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.

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Long Island Rail Road trains still had limited access to New York’s Penn Station Monday following an Amtrak derailment in one of the four East River tunnels Sunday. Amtrak and LIRR work crews, augmented by crews from LIRR’s sister railroad Metro-North, were at work Monday removing passenger cars and assessing infrastructure damage.

LIRR on Monday said it anticipated significant adjustments to existing schedules, including train cancelations, to occur through Wednesday. On Tuesday, LIRR, re-evaluating the problem, said service disruptions could last through the week. About 20 eastbound morning trains were canceled Monday morning, with passengers urged to consider New York City Transit E and 7 subway service as an option.

Amtrak train 254, completing its scheduled run Sunday from Albany, N.Y., to New York’s Penn Station, derailed as it headed under the East River to Sunnyside Yard in Queens, damaging both catenary and the third rail. The derailment also was expected to affect Amtrak service between New York and Boston, as well as New Jersey Transit, which also services trains in Sunnyside Yard.

Wabtec Corp. said Monday it has signed a US$21 million contract with mining company Rio Tinto to provide electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) braking equipment for a portion of the company’s freight cars and locomotives in Australia. The equipment will be delivered in 2011-12.

wabtec_logo.jpgUnder the contract, Wabtec will provide about 3,600 carsets of ECP equipment so that Rio Tinto can retrofit its fleet of iron ore cars, most of which currently use Wabtec’s standard pneumatic brakes. In addition, Rio Tinto will install ECP brakes on six locomotives initially, with potential for more in the future.

“The advantages of electronic braking – including significantly shorter stopping distances – have been proven in commercial use by railroads around the world,” said Albert J. Neupaver, Wabtec’s president and chief executive officer. “Rio Tinto’s investment in this technology is a further demonstration that heavy-haul railroads can deploy ECP to reduce cycle times and improve train handling, and we are pleased to be part of the project.”

Wabtec said that with standard pneumatic brake equipment, the brakes are applied and released throughout the train sequentially, one car after another. ECP equipment uses an electronic signal to apply and release the brakes simultaneously in every car.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011 04:16

Bombardier shows "Last Mile

Bombardier Transportation Tuesday said it was premiering a TRAXX AC locomotive with a supplementary diesel motor at the Transport Logistic trade fair, which begins today in Munich, Germany, and runs through Friday.

bombardier_logo.jpgDescribed as a “Last Mile Diesel,” the design removes the need to change locomotives in shunting areas of a rail network. The technology offers increased flexibility, for example at stations where a system change takes place, at terminals, at ports, or on construction sites. In general, the so-called last mile in those areas generally are not electrified, and until now shunting locomotives have had to replace electric locomotives in these areas to close the gap, Bombardier said.

Åke Wennberg, president of Locomotives and Equipment division, Bombardier Transportation, said: “Our Last Mile locomotive offers real innovation, giving rise to whole new possibilities in rail freight transportation. I am certain that this new product will impress our customers.”

The first five locomotives of this type were already ordered by the leasing firm Railpool at the end of last year. “This fulfills a long-held wish for us, the market has been waiting for this opportunity. We are convinced by this solution,” said Dr. Walter Breinl, managing director of Railpool GmbH.

Three of these five locomotives will be leased by the Swiss private rail firm BLS Cargo. “The Last Mile Locomotive enables us to develop new markets for BLS Cargo,” said Dr. Dirk Stahl, CEO of BLS Cargo. “We can offer customers in Switzerland, Germany and Austria innovative and above all efficient rail logistics solutions.”
Harrisburg, Pa.-based TransCore said Tuesday it has readied “a next generation multiprotocol radio frequency identification (RFID) rail reader, and a field processor unit, the Train Recording Unit (TRU™).”  Both are designed to support the rail market’s transition to updated automatic equipment identification (AEI) technology, used throughout the industry to monitor rail car assets.

TransCore says railroads have been instrumental in driving all aspects of AEI product development since the original design in the early ’90s, including TransCore’s new products announced Tuesday. TransCore says it has a long-standing relationship with railroads around the world, with systems in place in 25 countries.

