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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

Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Approaches the End of the Line
April 24th, 2014

Fortress Investment Group's Central Maine & Quebec Railway could begin operations as early as May 1, taking over from the bankrupt Montreal, Maine & Atlantic. MMA declared bankruptcy last August after a 73-car unit oil train ran away, derailed, and exploded in downtown Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on July 6.

The new railroad will use about a half dozen GP20D's and eight SD40-2s leased from CIT Group. The SD40-2s are currently on lease to MMA. John Giles, a former RailAmerica official, will head the new company.

— Railfan & Railroad

GE Pursues Alstom
April 24th, 2014

General Electric is reportedly negotiating to buy Alstom for $13 billion. The French company builds TGV high speed trains, signaling systems, power plant equipment such as hydroelectric turbines, wind turbines, and gas turbines, and power transmission systems. The Alstom North American Rolling Stock manufacturing facility in Hornell, N.Y., is the largest passenger rail facility in the U.S. and can produce 60 cars per month. Alstom has built or overhauled cars for Amtrak, Bay Area Rapid Transit, the Chicago Transit Authority, NJ Transit, New York City Transit, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

Alstom says, "In response to recent speculation in the economic press, Alstom is not informed of any potential public tender offer for the shares of the Company." 

—Railfan & Railroad; TGV Duplex photo: Alstom

MP&ES Develops Dual-fuel Road Switchers
April 23rd, 2014

Motive Power & Equipment Solutions, Inc. (MP&ES) of Greenville, S.C., has introduced the Greenville™ locomotive, an ultra­‐low emissions genset powered by a combination of natural gas and diesel fuel. “Natural gas offers our customers an opportunity to greatly reduce their operating fuel costs while cutting emissions at the same time,” said MP&ES CEO and President David Wilkerson. “MP&ES has invested heavily in technology, research and staffing to be at the forefront of delivering highly affordable, natural gas powered locomotives for switcher and short line operations.”

MP&ES has been evaluating technology and developing designs for natural gas locomotives for more than two years. The company recognized the importance of providing a cost effective system that can meet the high reliability and durability requirements of the railroad industry. An assessment was made of the full range of dual fuel and dedicated, 100 per cent natural gas technologies. MP&ES, with partner OptiFuel Systems LLC is conducting final power system testing and calibration along with full emissions certification. The company manufactures a line of locomotives under the MP designation and expects to begin taking orders on the 1500 h.p. MP1500 dual fuel locomotive later this year. The Indiana Harbor Belt is considering MP&ES for the conversion of 31 locomotives to natural gas.

More information on MP&ES products and services is available at the company website, www.mpes.us.com.

—Railfan & Railroad via MP&ES

Study Outlines Baton Rouge — New Orleans Passenger Rail Link
April 23rd, 2014

A study has been released on the proposed Amtrak service between New Orleans and the state capital of Baton Rouge. Trains would use 66.5 miles of Kansas City Southern’s New Orleans Subdivision between Baton Rouge and Frellsen Junction, 7.5 miles of Canadian National track from there to Southport Junction, and 3.7 miles of city-owned track into New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal. CN wanted a passenger flyover built at East Bridge Junction (at the east end of the Huey P. Long Bridge), but the Federal Railroad Administration thinks reconfiguring the trackage there will increase capacity and reduce delays enough with less expense.

To start, one round trip will originate at each endpoint each morning and evening with a maximum authorized speed of 79 m.p.h. over 57.2 miles of the 78.5-mile route; the balance would operate at 45 m.p.h. with a 40 m.p.h. maximum between Southport and Union Station. With intermediate stops at Baton Rouge Suburban, Gonzales, LaPlace, Kenner, and Jefferson Parish, the trip should take about an hour and a half. Over time, frequencies will be increased to six, then eight daily round trips, while speeds will be raised to 90 and then 110 m.p.h. Equipment for the three-car push-pull trains is expected to become available after new locomotives and bilevel coaches enter service on Amtrak short-haul routes out of the Chicago hub in the next few years.

The project will replace a dozen bridges along the KCS segment, the largest being the 1.8-mile long timber trestle across the Bonnet Carre Spillway with its current 10 m.p.h. speed limit. The other new spans will be associated with passing track extensions at Gonzales, Gramercy, and Norco. In conjunction with the siding extensions and the addition of Centralized Traffic Control, hand thrown No. 11 turnouts will be replaced with No. 15 powered switches to permit 30 m.p.h. entering and leaving sidings.

Kansas City Southern’s present Direct Traffic Control system and automatic block signals will be replaced by Centralized Traffic Control, while most of the CN and Amtrak trackage near New Orleans already has CTC. KCS and CN will be installing Positive Train Control on most of their lines, but Amtrak will have to pay for PTC on four miles of CN track between Mays Yard and Southport Junction unless the FRA grants a waiver.

Don’t expect work to begin any time soon; funding has yet to be identified. You can read the entire report here.

Railfan & Railroad via HNTB Corp.

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


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