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October 2001


Norfolk Southern to Build Intermodal Yard in Philadelphia

Norfolk Southern has announced plans to build a major intermodal rail yard in Philadelphia on a 136-acre site at the former Navy Yard, now known as the Naval Business Center. The Delaware Port Authority intends to finance the $16-million cost of the project and lease the facility to Norfolk Southern. Construction is expected to take three years. The railroad has an option to expand the facility by an additional 33 acres at a later date, if needed. In addition to intermodal traffic, the company may also use the site for automotive and bulk cargo transfer, according to press reports.


Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern Launch New Container Service

Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern have launched a new intermodal container service between Los Angeles and Atlanta offering a guaranteed on-time delivery option. The service, called "Blue Streak," offers customers a choice of three service levels: Standard, Premium, and SuperFlyer. The latter service level offers "on-time-or-free" for each load that does not meet the scheduled availability time for customer pickup.


CSX Participating in Mexi-Modal Network

CSX Intermodal is now a participant in the "Mexi-Modal" network which was launched early this summer by Burlington Northern Santa Fe to connect major markets in Mexico, the United States and Canada. CSXI's participation expands the network by adding major Northeastern U.S. markets, including Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York.


BNSF, CSX Add Intermodal Service to Ohio Valley

Burlington Northern Santa Fe and CSX Intermodal have begun offering "seamless intermodal service" from the Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston areas to the Ohio Valley. The new service cuts rail transit times in half, according to a BNSF news release.


STB Approves CN's Acquisition of Wisconsin Central

The U.S. Surface Transportation Board has given its approval to Canadian National's acquisition of Wisconsin Central.


CP Gets Approval for Breakup

Canadian Pacific has gotten final court approval for its breakup into five separate companies. The companies are: Canadian Pacific Railway, PanCanadian Energy, CP Ships, Fairmount Hotels & Resorts, and Fording Inc.


CSXT Gets Excellence Award

CSXT has been named this year's recipient of the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association's Dr. W. W. Hay Award for Excellence. The award is presented annually to honor innovative railway engineering procedures, projects and products. The company was recognized for its B&O capacity improvement project in Indiana and Ohio to facilitate transit times after the acquisition of Conrail territory.


By Amtrak to Winslow, Arizona

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

[from "Take it Easy" - by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey - sung by the Eagles]

I got a card last spring from a friend suggesting Winslow as a destination for an Amtrak adventure. Bill Hakkarinen, a Bull Sheet reader and seasoned Amtrak traveler, was offering this idea, knowing my propensity to seek out different - sometimes subtle - focal points to experience the fun of getting there by train. His rationale was that Winslow now had a restored Harvey House, open and waiting, just steps from where the train makes its daily stop. His card and description of the place won me over.

The magical day for departure was Tuesday, September 18.

I had gotten my tickets in July, and the timing of the trip was fortuitous. Earlier I had considered leaving the week before, but for a couple of reasons I opted for the 18th. Had I gone through with my original plan, I would have been leaving on... September 11...

Certainly that would not have been the day to even try to be in the mood to experience any sort of pleasure. Indeed, the week that intervened might not have been enough to restore my strength for the trip - but in due time I came to grips with all the advice I could muster that life must go on. This is, after all, AMERICA, and I was determined to see it - and appreciate the experience!

My routing was #29 from Washington to Chicago, #3 from Chicago to Winslow (with two days and three nights at destination), returning on #4 to Chicago, and #30 to Washington.

To connect to #29 from Baltimore, I was driven to Penn Station, where a noticeable security presence was evident. While seated in the main waiting room, a delivery man went by with a lift cart of goodies for the restaurant. He told me he had walked three blocks to make his delivery; his truck was not allowed to unload at the station.

Once aboard the train to Washington, the assistant conductor who lifted my ticket halted for a moment, saying: "Don't I know you from someplace?" Quickly he added, "You're Allen [taking a stab at my last name]; do you still publish the Bull Sheet?" He was Justin Ralston, a one-year employee of Amtrak, formerly at conductor with CSXT, who recalled a long-ago visit with me at Miller Tower.

I had a two-hour layover in Washington, the occasion by which I took to walk over to the Capitol Building - to pay it heart-felt homage. I needed that!

