14

More cooperation needed to improve rail travel to, from and within Canada

Posted one year ago by Malcolm Kenton
Among the outcomes of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s official visit to Washington and meetings with President Obama last week is an announcement that pilot programs will begin to allow for travelers — going by car, bus or train — to be pre-screened by both countries’ border control agents before actually reaching the border. Airline passengers already clear US Customs and Border Protection screening at several Canadian airports before entering the US, and US imm...
33

Bus company messaging evinces shirking of civic pride and responsibility

Posted one year ago by Malcolm Kenton
I’ve recently begun seeing Facebook advertisements for another new mobile app-based on-demand transportation service, this one called Skedaddle. This Boston-based startup is bringing the Uber/Lyft ridesharing concept to intercity bus and van travel. It promises to match a user up with at least nine others going to the same destination on the same day, and give users a quick, comfortable ride in “a professionally driven luxury vehicle” with “comfortable seating and plenty ...
3

SP&S 700 1472 day FRA-Mandated Boiler Inspection: The work ahead

Posted one year ago by Stephen P. Sedaker
In anticipation of the 1472 rebuild, the Pacific Railroad Preservation Association (PRPA), the 700’s support team of volunteers, recently began planning for this big project. In autumn of 2015, the scope of the project was carefully studied and a timeline was formulated. A project plan and accompanying budget was created, and was finalized and approved at the beginning of this year. A fundraising strategy was identified, and teams were put into place to finalize the rebuild plan, and ...
25

How inventive use of a stick saved the day aboard The Canadian

Posted one year ago by Malcolm Kenton
I returned on Tuesday (Feb. 23) from my second journey (first eastbound) aboard VIA Rail Canada’s The Canadian, North America’s finest passenger train and its last transcontinental streamliner. I chose this particular late February eastbound run from Vancouver to Toronto at the recommendation of a friend who traveled a year ago with an informal group of railroaders who call themselves the Moonlighters. The name comes from the fact that the trip is timed to coincide with the full moon...
15

Punctuality gains boost Amtrak ridership despite falling gas prices

Posted one year ago by Malcolm Kenton
To what extent is intercity passenger trains’ ridership and revenue affected by their on-time performance (OTP) and by the cost of their chief competition, driving a private automobile? These are the questions that Mark Feldman, a senior consultant at Steer Davies Gleave in Boston, answered in a study conducted on behalf of Amtrak in late 2015 and presented in a session on intercity passenger rail performance at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting in Washington, DC on January ...
3

The SP&S 700 1472 day FRA-Mandated Boiler Inspection

Posted one year ago by Stephen P. Sedaker
Spokane, Portland and Seattle (SP&S) 700, one of several remaining operating Northern class steam locomotives in North America, is going back into the shop for her FRA mandated 1472- day inspection. The 700's home base is in Portland, Oregon at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center, accompanied by stable mates Southern Pacific 4449 and Union Pacific (OR&N) 197. This facility is owned by the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation (ORHF),and is the result of a combination of hard work by a group o...
5

Where a train stops, it helps to know

Posted one year ago by Malcolm Kenton
Does it really matter at what point along a platform a passenger train stops, or “spots,” to board and alight riders? According to a Dutch researcher who compared rider behavior when trains were stopped at different points on the platform at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport station (one of the Netherlands’ busiest), it matters a great deal. Most of the Netherlands’ long-distance and regional trains run through Schiphol, with longer-distance trains running once or twice...
4

Meet the MARTA Army: A citizens’ corps making the transit rider’s experience better

Posted one year ago by Malcolm Kenton
Have you ever wanted to see changes made to a passenger rail or transit service, even something as small as putting a display of route and schedule information at every stop, that would make riders’ lives easier? Have you tried to get the operator, transit agency or local government to make such improvements, but been stymied by complaints of “not enough money,” bureaucratic finger-pointing, concerns about liability, or other such obstacles? Have you then wished that you and a ...
12

A Texas Steam Railroad Reinvents Itself

Posted one year ago by Hayley Enoch
This Friday finds me covering the Railroad Passenger Car Alliance convention in Tyler, Texas. This year’s conference has been hosted by the Texas State Railroad, which connects the nearby cities of Palestine and Rusk, Texas. Texas State Railroad doesn’t tend to be one of the places that springs immediately to mind, but that’s no fault of its history or the location. You’d have to wile away hours on the road, perhaps traverse entire states, before you find a railroad ru...
10

Get 'em while you can

Posted one year ago by Chase Gunnoe
NS freight No. 380 rolls through Poca, W.Va. on the NS West Virginia Secondary in March 2011. NS announced on Jan. 12 it would idle "portions of its 253-mile West Virginia Secondary". In the background? The coal-fired John E. Amos Power =receives coal-by-rail from a coal mine in Cabin Creek, W.Va. that announced it would "permanently terminate" employees by March 11.  Act now. Those two words are the most important thing to take away from this blog post. The repercussions from a struggl...
46

How about that Powerball?

