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October 2004

Train Stations With Elegant Clock Towers

[By Beryl Frank] . . .



Nelson Bowers Dies

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

Nelson W. Bowers, 73, who served as president of the National Railway Historical Society from 1983 to 1987, died on September 5. He joined the NRHS in 1947, and was associated with the Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Lancaster chapters. He joined the Baltimore Chapter in 1964, serving as its vice president in 1966, and as its president from 1967 to 1969. He transferred to the Lancaster Chapter in 1972. At the time he was a cost and materials engineer with the Penn Central Railroad. I remember Nelson from his tenure with the Baltimore Chapter. He was a great organizer and a wonderful fellow to work with on chapter train excursions. Being a long-time admirer of the Pennsylvania Railroad, of which he was then employed, my receptive ears were always open when he shared thoughts on the Northern Central line which I had so often ridden as a kid. I also treasured a PRR-Keystone tie clasp he gave me. "Nelson had the PRR Keystone flowing in his blood," said Baltimore Chapter treasurer Charlie Plantholt at the September 2004 meeting. Nelson served the national society as vice president membership from 1972 to 1976 and senior vice president from 1976 to 1983. In addition, he was involved in the joint Lancaster-Philadelphia NRHS Reading FP7 Committee, formed to oversee the restoration of former Reading EMD FP7 diesels 902 and 903. He is survived by his wife Cindy and two stepdaughters.


Amtrak to Make Service Changes November 1

Amtrak has announced it will discontinue the Palmetto south of Savannah effective November 1, the Pennsylvanian west of Harrisburg effective November 1, and the Three Rivers west of Pittsburgh effective March 1. Eliminated altogether will be service to Youngstown, Akron and Fostoria, Ohio, and Nappanee, Indiana. Also eliminated will be rail service to Waldo, Ocala, Wildwood, and Dade City, Florida, but thruway bus service will be available to and from the Silver Star at Jacksonville and Lakeland. With the elimination of mail, some Amtrak scheduled running times will be advanced.


Charles Moorman Elected President of Norfolk Southern

Charles W. Moorman has been elected president of Norfolk Southern effective October 1. Previously he was senior vice president corporate planning and services.


Federal Standards Set for Low-Level Train Platforms

Federal law now requires new construction of low-level train platforms to be a minimum of eight inches above the top of the rail. According to the National Association of Railroad Passengers, this will generally eliminate the need for step boxes and will benefit mobility impaired customers. The standards exempt boarding areas from sidewalks or street level.


Amtrak Over-the-Road Train Performance

How the host carriers compare - September 2004

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

The survey was conducted using randomly selected examples from each of the host carriers between September 1 and September 28. It is offered as a guide to how the host carriers compare with the others.

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



Of Keystone Heritage

[By Rich BallasT] . . .

Welcome back to our Pittsburgh Chapter meeting lineup! We'll be looking forward to seeing all of you at our fall and winter get-togethers! Yes, the leaves are beginning to turn now, the summer warmth is beginning to fade, and the days are shrinking rapidly! It's always with a melancholy eye that your Pennsylvania Reporter assesses the damages over the years. He sees some great things happening out there, and yet, there is always so much being lost to the ravages of time. The beautiful Tuscan Reds will turn to the crisp and vibrant Big Blue skies of autumn, then comes the ugly, long, and cold Black winter (Yes, some do call it "The Plague"). Traversing Central Pennsylvania making preparations for my June 2005 Railroad Station Historical Society annual meeting, I recently saw that those once sturdy relay cases from 1947's Bald Eagle CTC project are now rusting through, and at the former CP-West Julian, individual lights are broken out and dangling from the signal arms. Hearing "NS Alto" over the radio is a weird and awful strange sound. (No, English professors... Not awfully... Just plain awful!) "Alto," as I drove by her, is an architecturally beautiful vestige... and the only acoustically echoing (and human!) oasis on the now solidly cathode tube controlled, NASA-fied Harrisburg-Pittsburgh main line! The beaten and rusting PRR signals out here are dying one by one, yet at Lilly, Signal Bridge 254.6 still boasts a pulley mechanism for the water pipes for #1 and #2 tracks! Yes, a half century later! And, one of our few vestiges of ridable, high iron PRR is doing its back and forth sway from "Yes! We want it!" to "oblivia" every 10 years soon. Next month, we're losing the Broadway's successor, the Three Rivers, which will cut our west end PRR main line riding limits back to Pittsburgh. Things were looking up when they briefly extended the Pennsylvanian to Chicago, as we got back daylight riding west of the Steel City, as well as then two westward routes! Now, come next spring, the temporarily extended Pennsylvanian will retrench to its Pittsburgh stub where it originally terminated some 25 years ago. (And don't get me started on the horrors of originally tying #47's two coaches onto the rear end of the Capitol Limited for a 463-mile backwards ride to the Windy City after they killed the Broadway in '96!) Thank goodness for Bennett Levin and his E8's and Pennsylvania! Thank goodness for those tourist lines now firing up some obscure branch line routes we can enjoy riding on! And a hearty thanks to each and every one of you out there who has somehow managed to grab onto and preserve a deserving relic, however large or small it may be, Of Keystone Heritage!


