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November 2002


Amtrak Ends Satisfaction Guarantee Program

Amtrak has ended the "Satisfaction Guarantee" program it introduced two years ago. The company never met its goal of holding reimbursement requests to one per 1000 passengers, and found that most of the satisfaction guarantee certificates were issued from factors outside of Amtrak's control, such as freight train interference or weather-related delays. Amtrak will continue to review customer complaints on a case-by-case basis, but will no longer issue vouchers automatically.


CSX Reports Third-Quarter Results

CSX Corporation has reported third-quarter net income of $127-million or 60 cents a share, up from $100-million or 47 cents a share for the same quarter last year. The increase resulted primarily from real estate gains and decreased interest expenses compared to last year. Slowed by weak coal demand and higher costs, CSX's rail and intermodal units reported third-quarter operating income of $227-million, down from $237-million a year ago.


CSXT Adds Improved End-of-Train Devices

CSXT has taken ownership of 60 new end-of-train devices. The new devices, air-powered ATX EOT's provided by Wabtec, will be deployed in intermodal service. The ATX devices do not require a battery. Rather, they are powered by brake pipe pressure, which in turn power an air turbine. CSXT has been testing 10 of the devices since July in coal and merchandise service. The plan is to use the new devices in intermodal service to avoid delays from battery recharging during the fall peak.


CSXT and TRANSFLO Introduce "BTU Direct"

CSXT and TRANSFLO Corporation have introduced "BTU Direct," a liquefied petroleum gas distribution service using new portable rail-truck transfer equipment. The service will be offered to CSXT customers at select TRANSFLO sites within its 23-state network in the eastern United States. Commercial efforts will initially focus on the propane and butane markets.


Norfolk Southern Reports Third-Quarter Results

Norfolk Southern Corporation has reported third-quarter net income of $126-million or 32 cents per diluted share, an increase of 59 percent, compared with net income of $79-million or 20 cents per diluted share in the third-quarter of 2001.


Genesee & Wyoming to Lease BNSF Line in Oregon

Genesee & Wyoming has signed a 15-year agreement with Burlington Northern Santa Fe to lease a 76-mile BNSF line between Salem and Eugene, Oregon. The company expects that the line will add approximately 20,000 carloads of traffic per year, including paper, lumber and agricultural products. The lease increases the size of the company's Oregon Region to 523 miles.


Baltimore Streetcar Museum Adds PCC to Collection

The Baltimore Streetcar Museum has taken delivery of a PCC acquired from a private owner in Cloudcroft, New Mexico. The car was built by St. Louis Car Company in 1936 as San Diego Electric Railways #503 and operated there until 1949. It was sold to the El Paso City Lines in 1950 and operated as #1503 until 1974. It was then sold to an individual who moved the car to New Mexico for use as a real estate office.


Warren Olt Dies

Warren Evans Olt, a legendary railroad and streetcar enthusiast, photographer and historian, died on October 11. He was 78.

A member of the Baltimore Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society since 1948, for which he served in many capacities, including president, he will long be remembered for his dedication to the cause.

A high school mathematics teacher by profession, he had a sharp, clear, loud and distinguished voice which could be heard above the din of the inside of a moving railroad coach, a valuable feature on fan trips with or without the use of a speaker system. "He could be heard in the next county," said a member of another NRHS chapter in reporting his passing.

For many years he was the Baltimore chapter director, the member who represents the local chapter at national meetings held at various locations in the NRHS system. He was the chapter's historian at the time of his death. He was also a charter member and former treasurer of the Baltimore Streetcar Museum.

When the Chessie Steam Specials made their appearance beginning in 1977, he was the chairman of the committee of Baltimore area sponsoring organizations and its coordinator with the organizations from the Washington area which cosponsored the sales effort and logistical support for the specials operating from the Baltimore and Washington areas.

His collection of railroad photographs date from an early age. He was very fond of the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad, which abandoned its Baltimore area operations in 1958, and the chapter's photo archives are replete with many of his offerings. Of his subjects along the Baltimore & Ohio, one of his favorite hangouts in early years was Halethorpe.

According to his obituary in the Baltimore Sun, he was born in Brooklyn, New York, and moved to Rodgers Forge in Baltimore as a child. He graduated from McDonogh School and the University of Maryland. During the second World War he served in the Philippines and in Japan. A member of the Army Reserve, he retired as a major in 1984.

