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April 2000


BNSF Takes Delivery of 1000th Dash-9 Locomotive

Burlington Northern Santa Fe has taken delivery of locomotive 4635, the 1000th GE Dash-9 unit specifically designed and manufactured for BNSF.


BNSF Sells Track Segments in Nebraska and North Dakota

Burlington Northern Santa Fe has sold trackage between Central City and Palmer, Nebraska, to the Nebraska Central Railroad, and has sold trackage between Granville and Mohall, North Dakota, to the Mohall Railroad.


Sykesville, Maryland, Breaks Ground for B&P Interlocking Tower

The town of Sykesville, Maryland, has broken ground at the site of reconstruction of the former B&P interlocking tower, which is to be used as a town center. The $185,000 project is expected to take about five months to complete.


Amtrak's Acela Regional Service Attracting New Customers

Amtrak's new Acela Regional service between New York and Boston attracted more than 43,000 new customers during its first month of service, according to an Amtrak report. During February, an average of 1,300 people rode the four Acela Regional trains each weekday, an increase of between 45 and 65 percent over ridership in February 1999 aboard NortheastDirect trains. Additionally, operating under an all-new electrification system, Acela Regional achieved an 85.3 percent on-time performance for the month, which rose to 91 percent after the first week of service.


Amtrak to Enhance its Web-Based Reservations System

Amtrak has contracted with Datalex, a global information technology provider, to enhance its web-based reservations system. The new system will upgrade Amtrak's current internet capacity by making the reservations portion of its website faster and more reliable for its customers.


Three CSXT Locomotives Get New Logo

A "Diversity in Motion" logo has been applied to the sides of three of CSXT's new CW60AC locomotives. "Powerful locomotives will be promoting the message that diversity brings power to businesses and communities," according to the company.



CSXT Nears Completion of Clearance Project in Georgia

CSXT is nearing completion of a $3-million clearance project which includes undercutting the 100-year-old Tilford tunnels south of Atlanta, Georgia. The new clearance will allow trains with 20 foot 8 inch double-stack cars to have access to the new CSX Intermodal facility at Fairburn, Georgia.


STB Imposes Moratorium on Rail Mergers

The Surface Transportation Board has imposed a 15-month moratorium on rail mergers. This is to give the STB time to define and adopt new rules that will govern future merger proceedings. The impact of this ruling directly affects the proposed merger of BNSF and CN, which have filed appeals in federal court over the matter.


Amtrak Unveils "Market-Driven" Route Strategy

[From an Amtrak press release] . . .

Washington, February 28, 2000 - Amtrak today announced plans to expand passenger rail service in 21 states and strengthen its competitive edge in the mail and express business, steps that will generate $65-million in improvements to its bottom line beginning in 2003. These actions, the first phase of Amtrak's network growth strategy, are based on findings of its first comprehensive economic analysis of the national rail system that is designed to preserve and expand the existing rail network.

Amtrak made the announcement following a meeting between President Clinton and members of the Amtrak board of directors at the White House. The President commended Amtrak for the strategy and its recent business turnaround, and reiterated his strong support for operational funding and the development of high speed rail corridors.

"The network growth strategy builds on Amtrak's financial success over the last two years, but it is grounded in the understanding that we can never grow complacent," said Governor Tommy Thompson, Amtrak's chairman of the board. "Amtrak must constantly search for new market opportunities and keep on growing - just like any other business. And like other businesses, we are using state-of-the-art commercial tools and analysis to increase our market share and improve efficiency."

Amtrak's network growth strategy is built on a network of feeder routes that, much like the airlines, are connected at major hubs, such as Chicago and Dallas/Fort Worth. This network will offer passengers not only more attractive travel options, but also will provide Amtrak's mail and express customers twice as many shipping lanes than currently exist today in partnership with the freight railroads. Finally, the interconnected network also allows for more efficient use of the railroad's fleet, enabling Amtrak to improve the financial performance of routes and expand service at the same time.

"The network growth strategy will result in a larger, better connected system of trains that provides greater choices for travelers and shippers of time-sensitive express," said George Warrington, Amtrak's president and chief executive officer. "As a result, Amtrak will be more competitive on both the passenger side and in the mail and express market."

