Fw: Trains News Digest for March 21-22, 2021 - Great Info and AWESOME TRAIN PHOTOS!

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Mon Mar 22 12:12:05 EDT 2021

Thanks Ed M. for sending me this important railroad information plus great photos!
Feel free to share.

Norris Deyerle

Blue Ridge Chapter, National Railway Historical Society Chairman of Virginia's Rail Heritage Region Partners

Info: www.blueridgenrhs.org<http://www.blueridgenrhs.org>

744 Chinook Place

Lynchburg, Virginia 24502-4908

Cell: 434-851-0151

From: Mayover, Edward <mayover at p-rsl.com>
Sent: Monday, March 22, 2021 12:04 PM
Subject: Trains News Digest for March 21-22, 2021

Analysis: Amtrak’s Gulf Coast STB filing to test right of access
By Bob Johnston<https://www.trains.com/authors/?_article_author=bob-johnston> | March 22, 2021

Agency could define its role in determining what infrastructure improvements are needed for passenger service

[People boarding train]
Amtrak’s ‘Gulf Coast Limited’ stops at Bay St. Louis, Miss., lon July 29, 1996. The train ran from June 27, 1996 until March 31, 1997, and was dropped when one of the states declined to fund it.

WASHINGTON — Amtrak’s 826-page petition to the Surface Transportation Board, filed last week, is the latest salvo in efforts to establish passenger trains on routes of railroads not currently hosting service. The STB’s eventual decision could have a significant impact on what investment is required for service expansion.

The filing argues Amtrak has made good faith efforts for five years to reach agreement with CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern on what infrastructure improvements are necessary for two daily round trips between New Orleans and Mobile, Ala. But since the railroads keep changing the parameters for a study addressing route capacity, pushing back completion of that study, Amtrak says it just needs to be allowed to run its trains.

Amtrak is asking for “expedited consideration,” based on five years of studies and the fact that the 145-mile corridor briefly hosted one daily Gulf Coast Limited round trip for several years in the 1980s and 1990s, plus the triweekly Sunset Limited between 1993 and 2005. The filing, available as a download here<https://dcms-external.s3.amazonaws.com/DCMS_External_PROD/1616016906905/301767.pdf>, reproduces prior publicly available analyses and provides schedules for the two daily round trips (on page 11), but doesn’t reveal any preliminary findings of Rail Traffic Controller modeling that began in 2020.

Amtrak agreed to pay for that still-secret study, but withdrew after a year when it hadn’t been completed. Though CSX and NS insists the latest modeling be concluded before service can begin, the Executive Summary of the Gulf Coast Working Group Report to Congress notes, “It is CSX’s position that if Amtrak wishes to add modified passenger rail service along the Gulf Coast, the appropriate next step is for it to initiate the planning process with a formal notice to CSX so that the two parties, and ultimately the Surface Transportation Board, can establish a path forward.”

Elsewhere in that 2017 Working Group report, the Federal Railroad Administration identified $5.38 million of improvements, mostly at stations and a pocket track at Mobile to hold a train off the main line, that are necessary to begin service, and another $94.88 million for “ongoing operations” over that segment.

Those suggested investments include:
— Construction of a new 10,000-foot siding west of Bay St. Louis, Miss., and a 21,000-foot, fully signaled section of double track through the yard at Pascagoula, Miss.;
— A new signaled passing track at CSX’s Gentilly Yard east of New Orleans;
— Replacing No. 15 turnouts at eight passing tracks with higher-speed No. 20 turnouts;
— Substituting heavy-duty miter rails at six drawbridges;
— Upgrading three interlockings to give CSX dispatchers control;
— Closing seven highway crossings where trains might be held on passing tracks.

[Man pointing to information in binder]

CSX engineering executive Tom Schmidt displays a notebook of agreed to infrastructure improvements on the inaugural of the ‘Sunset Limited’ on April 1, 1993.

The Working Group’s technical committee rejected a 2016 study by HDR Consulting, supervised by CSX, that called for $2.2 billion of improvements. Among them were double-track approaches to all drawbridges, based on the assumptions that “Marine traffic has priority and the bridges open on demand at random,” and “one bridge opening could delay a train from 7 to 30 minutes.” This contention, on page 687 of the filing, is not always valid where passenger train operation occurs, as evidenced by bridge-opening agreements with the U. S. Coast Guard on busy Brightline/Florida East Coast tracks at Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; the Capitol Corridor at Martinez, Calif.; and Amtrak and Metro North bridges in New Jersey and Connecticut.

Running freight and passenger trains together, as Amtrak recently pointed out in its public statements, is something that host railroads do every day, with varying degrees of success in accommodating both types of service. With infrastructure money attached, BNSF Railway, Union Pacific, and Norfolk Southern have all come to improvement agreements. So has CSX, on its Washington, D.C.-Richmond, Va., main line utilizing Virginia and federal funds for capacity expansion

CSX, however, chose to insist its consultant’s original recommendation be followed, rather than acknowledge the FRA’s recommendations and work with the agency and Amtrak on a collaborative solution.

