William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

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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Tuesday, 01 November 2011 11:24

Amtrak: Biodiesel trial results encouraging

Amtrak says that it found the use of a renewable biodiesel fuel blend to power its daily Heartland Flyer train “resulted in no more wear on the locomotive than traditional diesel fuels and no reduction in performance or reliability.”

 

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In a research paper presented last week at a railroad environmental conference at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Amtrak reported that the use of B20 biodiesel (a blend of 20% pure biofuel and 80% diesel oil) also operated below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits for the General Electric P32-8 locomotive used in the test. The locomotive carried an Amtrak decal indicating the use of B20 fuel and other special markings to make certain that only biodiesel fuel was used in the 3,200-hp, 12-cylinder engine built in 1991 and compliant with EPA’s Tier 0 standard.

“The trial design included one year of testing, evaluating the engine and gasket wear, determining the quality of air emissions, and regularly monitoring the quality of the biodiesel fuel,” said Roy Deitchman, Amtrak Vice President, Environmental, Health and Safety. “The results of the trial indicate the in-service locomotive was very reliable with the B20 blend, engine wear was limited, air emissions were below EPA limits for this generation of passenger locomotive, and the biofuel supply met industry standards.”

Amtrak received a $274,000 grant from the Federal Railroad Administration to carry out the research project in partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (Okla. DOT) on the Heartland Flyer, a daily train operated by Amtrak with state support from Oklahoma and Texas.

A Texas-based vendor supplied the biodiesel blend, and the trial received support on fuel and engine component evaluation from Chevron Oronite. The engine manufacturer provided input on warranty matters and some of the testing was carried out at the General Electric facility in Erie, Pa.

The trial was included in TIME magazine’s list of “The 50 Best Inventions of 2010” with a cartoon pointing out that the biodiesel blend included beef byproduct. Operating daily between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, the Heartland Flyer was the first on the list of transportation inventions and only one of TIME's transportation innovations to be publically available.

“Routine use of biodiesel fuel at Amtrak is contingent on many factors, including cost vs. traditional ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel and availability,” Deitchman said. “But we found no significant engine performance issues during the trial and we were able to replace nearly 35,000 gallons of diesel with a renewable fuel that was locally produced.”

Wednesday, 02 November 2011 04:46

GWI adds Georgia short line to portfolio

Greenwich, Conn.-based Genesee & Wyoming Inc. on Wednesday announced the formation of a new subsidiary, the Hilton & Albany Railroad, Inc. (HAL), after signing an agreement with Norfolk Southern to lease and operate a 56-mile segment of NS track that runs from Hilton, Ga., to Albany, Ga.

gwi_logo.jpgOperations are expected to begin in January. HAL is expected to handle approximately 12,000 carloads annually, primarily overhead traffic between NS and GWI's Bay Line, Chattahoochee Bay, and Chattahoochee Industrial railroads. HAL also will serve several local agricultural and aggregate customers in southwest Georgia, GWI said.

GWI earlier this week announced its < a href=http://www.railwayage.com/breaking-news/gwi-3q-earnings-rise-3665.html>third-quarter earnings.
Wednesday, 02 November 2011 05:01

Jack L. Hadley, 85

Jack L. Hadley, at one time the owner of the Kiamichi Railroad Co. operating in Oklahoma and Texas, died Oct. 30 at his home in Latrobe, Pa. He was 85.

Hadley was an executive for the railroads of Jones & Laughlin Steel and later LTV Steel before becoming a short line owner in 1987. Within one year, Hadley tripled the number of employees at Hugo, Okla.-based Kiamichi Railroad and was serving 100 businesses along the line, stretching from Medill, Okla., to Paris, Tex. Hadley then acquired the adjoining Chaparral Railroad Co., and also began operating the South Orient Railroad in Texas.

Hadley sold the properties in 1995; the Kiamichi Railroad, which also extends into Arkansas, currently is owned by Jacksonville, Fla.-based RailAmerica.

