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February 2004


A Visit to the Iron Horse Trail

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

Its very name conjures visions of a trail I simply had to go biking on. And a website offered by Pennsylvania's Rails to Trails program described it as having a dirt and original ballast surface, open for public use. I was joined by my biking buddy Gilbert Elmond a few spring seasons ago as we set forth to explore the 10-mile Iron Horse Trail in the Tuscarora State Forest in Perry County, Pennsylvania.

It took us the better part of three hours to reach the place, getting lost for several minutes as we tried to decipher our map showing the back roads to this tucked-away spot. In due time we found the headquarters for the forest preserve. As we entered the building, I overheard one of the employees say: "I see they have bikes; I guess we ought to tell them some things about our trails!"

"Primitive" is the best description of the Iron Horse Trail. While a mountain bike could negotiate portions of it, we decided that "hiking" would make better use of our time. And since we had come such a long distance to get there, we did not want to leave the scene without at least doing something to pay it justice.

First we hiked the one-mile "Tunnel Loop." The feature attraction on this segment was the mouth of a tunnel, fenced off to discourage entry, and a sign not to go beyond that point. Indeed, the tunnel appeared to have seen better days.

Next we paid a visit to the Iron Horse Trail itself, but only for a short portion. Had it not been described as having once been a railroad bed, we may as well have thought it was no more than a typical forest trail.

Far from being a trail that was once a mainline railroad, the Iron Horse Trail followed what had been a narrow gauge logging line. In fact, it actually follows two logging lines - the Path Valley and Perry Lumber railroads. Both had been abandoned almost a century ago. This description, however, does not recognize what might have been had earlier plans materialized.

According to information happily supplied by the folks at the forest headquarters, the Path Valley Railroad was envisioned in 1893 as an extension of the Newport & Shermans Valley Railroad beginning from the village of New Germantown, Pennsylvania, through the mountains to Franklin County, and eventually to Hancock, Maryland. One may wonder how this plan might have changed the railroad scene today had it succeeded. But the venture went bust with only the tunnel to support the project's only major effort toward fruition.

Then, in 1901, the Perry Lumber Company purchased a "Climax" locomotive and began using it to remove timber in western Perry County over a portion of the aborted Path Valley line to Big Spring Park with a branch into Bowman Hollow, Rising Mountain and Fowlers Hollow, and a spur into Second Narrows Gap. If these names are not household words, it should be remembered that this was a logging line, not a mainline high iron. The Perry Lumber Company disbanded in 1906, and its trackage and lands were sold to the state of Pennsylvania, one of the first major acquisitions toward what is now the Tuscarora State Forest.


CSXT to Lease "Green Goat" Locomotives for Trial Period

CSXT will lease three "Green Goat" hybrid yard locomotives from RailPower Technologies Corporation for a 90-day trial period. The 2000-horsepower Green Goat features a small diesel generator and long-life batteries. The locomotives to be used in the trial period will be built on GP9 frames, the same as the original units. CSX has the option to extend the lease by an additional 90 days. A similar test of the Green Goat is being conducted by Canadian Pacific, and it has previously been tested by Union Pacific.


Ironville Tower in Ohio Closes

Norfolk Southern's Ironville Tower in Toledo, Ohio, was closed late last month. Its control has been assumed by the Toledo Terminal train dispatcher in Dearborn, Michigan.


Outlook Bright for Coal, CSXT Says

[CSXT Midweek Report, 1-14-04]... When 2003 began, CSXT-served utilities in the East had plentiful supplies of coal, but as 2004 begins, coal utilities in the East and especially in the South are well below what they like to have on hand. "We expect to keep busy restocking their supplies," said Chris Jenkins, Coal Service Group. Natural gas prices remain high, as production supplies are tight. Utilities that can run either natural gas or coal-fired power plants are choosing to run the coal plants.. World market conditions also are helping coal. China's economy is exploding, particularly in the steel industry. The ramifications are being felt in the export market for U.S. coal. "We may have the best year in coal exports since 2000," said Jenkins.. Finally, coal production in the East can't keep up with the demand, particularly due to the difficult permitting process required to open new mines and the high cost of expanding existing operations. This may create some additional opportunities to move more coal from the West to eastern utilities by rail.