The challenge for the STB, under new Chairman Martin Oberman, is to develop a team of analysts that can sift through claims and counterclaims to determine a reasonable outcome to allow Amtrak access.

Oberman said at an Environmental Law and Policy Center appearance on March 5 that he intends to set up a separate passenger rail desk to handle access and on-time performance matters.

“I think they are going to be remarkably complex; there’s nothing we do that is simple,” he said, adding, “If a freight railroad is denying Amtrak access to its tracks, the statutes make it clear we have the power to order such access and the terms of it.”

Amtrak, which wants to begin service on Jan. 1, 2022, has suggested a 180-day timetable for filings and replies. Even if the STB is able to meet that schedule, it will need to ascertain what improvements are actually required to allow service operate without significant disruption to freight operations and the potential ability to run passenger trains on time. Then those improvements must be built.

This is uncharted territory, so the precedents set will have a significant impact on other routes, either where service doesn’t exist or a host railroad makes infrastructure investment demands.

Union Pacific No. 4141 arrives in College Station for move to Bush Library and Museum
March 22, 2021

Locomotive, donated in 2019, will be part of museum expansion slated for 2024

[Locomotive under tarp, pulled by another locomotive]
Covered by a tarp and pulled by UP’s locomotive saluting veterans, Union Pacific No. 4141 arrives in College Station, Texas (Texas A&M Division of Marketing and Communications)

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Union Pacific No. 4141, the SD70ACe locomotive painted in an Air Force One-like scheme to honor President George H.W. Bush, has arrived in College Station and was scheduled to be trucked on Sunday afternoon from the UP tracks to the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Texas A&M University.

The locomotive, protected by a tarp, was delivered by the UP salute to veterans locomotive, SD70AH No. 1943, on Sunday morning. No. 4141 was painted to honor Bush in 2005, pulled his funeral train in 2018, and was donated by the railroad to the museum a year later. The university approved a $1-a-year lease of additional land earlier this year, making room for the display of the locomotive.

“What a historic day for our community,” Chancellor John Sharp of the Texas A&M University System said in a press release<https://today.tamu.edu/2021/03/21/union-pacific-4141-makes-last-stop-at-bush-museum/>. “President Bush loved trains and we love everything associated with the legacy of President Bush. Congratulations to the crew at Union Pacific, our hauling contractor, and everyone at the Bush Center at Texas A&M who worked to bring 4141 home.”

The locomotive will be part of a multi-million-dollar expansion which will also include a Marine One helicopter. The George & Barbara Bush Presidential Foundation hopes to complete that project by 2024.

Digest: Sonoma-Marin rail transit sued by landowners over bike, pedestrian trail
March 22, 2021

Landowners sue SMART, saying use of right-of-way for trail is illegal

Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit is being sued by a group of landowners over the commuter railroad’s use of its right-of-way to build a trackside bike and pedestrian trail. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports<https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/smart-sued-over-use-of-right-of-way-for-bike-and-pedestrian-trail/> that the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco alleges that the predecessor railroads often acquired the right-of-way through government condemnation exclusively for rail use. The group of more than 30 property owners along the rail road says construction of the path constitutes illegal taking of private land. SMART said in a statement it is assessing the claims and “will evaluate all available options.”

New seawall, support columns needed to shore up Southern California’s Del Mar Bluffs

Emergency repairs to address the collapse of a section of Southern California’s Del Mar Bluffs will cost about $10.5 million, according to the San Diego Association of Governments. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports<https://www.delmartimes.net/news/story/2021-03-20/del-mar-bluff-repairs-to-cost-10-5-million> a 288-foot seawall, as well as 18 vertical concrete and steel support columns tied into horizontal supports, will be required to stabilize the area which collapsed in February. Since the collapse, which came within 35 feet of the rail line atop the bluffs, Amtrak passenger trains and Coaster commuter trains have operating with a 15-mph speed restriction through the area. Freight trains face a 10-mph limit.

Mexico’s Navy to receive part ownership of rail, port alternative to Panama Canal

Mexico’s navy will receive part ownership of a rail and port system envisioned as an alternative to the Panama Canal, president Andrés Manuel López Obrador has announced. The Associated Press reports<https://borneobulletin.com.bn/mexican-president-gives-navy-part-of-southern-rail-port/> the navy and four states along the route of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec rail and seaport corridor will receive ownership of the 180-mile rail line connecting ports in Veracruz and Oaxaca, which would be expanded. The move follows an earlier decision by López Obrador to give the country’s army operational control of and profits from the Maya Train tourist rail project .

CP ordered not to leave trains unattended after incident near site of fatal 2019 wreck
March 22, 2021

In news report, railroad dispute’s Transport Canada’s characterization of February event as ‘immediate threat’

Transport Canada has ordered Canadian Pacific to stop leaving trains unattended without setting handbrakes near the site of 2019’s fatal runaway accident on Kicking Horse Pass after a February incident, the CBC reports<https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/cp-train-handbrakes-transport-canada-1.5954989>, but the railroad is disputing the regulator’s assertion that the event in question constituted “an immediate threat.”

