Sunday, June 12, 2011

Iron Horse Roundup for May 2011- Off to the Races

Ex-MARC GP40WH-2 #59 Arriving in Ayer, MA with train #417- David Hutchinson photo- NE
MBTA: Boston's commuter railway agency has acquired some new motive power to augment their aging fleet. In addition to purchasing two MP36PHC's from the Utah Transit agency earlier this year, the T is also leasing three former MARC (Maryland Area Rail Commuter) GP40WH-2s with an option to lease additional units until the first new locomotives from a 20-unit order are expected to arrive in 2013. The commuter agency placed a $115 million order for 20 HSP46 locomotives with Wabtec [NYSE: WAB] subsidiary Motive Power International of Boise, ID.

The T is also hoping to persuade the Utah Transit agency to lease them two additional MPI MP36PHCs, although the Salt Lake City based agency has expressed a reluctance to part with them. Aside from two genset switchers purchased from National Railway Equipment in 2009, the MPI order is the first time the MBTA has ordered new locomotives since the 1970s.

Accoring to MBTA estimates, one in every four trains were delayed systemwide in the first two months of 2011. Of those delays, half were attributed to mechanical problems with the T's aging fleet of eighteen F40PH-2, which the agency is hoping to retire.

NEW ENGLAND CENTRAL: A May 31 derailment on the NECR mainline between Palmer, MA and St. Albans, VT sent eight cars off the rails, damaged some fiber-optic cable from Sprint and blocked the Station Rd crossing in Amherst, MA. The cars weren't carrying any hazardous materiel and did not tip over, but the derailment did damage to several yards of track.

The following day, crews from Sprint [NYSE: S] were repairing the damaged cable and RJ Corman was working to clear the derailment. The deralied cars were carrying steel billets, and it was one 65ft gondola car that was blocking the crossing in Amherstt.

Besides mixed freight between St Albans, VT and New London, CT on the former Central Vermont line, that portion of the New England Central also regularly features unit ethanol trains between North Dakota and Providence, RI as well as Amtrak's Vermonter service.

KENTUCKY: Each year, a number of VIPs arrive at Churchill Downs [NASDAQ: CHDN] by train for the Kentucky Derby, and last month's wasn't any different [to be honest, I have no idea whether or not ESPN's Erin Andrews arrived by train, yet I somehow thought it was worth posting the picture regardless- NANESB!].

Outbound NS Office Car Special at Lawrenceburg, KY- JL Scott photo
Every year for the last couple of years, both CSX and RJ Corman have run their own passenger trains over the former Louisville & Nashville Old Road division between Louisville and Frankfort, KY. While RJ Corman uses equipment from their My Old Kentucky Dinner train, CSX uses motive power and passenger cars from their executive train and is referred to as the Governor's Special.

In years past, RJ Corman has expressed an interest in running their Chinese-made 2-10-2 QJ steam locomotive on the excusrion, but since the final leg of the trip to Louisville is made over CSX rails, the CSX has veto power over whether or not steam can be used.

Norfolk Southern typically operates their Derby train between Pennsylvania and Louisville using their duo of F9A units painted in a Southern-inspired paint scheme.

Canadian Pacific would frequently operate their own Derby special on the former Milwaukee Road line between Chicago and Louisville, but the CP sold that line to the Indiana Railroad in 2005.

However, over the past few years private varnish from Northern Sky Charters and Amtrak locomotives were used in special charter trains operating between Indianapolis and Louisville on Anacostia Pacific's Louisville & Indiana Railroad, including this year.

KENTUCKY: Kentucky governor Steve Beshear announced last month that the Commonwealth will award a total of $3.1 million in grants towards Kentucky shortlines to replace ties and repair bridges, crossings and right-of-way. Among the recipients include RJ Corman's Central Kentucky Lines, the Paducah and Louisville, TransKentucky Transportation, TennKen, Louisville & Indiana and the Kentucky Railroad Museum. Aside from one project on the Paducah & Louisville, the money is the Commonwealth's portion of a matching grant, with the railroads paying the other half.

