Sunday, September 27, 2009

Russia's High-Speed Train

The following article is from The New York Times for Friday, 9-25-09.

The New York Times

September 25, 2009

Siemens Fills Russia’s Need for High-Speed Train


The Sapsan train arriving in St. Petersburg, Russia, after a test.

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — In the last years of the cold war, the ultrasecret research institute that had designed the Soviet Union’s nuclear submarines received an unusual request: could it build a high-speed train?

The Soviet Union, despite its dependence on railroads, had fallen far behind Japan and Western Europe on high-speed transport. That the order came to the Rubin design bureau suggests that Moscow viewed catching up as a matter of national security.

The result of the little-known program was a slate-gray, round-nosed locomotive called the Sokol, Russian for falcon, that petered out soon after the Soviet Union did. The prototype achieved a top speed of only 143 miles an hour — hardly breaking a sweat by high-speed standards.

But the fall of the Falcon created an opening for Siemens.

This December, high-speed trains designed by the German conglomerate and adapted for Russian winters will ply the rails between St. Petersburg and Moscow. But Siemens hopes their final destination will be the last laggard of the high-speed age: the United States.

For years, businesspeople and politicians have dreamed about America entering the high-speed era, but Amtrak has been plagued by budget and service problems and the closest Americans have come to high speed is the Acela, which rarely runs at what Europeans call high speed.

Now Siemens and its competitors are hoping all that has changed. The economic stimulus passed by Congress in April includes a five-year, $13 billion high-speed rail program. Siemens is one of four makers of high-speed trains, none of them based in the United States, that hopes to take advantage of it.

Siemens executives said the tilt toward political acceptance of high-speed rail in the United States presented a remarkable business opportunity — assuming the systems get built.

The United States “is a developing country in terms of rail,” Ansgar Brockmeyer, head of public transit business for Siemens, said in an interview aboard the Russian test train, as wooden country homes and birch forests flickered by outside the window. “We are seeing it as a huge opportunity.”

To position itself to compete in the United States, Siemens has placed employees from its high-speed train division at its Sacramento factory, which produces city trams.

Siemens’s new train — the Sapsan, Russian for peregrine falcon — is a candidate for the high-speed link planned between San Francisco and Los Angeles that may open in 2020. Alstom, the maker of the French TGV trains, and Bombardier are also contenders. Japanese bullet train designs by Hitachi, which are lighter but less secure in a low-speed crash, the only type of collisions survivable, are another option.

The technological breakthrough of the Sapsan is that the train has no locomotive. Instead, electric motors are attached to wheels all along the train cars, as on some subway trains. (Passengers sit in the first car too.) Its top operating speed is 217 miles an hour, though in tests this model has reached 255 miles an hour, or about half the cruising speed of some jet airplanes.

In Russia, it took a decade of on-again, off-again talks before Siemens signed a deal with the state railways in 2006 amid a general thaw in relations between Germany and Russia.

Here as elsewhere, high-speed trains will compete with airlines. The 401-mile trip from downtown Moscow to downtown St. Petersburg will be 3 hours and 45 minutes. The average flying travel time is five hours, including the trips to and from the airport, check-in and security clearance.

The four-times-a-day service will trim 45 minutes from the fastest train service now. To achieve this, the Russian state railway spent $485 million upgrading the track and $926 million for eight Sapsan trains and a 30-year service agreement, at today’s exchange rates.

In other countries, high-speed trains have roundly beaten planes on price, overall travel time and convenience at ranges up to 600 miles between major cities. After high-speed trains between Paris and Lyons became well established, for example, commercial flights all but disappeared. And in the first year of operation, a Madrid-to-Barcelona high-speed link cut the air travel market about 50 percent.

In the United States — where the Department of Transportation has identified 11 high-speed corridors, including Los Angeles to San Francisco — high-speed rail would also compete with intercity car travel.

In Russia, it has a more peculiar competitor. With its vast distances and dismal roads, Russia has a long tradition of train travel, but Russians prefer to travel on overnight sleeper trains. (The highway between St. Petersburg and Moscow is at places a potholed, two-lane track.) Tea cups rattle on their saucers in the coal-heated compartments and beds are made with fresh linen.