Hadley started his career in labor relations before moving to Jones & Laughlin, where he focused on the company’s rail operations, including the Monongahela Connecting Railroad in Pittsburgh, the Aliquippa and Southern Railroad in Aliquippa, Pa., and the Cuyahoga Valley Railroad in Cleveland.

Wednesday, 02 November 2011 05:16

Operation Lifesaver announces four safety grants

Operation Lifesaver, Inc. on Wednesday announced that four transit agencies will receive rail safety education grants as part of its partnership with the Federal Transit Administration.

Transit agencies selected for grants under the Operation Lifesaver/FTA partnership include: Memphis (Tenn.) Area Transit Authority (MATA); Phoenix’s Valley Metro; Portland, Ore.’s Tri-Met; and Salt Lake City’s TRAX.

operation-lifesaver-.jpgOLI President Helen M. Sramek announced the grants in a speech at FTA’s 15th Annual State Safety Oversight meeting in Washington. D.C. “Even as rail transit remains among the safest modes of transportation in the United States, continued growth in ridership heightens the importance of safety education in our communities,” said Sramek. “We are proud to partner with the Federal Transit Administration on these safety grants.”

Sramek also noted that nine transit agencies have incorporated the Operation Lifesaver “Bad Move” rail-pedestrian safety poster campaign into their public education efforts.

“The ‘Bad Move’ PSA targets people aged 16 to 34 with a message that’s intended to reduce pedestrian-train deaths and injuries,” said Sramek. “These transit agencies have joined our ‘Bad Move’ interactive poster campaign, increasing awareness of the dangers of walking on or near train tracks. As our campaign continues to expand, we are extending the ‘Bad Move’ Write Your Own Ending contest through Nov. 9, 2011 in order to make sure everyone who would like can enter.”
Wednesday, 02 November 2011 05:32

Senate offers Gateway Tunnel modest funding

The Senate on Tuesday approved $15 million for Amtrak to begin design and engineering work on the railroad’s Gateway Tunnel project, proposed earlier this year to expand capacity on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor under the Hudson River and through a portion of New Jersey.

amtrak_logo.jpgAmtrak had initially requested $50 million for the study, but in a statement tacitly acknowledged that the railroad was fortunate to receive any funding at all, given the pressures to reduce federal spending.

"Today’s announcement also brings us one step closer to Gateway's desired goal—expanding track and station capacity necessary to enable Amtrak's next generation high-speed rail plan and support improved service for thousands of Amtrak and New Jersey Transit passengers traveling between New York and New Jersey each day," Amtrak said in a statement.

Funding support in the House is far from certain, however.

Numerous press reports identify Gateway Tunnel as a “replacement” for Access to the Region’s Core, a decade-plus effort to add tunnels under the Hudson River which was terminated late last year by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. But numerous rail advocates in New Jersey, as well as some rail industry officials speaking privately to Railway Age, point out the two projects are in fact quite different in scope and intent.

Interviewed by nj.com, Petra Todorovich, director of America 2050, said: "The way I see it is the ARC tunnel was primarily… regional commuter rail with side benefits for inter-city rail. The Gateway tunnel is more of a project focused on inter-city rail with side benefits for commuter rail."
Wednesday, 02 November 2011 05:59

Rail unit powers L.B. Foster 3Q earnings

L.B. Foster Co. said its third-quarter earnings rose 50% to $9.7 million or 95 cents per share , measured against $6.5 million, or 63 cents per share, in the comparable period one year ago.

Revenue rose 30% to $162.7 million from $125.6 million in the year-ago quarter, the company said Tuesday.

lbfoster.jpgL.B. Foster said its rail and tubular segments reported strong results, while weakness in its construction unit continued. The company’s Portec rail products and rail distribution sales were up 67%; L.B. Foster completed the acquisition of Portec Rail Products last year.But the company expressed concern over the uncertainty of federal transportation funding, which it says will continue to impact its business because it may discourage additional infrastructure spending.

