Rail news from Cdr Jim for 7/30/2016

  1. NARP Hotline for 7/29/16



  1. Latest on NNEPRA’s state review



  1. PHOTOS: N, Carolina’s massive passenger rail improvement project well underway



  1. GOP aims to throw mass transit funding under the bus



  1. Severe weather delays Downeaster trains for hours



  1. PHOTOS: 13 photo galleries of “Trains, Glorious Trains”



  1. MBTA oks $18.5m for Red Line winter resiliency work



  1. Freight RR traffic decline continues, and continues, and continues



  1. Latest photos of the Brunswick Layover Facility



10.     From TRAINS Magazine: Passenger railroad company, regional to host special passenger excursion

July 25, 2016


WORCESTER, Mass. — The Boston Surface Railroad Co., a group looking to operate commuter rail service between Providence, R.I., and Worcester, Mass., is announcing a special sightseeing excursion on the Providence & Worcester Railroad and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor on Saturday, July 30. 

The company is hosting the special excursion to discuss details about the company’s ideas to restore passenger service to the Blackstone River Valley. The trip will depart from Worcester Union Station at 9 a.m. and will operate to Groton, Conn., before connecting to the Northeast Corridor past Providence. The excursion will return to Worcester around 4:15 p.m. 

According to the Mass Bay Railroad Enthusiasts, members of the railfan group will be able to ride the sightseeing excursion at a reduced fare, courtesy of the Boston Surface Railroad Co. Adult fares would be $50 for the event, however members of the enthusiast group will be only $40. 

The round-trip excursion will use diesel and passenger equipment operated by the Providence & Worcester Railroad.


11.     From TRAINS Magazine: Comparing food on dining cars to lounge-diners

Amtrak’s temporary menu changes aren’t all bad, and some are tasty

By Bob Johnston | July 26, 2016

Bob Johnston

CHICAGO — The decision to temporarily substitute Amfleet II diner lounges for heritage dining cars on the Lake Shore Limited beginning last week means the train’s menu will feature fare similar to what is served on other long distance trains with limited food preparation facilities.

Instead of steaks at dinner, cooked-to-order omelets or french toast at breakfast, and side orders like mashed and baked potatoes available in Superliner and heritage dining cars, Amtrak’s Amfleet IIs are confined to what can be prepared in convection and microwave ovens. Heritage dining cars are cars that Amtrak inherited from predecessor private railroads and were built in the 1940s and 1950s.

A journey on the Chicago-Washington-New YorkCardinal in June shows a reduced selection at each meal and slow service because only one attendant serves patrons and heats pre-plated food. Presumably more staffing can help mitigate that situation, especially westbound out of Albany, N.Y., where passengers from the Boston section board at dinnertime. 

But the reduced food service has pluses: fresh fruit accompanied a sausage-egg breakfast dish, thick sandwiches and a fresh garden salad were offered at lunch, and the dinner choices included a decent barbeque pulled pork dish with macaroni-and-cheese, lasagna, chicken enchilada, and tilapia with wild rice. 

With the exception of the City of New Orleans, all other long-distance trains with a Superliner or heritage dining car have been serving the same menu all summer. 

Dinner selections might include a special, but otherwise the choices are always the same: roast chicken, steak, black-bean vegetable enchiladas or Pad Thai with rice noodles for the vegetarian dish, corkscrew pasta in a three-cheese sauce, and shrimp-crab cakes. 

On the City, Amtrak is experimenting with counter-top convection and microwave ovens prepared upstairs in a Superliner diner lounge, so those menus are similar to the ones on theCardinal and Lake Shore

Food preparation technology has improved since 2007, when a revision of U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules led to a similar temporary substitution of Amfleet IIs on the Lake Shore. Since then, all Amtrak food service cars now must be taken out of service for several trips every 90 days to undergo extensive FDA inspection. 

Since June, when the vintage single-level cars were withdrawn from service [See the September 2016 issue of Trains for more details], Amtrak had been operating with only one car to substitute among the 11 required for service on the CrescentSilver Meteor, and Lake Shore Limited. Rather than risk offering no food service if one of those cars failed an inspection, management opted for the Amfleet IIs on the train that served the fewest meals en route.


12.     From TRAINS Magazine: NAACP says public transit is a civil right

July 26, 2016


CINCINNATI — During its annual convention held recently, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, also known as the NAACP, passed a national transportation policy platform that establishes public transportation as a basic civil right.

All Aboard Ohio Vice Chair Derek Bauman championed the policy in a resolution that was written by All Aboard Ohio’s Executive Director, Ken Prendergast. The resolution says that a public transportation system is a basic civil right for every public and private entity. 

“Despite the investment made to more freely move within our nation’s properties and structures or crossing public right of way, the public and private sector has yet to provide equal transportation access for many Americans disadvantaged by physical, economic, or discriminatory hardships to travel to these locations,” the resolution reads.

The association says it will advocate for legislation in every states’ constitution that declares public transportation to be a basic civil right that is accessible to everyone, among other initiatives that look at the locations of businesses in relationship to their access to transit routes, and policies that would require states to distribute funding to counties, or a series of counties based on the share of households without vehicles.


13.     From TRAINS Magazine: Clinton less generous on infrastructure promises than her opponents

By Justin Franz | July 27, 2016

Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — Months before becoming the Democratic nominee for President, Hillary Clinton outlined a plan to make infrastructure a top priority if elected in November. But despite the specifics offered by its candidate — who was officially nominated this week in Philadelphia — the Democratic Party’s platform remains vague when it comes to rail-related policies. 

Late in 2015, Clinton released a five-year plan that would increase federal infrastructure spending by $275 billion and, in May of this year, Clinton promised to send a comprehensive infrastructure bill to Congress within her first 100 days in office.

“We will start working immediately because I want to get this issue behind us,” Clinton said at the time. 

Clinton’s five-year plan calls for the allocation of $250 billion to direct infrastructure investments and another $25 billion for a national infrastructure bank that would offer loans for various projects.

