Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Perfect Vacation Home

Check out this property for sale in Wisconsin - beautifully restored railcar and cottage.

The railcar was originally built for the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway Company in 1901 as their Private Car No. 40, “Illinois”. The railcar was rebuilt in 1951.

If you buy it as result of this blog posting, I expect an invitation.

For Railroad History

Found the following letter to the editor in the Courier News (NJ).

For Railroad History

To the Editor:

In response to February’s Hunterdon Life article about Ray Clauss’ restoration of railroad cars.

First, the photos by Ben Scheetz were outstanding and it was very nicely laid out. However, the article was misleading. I’ve been involved in this effort for two decades and am president emeritus, director and curator of the Friends of the NJ Transportation Heritage Center as well as a long time delegate to the United Railroad Historical Society of NJ (URHS).

Ray Clauss is a friend and we’ve worked together on many occasions. The article states that Ray got his start with a chance encounter with the NJ Historical Society. It was the URHS. Ray, doing business as Star Trak, is an independent contractor doing about 70% of his work on URHS-owned equipment.

URHS owns about 90 pieces of rail equipment (it takes over a mile of track just to store them all), including “The Hickory Creek” observation car and the other equipment pictured. Star Trak restored over 20 items of rail equipment for the URHS. Ray and his son Scott manage, operate and maintain The Hickory Creek under contract for the URHS. The URHS isn’t even mentioned in the article.

The URHS equipment has been preserved for the future NJ Transportation Heritage Center. The URHS works closely with the Friends on the Heritage Center initiative.

Our Web sites should have been part of the article: and

The bigger story is that the NJ Transportation Heritage Center, a nonprofit volunteer effort for over 20 years, has been in limbo for the past several years due to an apparent vendetta by one political party in Trenton against the other. Legislation was purposefully stalled. The State Legislature should hang their heads in shame over what they’ve done to our historic transport preservation effort.

One only has to look to the west to see what the preservation minded state of Pennsylvania has done with the Railroad Museum of Pa. at Strasburg and the Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton.

Many states have outstanding transportation museums that draw heritage tourism, but not ours! New Jersey residents have to go to New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Missouri, California, Illinois or Ohio to see and experience transportation equipment that’s been exported from the Garden State.

Thank you for this opptuinty to tell our side of the story.

Berkley Heights

Bucks County (PA) Community College to offer engineer and conductor training

Found the following article on the Railpace magazine web site. The spellings are theirs.

PA COMMUNITY COLLEGE TO OFFER ENGINEER AND CONDUCTING CURRICULUM: Reporter John Anastasi wrote in his March 9, 2008 (Bucks County, PA) Courier Times article that Bucks County Community College (BCCC) is working to add locomotive engineering and conduction training programs to its curriculum. The school sees a field that needs workers. Barbara Miller, BCCC's vice president for continuing education, workforce development and public safety said "The railroads are still a part of how we move people and materials." The course covers operating rules, train air-brake theory, railroad infrastructure, diesel and electric locomotive operation and other topics and is designed to prepare students for a railroad training academy. The need for engineers and conductors is very real, according to regional and national railroad officials. "We need to do more recruiting than we have in many years," said Tom White, spokesman for the Washington D.C.-based Association of American Railroads. "The high cost of fuel has prompted some companies to use rail service rather than trucking to transport their products," said White. "That, coupled with growth in national and global trade, has helped drive the increase." Salaries for conductors and engineers average about $67,000 and $75,000, respectively, according to the AAR.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

NJ set to criminalize tresspassing on railroad property

The NJ legislature is considering "elevating the offense of trespassing on railroad property to a crime of the fourth degree." We don't think this legislation is the best way to address the problem of terrorism; it will not deter any terrorist, and it probably won't stop the graffitti artist either. It could lead to haressment of railfans though, and possibly give the railfan a criminal record. It will certainly put a chill on the hobby of railfanning, which will eliminate a lot of extra eyes that might just notice real criminal activity on railroad property.

To see the text of this bill go to this web site where you will find a box to enter bill number S252 on the right side of the page.

With regard to this issue, we are posting the following information copied from the Railpace magazine web site (


Write to New Jersey State Senators listed below in opposition to Senate Bill S-252, which proposes to elevate the offense of trespassing on railroad property to a crime of the fourth degree. Assembly Bill A-929 passed unanimously by the Assembly, is now before the Senate Transportation Committee. Hearings on the legislation will be scheduled in the near future. Railpace will monitor the legislative process and offer testimony in opposition when hearings are scheduled. Do Not Delay... Write Today.

