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Railfan Hot Rail NewsEdited by Walt Lankenau
We solicit your contributions to this column. If you have original news items
or photographs to share, please contact us.

Railfan RSS Feed - RAILNEWS

UP Publishes Schedule for Big Boy Move
April 16th, 2014

Union Pacific says that Big Boy No. 4014 will leave Colton Yard in California at 8:00 a.m. on April 28 and is expected to arrive at the steam shop in Cheyenne, Wyo., at 1:00 p.m. on March 8. The locomotive will leave Yermo, Calif., on April 29 and will be on display at Las Vegas, Nev., on April 30. It will leave Vegas May 1; Milford, Utah, on May 2; and be placed on display in Salt Lake City on May 3. On May 4 it will move from Salt Lake City to Ogden for a day of display on May 5. On May 6 it will leave Ogden for Rock Springs, Wyo., and arrive Laramie on the evening of May 7. On May 8 it will make the last leg of it trip to Cheyenne, where it's expected to arrive around 1:00 p.m.

The detailed schedule with intermediate stops is available here.

—Railfan & Railroad via Union Pacific

Illinois Pushes Black Hawk Reinstatement
April 15th, 2014

The Illinois Department of Transportation has earmarked $60 million to return Amtrak service between Chicago and Rockford next year. The city has not had passenger service since the state-supported Amtrak Black Hawk was taken off in 1981. Track and signal upgrades will eventually enable operation at 79 m.p.h., although initially the top speed will be 59. The goal is to establish by 2016 a 90-minute schedule over the 87-mile route, which will include stops at Elgin, Huntley, and Belvidere. At that time a second daily round trip will be added, and the state is negotiating to extend the route to Dubuque, Iowa, over Canadian National. The trains will use Metra's Milwaukee District between Chicago Union Station and a new connection with Union Pacific's Belvidere Sub west near Metra's Big Timber station west of Elgin. IDOT would have preferred to use CN's shorter route to the south, but could not come to an agreement with the freight carrier.

—Railfan & Railroad

CN/EMD Liquified Natural Gas Project Moves Forward
April 11th, 2014

Electro-Motive Diesel has taken delivery of the first liquified natural gas (LNG) tender from Westport Innovations for the conversion of four Canadian National SD70ACe and SD70M-2 locomotives to LNG operation. The tender consists of a 40-foot long, 10,000 gallon tank carried in a 48-foot intermodal well car and will operate coupled between two locomotives. The supercold LNG carried in the tank will be vaporized on the tender for use by the locomotives. Westport says the locomotives will use 60-80 per cent LNG and will have the ability to switch to pure diesel when necessary. Dynamic Blending Technology from EMD's parent Caterpillar, Inc., will manage the fuel mix. The use of LNG could bring the railroads a 30-50 per cent savings in fuel costs, but storage facilities and fueling infrastructure needs to be built. Westport is also studying the high pressure direct injection of LNG into locomotive engines, which would use 95 per cent LNG to five per cent diesel.

The LNG test sets are expected to enter service on CN later this year following a period of static testing at EMD.

—Railfan & Railroad

Excursions Offered to Streamliners at Spencer Event
April 11th, 2014

In association with the North Carolina Transportation Museum’s Streamliners at Spencer  festival on May 29 – June 1, the NCTM Foundation is offering an exclusive round trip excursion from Norfolk Southern’s Charlotte Regional Intermodal Facility (CRIF) to the museum. Thousands are expected to descend on museum grounds during the four-day Streamliner festival, but only 120 passengers will have the opportunity to ride aboard the private varnish Streamliner Special trips.

These chartered trips will be offered on May 30 and May 31 and present a rare opportunity to travel aboard one of four beautifully restored private business cars through North Carolina’s Piedmont Region to the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer.

The Streamliner Special excursions are made possible through the generous support of Norfolk Southern Corp., by allowing use of their rail lines and access to the newly-opened Charlotte Regional Intermodal Facility, located at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Railroad enthusiast Bennett Levin, owner and operator of the Juniata Terminal Co., is generously providing the train set.

This unique excursion departs the Charlotte Regional Intermodal Facility at 1:00 p.m. for both trips and returns at 7:00 p.m. During the trip, passengers will be attended to by stewards offering first-class white glove service, with hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine. A special souvenir gift tote will be included with a commemorative route guide.

Tickets for this rare experience are $1000 per person, with proceeds benefitting the North Carolina Transportation Museum Foundation. Funds raised will help restore and preserve historic rail equipment and facilities, as well as operate the regular on-site train ride, which is, for many visitors, their first experience riding a train. A portion of each ticket is considered a tax-deductible contribution; the estimated fair market value of your ticket is $250, with $750 of the price eligible as a tax deductible donation to the extent provided by law.

