Thursday, March 1, 2012

Norfolk Southern celebrates colorful heritage with historic paint schemes

NORFOLK, VA. - Norfolk Southern is honoring its predecessor railroads during 2012, its 30th anniversary year, by painting 18 new locomotives in commemorative schemes that reflect the heritage of those predecessors.

Since the 1820s, hundreds of railroad companies were built, merged, reorganized, and consolidated into what eventually became Norfolk Southern, itself created from the consolidation of Southern Railway and Norfolk and Western Railway in 1982. In 1999, Norfolk Southern expanded the scope of its heritage with its acquisition of a portion of Conrail. The heritage locomotives will represent most of the railroads that played significant roles in Norfolk Southern's history. The first units will be delivered in March, and all units are expected to be riding the rails by June 1, Norfolk Southern's 30th anniversary date.

"The heritage locomotives reflect the pride we take in our long and colorful history," said Norfolk Southern CEO Wick Moorman. "As they travel through our system, these state-of-the-art units in vintage livery will serve as reminders to our customers, employees, and communities that the modern rail network that keeps America competitive today and into the future has deep roots in the nation's past."

Each paint scheme will be modified to fit contemporary locomotives while staying as true as possible to the original designs. Norfolk Southern employees in Altoona, Pa., and Chattanooga, Tenn., will paint GE ES44AC locomotives, while the EMD SD70ACe units will be painted at Progress Rail Services' facility in Muncie, Ind. The heritage locomotives will be used to haul freight across Norfolk Southern's 20,000-mile, 22-state network.

The predecessor companies to be represented are listed below. In parentheses are the respective roads each became part of (NW=Norfolk & Western, SR=Southern, CR=Conrail) and the make of locomotives to be painted. Images of the color schemes are available on Norfolk Southern's web site.

· Central of Georgia Railway (SR, GE) was formed in 1833 to connect Macon, Ga., with Savannah, completing a rail link between Chattanooga and the port. It was famed for two passenger trains named after prize-winning race horses, the Nancy Hanks and the Man O' War.

· Central Railroad of New Jersey (CR, EMD) was the first American railroad to have its employees wear uniforms, and in 1892 one of its locomotives set a world speed record of 105 mph.

· Conrail (GE) was created by the U.S. government in 1976 from the bankrupt Penn Central, Lehigh & Hudson River, Erie Lackawanna, Central Railroad of New Jersey, Lehigh Valley, Reading and Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines, becoming the largest railroad at the time, with 34,000 route miles.

· Delaware, Lackawanna and Western (CR, EMD) was created in 1849 to connect the rich anthracite coalfields of the Lackawanna Valley of Pennsylvania to northern New Jersey. A hurricane in 1955 knocked the railroad out of operation for a month, with the resulting financial difficulties forcing it to merge with the Erie Railroad in 1960 to form the Erie Lackawanna Railroad.

· Erie Railroad (CR, EMD) was key to economic development along the Southern Tier, which includes Binghamton and Elmira, N.Y. In 1851, Secretary of State Daniel Webster was strapped to a rocking chair on an open flatcar, wrapped in a blanket and clutching a bottle of rum, so he could ride the just-completed railroad.

· Illinois Terminal Railroad (NW, EMD) began life as the Illinois Traction System in 1896 as an interurban electric railroad in central and southern Illinois. Hit by the Great Depression, it was reorganized as the Illinois Terminal in 1937 and attempted to survive as a passenger railroad until relinquishing that business in 1956, when it was acquired by a consortium of railroads. It was operated as a freight railroad until acquired by NW in 1982.

· Interstate Railroad (SR, GE) was incorporated in 1896 to serve southwestern Virginia coalfields. Despite its name, it operated entirely within Virginia. It was acquired by Southern in 1961.

· Lehigh Valley Railroad (CR, GE) was built to haul coal, replacing water transport down the Lehigh River, and was also known as the Route of the Black Diamond.

· New York Central Railroad (CR, EMD) was organized from 10 roads paralleling the Erie Canal between Albany and Buffalo, N.Y., and became known as the "Water Level Route." Today, the former NYC line between Cleveland and Chicago is the busiest on the NS system, with more than 100 freight trains daily.

· New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad (NW, GE) was commonly referred to as the Nickel Plate Road, a moniker it acquired when the Norwalk (Ohio) Chronicle referred to it in 1881 as "the great New York and St. Louis double track, nickel plated railroad," supposedly indicative of its solid financial backing.

