by Bill McCaffery


The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) announced at the 2017 Annual Meeting in October that they will explore implementation of service on the Rockland Branch. The “Downeaster Coastal Connection” pilot program would be an extension of existing schedules, using existing equipment. This seasonal and weekend- only service would provide Downeaster transportation to Bath, Wiscasset, Newcastle, and Rockland, Maine. Details, including a schedule of public meetings to gather input from communities along the line will be announced soon. At this point Rockland service is under consideration but is not yet scheduled.

Speaking of the Rockland Branch, former Maine Eastern FL9 locomotive (ex- New Haven) was hauling Christmas trains in New Jersey for its parent company Morristown and Erie this season. It is still lettered Maine Eastern. Maine Eastern was the previous operator of the state-owned Rockland Branch. Central Maine and Quebec took over the freight operation at the beginning of 2016; there was no passenger service on the line in 2016 or 2017.

From the Connecticut Department of Transportation website: When Hartford Line service begins in the spring of 2018, CTrail and Amtrak will provide 17 roundtrip trains between New Haven and Hartford each weekday; 12 of these 17 roundtrip trains will continue to Springfield. Travelers in New Haven, Wallingford, Meriden, Berlin, and Hartford will be able to board trains every 45 minutes during the morning and evening peak hours, and approximately every 60-90 minutes during off-peak periods. Weekday service will begin as early as 6am and run as late as 11pm, providing a convenient alternative to driving for people traveling to work, school, or for leisure throughout the corridor.

Hartford Line trains will operate at speeds up to 110 mph, reducing travel time between Springfield and New Haven from an average of 89 minutes to 81 minutes, a savings of 8 minutes. The Hartford Line will also provide direct or connecting rail service to New York City, Boston, and Vermont; and local connections to CTtransit and CTfastrak.

Controversial CSX CEO Hunter Harrison died on 12/16/17 in Wellington FL. He had made drastic changes at Illinois Central, Canadian National, and Canadian Pacific. All of these companies saw a significant rise in their stock price. In his 2005 book, “How We Work and Why: Running a Precision Railroad,” Harrison laid out his core principles for running a rail carrier: service, cost control, asset utilization, safety and people. He was unpopular with rail unions. He began his career in 1963 as an 18-year-old carman-oiler for St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Co., lubricating train wheels while attending the University of Memphis.

From the MBTA web site on 12/21/17: Federal Transit Administration releases first $100 million toward total approved $1 billion for Green Line Expansion project. This project will eventually extend the Green Line to Somerville and Medford. The T has issued a “Notice to Proceed” to design-build firm.

Wollaston Station on the MBTA Red Line was closed in January 2018 for a construction project expected to last 20 months. [Editor’s note: this will make the entirety of the Red Line 100% accessible.]

WASHINGTON– Amtrak has named Ken Hylander Executive Vice President and Chief Safety Officer. Hylander most recently served as Chairman of the Flight Safety Foundation and previously served as the Chief Safety Officer at Delta Air Lines. He will report directly to President and CEO Richard Anderson and be responsible for implementing a proven Safety Management System (SMS) at Amtrak. [Amtrak Press Release]

Retired Norfolk Southern CEO Wick Moorman stepped down as co-CEO at Amtrak as scheduled on 12/31/17. He said when he came to Amtrak that he did not intend to remain long term. He is now a Senior Advisor to Amtrak.

Courtesy of Billy Leazer, a member of the Amtrak Northeast Group on Yahoo, comes a report that Amtrak is retiring the popular Pacific Parlour cars on the Coast Starlight in early February. The cars are former Santa Fe bilevels. It is not known why Amtrak Marketing chose to use the British spelling “parlour” when American railroads had a long history of offering high-class parlor car service. One more amenity has been taken away from Amtrak passengers.

A jury in Sherbrooke, Quebec acquitted all 3 railroad employees charged with criminal negligence in the Lac Megantic tragedy that killed 47 people on July 6, 2013. The verdict came after nine days of deliberation. This catastrophic oil train wreck caused the bankruptcy of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railroad. []

The Conway Scenic Railroad suffered serious damage from a wind and rain storm in late October. The railroad and its contractors are working vigorously to put the line back in good shape for the 2018 tourist season. [Railpace].