Says company Executive Vice President Operations George McGraw, “Railroads across North America move more than approximately 1.7 billion tons of freight a year and need the latest technology to enhance visibility and security for shipment tracking and providing chain of custody of shipments. More crucial is that this technology is interoperable with their current investment in AEI technology and can transition to newer technology without rendering the current systems obsolete.”

Transcore says the TRU captures AEI tag data and other data “to report an accurate standing order train consist to railroad management systems. It is the key component used to implement AEI reader systems at main line rail locations in North America. The TRU records detailed information about trains, uses the information to create ‘clean consists,’ and then transmits consist reports to one or more host computer systems. A train clean consist report is a train listing in standing order, where orientation of tagged equipment is provided, location of untagged equipment is provided, and car count is accurate. The TRU accommodates and accurately filters data from normal operating procedures such as changes in speed and direction. It also incorporates intelligence to handle both single and multi-track locations.”

TransCore's Multiprotocol Rail Reader (MPRR) interfaces directly to the TRU wayside AEI controller “to provide a complete railroad AEI reader system to the North American railroads,” Transcore says. ”MPRRsd are quickly and easily installed, tested, and maintained by TransCore personnel. The MPRR is a fully integrated, self-contained 902 to 928 MHz wireless RFID reader that is specifically designed for rail applications. It is a replacement for TransCore’s AI1200 Reader/AR2200 RF module systems, and can read current AAR format and the new SeGo protocol tags. The MPRR provides flexibility by offering a real-time clock; expanded tag read buffering; programmable RF output power; programmable frequency range from 860.00 to 930.00 MHz in 250-kHz programmable frequency steps; and system integrity checking. It employs advanced multiplexing techniques that improve reader performance at higher train speeds when compared to legacy products. In addition, this unique multiplexing mode provides the capability for one reader to manage up to four antennas.”

New features of the Train Recording Unit include the ability to update tags remotely without taking railcars out of service and to replace obsolete and unreliable systems that are no longer manufactured or supported. The technology is said to be more cost-effective, as a single TRU controller can handle train processing on two tracks vs. just one. The TRU is the first to comply with AAR Recommended Practice RP-9203, for improved train reporting accuracy in both single and multi-track environments. It offers accurate handling of high value, specialty cars, is easily updated with new car profiles for accurate standing order train consists, and provides S918A train and maintenance reporting. It offers reduced maintenance costs through automated integrated self diagnostics, automated maintenance reporting, and extensive remote access and support features. The TRU is a networkable device that allows existing sites to be easily upgraded to use today’s network IP communications strategies. Built rugged for high reliability in the rail environment, it complies with AREMA 11.5.1 Class C environmental specifications.
Fairport, N.Y.-based RailComm said Tuesday it and ERB Technologies have been chosen to provide a Yard Automation System at Kumba Iron Ore’s Sishen South Mine in South Africa. ERB Technologies is based in Midrand, South Africa.

railcomm_logo.jpgThe automation system will be composed of RailComm’s DOC® (Domain Operations Controller) server-based central control system and four associated outdoor-rated control panels. Additionally, the system will utilize RailComm RADiANT™ data radios to communicate between the office system, the control panels, and a network of power switches.

The power switches will be controlled by the RailComm Universal Switch Controller, which provides customers with the ability to utilize any power switch machine on the market. The RailComm Yard Automation System has been designed to increase yard safety and improve yard dwell time and yard throughput.
Officials at Alstom Transport Tuesday detailed the company’s preparations to handle anticipated U.S. rail infrastructure upgrading, including $3 million in investments to its 150,000 square foot rail signaling manufacturing facility in West Henrietta, N.Y., allowing a potential addition of 200 jobs.

alstom_logo.jpgAlstom made the announcement during an event at its Rochester, N.Y., facility that included remarks from U.S. Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary John Porcari, New York State Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald, regional labor leaders, and a representative of the Apollo Alliance, a national coalition of labor, business, and community leaders that support investments in public transit and other infrastructure.

“As gas prices rise and families look for environmentally friendly transportation alternatives, President Obama is committed to making sure our freight and passenger rail networks move people and goods more quickly and efficiently than ever before,” said DOT Deputy Secretary Porcari. “Thanks to companies like Alstom, American workers are building the rail lines and equipment that will allow us to compete and win in the global economy.”