The German trains, in contrast, are sleek strings of self-propelled, aluminum-skinned cars. But they will travel far below their 217 m.p.h. operating speed.

Pulling out of the St. Petersburg station on the test run, the Russian conductor kept the Sapsan throttled back at a modest 90 miles an hour as it rattled over older track in the city, making the typical clickety-clack noise of a train. High-speed rails are welded together and silent. It was like driving a new Porsche over a rutted road.

Out on refurbished track, the train accelerated to 150 miles an hour, the threshold until additional track improvements are made. As yet, not all the ties are as rigid as they should be, and the overhead electrical wires wobble as the train speeds by underneath. Sometimes electricity arcs in fire bolts.

Still, Russia has arrived in the high-speed club that includes Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Britain, Spain, Taiwan, Korea and China, which joined in 2007.

On the test run, over a stretch of the St. Petersburg-Moscow track, a birch forest blurred outside the window as the train revved. In one village, an old woman in a kerchief stopped in her tracks and pointed in surprise as the silver, rocket-shaped train sailed past at 150 miles an hour.

A worker cleaning a Siemens-made Sapsan train.
Its top operating speed is 217 miles per hour.

Friday, September 25, 2009

WHITE Ribbons on Conrail SD50 #6707 at Juniata Shops - 1991

Received the following via email.

An extremely rare February, 1991 'in-process' view by Jack Smith of CR EMD SD50 #6707 sitting outside the shop in Altoona showing just the outline on the Fireman's-side flank of the future ribbon location, prior to the application of the yellow and black ribbon details. The second and third photos, taken by John Osciak and Dave Trenn, show the intended result, out on the main line and in Ashtabula (Ohio) Yard.

Weekly Rail Carloading Report - Week 37, 2009

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 37 of 2009.

Here is an example of the information available on this web site. This graph shows Total Traffic for 2008-2009 vs. 2007-2008. There are more graphs and tables on the web site showing data by railroad and by commodity.

Note: This web site has new tables and graphs every Thursday. So, if I am late or miss a week with this blog posting, you can check for new data on Thursdays.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Displayed 'Yellow Ribbon' Locomotive for Returning 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team Troops

Received the following via email dated 9/14/09 from Nate Clark in Greenville, PA. Sorry, no pictures were included.

Commemorating the service and sacrifice of the brave soldiers of the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team returning to Pennsylvania after their deployment in Iraq, black-with-yellow-trim locomotive #430 of the Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad presently rests on the Western Reserve Farm Cooperative sidetrack at Cambridge Springs (about 20 miles south of Erie). Wearing donated Yellow Ribbons and four-dozen hand-made, satin Yellow Bows, the locomotive is situated by the farm cooperative's mill site, west of the Grant Street grade crossing.

Upon disembarking from the buses at the Pennsylvania National Guard's Cambridge Springs Readiness Center, the returning soldiers will undoubtedly be anxious to just 'get home' and be with their loved ones. This tribute locomotive is positioned, however, such that if any soldiers might wish to also take a five-minute side-trip to view it, they and their families will be treated to a truly unique and special visual 'salute' to them. The weather for their homecoming should be spectacular. On Monday evening, well after the excitement of the return of the final buses of homeward-bound Stryker Brigade veterans has subsided, the decorations will be removed and temporarily stored, and the 3,000-horsepower freight locomotive will also be released, for a few days, back to Operations for use across the WNYP rail system.

The plan for next week, though, is to bring the locomotive, ribbons and bows back for an encore appearance at the same spot at Grant and Railroad streets for the community's big 'Welcome Home' parade celebration to honor these 500+ heroes and their families on Friday, 9-25. The locomotive will be parked within easy sight of where the planned parade route crosses the railroad. After the grand pageantry of the parade to let the soldiers know how proud we are of them, and how much they all were missed and always appreciated, the dozens of custom Yellow Bows (crafted by Mrs. Leanna Mayberry of Greenville, Mercer County) will again be removed, one last time, and donated to the classrooms of the many local elementary school students who have been loyal Pen Pals with our region's Stryker Brigade troops while serving overseas.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Saturday morning along the LEHL around Manville...