The "lack of progress related to new transportation legislation and steadily decreasing government spending on infrastructure due to weak finances are perpetuating negative headwinds for our construction and transit markets," the company said in a statement. "We expect to continue to experience a highly competitive market environment for the next nine months and we are concerned about the likelihood of a satisfactory resolution of transportation legislation as well as appropriate funding mechanisms for such a bill."
Wednesday, 02 November 2011 08:51

Class I railroads post strong safety gains

Class I railroads of the U.S. have come through the recession years busier and more profitable than most American industries. At the same time they have achieved strong gains in safety.

Preliminary statistics released this week by the Office of Safety Analysis of the Federal Railroad Administration for the first eight months of 2011 show significant improvement in almost every area of operation.

Total accidents-incidents for the January-August period of 2011, at 7,629, were 17.7% lower than in the same period of 2008. Rail-related fatalities were down 8.2% to 402. Highway-rail grade crossing fatalities declined 11.4% to 171, and trespassing fatalities dropped 6.9% to 298. The 18 employee deaths recorded in 2011 were unacceptable by any standard and showed no improvement from the 17 recorded four years ago.

In other categories, the four-year comparison showed collisions down 14.7% to 110; derailments down 25.0% to 947; and yard accidents down 27.4% to 692.
Thursday, 03 November 2011 03:46

Greenbrier Cos. reports

The Greenbrier Cos. Thursday reported net earnings of $12.6 million, or 42 cents per diluted share, in its fiscal fourth quarter ended Aug. 31, compared with earnings of $7.7 million, or 33 cents per diluted share, in its comparable 2010 quarter.

Fourth-quarter revenue was a record $442.7 million, up from $178.8 million in the fiscal fourth quarter of 2010, Lake Oswego, Ore.-based Greenbrier said.

greenbrier_cos._logo.jpgResults for the quarter include a loss on extinguishment of debt of $5.7 million pre-tax, $3.4 million after-tax, for costs associated with the repayment in full of a $72 million term loan. Excluding these charges, net earnings were $16.0 million, or $.52 per diluted share, the company said.


The company also noted its backlog continues to grow, and now is measured at 14,500 units valued at $1.23 billion. New railcar deliveries in the fiscal fourth quarter of 2011 were a record 4,000 units, compared with 700 units in the fourth quarter of 2010. Total new railcar deliveries were 9,400 units in fiscal 2011,compared with 2,500 units in fiscal 2010.

William A. Furman, president and chief executive officer, said, “We ended the quarter and the year with strong operating momentum, particularly in our manufacturing segment where we successfully executed at high production volumes. We continue to see strength in our end markets across each of our business segments and our new railcar backlog continued to grow in our fourth quarter. These factors give us good visibility and confidence that we can support higher new railcar production levels in fiscal 2012.

“We believe our industry fundamentals are sound, and that several forces are driving new railcar demand that are uncoupled from the more uncertain economic and political environments. Among these forces are stronger railroad balance sheets, truck traffic diversion to rail, replacement demand, and a growing strength in the U.S. energy market, which will continue to create increased demand for covered hopper cars and tank cars,” Furman said.

Cubic Transportation Systems said Thursday it now has integrated high-resolution video displays in its next-generation machines for public transit.

The company, a subsidiary of San Diego-based Cubic Corp. says the new machines offer transit agencies the ability to offer video advertising, information, marketing, direction maps, and other messages directly at the point of purchase, adding a new channel for high-traffic generating agencies to attract additional revenue, and to get more useful information directly to customers.

The new video display is two times larger than Cubic's current display, with multi-touch capability allowing customers to zoom in and out, similar to how smart-phone touch technology works. When touched by a customer, the screen automatically launches the user interface for purchasing or adding value to a fare product. After a pre-set period of inactivity, the screen defaults to the advertising or other informational screens defined by the transit agency.

As an option, Cubic says, it can integrate a 3D display delivering imagery that can be viewed without the need for special glasses.

