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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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).

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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.”
Wednesday, 11 May 2011 15:07

M&ET gets R.J. Corman Railpower GenSet

R.J. Corman Railpower has begun delivery of five RP20BD GenSet locomotives to short line Modesto & Empire Traction Company. Funded through California’s Carl Moyer Program dollars distributed by the San Joaquin Valley Air Quality Management District, these five locomotives “will immediately assist M&ET’s growing business by providing eco-friendly switching functions and unrivaled reliability and performance,” says R.J. Corman Railpower Vice President Dave Malay.

 

M&ET currently operates seven Railpower GenSets, achieving reductions in diesel fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions of up to 45% and nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulates by 80%-90% per locomotive, according to Malay. “Since the beginning of the M&ET-Railpower relationship, both groups have worked hard in partnership to develop customer-friendly options for the GenSet locomotives,” he says. “M&ET is truly a pioneer in the green locomotive movement, as well as a respected contributor toward the evolution of the RP Series GenSets. We are excited to continue our partnershipwith the delivery of this order,”

R.J. Corman Railpower will deliver the remaining four RP20BDs later this year, providing on-site training, remote diagnostics, and field support.

Harsco Corp. said Wednesday its Harsco Rail unit has received a significant four-year extension of its contract services program in the U.K. under an award from Network Rail estimated at more than $50 million over its duration.

harsco_logo1.jpgHarsco will continue as the exclusive contract services provider to Network Rail for railway switch grinding throughout the U.K. rail system. Under the program, Harsco Rail will operate and maintain a dedicated fleet of up to five switch grinding units that perform regular rail grinding of complex switch and crossing trackwork across the U.K.

The company said it has been providing railway track maintenance services to Network Rail and its predecessor, Railtrack, since 1997.
The Greenbrier Cos. Wednesday said it appointed Mark Eitzen vice president and general manager of the company’s Gunderson LLC manufacturing plant in Portland, Ore., effective April 15.

greenbrier_cos._logo.jpgEitzen, who joined Greenbrier in 1999, has been general manager of Gunderson's Marine operation for the past five years. He now has responsibility for Gunderson’s Marine and Rail operations, which currently employ about 900 personnel on Portland's Willamette River waterfront. He will continue reporting to Alejandro Centurion, president of Greenbrier's manufacturing operations in North America.

Owen Whitehall, who earlier held the position of general manager for Gunderson Rail Operations, will continue to head Global Sourcing for Greenbrier, reporting to Centurion. Whitehall also will work to develop and expand new lines of business for Gunderson and for Greenbrier’s manufacturing segment, capitalizing on Gunderson's expertise in heavily engineered products and metal fabrication, and work to streamline certain shared services among Greenbrier’s various business units. He will maintain offices at Gunderson with staff located there, and also at Greenbrier’s corporate offices in Lake Oswego, Ore.

The company said Greg Saxton, senior vice president and chief engineer at Gunderson, will continue to have responsibility for railcar engineering at Greenbrier for its combined North American business segments including Manufacturing, Leasing, and Rail Services.
Wednesday, 04 May 2011 19:57

For NYCT

New York City Transit broke new ground in North American rapid transit when it procured a radio-frequency-based Communications-Based Train Control system on the Canarsie “L” line. The innovation apparently hasn’t stopped with CBTC, because the L was recently the scene of a unique dining experience. Though not approved (or for that matter, appreciated by) the New York MTA, the event, as reported by The New York Times, was typical of the many unusual and offbeat things that make the Big Apple’s subway system unique in the world.

We would like to add to The Times’ coverage of this event by clearly stating that, in our opinion, it would not have gone off with such precision and success without the smooth train operation afforded by the Canarsie line’s state-of-the-art CBTC system from Siemens. In full ATO (Automatic Train Operation) mode, the L’s CBTC system as deployed on the Kawasaki Railcar USA R143 cars provides far smoother, more-consistent acceleration and braking profiles than manual operation. So, a hearty toast (non-alcoholic, of course) off to the railway supply industry and the engineering consultants that support it for making CBTC feasible and affordable, and fine dining on the L train just another typical day on New York’s subways. Read on.

—William C. Vantuono, Editor

Aboard the L Train, Luncheon is Served

By Melana Ryzik

Published in The New York Times, May 3, 2011

Photo courtesy of The New York Times

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In the era of pop-up restaurants and speakeasies, flash mobs and social stunts, it was perhaps inevitable that a formal luncheon for a dozen people would be staged aboard the Brooklyn-bound L train. Inevitable, but still impressive.

“So, is there a dining car?” one of the guests asked, as the group descended into the subway station at 14th Street and Eighth Avenue on Sunday, shortly after 1 p.m.In fact, there was. Within moments, a car of the waiting train was transformed into a traveling bistro, complete with tables, linens, fine silverware and a bow-tied maître d’hôtel. “Is this your first time dining on the second car of the L train?” he asked, as guests filed in.

They had been lured by the promise of a clandestine dining experience. (“Please go to the North East Corner of 8th Ave and 14th St,” read the instructions e-mailed early that morning. “There will be a tall slender woman there with jet black hair who is holding an umbrella. Please just go up and introduce yourself. Her name is Michele and she is quite lovely, but no matter how hard you press she won’t tell you about the adventure you are going on.”)