(Train sightings on 9-19-09.)

provided a glimpse of the variety of freight carried by railroads. 21M , 214 and 22V had COFCs and TOFCs. 18G had its usual consist of general merchandise and 053 had two oversized loads. All of this was seen during my two hours trackside.

NS 21M @ 8:47- Motive power consisted of NS 2681, NS 9900 and NS 9908.

NS 053 @ 9:15- would take the Royce Runner and hold for three eastbounds. Motive power for this special move was NS 9573. I couldn't begin to speculate on what its two loads were.

NS 22V @ 9:30- would have NS 9218 as the leader followed by PRR 8357.

NS 214 @ 9:56- had NS 7600 and NS 9916 taking the Port Reading Secondary east.

NS 18G @ 10:25- would have NS 9330 and NS 8899 for its power consist. 18G reported that a van had run the gate at Auten Road, damaging the crossing gate. As a result, Hillsborough PD would protect this crossing so that NS 053 could continue west until the crossing's damaged gate could be checked out by railroad personnel.

Monday, September 21, 2009

NS Whistle-Stop train delivers safety training

Received the following via email.

September 17, 2009

Norfolk Southern Whistle-Stop train delivers safety training to emergency responders in New York, Ohio, and West Virginia

NORFOLK, VA. - A special train will travel to New York, Ohio, and West Virginia Sept. 22-26 to provide emergency preparedness training to first responders as part of the 2009 Norfolk Southern TRANSCAER Whistle-Stop Tour. TRANSCAER (Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response) is a nationwide program that assists communities in preparing for and responding to a possible hazardous material transportation incident.

"The TRANSCAER Whistle-Stop Tour underscores Norfolk Southern's commitment to the safety of the communities in which we operate," said David Julian, Norfolk Southern's vice president safety and environmental. "The training provides first responders with a unique opportunity to gain important hands-on knowledge about railroad equipment, the transport of chemical materials by rail, and the importance of planning for potential hazardous material transportation emergencies."

The tour kicks off in Buffalo, N.Y., and makes stops in Cleveland, Toledo, and Columbus, Ohio, winding up in Charleston, W.Va. At each location, state and local emergency planning committees, emergency responders, and government officials can participate in hands-on drills and training sessions conducted by chemical and rail transportation experts. Railroad tank cars used for training, specialized emergency response vehicles, and over-the-road tank trucks will be on display. More than 200 participants are expected at each stop.

This is the tenth TRANSCAER train Norfolk Southern has sponsored since 1994. More information, including local contacts, tour times, and program information, is available at TRANSCAER members include volunteer representatives from the chemical manufacturing, transportation and distribution industries, and government. TRANSCAER sponsors include the Association of American Railroads, American Chemistry Council, The Chlorine Institute, CHEMTREC®, The Fertilizer Institute, National Association of Chemical Distributors, National Tank Truck Carriers Inc., U.S. Department of Energy (Environmental Management Office), and the Renewable Fuels Association.

The schedule for the 2009 TRANSCAER Whistle-Stop Tour will be 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. as follows:

· Sept. 22 - Buffalo, N.Y. NS Bison Yard, 50 Bison Parkway.
· Sept. 23 - Cleveland, Ohio, NS East 55th Street Yard, 4790 Crayton Ave.
· Sept. 24 - Toledo, Ohio, NS Yard, 343 Emerald Ave.
· Sept. 25 - Columbus, Ohio, NS Bulk Terminal, 1875 Frebis Ave.
· Sept. 26 - Charleston, W.Va., Morris St. and Piedmont Rd.

The following companies and organizations are participating with Norfolk Southern in the tour: DuPont, BASF, Norfalco Corp., GATX, Schneider National, Operation Lifesaver of New York, Ohio and West Virginia, U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Transportation, Amtrak, Specialized Professional Services Inc., Sunpro, Midwest Environmental, Eagle/SWS Environmental, React Environmental Services Inc., and VPS of Vermont.

Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE: NSC) is a leading North American transportation provider. Its Norfolk Southern Railway subsidiary operates approximately 21,000 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia, serves every major container port in the eastern United States, and provides efficient connections to other rail carriers. Norfolk Southern operates the most extensive intermodal network in the East and is a major transporter of coal and industrial products.