He was preceded in death by his wife Nancy in 2001, and is survived by three daughters, a sister, and three grandchildren.


A Visit to the Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine & Steam Train

Twice each year - spring and fall - Oakleigh Tours offers bus trips from the Baltimore area to points of scenic and historic interest. This year's fall tour took its faithful clan of followers to Ashland, Pennsylvania, home of the Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine and Steam Train.

Ashland lies in the anthracite coal region of east-central Pennsylvania. One of the mines in the area, which had ceased operations in 1931, was reopened in 1963 as a tourist attraction. Coal is no longer mined at this facility; instead, the mine has been made tourist-friendly, and visitors may ride in comfort aboard a battery-operated train into the horizontal shaft where a guide explains how anthracite coal was once extracted and moved by mules to the surface. Pioneer Tunnel has been given an award for excellence by the Pennsylvania Travel Industry Advisory Council as one of the top 10 tourist attractions in the state.

The narrow-gauge steam train operates from the mouth of the mine for over half a mile along the side of Mahanoy Mountain overlooking the town of Ashland and the surrounding valley. The line used for the steam train is the same as was used to transport the coal until the mine ceased operations. The terminus is also within sight of an abandoned strip mine.

The steam locomotive Henry Clay is a 30-ton saddle tank engine, built in the 1920's, and one of the last of its kind in existence. The open-sided passenger cars were crafted from parts found buried within the mine when it was reopened in 1963. A miniature caboose, with seating for about six people, is on the rear of the train.

October 19 was the date of the Oakleigh Tours visit. Thirty-six patrons attended the trip on a rather dreary day. A light rain fell throughout most of the two and one-half hour trip from Baltimore, but it was dry by the time the group reached Ashland. The respective rides - into the mine and aboard the steam train - consumed about half an hour each. There is a gift shop and lunchroom adjacent to the mouth of the mine.

Pioneer Tunnel is owned and operated by Ashland Community Enterprises, a non-profit corporation established to educate the public on the operation of the former coal mine, with profits being used for community welfare, parks and playgrounds.


Biking the Conewago Trail

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

Thursday, September 5, 2002, was one of those more pleasant days for being outdoors - not too hot with low humidity - a welcome respite following a rather hot summer with more hot weather yet to come.

I took the occasion to make my first assault upon yet another railroad trail. The Conewago Recreation Trail begins in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, not far from Elizabethtown. Following the right of way of an abandoned rail line, it goes from that point northeastward for five miles, ending (for now) squat against the boundary with Lebanon County (which intends to extend the trail even further).

The trail begins with what is called a cinder base (I'll vouch for that), but the further along it extends the base turns to one of bluestone gravel, and at times simply dirt and grass. Still, it is smooth for biking.

Markers denote the mileage and half mileage along the side of the trail. Just beyond the one-mile marker, the trail encounters its first major road crossing. Formerly (in its railroad days) it was a bridge, but evidently its clearance over the affected road was too low, and the bridge was subsequently removed.

This was followed quickly by a short rock cut, and the trail climbs gently along the bank of a stream. The route is juxtaposed by farmlands, or by woods, neatly shaded by trees on both sides most of the way.

Just beyond the fourth mile marker there is a small barnyard (I could call it a petting zoo) replete with a family of friendly goats, and a llama. A lady was tending to the animals as I arrived, and (after confirming the larger animal was indeed a llama) said that it, too, is quite friendly. The owners have four llamas, three of which were in a field out of sight.

Precisely - exactly - at the fifth mile marker, the trail abruptly ends. Whether by design or sheer coincidence, this is the county line. But the path extending beyond the county line was not much more obscure than the trail that had just ended, so I continued on for several hundred feet, there to find off in the distance bulldozers and front-end loaders in the process of doing work in preparation for Lebanon County's portion of the trail, yet to be opened.

The rail line began in 1883 as the Cornwall & Lebanon. According to information available at the southwestern trailhead, the railroad was built by Robert H. Coleman to compete with the Cornwall Railroad for iron ore traffic between Cornwall and Lebanon. The line was later extended to Conewago Junction to connect with the Pennsylvania Railroad. By 1910, there were eight passenger trains in each direction.

The line was finally abandoned in 1972 following damage inflicted by tropical storm Agnes. The trail was "preserved" by Lancaster County in 1979.