Among the rail-related projects outlined in Clinton’s plan is a renewed focus on passenger rail investment; the elimination of dangerous grade crossings across the country; and rebuilding outdated rail tunnels and bridges. Perhaps the most ambitious — and specific — part of Clinton’s plan is a promise to upgrade at least 25 of the nation’s most costly freight bottlenecks by the end of her first term, including the railroad Rubik’s Cube, Chicago. 

“Every year, U.S. businesses have to spend an extra $27 billion just in transportation costs because of congestion in our freight networks alone,” Clinton’s plan states. 

“Cargo trains can reach Chicago from Los Angeles in 48 hours, only to spend 30 hours crawling across Chicago itself.”

The Democratic Party’s official platform, which was approved earlier in July, offers fewer specifics, although it does back additional investments and the creation of a national infrastructure bank. In the entire 55-page platform document, railroads are only mentioned once in passing. 

“We will put Americans to work updating and expanding our roads, bridges, public transit, airports, and passenger and freight rail lines,” the platform states.
Clinton’s plan is considerably more modest compared to those put forth by her Republican challenger, Donald Trump, and her former primary rival, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. Both candidates were promising to spend more than $1 trillion on infrastructure. However, some believe that Clinton’s plan is a more realistic goal.

“The plan is a promising step in the right direction,” Brian Pallasch, chief lobbyist for the Society of Civil Engineers, told The Atlantic magazine earlier this year. 

In years past, transportation advocates have been hard pressed to find presidential candidates interested in spending valuable political capital pushing for infrastructure investments. However, this year, candidates on both sides have called for rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure. It’s a welcome change of pace, says Marcia Hale, president of Building America’s Future, a bipartisan coalition of elected official dedicated to infrastructure investment.

“There is a realization in the nation that we really need to invest in our infrastructure and that there are different ways of doing that,” Hale tells Trains News Wire.


14.     From TRAINS Magazine: Coal trains on the rise in southwest Virginia

By Tishia Boggs | July 27, 2016


BIG STONE GAP, Va. — Within a year of mothballing a section of its former Clinchfield line between Frisco, Tenn., and McClure, Va., CSX Transportation has witnessed a notable upswing in coal traffic over the past two weeks. Newly-formed Contura Energy LLC is now leading the way to increased rail traffic out of southwestern Virginia. That traffic comes just weeks after the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia confirmed that a new deal had been approved in the restructuring of Alpha Natural Resources mining operations.

Contura Energy emerged from the Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization as a new company comprised of the members of Alpha Natural’s top lien holders. Along with purchasing Alpha’s Nicholas, McClure, and Toms Creek complexes in West Virginia and Virginia, Contura now controls the company’s two Powder River Basin mining complexes in Wyoming, all of the companies interest in its Dominion Terminal Associates coal export terminal in Newport News, Va., among other assets and working capital, and all its Pennsylvania coal operations and certain coal reserves. 

In one week alone, Contura’s McClure Complex has moved from loading two metallurgical coal unit trains per week to six in the third week of July, with five new train orders already confirmed the week beginning July 25, with more orders expected. As the locals notice a decrease in stored empty coal hoppers along the mothballed section of the former Clinchfield Railroad, chatter has already begun to keep a watchful eye on how this might affect coal traffic leaving the Powder River Basin.


15.     From TRAINS Magazine: Amtrak sends flood relief supplies to West Virginia

By Chase Gunnoe | July 27, 2016

Chase Gunnoe

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Amtrak employees are taking West Virginia relief efforts into their own hands by distributing supplies by train today.

Heavy rains in late June created historic floods that destroyed communities in West Virginia, including ones served by Amtrak’s Cardinal

The passenger railroad collected donations at stations and Amtrak facilities in eight cities. Now, those materials are headed to West Virginia on the baggage car of Amtrak’s Cardinal No. 50. Amtrak says employees will deliver the supplies during the Cardinal’s next regularly scheduled stop in White Sulphur Springs at 5:05 p.m. today.

“White Sulphur Springs is an Amtrak-served community, and we saw a way to help our fellow Americans just by using what we have at-hand, which is an interconnected network between the major cities of the east coast and the rest of our great nation through Chicago,” says Charlie Monte Verde of Amtrak’s government affairs office.

Verde adds that providing donations is a “testament to the kind of connectivity we bring to the regions on our national network” and while the railroad serves big cities, it’s “equally important that we connect Greenbrier County to the rest of the nation as well.”

“A lot of communities no longer have intercity bus service and never had regular commercial air service, so having Amtrak service can be a lifeline, sometimes quite literally,” he says.

Amtrak says it emphasized the need for back-to-school supplies for the upcoming academic school year. The railroad also worked with the American Red Cross; Neighbors Loving Neighbors, a community organization; and the West Virginia National Guard on collecting needed items.
White Sulphur Springs, an Amtrak station stop along the route of the Cardinal, was one of the hardest hit communities during the June floods. Hundreds of homes were destroyed and the floods claimed the lives of more than 20 residents. Freight and passenger rail service was also disrupted for more than four days.


16.     From TRAINS Magazine: US DOT announces PTC grants for commuter railroads

July 28, 2016


WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transportation today announced that it will accept applications for $199 million in competitive grant funding for positive train control implementation. The grants, which will be selected by the Federal Railroad Administration and awarded and administered by the Federal Transit Administration, will help commuter railroads implement PTC, which prevents accidents and saves lives. 

“With more passengers depending on rail for transportation, positive train control is needed more than ever,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “I encourage all commuter railroads to take full advantage of this opportunity to invest in the most important rail safety technology in more than a century.”

Congress authorized the funding in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, and the funding is available for fiscal year 2017. PTC technology can prevent certain train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, incursions into established work zones, and trains routed to the wrong tracks because a switch was left in the wrong position. 

