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June 2002


Future Home of UP Railroad Museum Designated

The historic Council Bluffs Carnegie Library was officially designated as the future home of the Union Pacific Railroad Museum during special ceremonies on May 18 . Renovation of the library began in March and is expected to be completed in early 2003. Some of the featured elements will include construction of Union Pacific as the nation's first transcontinental railroad, development of the American West, the Railway Post Office, train robbers, passenger travel, railroad safety and the industry's contribution of technology. Union Pacific opened its first museum in its Omaha headquarters in 1922. It was relocated in 1996 to the Western Heritage Museum at the former Omaha Union Station.


BNSF Awarded Long-Term Coal Contract with Georgia Power

Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Georgia Power Company have announced that BNSF has been awarded a long-term contract to deliver Powder River Basin coal for Georgia Power's plant near Juliette, Georgia. The contract term begins January 2004, and provides BNSF exclusive rights to deliver Powder River Basin coal from Wyoming and Montana to Memphis, Tennessee. Norfolk Southern, under a separate contract, will move the coal to Juliette.


BNSF Partners U.S.-Mexico Carload Service

Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Ferrocarril Mexicano have announced they have partnered and are operating the industry's first integrated carload rail service that crosses the U.S./Mexico border at El Paso, Texas. Initially, the service is being offered for select forest product commodities, including scrap paper, lumber, plywood and particleboard.


BNSF Settles Genetic Testing Suit

Burlington Northern Santa Fe has agreed to pay $2.2-million to 36 employees to settle a suit involving genetic testing for carpal-tunnel syndrome.


Intermodal Rail Traffic Grows

Intermodal traffic on U.S. railroads continued its recent surge, registering its fifth consecutive weekly gain from year-earlier levels during the week ended May 11, according to the Association of American Railroads.


Mexican Regulators Reject Rail Merger

Regulators in Mexico have rejected a proposed merger between two of the country's three railroads, Ferrocarril Mexicano and Ferrocarril del Sureste. Had the merger proceeded, the new company would have controlled 60 percent of Mexico's rail system.


John Sell Dies

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

John Sell, retired B&O trainmaster, died on May 12. He was 84.

A veteran of 41 years on the railroad, he retired in 1977 as trainmaster at Brunswick, Maryland.

He was member of a large family, a number of whom were railroaders. His father, the late J.J. Sell, was superintendent in Wheeling, West Virginia. There was a photograph in the November 1956 issue of the B&O Magazine showing 39 members of the Sell Family, including John, attending a family reunion held earlier that year in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

I remember John Sell from my days as sidewire operator and clerk caller while on the extra list at Camden Station. He was known as a serious, hard working and dedicated railroader who was proud of the legacy of the B&O and of his profession.

I would see him in Baltimore from time to time, but I did not get to know him on a one-to-one basis until shortly before he retired. The occasion was the annual assignment of vacations for the following year, and I and a couple of others met with him and the local representative at Dickerson station. Following the meeting, he took us to lunch. A couple of years later, I met him aboard the Chessie Steam Special. I was serving with the trip committee, and he pointed out some of the historical features of the area to me for use in disseminating the information to others.

Following his retirement, he moved to Orange Park, Florida. He was a neighbor of the late Tom Landers, retired chief train dispatcher, who on occasion would share with John items of interest he had read in the Bull Sheet.


New Cross-Border Express Service

[CSXT Midweek Report, May 10, 2002]... CSX and CN recently introduced a new expedited interline service, Cross-Border Express, which reduces transit times between eastern Canada and the northeastern U.S. by up to two days. The redesigned service offers fast and consistent run-through operations because of coordinated interchanges at the Huntington, N.Y., gateway, as well as the implementation of interline service monitoring. Cross-Border Express also speeds delivery to North Jersey by eliminating the need for classification in Selkirk.

"We're proud to offer customers a coordinated cross-border service package with significantly reduced transit times," said Jim Howarth, vice president- marketing. "Our work with the CN is one example of our cooperative efforts with other railroads to drive high quality and growth across North America." Some of the heaviest truck corridors in North America connect eastern Canada and the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, offering tremendous potential for rail growth through modal conversion.


TDSI Becomes One of Industry's Top Performers

[CSXT Midweek Report, May 2, 2002]... TDSI auto ramps and CSXT crews serving them are posting dramatic improvements in audit scores. The terminals have been scoring consistently above 90 percent in unannounced Association of American Railroad audits, placing them among the best in the industry. In the most recent AAR audit at a TDSI facility, Annapolis Junction in Maryland scored 98 percent, the second-highest score ever posted in the industry. Annapolis Junction, under the leadership of assistant general manager Dennis Kilar, is also among TDSI's busiest terminals, having loaded and unloaded more than 400,000 autos last year. The rigorous AAR audits look at performance in a variety of safety, quality and damage prevention categories. TDSI has developed an internal audit process to match those conducted by the AAR, and terminal managers are required to perform the audits at least once a month.


