Back Issues


Main Page

December 2001


Bombardier Sues Amtrak for Acela Cost Overruns

Bombardier has sued Amtrak for at least $200-million in damages claiming "additional and unwarranted" costs it incurred because of delays and cost overruns in production of Acela Express trains. Bombardier contends that Amtrak had provided it with "inaccurate information" about tunnel dimensions, track geometry and electromagnetic interference in specifications for the equipment.


STB Gives Favorable Review for Powder River Line

Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern has received a "favorable environmental review" from the U.S. Surface Transportation Board over the railroad's proposal to build a 280-mile line and to upgrade 600 miles of old track to create a coal-hauling route from Wyoming's Powder River Basin to the Mississippi River in Minnesota. The review does not represent final approval, and the company will still need to arrange financing for the project.


BNSF Completes Signal Upgrade in Arizona

Burlington Northern Santa Fe has completed a $33-million, 117-mile signal upgrade between Winslow and Defiance, Arizona. The centralized traffic control system includes power crossovers at Hibbard, Holbrook, Adamana and Houck.


UP Creates Fourth Operating Region

Union Pacific has created a fourth operating region. The new Central Region, headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, includes the Kansas City, North Little Rock, St. Louis, and Wichita service units. UP's other regions are headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska; Roseville, California; and Spring, Texas.


CSXT and UP Improve Interline Service

CSXT and Union Pacific have announced changes to their interline service which are designed to improve transit times and service consistency. Two of those changes include the creation of new blocks of traffic moving eastbound between North Little Rock and Cincinnati, and westbound between Cincinnati and Pine Bluff. The improvements are achieved by the railroads investing in two new trains and seven new block classifications that focus freight over targeted strategic gateways. Five major gateways have been identified. They are Chicago, St. Louis, New Orleans, Memphis and Salem/St. Elmo, Illinois. Transit time reductions are significant in both short and longer haul lanes, and CSX and UP believe these services will complement the high growth markets in Texas, the Ohio Valley, and Mexico, according to a press release.


UP to Transport Olympic Torch in Special Train

Union Pacific will operate a train to transport the Olympic Flame to the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, leaving from Atlanta on December 4. The 19-car passenger train, pulled by two specially painted locomotives, will feature a cauldron car originally built for the 1996 Olympic Torch Relay, the first time the flame moved by rail in the United States. The car's centerpiece is the 40-inch diameter cauldron, featuring a custom-designed burner that allows for up to a four-foot flame. A vertical air "curtain" will protect the flame from the wind as the train is moving, often at 70 miles per hour. This air curtain keeps the two million BTU flame from lapping the sides of the cauldron.


BNSF Sets Single-Month Coal Record

Burlington Northern Santa Fe moved a record 21.9-million tons of coal in October, up 1.3-million tons, or 6.1 percent, from the previous record set in October 1999.


Sand Patch Tower Closes

Sand Patch Tower - Photo October 8, 1973, by Jim Bradley

From its lofty perch atop the "Summit of the Alleghenies," Sand Patch ("SA") Tower in Pennsylvania soldiered on in testimony to fine railroading tradition through nearly nine decades. On November 7, it closed.

The tower, replacing an earlier wooden structure, was opened by the B&O in 1914 following the completion of the double-track tunnel - currently in use - built as a modernization project to accommodate increased traffic across the mountain.

The brick building has been a landmark along the route of the Capitol Limited. A hallmark artifact of the building, visible only in its interior, was a spiral metal staircase, a space-saving feature due to the tower's tight position against a bank between the current right-of-way and the track's original alignment.

According to the book "Sand Patch - Clash of Titans," by Charles S. Roberts (1993, Barnard Roberts & Co., Baltimore), the tower housed an 80-lever GRS electric plant. Semaphores were in use until the 1940's. In 1953, a remote control machine was added to the office to assume the functions of retired Manila Tower, east of Sand Patch Tunnel.

Sand Patch had the distinction of being along the country's last operating Morse circuit for the exchange of train information. Until 1984, the Morse wire still extended some 64 miles from Viaduct Junction in Cumberland, Maryland, to Confluence, Pennsylvania. These two towers and their intermediate offices, including Sand Patch, were often staffed by operators who had been around when Morse was still a requirement decades earlier. Those knowing Morse would generally use it as their preferred option to talking on the phone. A flood that year took out the Morse wire east of Sand Patch and it was not replaced. But it remained available on the west side from Sand Patch to Confluence, and it was in use until the day Confluence Tower was demolished by a derailing freight train in May 1987. Morse circuits have been resurrected in museums for demonstration purposes, but its use in bona fide railroad operations in this country ended at Sand Patch Tower.