FRA will accept applications until 5 p.m. Eastern time on Sept. 28. Projects eligible for grants must develop information that assists in implementing PTC systems, such as costs of installing PTC systems; back office systems; PTC interoperability; technologies that will lower costs, accelerate implementation, enhance interoperability between host and tenant operations, and improve reliability of PTC systems; and support PTC system certification. Eligible applicants include any entity that is eligible to receive grants from the FTA, such as commuter railroads, operators, and state and local governments.

“This funding will get us a bit closer to activating positive train control on some of the most important railroads in the country that transport millions of passengers to their jobs each morning and to their families each night,” said FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg. “We urge railroads to submit strong applications that make these dollars go as far as possible, and we remain hopeful that Congress will act on the President’s request for more funding to make PTC a reality as quickly as possible.”

In 2008, Congress mandated PTC implementation on certain railroad main lines where railroads transport poisonous-by-inhalation, or toxic-by-inhalation, hazardous materials, or any line where a railroad provides regularly scheduled passenger service. Last October, Congress extended the original deadline from Dec. 31, 2015, to at least Dec. 31, 2018.

The President has consistently made funding and assistance for commuter railroads to implement PTC a priority. In his fiscal year 2017 budget request, the President requested $1.25 billion. This follows requests of $825 million in both fiscal years 2015 and 2016.


17.     From TRAINS Magazine: Central Maine & Quebec unveils new paint scheme

July 29, 2016

Kevin Burkholder

BANGOR, Maine — Central Maine & Quebec Railway took delivery of its first of eight rebuilt Electro-Motive Division GP38-3 locomotive, No. 3812, in the company’s new corporate paint scheme.

The locomotive, originally built as Penn Central GP38 No. 7791 in 1969, was completely rebuilt and overhauled at the CAD Railway Industries facility, located in Lachine on the periphery of Montreal, Quebec. 

The new scheme is designed to pay homage to the CMQ’s Canadian Pacific Railway heritage and to establish a new identity for the company, which will eventually adorn the remainder of the locomotive fleet. 

“These new GP38-3 locomotives have recently undergone a fundamental rebuild and rehabilitation with new but proven, technological and mechanical upgrades. CMQ and Fortress Transportation and Infrastructures Investors will continue to invest and improve our infrastructure and equipment so that we can serve our shippers and customers more effectively and efficiently,” says John Giles, railroad president and CEO. “These new GP38-3’s will provide dependable, economic service to CMQ and its clients for years to come. And, they look pretty darn sharp too.”

Central Maine GP38-3 No. 3812 will be released to general service where the company’s four-axle locomotives are typically used and it (or one of the other emerging units in the new scheme) will be on display at the 2016 24th Annual Glory Days of the Railroad Festival in White River Junction, Vermont, on Sept. 10 and 11.

Kevin Burkholder of Steel Wheels Productions and Photography designed and adapted the new paint scheme.


18.     From TRAINS Magazine: Amtrak holds open house for proposed Washington Union Station upgrades

July 29, 2016


Malcolm Kenton

WASHINGTON — Final designs have been approved, preliminary work will start this summer, and active construction will start this fall on a three-year project to rebuild and greatly expand the passenger waiting and boarding areas at Washington Union Station. The station, designed by renowned Chicago architect Daniel Burnham and completed in 1907, the second busiest station in the Amtrak system, serving nearly 5 million annual intercity travelers along 53,000 daily commuter train passengers and thousands of daily intercity bus riders. 

The $4 to 6 million in upgrades, funded by Amtrak and the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation, will replace the area in the rear of the station that was built in the early 1980s and is known as the W. Graham Claytor Jr. Concourse, after the late former Southern Railway president and fourth president of Amtrak. The station was not designed to handle the volume of commuters that pass through twice daily, a number that is still growing as the Washington region adds jobs and commuting patterns remain highly centralized. The modernization is part of the Washington Union Station 2nd Century Plan, but is being funded and managed separately from the longer-term project that will rebuild the track area and build a massive mixed-use complex of buildings in the air rights above the platforms. The latter plans are in the environmental review stage.

Once complete, Maryland Area Rail Commuter and Virginia Railway Express commuters will have an easier time getting to and from Metrorail trains and local buses, queues waiting to board Amtrak trains won’t occupy the concourse space, and sleeping car and Acela First Class passengers will have a much more modern ClubAcela lounge in a glass-enclosed space above the concourse with more amenities — and a view of both the trains and the waiting areas below.

Amtrak hired design team KGP Design Studio, Grimshaw Architects and ARUP to begin design work for the project in late 2015, under the direction of Senior Infrastructure Planner David Zaidain. Stakeholders including MARC, VRE, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the D.C. Department of Transportation, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Akridge (a property development firm that owns the air rights above the station), the National Association of Railroad Passengers and local elected officials were involved in the design. The project will add about 20,000 square feet of new passenger space and will see all the walls between the headhouse and the platforms town down and replaced by a floor-to-ceiling glass wall separating the waiting areas from the platforms, with a gate for each platform. Plans are to have an Amtrak usher checking passengers’ tickets at each gate at boarding time.

The rebuilt concourse will include entirely new restrooms, more comfortable and spacious waiting areas, relocated retail spaces, and more mobile device charging stations. There will be a clear pathway from the easternmost gate all the way to the redesigned north entrance to the Metrorail station at the west end. The new ClubAcela will be one flight of stairs or elevator above the waiting area on the west end. The existing baggage storage room next to Gate A will disappear, and Amtrak will handle daily parcel checking in the baggage claim area, which will not be moved. The only thing lacking in the rebuilt concourse will be an event space, currently provided by the “Starlight Room” behind Gates C and D.

The construction will be completed in phases from late 2016 through mid-2020. Construction will begin in earnest in late 2017. While one half of the concourse is being renovated, there will be temporary waiting and queuing areas at the other half, with ushers guiding passengers around the construction area. A temporary ClubAcela location will be found and the lounge may close for periods of time.

Stakeholders and passengers from whom Amtrak sought input were quite happy with the designs, with the prevailing sentiment that anything would be better than the current cramped, chaotic scene in the Claytor Concourse, according to Amtrak spokeswoman Chelsea Kopta.