Norfolk Southern contacts
Rudy Husband 610-567-3377
Robin Chapman 757-629-2713

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Movie Railroad - Allegheny West Virginia Railroad

Received the following via email from Kermit Geary, Jr. Text, photos, and captions are his.

Stopped by Olean, NY and was able to photograph the locomotives of the Movie Railroad, Allegheny West Virginia RR. Found most of the locos in Olean, NY. Also found that there are four AC4400's, each with the same construction plate and two units each numbered the same. Also two SD-40's were there as well as a GP-9 from the SWP lettered for fictional Railroad Safety Campaign! Sit back and enjoy the movie...starring Denzel Washington and others set to release sometime in the future.

AWVR 777-1 at Olean, NY

AWVR 777-2 at Olean, NY

AWVR 767-1 at Olean, NY

AWVR 767-2 at Olean, NY

AWVR common builders decal...displayed on all 4 GE locos

AWVR Railroad Safety Campaign 2002 & train at Olean, NY

AWVR 7346 at Olean, NY

AWVR 7375 at Olean, NY

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Norfolk Southern Announcements - 9/15/09

Received the following two announcements via email from Norfolk Southern.

September 15, 2009

Norfolk Southern thanks state partners in Crescent Corridor stimulus application

NORFOLK, VA. - Norfolk Southern commended its partners in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee for their leadership in supporting the Crescent Corridor program (see map) to increase rail freight transportation capacity and improve mobility and the environment.

"On behalf of Norfolk Southern, I thank our partners for their farsighted support of the Crescent Corridor," said CEO Wick Moorman. "The Crescent Corridor is a tremendous economic advantage for the states and the nation. It will stimulate jobs, tax revenue, and business growth, while delivering substantial public benefits for communities and customers. Governors Ed Rendell, Tim Kaine, Bob Riley, Haley Barbour, and Phil Bredesen are leading the way in showing how public-private partnerships can create safe, affordable, green solutions to America's transportation infrastructure challenges."

Lead state Pennsylvania on Sept. 14 submitted "The Crescent Corridor Intermodal Freight Application" to apply for federal stimulus money under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Program.

The application seeks $300 million in support of new independent intermodal facilities at Memphis, Birmingham, and Franklin County, Pa.; and the expansion of intermodal terminals in Harrisburg and Philadelphia. Track improvements in the five partner states will include 10 passing tracks, 557 individual speed improvements, and 393 miles of track improved with upgraded rail.

These projects will help the Crescent Corridor - an existing 2,500-mile rail network supporting the supply chain from Memphis and New Orleans to New Jersey - handle more rail freight traffic, faster and more reliably, creating or benefiting some 47,000 green jobs and producing these estimated annual benefits:

· $326 million in tax revenues to states and communities
· 1.3 million long-haul trucks diverted from interstates
· $146 million in accident avoidance savings
· 1.9 million tons in CO2 reduction
· $575 million in congestion savings
· $92 million in highway maintenance savings
· 169 million gallons in fuel savings

In their TIGER application, the five partner states described the Crescent Corridor as, "one of the single largest additions of new freight transportation capacity in America since the Interstate Highway System. Building the last long haul intermodal freight distribution supply chain is one of the best transportation investments of our time."

Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE: NSC) is one of the nation's premier transportation companies. Its Norfolk Southern Railway subsidiary operates approximately 21,000 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia, serves every major container port in the eastern United States, and provides efficient connections to other rail carriers. Norfolk Southern operates the most extensive intermodal network in the East and is a major transporter of coal and industrial products.
Norfolk Southern contacts
Media Frank Brown 757-629-2710
Investors Leanne Marilley 757-629-2861

September 15, 2009

Norfolk Southern's sustainability report highlights carbon footprint, improved fuel economy

NORFOLK, VA. - Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE: NSC) has issued its second annual sustainability report, including the company's first-ever calculation of its carbon footprint and highlighting achievements in responsible economic, environmental, and social performance.