The tower's closing was part of an ongoing project by CSXT to replace interlocking stations, many from the former B&O which had been slow to modernize. Two other towers closed as part of the immediate project involving the route west from Cumberland into the mountains toward Pittsburgh included Hyndman, Pennsylvania, in November 1998, and Viaduct Junction, Maryland, in January 1997. Interlocking towers once dotted the landscape, and five-mile spacing was not uncommon. In 1928, there were seven towers westward from Viaduct Junction to Sand Patch, a 32-mile stretch. All have now been closed.


Hanover Junction Station Comes to Life

The historic train station at Hanover Junction, Pennsylvania, was the scene of a gala event on November 18. With a large gathering of folks - possibly as many as had ever gathered at a single time in its 150-year history - the old station came alive with music, speeches, and a Civil War reenactment for a dedication ceremony marking its opening to the public as a trail visitor center and museum. (Actually, it had opened five months earlier.) There were no trains - but some motor cars did make a participating appearance.

Now a part of the York County Department of Parks and Recreation, the station is a premier focal point of the York Heritage Rail Trail, a 21-mile linear park for hiking/biking/ horseback riding alongside the Northern Central Railway line from York to the Maryland state line. (South of the state line, the trail continues another 19 miles as the Northern Central Railroad Trail to Ashland, Maryland.)

The date of November 18 is no coincidence. On that very date 138 years earlier, President Lincoln stopped here to change trains en route to deliver his famous speech at Gettysburg.

According to information provided at the dedication ceremony, the site originally contained a two-story home owned by Reuben and Mary Reiley. A portion of the property was sold to the Hanover Branch Railroad - a line being built to Hanover, Pennsylvania - in April 1851, and the station was built. The Hanover Branch Railroad was opened in October 1852. The Northern Central line itself - then named Baltimore & Susquehanna - had been in service through the area since 1838.

On June 27, 1863, several days before the Battle of Gettysburg, the station was raided by Confederate forces of the 35th Battalion of Virginia Calvary led by Colonel E. V. White. The telegraph wires were cut and railroad bridges over Codorus Creek above and below Hanover Junction were burned. The station was left intact, and a telegraph apprentice, John H. Shearer, reportedly stayed by his post relaying messages from Gettysburg to Washington. It was this raid that was reenacted during the dedication ceremony.

Approximately 7600 Union and 3800 Confederate wounded soldiers were processed through Hanover Junction from July 7 to July 22, 1863, en route to hospitals in York, Harrisburg and Baltimore. Mr. Lincoln visited the station November 18-19 en route to Gettysburg. Then, on April 21, 1865, Mr. Lincoln's funeral train passed through Hanover Junction.

The tracks of the Hanover Branch Railroad - then owned by the Western Maryland Railway - were removed in 1928. The station at Hanover Junction was closed as a ticket office in 1929, and the building was in use as a private home from then until 1977.

York County, Pennsylvania, acquired the property in 1978. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Extensive renovation took place in stages, and it was reopened to the public on June 2, 2001. The public may now visit the station on weekends.


B&O Museum Orientation Center

The B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore will develop a new orientation center within the coming months. Involved will be changes to the front lobby area, a larger gift shop, and better accessibility to the physically challenged. The changes are being made possible by a grant from the North American Railway Foundation, a railroad labor union sponsored body. Construction will begin after the first of the year, and the museum will not have to be closed while work proceeds. The design is intended to preserve the historical quality of the roundhouse complex. Before a group of invited guests on November 8, the museum's executive director, Courtney Wilson, explained that a theme involving five questions will be posed to museum visitors as they enter the facility. "We don't want to answer questions," he said. "We want to ask questions." The five questions are:

The museum is preparing to celebrate the 175th anniversary of railroading in America with a 16-month celebration beginning in February 2002, the anniversary of the chartering of the B&O, and ending on July 6, 2003, near the anniversary of the laying of the First Stone. The celebration, including 'The Fair of the Iron Horse 175,' is expected to draw over one and a half million visitors.