Senator John Adler - Senate Sponsor, 1916 Route 70 East, Suite 3, Cherry Hill, N.J. 08003 - email:

Senator Nicolas Sacco - Senate Transportation Chairman, 9060 Palisades Ave., North Bergen, N.J. 07047 - email:

Senator Fred Madden Jr - Senate Transportation Vice Chairman, 129 Johnson Rd., Suite 1, Turnersville, N.J. 08012 - email:

Senator Andrew Ciesia - Transportation Committee, 852 Highway 70, Brick, N.J. 08724 - email:

Senator Sean Kean - Transportation Committee, 1955 Hwy. 34, 2-A, Wall, N.J. 07719 - email:

Senator Jeff Van Drew - Transportation Committee, 21 North Main Street, Cape May Court House, N.J. 08210 - email:

Seantor Richard Codey - Senate President, 449 Mount Pleasant Ave., West Orange, N.J. 07052 - email:

Honorable Jon Corzine, Governor of New Jersey, P.O. Box 001, Trenton, N.J. 08625. - email: follow email link at .

Why should you write in opposition to S-252?

  • Conviction of a crime gives you a permanent criminal record (just like a murderer)
  • Conviction of a crime can result in loss of a professional license, or the prospect of attaining one.
  • Conviction of a crime can result in forteiture of public office or employment - or the prospect of attaining same in the future.
  • Conviction of a crime can result in the loss of voting privileges
  • Conviction of a crime can adversely affect presnt or future employment opportunities in the private sector.

S-252 is bad public policy that will strain the limited resources of the criminal justice and court systems within the State.


Received this CN "Flash" item via email. This is sad news, but it illustrates just how dangerous railroading is, even for experienced crew.

Please forward this flash to your field forces so that they are aware of the incident and discuss it during their job briefing:

Flash - Experienced Conductor Fatally Injured

Region: Eastern Region


On Wednesday February 27th, 2008, trains 784 and 305 were meeting at Fortier on the Drummondville subdivision. Just prior to the meet, train 305 experienced a train separation and stopped in emergency. The conductor of train 305 began his walking inspection and discovered a pulled drawbar at line 31 on his train. Given the proximity of train 784, the conductor of 784 assisted with the chaining of the car to expedite the clearing of the main line. After chaining the drawbar and setting out the defective car, train 305, still being assisted by the conductor from train 784, coupled back onto their train. However, they were still unable to get their train line air to recover.

Since 784's conductor had made the re-coupling on behalf of train 305, he began to walk/inspect the remainder of the train. Between lines 51 and 52, he discovered a train separation caused by a broken knuckle. The distance between the two cars was 24 feet. After advising the Locomotive Engineer of the problem, the conductor closed the angle cock behind line 51, and walked in the centre of the track towards the tail end cut of cars. He informed the locomotive engineer on 305 of the type of knuckle required. There was no further communication after this.

Foot prints in the snow indicate that the Conductor had never separated the cars beyond the 24 feet that they had originally pulled apart, nor had he ascertained whether the cut of cars he had originally closed the angle cock on, had remained secure.

A reconstruction of the accident proved that seconds after having closed the angle cock behind line 51 on the head-end cut of cars, they slowly and silently began creeping toward him. With his back turned as he was attempting to remove the defective knuckle, tragically he was struck and crushed between the coupling devices of both rail cars.

Replacing a Knuckle.

· Job brief thoroughly prior to beginning the task and again as conditions change.
· Ensure you have a clear understanding of the work you are about to do
· Identify the hazards and follow the specific rules associated with the task.
· Separate the equipment by a minimum of fifty (50) feet after the slack has been stretched (G.O.I. 12.10.4)
· Ensure that the equipment is stopped, secured, and will remain secure such that the 50 feet separation is maintained
· Communicate with the engineer and other crew- members to ensure a common understanding of the procedures that are being implemented.
· Determine the knuckle type, remove the pin & set it within easy reach.
· Lift the operating lever & remove the old knuckle keeping feet clear.
· Dispose of the old knuckle where it will not be a tripping hazard.
· Hold operating lever up and insert the replacement knuckle into the coupler.
· Insert the pin, close the knuckle & make sure it locks properly.

Always be attentive to and protect against the movement of trains and equipment.

Four-second focus"

Employees must take a few seconds prior to the start of any job to ask themselves four basic questions:
  • do they have a clear understanding of the work to be performed ?
  • are there any immediate hazards ?
  • are they using the right tools and equipment for the job ?
  • are there specific rules or procedures to follow ?

Just 4 seconds to help you work safer every day ! **************************************************************************************************************

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Big Little Railroad Shop at Greenberg's Train Show in Edison, NJ

The Big Little Railroad Shop will be at Greenberg's Train Show at the New Jersey Expo Center, Edison, NJ on Saturday and Sunday, March 15 - 16, 2008. Show hours are 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM both days. There is free parking and kids under 12 are FREE. There will be over 100 vendors, operating model railroads in several different scales, and hourly door prizes.

For more information and directions visit the following web site:

Be sure to visit our table where you will find lots of wonderful bargins. Hope to see you there.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Weekly Rail Carloading Report - Week 9, 2008

There is an interesting report available on the web that is "A Weekly Report of North American Rail Freight Traffic by Major Railroad and Commodity." It is currently showing data for week 9 of 2008. Take a look.

Here is an example of the information available on this web site. This graph shows Total Traffic for 2007-2008 vs. 2006-2007. There are more graphs and tables on the web site showing data by railroad and by commodity.