“The technology for this enhanced display capability has reached a level of stability and pricing that we can offer it to customers either as an option for upgrading their existing Cubic ticket machines, or as a new device altogether for a new customer,” said Cubic Transport Systems Vice President of Engineering Pradip Mistry. “This enhanced capability helps to drive more useful information in real time.”
Thursday, 03 November 2011 06:44

Norfolk Southern to hire 500 by year

In order to meet growing demand from freight customers and to replace workers retiring in coming years, Norfolk Southern plans to hire 500 employees in eight states by the end of 2011.

ns_logo.jpg“Norfolk Southern has hired more than 3,500 employees so far this year and anticipates adding 2,600 employees in 2012,” the company said Thursday.

There are openings now for conductors, freight car repair personnels, machinists, signal maintainers, and track workers in the following locations:

Illinois: Chicago, Decatur; Indiana: Fort Wayne, Princeton; Maryland: Baltimore; New York: Buffalo; Ohio: Cincinnati; Pennsylvania: Altoona, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh; Tennessee: Chattanooga, Knoxville; Virginia: Manassas, Roanoke.

“These jobs offer excellent pay and benefits and the opportunity to build a long-term career at a company that has been vital to the U.S. economy for more than 180 years,” said Cindy Earhart, NS vice president of human resources.
Thursday, 03 November 2011 06:51

Willis Edward Bell, 1918-2011

Willis Edward Bell, 93, of Port Charlotte, Fla., died Monday, Oct. 31, 2011. Bell was the Chief Signal Engineer of the Erie Lackawanna Railway and later the Chief Engineer for Communications and Signals at the United States Railway Association. He completed his career as a Project Manager at Gibbs and Hill, Inc., in Washington D.C., designing and implementing the signaling and train control system for the WMATA Metrorail rapid transit system. Bell and his wife Lois, who predeceased him, retired to Port Charlotte in 1983.

Bell graduated from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1943 with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering. He served as a 1st Lieutenant in the Signal Corps of the United States Army during World War II.

Bill is survived by his four children—Thomas E. Bell of Houston, Tex.; Craig W. Bell of Indianapolis; Susan A. Miner of Atkinson, N.H., and Barbara Mills of Glenville, Pa.—five grandchildren, and a brother, Frank Donald Bell of Allison Park, Pa.

Hundreds of Boy Scouts this weekend will spend a busy and fun-filled time at the North Carolina Transportation Museum earning their Railroading Merit Badges during Rail Camp, Nov. 4-6. Troops will spend Friday through Sunday at the museum, the site of the former Southern Railway Spencer Shops steam locomotive repair facility.

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This year the museum will host a record number of scouts—460, including troop leaders, from 23 troops. Most of the attending troops are from North Carolina, from as close by as Salisbury, Concord, and Lexington, but the cities of Greer, Spartanburg, Simpsonville, and Tega Cay will represent South Carolina. There one troop from Alta Vista, Va.

Scouts attending Rail Camp will earn their Railroading Merit Badge with the completion of several activities. After a scavenger hunt, the afternoon will be dedicated to learning how a diesel-electric locomotive works, how to identify different types of railcars, the importance of railroad signals, and railroad safety. Troops will also learn about modern railroad companies and how to plan a trip by rail.

Brian Moffitt, Educational Programming Coordinator at the N.C. Transportation Museum, heads up the event. Moffitt became an Eagle Scout in 1991, before the museum began offering such a program. “This is an experience I was never able to have, and it’s great to offer it to others who might also become Eagle Scouts some day,” he says Moffitt. As for the rising numbers of troops attending the event each year, Moffitt attributes word of mouth among troop leaders. “Local councils and districts find out about what we do from the troops who have attended,” he says. “They enjoy their experience and are more than willing to share.”

The North Carolina Transportation Museum is part of the Division of Historic Sites and the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, which annually serves more than 19 million people through its 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, the nation’s first state-supported Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the N.C. Arts Council, and the State Archives.

