William Vantuono

William Vantuono

With Railway Age since 1992, Bill Vantuono has broadened and deepened the magazine's coverage of the technological revolution that is so swiftly changing the industry. He has also strengthened Railway Age's leadership position in industry affairs with the conferences he conducts on operating passenger trains on freight railroads and communications-based train control.

Website URL:

By William C. Vantuono, Editor

williamvantuono2003.jpg

Recovering from the worst business downturn in nearly 80 years, U.S. Class I railroads earned an average rate of return on net investment of 9.60% in the 12 months ended June 30, 2010, compared with a year-ago ROI of 9.47%.

The nation’s two largest railroads had returns in the low double-digits. BNSF Railway earned 10.25% vs.10.20% a year ago, closely followed by Union Pacific, with a return of 10.02% compared with 9.15% in the prior 12-month period.

Canadian Pacific subsidiary Soo Line, smallest of the Class I railroads, was statistically the best performer in the 12 months ended with this year’s second quarter. Soo Line ROI was 16.30%, up from 11.06% a year ago.

Norfolk Southern earned an ROI of 9.44% in the latest 12-month period vs. 10.89% a year ago; CSX earned 8.54% vs. 8.59%; Kansas City Southern earned 8.43% vs. 6.79%; and CN subsidiary Grand Trunk Corp., 7.84% vs. 7.39%.

“Whether any of these ROIs meet the Surface Transportation Board’s revenue adequacy standard is not now clear,” says Luther S. Miller, our Senior Editorial Consultant. “In the view of the STB, which uses the information in rate cases and other proceedings, a railroad is revenue adequate if it earns the current cost of capital.”

The latest cost of capital determination by the STB was 11.5% for the year ended Dec. 31, 2009.

Take a look at the STB chart below. I think you would be hard-pressed to find another industry that has posted numbers as strong as these in difficult economic times.

selected-earnings-q2-2010-1.jpgwilliam-c.-vantuono-signatu.jpg

 

 

By William C. Vantuono, Editor

william-vantuono-web.jpgOne full issue of Railway Age, much less one page of it, wouldn’t come close to doing justice to InnoTrans 2010, “the best of the best,” as Publisher Bob DeMarco told me upon his return late last month from Berlin. “I can’t imagine it getting any better in quality or quantity. The thought of doing something on this scale in the U.S. is mind-boggling.”

Picture, if you can, a transportation expo with roughly 2,000 exhibitors, and 110,000 delegates representing close to 50 nations. Acres of indoor and outdoor exhibit space (“impossible to cover in just one week,” according to International Railway Journal Editor David Briginshaw, who was one of 12 Simmons-Boardman Rail Group staff to attend InnoTrans).

The U.S. railway industry was well-represented at InnoTrans. No fewer than 31 companies and organizations large and small—twice that of 2009—participated: AREMA, EMD/Progress Rail Services, GE Transportation, Nordco, Orgo-Thermit, Penn Machine, Portec Rail Group, RMI, Sperry, Wabtec, Western-Cullen-Hayes, to name a few. Add to these U.S. staff from companies like Siemens and Bombardier.

While the RSI/RSSI/REMSA/AREMA Railway Interchange 2011 at the Minneapolis Convention Center next Sept. 18-21, won’t match InnoTrans in size and scope, it nevertheless promises to be the North American railway industry’s “show of shows.” The Simmons-Boardman Rail Group—the only transportation trade publishing company with a truly global reach—will have a strong presence. We urge you to do likewise.

Exhibit space at Railway Interchange 2011 is now open. For more information, visit www.railwayinterchange.org.

william-c.-vantuono-signatu.jpg

 

By William C. Vantuono, Editor

william-vantuono-web.jpg

If you happen to believe the popular misinterpretation of the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar (Mayan Calendar), we won’t need any new equipment as of 12/21/2012, so don’t bother reading any further. If, on the other hand, you’d like some valuable analysis of the long-term freight car market (not from me, mind you), read on.