Pending agreements with the freight railroads, commuter authorities and other partners, ridership on the routes covered in the phase one analysis will increase by seven percent; 11 routes will be expanded to serve additional markets; and, the number of trains operating weekly will be increased on three routes. Amtrak will activate 50 passenger cars and 45 locomotives, as well as 4,000 mail and express cars as part of the initial phase.

These phase one changes will be implemented using Amtrak's existing capital resources. Over the next several months, Amtrak will work with states across the country on phase two of the analysis, identifying additional capital requirements for future high-speed rail corridors. Like other modes of transportation, Amtrak will continue to need a reliable source of capital funding in the future.

"Amtrak's new approach recognizes that a national passenger railroad system is a valuable asset in and of itself," said Mayor John Robert Smith, Amtrak board member. "We cannot become a stronger part of our country's infrastructure by cutting routes one-by-one. On the contrary, we can only improve our bottom line by aggressively identifying new market opportunities and acting boldly to increase our market share."

During its extensive analysis, Amtrak considered hundreds of route scenarios, including the elimination of select underperforming routes. However, the analysis revealed that the loss of revenue from a single poor performing route combined with the loss of connecting revenue, derived from both passengers and mail and express, exceeded the marginal cost savings. The financial strength of the railroad is its interconnected system that serves as a strong base to build revenue.

With the announcement of the Network Growth Strategy, Amtrak is fulfilling another critical component of its business plan initiatives. Other elements underway include the development of one of the travel industry's first service guarantee programs, the expansion of the mail and express business and the development of commercial partnership opportunities with industry leaders. Taken together these initiatives will enable Amtrak to become operationally self-sufficient by 2003, as mandated by Congress. For the past two fiscal years and through the first quarter of this fiscal year, Amtrak has surpassed its business plan targets, and is on course to achieve that goal.

Planned service expansions include the following...


Riding the Indian Head Central

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

It was a long way from Cape Cod, but the sparklingly clean, orange and black Cape Cod Railroad F10A #1114 looked mighty spiffy along the Indian Head Central Railway in Southern Maryland on March 18.

This trip marked a number of "firsts." It was the first public excursion since 1973 over the full length (to White Plains) of the 13-mile-long government-owned rail line. It was the first excursion of the Chesapeake Railway Association since its inception as a new organization (formerly it was a division of RRE). And it was the first "charter" to be run on the line by its new operator, the Northern Central Railway Company.

About 125 folks, many being "mileage collectors," assembled at the Indian Head Naval Surface Warfare Center, south of Washington, for the seven-hour excursion replete with numerous photo runbys and a great deal of camaraderie. It was a brisk but clear day, temperatures in the low 50's, the bright sun fortuitous beyond the mere virtue for photography - its shining rays through the car windows provided the only source of heat aboard the train. It seems that the locomotive's headend power system was not compatible with the former Long Island parlor cars, and there were no lights within the train either. All this will change, and more comfortable amenities will be in store when a dinner train program begins along the line later this year, possibly by early summer.

The rail line dates from its original authorization during the first World War and served the Navy from the Pennsylvania Railroad's (now CSXT's) Popes Creek line at Indian Head Junction (White Plains) to the base. By the early 1990's the line had become surplus. It had been proposed for conversion to a hiking and biking trail, but ultimately it was decided the leave the tracks intact and lease the line for tourist train operation.

Enter into the picture Ken Bitten and the Northern Central Railway, currently the operator of the Liberty Limited Dinner Train in York County, Pennsylvania. NCR has plans for a similar operation along the Indian Head line. With its location so close to the population centers in and around Washington, and the line's pristine route through the wetlands of Charles County, the idea is a natural. NCR recently acquired no fewer than 170 coaches and parlor cars from the Long Island in a take-them-all purchase bid, although only about 30 of the cars are planned to be kept, with the rest to be sold to other operators or scrapped. Additionally, the company has a fleet of varnish from its Pennsylvania operation, some of which will filter down to Indian Head, and some of the Long Island cars may end up on the Liberty Limited.

There were some unexplained problems in getting the train ready for the trip, and the 9 A.M. departure from Indian Head was delayed until 10:40. (Amtrak doesn't always depart its trains on time, either!)

The photo runs were carefully orchestrated to take advantage of clearings and the angle of the sun. At the first runby, barely 20 minutes into the trip, as folks were making their way to the vestibule for unloading, one of the ladies in attendance, advised that it was a photo stop, was heard to ask, "What will they be getting pictures of?"