Dick Maguire Dies - Bus Preservationist

Richard J. Maguire, retired bus company executive and pioneer in motor coach preservation, died on October 29. He was 69. President of Capitol Trailways Company of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, from 1972 until he retired in 1988, he was a founder of the Museum of Bus Transportation, now being developed in Hershey, Pennsylvania. A collector of antique buses, which he painstakingly restored, he was delighted to bring them to bus meets to display for their historical import. At a meet in Frederick, Maryland, in 1998, arranged by the late Fred Wengenroth, he brought a 1954 GMC PD-4104 and a 1956 GMC PD-4106, both former Capitol Trailways coaches. Restoring old buses is an expensive and logistically challenging effort. Unlike antique automobiles - which do not require an enormous amount of space - old buses are not what most people could fit into the confines of a typical neighborhood. Moreover, bus companies themselves are usually reluctant to retain such non-performing assets within their own facilities. In a letter printed in the December 1998 issue of the Bull Sheet, in response to an article the previous month, he wrote: "You hit the button on acting on coach preservation on a private basis; you can't imagine the expense involved in restoring a coach to as new condition as possible. I think some of our heritage must be preserved, and I'm willing to do what I can." Some other buses he had restored include a 1927 Fageol Safety Coach, a 1936 Fitzjohn-Chevrolet, and a 1947 Flxible Clipper.


Six Sigma Marks Anniversary on CSXT

[From CSXT Midweek Report, November 1, 2001] . . .

CSXT officially rolled out its Six Sigma program one year ago and is ahead of where most companies are in their first year, says president Michael Ward. "The last year has been focused on education, implementation and building critical mass for the success of Six Sigma at CSXT," he added. Ward has announced that Fred Favorite, senior vice president-finance, will assume responsibility for Six Sigma. "Fred was one of the early proponents and was instrumental in bringing Six Sigma to CSXT. As a performance improvement process, Six Sigma fits well with Fred's strengths," Ward said. Garry Gates, vice president-Six Sigma implementation, who led the process in its inaugural year, has resigned to pursue other opportunities. "Gerry's efforts laid a solid foundation from which to launch our strategic effort. We wish him well in his future endeavors," Ward said.. Ward added that Six Sigma forms a key component in CSXT's long-term business strategy. "Our business decisions will be fact-based, and Six Sigma is a strategic business tool, well proven in major U.S. companies that will be critical to our future success. Now that we have the groundwork in place, we must weave Six Sigma into the fabric of the company."


Crew Responds Properly to Blinking Signal

[From CSXT Midweek Report, November 14, 2001] . . .

Calm, correct action in an unusual situation allowed engineer J.L. Freels and conductor E.L. Smith to avert a potential accident recently on the James River Subdivision in Virginia. Freels and Smith were operating a unit train near Lynchburg when they observed a signal cycling, or "telegraphing," from green to dark. They recognized immediately that the signal aspect was improper, and they responded by stopping their train and contacting the dispatcher for instructions. That was precisely what the operating rules call for, said John Drake, general manager- safety. "If it had simply been a dark aspect, the crew would have acted on that indication as the most restrictive," he said. "But because the signal was telegraphing from dark to green, they knew to bring their train to a stop using good train handling techniques, report the incident to the dispatcher and be governed by his instructions." The correct action turned out to be critical, because a second train was stopped on the main line just ahead. An inspection of the signal by the signal department showed that the behavior was caused by a lightning strike. The signal system recognized it was in a green aspect and initiated a shutdown procedure to avoid a false proceed. That is the proper function for the signal system.


Vulcan Business Grows in Virginia

[From CSXT Midweek Report, November 14, 2001] . . .

Outstanding service to the Vulcan Materials aggregates quarry south of Emporia, Virginia, has earned the customer's praise and something even more rewarding - a 35 percent increase in business so far this year. "I'm convinced that our service has been a big part of the increase," said Debbie Layne, senior account manager. "Don Sasser has done a great job working through some tough service challenges, and the quarry and distribution yard people commend our crew on their level of service and their knowledge of the stone business." That service was critical when Vulcan's business picked up in July and August with some major construction projects. Expanding the unloading capacity at the yards would have been too costly for the customer, so Sasser was able to handle the extra business by increasing service to six days per week from the previous three. Vulcan trains operate between the quarry and Franklin, Suffolk and Portsmouth distribution yards in southeastern Virginia. At Suffolk, the crew performs a second switch to overcome a short siding issue. "Our team knows what the customer needs and keeps finding ways to deliver it," Layne said.