The analysis comes courtesy of Peter Toja and Economic Planning Associates. EPA has upped its freight car production estimate for 2011 from 19,800 units to 22,500 units, with more-substantial growth beginning in 2012. “After three dismal years, we look for railcar deliveries to advance moderately to 32,800 cars in 2012 and then expand annually to the level of 59,000 units in 2015,” Toja says. Here are highlights from EPA’s Oct. 30, 2010 overview:

“On the heels of rebounding traffic in commodity haulings and intermodal movements, demand for rail equipment is recovering. Equally important, equipment demand is broadening as orders are being placed for previously neglected categories such as small-cube covered hoppers, intermodal platforms, grain service hoppers, and hi-cube covered hoppers. Some of the other recently quiet categories are drawing interest as one railroad announced fourth-quarter orders for mill gons and coil cars while another indicated a forthcoming investment in its coal car fleet.

“While deliveries increased in both the second and third quarters, backlogs jumped from 10,462 cars at the beginning of the year to 19,267 units at the end of September. The backlogs as well as our anticipation of future growth in traffic should keep short- and medium-term assemblies of assorted railcars moving up gradually. The improvements in railroad traffic volumes, revenues, and profitability continues to gain momentum. Citing revenue gains across the board in all market sectors, the railroads are also looking to invest in facilities and equipment to accommodate future traffic expansion as well as to upgrade fleets to better-service customers. During the third quarter, the railroads specifically addressed their need to invest in equipment to service lumber and wood products, iron ore, steel, and coal. Investments are also being planned in other equipment types.

“Agricultural exports are rising, ethanol production is accelerating, the housing markets are stabilizing, light vehicle sales are expanding, manufacturing activities have revived, and a stronger economy will stimulate greater electricity production. These activities will prompt haulings of grain, ethanol and DDG, lumber, motor vehicles and parts, metals and products, chemicals, plastics, and coal.

“These improvements will extend into 2011 and beyond. We expect commodity loadings to advance 5.3% this year and 2.9% in 2011. From 2012 through 2015, annual growth in carloadings will moderate from 1.8% to 1.4%. Demand for intermodal services is rebounding strongly. We expect a 10.3% rebound in intermodal movements this year, followed by a 5.5% hike in 2011 and a 5.2% jump in 2012. From 2013 through 2015, intermodal traffic gains will be in the range of 3.5-5.0% per year.

“Some idle capacity will continue to dampen equipment demand. Given assemblies to date, current backlogs, and the builders’ conservative approach to managing backlogs, we expect deliveries of 13,500 cars this year. The cautious attitude of the builders is best exemplified by the fact that third-quarter backlogs of 19,267 still represented 5.2 quarters of assemblies at current production rates. Replacement pressures and technological advances as well as legislative measures will also play a role in promoting the demand for a variety of railcars.”

william-c.-vantuono-signatu.jpg

 

By William C. Vantuono, Editor

william-vantuono-web.jpg

OK, it’s December. It’s the end of the year. The Holidays are here. We’re supposed to be spreading peace on earth and good will toward men (well, people). My boys’ O-gauge electric trains are running around the Christmas tree (the steam-powered Polar Express and a Conrail mixed merchandise train pulled by an SD70MAC—the Vantuono household has no problem with shared use). Maybe I should write a column in a more positive vein. You know—be thankful you work in a growing industry, the Class I’s will continue spending big capital bucks next year, here’s to a safe and prosperous 2011, deck the halls, etc.

My previous paragraph is going to be about as positive as I can get as I write this in early December 2010. Why? For one thing, based upon what I’ve been hearing, the halls of the statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, starting with the incoming governor’s office, are being decked with poison ivy. The windows will soon have high-powered rifles, with passenger trains in their gunsights.

Unfortunately, the passenger rail enthusiast Jolene Molitoris, who spent the past few years as Director of the Ohio Department of Transportation, has left the building. Many of us know Jolene. She was a coalition builder during her tenure in the 1990s as Federal Railroad Administrator, and she’s always been an advocate for passenger trains, particularly those that run north of 79 mph.

Now, according to Ohio Gov.-elect John Kasich, Jolene Molitoris and many others in Ohio who have been working on the 3C (Cleveland- Columbus-Cincinnati) passenger rail corridor belong to a cult—specifically, a “train cult.”

Let me guess—they’re led not by Jim Jones, but by Casey Jones.

Kasich, who for whatever reason is not fond of passenger trains, and who is always quick with a quip, said proponents of passenger rail service in Ohio are part of a “train cult.” This proclamation came during a press conference announcing Jolene’s replacement at ODOT: Jerry Wray, who is actually returning to his former post.

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Wray retired as ODOT Director in 1999. What has he been doing for the past 11 years? He’s been vice president of Flexible Pavements of Ohio, an asphalt industry lobbying association. No wonder Kasich—who wants to take the federal government’s $400 million grant for the 3C corridor and build more roads with it—appointed him.