· Norfolk Southern Railway (SR, EMD) (not to be confused with today's Norfolk Southern) was a line serving southeast Virginia and northeast North Carolina, chartered in 1883 and acquired by Southern Railway in 1974.

· Norfolk & Western Railway (GE) originated as City Point Railroad, a 9-mile road between Petersburg and City Point, Va., in 1836. Following numerous mergers and acquisitions, it became the Norfolk & Western in 1881.

· Pennsylvania Railroad (CR, GE), incorporated in 1846, billed itself as the "Standard Railroad of the World" and was for many years the largest American railroad by tonnage and revenues. PRR opened the Horseshoe Curve railroad engineering marvel; carried President Lincoln to his inauguration; implemented the "line and staff" organizational structure used by business today; built Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan; and electrified the route between New York and Washington, among its many achievements.

· Reading Company (CR, EMD) was one of the first railroads built in America, and built its fortune hauling coal. It featured the first iron railroad bridge in America.

· Savannah & Atlanta Railway (SR, EMD), began life as the Brinson Railway in 1906, slowly expanding from Savannah toward the Northwest. It was consolidated with other small railroads to become the Savannah & Atlanta in 1917. Central of Georgia bought the S&A in 1951.

· Southern Railway (GE) originated as the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company in 1827. It put into service the nation's first regularly scheduled steam passenger service on Christmas Day, 1830, with the locomotive "The Best Friend of Charleston." The Southern was incorporated in 1894 from the reorganization and consolidation of numerous predecessors and absorbed another 68 railroad companies over the next six years.

· Virginian Railway (NW, EMD) was the only railroad created through the capital and credit of one man, oil magnate Henry Huttleston Rogers. After building a short line, the Deepwater Railway, to haul coal out of West Virginia and then being blocked by the bigger railroads, he created another railroad, the Tidewater Railway, to reach Norfolk, Va., then combined the two into the Virginian in 1907. It was acquired by N&W in 1959.

· Wabash Railroad (NW, EMD) was formed in 1877 and served the mid-central U.S. It was acquired by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1927 and leased to Norfolk & Western in 1960. In 1991, N&W, by then part of Norfolk Southern, purchased the Wabash outright. Made famous by the 1904 song "Wabash Cannonball," there was in fact no such train by that name until 1949.

Norfolk Southern Corporation is one of the nation's premier transportation companies. Its Norfolk Southern Railway subsidiary operates approximately 20,000 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia, serves every major container port in the eastern United States, and provides efficient connections to other rail carriers. Norfolk Southern operates the most extensive intermodal network in the East and is a major transporter of coal and industrial products.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Speed record will be just start of Amtrak upgrades

Amtrak plans to break its own top speed when it spruces up a 24-mile stretch of track in New Jersey for trains running from New York to Washington at 160 mph.
For more than a decade, if you wanted to experience trains at their fastest in the nation, it meant taking Amtrak’s Acela Express to Boston. Around Rhode Island, the train hits 150 mph for about 35 miles.
But with $450 million in federal high-speed-rail money, Amtrak plans to upgrade the 24-mile section of track in New Jersey on which trains would top the current highest speed by 10 mph. Continued

Buckhorn senior building ramp for handicapped at railroad museum

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama - Blake Jacobs is making a difference. He is working to improve opportunities for others.
And if that sounds like a Boy Scout, well, it's because he is. And this endeavor is an effort to achieve the highest rank available to a Boy Scout.
Jacobs, a 17-year-old senior at Buckhorn High School, is building a wheelchair ramp and platform to ease access to trains at the North Alabama Railroad Museum in northeast Madison County. Continued

Deadly New Market train wreck still echoes through area

NEW MARKET, Tenn. - John Coker stares at a thick, black rectangular smudge that runs along a section of the north bank of Lost Creek, a small stream that eventually disappears into a cave system.
The dark vein, about a foot wide and perhaps two feet long, is not a coal seam. Rather, it is the result of years of train debris packed and compressed into the earth when locomotives ran on steam powered by coal furnaces.
"You are standing in the middle of a catastrophe," says Coker, grandson of the man who was an eyewitness to one of the most catastrophic train wrecks in Tennessee history.
Known as the New Market Train Wreck, the accident killed at least 64 people and injured more than 100 others. Continued

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Train derails in Washington County

A Norfolk Southern train derailed in Washington County near Tennille, Ga., spilling about 85 tons of wood chips but causing no injuries, according to an incident report filed today with the National Response Center.
The accident occurred about 10 p.m. Friday and involved the derailment of five train cars, of which one tipped over completely and spilled its load of wood chips onto the railroad’s main track line, the report said. Continued