A photo runby may be a rarity once the dinner trains begin - but the scenic characteristics of the line will lend themselves to photography nevertheless, even if most of the dining clientele will likely not be railfans wanting photos of the train itself. Abundant wildlife, including evidence of much beaver activity, is present along most of the route.

The train crept along at about the speed of Capitol Beltway traffic at the height of rush hour. (That's not very fast, for those unfamiliar!) A dinner train will go at low speed, too, as this makes it easier for the food to be served, and extends the duration of the trip.

Bob Janssen, a noted mileage collector and author of a book soon to be released on his many travels, was aboard the March 18 excursion. But it was not his first trip over the route. He had been aboard the 1973 trip, one which was operated with a Navy locomotive, boxcars, a flatcar, and a caboose. The boxcars had boards secured across the doors to keep people from falling out, and chairs inside. The legendary E. M. Frimbo was on that trip, too, Bob recalls, but "he just rode along and never looked at the scenery."

A true mileage collector, according to Bob, makes at least two trips over a particular route (or one round-trip), in daylight, making sure to observe the scenery from each side of the train. For this, he took the obligation of sitting on the opposite side of the train on the return trip back to Indian Head in the afternoon. (He and I switched places to make this possible.)

Three other passengers of the March 18 trip - namely Frank Tosh, Joe Maloney Sr, and Joe Maloney Jr. - had also attended the 1973 trip.

Our train had four parlor cars - numbers 2020, 2001, 2019, and 2021 respectively. Some of the cars had rather scratchy windows and other uplifting needs (reportedly they were purchased for a mere $515 apiece), but for this trip they served the purpose at hand. The engine shoved our consist over the going-portion of the route, taking all of three hours, runby times included. Once at White Plains, three additional cars - coaches 2970 and 2904, and former CB&Q observation car Northern Lights - were added from the storage tracks there for deadheading back to Indian Head. It took us two hours and 50 minutes for the return trip, and the train got us back just before the last rays of sun - and our valued source of heat and light - had vanished.


Of Keystone Heritage

[By Rich Ballash] . . .

It's tough to be a railfan in this final year of the 20th century (Gotcha!), isn't it? Our Railroad Station Historical Society will try to salvage its annual tours this June, in Rochester, New York, with its first "no trespassing" convention. This will mean restricted touring of only privately-owned, mostly "no tracks" depots. Reports from our Marion, Ohio, Railfans' Society tell us that the cops are even chasing people off of the highway bridges overlooking Norfolk Southern's ex-N&W Columbus-Portsmouth main line. (Someone is taking gun shots at passing trains from these overpasses.) More and more states are enacting severe anti-trespassing laws. Things are certainly different from even 10 to 15 years ago, when my gang walked all over 127 manned interlocking plants, from limit to limit, with scarcely more than an occasional, "Shoo, no, go away!" from the railroad or local police. Now, it's "Onto our computers with you, and next time, Sonny Boy, it's the slammer!" Not to mention the little, Ching ching... "That'll be $250, please. Thank you... Have a nice day now!" Isn't that effective? As basically a "railroad archaeologist" these days, whose encounters with live railroads are mostly limited to tourist lines and an occasional Amtrak or special rare-mileage excursion, I really sympathize with you Class I rail photographers. That particular aspect of ferroequinology is getting downright dangerous! Then again, when you have people filing lawsuits for getting hurt while they were trespassing on railroad property, what do you expect? And couple that behavior with a legal system which negates the dastardly deeds of murderous ex-football legends and pathological liar presidents... Well, you can guess where that road will take you. "What? You spilled a cup of coffee in your lap? Oh, well, that's worth at least $2-million or so." Boy, is that screwed up! But that's our wonderful, modern society. So much for any activity which is even borderline illegal. Sad, isn't it? Then they take a wonderful place like Horseshoe Curve, fence it off, chase everybody off the property at dusk, and patrol the hell out of it like it was San Quentin or something. Well, I was indeed encouraged to see that Rochelle, Illinois, recently built a railfan pavilion "oasis" at the crossing of its BNSF and UP main lines in town. Its determined local creator even mentioned the only "other" railfan park... Horseshoe Curve! Hey, maybe... just maybe... Perhaps there is a glint of hope that watching trains WON'T end up on the list of "high crimes punishable by death!" After all, it's one activity which many of us enjoy. And, in many places, it is indeed an activity OF KEYSTONE HERITAGE!