Beam me up, Scotty. There’s no intelligent life down here. And while you’re at it, get me a case of antacid. I think I’m going to be sick.

On second thought, maybe not. Word just came in that U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood is taking Ohio’s spurned passenger rail funds (along with those of Wisconsin, whose incoming Governor, Scott Walker , is killing his state’s HrSR project), is going to redistribute the money to those existing grant recipients whose plans haven’t been derailed.

Here’s what Kasich actually said: “We’re not going to run some program that some train cult wants to support.”

Kasich made the cult remark when asked about his widely chronicled opposition to the 3C passenger rail corridor. He has said on numerous occasions that the project is “dead” when he takes office, calling it a “potential boondoggle for state government” and claiming the project “is being driven by special interests that would benefit from the train line’s construction.”

“Special interests”? Excuse me, Gov.-elect Kasich, but doesn’t your new ODOT head come from a lobbying firm? Am I missing something here?

I won’t mention that Kasich is a Republican. People might think I’m trying to influence them into believing that only Democrats support passenger rail. That’s not true, of course, and I’m not trying to influence you. There are plenty of Republicans that support passenger rail, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has been seen riding Chinese high speed trains (though not in California, just yet).

“So how does it feel to be part of the train cult?” wrote Jerry Bell, a reporter for Columbus Biz Insider. “At least two people seem ready to wear the label as a badge of honor. ‘Kasich has things backwards,’ said Ken Prendergast, executive director of All Aboard Ohio, a Cleveland-based advocacy group for passenger trains and better public transit. ‘The U.S. and especially Ohio are the weirdos of the world,’ Prendergast told us, ‘when it comes to our passenger rail development or lack thereof. Feel free to use that as a quote.’

“We did.”

Bell also mentioned Jack Shaner, deputy director of the Ohio Environmental Council, “which is pro-passenger rail all the way. He gave us an assortment of quotes via email. Here’s the snappiest:

“‘Most Ohioans would call someone wanting to invest $400 million in rail infrastructure and grow 8,000 potential jobs a capitalist, not a cultist,’ said Shaner, referring to the amount of federal money earmarked for the 3C project and the indirect and spin-off jobs that could result because of it.

“He also forwarded a news release that pro-passenger rail groups issued the day before Thanksgiving. Among its claims were that Amtrak sold out the passenger trains serving its seven stations in Ohio for the holiday weekend and its ridership in the state grew 14.6% in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

“And Shaner had a parting shot for the governor-elect: ‘Don’t worry. No one’s trying to pry your cold, white-knuckled fingers away from that steering wheel. But if we want to attract new investment, slow the brain drain, and catch up with our competitors in North Carolina and elsewhere, we need to expand—not contract—our transportation options.’”

OK, enough venting (for now).

william-c.-vantuono-signatu.jpg

 

Friday, 21 January 2011 04:36

From the Editor: A railroader

By William C. Vantuono, Editor

 

william-vantuono-web.jpgIn his own words, Norfolk Southern CEO Wick Moorman, Railway Age’s 2011 Railroader of the Year, was a kid who loved trains. A fully qualified and licensed locomotive engineer, there are few things about his job he likes better than going out on the railroad and “seeing some folks,” meaning his employees.

The former Southern Railway track worker likes offering a friendly handshake and a “how’s it going?” to an engineer or brakeman or dispatcher as much or more than he likes, when he has the chance, to lay his hand on the throttle of a locomotive. He’s as comfortable wearing a pair of work gloves and safety glasses out on the road with the people who run and maintain the operation as he is wearing a suit in front of a Wall Street investor audience at an earnings presentation.

Prior to my traveling to Norfolk, Va., to interview Moorman, the NS Corporate Communications department sent a video copy of “A Week With Wick.” It’s a great snapshot of the man who leads what is arguably the world’s best transportation company.

“The most fun I have in my job is going out and seeing Norfolk Southern people,” he says. Boarding a brand-new GE AC4400, he asks the engineer how he likes the computerized display screens and other modern technology. “These locomotives are terrific,” he remarks. “They’re models of efficiency and high horsepower.” Taking a turn at the throttle, with a smile, he says, “Sitting in the cab—it doesn’t get any better than this.” There’s something to be said about loving what you’re doing, and having fun at it. Moorman has always felt this way, going back to his days in 1970 as a civil engineering co-op student from Georgia Tech, learning about railroading on the Southern. His job as CEO of NS? “It’s beyond the icing on the cake.”