Train vs. Truck

[By Gilbert Elmond] . . .

On Monday evening, October 14, 2002, around 6:00 P.M., I happened to be driving south on Kenilworth Avenue in the Industrial Heights area of Bladensburg, Maryland, close to Cheverly. I looked to my right side down 52nd Avenue and saw what looked like a dump truck pushed off into a ditch with a train stopped on the crossing. I made a quick U-turn at the next intersection and went back to see what had happened at the crossing.

There were several police officers, spectators, and a huge tow truck on the scene retrieving the battered dump truck from the ditch. Sure enough, a dump truck driver had tried to beat the train.

The train involved was Q401, a CSXT manifest train heading west (geographically south) on the single-track section of CSXT's Alexandria Extension.

I have witnessed a countless number of dump trucks going to and from an aggregate distribution facility narrowly miss getting hit by trains at this particular crossing. This time, a truck had gotten hit.

The 52nd Avenue crossing has flashing lights and crossbucks, but no gates, just as several other crossings on the Alexandria Extension have flashing lights and crossbucks, but no gates. Only Route 450 and the west leg of the wye Alternate US-1 crossings have flashing lights plus gates.

The train must have been going roughly 15 to 20 miles per hour at the time of the collision. I did not get to see the locomotives of Q401, just the broad-sided dump truck.

The driver escaped death this time, just a minor injury. He's lucky.

Safety First Always!


A Visit to Hunt Tower

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

A number of years ago I was en route by train back to Baltimore from someplace out West (I don't remember where), and from my left-side roomette I looked out upon the darkened early morning scene as the train made a station stop. I needed no further hint as to where we were; my sleeper was stopped directly adjacent to Hunt Tower in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.

Hunt Tower had closed by this time. But its silhouette against the lights from within the town presented a surreal but pleasant opening to my final day of travel. What a thrill! I had already heard of efforts to preserve this structure, and I looked forward to the opportunity to visit it once it had been brought back to life.

That opportunity finally came early this year. I was making an advance trip by car to establish continuity for an upcoming Oakleigh Tours bus trip to Raystown Lake, Pennsylvania, and I took time from my schedule to visit Hunt Tower. I was accompanied on this fact-finding effort by my friend Darren Reynolds, a great fan of interlocking towers, who was more than delighted to make a first visit to the tower as well.

In fact, I even included some padding in the planned bus itinerary for an impromptu quick-stop for the bus group, if time permitted, prior to our arrival at the lake. But as things developed on the day of the trip, our bus took a wrong turn at Lewistown requiring a 12-mile detour to get back onto the proper route, and this killed any chance of fitting a tower stop into the tour. Oh, well. Maybe some other time!

Hunt Tower has been preserved by the Huntingdon County Transportation Society and Museum. The society maintains the building and operates the transportation museum on the second floor. According to the society, the tower originally opened in 1899. It served the busy Pennsylvania Railroad's "Middle Division," into the Penn Central and Conrail eras, until 1980 when it was closed due to advanced technology. Conrail planned to demolish the building, but the good folks of Huntingdon County stepped in to make it a museum instead. Right on!

The tower is open to the public whenever staffing permits, generally Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the warmer months of the year, or whenever "the lights are on in the evening." There is no admission charge, but donations are happily accepted.


Remembering the Chessie Steam Special

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

[Chessie System photo]

It has now been 25 years since railroad enthusiasts and historians were treated to a truly time-honored event. That was 1977, the year marking the 150th anniversary of railroading in America. The Chessie System (which included the B&O, C&O and Western Maryland) decided to celebrate the occasion with a series of public steam engine trips across its territory. I thought that now would be a good time to recount some of the memories generated by these offerings a quarter of a century ago.

The decision by the Chessie System to move ahead with the program was fostered greatly by the enthusiasm of its chairman, Hays Watkins, who saw it as a fantastic testament to the legacy of the company. After all, the B&O had heralded its 100th anniversary in such a grand scale 50 years earlier with its Fair of the Iron Horse. Much credit, too, should be given to William Howes, Chessie's vice president of casualty prevention and the company's unofficial "railfan laureate," whose expertise in such matters was legendary.