RJ CORMAN: While not used for the Kentucky Derby this year, RJ Corman announced that their Chinese QJ 2-10-2 steam locomotive would be making a shakedown run between Frankfort and Lexington on the first weekend in June and would be available for up-close public viewing in Frankfort on June 4.

There remains the possibility that QJ #2008 could be used in limited excursion service later on in the summer.

CP #2816 Arriving in Swift Current, SK- June 11/Paul Sincerney photo
CANADIAN PACIFIC: The Canadian Pacific announced a series of excusrions throughout western Canada featuring 1930-built Montreal Locomotive Works 4-6-4 Hudson #2816, starting with a special between Moose Jaw, SK and Medecine Hat, AB via Swift Current, SK. Proceeds from ticket sales on the excursions go towards the Children's Wish Foundation of Canada. Besides this weekend's train ride between Moose Jaw and Medicine Hat, a number of other excusrions are on tap throughout Alberta and British Columbia between June and August- Schedule and ticket information is available here.

GWRS M420 #2000 Smokes it up hauling ballast and empty tank cars out of storage at Willows, SK in September 2010- John Leopard
GREAT WESTERN: Canadian Railway Observations is reporting that the all-MLW Saskatchewan's Great Western Railway has recently acquired a pair of BNSF B40-8Ws. The units were dropped off by Canadian Pacific at the interchange in Assiniboia at the end of April and reportedly made their first revenue run for the GWRS on May 23rd.

The Great Western is reportedly looking to sell off two of the five M420s, which they've had since beginning operations in the l990s when they purchased a cluster of light density branchlines from the Canadian Pacific in southwestern Saskatchewan.

Also of note on the Great Western system, the province's first tourist train is set to start running excursions this summer between Ogema and Pangman, SK. Equipment will include a former Conway Scenic GE 44-tonner, an ex-Canadian Pacific baggage car and a former Delaware Lackawna & Western coach car and operations will be based out of the restored former CP depot in Ogema (which is really the former Simpson, SK depot, that a nearby farmer used for grain storage for a few years).

TEXAS: General Electric [NYSE: GE] announced plans to construct a state-of-the-art facility in Ft. Worth, TX that could start building locomotives as early as next year. The 500,000 sq foot facility on the north end of Ft Worth could be increased by nearly double according to the Forth Worth Star-Telegram.

The project initially will create more than 500 high-tech manufacturing jobs and the possibility of 275 more in coming years, the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce said today.

The company is expected to invest $96 million expanding the building at 12850 Three Wide Drive, located west of the Texas Motor Speedway, into a 900,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art locomotive manufacturing facility. It is being supported by $4.2 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund.

Lorenzo Simonelli, president and CEO of GE Transportation, said the Fort Worth facility will allow the company to better serve its customers.

"We see robust growth in the U.S. and around the globe," Simonelli said. "A new site will help us to effectively respond to the cyclical demand in the transportation industry and to strengthen our overall position."

GE Transportation will use the Fort Worth facility to assemble and remanufacture the company's rail and transportation-related products, the chamber said. That includes GE's signature Evolution Series locomotive, an energy-efficient product that it says reduces fuel consumption 5 percent while reducing emissions by 40 percent over the lifetime of the locomotive.

GE Transportation will start hiring salaried employees and production workers such as welders, assemblers, painters and related skilled trades by the end of the year. Production should begin by the second half of 2012.
In addition to the Ft Worth facility, GE also plans to expand capacity at it's Erie, PA facility.

CALIFORNIA: California's Modesto & Empire Traction has begun taking delivery of the first of their 5-unit order of RP20BD genset engines from RJ Corman-Railpower. M&ET already has 7 Railpower Gensets, gradually phasing out a fleet of 50 year old GE 70 tonners and a pair of EMD SW1500s.

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