Wick Moorman and I have an unusual connection that dates back close to 40 years. My father, the late Professor William J. Vantuono, and Wick’s father, the late Professor Charles Moorman (The University of Southern Mississippi), were scholars and published authors in the area of Middle and Old English literature. I remember my dad, in the midst of one of his book projects, talking about Dr. Moorman, and referencing his work. Years later, when the younger Moorman became CEO of Norfolk Southern, I thought, “That name sounds very familiar.”

Coincidence? Maybe not. In any case, if you don’t know Wick Moorman, you should.

william_vantuono_sig.jpg

By William C. Vantuono, Editor

vantuono-and-lewis-2006.jpgI could publish a book about my friend and colleague, Robert G. Lewis (actually, we did two of them together). Though we worked side by side at Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corp.’s New York City headquarters only three short years—he brought me to Railway Age in 1992, and retired in 1995—I feel as though I’ve known him a lifetime. I also thought Bob would live forever. One tends to think that way about people who, regardless of their physical age, never seem to slow down, and who approach life, and their life’s vocation, with an enthusiasm that’s hard to find. Bob made me feel old at times, and he was old enough to be my grandfather!

In Bob’s case, his vocation was railroading—working in the industry (for the Pennsylvania, beginning in 1934), writing about it (at Railway Age, beginning in 1947), documenting it (as a prolific photojournalist), but most of all, enjoying it, and sharing his enjoyment with his many industry friends and colleagues (below). I don’t know exactly how many miles Bob accumulated traveling by rail all over the world, but as you’ll discover in the next article, it’s probably around three million, or roughly 12 round-trips to the moon.

One of the many things that Bob taught me about journalism was to avoid using superlatives—words like “largest” or “fastest” or “heaviest” or “unique”—because you could rarely be 100% sure if you were right.

Well, Bob, I’m afraid that I’ve got to break your rule just this one time. You see, there’s only one word that I feel truly describes you: Unique.

One person who would certainly agree with me is Bob’s good friend Tony Hiss, a former New Yorker magazine writer, and author of In Motion: The Experience of Travel and All Aboard with E. M. Frimbo, World’s Greatest Railroad Buff, among other works.

Bob Lewis peacefully embarked on his final journey on Jan. 6, 2011. Rest in peace, my friend, and thanks for everything.

william_vantuono_sig.jpg

 

 

 

Mr. Lewis meets Mr. Frimbo

By Tony Hiss

bob-lewis-1947.jpgI’ll never forget one of my first sights of my wonderful friend Bob Lewis—he was upside-down, standing on his head. This was more than 30 years ago: Half-a-dozen distinguished businessmen had been gathered by Bob outside on the open platform of a 1920s observation car at the end of an otherwise ordinary-looking commuter train making its daily, 66-mile run across northern New Jersey, from Newark to Phillipsburg through what was then almost a storybook landscape of woods and meadows. Because everyone stayed outside the whole way, we got to hear leaves rustling as shadows lengthened and smell the sweetness of newly mown grass.

Otherwise ordinary-looking—this, as I learned, was the essence of Bob Lewis, who had organized the expedition, which ended in a steak dinner that Bob had also arranged. A brilliant organizer as a magazine publisher, he was equally brilliant at never surrendering a moment of life to eternity before extracting its essence. So a commuter trip could become an adventure; a commonplace suburban landscape could turn itself inside out and reveal its magic; it was as extraordinary as looking through the window of a Russian Easter egg.

The head-standing, for instance. It took me a while to realize on that run to Phillipsburg that I was in the middle of a genteel, cordial, but intricately plotted rivalry that was by then already decades old. I was only a young journalist and had been brought along by Bob’s good friend, my imperious New Yorker magazine colleague, Rogers E. M. Whitaker, better known to New Yorker readers as E. M. Frimbo, World’s Greatest Railroad Buff. Frimbo over a lifetime rode almost three million miles on the trains of the world; I was Frimbo’s Boswell, and had always thought that my mentor stood alone. But although Rogers was too proud and Bob too modest to mention it, it became clear from listening to the other men on the train that a mileage race was on and that Bob was at least a close second to Frimbo. (Perhaps, near the end of his days, Bob may even have tied or surpassed Frimbo.) Both men thought nothing of flying 1,000 miles just to ride over ten or twenty miles of tracks that were brand-new to them—a feat that Bob would celebrate by standing on his head (Frimbo was too staid to join him). And Bob would also stand on his head just to celebrate having a particularly good time—as on the commuter run where I met him.