Thursday, 03 November 2011 10:08

UP

The Surface Transportation Board announced Thursday that among all U.S. Class I railroads, it found that only Union Pacific was revenue adequate for the year 2010—meaning that it achieved a rate of return equal to or greater than the board’s calculation of the average cost of capital to the freight rail industry.

stb_logo.jpgThe agency determined that the railroad cost of capital for 2010 was 11.3%. UP’s rate of return was 11.54%. Falling short of a return equaling the cost of capital were: BNSF Railway, 9.22%; CSX Transportation, Inc., 10.85%; Grand Trunk Corp. Consolidated (including all Canadian National U.S. affiliates), 9.21%; Kansas City Southern Railway Co., 9.77%; Norfolk Southern Railway Co., 10.96%; and Soo Line Railroad Co. (including all Canadian Pacific U.S. affiliates), 8.01%.
Thursday, 03 November 2011 10:17

Cummins:

Cummins Inc. on Nov. 1 rolled out its new QSK95 diesel engine at the Seymour Engine Plant in Indiana. With over 4,000 hp (2,983 kW) output, the 95-liter 16-cylinder QSK95 engine is being touted as “the world’s most powerful high-speed diesel.”

 

The QSK95 is the first engine to be introduced in a new high-horsepower diesel and gas platform from Cummins. The new product line will extend up to the 120-liter 20-cylinder QSK120, capable of over 5,000 hp (3,728 kW) output. “Designed with exceptional strength and high power density, the 16-cylinder QSK95 exceeds the power output of other large 1,800-rpm high-speed engines with 20 cylinders,” Cummins says. “Compared with much larger medium-speed engines operating below 1,200 rpm, the QSK95 offers a far more compact and cost-effective solution to achieve the same power output.
It is ideally suited for high-hour, high-load applications in passenger and freight locomotives, many types of marine vessels, and ultra-class mine haul trucks. Operators can expect higher levels of equipment uptime and a longer life-to-overhaul with the QSK95.”

For all applications, Cummins says the QSK95 is ready to meet the most stringent emissions standards, including EPA Tier 4 Final, taking effect in 2015, using proven Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) aftertreatment designed by Cummins to replace the exhaust muffler.
“Our QSK95 represents a landmark in the evolution of the large high-speed diesel engine, designed with the power and durability to surpass all other high-speed engines while also challenging much larger and higher capital cost medium-speed engines,” said Mark Levett, Cummins Vice-President and General Manager-High-Horsepower Business.
“The QSK95 moves Cummins into a significantly higher power class, and we know that many of our customers have been eagerly anticipating us making that move. During the development of the QSK95, we engaged with hundreds of potential users to ensure that we fully reflected their operational and installation needs. That’s why we purpose-designed the QSK95 to set standards of uptime availability and in-service reliability higher than those of any other engine. This is just the start of a new high-horsepower platform for both diesel and gas, covering 12, 16, and 20 cylinders.” Cummins says it has committed major resources to the QSK95 and the high-horsepower platform, with 150 engineers working on the project and over $100 million invested to establish a new production line and test facilities at the Seymour Engine Plant.



The QSK95 has been developed “using state-of-the art analytical tools, including highly advanced combustion modeling,” according to Jim Trueblood, Vice-President-Cummins High-Horsepower Engineering. “Using powerful analysis programs, we evaluated thousands of possible combustion designs until we arrived at the optimum formula for fuel efficiency, performance, emissions control, and power cylinder durability before cutting any metal. The QSK95 is designed with immense strength at the heart of the engine, enabling the power cylinder to achieve higher levels of peak cylinder pressure. This gives a higher threshold in-cylinder to focus on emissions reduction and improve fuel efficiency. A key achievement of our combustion analysis-led work is that the QSK95 makes no performance compromise to meet very low emissions standards—an advantage that few, if any, other large high-speed or medium-speed engines will be able to claim for Tier 4.”