NTSB Issues Update on Auto Train Derailment Investigation

[CSXT Midweek Report, May 23, 2002]... The National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the April 18 derailment of Amtrak's Auto Train continues. The Auto Train derailed on CSXT tracks at Crescent City, Florida, killing four passengers and injuring dozens of others. The NTSB said it is using computer simulations to look at the train's braking systems and the force the train imparted to the track before and during braking. The agency also is looking at couplers in its materials laboratory to determine why several broke as a result of the derailment. CSXT's Wayne Workman and his investigative team are working with the NTSB in its review of the physical condition of the track at the time of the accident as well as track maintenance policies and procedures.


A Visit to Harrington Tower

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

It's always a pleasure to visit a restored railroad interlocking tower. It is gratifying that folks are so enamored in the history of such structures that they take the effort to preserve them for everyone to enjoy. Such is the case in Harrington, Delaware, where the Greater Harrington Historical Society saw to it that their local treasure got saved from demolition when it was no longer needed by the railroad.

I was joined on a recent Sunday by my friend Darren Reynolds as we ventured to "The Hub of Delaware" for a visit. (We also visited some lighthouses along the way, but that's a different story.)

There was a tower at Harrington as early as 1909, fifty-three years after the Pennsylvania Railroad came to Harrington, but the present structure which replaced the earlier one was built in 1920. It was staffed with operators directing traffic along the mainline and into the station yard until technology intervened in 1981 and the tower was closed. Later that year the Greater Harrington Historical Society purchased the building from Conrail (successor to PRR and then Penn Central) converting it into a museum. Today, the railroad that runs through town is Norfolk Southern.

Also on display adjacent to the tower is a watch box for a crossing watchman, originally from Farmington, Delaware. A 1926 Pennsylvania Railroad caboose was donated to the museum by Conrail in 1988.

The tower is open by appointment weekdays from 11 A.M. to 3 P.M., and on the third Sunday of the month from 2 P.M. to 4 P.M. Twenty-four hours notice is requested. Visits may be arranged by calling 302-398-3698.


Allen Speaks Out!

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

Yipes! Now comes one of those rare occasions when your friendly editor lets folks know just what's on his mind. This does not happen very often (fortunately). So let's begin with something quite hypothetical, for no other reason perhaps than to... Well, here goes:

Just suppose... Just suppose that Amtrak gets no government money this time around... Absolutely none. No guaranteed loans, no subsidies, no bailouts. Nothing. Zilch.

Amtrak gets told it's officially a for-profit company, to be totally supportive of its own revenue, and there is nothing the government will do to change it. "Break even (or turn a profit), or go bust!"

Poor Amtrak!

But wait... There's more to come:

Just suppose... Just suppose this were to bespeak a new policy that ALL forms of transportation were to be treated equally. All would get fair treatment sans government support of any kind.

How would this work? Let's begin with... air travel:

Airlines (in this country, at least) are privately owned. But they get vast benefit from use of publicly owned terminals, share the use of an air traffic control system, and get a number of subsidies too numerous to mention. For starters, let us say that all airports had to be privatized. And let us say, too, that all of these airports had to pay property taxes (since they would no longer be government-owned). The airlines (which could become joint owners of the facilities) would have to fork over whatever was needed to keep the terminals in operation, including property taxes (such as railroads do). And let's say that all airlines (and private planes, too) were required to contribute a pro-rata share for their use of the air traffic control system. Ha! Sound amazing? Read on...

The Interstate Highway System would get the same treatment. That's right. It would get privatized, too. No government handouts, no grants to repair bridges, no guaranteed construction loans. And the system would get taxed for their property the same as railroads do for theirs.

What would all this mean?

For starters, each form of transportation would get equal treatment. It would be fair. Similarly, the government would get out of the transportation business and not have to make judgment calls on what was needed to keep everything going. The marketplace could settle all that. Highway fuel taxes and airline ticket taxes could be eliminated, but user fees (such as highway tolls) would develop, probably skyrocket, and highways and airlines would be forced to match the true cost of the service being offered (such as railroads do).

As for the railroads, they are (except for commuter and Amtrak) pretty much on their own already. Most of the burden of survival, then, would fall to the airlines and the highways - you know, the railroads' competitors. So think of this... With no government assistance whatsoever, and each form of travel having to make its own way, there is every reason to believe that the railroads (inherently a superior form of transportation to begin with) would be in a very good position to thrive in the marketplace.

So what about Amtrak? True, the freight railroads would benefit immensely as highway tolls for trucks would soar out of sight, leaving little room for passenger trains. But with passengers turning to the rails in record numbers to avoid the true cost of travel by other means, and with a new found incentive to expand their infrastructure to accommodate a now profitable passenger business, railroads could, in time, fill this need, too. They've done it before! And they may even find the incentive to run the trains on-time. Ha! Once again, the marketplace would decide.

Remember, it was not simply the convenience of driving or the speed of flying that cut into railroad passenger business in the first place - it was governmental intervention to make those forms of travel artificially economical. With all the talk of increased subsidies for passenger rail, perhaps a better approach would be to eliminatel subsidies to ALL forms of travel, and let each mode compete on a level playing field. Make sense?

But will it ever happen? Heck, no. Not a chance. Legislators (Congress, etc.) would never buy the idea, fair as it might be. And local jurisdictions would never give up on a plan that unfairly taxes the railroads in order to pay for competing highways and airports. I could go on and on, but I said what I wanted, and I'm glad.