19.     From TRAINS Magazine: FRA Releases Tier 1 Draft NEC Futures Study

By Joseph M. Calisi | July 29, 2016

Joseph M. Calisi

WASHINGTON — A study about reinventing the Northeast Corridor operated by Amtrak has been released by the Federal Railroad Administration. The draft represents an accumulation of comments from over 3,200 individuals, agencies, and organizations into one document and are instrumental in the FRA’s process to identify a preferred alternative for evaluation in the final environmental review.

NEC FUTURE, is a comprehensive rail investment planning effort to define, evaluate, and prioritize future investments in the Northeast Corridor from Washington, D.C. to Boston. The document is set to consider the role of rail passenger service in the context of current and future transportation demands. The goal is to determine a long-term vision and investment program for the corridor.

The comment period for the NEC FUTURE Tier 1 draft environmental impact statement was designed to accumulate comments and suggestions. The FRA considered comments from the public, agencies, and stakeholders, as well as the analysis presented in the environmental statement and FRA policy objectives, to identify a preferred investment program. The preferred alternative provides a framework for future rail improvements on the NEC, and will be described and evaluated in the final environmental statement.

A summary of comments is now available on the NEC FUTURE website, along with the full set of submissions received. A summary describes the main themes expressed in the comments and how the FRA is using this feedback to identify a preferred alternative.


20.     From TRAINS Magazine: STB Amtrak decisions decried by railroads, supported by passenger group

By R G Edmonson | July 29, 2016


WASHINGTON — The Surface Transportation Board on Thursday issued two decisions affecting Amtrak’s on-time performance. In the first, the board decided not to issue a new policy statement that would have governed how it investigated complaints that freight railroads were not giving Amtrak trains preferential treatment. In the second, the board set a standard for measuring Amtrak’s on-time performance. 

The board said it would investigate on a case-by-case basis if a freight railroad was at fault for Amtrak’s failure to meet an 80-percent on-time performance goal. Under the policy statement it proposed in December 2015, freight railroads would have had more latitude in carrying out the preference requirement set down in the 1970s law that established the National Passenger Railroad Corp.

“Currently, we do not view the preference requirement as absolute. In other words, a host rail carrier need not resolve every individual dispatching decision between freight and passenger movements in favor of the passenger train,” the policy statement says. “Moreover, a requirement of absolute preference might not, in the long run, promote efficient passenger service.”

The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 said that, on average, 80 percent of Amtrak intercity trains should operate on time. The law authorizes the board to investigate if passenger trains delays are the fault of the host freight railroad.

The board’s decision establishes a formula for calculating on-time performance: a train that arrived at a station within 15 minutes of the timetable schedule would be considered on time. The board will use an “all stations” measurement — on-time between intermediate stations — as well as terminal-to-terminal performance. 

The Department of Transportation is also using the 15-minute standard for airline passenger flight arrivals. It is included in transportation department strategic goals published in 2013. 

The Association of American Railroads said that freight railroads will continue to comply with the preference requirement of the law.

“It is a disappointment the [board] has decided to add mid-point on-time performance measures, which could result in negative impacts for freight rail customers and consumers,” the AAR said in a statement, “but the freight rail industry will continue to work with Amtrak to provide dependable passenger service in the country. In the meantime, we will review the two decisions and evaluate our further legal options.”

The National Association of Railroad Passengers applauded the STB ruling. 

“NARP congratulates the STB for coming to the correct decision in these important rulemakings,” said NARP President Jim Mathews. “The STB plays a crucial role in ensuring that the national rail system operates both fairly and efficiently, and in ensuring that Congressional mandates are respected and enforced.”

BR&W Steam Photo Freight & Night Photo June 25th

The Volunteer Railroaders Association in conjunction with the Black River Railroad Historic Trust is proud to announce a special photographers Photo Freight on Saturday June 25th featuring the Black River & Western #60. The #60 is a 2-8-0 Consolidation and is New Jersey’s oldest operating steam locomotive. The train will be made up of passenger equipment, freight cars and even a caboose. At least 7 photo run-bys will be staged along the route between Three Bridges and Ringoes, which will give everyone the chance to get some great pictures.

The day will start at 2:30 pm in Flemington where participants will meet to find out all the details for the day. When the last regularly scheduled train of the day arrives, it will head for Three Bridges instead of turning back for Ringoes. Due to “excepted track” we will not be able to board the train for this leg of the trip, but instead we will follow the train and be given the chance to take some very rare photos of the #60 and her train. More info & tickets

Middletown (NY) Railroad Day 2016

Erie Train # 6 detour with O&W 503 to Jersey City. This train went from the Erie;'s Middletown (DW) Yard via the main line to Goshen. The train then took the Erie's Montgomery Branch to Campbell Hall. The train would then cross the O&W diamond with th Montgomery Branch and back via the interchange track to the O&W Main line. The other possibility was to enter JM off the Montgomery Branch into CNE / NH trackage and then back onto the O&W via the O&W switch to connect with the NH to the O&W's main line. The train then proceed over the O&W to Cornwall and onto the West Shore to the NYS&W at Little Ferry. From there it went over the NYS&W to Jersey City with most likely NYS&W pilots. Erie Pilots would have been required from Middletown to Campbell Hall.

Erie Train # 6 detour with O&W 503 to Jersey City. This train went from the Erie;’s Middletown (DW) Yard via the main line to Goshen. The train then took the Erie’s Montgomery Branch to Campbell Hall. The train would then cross the O&W diamond with the Montgomery Branch and back via the interchange track to the O&W Main line. The other possibility was to enter JM off the Montgomery Branch into CNE t/ NH trackage and then back onto the O&W via the O&W switch to connect with the NH to the O&W’s main line. The train then proceed over the O&W to Cornwall and onto the West Shore to the NYS&W at Little Ferry. From there it went over the NYS&W to Jersey City with most likely NYS&W pilots. Erie Pilots would have been required from Middletown to Campbell Hall.