While the QSK95 is an all-new platform, the engine has been able to take advantage of existing systems from within Cummins high-horsepower technology portfolio.
A quad-turbocharger system brings “highly reliable air-handling direct from the QSK60 engine to the QSK95. The four compact turbochargers provide “outstanding” step-load acceptance and transient response with the simplicity of single-stage operation. The Modular Common-Rail System (MCRS) is upgraded to a next-generation design with up to 2,200-bar high-pressure fuel injection. MCRS “achieves high fuel efficiency, reduces noise, offers smooth idle stability, and eliminates visible smoke across the operating range.” Cummins new NanoNet™ fuel filtration “gives superior fuel cleanliness and enhances the durability of the MCRS system—an important advantage for engines required to operate anywhere in the world with varying fuel quality.”

A new ductile iron block and an extended block skirt “ensure the highest possible structural strength for the QSK95, improving its capability for multiple overhauls. An internal stiffening bedplate minimizes vibration. A single-piece forged-steel piston provides exceptional durability and reuse capability at rebuild. All three piston rings use premium materials, with the top ring Plasma Vapor Deposition (PVD)-coated. The hardened power cylinder features midstop cylinder liners and dual piston cooling nozzles, contributing to reduced piston ring temperatures and increased wear resistance.
The stronger engine design of the QSK95 means more reliability in-service and less to rebuild at engine overhaul, considerably reducing total life cycle costs. The QSK95 will provide an exceptionally long life-to-overhaul, capable of achieving 1.7 million gallons and above of fuel consumed before overhaul, with the significant advantage of no mid-life intervention required.”

The SCR aftertreatment system is purpose-designed for the QSK95 to provide “a highly flexible, installation package for Tier 4 Final and similar ultra-low emissions standards. Design space remains available within the aftertreatment system configuration for additional Particulate Matter (PM) reduction technology if required for specific applications. Depending on the duty-cycle, the Cummins SCR system is capable of achieving fuel savings of 5% to 10%, together with a significant reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The SCR fuel savings are incremental to those already realized by the high-pressure fuel system, reducing the cost of operation by more than the cost of Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) required for the SCR system.

By using Cummins SCR aftertreatment solution, the QSK95 avoids the need for an Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) system on the engine to reduce Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx). This EGR-free approach avoids the inherent complexity of applying it to high-output engines and means that no compromise is made to serviceability. A further advantage is that no additional heat rejection is generated by the engine, avoiding both an installation cost and space impact.”

Cummins says the QSK95 “is designed with more inherent reliability to ensure the highest possible uptime availability. The engine is configured to provide faster and easier servicing procedures, with simple access to all cooling, oil, and fuel system maintenance points on the engine. Service intervals are a minimum 500 hours, with the option of much-extended oil change intervals available using the ELIMINATOR™ oil purification system, mounted on the engine. The goal of a leak-free engine is achieved by premium press-in-place seals on all critical joints, such as the flywheel housing, gear housing, and oil pan-to-cylinder block. A special perimeter seal to the cylinder head guarantees that airborne debris cannot penetrate this important sealing interface.
Four standardized Cummins Electronic Control Modules (ECMs) provide a high level of processing power and memory to monitor, control, and protect the engine systems. One ECM monitors each engine quadrant, with all four ECMs grouped together for easy access at the front of the engine in a protected cover. An easy interface provides access for full diagnostics.”

U.S. freight carload traffic rose a solid 5.2% during the week ending Oct. 29, measured against the comparable week in 2010, the Association of American Railroads reported. U.S. intermodal volume also advanced strongly, up 4.6% compared with the same week last year.

aar_logo.jpgAAR Thursday said 14 of the 20 carload commodity groups it measures posted increases compared with the same week in 2010, including: iron and steel scrap, up 23.5%; petroleum products, up 20.5%; and metallic ores, up 20.1%. Declines were logged in waste and nonferrous scrap, down 14.5%, and grain, down 5.3%.

Canadian freight carload volume gained in similar fashion, up 5.1% compared with the same week last year, with Canadian intermodal volume up 3.4. Mexican freight carload volume spoiled the winning streak, down 4.5% compared with the same week last year, and Mexican intermodal volume also fell, down 5.2%.