The Maine Department of Transportation is looking at the possibility of creating a trail along the former Grand Trunk Railway line from Portland to Yarmouth. The last rail user was the St. Lawrence & Atlantic which delivered beans to the B&M Baked Beans factory but lost this business in 2015. [Railpace].

The problems at New York’s Penn Station continue to attract media attention outside the usual rail publications. Bloomberg Business Week January 15, 2018 issue devoted 6 pages to this topic. As with most other articles by New York media, the emphasis is on the woes of the daily commuters rather than the long-distance passenger. A particular concern is the two Hudson River tunnels built by the Pennsylvania Railroad 107 years ago. The reporters were given a close-up view of one tunnel from the rear of an Acela train. The marks left by the salt water that entered the tunnels during Super Storm Sandy 5 years ago are still very visible. Sulfates and chlorides have been eating away at the concrete ever since. Amtrak says the tunnels are safe for now. Every Amtrak and New Jersey Transit train that travels from New York to New Jersey and points south must pass through one of these tunnels. The loss of even one tunnel would have devastating effects on both New Jersey commuters and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. New Jersey, New York, and the Federal Government have been arguing for years about how to finance new tunnels.

The Bloomberg article contained some interesting statistics. Penn Station is the busiest rail station in the Western Hemisphere. It serves 430,000 people each weekday which is more than LaGuardia, JFK, and Newark airports combined. There are more than 1,300 train arrivals and departures every weekday.

From Progressive Railroading: On the Wolverine service from Detroit to Chicago, Michigan DOT has logged a 20-minute reduction in travel time.

In 2012, Michigan DOT purchased 135 miles of the rail corridor between Kalamazoo and Dearborn from Norfolk Southern Railway. Using $347 million in federal funds, the department replaced worn track and smoothed curves for higher speeds, upgraded crossings and signals, and upgraded the train signaling and communication system.

Crews also installed a new bridge connection in west Detroit to allow for a faster connection for trains bound for Detroit, Royal Oak, Troy and Pontiac, Michigan DOT officials said.

From Washington Post on-line: CHARLOTTESVILLE Va — Just over an hour into the [January 31, 2018] train ride from Washington to West Virginia, Republican lawmakers traveling to their annual retreat were settling in for the long excursion, chatting with colleagues or family or simply stretching their legs.

Without warning, the train slammed into a white garbage truck. It was quite a jolt,” said Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.). “It was just bam.” “You could feel we had hit something,” said Sen. Mike Lee (Utah). “It took us maybe a quarter-mile to stop.”

The force from the chartered 10-car Amtrak train sliced into the truck on the tracks Wednesday, killing one person and injuring at least five, a deadly start for a GOP gathering focused on party unity and election-year strategy.

Shortly after impact, the doctors among the Republican rank-and-file ignored security officials’ warning not to leave the train and rushed to help. Sen. Bill Cassidy (La.), a physician, along with Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Rep. Brad Wenstrup (Ohio), helped carry one truck passenger several hundred yards to an ambulance.

Their destination was West Virginia’s Greenbrier Resort, once home to secret government facilities built in the event of a nuclear attack that now often hosts the winter conferences held by Democrats and Republicans to plot strategy. Republicans opted to travel together by rail for security and logistical purposes. Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) was on the train and uninjured; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) was not on board. Republicans were scheduled to arrive by early afternoon.

The crash occurred in Crozet, Va., a town of about 5,500 residents 12 miles west of Charlottesville. Residents who live near the crash site said it’s not the first time vehicles have struggled at the Lanetown rail crossing.

The crossing “is not good for trucks of any size,” said Ray Page McCauley Jr., who said that the height of the crossing has long posed problems and that he’s seen other trucks get stuck before. “A lot of tractortrailers have gotten stuck, and even limos seem to have trouble getting across it,” he said. “If a truck breaks down, there isn’t enough time to call the railroad to let them know.”

Copyright © 2000 - 2018 [Mystic Valley Railway Society, Inc]. All rights reserved.
Revised: Apr 2018