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April 2004


Ron Stanley Retires

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

Ronald Lee Stanley, veteran Western Maryland Railway/CSXT interlocking tower operator, retired at the end of March following a career spanning 41 years. At the time of his retirement, he held the second-shift position at CSXT's (former B&O) HO Tower in Hancock, West Virginia.

Ron, who turns 60 on April 12, was born in Hancock, Maryland, just across the Potomac River from HO Tower. At the age of one, his family moved to a house on Blue Hill - which can be seen from the tower's window. He lived there until 1975, but he still lives in the area. A 1962 graduate of Hancock High School, he worked for a year at a food market before joining the railroad. He was influenced in his decision to become a railroader by his older brother Owen, also a WM operator. Owen retired from CSXT in 1999.

Ron's first job on the Western Maryland was as a trainee qualifying with Vince Donegan at Big Pool, Maryland. He then went to Hagerstown where he worked at "G" Office as a report clerk for the car distributor.

Other positions he held in Hagerstown included the YD train order office and third-shift at NC Tower. As an extra list employee in his early years, he saw assignments at numerous locations on the company's system, the most distant of which was Walbrook Junction in Baltimore.

For his first visit to Emory Grove in Glyndon, Maryland, he trained on the second-shift position, and then worked the third-shift position that same night all by himself. He was not concerned that he might get in a bind and need some help - the second-shift operator was outside sleeping in his car. Ron did not need to wake him.

Sleeping in one's car was frequent for WM operators, owing to the great distance many of the jobs were from home, but when Ron worked at Lincoln Yard in York, Pennsylvania, he got to sleep in the comfort of a heated caboose.

Ron's favorite job with the Western Maryland was at the Hancock agency, which was very close to home, but he was only able to work there occasionally such as to cover the incumbent's vacation.

His first regular assignment, about 1971, was at Highfield, Maryland, where he worked third-shift. One of the duties at Highfield was to walk about 500 feet west of the office to manually throw a high-stand switch and derail. The switch was adjacent to a house where large dogs ran loose, but they never posed a threat to Ron. In another house, just across the track from the office, lived the signal maintainer. Ron recalls that the maintainer's wife used to bring him items from the family's Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

Once, while working at Williamsport, Maryland, a helper engine that had been added to a train began shoving. The caboose crew was on the engine, and neither they nor the helper crew could see that the caboose had derailed in the process. Ron was right there and he flagged the crew to a stop. Had he not been there to flag the crew, things would surely have gotten much worse.

The WM and B&O operators' rosters were dovetailed in 1976, and Ron displaced onto the third-shift position at HO Tower. Later he assumed the relief job - which worked one day of first-shift and two days each of second and third. In 1998 he assumed first-shift, and in 2001 he took the second-shift position from which he retired.

In retirement, Ron plans to spend time on projects in his workshop, fishing and boating.


PTI - Three Years Later

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

The fun just doesn't stop!

It's now been three years since I reentered the railroad realm by driving a PTI crew van two days a week at Brunswick, Maryland. Golly, how time flies!

The job begins at 1:30 in the afternoon, Fridays and Saturdays. My routine on Friday has become legendary. That's when I get to eat lunch at my favorite restaurant - the Red Horse - located on the 'Golden Mile' along U.S. 40 just west of downtown Frederick. They have great food, the place has a relaxing atmosphere, and the server always knows exactly what I want to eat. And I arrive at about the same time, often just as they open the door to begin their day of business. In fact, on January 2, the manager told me I had the distinction of being their very first customer in the new year.

On Saturdays it's a little different, though, since the Red Horse is not open then for lunch. I'm still searching for the ideal eatery to fill out the Saturday routine, but give me time!

I'm still assigned to van number 2 - the same as when I began the adventure three years ago. It's not the same vehicle, though; that one and several others have been cycled through to the great van pad in the sky. Still, the assignment is the same, and I'm happy to report that I have only had one flat tire in the time that I have been driving. I keep a close watch for spikes, anticreepers and other tire-hating nogoodnicks; it was a tie plate that did me in during my first year of driving!