bob-lewis-navy.jpgLater on, as I got to know him better, I came to understand that because Bob gave equal standing in his mind to enjoyment and industriousness, he had an unparalleled knowledge of railroads and transportation in general—the history, the missteps, the possibilities, the ways that even daily travel could transform people’s lives. Whenever I started to write something—a New Yorker piece on bringing light rail to New York, for instance, or even my latest book, In Motion: The Experience of Travel—Bob was always The Source, the first person I would call in order to get grounded and get started. In recent years—thinking about our country’s neglect of railroads—I began to think that it was America that was standing on its head, while Bob Lewis was right-side up. Now it’s up to the rest of us to keep his optimism and enthusiasm alive.

 

Bob Lewis: An appreciation

By Arthur J. McGinnis, Jr., President and Chairman, Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corp.

bob-lewis-grasse-river.jpgWhen Robert G. Lewis became publisher of Railway Age in 1956, the magazine was facing the most severe competitive challenge in its 100 years of publication. Postwar upstart Modern Railroads was snapping at our heels for the leadership position. Bob immediately became part of an editorial/business team dedicated to holding the line.

That team consisted of my father, Arthur J. McGinnis, Sr., a principal owner of the Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corp. and later head of the company; James G. Lynne, editor of Railway Age and another major shareholder; and Joe W. Kizzia, executive editor.

Bob became a key player as the team produced (and successfully sold to advertisers) a series of special reports proposing solutions to critical problems facing the industry.

The “Outrage” issue in 1957, reprinted nearly one million times, was credited with helping pass the first deregulation legislation; The “Trap” issue in 1958 laid the groundwork for the fight against crushing working rules. Other reports examined everything from the specter of railroad nationalization to passenger train losses that threatened to undermine bob-lewis-and-lyndon-johnson.jpgthe freight side of railroading.

Bob was a part of all of this, finding time for such other publishing initiatives as founding International Railway Journal, 50 years old this year and flourishing. In 1968, he was instrumental in Simmons-Boardman’s acquisition of The Railway Educational Bureau, 112 years old this year and, with Simmons-Boardman Books, also flourishing. In 1991, Bob and I acquired Modern Railroads. All of this helped secure Simmons-Boardman as the world’s leading provider of railway information.

When Bob left the company in 1995, he left a legacy of editorial entrepreneurship and business integrity—a combination that brought Railway Age a few years ago to its 150th birthday and continues today in the capable hands of Publisher Robert P. DeMarco.

Following, some friends and colleagues share their memories of Bob Lewis.

 

Bob Lewis and Luther Miller had the great foresight and courage to set up International Railway Journal, even at a time when the future of the railroad industry looked rather bleak. IRJ has been a great success and is now one of the leading railway magazines in the world.

David Briginshaw, Editor-in-Chief, International Railway Journal

 

A little over 20 years ago, as I was leaving The Bank of New York to start my own company, I approached Bob Lewis at Railway Age with an idea for a regular financial bob-lewis-1985.jpgcolumn. As he was with every new idea, Bob was positive from the beginning, and we started what is today “The Financial Edge.” Other innovations followed, including our annual Railroad Financial Desk Book and the Guide to Equipment Leasing. Without Bob’s support, these ideas would have gone nowhere.

Tony Kruglinski, Railroad Financial Corp.

 

During my 21 years as head of Simmons-Boardman’s Railway Educational Bureau, Bob Lewis, who was instrumental in bringing the REB into the company, was consistently helpful in our successful efforts to bring expanded education opportunities to many thousands of railroad people. Our book publishing division took great pride six years ago in publishing the photographic memoir that Bob prepared with the assistance of Bill Vantuono and Robert Lielich.

Pat Kentner

 

One of the greatest honors bestowed upon Ferrovias Guatemala was Bob Lewis’s visit on the occasion of our first anniversary trip, a doubleheaded steam special in January of 2001. On behalf of Ferrovias Guatemala, we regret the passing of not bob-lewis-clayborne-pell.jpgonly a friend but one of our biggest fans. In classic Bob Lewis style, he outlived our time as a functioning railway.