More info http://ontarioexpress.org/2016/06/middletown-railroad-day-2016/

Rail news from Cdr Jim for 5/28/2016


  1. PHOTO: Mother and child dead after being struck by Amtrak train at crossing



  1. VIDEO: NNEPRA May Board meeting AND Brunswick Layover Facility walking tour video



  1. New FRA Rules Strengthen Protections for Maintenance of Way Workers, Expand Drug and Alcohol Testing 

Separate rules increase protections, add Maintenance of Way workers to drug and alcohol testing policy

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today announced it has issued two final rules to better protect railroad employees working on or near railroad tracks. One rule amends the existing Roadway Worker Protection regulation. The second rule, Control of Alcohol and Drug Use, revises FRA’s existing alcohol and drug testing regulations and expands the requirements to now cover maintenance of way (MOW) employees. The second rule fulfills a requirement of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

“Clear communication, multiple layers of safety and a rigorous alcohol and drug testing policy are critical to keep workers along and near tracks—and ultimately passengers and train crews—out of harm’s way,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “These are common sense rules that will help make our railroads safer.”

The Roadway Worker Protection final rule amendments will: (1) resolve different interpretations that have emerged since the rule went into effect nearly 20 years ago; (2) implement FRA’s Railroad Safety Advisory Committee’s (RSAC) consensus recommendations; (3) codify certain FRA Technical Bulletins; (4) codify a FAST Act mandate by adopting new requirements governing redundant signal protections; (5) address the safe movement of roadway maintenance machinery over signalized non-controlled track (not under a dispatcher’s control); and (6) amend certain qualification requirements for roadway workers.

The latest amendments require that job briefings include information for roadway worker groups on the accessibility of the roadway worker in charge; set standards for how “occupancy behind” train authorities (when the authority for a work crew does not begin until the train has passed the area) can be used; and require annual training for any individual serving as a roadway worker in charge.

In addition to the existing requirement to have a primary means of protection by establishing working limits and a requirement that all affected roadway workers be notified before working limits are released, FRA’s rule changes will now require another level of redundant signal protection.

“These new rules add another layer of protection for workers who work along and near railroad tracks and will help us reduce preventable worker injuries and fatalities,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg.

In response to both a congressional mandate and a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendation, FRA is broadening the scope of its existing drug and alcohol testing regulation to cover MOW employees. Currently, a MOW employee is only drug and alcohol tested when he or she has died as a result of an accident or incident. MOW employees will now be fully subject to FRA’s drug and alcohol testing that includes random testing, post-accident testing, reasonable suspicion testing, reasonable cause testing, pre-employment testing, return-to-duty testing and follow-up testing.

“Whether you are an engineer, conductor or someone working alongside the tracks, safety requires alertness. Any reduction in awareness caused by drugs or alcohol use can often be the difference between life and death,” Feinberg added.

The Control of Alcohol and Drug Use rule, which also clarifies interpretations since the testing rule went into effect in 1986, includes other substantive changes. In response to another NTSB recommendation, the rule changes will now allow drug testing of railroad and MOW employees that are believed to have caused an incident at a railroad crossing.

The final Roadway Worker Protection rule is effective April 1, 2017. The Control of Alcohol and Drug Use goes into effect one year after publication.

Read the rules:

  1. NARP 5/27/16 Hotline



  1. VIDEO: The crumbling NEC infrastructure



  1. Springfield-Boston commuter rail service study gets green light



  1. S. air system is critically overcrowded due to decades of critically unbalanced U.S. transportation policy



  1. Meet Amtrak’s 2015 Police Officer of the year



  1. SLIDE SHOW AND VIDEO: Springfield Union Station stolen benches mystery



  1. Plan for Metro-North trains to also use Penn Station gets financial green light



  1. VIDEO AND PHOTOS: You’ve got to see this to believe it . . .



  1. NEC’s Hudson River crossing: Why not build a . . . BRIDGE . . . instead?  Makes too much sense??



  1. Watchdog Report: TSA sidestepping rail security requirements



  1. NBA star denied seat on Amtrak train by racist woman



  1. VIDEO: SEPTA train rock-throwing damage minutes before Amtrak 188’s tragedy



  1. Woman hit by Amtrak train . . . DRIVES AWAY



  1. MBTA GM DePaola to step down June 30



  1. Panel OKs NYMTA’s $27B capital program



  1. Fallout from 188 findings: UTU formally contests radio distractions to FRA



  1. DOWN, DOWN, DOWN, Freight RR traffic continues trend DOWN, DOWN, . . .



  1. Fired BNSF conductor awarded $1.6M by jury (for DOING a brake test!)



22.     From TRAINS Magazine: Clinton: transportation and infrastructure top priorities if elected

By Justin Franz | May 26, 2016


LOS ANGELES — On a campaign swing through California this week, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton promised to make infrastructure and transportation a top priority if elected.
The former secretary of state says she would push a comprehensive infrastructure bill through Congress within her first 100 days in the White House to the tune of $275 billion. CNN published Clinton quotes in which she calls her proposal the “biggest infrastructure investment since Dwight Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System.” 
Clinton released her plan late last year but this week was the first time she said it would be a top priority of her first three months in office. 

The plan calls for spending $275 billion over five-years; $250 billion would be for direct public investment while the other $25 billion would be for a “national infrastructure bank.” That money would in turn be used for loans to support other transportation-related projects. Besides calling for increased spending on passenger and commuter rail systems, Clinton’s plan also calls for improving freight rail infrastructure and specifically addresses the congestion around Chicago. 

“Cargo trains can reach Chicago from Los Angeles in 48 hours, only to spend 30 hours crawling across Chicago itself,” the plan reads. Clinton’s plan promises to address the “25 most costly freight bottlenecks by the end of her first term.”