The Potential for a Train Wreck

... This can't possibly be a good thing. I contacted somebody in Oswego to let them know what I found. I assumed since they were the closest town that they would be the best ones to contact. When I checked back with them a few days later I was told that the information was passed on to Illinois Railway. I figured it was just a matter of time before someone was out there to fix it.
Two and a half years later nothing has been done about the broken culvert or the hole under the railroad ties. Every time I go past there I take a picture of it so I can compare them over time to see if things are getting worse. Continued

San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad teaches practicality

ALAMOSA — Railroaders learning to operate locomotives used the San Luis Valley tracks for training grounds this week.
San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad provided four Permian Basin Railways conductors Engineer Ground School, an inaugural program inspired by last year’s SLRG successful Conductor Ground School.
“It is a good place to train new conductors and new engineers,” said SLRG General Manager Matt Abbey. “This railroad has a wide variety of equipment and a multiplying variety of operations: passenger trains, switches and freight trains.” Continued

Pittsylvania County outings proving popular

Very simply, the Pittsylvania County Parks and Recreation Department wants people to have some fun.
To that end, the department sponsors trips that include a wide variety of activities, enjoyment and destinations.
The first outing offered by the department, which is less than a year old, was a November bus trip from various stops on U.S. 29 to the Lynchburg train station where the participants boarded an Amtrak train to Washington returning in the evening, according to Ernie Dale, the department’s contracted trip coordinator.
... “I’d never ridden on an Amtrak train, so I wanted to go,” Lonnie said. Continued

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tourism board hears report from rail passenger group

La Junta, Colo. — ... Two senators from North Dakota recently put together a grant and other support for rail travel in the amount of $97 million. “If North Dakota can do it, Colorado can do it!” he said.Burlington Northern-Santa Fe has been unwilling to repair rails between Newton and La Junta and between Trinidad and La Junta to support Amtrak passenger trains, since their freights require only rails that will support speeds of 30-60 miles per hour, while Amtrak speeds top 70 miles per hour. Continued

Amtrak's Hiawatha line breaks ridership record

Annual ridership on Amtrak's Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha line cracked the 800,000 mark for the first time last year, the state Department of Transportation reported Friday.
The Hiawatha provided a record 823,163 rides in 2011, up 4% from 792,848 in 2010, the department said. Continued

BNSF Opens $30 Million Expansion in Minot

BNSF railway has just completed construction of a new car shop and inspection tracks in Minot.
The railway says the expansion is to meet the growing freight volume in North Dakota. ... BNSF expects to expand their North Dakota workforce as well. Continued

"Bullet train will keep U.S. out of Third World"

Gov. Jerry Brown is on a mission to prevent the United States from becoming a Third World country, and he says the solution is a high-speed railroad in California.
"We're not going to be a Third World country if I have anything to do with it," Brown said in a Friday morning interview on KCBS-AM in San Francisco. Fourteen countries already have high-speed rail, but the United States does not. Continued

Discovering the Civil War by Train

Railroads have undoubtedly shaped the course of American history -- but have you ever thought about their effect on the Civil War? The War Came By Train at the B&O Railroad Museum (901 West Pratt St., Baltimore, Md.) explores the first war in which railroads played a prominent role, starting with the Baltimore riot of 1861 and ending with Lincoln's funeral train. Continued

Windsor approves plan for future growth around downtown train station

Windsor’s train station doesn’t have passenger rail service yet, but it’s already dictating how the town will grow over the next 20 to 25 years. In a half-mile radius around the station, urban planners have come up with a vision to enhance the area “as the civic and cultural heart of the downtown.”
The station is considered integral to a transit-oriented future in which people live and work within walking distance of trains and buses.
“The whole point is to put density in a place where people have access to transit, so they can get by with fewer cars and be able to live and get services without having to drive. Near a SMART (Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit) station is the perfect place to do that,” said Mayor Debora Fudge, who also is a member of the SMART board of directors. Continued

Hundreds turn out to launch Bellingham anti-coal train initiative

BELLINGHAM - With a musical kickoff from bandZandt singing "No Coal Trains," local activists launched their "Coal-Free Bellingham" campaign for a citizen initiative to outlaw coal trains through a city ordinance.
Stoney Bird, a retired corporate attorney who is one of the key organizers, said it may be a week or two before signature-gatherers hit the streets. The language for the ballot title needs to be worked out with the City Attorney's office.
But judging from the Thursday, Jan. 26, turnout of 200 or more enthusiastic supporters, the signature-gathering process won't lack for volunteers. Continued