A Canadian Train Adventure

[By Dale Jacobson] . . .

I had planned to recount my recent Canadian train adventure using prints from that trip, but then I went and LOST a roll of 36 prints, which was most of what I took. All in all, the loss was not great, and I hopefully will get on slides everything I took using prints.

I left at 0300 on September 5th to make the connection with the Adirondack for Montreal. Not too many people on the 0300 departure, so I had some room to stretch out and grab a bit more sleep. The Adirondack, on the other hand, was packed, likely due to the holiday weekend. Nor could I look out the rear on this trip due to the last two cars being reserved for New York Lottery "loser" winners. These were folks who hadn't won, but whose tickets were drawn from all the previously losing tickets and were being treated to a trip to Saratoga Springs. Even after they departed, the coach and cafe car they occupied remained closed. No matter, until we were about half way up Lake Champlain the weather remained cloudy, but then the sun came out. A rear view would have been nice from that point on. Oh well, such are the vagaries of travel on AMTK.

My reason for making this trip was to take advantage of the promotional fares being offered on VIA's Ocean to celebrate its 100th birthday. Given the low fares, I opted for a sleeper in both directions between Montreal and Halifax. And since I wanted to ensure I wouldn't miss the 90 minute connection, I opted to arrive in Montreal a day early. Shortly after we arrived in Montreal, the Ocean pulled out with a set of old x-CP equipment, including a dome-obsy on the rear. Could have made THAT connection, but wondered how the next day's Adirondack would fare.

I spent much of Monday railfanning south of the Central Station area down to the Victoria Bridge. Found some interesting shots along the Lachine Canal bike trail, which goes for some miles, in which you can put VIA trains against the city skyline during much of the day. I used a spur track to reach the CN mainline and the VIA coach yard where the F40PH "Spiderman 2" was being used as the shop switcher. No one seemed concerned that I was out there taking pictures, and I wasn't bothered even once by anyone.

That evening I found that Monday's Ocean was a set of new Renaissance equipment. Rats! But I also heard that I would be coming back on the equipment that went out the previous night. Yeah!

I had a "double bedroom." That is, there were two beds even if not enough other room for two people. In these cars, each room has a separate bathroom which allows you to use it without having to put up a bed like in an old roomette. Alas, the light in the bathroom is constantly on "for safety reasons," according to the VIA staff.

Renaissance equipment wasn't designed for luggage, but having the room to myself, I could use the upper bed and put my two bags on the seats below. In coaches, all baggage must be checked unless it meets a strict size requirement. I had my bags delivered to my room by a redcap as this way I could leave my bags early in the day and go railfanning and then rejoin them in my room What a deal! This is one of the few real advantages of first-class train travel.

Nor is Renaissance equipment designed to produce social interaction between passengers. While every 3rd or 4th sleeping car had a lounge section in it, the seats in these lounges faced different directions with very few being individual seats. Nor were they all that comfortable. I found it better to watch the scenery by kneeling on the floor and looking out a window rather than sitting in a seat. People tended not to stay long in the lounge areas. So I didn't do much socializing on the trip to Halifax. This also could have been due to the clientele of this particular trip. I find each train ride can be completely different than any previous one regarding sociability of the riders. Some trips hum; others are quiet as tombstones.

Likewise, the diners on Renaissance equipment also contain some tables with just two seats rather than the traditional four. As there weren't that many people eating in the diner, I sat alone at one of these smaller tables to eat my delicious spicy eggplant dish. Food serving and preparation is one area where VIA way exceeds AMTK. Some people complained their chicken dish was too spicy, but I don't mark that up as a bad meal, one only not suiting those particular tastes. On AMTK I've occasionally had meals that just plainly were not prepared right. One reason the diner was not overly patronized is that VIA does not include meal service in its first-class ticket price. You do get a complimentary breakfast on the Ocean, but it's a continental style breakfast of rolls, toast, cereal and the likes. On the Renaissance equipment this breakfast is served to you in your room.