"We have made good progress," notes CEO Wick Moorman in a letter introducing the 62-page report, posted on the company's Web site at

Norfolk Southern's carbon footprint is a measurement of greenhouse gases produced by the company's business operations. The largest single component, about 90 percent, is carbon dioxide emissions from diesel-burning locomotives. Other sources include emissions from production of electricity for rail facilities and fuel consumption by everything from company vehicles to boilers. Putting it all together, Norfolk Southern's carbon footprint for 2008 is calculated at 5.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. Put in perspective, it is less than one tenth of 1 percent of the 7.2 billion total emissions of carbon dioxide equivalents in the entire United States for 2007, the latest year for which data is available.

"This is an important indicator," notes Moorman in his letter, "that establishes a baseline for future improvement. Disclosure also demonstrates to our customers, communities, employees, and investors the seriousness of our intent to be good environmental stewards."

Since issuing the company's first sustainability report last year, Moorman said, "We have continued efforts on several fronts to increase our fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse emissions." For example, locomotive fuel economy has improved almost 3 percent over the past year and 10 percent over the last decade. The report notes that the greenhouse gas emission of one Norfolk Southern locomotive per revenue ton-mile is about one ounce, which is equivalent to the weight of a slice of bread.

"Our people make this company successful - from safety to sustainability," Moorman said. "This report describes some of the many ways they have embraced responsible business practices that will help ensure the ongoing strength of our company, the livability of their communities, and the quality of their lives.

"The progress we have made is a beginning," Moorman said. "As this report outlines, we and our partners in business and in the public sector are working on some far-reaching, long-term initiatives that will translate into big public benefits, including green jobs, further reductions in fuel consumption and emissions, and less highway congestion - thanks to the environmental and economic advantages of transportation by rail."

Norfolk Southern Corporation is one of the nation's premier transportation companies. Its Norfolk Southern Railway subsidiary operates approximately 21,000 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia, serves every major container port in the eastern United States, and provides efficient connections to other rail carriers. Norfolk Southern operates the most extensive intermodal network in the East and is a major transporter of coal and industrial products.

Norfolk Southern contacts
Media Rick Harris 757-629-2718
Investors Leanne Marilley 757-629-2861

Friday, September 18, 2009

Weekly Rail Carloading Report - Week 36, 2009

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 36 of 2009.

Here is an example of the information available on this web site. This graph shows Total Traffic for 2008-2009 vs. 2007-2008. There are more graphs and tables on the web site showing data by railroad and by commodity.

Note: This web site has new tables and graphs every Thursday. So, if I am late or miss a week with this blog posting, you can check for new data on Thursdays.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Old Penn Station Eagle Gets New Perch

Following article is from The New York Times for Friday, 9-11-09.

September 11, 2009

New Aerie for a Penn Station Eagle

By Jennifer 8. Lee

One of the eagles from the old Pennsylvania Station has been installed at the new Cooper Union building in the East Village.

Twenty-two stone eagles once perched on the old Pennsylvania Station building before it was demolished in the early 1960s, in what The New York Times called "a monumental act of vandalism." (The debate over the station got a shout-out on "Mad Men" a few weeks ago.) The eagles were each five feet tall, with wingspans that measured more than 70 inches, and weighed about 5,700 pounds.

The destruction of Penn Station unfolded before the city's landmarks law was enacted, so preservation-minded New Yorkers rushed to save what elements of the McKim, Mead & White building that they could: granite balusters, leather stools, Corinthian columns.

Among those involved in the salvage was a group of students from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, who successfully petitioned the Pennsylvania Railroad for one of the eagles, in part because the artist behind the station's stonework, Adolph Weinman, had graduated from Cooper Union in 1891.

For almost a decade, the eagle was kept at Cooper Union camp property in Ringwood, N.J. When the college sold the property in 1973, it moved the eagle to the courtyard of a building on Third Avenue in the East Village. But when Cooper Union began planning a new academic building at 41 Cooper Square, the building where the eagle stood was among those to be sold.

What, then, to do with the eagle?

"Clearly moving a 5,700-pound eagle is a problem in two ways: One, you have to move it. Two, you have to find a place for it," said Ronni Denes, a spokeswoman for Cooper Union. "Where are you going to put it?"