Posted one year ago by Chase Gunnoe
N&W 2-6-6-4 No. 1218 sits under the VMT canopy in Roanoke, Va. during a Nov. 2010 photo event. Let’s put all of life’s daily responsibilities aside for just a moment and say you have just claimed the winning ticket to this weekend’s Powerball. You’re looking at a total jackpot of around $700 million with a cash value of $428.4 million. And you have it all to yourself. Not too bad, right? But, there is a catch. Let’s pretend mortgages, credit card debt, and ot...
9

The Expected Happens

Posted one year ago by David Lester
As most steam fans expected, or deeply suspected, Norfolk Southern announced on December 21 that the 21st Century Steam program is over.  This means, according to the railroad, that no steam trips will be operated in conjunction with either the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum or the Ft. Wayne Railroad Historical Society in 2016.  One can reasonably assume that this will remain the case for the next several years, possibly forever.   The announcement also included the news that N...
5

2015: A game changer for the U.S. rail industry?

Posted one year ago by Chase Gunnoe
Well, here we are. There’s one week left in 2015. Typically, I spend holiday break reflecting on what made the past year memorable. What were some of the events or developments that made the year stand out? Typically, I would reflect, but I think there’s something a bit different about 2015. I think instead of reflecting, it may be time to do some research. 2015 was a tough year for the U.S. rail industry. It was tough for inevitable declines on coal volumes to be neglected any lo...
6

Century Notes: The latest

Posted one year ago by Richard Luckin
The NEW documentary 20th Century Limited is an exciting project that is progressing along nicely. Just this past week, I had the pleasure of conducting the last interview for the film. We have recorded over two dozen people this year. My travels have taken me to New York City (Grand Central Terminal), Albany, New York (Albany Union Station), Washington, D.C. and Raleigh, North Carolina. Several interviews were also conducted in the Denver area. These interviews provided a great deal of informat...
6

Can new Board member infuse Lyft’s customer-focused ethos into Amtrak?

Posted one year ago by Malcolm Kenton
On Wednesday, Dec. 16, the Senate confirmed President Obama’s nomination of Derek Tai-Ching Kan, the General Manager of the app-based ride-sharing company Lyft, to Amtrak’s Board of Directors. Kan will replace Jeffrey R. Moreland, the Board’s outgoing Vice Chair and former Vice President for Public Affairs at BNSF Railway, whose term had expired. Kan’s addition to the board holds the promise of infusing some of the innovation that has disrupted the ride-for-hire industry ...
11

PTC & Mergers

Posted one year ago by David Lester
The United States railroad industry has just completed a protracted fight to extend the due date for PTC implementation.  Congress and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) stood firm on the December 31, 2015 deadline, and threatened to issue fines on a “per day, per incident” basis for non-compliance.  The railroads, government agencies and others argued that meeting this deadline was impossible.  Only after the rail industry threatened to shut down lines that car...
13

Train travel lets us be be human beings, not human doings

Posted one year ago by Malcolm Kenton
In the middle of another westbound Amtrak trip, I was able to take advantage of another seven-hour layover in Chicago. After taking in the well-done holiday decorations in the Great Hall, I decided to walk from Union Station to the Chicago Cultural Center, where I remember seeing engaging exhibits on previous visits. It did not disappoint. I arrived just in time for a free guided tour of the great number of temporary installations filling the two buildings (one the former main branch of the Chic...
20

The World Through a Coach Window

Posted one year ago by Hayley Enoch
There are a few prerequisites to be achieved before one can comment on past and future railroads with authority. One should know the major branches of the Class I family tree by memory, should have a working technical knowledge of past and present railroad technologies, and should posses an idea of where the major railroad routes exist and what sort of cargo rolls over each of them. There are also experiential lessons: A visit to a dispatching center and a few moments spent in awe of how an ind...
35

Why environmentalists should be rail backers, and vice versa

Posted one year ago by Malcolm Kenton
I consider myself both an environmentalist and an avid railroad booster, and I do not see these as being at odds with each other. My broad definition of environmentalism includes anything having to do with maintaining earth’s life support systems and its ecological functioning, both of which are preconditions for all human activity — without a healthy planet, there is no economy and no quality of life. It also has to do with sustaining the human presence on this planet for the long t...
5

CSX Santa Train completes 73rd running

Posted one year ago by Chase Gunnoe
The 73rd Santa Train rolls by the S.E. Trammel Siding and into Sandy Ridge Tunnel. Ron Flanary photo. Going into Santa Train weekend, many fans and hobbyists were calling the 73rd running “bittersweet”, ahead of what they speculated to be the final running of the CSX Santa Train. This following the railroad’s decision in October to close its Erwin, Tenn. terminal, affecting 300 jobs and diverting all run-through train traffic away from the Clinchfield route. Saturday’s...
38

