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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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?”

U.S. freight carload traffic for the week ending April 30 was “flat” compared with the same week in 2010, but U.S. intermodal traffic advanced 7.8% compared with the same period, the Association of American Railroads said Thursday.

aar_logo.jpgAAR said nine of the 20 carload commodity groups posted increases from the comparable week in 2010, led by metallic ores, up 22.1%. Primary forest products, down 23.5%, led the declining groups.

Canadian freight carload traffic rose 5.4% from last year, while Canadian intermodal volume rose 3.1%. Mexican freight carload traffic also rose, up 15.1% compared with the same week in 2010, while intermodal soared 38%.

Combined North American freight carload volume for the first 17 weeks of 2011 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was up 3.3% compared with the same point last year, with intermodal up 7.9% compared with last year.
FreightCar America, Inc. on Thursday reported first-quarter revenue of $72.2 million and a net loss of $1.3 million. Fourth-quarter 2010 revenue was $51.0 million and the net loss was $3.5 million. The company generated revenue of $19.5 million and a net loss of $3.3 million in the first quarter of 2010.

freightcar_america_logo.jpgFreightCar America received orders for 4,027 cars in the first quarter of 2011, compared to 331 in the fourth quarter of 2010 and 3,656 in the first quarter of 2010. Manufacturing backlog was 5,206 units on March 31, 2011 compared to 2,054 units on December 31, 2010 and 3,600 units on March 31, 2010.

“Our sales and order volume for our manufacturing segment for the first quarter of 2011 reflects modestly improving market conditions,” said President and CEO Ed Whalen. “While our backlog has improved quarter over quarter and sequentially and while our utilization of manufacturing capacity has improved, we are still affected by ongoing competitive pricing pressures and associated pressure on margins.”
Thursday, 05 May 2011 07:28

Siemens ships turbine parts by rail

Siemens Energy announced that it shipped 22 wind turbine nacelles and hubs from its new nacelle assembly facility in Hutchinson, Kans., Thursday.

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“Shipping the 87-metric-ton nacelles by train has significant efficiency and environmental benefits, including an up to 80% carbon footprint reduction compared to truck transportation over long distances,” said the company.

In addition to the hubs and nacelles—the structures atop a wind turbine tower that holds electricity generating components—Siemens Energy said it is also transporting towers and blades via rail to projects throughout the U.S.

The inaugural shipment of nacelles and hubs is headed to Puget Sound Energy’s Lower Snake River Wind Project near Pomeroy, Wash., where they will be combined with blades from Siemens’ Fort Madison, Iowa, manufacturing facility for installation.

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney, Jr., in a move widely anticipated by pro-rail activists, have announced a revised construction plan for the Cincinnati Streetcar project that will use the $99 million in funding that has already been identified and secured.

Friday, 06 May 2011 05:45

ARI gets Indian Railways business

American Railcar Industries, Inc. said Thursday the Indian Railways Research Designs and Standards Organization (Indian Railways) has awarded ARI a global tender to design and develop certain railcars for service in India. The contract is valued at $9.6 million.

american_railcar_logo.jpgUnder the agreement, ARI will work with Indian Railways to assess the operating conditions for freight railcar traffic, design four new railcar types for heavier axle loads, and build six railcar prototypes in the U.S. ARI also will provide training to Indian Railways personnel on design, testing, manufacturing practices, quality assurance, and maintenance.

ARI will receive payment based upon the completion of certain design, manufacturing, and development activities. ARI said it “expects the contract to extend over several years, with almost half of the steps being completed within the first few years.”

“ARI is very excited about the opportunity to work with Indian Railways. We believe this agreement will assist in establishing ARI as a high-quality and dependable producer of freight railcars for use in the Indian market,” said President and CEO James Cowan. “We remain committed to identifying and seizing new opportunities both domestically and abroad. The economy and railcar market have been challenging over the last couple of years and ARI is responding to those challenges with an expanded market strategy.”

The construction of the ARI Indian Railways joint railcar manufacturing facility near Chandigarh, India, is under way. The joint venture Amtek Railcar Industries Private Ltd. , of which ARI has a 50% ownership, may utilize the railcar designs being developed under this agreement, or similar railcar designs, for the joint venture’s product offerings in India.
Friday, 06 May 2011 06:13

UIC to launch sustainability campaign

Paris-based International Union of Railways (Union Internationale des Chemin de Fer, or UIC) says it will officially launch its Declaration on Sustainable Mobility and Transport campaign May 11 in New York. UIC says it has signatures from 43 railways, representing more than 60% of the total passenger rail market around the world, in support of the campaign. UIC hopes to demonstrate rail’s commitment to be at the heart of sustainable transport systems.

uic_logo.jpgUIC has timed the event to coincide with the Unitied Nations Commission for Sustainable Development discussions (CSD19), which will include discussions on transport policy. UIC says it has been working closely with U.N. CSD officials and partner organizations, to provide information about the environmental, social and economic value of railways.