Unions Differ Over Issue of Remote Control

On December 11, the United Transportation Union issued an article entitled 'UTU Leading Way on Remote Control Safety.' The UTU represents switchmen who perform yard switching functions where remote control devices are employed. In response, on December 12, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (now known as the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen) issued an article entitled 'Death by Friendly Fire,' attacking the UTU. Included below are the respective articles to their members, appearing on the unions' websites:


[By James Brunkenhoefer, UTU National Legislative Director]...

Neither this union nor any other wanted remote control (RCL). It couldn't be stopped, as no other new technology was ever stopped by a union -- not diesel-electric locomotives, not hand-held radios and not the end-of-train device.

Rather than stand in the street protesting, which is like spitting in the wind, your UTU has been working with Congress and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to ensure RCL is examined scientifically to ensure its safety.

The other organization only protests. It has accomplished absolutely nothing except convince fewer than 50 of the more than 40,000 communities nationwide to enact a symbolic ban against remote control. Those actions are symbolic because local communities, by law, may not interfere in the regulation of railroad safety where the FRA has and uses that authority.

In fact, where the other organization has the agreement to operate remote control, it makes no attempt to limit its use. On the Montana Rail Link and, more recently, on the Tex-Mex Railway, the other organization signed an agreement for its members to operate remote control. The goal of the other organization is to take every remote control job away from UTU members.

While the other organization targets UTU jobs, it is the UTU that is doing something constructive about remote-control safety. Most recently, the UTU convinced the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Commerce Committee to order a complete review by the FRA of every aspect of remote control safety. That audit is currently underway only because of UTU actions.

Look closely at what the other organization is really doing. The other organization says the only way to make RCL safe is to pay dues to that organization. Yet while they protest RCL is not safe, they sign agreements that conductors and engineers paying dues to them can safely operate RCL. Through their twisted logic, they say UTU members are unsafe when operating RCL, but when conductors and engineers pay dues to their organization, there is no problem operating RCL.

Where the other organization doesn't hold the RCL contract, it petitions local government to enact bans against RCL -- or it demands congressmen write letters of protest to railroads challenging RCL safety. Railroad management reacts by hiding in the weeds to watch your every move for any and every mistake you make. Charge letters are sent, you become involved in an investigation, and it's "on the street" for a while. All the protests from the other organization are entirely about how YOU operate RCL because you belong to the UTU and not the BLE.

Because you belong to the UTU, you are being targeted. They want you and your family to suffer and continue to suffer until you join their organization. Their goal is representation rights for conductors on YOUR railroad. Then they will proclaim RCL is safe for all conductors.

Since the other organization rejected UTU's offer to join us at the bargaining table and rejected our guarantee of protection for engineers, they failed on their own to get a separate RCL agreement, failed to get FRA to ban RCL, failed to overturn FRA at the court house, failed to gain a right to strike over RCL, and failed at arbitration. All that was left was to push for investigations into YOUR work performance and make you and your families suffer.

In spite of their efforts, they have failed to make a single safety improvement. Their only achievement is the number of UTU members liberated from their jobs or who have joined the BLE.

We never demanded an investigation on any property where the BLE operates RCL. We don't want their members or families to suffer. Our hope is that someday the other organization will recognize the harm it is causing by attacking you and your family in the name of gaining new members.

So long as they sign agreements to operate the same technology with their members, they are saying the only problem with RCL is YOU because YOU are unsafe - because YOU belong to the UTU.

It is time for the other organization to stop the rhetoric and join the UTU in constructive efforts at ensuring the safety of remote control through adequate training, careful implementation and continuous joint monitoring.


[By Raymond Holmes, BLE Vice-President & U.S. National Legislative Representative]...

The latest attack by the UTU leadership against the BLE's efforts to bring safe remote control operations to our industry is filled with the usual baloney about what a great job the UTU is doing in looking out for the safety of its members.

The article, if you missed it, is classic UTU leadership hogwash. They say they are going to change the world by convincing "the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Commerce Committee to order a complete review by the FRA of every aspect of remote control safety." The UTU drivels on that this audit is currently underway only because of their actions. Interesting. Later in that same diatribe, they ramble on about a push (inferred to be by the BLE) for investigations into the work performance of (we assume) the operators of remote control. What do they think the audit is going to do?

