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Railfan Hot Rail NewsEdited by Walt Lankenau
We solicit your contributions to this column. If you have original news items
or photographs to share, please contact us.

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Chessie Mallet Arrives in Cumberland
July 24th, 2014

Yesterday CSX moved Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 from Baltimore to Cumberland, Md. Today it will be moved to the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad shops in Ridgeley, W.Va., and unloaded. WMSR expects to have the 1949 Baldwin back in service by early 2016 to replace its Consolidation No. 734, whose flue time expires at the end of next year. Read all about the 1309 project at www.movingfullsteamahead.com.

— Railfan & Railroad

Wisconsin to Purchase UP Branch
July 18th, 2014

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation will buy Union Pacific's branch between Madison, Reedsville, and Cottage Grove for $30 million, which includes $5 million for track upgrades. The deal is expected to be completed later this year after approval by the Surface Transportation Board. The purchase will be made jointly with the Wisconsin River Rail Transit Commission and the line will continue to be operated by Wisconsin & Southern. Last year more than 5000 loads moved over the route to 23 customers.

—Railfan & Railroad

State Buys Berkshire Line
July 18th, 2014

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has authorized the purchase of the Housatonic Railroad's Berkshire Line between the state line at Sheffield and Pittsfield for $12.13  million. Another $35 million will pay for track improvements over the 37-mile route with the intention to eventually provide passenger service to New York City via Danbury, Conn., in conjunction with the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

“Studies have shown that a Berkshire County rail connection to New York City would be a winner, with more than one million rides annually,” said MassDOT Secretary Richard A. Davey. “This purchase and the initial upgrades . . . represent historic steps toward improved access to the Berkshires for tourists and residents alike.”

The initial track improvements will permit the operation of passenger trains but only freight will run until the Connecticut portion of the project is completed. A final round of track improvements will be required along with improvements on the Connecticut portion of the line prior to the start of passenger service. The former New Haven trackage passes through Great Barrington, Stockbridge, Lee, and Lenox. The project will be paid for with funds from the 2014 Transportation Bond Bill.

Whether passenger service will return to the Berkshire Line hinges on Connecticut's willingness to pay for improvements to Housatonic trackage within that state's borders. Given the scope of the Nutmeg State's ongoing projects, such as upgrading drawbridges on the New Haven Line and capacity improvements on Amtrak's Springfield Line, that commitment is open to question.

On the other hand, with state ownership of the track, it's possible that the Berkshire Scenic Railway could resume running excursions out of its Lenox location. In 2012 the Housatonic refused to renew its agreement with BSR that allowed excursions to run over HRRC.

—Railfan & Railroad

NS Suspends Steam Excursions
July 16th, 2014

Norfolk Southern has temporarily suspended its 21st Century Steam excursions due to increased freight traffic and the resulting shortage of train crews. NS says the program will resume next year.

The locomotives that have participated in the NS program, including the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society's Nickel Plate Berkshire No. 765 and Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum's Southern Consolidation No. 630, will see service on non-NS lines, however. NKP No. 765 will run on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic on September 6, 7, 13, and 14, while SR 630 (and/or possibly SR Mikado No. 4501) will power seven day-long TVRM excursions to Summerville, Ga., in October and early November.

Visit www.tvrail.com and www.765.org for information on those trips.

—Railfan & Railroad

C&O 1309 Is Ready to Leave Town
July 16th, 2014

Former Chesapeake & Ohio H-6 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 was loaded onto a heavy-duty flatcar at the Baltimore & Ohio Museum in Baltimore, Md., on July 10 for movement to the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad in Cumberland, Md. The Mallet will undergo a major restoration at the WMSR shop in Ridgeley, W.V., and is expected to be placed in service by the end of 2015.

The transfer was made at the B&O Museum’s Restoration Building a mile west of the main facility. Before arranging for its movement the WMSR conducted a thorough evaluation of the 1309, including an ultrasound check of the boiler. The engine was found to be in generally good shape.

No. 1309 was built in September 1949 by Baldwin, and was the last the last domestic steam engine built by Baldwin. In 1956 it was retired and was stored at C&O’s Peach Creek Terminal Roundhouse in Logan, W.V., until 1972, when it was transferred to the B&O Railroad Museum.

Hulcher Professional Services, Inc. lifted the 1309 at a reduced cost. Two Hulcher crews were assigned for the task—one from Gettysburg, Penn.,; the other from Wilmington, Del. Four Caterpillar side boom tractors were needed to lift the 217-ton locomotive seven feet so the depressed center flatcar could be rolled under it. The first task was to remove the locomotive’s tender. Next, the four Cats were positioned on each side of the track the 1309 was on, and the museum’s ex-B&O GP7 No. 6405 shoved the 1309 about 70 feet between the four machines. After rigging was attached, the four side booms raised the 1309 and the front set of drivers were removed.

The final phase was to shove the flatcar under the locomotive and lower it, with the rear set of drivers set into the depressed center section. This was accomplished without complications, and then Hulcher secured the 1309 to the flatcar. The tender and front set of drivers were loaded onto another flatcar. CSX crews have inspected both cars, but the timing for the move to Cumberland is not known at this time.

In other news,  the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad Development Corp. has received an $85,000 grant from the Maryland Historical Trust toward the restoration of Western Maryland business car No. 204, built by Pullman in 1918. The grant will be matched by WMSRDC.