As part of that process, the eagle was appraised at $200,000. The appraiser also reported that 14 of the original 22 eagles still exist, three of them in the city. The other two flank the entrance to the present Penn Station at 33rd Street and Seventh Avenue. Other eagles are scattered in various locales: the Market Street Bridge in Philadelphia, Valley Forge Military Academy in Valley Forge, Pa.; Hampden-Sydney College in Hampden-Sydney, Va.; and the National Zoo in Washington.

When and if the train station is resurrected in the James A. Farley Post Office on Eighth Avenue, those eagles could perhaps resume their watch over its travelers.

There was no indoor space for the eagle at Cooper Union. So instead workers looked outside and found a much higher perch: on the green roof on the eighth floor. So in June, workers moved the eagle, protected with padding, to the base of the new building. Then a crane lifted the eagle and placed it on the roof, where it is visible from several classrooms.

The eagle's orientation? Toward Penn Station, of course.

Two Railroads Best Place to Launch a Career

BusinessWeek magazine published a list of the 50 "Best Places to Launch a Career" in their Sept. 14, 2009 issue. Two railroads made that list: Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific. Below is an announcement we received via email from NS.

September 11, 2009

Norfolk Southern is one of the best places to launch a career

NORFOLK, VA. - Norfolk Southern is one of the 50 "Best Places to Launch a Career," according to the Sept. 14, 2009, issue of BusinessWeek magazine.

BusinessWeek's fourth annual survey ranks the top employers for new college graduates. It is based on a survey of U.S. employers, college career services directors, and some 60,000 college undergraduates. Norfolk Southern ranked 26 on the list for 2009. "There are certain characteristics that all great employers share: great pay and benefits, top-notch training programs, and opportunities for rapid advancement," the magazine reports.

"With demand for freight transportation expected to grow 88 percent by 2035, the rail industry offers stability, with fantastic opportunities for a long-term career path," said Cindy Earhart, NS vice president human resources. "We offer competitive salaries and benefits and have a strong tradition of promoting from within the company."

Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE: NSC) is one of the nation's premier transportation companies. Its Norfolk Southern Railway subsidiary operates approximately 21,000 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia, serves every major container port in the eastern United States, and provides efficient connections to other rail carriers. Norfolk Southern operates the most extensive intermodal network in the East and is a major transporter of coal and industrial products.

Norfolk Southern contacts
Media Susan Terpay 757-823-5204
Investors Leanne Marilley 757-629-2861

Monday, September 14, 2009

A nice way to spend this Sunday morning!

(Train sightings on 9-13-09.)

... was to be trackside at the Lansdowne Road Grade Crossing (MP 58). In a relatively short timeframe on this sunny morning, my tally of confirmed trains sightings was four with one additional intermodal train seen but not identifed as I arrived around 8:30. Not a bad Sunday morning count, eh for this estimated forty-five minutes, eh? In time sequence, the trains were:

NS 18G @ 9:20- NS 9890 and NS 9604 had 127 cars of mixed freight. Could this train's length perhaps be an economic indicator that freight traffic is picking up?

NS 214 @ 9:40- provided an "UPlifting" sight with UP 4682 as its leader with NS 8795 and NS 9886.

NS IOG @ 9:49- had NS 9263 and NS 2720 for its motive power.

NS 212 @ 10:05- would have NS 9413, NS 2642 and a unidentified third NS diesel for its power.

Hope your Sunday morning was just as enjoyable...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

More Quiet Zones on the Lehigh Valley Line in New Jersey

Following article is from the Courier-News (NJ).

The Courier News
September 10, 2009

South Plainfield officials push for quieter railroad crossings


SOUTH PLAINFIELD - The borough's effort to make living near its railroad crossings quieter is on track.

The municipality learned earlier this week that the Federal Railroad Administration in Washington, D.C., has approved its request to create so-called "quiet zones" around three crossings along the Conrail line that runs through town.

"We're ready to move to the next phase," said Mayor Charles Butrico, who championed the idea during his reorganization speech in January.

The sites, on New Brunswick Avenue, on the South Clinton Avenue extension between Sampton and New Market avenues, and on Front Street just below Oak Tree Avenue, are scheduled to receive vehicle-safety upgrades as part of the plan, according to Councilwoman Chrissy Buteas, who has been overseeing the proposal.