The remarks come on the heels of another fatality to a railroad brother. Is the San Antonio death by Union Pacific remote control yet another example of how the UTU is working closely with the railroad industry to implement safe remote control operations? How can an organization allow a Class 1 railroad to force a person to conduct switching operations -- locomotive and all, in a major terminal -- alone?

The safety oversight for which the UTU leadership is so proud is seriously flawed. Their ability to oversee safe implementation of this technology when the railroads hold all the cards is wishful thinking. The tragic death of a railroad worker under the circumstances where he was alone in a dangerous yard operation should help all of us see the gravity of the situation.

The BLE stands by its comment on this issue presented in testimony at the Informal Safety Inquiry on One-Person Crews and Remote Control Locomotive Operations in Appleton, Wisc., on December 4-5, 1996.

The comment:

BLE is amazed that we have come to the place where a labor organization defends remote control operations and unsafe operating practices in public forums with their management allies. What we said in the foregoing about railroad managers is doubled when it comes to union leaders.

They are so far off target they aren't even in the right war zone.


Of Keystone Heritage

[By Rich BallasT] . . .

Hawstone... Wilmore... Saxman. To anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the Pennsylvania Railroad, there is an immediate connection between the three: Pennsy's quadruple track pans, or track tanks, as they were called. High speed pickup of tender water without stopping. Steel troughs in the center of the track gauge, one on each track, 26-1/2 inches wide, 8 inches deep, and a good half-mile long. About 20 years ago, I purchased a short section of one of them from the Saxman Water Station, which was located a mile east of the station at Latrobe, Pennsylvania, right over top of what is today the underpass of state route 981 under the NS Pittsburgh Line. I am quite proud that my father held several positions on the Pennsy, and some of the stories he told me were pretty amazing! When Ron McElrath told me that he had located some old film of our local water installation which he planned to use on his Railroad Video Quarterly, I told him that I just had to tell him one of the most fascinating stories my dad ever relayed over the years. Back in the late '40's through 1960, my family lived in the little gray house located on Miller Street in Latrobe, two blocks north of the PRR passenger station. Dad's assignment at the Saxman Water Station was a relatively short walk east, so I guess he often hiked to work out there. Well, one very bitter cold winter morning, he got to work, and he was astounded to find the water in the track pans to be absolutely frozen solid! When Dad saw this, he hustled into the boiler house, where their main job was to fire the coal furnace which was used to heat the water which ran through pipes out to and down the length of each pan, under one lip of each trough, to keep them from freezing. The man he was relieving that morning, a gentleman Dad knew only as 'Mr. Washington,' began to boast to Dad just how hard he had been working to push that boiler to keep those pans from freezing up. Dad quickly advised him that he had better open the valve which allowed that steam to get out to those pans!... But it was too late! Presently, here comes an eastbound train, headed by a K4, and he dropped his water scoop... right into the frozen solid track pan! I guess it made one heck of a ruckus and racket, and it tore the scoop right out from the underbelly of that K4! And if you've ever seen one of those scoops, like the one under the Curve's K4s #1361, well folks, that is no flimsy piece of sheet metal under there! Dad knew that somebody was going to 'catch hell' pretty fast. Indeed! They had to cut off the K4 at Derry for repairs, and as Dad said, "...and that was the last time he ever saw Mr. Washington!" Back in the winter of 1980, one of the first railroad historical outings Dad and I would undertake over the next 10 years was to revisit that site. It had been roughly 20 years since the pans had been removed. (A fellow I work with remembers them still being there around 1960.) We watched the brand new 2-Amfleet I coach and then-new F40 eastbound Pennsylvanian consist speed by at 70MPH track speed, then we started to look around. We found the boiler house foundation, barely, adjacent to the east side of the 981 overpass. Freddy Lattazio's junkyard had since engulfed just about the entire site. We located a few of the cast iron pipes around the old water tower foundation site, at the east end of the complex. Sadly, we found no sign of the Belgian block base which had lined the tracks around the pans, to prevent the imminent erosion from thousands of gallons of splashing water. Since then, Freddy has died, his junkyard has been cleaned up, and I am sure there is even much less of the Saxman installation visible out there. But yes, one 'invisible' remnant does remain... The water supply for the tanks still exists, and is being used! I have not seen it to date, but the reservoir for the water station is located on private property northwest of the site. More great memories, and yes, sometimes a hidden jewel or two for the spectacular historical record Of KEYSTONE HERITAGE.