The building was closed to visitors - though I only wanted to walk around it, which I did - but I saw that it was business as usual in one respect: I saw where flags are displayed for constituents wanting them flown over the Capitol. (I have such a flag myself.) Poles (there are two) are located on the west side, between the Rotunda and the House of Representatives; flags are hoisted for about three seconds and then lowered. I watched this activity for several minutes.

The train left Washington exactly on time. So, too, did NEC train #178, and side-by-side we paced each other for a couple of minutes until #178 began pulling ahead and we parted ways. We passed eastbound #30 (running over two hours late) at Silver Spring.

There were my customary toasts to points of (to me) special interest as I perched myself in the Sightseer Lounge car - beginning with a new one: Brunswick. I had never worked in Brunswick as a railroader, but now I do. As a part-time crew van driver, I made it a special effort to watch as we sped past the yard I have now come to know so well, raising my glass of White Zinfandel at the appropriate moment that the van-staging area flashed into view. Since beginning my van-driving job this past March, I have many times watched as #29 made its heralded passage through town (due at 5:07 p.m.). Now I got to see things from the comfort of the other side of the window. (That was a real treat!)

Subsequent toasts, needing no explanation, included the new home of Miller Tower at the Martinsburg Roundhouse, the site of the former home of Miller Tower at Cherry Run, and Hancock Tower (from which I had retired from the railroad last December).

The train had five revenue cars - three coaches and two sleepers - plus a baggage car, the Sightseer Lounge, the dining car, a third sleeper on the rear for use by the crew, followed by a small string of mail and express cars. (There was no transitional crew car.) The sleepers were seemingly completely booked, and the coaches had more than 100 passengers.

While in the lounge, I struck up a conversation with Steve from Arlington, Virginia, a retired Patent Office examiner who was en route to Albuquerque. In addition to being fond of train travel, Steve enjoys biking, to which we discussed at great length the many bike trails we have used in our respective home areas. Coincidentally, he was my across-the-hall neighbor in my sleeper (I had room 10, and he had room 9.)

As dusk turned into darkness, I took advantage of a rare opportunity to partake of forward-viewing by standing in the very front of the first coach - which having no transitional car in front of it and looking through the window of the front door of the car I could look out over the baggage car toward the two locomotives as we made our way through the Cumberland Narrows west toward Hyndman. The tones of the engine horn blended with the the sounds of the revving engines, the faint scent of diesel exhaust, and the sight of the lateral sway of the baggage car directly in front and the sensation of the counter-swaying of the car I was in, and the aspects of the approaching signals - at times distorted by the heat of updrafting exhaust and occasional flames as throttle response was increased - the signals changing from green to red, or green over red to red over red, and finally in the distance, as seen by the bright headlight of the engine, came into view the ghostly appearance of Hyndman Tower (closed but still standing), and then passage through the town of Hyndman itself. For these few fleeting moments, all the cares of the world were tuned out. This was (to me) the epitome of motion - by train - the memories of which are sacrosanct.

I was joined at the dinner table by Steve, and a couple from Tennessee who were returning from Boston following a cruise on the QE-II. Their ship had been diverted to Boston (instead of New York) because of the events of September 11, and their out-of-the-way train-routing by way of Washington and Chicago was the only thing available to them on short notice. For dinner I enjoyed a 14-ounce Porterhouse Steak, listed on the menu at $21.75. Dining car meals are included without charge to sleeping car passengers, but the prices have seemingly increased by about 50 percent from the last time I took a long-distance trip by Amtrak. Still, the meal was superb, and its price is not out of line with what could be expected at a premier restaurant.

I slept poorly my first night out, but under my two-for-one train-sleeping formula (two hours worth of sleep for each hour actually slept), I felt rested in the morning. (There's something about the motion of the wheels that makes this possible!)

It was raining as we sped across Indiana, and I was joined at breakfast by a geology teacher and his wife, and a retired lady who had managed an office pool at the Pentagon. Later I returned to my front-of-the-front-coach viewing spot to observe things from a daylight perspective.

Following an on-time arrival (actually 13 minutes early) into Chicago, there came the normal chaos of checking into the Metropolitan Lounge. The lounge became crowded as time went on, but never at crush capacity.

As is always my custom, I ventured into the Great Hall to pay homage - immediately noticing (uh-oh!) that a giant American flag displayed vertically from the balcony of the Adams Street entrance had the field (stars) on the wrong side. (Properly, the flag, when hung from a wall, should have the field to the left. This one had its field to the right.)