AAR stressed as well that October was a good month for U.S. freight traffic, with freight carload volume up 1.7% and intermodal up 3.6%. Last month logged the highest weekly freight carload average of any month since October 2008, AAR said, with intermodal registering the highest average since October 2006.

“While there is clearly room for improvement, October rail traffic appears to indicate that we are still in a slowly growing economy,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray.

Combined North American rail volume for the first 43 weeks of 2011 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was up 2.1% measured against the comparable 2010 period, while intermodal was up 5% compared with last year.
Friday, 04 November 2011 04:38

FDOT closes SunRail deal with CSX

The Florida Department of Transportation on Thursday completed its purchase of the 61-mile SunRail right-of-way in central Florida from CSX Corp. for $150 million, clearing the way for construction and improvement on the route.

sunrailbutton.jpgThe first phase of construction will include the double-tracking, signal improvements, stations, and establishing an operations control center for SunRail service. The 31-mile first phase of SunRail, with Orlando as its hub city, includes 12 stops from DeBary in Volusia County to Sand Lake Road in southwest Orange County.

CSX noted it will retain an exclusive freight easement to operate on the SunRail line in order to continue to provide all common carrier services to its customers. 

csx_logo.jpg.jpg

“Today's purchase is another important step in the process to bring SunRail commuter rail to Central Florida,” said Ananth Prasad, secretary of the state transportation department, in a statement. “All along the way, the department has worked closely with federal, state, local and private partners to help achieve the vision to deliver the most effective and efficient commuter rail system in the country.”

Said CSX Vice President-Strategic Infrastructure Louis Renjel, “Today’s closing represents a significant milestone in this public-private partnership that accommodates Central Florida’s need for a transportation alternative to congested highways, while preserving and expanding environmentally friendly and efficient freight rail capacity.” 

SunRail’s prospects were aided by the efforts of Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who has fought for the project and countered state-level anti-rail efforts despite significant criticism from members of his own party, as well as Florida Tea Party voices.

Friday, 04 November 2011 05:37

Wabtec acquires Bearward Engineering

Wabtec Corp. says it has acquired Bearward Engineering, a leading manufacturer of cooling systems and related equipment for power generation and other industrial markets. Conditions of the acquisition, announced late Thursday, were not disclosed.

wabtec_logo.jpgBased in Northampton, England, Bearward has annual sales of about $70 million. Wabtec expects the transaction to be accretive in the first year.

“Bearward is a strategic complement to our existing thermal management business, which is already well established in the power generation and industrial cooling systems markets,” said Albert J. Neupaver, Wabtec’s president and chief executive officer. “Combining our existing products and technologies with Bearward’s product line and European presence strengthens our worldwide position in the industrial cooling systems market, which we believe offers long-term stability and growth potential.”

Founded in 1958, Bearward designs and manufactures a variety of cooling systems and related components, including radiators and charge air coolers. The company’s customers include manufacturers in the power generation, off-highway and construction markets worldwide. Bearward, which was held privately, has about 600 employees.
Friday, 04 November 2011 07:10

UP unveils AutoFlex

Union Pacific Railroad Senior Vice President–Corporate Relations Bob Turner, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, and local officials were on hand Friday as Union Pacific unveiled its employee-designed and built AutoFlex™ rail car in De Soto, Mo. The 90-foot long AutoFlex™ is a convertible, multi-level rail car that UP says can be transformed from two to three decks based on the customer’s vehicle shipment needs.

UP says the AutoFlex™ delivers numerous benefits to its auto customers, including:

• The flexibility of three decks to transport small vehicles or two decks to accommodate large vehicles. Traditional vehicle-carrying rail cars have either two or three decks and cannot be converted from one to the other.

• Superior security due to the removal of ladder access to the rail car roof and upper decks. The ladder is accessible only when end doors are open.

• A new end-door design with ladders that allow for safer, more ergonomic access to the rail car’s interior.

• Increased service quality thanks to a proven durable door edge system, improved tie-down chock systems, and upgraded in-transit damage protection.