Despite the lofty goals set by Clinton, the price tag of her plan pales in comparison to some of the proposals made by her two remaining competitors: U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump. Both the Vermont senator and New York businessman have promised to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure if elected. Like Clinton, Sanders released his plan last year calling for big investments in passenger rail projects. Trump has been less specific on what he would do, however he frequently mentions America’s crumbling infrastructure on the campaign trail.


Rail news from Cdr Jim for 5/21/2016

  1. Ten of America’s “most fantastic” train trips



  1. NARP Hotline for 5/20/16



  1. MBTA trims overtime expenses and absenteeism



  1. BLET to FRA: A two-person crew in 188’s locomotive would have prevented that tragedy



  1. Senate would allow Amtrak to keep NEC profits in NEC to pay for NEC infrastructure improvements



  1. AG insists state “sick leave” law covers RR workers, too.  RRs disagree



  1. Downeaster’s new schedule starting Monday, May 23rd (MBTA schedules change May 23rd, too!)



  1. MBTA to begin new non-stop express service between Boston and Worcester May 23rd



  1. Avoid the traffic, take the FREE train to this year’s Quonset, RI, Air Show



  1. Amtrak at 45: A look at its humble beginnings



  1. 188’s victims: Investigative findings hard to believe



  1. Advocates begin long journey to bring passenger rail service to central Maine



  1. Boston Globe review: Transit IS a frequent target of terrorists



14.     From TRAINS Magazine: $36 million to benefit more than 30 rail projects in Pennsylvania


HARRISBURG, Pa. — Recent appropriations through two state grant programs will benefit more than 30 freight rail projects in the state of Pennsylvania. State legislators have approved $36 million for 15 projects through the Rail Transportation Assistance Program and 16 projects through the Rail Freight Assistance Program.

The state grants will be used to fund track infrastructure upgrades, including new rail, ballast, switches, turnouts, and some upgrades to bridges. The grant programs are funded with bonds and a new Multimodal Fund created by legislation that invests in all transportation modes.

“Pennsylvania has the most railroads in the country and these make up a vital component of our economic and transportation activities,” says Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf. “These investments underscore our role in supporting jobs and economies across the state.” 

The two programs will benefit all classes of railroads as well as industrial operations. The grant money will be used to improve track, ballast, switches, turnouts, bridges, and other wayside equipment throughout the state. 

Some of the highlights of the project include $5 million to construct a new bridge across the Lehigh River and install 1,205-feet of new track on the Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad, $3.6 million to improve the Butler Yard and shop tracks on the Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad, $3.4 million to repair and rehabilitate the East Pittsburgh Viaduct on the Union Railroad, $3 million to build tracks and install crossovers, turnouts, and derails at the new CSX Transportation-served Pittsburgh Intermodal Terminal. A full list of railroads beneficiaries is available online.


15.     From TRAINS Magazine: Kansas City Streetcar handles more than 57,000 riders in first week

May 17, 2016

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The country’s newest streetcar system is in full operation and, according to ridership statistics from its first week of operation, the new service is exceeding initial ridership projections.

The Kansas City Streetcar Authority’s KC Streetcar service handled more than 57,000 passengers in its first week of operation. The agency initially projected an average of 2,700 riders per day. During its first day of operation on Friday, May 6, the service carried 12,230 riders and the line reported its highest single day ridership on Saturday, May 7, with 14,648 passengers. The preliminary numbers were gathered using automatic passenger counters installed on streetcar vehicles and verified using periodic manual checks. 

To accommodate the passenger demand, the agency sent out a fourth streetcar during the first weekend of operation. Typical operations call for three streetcars in operation during regular service hours.

The new 2.2-mile route follows Main Street north from Union Station to Third Street with nine station stops in the Midwestern city. The service is free to ride.


16.     From TRAINS Magazine: Metro-North to get track geometry vehicle

By Joseph M. Calisi | May 17, 2016

Joseph M. Calisi

NEW YORK — Metro-North is getting its own track geometry car.  

The New York City-area commuter railroad says it will contract with Ensco to design and build a state-of-the-art track geometry vehicle. Previously, Metro-North had to either subcontract this work or borrow the Long Island Rail Road vehicle to get this job done.

Track geometry vehicles measure such things as track gage, cross-level, curvature, and rail profiles.

The lack of a track geometry vehicle came to light after a previous Metro-North president found that the railroad fell behind in its track maintenance in favor of on-time performance.

The vehicle that Ensco will build will measure track geometry, track gauge, track alignment, cross-level, surface, speed, twist and warp at one-foot intervals to regulatory standards.

“This vehicle will further enhance our efforts to identify any potential track problems so they can be repaired before becoming safety issues and affecting service,” said Joseph Giulietti, President of Metro-North Railroad. “The MTA’s Blue Ribbon Panel, the Federal Railroad Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board all determined that the acquisition of a Track Geometry Vehicle would enable Metro-North to improve track inspections. This cutting-edge inspection vehicle will significantly contribute to Metro-North’s intense focus on ensuring customer safety.”

Officials expect the geometry vehicle to operate on Metro-North property in 2018 after testing and calibration.


17.     From TRAINS Magazine: FRA extends comment period on crew size

Public hearings are likely on rule requiring two members in cabs at all times

By Justin Franz | May 17, 2016



With grip in hand, this crew member happened to be walking alone as his shift ended on a dreary October day in Altoona, Wis., in 2010. Union Pacific, like most railroads, still use two-person crews, but there has been a growing industry push toward experimenting with one-person crews on more and more freight trains.

Travis Dewitz

WASHINGTON — People interested in having their say on the Federal Railroad Administration’s train crew-size proposal will now have until June 15 to submit a comment to the Federal Register. 

The FRA filed notice on Monday that it will extend the comment period for another month. The extension came a month after the Association of American Railroads and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association filed a joint comment to the FRA asking that the federal agency host a hearing on the matter as well as extend the comment period, which was due to expire Monday, May 16. 