Without breaking my stride, I made an immediate U-turn and went to the passenger services offices. Two gents met me there - one told me that they were already aware of the error, and were planning to correct it, but the other said that he thought that the display was correct. Ha! The latter gent - who seemed to be the one in charge - told me that he had been assured by a major in the Army that a flag displayed in such a manner should have the stars to the north or east... Well, not exactly... True, if the flag had been displayed across the middle of the waiting room, with no predominate field of view, then the stars should be to the north or east. But in this instance, with the flag displayed against the wall with only one field of view, the stars should be to the left. This is so whether the flag is displayed horizontally or vertically. Later in the day, as I watched, a second flag was unfurled (correctly) from the balcony of the Jackson Boulevard side - and then I watched as they corrected the display on the Adams Street side. Both flags now have their stars to the left.

Train #3, my next leg of the journey, left from Chicago 10 minutes late. It had the very same passenger cars as had been on #29 - I and Steve occupying the same rooms of the same car - but a fourth sleeper (for the crew) was added to the rear in Chicago. We now had three working sleepers for the passengers instead of two. The sleepers were booked to capacity, I was told, and there were about 200 total passengers on the train, including those in coach.

I awoke the following morning (Thursday) in Dodge City, Kansas. Its rather forlorn-looking depot is seemingly in the final stages of restoration. We were 30 minutes late at this point, but thanks to padding we were right on time at LaJunta, Colorado.

LaJunta is a service stop, and passengers were welcome to get off and walk around. At this point I counted the mail and express cars on the rear. There were 21, a figure that was confirmed by the conductor. (A "car," as defined in my count, includes all RoadRailer containers.) This meant that the train had a total of 31 cars. Golly, with this much business, is it any wonder that I find it hard to believe that this train cannot turn a profit?

The day had begun perfectly clear, with scattered clouds developing later. I lunched with Steve and a couple from Milwaukee. The diner had quickly filled upon announcement of first call, evidently overwhelming the staff, and it took over an hour for us to be served. None of us were in a hurry, of course, and the passing countryside and friendly discussion placated the time very nicely. Anyway, lunch on a train is always a relaxing experience. My selection was the Beefburger, served with Guacamole.

There were periodic announcements about points of interest en route. At Glorietta, New Mexico, we were told of a Civil War battle that had occurred here. Most think of the Civil War more as an Eastern conflict, but there were a few engagements in the West. There is a monument here to 30 Confederate soldiers, the remains of whom were discovered rather recently, according to the announcement.

At Canyon City, New Mexico, we met eastbound #4. It had one baggage car, 10 passenger cars, and 24 mail & express cars.

On time into Albuquerque, a service stop, I got off and observed work to construct the Alvarado Transportation Center. But I am told, as of now, Amtrak will not be part of the new facility.

Before arriving in Gallup, New Mexico, an announcement was made warning us of "rough track" between there and Winslow. Indeed, some of it was a bit rough, but in my mind, the ride as a whole was mostly smooth between those points and throughout the trip.

Gallup, coincidentally, was the destination of my Amtrak adventure in 1999. I looked out as we made our stop this time, and I was disturbed to note that much of the border to the station's platform is terribly overgrown with weeds. Presumably nobody is taking responsibility for this needed maintenance - something that would not take much time and effort.

We were exactly on time as we left from Gallup, but we were 14 minutes late upon arrival at the next stop, my destination... Winslow.

I was the only passenger to get off at Winslow - and nobody got on - so, in effect, the train stopped just for me! (Such an honor!)

The hotel - La Posada - is immediately next to the depot. Such convenience! I needed walk only a few steps down the platform, and there I was. In fact, the track-side of the hotel is actually the front side of the building. (Motorists enter in the back.)

My room - the one I had specifically requested - was on the southwest corner. One of only two rooms that directly face the railroad (room 200) it is the Carole Lombard Room (all rooms have names). Without hesitation, I would call it the Railfan Room. It has one large bed (the other railfan room, #201, named for Amelia Earhart, has two beds). Features of the room include no telephone (that's a plus), and a radiator that clangs! (The radiator was not needed, but I was assured that it does clang when the occasion arises.) But best of all, its windows swing open, and throughout each of my three nights there I kept them open, and I was appropriately serenaded by the many passing trains and the unmistakable bunching and stretching sounds of nighttime switching in the yard out front. Mozart himself could never have orchestrated such a fine melody. It was great!