The event was the work of several supper clubs, and the menu they devised was luxurious: caviar, foie gras and filet mignon, and for dessert, a pyramid of chocolate panna cotta, dusted with gold leaf. All of it was accessible with a MetroCard swipe (Michele handed out single-ride passes) and orchestrated with clockwork precision. The six-course extravaganza took only a half-hour.

It wasn’t rush hour, so seating was easy. The tables (lap-width black planks, with holes cut to fit water glasses) were tied to the subway railings with twine. Tucking in behind them felt something like being buckled into a roller coaster. At 1:30 p.m., a few minutes ahead of schedule, the train lurched off.

“Remember, if you see anything, say something,” said the maître d’hôtel (actually an auctioneer who gave his name only as C. K.). He added, “This train will be making all local stops.” Assistants decorated the tables with sprigs of lavender and offered water, sparkling or still.

At the next stop, Sixth Avenue and 14th Street, the chefs and main organizers, Daniel Castaño and Michael J. Cirino, of the supper club A Razor, A Shiny Knife, hopped on, joined by gloved waiters with trays. They presented the first course, an amuse-bouche of fluke crudo with bone marrow mayonnaise and trout roe, served in porcelain spoons borrowed from the pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini.

“We might mention that we really love the slow food movement,” said another bowtied host, Jonathan Cristaldi, “but today we’re not really about slow food. So eat quickly.”

Because of a few no-shows, there was room for walk-ups (or rather, passengers). “We’ll show you to your table right now,” C. K told Nicolas and Ana Brandstader, a brother and sister from Buenos Aires heading to Williamsburg who stopped and went wide-eyed as helpers rigged up another plank.

Paul Smith, a CUNY professor, encountered the meal on his way home to the East Village and was invited to join. “I had this fantastic lunch,” he said, “very exquisite. And then I thought, am I going to get arrested?”

There was no sign of the police or even a conductor, but officials at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, reached on Monday, were not amused. “A dinner party on the L train?” said Charles F. Seaton, a spokesman for the authority. “No. Subway trains are for riding, not for holding parties.”

In deference to the authority’s rules, the hosts did not offer alcohol. This did not assuage Mr. Seaton. “No beverages at all with open containers,” he said.

(Editor’s comment: Sorry Charles Seaton, but even though we know you must follow official MTA policy, you're being a REAL party pooper!)

At Third Avenue came foie gras en brioche, with pots of homemade port-and-raisin jelly. Guests scrambled for knives and salt cellars that slid around the tables. As the subway rumbled, water refills sometimes missed the mark, and C. K. got on his knees to stabilize the tables and proffer wet wipes. Other riders gawked or — this is New York, after all — continued staring ahead and listening to their iPods.

Under the river and out to Brooklyn, where, at the Lorimer Street stop, the soup got on: purée of ramps, poured warm from a silver teapot, over black garlic, morels and a prosciutto crisp. Among the guests was Helena De Pereda, who is helping open a members-only club in SoHo and was considering hiring A Razor, A Shiny Knife for events. “They wanted to impress me,” she said. “They got the job.”

Like some counterparts in the underground dining scene, Mr. Cirino and Mr. Castaño aim for a punk theatricality. Halfway to the last stop, in Canarsie, Mr. Cristaldi, who performs as Jonny Cigar and hosts an itinerant wine saloon, began reading aloud from a copy of “The Great Gatsby” that he pulled from the pocket of his bespoke suit. The subway luncheon was his idea.

Naturally, it was heavily documented; at times the photographers outnumbered the staff. Mike Lee, of the dining club Studiofeast, the chef in charge of the entree, arrived at Morgan Avenue with a video camera strapped to his forehead. His runners carried boards with precisely plated cubes of filet mignon, swipes of mashed potatoes and pickled asparagus tips.

Mr. Lee had drawn a map of the Morgan Avenue platform, complete with the benches he used as work stations, and clocked dry runs of assembling his dish. Like the others, it was cooked at an apartment along the L route. Timing was crucial, but waiting for the right train was torture. “It was 50 minutes of sitting around and 10 minutes of sheer terror,” Mr. Lee said.

In a final flourish, the last two courses — a gooey spoonful of St. André cheese and the dessert — were finished aboard the moving train. As the L rose above ground and the car filled with sunlight, Mr. Cirino added a raspberry coulis from a whipped cream dispenser to the panna cotta; plates were quickly spooned clean. The Argentines gloated over their good fortune. “You expect crazy things to happen in the subway, like people getting naked, but this ... ” Mr. Brandstader said, trailing off.

With the dirty dishes packed away and the tables stacked, the organizers took stock at a beer garden in Williamsburg. The whole event involved more than 50 people and the cost to the hosts was about $1,600, Mr. Cirino estimated, not including donated supplies (Mast Brothers chocolate for the desserts) and prep space (courtesy of the Brooklyn Kitchen).

Tickets were $100, but the money was refunded as a sort of good-will adventure gesture. “We wanted to challenge ourselves,” Mr. Cirino said. “We raised the bar,” Mr. Castaño added. Coming from a crew whose idea of a meal out is recreating a 20-course Thomas Keller-Grant Achatz feast and serving it in three cities, this is high praise. Over lagers and sausage they toasted a future filled with sizzling hot pots.

“Next year,” Mr. Lee said, “we do shabu shabu. What could go wrong?”

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