The notice signaled that a public hearing on the matter would be held at some point in the coming weeks or months. 
Since the FRA issued the proposed rule requiring at least two people in the cab at all times, more than 800 individuals, communities and industry groups have posted comments on the Federal Register. 

The AAR lauded the FRA’s decision to extend the comment period. 

“The extension gives the AAR sufficient time to analyze FRA data, as well,” spokesperson Ed Greenberg tells Trains News Wire.

The FRA’s minimum train crew size rule would require most trains to have two people in the cab at all times, with exceptions for helper locomotives, work trains, tourist railroads, and others. Other railroads, such as commuter operators and Amtrak that already use single-person crews, would be able to continue such operations with federal approval. Union groups lauded the proposed rule, although they were concerned about what possible exemptions could be issued. Railroad groups, such as the AAR, have been critical, saying that technology such as positive train control makes a second person redundant.


18.     From TRAINS Magazine: Nippon Sharyo says it is committed to new Midwest, California cars

Japanese carbuilder is facing “difficult times” after test cars failed a critical safety test in 2015

By Kevin P. Keefe | May 18, 2016

Bob Johnston

ROCHELLE, Ill. — Carbuilder Nippon Sharyo, the main contractor for 172 new bilevel passenger cars for Midwest and California service, says it is committed to completing the project at its expanded factory in Rochelle as it contends with engineering issues resulting from a failed September 2015 compression test. 

In a statement provided to News Wire, the company also confirms the entire order is likely to be delayed. The company suspended work last fall and furloughed approximately 98 employees.

Last week, Caltrans, the lead agency in the purchasing consortium, said funding for the 130 Midwest cars in the order probably would be lost if the project fails to meet a Sept. 30, 2017, deadline for using up to $551 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus money. The funds would revert back to the U.S. Treasury. The California cars are less dependent on recovery act money. 

The Japanese carbuilder says it is addressing design issues that led to the failure of the 800,000-pound compression test of the prototype stainless-steel car shell. 

“(We) have been diligently working with the customer and stakeholder to remedy the situation while ensuring that all the rigorous FRA safety standards and requirements are met in order to deliver a safe, high quality, 100-percent Buy America compliant car to the customer,” a Nippon Sharyo representative says in a statement. 

“Nippon Sharyo is committed to this project and to the growth and success of its manufacturing facility in Rochelle,” the statement continues. “Although we are currently facing difficult times, and some temporary labor reductions, we are committed to investing in our workforce, getting production back on schedule, and being successful and prosperous in the near future.”


19.     From TRAINS Magazine: Railroads seek ways to cope with dramatic drop in traffic

By Bill Stephens | May 19, 2016



A CSX light-engine move meets a Norfolk Southern “bottle train” (for moving molten metal) at Dolton, Ill., as a unit oil train passes in the background. Railroads are coping with significant or dramatic downturns in almost all forms of traffic.

Trains: David Lassen

BOSTON – Railroads have been taking additional steps to cut costs as virtually all types of traffic continue to show declines this year, executives from five major systems said at an investor conference on Tuesday.

Thanks in part to low volumes, every railroad has improved its key service metrics, including train velocity, dwell time, and on-time performance, according to executives from Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, CSX, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific. That has led to efficiency gains, such as increased locomotive productivity, fuel savings, and better crew utilization.

But those improvements alone have not been enough to offset revenue declines from the 8-percent drop in U.S. rail traffic or the 7-percent fall in Canadian traffic through May 7. So railroads have stored additional locomotives and furloughed more train and engine service employees, or are considering additional layoffs. CSX and NS, who have been hit hardest by coal declines over the past five years, also are looking for more ways to trim their coal networks.

“We were not anticipating volume declines of this magnitude,” says Alan Shaw, Norfolk Southern’s chief marketing officer. 

Overall, NS traffic is down 9 percent so far in the second quarter, and the railroad is adjusting to keep costs in line with revenue. NS has stored 250 road locomotives and parked 185 yard and local units, up from 150 reported just last month. It also may reconsider plans to hire 400 additional train crew members by the end of the year.

At Union Pacific, the biggest surprise was the drop in intermodal traffic, Chief Financial Officer Rob Knight says. For the second quarter to date, UP’s domestic intermodal is down 9 percent and international intermodal is off 26 percent.

In response to this and other traffic declines, UP has furloughed 4,200 train and engine employees, up from 3,800 at the end of the first quarter. And it has stored 1,800 locomotives, up from 1,400 at the end of the first quarter. 

UP will still acquire 230 new locomotives this year, and 70 next year, as part of a long-term purchase commitment dating to 2014. Knight says that’s a decision UP would not make today. Knight said it may be the end of locomotive purchases during his career, and he’s only 58.

CP and CN are both looking to trim their workforces amid continued weakness in most traffic segments. Bulk commodities – CP’s bread and butter – are “fairly ugly,” says Keith Creel, the railway’s president and chief operating officer. CP has 665 locomotives in storage, up from 600 at the end of the first quarter.

Rail traffic has become a victim of several economic trends. 

Demand for utility coal is very soft amid low natural gas prices and tougher environmental regulations. Due to the mild winter, utilities have unusually large coal stockpiles on hand. Rail officials say it will take a hot summer, and then an early cold winter, for power plants to get down to normal stockpiles before coal rebounds. Overall, U.S. coal shipments are down 34 percent this year.

“2016 could be the year where intermodal is a larger part of our business on a volume and revenue basis than coal,” says Frank Lonegro, CSX’s chief marketing officer. 

Low oil prices have been a one-two punch for railroads. 

First, cheaper diesel fuel has made trucks much more competitive with rail.

Second, they have reduced crude by rail shipments to a trickle. With demand low, and global prices down, there’s pipeline capacity for oil produced in North Dakota as well as the Alberta oil sands in Canada. Wildfires in Fort McMurray, Alberta, an oil sands outpost, have curtailed production, which also has temporarily increased pipeline capacity. Jean-Jacques Ruest, CN’s chief marketing officer, says he would be surprised if crude shipments decline more than they already have.