Henry Posner III, Chairman, Ferrovias Guatemala

 

Bob Lewis loved railroading and likely anything with parallel rails. My fondest memory was when I mounted an exhibit of his photography at an RSA show in the 1990s. Amsted Rail/Brenco sponsored it, which allowed me to visit Bob at his Florida home in Ormond By The Sea. Hearing Bob recount his railroad life with texture and depth to me personally, punctuated by a childlike laugh as he remembered things he had not shared in decades, was a few steps closer to heaven. I relished my privileged position and soaked it all in like a sponge.

Mike Edwards, President/Partner, iIRX

 

Bob Lewis was infectious while communicating his love and enthusiasm to everybody he encountered. I was born into the industry the son of a Pennsylvania Railroad signal bob-lewis-jscc.jpgengineer and came into the supply industry in 1955. I soon was involved with Bob in RSSI activities; as a board member, he was counselor and mentor. He had sought me out because of beginning his career working with PRR General Manager William C Higginbottom, my uncle, in Philadelphia. Bob’s understanding of the technical and philosophical foundations of what make the industry great inspired us all to use our talents in a very positive manner. We could never ask for a better friend. His memory is an inspiration in all we do.

Jim Higginbottom, The Okonite Co.

 

Bob Lewis’s fifth appendage was his camera, from his first Brownie in 1930 to the latest in film technology. He had an eye for composition and most of his pictures were priceless documentaries of railroad history. Of the tens of thousands of photos he took, he could remember most of the details of each one. It was an honor and privilege to work with him and Bill Vantuono to publish Bob’s best pictures and memories in the book Off the Beaten Track.

Robert H. Leilich

bob-lewis-prr-timetable.jpg

I knew Bob Lewis for almost 40 years. His was an extraordinarily genial personality, and at any kind of gathering of railroad people, Bob always seemed to be one of the best known—and liked—people there.

William D. Middleton

 

In 2006, Railway Age assembled the Sesquicentennial Limited excursion train to celebrate 150 years of publication. At one point during the trip, I remarked to Bob that with us were men representing more than 150 years of railroad writing: Bill Middleton, Bill Vantuono, Joe Kizzia, Luther Miller, and Bob Lewis himself—grinning like a kid.

Roy Blanchard

 

Five words best describe Bob Lewis: soft spoken, witty, charming, encyclopedic. He will be missed.

Frank N. Wilner

Friday, 04 March 2011 10:08

Commentary: DEAR MR. PRESIDENT

Will Florida’s loss be California’s gain? That’s one of many questions that arise from the Florida Supreme Court’s decision that Governor Scott was within his rights in spurning federal grants to bring fast trains to the Sunshine State.

If the Obama Administration really wants to see a corridor in the United States that meets international high speed standards—trains cruising at 200 mph—the fastest path right now may be to transfer Florida’s funds to California, just as the DOT recently transferred funds in smaller amounts from Ohio and Wisconsin, which rejected them, to Florida and California.

There’s a strong feeling at home and abroad that true high speed corridors will never gain a foothold in America until one is actually built to demonstrate its capabilities.

If the corridor fails to meet expectations, the skeptics will be proved to have been right.

If it succeeds, other parts of the country will not only accept high speed trains—they will demand them.

Let’s fund a test that will have more do to do with the nation’s transportation needs than with the proclivity of politicians to spread the money around to garner votes.

Meanwhile, keep going with other parts of your fast train initiative by funding them through Amtrak, which has the experience to build and run them.

william_vantuono_sig.jpg

 

 

 

—William C. Vantuono, Editor, Railway Age

By William C. Vantuono, Editor

vantuonoportrait.jpgWhat would E. H. Talbott, Railway Age’s first editor, think of social media? I’m sure that at the very least, he’d be skeptical at first. Social media like Facebook and Twitter, like the title of the final Star Trek movie with the full original cast (William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, etc.), is still regarded by many as “the undiscovered country,” though the railroads are beginning to sit up and take notice.

This 155-year-old trade magazine has ventured into the new world of social media. You can now find Railway Age on Facebook at “Railway Age Magazine” (CLICK HERE) and follow us on Twitter as “RailwayAge” (CLICK HERE). In addition to our website and using an RSS feed to receive breaking news as we post it, you can now get our news stories throughout the day on your iPhone or iPad or Blackberry, or whatever personal digital device you happen to be using. By the way, don’t forget to “friend” us.