One thing I did do to see the scenery better on this Renaissance train was to SIT in the very back of the train and watch the track go away. As there is a floor-to-ceiling glass area, and since it was relatively clean, it was good for photos. And I was obeying the sign that said "Standing" in the vestibule was not permitted. This came in handy while we traveled over the New Brunswick East Coast, the railroad now operating much of the route used by the Ocean. West of Moncton the NBEC junctions with the CN and goes as far west as Charny, across from Quebec City.

NBEC may give VIA's Ocean as much problem as AMTK has gotten from smaller owners of AMTK-used lines. We were delayed 40 minutes by a piece of broken NBEC track machinery. We never made up the loss, even though the weather was good. Too much slow track.

So, we finally got to Halifax, where I spent the night in the Lord Nelson Hotel, did what railfanning I could, and concluded my stay with a walk around the public garden across from the hotel. Then, it was time to return to the station and head west on the old equipment.

I was in roomette #1 in the third car from the end of the train. Thus, I could use the dome-obsy, the first time I've been privileged to partake of the amenities of such a grand car. Having been in plenty of domes before, I opted to spend the trip to Moncton sitting downstairs watching the track disappear without worrying that I could get in trouble with the conductor. The view was glorious, but talking with other passengers, including a model railroader and his wife, proved distracting at times. With the chairs along the windows, this car was designed for conversation and socializing. Our complimentary breakfast was served in this car as well. The social dynamics were so different from the Renaissance train, and everyone who had ridden on the new equipment complained about it in comparison to the old equipment. Too bad VIA has spent so much $$$ on the new stuff it cannot afford to listen to the complaints.

Dinner in the diner was once again community seating. I sat with a Canadian couple originally from England and another lady traveling by herself. Afterwards we retired to the dome car where we found the lights were ON. Huh? I finally was able to persuade the car attendant that he didn't need to leave the overhead lights on for safety reasons; the dim lights on the chairs themselves provided adequate protection. Score one for the kid!

The roomette was a roomette like all others I've had before. Nothing special. I was glad there were a couple of bathrooms available in the next car for berth passengers that I could use rather than having to fight the bed to get to the toilet. Things were cramped, and I think it was in this roomette that I misplaced that roll of print film.

Upon arrival in Montreal the trip reverted to coach passage on various VIA corridor trains. Such trains were invariably crowded, but the LRC cars were comfortable as were the older "Heritage" cars. Unlike on AMTK, in economy class seating, an attendant brings drinks and snacks to your seat rather than your going to a cafe-type car.

I arrived in Ottawa with the remnants of Hurricane Frances. Had given myself that afternoon to see the city, and I had to do it in a downpour. I rode the O-Train, a diesel (DMU) demonstration project between Nowhere (Bayview) and No Place (Greenboro) on a north-south alignment on the west side of town. Two sets of two DMU's provide all the service so it didn't take long to both ride and get some photos of this operation. Then it was off to Parliament for a tour, and after that, the rain had let up, and I began to dry out.

Of course, the next morning dawned sunny, and I was soon on my way to Toronto and then on to London. More crowded corridor trains and a three-hour layover in Toronto. I checked a bag to London and took my camera bag with me to do some railfanning. Best shot of the afternoon was a VIA P42 and GO Train coming into the station area side by side.

In London I visited my friend John Parnell. He had to work Saturday so I spent the day along the CN. Must have been close to 25 trains in eight hours. The next day we went railfanning south and west of London, chasing the NSC #327 down to a neat trestle in St. Thomas. Then it was back to Toronto for the night on another crowded corridor train.

Monday morning I left on the Maple Leaf. With real good luck, I could make a quick connection at Penn Station and arrive home at 0105 Tuesday. Not to be. At U.S. Customs, they found someone of interest and delayed our departure from Niagara by about 40 minutes. CSX then added to the delays with freight congestion, and we arrived in Penn Station at 2305 hours. I was surprised by how fast time went until it was time to board #67 for its 0705 arrival at New Carrollton.

It was nice, however, to finally see in daylight the scenery in western New York that gets passed at night on the Lake Shore. While the ride along the Hudson is nice, I've done that often enough in daylight to willingly trade daytime in western New York for night time along the Hudson.

Finally, I did something on the Maple Leaf I've not done since college: I played a few hands of cards (gin rummy). I was out of my league, but so what! I was really waiting to get something to eat in the cafe car. On such trains as the Maple Leaf, the cafe car is the only place to sit to see the scenery, or talk with people. It's that sociability thing again.