Nap time comes whenever things get quiet. Some times a couple of hours will pass between runs. But at other times, for several hours, the van is constantly in need. That's when things really get exciting!

A typical day may find me making about eight runs. Our two vans stage at the yard office, and we get our instructions from the yardmaster by radio. Crews use the vans to get from the train to the yard office, and then to another train, or to the hotel, or vice versa. Most runs are confined to the Brunswick area, but sometimes we get to make trips 15 miles or greater. Long distance runs, such as to another terminal, are handled by road drivers. (I'm what's known as a "yard" driver.) Our happy team of drivers is an extended family. So, too, are the crews - many of whom I work with week after week.

The above photo, taken by locomotive engineer Mike Welsh, was staged next to the valley lead just east of the yard office. I intentionally select a different backdrop each year for the photo to accompany my annual report.

As a tribute to my third anniversary with the company, my name was listed in PTI's March newsletter. What an honor! Also, I got a 25-cent-an-hour raise!

PTI has a number of divisions in the eastern U.S. Recently it expanded with five new locations in Virginia. February was the second busiest month in the company's history.

Driving a crew van would never make a person rich, but it's a lot of fun!


Tony Ingram Joins CSXT From Norfolk Southern

Tony L. Ingram, 57, has been named executive vice president and chief operating officer of CSX Transportation, reporting to Michael Ward, chairman of CSX. He joins CSXT from Norfolk Southern where he was senior vice president transportation network and mechanical. He will be responsible for all rail operations including transportation, safety, engineering and mechanical, and service design. Reporting to him will be Mike Cantrell (SVP Engineering & Mechanical), Alan Blumenfeld (SVP Service Design), Bob Bernard (VP Safety), Alison Brown (VP Customer Service Operations), Pat Daly (VP Network Operations), Doug Greer (VP Southern Region), Tony Tuchek (VP Northern Region), and Mike Peterson (VP Process Improvement).


MARC Begins Using Gallery Cars

MARC has begun using some of the gallery cars it acquired last year from Metra in Chicago. On March 13, three of the cars - numbers 7900, 7901 and 7902 - arrived in Brunswick via special train from Cumberland where they had been retrofitted. They began service on the Martinsburg/Brunswick Line the following week. The cars can only be used on those lines as they are incompatible with service using high-level platforms. There are 12 gallery cars altogether, but only about seven of the cars are likely to see service within the near future. In the meantime, two former Amtrak material handling cars - numbers 1426 and 1460 - arrived in Brunswick from Washington on a special MARC train on March 12, and then they moved to Cumberland. They were reportedly acquired by MARC for use as storage for parts for the gallery cars, and their acquisition was in exchange for MARC parlor cars that went to Amtrak.


Norfolk Southern Introduces "Patriot Service"

Norfolk Southern recently introduced "Patriot Service," a door-to-door trailer service between three locations in the South and Massachusetts. NS provides second-day, afternoon delivery between New England and Atlanta; third-day, morning delivery between Greensboro and New England; third-day, afternoon delivery between Atlanta or Memphis and New England; and fourth-day, afternoon delivery between New England and Memphis.


Maryland Midland to Acquire Four GP38-2 Locomotives

Maryland Midland's directors have approved acquiring four GP38-3 locomotives. "While a few details remain to be ironed out, we look forward to placing these units in service in a few months," the company said in its third-quarter report to shareholders. "At that time, the leased GP40-2's will be returned to the lessor."


Amtrak Over-the-Road Train Performance

How the host carriers compare - March 2004

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

This is a statistical survey I conducted over a four-week period this past month in an effort to compare Amtrak train performance on seven individual host railroads across the system. The result of is a figure representing minutes of delay per 1,000 miles of "over-the-road" train operation. The survey began on March 1 and ended on March 28.