“Friend” Railway Age? Where I come from, “friend” is a noun, not a verb, but I guess that’s part of a new language I’m going to have to get used to. When I’m working on my laptop on a business trip, I’m “officing.” One thing I can’t bring myself to do is use some of those texting shortcuts—which include a total disregard for proper punctuation and capitalization—that people like my 17-year-old niece take for granted, like “how r u? im ok. whats up? nothing lol!” It reminds me of Newspeak from “1984,” which I read in high school.

(If you’d like to delve further into how language is “evolving,” see <a href=http://www.newspeakdictionary.com target=

By William C. Vantuono, Editor

Ever hear of “classical repulsion?” Portland, Ore., Tri-Met is wielding it to great effect to ward off young perpetrators of crimes like vandalism. In other words, if you want to discourage unruly teenagers from spraying graffiti on your system-map displays or light rail vehicles, play Stravinsky instead of Snoop Dog (woof!), or Bach instead of Britney Spears (Britney who?) on your station platforms.

Disclaimer: Your editor has been listening to jazz since he was out of diapers (and that’s no bull), and his grandfather was a violinist in the Newark (N.J.) Symphony Orchestra. Nevertheless, I am not a musical snob, OK? Some of this modern hip-hop stuff (at least the tunes with a melody) can be pretty good. I happen to like “Sexy Love” by Ne-Yo (Shaffer Chimere Smith, Jr.), though I wouldn’t recommend playing this hot little number on your station platforms, unless you want to risk extreme public displays of affection and arrests for indecent exposure.

But I digress.

Music has charms to soothe a savage breast—or drive it away, as the Los Angeles Times noted in an April 4, 2011 editorial, “Crime and Classical Music: Another Reason Sarah Palin Should Support the Arts?”

“We recently took Sarah Palin to task for dismissing the National Endowment for the Arts as a waste of tax dollars,” the L.A. Times said. “Art, we argued, matters to human development and the economy. In the case of classical music, art also deters crime. More specifically, it sends misbehaved teenagers scattering.

“David Ng at Culture Monster reports: ‘Whether it’s Handel piped into New York's Port Authority [bus terminal] or Tchaikovsky at a public library in London, the sound of classical music is apparently so repellent to teenagers that it sends them scurrying away like frightened mice. Private institutions also find it useful: Chains such as McDonald's and 7-Eleven, not to mention countless shopping malls around the world, have relied on classical music to shoo away potentially troublesome kids.’

“In the latest example of classical repulsion, the regional transit [agency] in the Portland, Ore., area has been playing orchestral and operatic tunes over speakers at light rail stations in an attempt to prevent vandalism and other crimes that result from teens having too much free time on their hands.

“Theories differ as to why teens react to classical music this way. Some experts believe the music has a soothing effect, while others think it has to do more with negative neurological response. Either way, if this genre of music prevents crime by teens, perhaps we ought to invest more on classical music. Another argument in favor of classical music: It can also inspire students in the classroom to learn.

“The Tri-Met light rail service in Portland, Ore., has begun playing classical music at train stations in an effort to ward off the kind of crimes that happen when people just hang around. A bill making its way through the Oregon legislature would expand the program to all light rail stops in Clackamas, Washington, and Multnomah counties deemed high-crime areas by police or residents.”

Maybe this is why the three-phase a.c. traction motor chopper controls on MTA New York City Transit’s R142 subway cars from Bombardier play the first three notes of “Somewhere” from Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” when accelerating from a stop? It’s technically not classical music, but it sure fits New York!

Here’s a thought for the American Public Transportation Association: We might have the makings of a whole new Arts in Transit program. Why not bring a little culture to the experience of using public transit while fending off vandals and farebeaters? Look at all the major U.S. cities with rail transit systems that have a resident symphony: The Los Angeles Philharmonic. The Philadelphia Orchestra. The Houston Symphony. The Chicago Symphony. The New York Philharmonic. The Pittsburgh Symphony.

There is precedent, by the way, for this sort of program, and Pittsburgh was actually the first U.S. city to do it. “I started putting classical music into Pittsburgh’s then-new subway in 1985,” recalls APTA President Bill Millar, who was general manager of PA Transit at the time. “Today we would call it a public/private partnership: Port Authority of Allegheny County owned and operated the subway; WQED chose and recorded the music; PPG Industries Foundation provided the grant to cover the costs. It made for a very nice sound environment that complemented the world class art (Sol LeWitt, Romare Bearden) we had put in the stations. Others followed. We started with recordings by the Pittsburgh Symphony and later opened the repertoire to other local classical music groups.”