Railfan & Railroad via Alex Mayes; Alex Mayes photo

Mid-Continent Volunteer Is Killed
July 13th, 2014

On July 12, 2014 the Sauk County Communications Center received a call that a subject was struck by a train at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom, Wis. The preliminary investigation determined that a 66- year-old female, who was a volunteer employee at the museum, was stepping off of a locomotive at which time she slipped under the train as it began to move. The female received fatal injuries as a result of the accident and was pronounced dead at the scene by the Sauk County Coroner. The name of the deceased is being held pending notification of family. The accident remains under investigation by the Sauk County Sheriff’s Office.

—Railfan & Railroad via Sauk County, Wis., Sheriff

Canadian Pacific Resumes Service at Davenport, Iowa
July 11th, 2014

Canadian Pacific was forced to close its line to Kansas City earlier this month due to flooding on the Mississippi River at Davenport, Iowa. The line was shut down on July 1, the river crested on July 4, and service resumed on July 9 with push-pull operations through the affected downtown area. A train is shown being shoved from the North through downtown on the 9th. When the cars clear the water, power will tie on to this end and pull the train south to Nahant Yard.

—Railfan & Railfan via Robert Jordan; Robert Jordan photo

NJ Transit Will Enlarge Light Rail Vehicles
July 10th, 2014

Hudson-Bergen Light Rail and Newark Light Rail customers will enjoy a more comfortable ride in the future thanks to the NJ TRANSIT Board of Directors decision to expand 35 light rail vehicles in the agency’s fleet. The innovative, expanded vehicles—which offer 50 percent more seating capacity than standard light rail vehicles—will be placed into revenue service starting in late 2015.

“We’ve heard from customers through surveys conducted as part of NJ TRANSIT’s Scorecard initiative that crowding on trains—particularly on the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system—is one of their top concerns,” said NJ TRANSIT Executive Director Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim. “Thanks to a successful public-private partnership, we will be able to offer 50 percent more seating capacity on our busiest trains at a fraction of the cost, enhancing the overall customer experience on both the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail and Newark Light Rail systems.”

At today’s regularly scheduled meeting, the Board authorized an additional $54 million under NJ TRANSIT’s contract with Twenty-First Century Rail Corporation of Jersey City to extend 25 Hudson-Bergen Light Rail and ten Newark Light Rail vehicles, including spare parts.

In July 2013, NJ TRANSIT unveiled a prototype of the expanded light rail vehicle and launched a pilot program to test the vehicle by rotating it in service along the three segments of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system.

Since the launch of Hudson-Bergen Light Rail in 2000, ridership on the line has grown steadily. In the past eight years alone, passenger trips have doubled to more than 45,000 per day. To address the need for increased capacity, NJ TRANSIT partnered with Kinkisharyo International, LLC, the original vehicle manufacturer of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail’s existing fleet, and Twenty-First Century Rail Corporation to find an innovative, cost-effective solution that would not significantly impact the system’s infrastructure or require a costly investment in new rail cars.

Kinkisharyo came up with a design for an expanded vehicle that adds two additional sections to the existing light rail vehicle, increasing the number of sections from three to five. The additional sections increase the car length by 37 feet and expand seating capacity from 68 to 102 seats, as well as provide additional standing room.

Development of the five-section prototype drew upon existing resources and spare Hudson-Bergen Light Rail equipment, resulting in no additional cost to New Jersey taxpayers.

Retrofitting existing vehicles in the fleet with the vehicle extender represents a significant cost savings over the purchase of entirely new standard light rail vehicles. At approximately $1.55 million per car, the cost for converting vehicles is about one-third the cost of purchasing new vehicles at about $4.6 million per each. Further, more than 80 percent of the project costs are federally funded under the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program jointly administered by the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration.

—Railfan & Railroad via NJ Transit; photo courtesy of NJ Transit

All Aboard Florida Plans Phased Rollout
July 9th, 2014

All Aboard Florida says it plans to begin operating the first phase of its proposed Orlando to Miami passenger service in late 2016, double-tracking the Florida East Coast main line between Miami and West Palm Beach and building stations at those locations and Fort Lauderdale. While the route duplicates the Tri-Rail commuter service that runs on the parallel former CSX main line, with fewer stops AAF will make the Miami-WPB run in about an hour, compared to Tri-Rail's 90-minute schedules which include 16 stops. AAF says it will run 16 daily round trips between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.

When the project was first announced, AAF said the entire Orlando-Miami route would be finished in 2015, which many observers considered optimistic. Now, the company says service to Orlando will begin in late 2017.

—Railfan & Railroad

Watco to Acquire North Carolina Trackage
July 9th, 2014

Later this month the Blue Ridge Southern Railroad (BLU), a subsidiary of Watco, will acquire about 90 miles of track from Norfolk Southern in North Carolina. The lines include 47 miles between Murphy Junction and Dillsboro, 25 miles between Asheville and East Flat Rock, and 20 miles between Hendersonville and Pisgah Forest. The new railroad plans to hire about 30 employees including supervisors, train crews, and maintenance personnel. Motive power will be seven SD40-2s and three GP39-2s. Operations could begin as early as July 26.

—Railfan & Railroad via Watco Companies and Surface Transportation Board


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