Intermodal traffic has declined primarily due to the slow retail environment. Stores have excess inventory on hand, so they’ve reduced orders for new merchandise. As a result, volumes for both domestic and international intermodal have suffered. This also has meant excess capacity in the trucking industry – again increasing competition between highway and railroads.

But rail executives still see a potential uptick in traffic for the second half of the year. And they say they’ve still been able to increase rates faster than inflation – which is crucial if railroads are going to continue to invest in capacity and service improvements.

Railroads expect trucking capacity to tighten, and truckers’ costs to increase, which will send some loads back to rail.

Farmers have been sitting on last year’s crop, waiting for prices to increase. Sooner or later they’ll have to make room for this year’s crop, so grain will begin moving. CP’s Creel warned that U.S. farmers may all want to ship grain at the same time, which will create service problems. “You can’t move two years of crop in one year,” Creel says. “It’s just not possible.”

Intermodal demand should rise as the economy improves and retailers work through high inventories. Auto traffic, which has been a bright spot this year, should continue to hold up.
The year’s traffic decline has one benefit. CN’s Ruest says track maintenance gangs have become more productive because they’ve been able to get additional track time. That’s reduced the cost of tie replacement by 5 percent and the decreased the cost to lay a mile of rail by double digits, he says.


20.     From TRAINS Magazine: NTSB findings in Amtrak 188 crash draw widespread criticism*

By David Ibata 


*—Updates to correct that ACSES would stop, not slow, a train exceeding the speed limit.

After focusing blame on the engineer of a Northeast Corridor train that took a curve too fast and derailed, killing eight passengers, the National Transportation Safety Board is now under fire from safety experts, the locomotive engineers’ union and victims of the accident.

Russ Quimby, a railroad consultant and former NTSB accident investigator, criticizes the agency for putting the onus of the May 12, 2015, crash on an individual and not giving equal weight to the track segment in question.

“The curve where the derailment occurred should have been covered by the ACSES system but was not,” Quimby says, “and no other speed modifications were employed to automatically ensure safe speed on that significant curve.”

Positive train control or PTC systems like ACSES – which stands for Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System – can slow a train for a speed restriction if an engineer fails to do so, although ACSES specifically would stop a train, not just slow it. Amtrak activated ACSES in December on this, the last stretch of the Northeast Corridor scheduled to be so equipped.

The NTSB on Tuesday found the crash of Amtrak’s Northeast Regional train No. 188 was due to engineer Brandon Bostian losing “situational awareness” because he was distracted by an emergency involving a Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority commuter train on another track.

As Bostian monitored radio traffic between the SEPTA train’s engineer and a dispatcher, he accelerated his own train to 106 mph when he should have been decelerating for a 50 mph curve at Frankford Junction.

“This was a system failure, not an individual failure,” Quimby says. “Systems should be designed to assume that individual humans will not work perfectly 100 percent of the time.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, NTSB Vice Chairman T. Bella Dinh-Zarr was reluctant to put all the blame on Bostian. She urged board members to cite the absence of PTC as a second “probable cause” of the derailment.

They declined, and listed the lack of PTC as a contributing to the accident. Also, they cited inadequate protection for occupants when passenger cars overturn as a contributing to the severity of their injuries. About 200 were hurt, and 46 sustained serious injuries.

“Without question, the accident would not have occurred if a combination of PTC and two-person train crews were in use,” says Dennis R. Pierce, national president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

“Task overload and distraction have been issues of grave concern for the BLET and its members for many years,” Pierce says. “A key part of our concern is that terms like ‘the loss of situational awareness’ attempt to place blame on the locomotive engineer, without considering that any human being can be given too many tasks at a given time, resulting in task overload.”

Pierce agrees the absence of PTC was a contributing factor, but says the safety system would have been in place had Congress adequately funded Amtrak.

Victims also are dissatisfied. Through their lawyers, they call the NTSB decision frustrating, disappointing and hard to believe, the Associated Press reports.
“An awful explanation to the families who have lost loved ones,” lawyer Judy Livingston tells the AP. Another attorney, Tom Kline, says the findings are “based on speculation” and inadmissible in a court of law.

Bostian and his attorney have not responded to requests for comment, the AP says.

Following the lead of NTSB board members, others reiterate their calls for PTC to be installed across the nation’s rail system.

“While Amtrak has fully implemented PTC along the Northeast Corridor, host railroads that Amtrak relies on, along with commuter rail systems across the country, are still operating without this critical safety technology,” says Jim Mathews, president and CEO of the National Association of Railroad Passengers.

“Congress extended the deadline for PTC installation three years to 2018 – a move we accepted on the condition that Congress provide adequate funding to accelerate installation,” Mathews says. “So far, Congress has failed to live up to their side of the bargain.”

Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg says, “The NTSB’s findings (Tuesday) underscore the urgency for railroads to implement positive train control. 

“While Congress has given railroads at least three more years to fully implement PTC, the public deserves it sooner. FRA will continue to do everything it can to ensure this life-saving technology is fully implemented as soon as possible.”

Among the 11 safety recommendations made by NTSB, it asks Amtrak and the American Public Transportation Association and Association of American Railroads to come up with ways to train operating crews to stay focused while “managing multiple concurrent tasks in prolonged, atypical situations.”

To the Federal Railroad Administration, the NTSB says that where PTC will not be implemented, it should require railroads to install devices and develop procedures to help crewmembers identify where they are and display their routes. 

Also, the FRA should research passenger injuries when trains derail and overturn, and evaluate safety measures like seat belts and securing potential projectiles.

Besides its longstanding call for PTC, the NTSB notes it previously recommended to Amtrak and the FRA to install inward- and outward-facing audio and image recorders in locomotive cabs. Amtrak has done so on all its ACS-64s on the Northeast Corridor.

NTSB also has asked the FRA to develop standards to ensure rail car windows stay in place in the event of an accident. Many popped out in the Amtrak 188 derailment, causing the deaths of several passengers ejected through window openings.