La Posada, built in 1930, was one of a string of Harvey Houses built by the Santa Fe to accommodate its passengers. It was designed and decorated by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter (1869-1958), a renowned legend in her time who gave her utmost and careful thought toward the complex being completely indigenous to its setting and regional culture. Miss Colter had a hand in the architecture or design of over 20 buildings or restaurant areas along the Santa Fe, and no two were ever alike. Rooms at La Posada have 10-foot-high ceilings and original double-oak flooring with dowels.

The hotel was closed in 1957, and the building might have been demolished but for the foresight of a group of visionaries who saw its potential as a redevelopment project using the same theme for which it had been first constructed.

Reopened as a hotel in the summer of 1997, this labor of love is still being restored to much of its original grandeur. In fact, it is a veritable museum of art and fashionable surroundings, replete with eight acres of ground including spacious lawns, gardens and a stylish courtyard. In a visit to this place, one might forget that it is actually in a desert. And for a hotel, I was astonished at the amount of "common" area that is available to patrons in the form of lobby space and recreational areas. One could spend hours wandering around. The soft tones of classical music pervade the downstairs area of the building.

Indeed, in all my travels, I cannot remember staying in a place that I enjoyed so much. La Posada is THE place to visit - and it is SO convenient to the train. Come and see for yourself. You WILL enjoy it. Thank you, Bill Hakkarinen - you really know how to pick them!

La Posada has a restaurant, too - the Turquoise Room. It is open (but not on Monday) for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Its setting, too, is in keeping with the interior design of Miss Colter, including, but not limited to, colorful chandeliers made by a man who had worked here in the 1930's. The name Turquoise Room is not original to La Posada; it is coined from the private dining room of Santa Fe's premier train, the Super Chief. I ate all of my meals here during my stay.

Regrettably, many of the original furnishings of La Posada were auctioned off in 1959. Nevertheless, the new owners have gone to great lengths to recreate furnishings and/or substitute items that are appropriate to its specific heritage, including artwork and artifacts.

I would have been happy to spend my whole two-day, three-night stay entirely within the complex, but I dutifully spent some time walking around the town of Winslow (a quaint, quiet place along old US route 66), and with a rental car I took side trips to Meteor Crater and Petrified Forest. There was more that I could have done had I allowed more time in my visit. Indeed, I probably should have planned at least one additional day. Moreover, except for hearing them at night, and casually seeing them during the day, I did no train-watching. (Hint: When eating in the Turquoise Room, ask for a table by the front window!)

From the hotel's recessed and stylish enclosed payphone booth early Sunday morning, I called Amtrak to check on the status of train #4. Amtrak's train-status program has gotten so sophisticated - using voice recognition - that it is though I were talking to an actual person. The train left Winslow one hour and 29 minutes late. Its three sleepers were booked to capacity, but the coaches were not. I had room 7 on the upper level in the sleeper immediately behind the diner.

For lunch, I was joined by a retired couple from Australia. Both had been teachers; he had been a principal for a couple of years before changing careers. (Do principals in Australia have the same headaches as those in America? Yes, they do!) I asked them about coast-to-coast trains in their country, but they were not very familiar with them. Indeed, they knew much more about trains in the U.S., having been here a number of times before, taking a number of other routes around the country.

East of Albuquerque I counted 20 mail and express cars on the rear. At Las Vegas, New Mexico, we met westbound #3. Leaving there, we were 38 minutes late.

In the Sightseer Lounge car I met Tracy, a gent from Los Angeles who was en route to Chicago on business. He had talked his boss into letting him go by train - rather than fly - and he said that his fare, by sleeper, was actually less than flying. Moreover, he was planning to take the train more often.

I had intentionally opted for the 7 o'clock dinner call in order to avail the balance of daylight in the lounge. But, at 6:10 p.m., while leaving Raton, New Mexico, with the sun still shining brightly against the majestic mountains and the prospect that setting rays would still offer a spectacular backdrop during our descent toward Trinidad, Colorado, they decided to begin showing a movie on the monitors. The Sightseer Lounge car is equipped with monitors - two on the upper level and one on the lower level - which are used for movies generally one in the afternoon and one in the evening. This is fine, as it helps to pass the time. But it is bewildering that a movie would ever be scheduled during the most scenic part of the trip when the glass-roofed car is more ideally suited for viewing the scenery. Granted, one can enjoy the scenery while the movie is showing, but this means putting up with the loud sound of the thing throughout the car, and with seating space so limited it also means competing for seats with those who are there solely to see the movie. I have expressed this gripe before, and I would hope that someday a policy could be enacted that evening movies would only be shown once the sun had long before set.