The locomotive chosen to power the excursions was 4-8-4 class T1, number 2101, built by the Reading Company in 1945, designed for heavy duty freight and passenger service. Retired in 1967 and bought by a scrap dealer, it was later saved by Ross Rowland, a commodities broker, who led its restoration for use in the "American Freedom Train" which visited 138 cities in a 21-month period. Meanwhile, a fleet of open-window and air-conditioned coaches, open tourist car, baggage car, concession car, power car, dormitory car, parlor and observation cars were assembled for the excursions.

Originally, the train was to be called the "B&O Birthday Train." But since the train would be operated system-wide (and Chessie was financing the affair), it was finally decided to showpiece the train for the Chessie System. The entire consist was smartly adorned in Chessie System colors.

From each of the origin locations, a committee composed of local sponsoring organizations was formed. For the area comprising Baltimore and Washington, seven organizations participated. In return, the sponsoring organizations would collectively get six percent of the sales receipts. My own involvement came about through Oakleigh Tours.

The Baltimore-Washington area would enjoy two series of excursions - spring and fall. (Most other locations on the system got only one series.) Six trips were slotted in the initial series in May 1977, plus a two-day "ferry" trip from Baltimore to Pittsburgh to move the train to its next location. Coach tickets were sold for $20 (adults) and $18 (children) with a two dollar reduction on one-way ferry trips. Parlor and observation car tickets were $70 (later reduced to $50). Initially, Chessie System handled all mail-order sales directly.

The first trip was billed a "circle trip," operating from Baltimore to Ellicott City (with a two-hour stop), thence to Point of Rocks (with a photo runby en route), returning via Gaithersburg, Silver Spring and Laurel. Earlier, the Baltimore and Washington sponsoring groups had decided to split the onboard logistical assignments (car hosts, etc.) with the Baltimore groups staffing one trip, the Washington groups staffing the next, etc. Baltimore (including Oakleigh Tours) got the honors for the first trip; I attended with a title of assistant trip coordinator. All staff members were expected to dress in a dark colored suit with white work gloves. Warren Olt, representing both the Baltimore Chapter NRHS and the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, was the trip coordinator.

I was, by then, beginning my seventh year as a railroad employee, but my involvement on the train was as a cosponsoring representative, not as an employee. Still, as later trips operated, when I was not aboard the train, I would revert to my tower operator's function, often being on duty as the train went by. (Now THAT was a real treat!)

When the train returned to Baltimore in October 1977, four more trips were scheduled. Mail-order ticketing was now the responsibility of the cosponsoring organizations, and somehow, some way (he can't remember exactly), Alan Crumbaker, president of Oakleigh Tours, became the sales coordinator for the Baltimore-Washington committee. Also, somehow, some way (I can't remember exactly), I became treasurer for the joint committee. There I was, with a check book, and $100 in seed money to open the account. The plan was to sell the tickets, and the co-sponsoring groups would get a six percent commission at the end. (Sound simple? Ha!)

But about that time, the steam engine developed mechanical trouble, and some of the trips had to be operated with... diesels. For folks who did not want to attend the trips having diesels, they were generally granted refunds. (And guess who had to take care of that?)

The Chessie Steam Special returned the following year (which was, after all, the 150th year following the ceremonial laying of the first stone), culminating a two-year celebration.

Three trips plus a ferry trip were offered from the Baltimore-Washington area in the spring, and four trips plus a ferry trip were offered in the fall. The organizational participation remained mostly the same as in 1977, and I remained as treasurer with the check book. All may have gone smoothly that year except for a rather calamitous development... a railroad strike! The strike, as I recall, was in sympathy with one on the Norfolk & Western. I wrestled with conflicting emotions with it as I was involved in that strike as an employee. I was not a striker, but I was kept from work because of the picket line - selectively placed by the operating union which had gone on strike. Anyway, one of the trips had to be canceled - and guess who had to take care of getting a whole train load of people their refunds!

One of my fondest memories of the Chessie Steam Special was as a paying passenger aboard one of the ferry trips, Baltimore to Cumberland. I splurged and bought a ticket in the observation car. I was one of only about eight passengers in the car. From the open platform on the rear, perched in a chair, I enjoyed the absolute epitome in rail travel. This included about an hour of "quiet time" as the train dwelled at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, with the obs spotted on the middle of the Potomac River bridge. It just doesn't get any better than that!

The Chessie Steam Special ended following the 1978 season, including my involvement, but a series of events billed as the "Chessie Safety Express," using C&O locomotive 614, continued another couple of years.