Perhaps the Chicago Transit Authority could commission the Chicago Symphony to produce a “CTA Suite,” underwritten by our erstwhile Tea Party President’s favorite taxpayer’s black hole, the National Endowment for the Arts. Think of the pleasure she’d take in blasting publicly supported passenger rail and music with just one shot of her moose- and wolf-mangling rifle!

A Fifth of Beethoven, anyone?

Oops, that’s disco!

By William C. Vantuono, Editor

 

william-vantuono-web.jpgIt gives me great pleasure and satisfaction to turn this month’s column over to Norfolk Southern Chief Executive Wick Moorman, Railway Age’s 2011 Railroader of the Year. In front of a March 15 Union League Club of Chicago gathering of more than 400 rail industry “family members” (my observation when introducing him), Wick gave an inspiring talk that clearly demonstrated his leadership qualities, but also showed a very humble, human side of him. Following are a few of his observations.

• “I was a self-described kid who loved trains and to be honored with the title of Railroader of the Year by Railway Age is something that is so far beyond anything that I could have conceived of when I was younger, as to be quite simply breathtaking. Last week I was having dinner with someone who knows our industry well and is very bright, and she asked me why I thought that I had received this honor. She was kind enough to not use the words ‘how on earth’ when she asked, but I think that it’s a question that’s been on a number of people’s minds, as in ‘Wick Moorman? Railroader of the Year? What’s that all about?’ Well, it took me a couple of minutes to figure out, but of course the answer is obvious: This award is really about Norfolk Southern and the great team that we have in our company, and it is with the clear understanding that I’m accepting this award on behalf of everyone in our company that I stand before you tonight.”

• “I often tell people that I am possibly the most fortunate person that one could ever meet. Put another way, the two greatest strokes of good fortune in my life—and I want to be careful to point out here that I’m giving you them in chronological order, and not order of importance—were to go to work for the Southern Railway as an engineering co-op student in 1970, and then to meet my wife Bonnie some years later and persuade her to marry me. Some of you have seen the picture of me in Railway Age from those days when I was a track supervisor, and have probably questioned her judgment, but fortunately, I drove a big yellow Southern Railway pickup truck, and she told me later that that’s what sealed the deal. Anyway, she has been enormously supportive of me, and tolerant of the railroad throughout the years. I wouldn’t be standing here tonight were it not for her.”

• “I actually thought about just lifting large parts of Matt Rose’s excellent speech from last year, changing the BNSF stats to NS numbers and giving it again. Of course, Matt had the additional advantage of quoting Warren Buffett, but don’t worry, I’ve figured out a way to get Mr. Buffett into this talk a little later!”

• “As some of you know, the first recipient of this award in 1964 was D.W. Brosnan, the then-president of the Southern Railway. Mr. Brosnan was arguably the most influential leader in the past 100 years. Through what one of his contemporaries described as ‘a strange mixture of genius and ruthlessness,’ he almost single-handedly invented or implemented the mechanization of track gangs and car repair facilities; the use of large-scale information technology and telecommunications; the wide-scale use of modern hump yards; what we now call distributed power; modern, high-capacity freight cars, which many of you know took a Supreme Court case to make viable; the list goes on and on. You can look around our company and our industry today and still see his fingerprints.”

• “I now qualify as an old railroader, albeit with a young wife, and old railroaders like to tell stories about the past. While most of the people who work for NS today started their careers with NS, I believe that there is a strong component of Southern Railway DNA still in our company today that has been at least partially responsible for our success over the years. For those of you who tell David [Goode] about this speech, let me hasten to say that there’s some Norfolk & Western in there, too!”

• “Speculating about the future is always risky, and I heard a great line about this the other day, which reportedly was from Warren Buffett, who was quoting, of all people, Mike Tyson. Tyson said, ‘You know, there were a lot of people who got in the ring with a strategy of how they were going to beat me—and then I hit them.’ Regardless of how hard you plan for the future, something is likely to hit you. . . . Washington, with the threat of adverse legislative or regulatory action, is the Mike Tyson in the room, fully capable of knocking the industry back into the shape it was in, in the 1970s.”

william_vantuono_sig.jpg

11
Page 11 of 295