The UIC Declaration on Sustainable Mobility and Transport was launched last October and lists the most important sustainable development goals for the global railway sector. In signing the declaration, member railways are making a public commitment to work towards these objectives and provide progress reports.

UIC is also developing a reporting framework and set of indicators to track progress in implementing the goals of the Declaration. The results of this reporting process should be announced at the Rio +20 conference in June 2012.
Responding to news reports that highlighted potential terrorist interest in, and threats to, North American railroads outlined by documents and other media seized by U.S. Special Forces in Pakistan, the Association of American Railroads assured the public that measures have been taken, and will continue to be taken, to increase railroad security since Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorist attacks occurred in New York, Washington, D.C., and on board a jet plane that eventually crashed in Pennsylvania.

aar_logo.jpg“Because enhanced security has become a long-term necessity, the Board of Directors of the Association of American Railroads (AAR) — made up of the CEOs of North America’s major freight railroads and Amtrak — has established the mandate to ensure that the railroads would be more secure each day,” AAR notes. “Using CIA and national intelligence community best practices, five critical action teams — with the active involvement of some 150 railroad industry, security and intelligence personnel — were established to scrutinize different aspects of the railroad system: hazardous materials; operations; infrastructure; information technology and communications; [and] military movements.”

AAR adds, “The railroad sector maintains communication links with the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and state and local law enforcement to enable immediate response.”

“The railroad security plan is a living document, because the risk assessment process is a continuous one. As conditions warrant, that plan is updated, revised and strengthened to ensure the security of the railroads and their continued service to the nation,” AAR says.

Bombardier Transportation said Monday it has signed a framework agreement with Siemens AG to become a partner to develop and supply important components of up to 300 ICx high speed trains for Germany’s Deutsche Bahn (DB). Bombardier said the first call-off for 130 trains is worth an estimated 1.3 billion euros, or $1.8 billion, to Bombardier.

deutsche_bahn_logo.jpgDB is planning to place an additional call-off with Siemens for a further 90 trains. The combined order volume of 220 trains would be worth approximately $3 billion to Bombardier. The framework agreement between Siemens and DB AG also includes an option for up to 80 additional trains that could be ordered at any time until the year 2030.

Together with Bombardier, Siemens has developed a flexible vehicle concept which allows the ICx to be adapted to the individual requirements of various transport situations. Bombardier will supply Siemens with, among other components, all the body shells as well as trailer bogies of the new ICx fleet. Bombardier also will carry out the final assembly of all end coaches and of some intermediate coaches.siemens_logo.jpg

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Stéphane Rambaud-Measson, president of the Passengers division of Bombardier Transportation, said, “We are proud to have received the order from Siemens to contribute significantly to the design and production for the ICx project. The technical solutions developed and produced by Bombardier will make a significant contribution to this key Deutsche Bahn project. The ICx will have a decisive influence on the future of long-distance travel in Germany and will be a showcase project.”

Oliver Schmidt, vice president, Sales North, of the Passengers division, said, “We are delighted to be playing a decisive role in a big project in our home market here in Germany. We will be developing and producing key technological aspects of the ICx project from our sites in Görlitz, Hennigsdorf, and Siegen. This includes the aerodynamics, the innovative body shell and the Bombardier FLEXX Eco bogie. With these items, we’re contributing massively to the cost-effectiveness of the trains and to the comfort of the passengers.”

The steel body shells for the new high speed trains are optimised in terms of aerodynamics and weight, enabling significant reductions in energy consumption. They are being developed in the Bombardier factory in Hennigsdorf and are being manufactured in Görlitz. Project management takes place at both sites. Hennigsdorf is responsible for the final assembly of all ICx end coaches.

Bombardier said it will also carry out the final assembly of one intermediate coach per train at this site. The FLEXX Eco trailer bogies reduce vehicle weight, energy consumption and noise emission. They are being supplied from the Bombardier site in Siegen. The production of the ICx will start in the summer of 2013.

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