Within each of the host railroad categories, portions of train routes were randomly selected to account for Amtrak delays occurring within that particular route segment. Advances in time within any segment were accounted for as well. Except for the Auto Train (which has no intermediate times in the Amtrak schedule), only portions of any trains' route were chosen for the survey. Each portion selected could be of any length, but it was intended that the average length of all segments would be the same for each of the seven host carriers in order to offer the most fair and meaningful pattern of comparison. It was further intended that segments (except for the Auto Train) would not end at a train's terminating point. The selection process also avoided encompassing or ending a segment where trains have dwell time in the schedule for servicing the train. Trains which operate over the lines of different host carriers could be included more than once, with indigenous segments from each of the respective carriers involved. Numerous route portions were included throughout the system involving a number of different assignments in random fashion. All of the long-distance trains were included (although not each and every day), as well as a number of short and intermediate-distance runs. Once again, this is a statistical survey intended to glean representative information.

The survey does not identify the reasons for any delays that were encountered. Some delays - such as mechanical problems, crossing accidents, passengers needing medical attention, over-dwell at stations, etc. - are out of the control of the host railroad. There is a presumption, however, that these type of delays can be expected to occur more or less evenly on a system-wide basis, and they would not likely occur (over a period of time) any more to one host carrier than they would to any other.

The survey was conducted using Amtrak's train status program included on its website. Only those segments showing performance times at both the starting and ending points were included. Selections that provided 'service disruption' advice or ambiguous information were excluded. A total of 1,466 route segment examples were selected, encompassing 205,236 miles of operation. The average segment length was 140 miles. The composite average (overall norm) was 103.6 minutes of delay per 1,000 train miles.

With the added presumptions that the information offered by the train status program was correct, that mileages shown in the timetable are accurate, and Amtrak's schedules allow sufficient time for normal movement between the points selected, the survey is offered as a guide to how each of the host carriers compare with the others in their performance reliability in the movement of Amtrak trains.

Amtrak is also included in the survey, for areas where it serves as its own host carrier. Its surveyed performance (76.8 minutes of delay per 1,000 train miles) represents the second best performance among the seven host carriers. The best performance, according to the survey, was Burlington Northern Santa Fe with 53.8 minutes of delay per 1,000 train miles. The worst performance (uh-oh) was CSX with a whopping 136.9 minutes, and Union Pacific was a tad better with 136.5 minutes.

Inasmuch as the segments that were selected for the survey did not end at terminals (which typically have schedule padding in their final approach), and avoided service stops where host carrier delays are less likely to occur than they would over-the-road, the delay figures included in this survey do not necessarily comprehend a total performance scenario. The composite average of 103.6 minutes of delay per 1,000 train miles is likely somewhat greater than the system-wide (start to finish) average as a whole. Accordingly, the survey should be viewed solely for the comparative purpose of identifying individual host carriers' OVER-THE-ROAD performance reliability.

The survey did not include the various commuter railroads which host Amtrak trains near major cities, nor did it include Guilford, as these systems involve insufficient mileage to offer a meaningful comparison.

The figures (minutes of delay per 1,000 train miles) for the seven major host carriers in March were as follows:


Annual Mid-Winter Amtrak Trip No. 17

[By Rich BallasT] . . .

If you missed this year's Amtrak Trip Of Keystone Heritage #17, you missed probably our best trip yet! Our group of 20 consumed a third of one Amfleet coach! We scooped up this year's participants from as far away as Erie, Pennsylvania, and mixed delegations from the Derry Area Historical Society, the Penn-Ligonier Rail Road Club, the South Penn Railroad Research Consortium, and several of our own PRR T&HS Pittsburgh Chapter members.