I made do, trying to ignore the flick, but this was not very practical - and herein I became most disturbed by the movie's content which, under the circumstances, would likely be viewed negatively by others as well. It had to do with an airplane disaster...

I suppose Amtrak has a contract with a film distributor to show movies within a certain rating criteria, and by itself, Amtrak would not specifically exclude any that are provided. But this particular movie, being shown so recently in the wake of the September 11 events, was, I felt, tasteless.

The following day was Monday, and at breakfast I met a retired Norfolk & Western locomotive engineer who had worked his career out of Kenova, West Virginia.

It was rather chilly in Kansas City, a stop long enough for folks to get off the train for a few minutes, and when we left we were two hours and 14 minutes late. Once underway, we were overtaken by a piggyback train moving in the same direction - but before it had gotten completely by, we gained enough speed to pace it for a while, eventually inching ahead of it, an encounter lasting for about ten minutes. Now THAT was FUN!

We were two hours and 45 minutes late leaving Galesburg and Princeton, respectively, but thanks to padding we did pick up a little time, arriving in Chicago one hour and 54 minutes late.

Chaos was minimized by station employees as passengers connecting to #30 were directed two tracks over to where the train was waiting for us. Normally, I am told, the equipment from #4 is the same equipment used on #30, but not this time. The connection was made with a few minutes to spare, but then we waited for #6, which arrived a few minutes later. We left the station at 7:13 p.m., 33 minutes late. It had begun to rain as the rear end cars were added - the delay while this was being done seeming to be excessive with no explanation given, and we finally pulled from the yard at 7:52 p.m.

First call for dinner was made verbally in the sleepers, and I was seated with three others. Each set of trains has its own menu, and for my final dinner in the diner, I decided (against by better judgment and the judgment of the others) to choose the Capitol Limited's Chesapeake Bay Crab Cakes... Being from Maryland, where crab cakes are a regional delicacy, we could only imagine that this selection, prepared by outsiders, might not meet the critical expectations of a Marylander. But, what the hey! I wanted to try them, if for no other reason than to say that I had. When they came, I even offered samples of them to the others at the table - who had made other selections themselves - to solicit their own opinions (to which they had none), and then I tasted them for myself. "Interesting," was my response. The cakes (2) were rather small, and they were smothered in something called "warm dill sauce." I had never eaten crab cakes this way before... Well... OK, they were interesting - just leave it at that!!

Coincidentally, this date, September 24, was the anniversary of the closing of Miller Tower. The moment of specific remembrance was spent while speeding across Indiana.

The following morning, Tuesday, while seated in the Sightseer Lounge, I was privileged to see John Morris, a member of the Potomac and Baltimore chapters of the NRHS, whom I know, who was returning home from his own cross-country adventure. We spent much of the remainder of the trip chatting in the lounge.

Due to freight train congestion, we made brief stops at at the signals at Hancock (from which I had retired) and Cherry Run (former site of Miller Tower). An interesting climax in the waning moments of my trip.

We were two hours and 33 minutes late arriving in Washington.

Observations . . .

For those who only know Amtrak by its short-distance corridor services, its long-distance trains are in a league of their own. On-board services include meals at a table with table cloths, real plates and real utensils. Meals are what you might expect in a fine restaurant. Even the snack cars offer something quite better than "airline food."

Punctuality of schedules is remiss at times, but the unhurried experience and on-train amenities partly make up for of this. It is best not to have definite plans to arrive at the scheduled time when traveling long distance.

Amtrak offers a splendid alternative form of travel, which many who were accustomed to flying are now learning first hand.

Much of the increased business since the recent incidents has been in the sleepers; all of the sleepers I saw were either booked to capacity or nearly so. Coaches were about two-thirds booked. Amtrak should be complimented for maintaining its fine level of service under such straining circumstances.

I have never lost sight of my dream of someday seeing a forward-viewing dome-lounge car. The thrill of standing in the front of the front coach reminded me of all that was missed when dome cars were eliminated from Amtrak's long-distance service. The concept could be reintroduced, albeit at great expense, but someday Amtrak will have to order some new equipment anyway - if it is going to survive as a nationwide carrier. For now, at least, I can dream...