Data: Rail accidents decreased in 2007

Found the following newspaper article in the Courier News (New Jersey) for 3/5/07. It is kind of ironic coming after the news item from the day before as posted below.

WASHINGTON: There were less accidents and deaths involving trains in the U.S. last year, but more railroad incidents involving hazardous materials.

Last year, 486 people nationwide were killed after trespassing on railroad lines compared with 518 deaths in 2006. Another 339 fatalities involving trains and a car or truck, 30 fewer than in 2006, according to preliminary data released Tuesday by the Federal Railroad Administration.

The number of fatalities rose in 2006 compared with the previous year.

A troubling area of incidents that did rise last year involved rairoad cars that released hazardous materials, which jumped to 43 reports from 28 in 2006.

More trains carrying ethanol and relatively new technologies used to safely release the fuel likely contributed to that increase, Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Boardman told reporters during a conference call Tuesday morning.

Train derails in California; homes evacuated

Found the following article on from The Associated Press dated 3/4/08.

Dozens flee acid fumes after train derails
Toxic vapors from tanker car blaze close highway in Southern California

MECCA, Calif. - A freight train derailed in the Southern California desert and four tanker cars were leaking hydrochloric and phosphoric acid, forcing home evacuations, authorities said.

No one was injured when nearly 30 of the Union Pacific train’s 65 cars derailed Monday night about 140 miles southeast of Los Angeles. It was headed from West Colton to El Centro.

Initial reports that two tankers were ablaze were incorrect, said James Barnes, director of media information for Union Pacific, adding that only wooden railroad ties were on fire.

About 40 homes remained evacuated Tuesday because of the potentially hazardous fumes, fire officials said.

The four tankers were leaking unknown quantities of hydrochloric acid phosphoric acid, officials said.

Hydrochloric is highly corrosive and can cause burns if it comes into direct contact with skin or eyes. It is used in the production of fertilizers and dyes, and in photographic, textile and rubber industries.

Phosphoric acid is milder and used for rust removal and for the preparation of steel surfaces for painting.

It was not immediately clear why the train derailed, Barnes said.

The acid sent up a 25-foot plume Monday night, Riverside County fire Capt. Julie Hutchinson said.

A smaller cloud, caused by acid reacting with organic material at the scene, still hovered Tuesday morning although it did not represent an immediate public health threat, Hutchinson said.

Barnes said the phosphoric acid was reacting with soil.

“It’s kind of like a smoldering,” Barnes said.

People were being kept out of the area around the derailment site until the acid leaks were stopped and cleanup crews could begin their work.

About 2,000 feet of track suffered damage and 25 trains were delayed, Barnes said, with some rerouted along a route through Salt Lake City.

Caution, Toy train track could be hazardous to your health

Received the following via email on 3/4/08. Looks like a newspaper article, but there was no reference as to original source or date.

CLERMONT, FL - Police jailed a Clermont man on a charge of aggravated battery Saturday, accusing him of striking his wife with a toy-train track.

According to a police report, a 4-year-old told police that his mom and dad were fighting and his father threw a piece of Thomas the Tank Engine train track at his mother.

Sheik Ali, 47, admitted hurling the metal track, but said it did not hit his wife, Bebi.

According to the report, Bebi Ali said she was not injured, but "felt safer" without her husband in the home.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Bridge Repair Images - Plainfield, NJ

The web site below contains an ongoing series of pictures of bridge work on the old CNJ in Plainfield, NJ.

Weekly Rail Carloading Report - Week 8, 2008

There is an interesting report available on the web that is "A Weekly Report of North American Rail Freight Traffic by Major Railroad and Commodity." It is currently showing data for week 8 of 2008. Take a look.

Here is an example of the information available on this web site.

Attempt to steal ex-CNJ Southern Div. railroad tracks for scrap

Received the following via email. It looks like a newspaper article dated 2/25/08, but the email did not cite the newspaper.

Manchester police charge man with trying to take railroad lines for scrap metal
February 25, 2008

Police arrested a 49-year-old Lawrenceville man on charges that he tried to scam a subcontractor into pulling up six miles of railroad lines between Manchester and Stafford to be cashed in for scrap metal. The work had just begun when the plan was foiled by an alert truck driver at the Clayton Sand Company, which owns the tracks, police said.

John Stonaker, 49, of Shelmet Lane, Lawrenceville, was charged on Feb. 20 with attempted theft of six miles of railroad track stretching from County Route 539 in Manchester to Route 72 in Stafford, said Capt. Brian Klimakowski. The U.S. Marshal's Service aided in bringing the charges.

Stonaker produced a phony work order to have a subcontractor remove the railroad tracks, which were to be sold for scrap metal, Klimakowski said.

Stonaker's plan was to split the proceeds of the scrap metal retrieved from the railroad track, which was valued between $250,000 and $300,000, police said.

The contractor was not aware that the work order from Conrail, which was presented to start the job, was forged, police said.

He was released on $75,000 bail the day he was arrested.

Manchester police are asking businesses or individuals that may have dealt with Stonaker in the past to call Detetctive Joseph Hankins at (732) 657-2009 ext. 2111.