The trip will include a three-hour layover at the N.C. Transportation Museum during the Streamliners at Spencer rail festival. The event will feature classic locomotives of the 1930s – 50s, photo opportunities for rail fans, cab tours of attending locomotives and special operations. With more than 20 confirmed locomotives representing at least a dozen historic railroads, it is expected to be the largest gathering of these locomotives since their heyday.

Powering the Streamliner Special will be one of Levin’s Pennsylvania Railroad E8 locomotives. These 1950s-era streamliners represent two-thirds of the original Conrail Office Car Special locomotive fleet.

The train set will include four business or parlor cars, including the notable Pennsylvania No. 120 business car. Built in 1928, this historic car has carried a number of well-known passengers, including President John F. Kennedy and his family, the Duke and Dutchess of Windsor, and Prince Charles and his wife. In a more somber moment, the car was used to transport the body of Robert F. Kennedy to its burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

Warrior Ridge No. 1157, originally built in 1953 for Southern Pacific’s Sunset Limited, was rebuilt in 2002 at Juniata Terminal's shops and converted into a parlor-lounge-buffet car. The car is named after a small town in central Pennsylvania located 206 miles west of Philadelphia along the original route of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Greenwich Harbor was built in 1952 as a first class parlor car for the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Senator between Boston and Washington, D.C. The car, now owned and restored by Railway Entertainment Services, features a dining area with table seating as well as section with traditional passenger seating. The Greenwich Estate also features both a dining and passenger section, and is also owned and operated by Railway Entertainment Services.

For more information or to make a reservation, visit http://nctrans.org/Events/Streamliners-at-Spencer-%281%29/Streamliner-Special.aspx or contact Misty Stach at 704-636-2889, ext. 228 or misty.stach@nctrans.org.

—Railfan & Railroad via North Carolina Transportation Museum

Central Pennsylvania Excursions to Run
April 10th, 2014

Sixty rail excursions will be held in Central Pennsylvania this year, beginning on May 24 in Shamokin and concluding December 21 in Bellefonte.  Excursions will operate in Bloomsburg, Catawissa, Danville, Lock Haven, Sunbury, and Williamsport on tracks owned by the SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority. The excursions are a combined effort of the JRA, which provides insurance and owns the track on which the excursions run; North Shore Railroad, which donates locomotive services; and Penn Valley Railroad LLC, which rents out vintage rail coaches and a caboose for the trips. The trips will run on the North Shore, Nittany & Bald Eagle, Lycoming Valley, and Shamokin Valley Railroads.

—Railfan & Railroad via SEDA-COG

Illinois Plans Rail Improvements
April 10th, 2014

A six-year, $8.6 billion construction program that will improve roads, bridges, and public transportation throughout Illinois between 2015 and 2020 has been unveiled by Governor Pat Quinn. The improvement program includes $1.85 billion for public transportation and will fund rail upgrades that include:

  • $60 million to re-establish passenger rail service on the Chicago-Rockford-Dubuque corridor, which includes a new station in South Elgin
  • $585.1 million to purchase up to 160 Electric Highliner Commuter Cars for Metra
  • $222 million to provide new intercity passenger rail service between Chicago and Moline for the Chicago-Quad Cities-Iowa City Corridor
  • $132.6 million for the Englewood Flyover to reduce Amtrak, Metra, and freight rail congestion 
$2.7 million has been earmarked for rail projects in 2015. Overall, the plan includes $6.99 billion in anticipated federal funds, $1.16 billion in state funds, and the remaining $450 million from local and other sources.

—Railfan & Railroad via State of Illinois

Amtrak Awards Empire Corridor Contract
April 10th, 2014

Amtrak has awarded a construction management contract to Michael Baker Jr., Inc., which will supervise five Empire Corridor improvement projects, mostly near Albany N.Y. on 85 route miles that Amtrak leased from CSX Transportation in late 2012. These include double-tracking between Albany-Rensselaer and Schenectady, adding a fourth track and an additional platform at Albany-Rensselaer, grade crossing upgrades, and signaling improvements between Poughkeepsie and Schenectady.