UP says it holds 15 patents related to the design and process that resulted in developing the AutoFlex™. UP employees expect to build 100 AutoFlex™ cars in 2011 and are scheduled to build 200, or more, in 2012.

“Our nearly 150-year existence is due largely to innovations, like the AutoFlex™, that provide value to our customers, keep us competitive, benefit the industry and sustain and grow jobs. Today marks yet another day when Union Pacific employees showed great ingenuity to provide our customers ever-better service. We are very proud of what they achieved,” Turner said.

Monday, 07 November 2011 03:59

Amtrak raises age for unaccompanied minors

As of Nov. 1, Amtrak passengers between the age of 8 and 12 are now not allowed to ride the national passenger railroad without being accompanied by someone 18 years of age or older. Amtrak had allowed passengers as young as 8 years to ride unaccompanied.

amtrak_logo.jpgAmtrak’s web site urges those making reservations for unaccompanied minors to call 1-800-USA-RAIL. “You may not book reservations for unaccompanied minors on this web site,” Amtrak warns.

In addition, Amtrak says children ages 13 through 15 “must travel in accordance with the Amtrak Unaccompanied Minor Policy,” which includes several conditions limiting travelers’ flexibility. For example, young teenagers may travel on Amtrak trains, but are “not permitted on Thruway motorcoach service, or on any other other connecting services.”

Also, Amtrak says, “Both boarding and arrival stations must be staffed. (Please note that even certain staffed stations do not allow for unaccompanied minors.)” As well, “The adult must remain at the station until the train has departed.”

Lenore Skenazy, host of the blog “Free-Range Kids,” objects strongly to the change. Amtrak is institutionalizing the “idea that ‘safe enough’ is not safe enough. Now it must be almost 100% safe, which nothing is,” she said in response to a request for comment by Railway Age.

“I’m surprised at how much this issue is totally getting under my skin; I guess it's a combination of the fact that I love trains, and that Amtrak itself admits there is no basis to it,” she said.

 

Monday, 07 November 2011 04:16

Board backs labor pay increase; BLET unhappy

A board appointed by President Obama to review a dispute between freight railroads and labor unions recommended during the weekend that workers receive an 18.6% pay increase over six years.

The unions sought a 19% increase over five years; rail management had countered with 17% over six years.

“While we recognize that this proposed resolution is by nomeans the only reasonable resolution possible, we believe thatit is fair and appropriate,” the five-member Presidential Emergency Board No. 243 wrote in the report it submitted to Obama on Saturday.

The railroads remain at odds with 11 unions representing most of its labor force, including the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, a unit of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. BLET President Dennis R. Pierce is unhappy with the report.

blet_logo.jpg

“The 11 unions working in unison made a compelling case for status quo on health and welfare benefits and an even more compelling argument for wages increases greater than those found in the recommendation,” he said.

“BLET also made very specific agreements that were documented by substantial evidence, and made it quite clear to the Board that tour wage settlements with three of the four largest Class I carriers and on-property negotiations with the fourth meant that health care cost-fhifting would place a tremendous obstacle in the way of obtaining an acceptable settlement. Unfortunately, that is exactly the situation we now face,” Pierce said.

The United Transportation Union and its yardmasters division, with 30% of those workers, reached a five-year agreement with Class I railroads last April that includes a 17% raise and retains the $200 per-month cap on employee. UTU ratified the deal last September.

The value of the UTU’s raise plus other wage-relatedincreases that don’t apply to the other unions is comparableto the 18.6% raise the presidential board recommended forother labor groups, according to Frank Wilner, a spokesman forthe union.The board’s recommended settlement is aimed at preventing anational railroad strike that, according to the Association ofAmerican Railroads, would cost the U.S. economy as much as $2billion a day.

Obama appointed the board Oct. 6 to offer recommendationsfor resolving the stand-off, citing the National Mediation Boardas saying that the dispute threatened “substantially to interrupt” interstate commerce.

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