Eight folks boarded the train at its origin in Pittsburgh, while 12 of us got on at a beautifully snow-swirly Latrobe station... Cold, but not unbearably so as we have experienced in years past. Train 42 starts out in Pittsburgh, so - as predicted - we departed right on time at 8:22 a.m. No mechanical malfunctions on either the eastbound Amtrak 42 Pennsylvanian, or on the westbound 41 Three Rivers. We had original and second-generation Amfleet II coaches on both trains.

Stu Agreen set up his laptop and followed a nice series of topographic maps and scoured the route for fantastic remnants of the old Pennsylvania Main Line Canal, which preceded the PRR. Probably the most outstanding remnants are that multi-mile long stone retaining wall east of Lewistown, and the awesome piers and abutments of the aqueduct near Duncannon.

We bid farewell to four of our members who "short-turned" to Altoona and back on the westbound Pennsylvanian. And since we finally don't have to deal with Amtrak's mid-winter Chicago end debacle, we arrived in a sunny, cold Harrisburg on time, at 12:30 p.m.

Sixteen of us enjoyed a tasty group luncheon at the cross-street Alva Restaurant. After eating, the South Penn's own Dr. Russ Love escorted the group on a 10-minute walking tour to visit his railroad's Harrisburg end engineering office, located near the piers of the South Penn's unfinished Susquehanna River crossing. We also looked at the nearby John Harris Mansion, and the Reading's adjacent bridge, whose approach still sports four Reading Lines logos from its last (September 1970) paint job. Train 41 pulled in nine minutes late, and we departed Harrisburg at 4:44 p.m.

We played what I have come to despise as the "Assign me a good seat" mystery game, when Bob Stutman and I, the first people at the coach in our group, were assigned seats 25 and 26 by the attendant at the door. Would I get the full (rear) or half front window? Guess what I arrived at presently... the one center coach seat with no window at all! Me, the one person with the video camera! Great! Just great! "Sorry, the train's full tonight, but I'll get you a better seat later," we were told when Bob attempted to get us another seat! That never happened. And don't even think about the previously available lounge/cafe car alternative either, because the Gestapo cafe car hostess will tell you that she has no room for people to "hang out in her car, as she has paying customers to feed!"

The new feeding alternative on the "Circus Train," as our Engineman calls it, locks out casual customers for by-reservation "higher quality" microwave meals ($9 or $16 entrees) between 5:15 and 7:15 p.m. Unbelievable and so sad that the 900-mile overnight descendant of the PRR's Blue Ribbon Broadway Limited has decayed to this state!

We did enjoy some great conversation, sitting among a large contingent of Mennonites who were traveling west from a farm implements sale in Lancaster to both New Enterprise, Pennsylvania, and to Northeastern Iowa. A very nice group of people with a very refreshing demeanor and lifestyle.

Snow streamed in the streetlights at Johnstown, in a picture postcard night scene. With our arrival back at Latrobe five minutes late at 8:50 p.m., we bid our Pittsburgh-bound friends farewell, and thus concluded a most pleasurable and successful Mid-Winter Amtrak Excursion #17. My thanks to everyone who came along this year, and I hope you had as great a trip as I did! Have a great year!

Mark your calendar now for our next Mid-Winter Amtrak Excursion Of Keystone Heritage, #18, set for Saturday, February 5, 2005! - RDB


CSX Subsidiary TRANSFLO Develops Opportunity in Chambersburg, Pa.

TRANSFLO, a subsidiary of CSX Corporation, recently helped develop a new business opportunity in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, with Franklin Storage. The venture will link rail with non-rail served customers by adding lumber and metals reload services. According to a CSX report, Franklin Storage currently has a new 600,000-square-foot warehouse with 15 car spots. It plans to add a 1,000-foot track into eight acres of land adjacent to the facility to accommodate 10 car spots for outdoor unloading. The new facility is located in the new Integrated Logistics Center in Chambersburg. Franklin Storage will be ready to handle lumber and metals that can be stored outside by the fall of 2004, according to the report.