The upgrades, which most likely will include new curbing or additional gates, are required by the Federal Railroad Agency in order for the agency to lift its normal standing order that oncoming trains blow their horns four times as a warning to motorists. An increase in train traffic over the years, has made life for nearby residents a lot noisier, notes Buteas.

The New Brunswick crossing will receive arms that move up and down to separate vehicles from the railroad tracks, according to Buteas. The stanchions to hold the arms already are in place, she added.

At South Clinton Avenue, the councilwoman said the borough plans to add a 6-inch-high curb in the middle of the roadway as it approaches the tracks. "What that will do is when that one gate comes down, you'll have a curb in the center of the road, so somebody couldn't zigag in between the crossing," she said.

The design for the Front Street upgrade hasn't been decided, Buteas said.

A series of driveways near Front Street on one side of the tracks as it approaches the crossing will require further study of a couple of options, the councilwoman said.

"We can look at a curb and also a "wayside horn.' That horn (triggered by the train's approach and sounded automatically at the crossing) would only blow toward the vehicles as you're warning about the train coming," Buteas explained.

A time frame for the study of the Front Street site and a decision on the changes will be announced at a later time, according to Buteas.

"It depends on the engineering reports, which is most feasible and cost-effective," she said.

The actual installation timetable hasn't been decided either. Public hearings by the Borough Council would held first.

The idea of upgrading safety to create the quiet zones began in earnest earlier this year.

"It's a huge quality-of-life issue," Buteas said. "The federal government requires trains to blow their horns four times when they're approaching a crossing, so that means they blow their horns 12 times through town, and train traffic has increased significantly. So it seems like the trains are constant. It's waking people up and disturbing them. They can't open up their windows."

When he was growing up in town, now-Police Chief John Ferraro said his family lived near the tracks.

"There's a lot more (rail) traffic now then there has been in the past," said Ferraro, who hailed the upgrades required for the "quiet zones."

"It should make those crossings safer," the chief said.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an agency within the U.S. Transportation Department created to reduce crashes involving large trucks and buses, 300-400 people are killed every year across the United States and more than 1,100 are injured at grade crossings, such as the three in South Plainfield. However, most of those crashes occur at rural crossings. The sites in South Plainfield already have some safety features, including gates.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Transit agencies may study train service to Flemington, NJ

Following article is from The Star-Ledger (NJ).

Transit agencies may study train service to Flemington

by Veronica Slaght/For The Star-Ledger
Tuesday September 08, 2009

FLEMINGTON -- Extending rail service to Flemington is one step closer to reality.

"We have had positive feedback from the NJTPA (North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority)" in response to a request for funding to study the idea, said Hunterdon Freeholder Matt Holt.

The study would evaluate the viability and cost of extending train service to Flemington, Holt said.

The NJTPA's board of trustees has to formally vote before the funding is made official, according to David Behrend, spokesman for the planning authority. That could be anytime between the board's next meeting in November and the first quarter of 2010, he said.

In general, however, the organization has endorsed extending train service to Flemington, Behrend said today.

He said the concept, which calls for running trains from Flemington to Bound Brook, where they would connect to NJ Transit's Raritan Valley Line, is supported by the regional transportation plan and considered a candidate for future funding.

Freeholder Holt said the feasibility study would be the first step in a long-term project.

"Even if we begin a study in 2010, we're looking at 10-plus years before we see the first piece of rail," he said. "It won't happen overnight."

Holt said this kind of study typically costs around $200,000. It would most likely be conducted by NJ Transit, he said, which would also likely operate any trains that run on those rails in the future.

"But who builds it and where the money comes from -- no one knows," Holt said.

The concept calls for utilizing existing track between Flemington and Bound Brook. About 18 miles are freight-only, used by Norfolk-Southern, so an additional track would need to be added to that stretch, he said. But no easements or land acquisition would be necessary because the track lines already exist. The only other work would likely be bridge improvements, he said.

Extending rail service to Flemington would ideally alleviate traffic on routes 202 and 206, Holt said.

Aside from the bus to New York City, the western part of the state is largely lacking public transportation.