Guillaume Mehlman, Alstom Transport’s managing director in North America, said, “Alstom has seen first-hand how federal and state investments in rail transportation projects help companies like ours create good jobs. We are expanding our facility in Rochester and hiring several hundred people in order to meet additional demand created by such investments. We applaud federal, state, and local policy makers who see the linkage between investing in the nation’s rail transportation system and creating good jobs.”

New Jersey Transit Corp. unveiled the ALP45-DP, its first dual-powered locomotive, noting it also is the first of its kind in North America, at Newark-Penn Station Wednesday, immediately following its Board of Directors meeting. The locomotive was on static display on Track A (as seen below).

njt_bomb._dual-mode_05.jpg

NJT says its has ordered 26 dual-powered locomotives from Bombardier Transportation. It did not disclose whether it still plans to exercise an option for an additional 10 units.

The single-cab locomotives, which can operate in both electrified (catenary) and non-electrified territory, will give NJT added flexibility within its rail network. One strong possibility is direct service to New York-Penn Station from all stations on its North Jersey Coast Line; at present, only municipalities under wire on the NJCL are served in such a manner. NJT could also use the Bombardier dual-power locomotives for services on its Hoboken Division, which also include a mix of electrified and non-electrified right-of-way.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011 06:08

NS increases aid to severe-weather states

Norfolk Southern said Wednesday it is increasing its support of relief efforts in southeastern states hard hit by recent severe storms and (for some) resultant flooding.

ns_logo.jpgNS last month announced support for Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee in the form of $100,000 to the American Red Cross in each of the three states, free rail transportation for movement of certain critical response supplies, and zero-interest loans for employees who suffered property damage. On Wednesday, NS said it will make the same contributions for Virginia.

“The damaging storms did not spare our headquarters state, and we want our employees, neighbors, and business partners to know that we stand with them in recovery and rebuilding,” NS Chairman, President, and CEO Wick Moorman said.

NS employs 8,300 railroaders in Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee, and operates over 4,450 miles of railroad there.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011 06:11

Harsco lands Saudi Arabia order

Harsco Corp. on Tuesday said it has received an order from Saudi Arabia for railway track maintenance and related equipment valued at close to $15 million.

harsco_logo1.jpgThe order, one of Harsco's first and by far its largest from Saudi Arabia for railway track maintenance equipment, will support the Kingdom's new North-South Railway system project, a $2 billion, 2,300-kilometer (1,400-mile) rail line.

The railway will link Saudi Arabia's phosphate and bauxite reserves in the north with its processing facilities in Jubail on the Persian Gulf, while also providing a new rail route for freight and passenger traffic. The North-South line is also expected to spur additional infrastructure development of adjacent cities and towns along the route.

Harsco Infrastructure operates in Saudi Arabia through a joint venture partnership with the Jeddah-based Al-Baroom Group, a well-established construction sector company in Saudi Arabia.
Englewood, Colo.-based CH2M HILL, a global full-service consulting, design, construction, and operations firm, announced Wednesday that it has signed a definitive purchase agreement to acquire Booz Allen Hamilton’s State & Local Government Transportation Consulting (S&L Transportation) business.

Booz Allen Hamilton is divesting its State & Local Government Transportation Consulting business in order to better align its contract portfolio with the company’s federal government business. The closing of the transaction, currently expected during this year’s third calendar quarter, is subject to customary closing conditions, CH2M HILL said.

“We are excited to welcome the transit and rail professionals from Booz Allen Hamilton’s S&L Transportation business to the CH2M HILL family,” said Transportation President Garry Higdem. “Their long track record of supporting top-tier U.S. and Canadian transit agencies with a wide range of management and consulting services blends perfectly with CH2M HILL’s transit and rail planning, design, construction, program management, and operations capabilities. This combined services portfolio creates a strong value proposition for our clients around the world.”

Gary Schulman, a senior vice president with Booz Allen Hamilton’s S&L Transportation business, said, "We are excited about the possibilities that joining CH2M HILL presents for our employees as well as our clients. Their culture of ethics, diversity, and inclusivity—combined with their highly integrated business platform and focus on sustainability—makes this an ideal fit for our talented professionals.”
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