CP+NS: What's in a name? Plenty

Posted one year ago by Steve Glischinski
As railroad fans, it’s always an interesting guessing game to try to figure out what name a railroad merger might produce. Railroads themselves seem to struggle with it — in the 1960s when the Hill Lines were preparing to merge, the company was to be called Great Northern Pacific & Burlington Lines — until cooler heads prevailed and settled on the less tongue twisting Burlington Northern. If the Canadian Pacific/Norfolk Southern merger goes through, leaders of the new comp...
1

Next Generation: Gage O'Dell

Posted one year ago by Chase Gunnoe
After a brief hiatus from the Observation Tower, we are back in the hot seat and happy to feature the work of Kentucky-based Gage O'Dell in the November segment of Next Generation. O'Dell is a 20-year University of Kentucky student currently pursuing a degree in broadcast journalism. A lifelong railfan and one of the biggest supporters of UK sports, O'Dell shares a little with us in this month's blog. Q: When and how did you get involved in railroad photography? Have you always had an interest ...
4

P3s: A useful tool, but no replacement for public investment

Posted one year ago by Malcolm Kenton
In my last column, I discussed why American political leaders at all levels of government need to stop fretting that we can’t afford to invest in our infrastructure and start finding ways to pay for the building we need. One idea that is often suggested, given budget concerns, is greater use of public-private partnerships (P3s). I am currently enrolled in a seminar course on P3 policy in the Master’s program in Transportation Policy, Operations and Logistics at George Mason Universit...
9

Yes, we can afford a better future

Posted one year ago by Malcolm Kenton
Nobody who is familiar with American passenger rail, or infrastructure in general, can deny the great need for rebuilding and renewal on a number of corridors, most notably the Northeast Corridor but also many others — and long-distance routes should be thought of as multiple corridors served by one train, each of which has the potential to expand.  But sadly, when questions are asked as to why we have failed to make these investments, many in government and the industry lament &ldquo...
0

A quest for Century B-roll

Posted one year ago by Richard Luckin
Nearly two dozen people have been interviewed since I started on this film. The quality of the interviews has been outstanding! They range from people who worked on the "Century," rode and saw the train, plus railroad historians and photographers. However, the program will not consist of talking heads, which often translate into boring television. The documentary will be far from boring. Here's why. We'll cover each interview with what we call "B-roll," visuals that illustrate what the person ...
3

Steam in 2015: Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue

Posted one year ago by Dave Crosby
With the 2015 mainline excursion season drawing to a close and the “big engines” returning to their respective homes for the winter, many would think that the excitement of the steam season is just about over. Nothing could be further from the truth. While the Nickel Plate Road No. 765, Norfolk & Western No. 611, and Southern Railway No. 4501 may have drawn the most attention through the summer and fall, there are still new and exciting things taking place in the steam departmen...
9

After a bumpy start, Amtrak-Iowa Pacific Hoosier State getting clear signals ahead

Posted one year ago by Malcolm Kenton
Last weekend’s (Oct. 16-18) annual fall conference of the National Association of Railroad Passengers’ (NARP) volunteer leadership was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (occupying much of the former Union Station, next to the current Amtrak/Greyhound station) in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. This location gave passenger advocates and frequent train travelers from across the country the opportunity both to tour Amtrak’s Beech Grove Shops, where heavy maintenance and overhauls of ...
24

The Long Shadow of Departed Trains

Posted one year ago by Hayley Enoch
There are, really, two Texases. There is Dallas and Houston and Austin and their satellites, cities large in size and reputation, and vibrant enough to have attracted what feels like half of the other forty-nine states. Then there is the other half: Small towns, removed from the major highways and  too far away from large cities to host a commuting population. Bonham, Texas, is part of the other Texas. It has not been revitalized by population migration during the recession, and too few pe...
6

Century Notes

Posted one year ago by Richard Luckin
I just returned from a ten-day video shoot that took us to New York City, Albany, NY and Washington, D.C. and had the pleasure of interviewing 15 individuals. Some of the interviews were with people who rode the train, operated it or worked on the train. Other interviews included sessions about the famous "Hudson" locomotives, childhood memories, and today's Lakeshore Limited.  Several interviews explored the reasons why the train was discontinued in 1967 and menti...
19

New Amtrak baggage policy: sensible, but should be less rigid

Posted one year ago by Malcolm Kenton
Amtrak’s new systemwide checked and carry-on baggage policy goes into effect today. It marks the first time in the company’s history that passengers will be charged for carry-on baggage — but only if it exceeds the maximum quantity and size allowed, which remain quite generous, especially compared to airlines.  The new policy adds financial penalty and steps up enforcement of pre-existing guidelines that limited passengers’ total carry-on baggage weight to 150 pound...