"We in this area have our cars," said Holt. "We need to move beyond that."

The trains would stop at multiple places between Flemington and Bound Brook, which could help local economies in both Somerset and Hunterdon counties, said the freeholder.

NJ Transit is also studying adding more trains to the Raritan Valley Line, as well as possibly extending service to Hampton and possibly Phillipsburg.

It has been nearly 50 years since there was daily train service from Flemington to New York.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Weekly Rail Carloading Report - Week 35, 2009

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 35 of 2009.

Here is an example of the information available on this web site. This graph shows Total Traffic for 2008-2009 vs. 2007-2008. There are more graphs and tables on the web site showing data by railroad and by commodity.

Note that the trend is definitely up.

Note: This web site has new tables and graphs every Thursday. So, if I am late or miss a week with this blog posting, you can check for new data on Thursdays.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Centennial of B&O Disaster at Chewton, PA

Received the following information via email. Chewton, PA is northwest of Pittsburgh. The first link is to a current newspaper article about the B&O train wreck of 100 years ago. The next 3 links are to New York Times articles written at that time. They are PDF files.

Last Friday's 100th anniversary of this mysterious, deliberate and deadly sabotage of a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad express train at Chewton was marked by today's Ellwood City Ledger in nearby Ellwood City, of the last station at which the doomed passenger train had stopped:
From Tuesday, September 8, 2009, Ellwood City
Chewton Train Wreck Remembered

From Page 3, Sunday, September 5, 1909, THE NEW YORK TIMES:
GHOULS WRECK TRAIN THREE ARE KILLED; Baltimore & Ohio Flier Derailed at High Speed Near New Castle, Penn. ROBBERY IS THE MOTIVE Seventeen Persons Injured as Fast Train Leaves Track -- Two Suspects Arrested.

From Page 3, Monday, September 6, 1909, THE NEW YORK TIMES:
HOLD MAIMED MEN FOR WRECK OF FLIER; One of Two Prisoners at New Castle, Penn., Has Lost a Leg, the Other an Eye; SEEN NEAR THE DISASTER; Police Strive for Hours to Break Down Their Alibis--Striking Machinists Deny Causing Wreck

From Page 9, Tuesday, September 7, 1909, THE NEW YORK TIMES, the paper's third (and final) installment:
WRECK SUSPECTS SET FREE; Little Evidence Against Men Arrested Following B. & O. Disaster

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Lackawanna Railfest set-up 9-4-2009

Received the following via email from Kermit Geary, Jr. Text and photos are his.

Friday afternoon set-up provided some of the better lighting and positioning of the visiting locomotives. Nothing quite like F-units basking in the late afternoon sun! The D-L provided some excitement moving around the EL Dining car societies' Dining Car. A Corporate photo of all three major GVT lines in a common paint scheme was a nice touch!

Dining car is at rear of this string of locomotives.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Last Shots of the R&N...a good railroad to stay away from these days

Received the following via email from Kermit Geary, Jr. Text, photos, and captions are his.

Greetings: Found out today (Friday 9-4-2009) that the Reading & Northern has taken a distinct and scary tactic from the NJ Transit/ Amtrak playbook against photographers. No more will photographers be allowed access to yards terminals or even anywhere on line!!! According to Sgt Johnson of the R&N police force...(Who threatened me with arrest after asking him if it would be ok to hike in to take a picture)..."We can't allow photographers access to our property. There have been too many cases of vandalism to the railroad.....AND I KNOW IT IS ALL THESE DAMN RAILFANS"!!! After obtaining permission from a LGSR (Lehigh Gorge Senic Railway) officer, he reluctantly allowed me to hike up to the engine house and photograph the unit. So another formerly friendly railroad goes into the murky depths of "HOMELAND SECURITY". So I guess I will not make any effort to support these people as long as they maintain such an anal philosophy.

From there I went to Steamtown to cover the set-up for Lackawanna RailFest 2009. The friendly attitude by Park Employees and their law enforcement was a welcome breath of understanding and openness as opposed to the R&N.

R&N 425 & LGSR 426 at Jim Thorpe, PA

Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway 426 at Jim Thorpe, PA

Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway lettering

Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway logo