the Columbia River and east through Wyoming and Nebraska. In Nebraska alone, good sized places like North Platte, Grand Island, Fremont, Sidney and Kearney have no rail passenger service, nor do the Wyoming cities of Cheyenne, Rawlings, Laramie and Rock Springs. I would bet, even, that a UP route through there would out-draw the present CZ! Perhaps Amtrak ought to run a special "scenery" train from Denver to Sacramento, and a "transportation" train over the UP from Seattle and Portland, through Idaho, to Ogden, then through Wyoming and Nebraska, which could perhaps connect with the scenery train in Omaha for the run to Chicago. If gasoline will get to $2 per gallon, perhaps more, then this certainly would be viable.
And not to change the subject, but I agree with you on your long-held ideas about a dome car. The present Sightseer lounges leave something to be desired; you cannot see to the front of the train, a major problem if you do not know the area. And I believe the domes let you see more, even to the sides.
- JERRY GROSSHANS
- Richmond, Virginia
Looks like you did it again on your recent Amtrash excursion! Ha! Tolerating a train that is five hours late is an act of extreme charity. I seethe when a train is five minutes late, and have thoughts of mayhem towards the engine driver.
I suppose in the eyes of a railway enthusiast, it is a bonus to be on the train as long as possible, but not everyone on the train is so disposed. I am a railway enthusiast as well, and believe that top-notch performance is in the best interest of everyone.
The casual way that first-class trains are handled in this day and age is appalling, and makes our passenger services the worst in the civilized world. Your journey may have been satisfactory for you, but it would have driven me up the wall.
Some 40 years ago I was on a PRR train that was 11 and one-half hours late owing to a blizzard, but it was the only mobile item on the face of the planet that was moving. But nowadays such delays are common, even in good weather conditions, and there is no excuse for it. Every rulebook in my collection gives first-class trains right over everything of inferior class. Why this casual disregard?
- BILL BURKE
- Westfield, New Jersey