—Railfan & Railroad

Province Will Not Privatize Ontario Northland Rail
April 9th, 2014

The Province of Ontario says it will continue to operate the motor coach, Polar Bear Express, rail freight, and refurbishment services of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) as a government-owned transportation company. The province will make new strategic investments to ensure ONTC's transportation services and infrastructure continue to support economic growth in northeastern Ontario. The investments include more than $23 million over three years, subject to annual budget approvals, to purchase new motor coaches for its bus line and to refurbish rail coaches for the Polar Bear Express. This will maintain and improve vital transportation services, and provide new work for the ONTC refurbishment division.

Ontario has also reached an agreement with Bell Aliant to purchase the Ontera telecommunications business. Proceeds from the sale include $6 million in cash and will result in long-term revenue to ONTC estimated at $10 million. The province and Bell Aliant will each commit $15.1 million as part of a $30.2 million public-private investment in telecommunications infrastructure in northeastern Ontario.
  • ONTC provides freight transportation to industries in northeastern Ontario and northwestern Quebec along its 1,100-kilometre rail system, which spans from Moosonee to North Bay and from Calstock to Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec.
  • In 2012-13, 240,000 passengers used ONTC motor coach services. Ridership has been increasing over the past three years.
  • The Polar Bear Express carries approximately 64,000 passengers, their belongings, and vehicles per year between Chochrane and Moosonee, where there are no roads.
—Railfan & Railroad via ONTC

FRA to Rule on Train Crew Size
April 9th, 2014

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will issue a proposed rule requiring two-person train crews on crude oil trains and establishing minimum crew size standards for most main line freight and passenger rail operations. The FRA also intends to advance a rulemaking on train securement and recommends a rulemaking on the movement of hazardous materials.

The Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) Working Groups on Appropriate Train Crew Size, Securement, and Hazardous Materials Issues were created at DOT’s request last summer in response to the Lac-Mégantic derailment. The emergency meeting was held to evaluate and consider wide-ranging proposals to further enhance railroad safety including the safe shipment of crude oil by rail. Two of the Working Groups produced recommendations that were adopted by the full RSAC for consideration in future rulemakings. Since the working group failed to reach consensus on crew size, the FRA has taken action to move forward with a rulemaking.

Existing FRA regulations do not mandate minimum crew staffing requirements, but current industry practice is to have two person crews for over-the-road operations. The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) will most likely require a minimum of two person crews for most main line train operations including those trains carrying crude oil. It is also expected to include appropriate exceptions.

FRA plans to issue an additional NPRM based on the consensus recommendations of the Securement Working Group and approved by the full RSAC that would prohibit certain unattended freight trains or standing freight cars on main track or sidings and require railroads to adopt and implement procedures to verify securement of trains and unattended equipment for emergency responders. It would also require locomotive cabs to be locked and reversers to be removed and secured. Railroads would also be required to obtain advance approval from FRA for locations or circumstances where unattended cars or equipment may be left.

The full RSAC also approved four recommendations of the Hazardous Materials Issues Working Group relating to identification, classification, operational control and handling of certain shipments. The four recommendations, directed to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), include amending or revising the definitions of “residue” and “key train,” and clarifying its regulatory jurisdiction over the loading, unloading and storage of hazmat before and during transportation. PHMSA continues to advance a rulemaking addressing the integrity of DOT Specification 111 tanker cars and the safe shipment by rail of flammable materials such as crude oil.

On August 29, 2013, the first-ever emergency session of the RSAC was held in response to the July 6, 2013 derailment of an unattended Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway freight train containing crude oil in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada. Building upon Secretary Anthony Foxx’s February Agreement with the Rail and Petroleum Industries, the FRA’s Emergency Order 28 and Safety Advisory 2013-06, PHMSA’s Operation Safe Delivery, Safety Alerts and a DOT Emergency Order, the three RSAC working groups reviewed existing regulations and standards to identify and mitigate the risks posed by such shipments and prevent future accidents.

— Railfan & Railroad via Federal Railroad Administration

Great Smoky Mountains Starts Work on Steam Shop
April 9th, 2014

North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains Railroad has started construction on its new steam shop in Dillsboro and has completed pouring the structure's concrete floor. Now that the floor has been finished, the building's steel framework will begin to rise. After the shop's completion GSMR's ex-U.S. Army 2-8-0 No. 1702 will be rebuilt for service there. In addition to the shop building, GSMR will install a new, 75-foot turntable at Bryson City. The steam project is being financed by a Swain County overnight accommodation tax and the county will loan the railroad up to $700,000.

GMSR operates diesel-powered excursions and dinner trains over the former Southern Railway Murphy Branch between Dillsboro and Bryson City and also offers rail access to the scenic Nantahala Gorge from Bryson City.

—Railfan & Railroad


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