In question is a Feb. 15, 2021, incident in which a loaded grain train — of 8,309 feet and 18,878 tons, according to a Transport Canada letter<https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/20516143-letter-of-order-rdims-17316056-cp-cp-laggan-subdivision-march-2-20> published by the CBC — was left on a grade with only its air brakes set when the train’s power and crew was sent further down the pass to assist another train. The railroad told the CBC that “securement by handbrakes or other means was not required under Canadian operating rules,” and that the location “was not a mountain grade and there was no reasonable safety concern of unintentional movement.” The railroad said the train was not unattended, because another crew was “on site nearby … in position to act if required,” but Transport Canada’s order says that crew, on a train stopped 1.5 car lengths behind the grain train, could have taken “little or no action” if the grain train began to move.

The broadcaster said Transport Canada declined to say why no penalties resulted from the incident, but that it continues to examine the case and could still impose fines or penalties.

The CBC report references the fatal Feb. 4, 2019, derailment near Field, British Columbia, which is now the subject of an investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as well as the 2013 disaster that killed 47 in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. The complicated series of events that led to that event included a train left unattended without a sufficient number of handbrakes being set.

Analysts see growth potential, but CP-KCS merger may face skepticism from shippers, regulators
By Bill Stephens<https://www.trains.com/authors/?_article_author=bill-stephens> | March 21, 2021

Intermodal, grain, chemicals, petroleum traffic could all benefit from deal

[Train with tank cars rounding curve.]
An eastbound Canadian Pacific oil train heads through Elm Grove, Wis., in February 2020. Petroleum traffic could be one of the beneficiaries of the CP-Kansas City Southern deal. (Trains: David Lassen)

The Canadian Pacific acquisition of Kansas City Southern should help the railroads develop new business — including diverting truck traffic to rail — but the $29 billion deal announced on Sunday could face regulatory hurdles and opposition from shippers and other Class I systems.

CP and KCS executives touted the potential for traffic growth that would flow from new single-line service linking Canada and the Upper Midwest with Texas and Mexico. They were particularly bullish on the prospect of new intermodal service that would tap cross-border trade with Mexico.

Intermodal analyst Larry Gross says there’s plenty of opportunity to grow intermodal service to and from Mexico. “I think that having single-line service can only help,” Gross says. “The U.S.-Mexico cross-border market has been a laggard and so too, the Midwest-South Central (Chicago-Texas) market. I think the bigger question than the southbound auto parts is the northbound market, which is the overbalanced direction. Intermodal has a small share overall and the market has suffered because of the need to work with more than one railroad for most moves.”

Todd Tranausky, vice president of rail and intermodal at FTR Transportation Intelligence, a freight forecasting firm, says intermodal, grain, and chemicals and petroleum products are likely to see the biggest gains from a CP-KCS merger.

Mexico is the largest export market for U.S. grain, but having single-line service from Canada could open the market to Canadian farmers as well, Tranausky says.

“From a chemical/petroleum perspective, Canadian crude and other petroleum products will no longer have to interchange in Chicago or Kansas City and would be able to move directly to the U.S. Gulf Coast, which would represent a significant efficiency for those shippers, particularly as pipeline projects face additional uncertainty,” Tranausky says.

Shippers will play a major role in how the Surface Transportation Board views the merger, Tranausky says. Past mergers created major service problems at the outset.

“Rail shippers will have a big voice at the Surface Transportation Board and if they are not satisfied that the carriers can maintain service levels during the transition and improve them going forward, then they may not support the transaction at the regulator,” Tranausky says. “The board has been increasingly focused on shippers’ concerns in recent years and I would expect they will play an outsized role in how the board views this transaction through the process.”

The National Industrial Transportation League, which is the largest shipper organization in North America, on Sunday took a wait-and-see approach to the merger.

“Given the scale of the announcement of the merger between Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern and many details yet to be learned, it’s too early to take a position on the favorability of this merger to the rail shipping community,” NITL Executive Director Jennifer Hedrick says. “While the National Industrial Transportation League and our members have outstanding relationships with both Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern, and are optimistic about this new venture, any merger in this industry and on this scale will be viewed with healthy skepticism based on prior history and experience of rail mergers.”

Shippers look forward to learning more about the merger and its potential impact, she said.

Even though the STB’s more stringent merger review rules enacted in 2001 contain an exemption for a merger involving KCS, the CP-KCS deal will be the first real test of the rules, Tranausky says. “There has not been a successful Class I merger since they were put in place and it will be interesting to see how they are applied to this transaction,” he says. “KCS is a bit unique from a regulatory perspective in the U.S. so we will have to see how the board interprets its rules as the control proceeding moves forward.”

CP CEO Keith Creel told investors and analysts today that he expects shippers will support the merger due to its pro-competitive impacts and the opportunity to connect new markets.

Independent rail analyst Anthony B. Hatch expects the merger will pass regulatory muster. “I don’t see any realistic chance of STB rejection,” he says, noting that no shippers will lose competitive rail service under the deal.

It is not clear how other Class I railroads will react to the deal and whether they would seek concessions from CP and KCS or regulatory relief from the STB, Hatch says.

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