Sunday, March 31, 2013

Iron Horse Update for March 2013

In a scene that won't be repeated anytime soon, Delaware & Hudson painted GP38-2 #7304 is seen rolling along the former Pennsy RR High Line through Philadelphia, PA with a mixed bag of CP and leased SD40s in charge of Train 158-04 in August 2011. Lee King photo

CANADIAN PACIFIC/DELAWARE & HUDSON- The Canadian Pacific railroad announced their pullout from the Philadelphia area effective March 4th. The move comes as something of a surprise as the CP Rail [NYSE- CP] had been seeing increased traffic in the form of dedicated unit crude oil trains between the Bakken formation in North Dakota and refineries in the Northeast- including in the Philadelphia area. In fact, the Carlyle group plans on investing more than $200 Million in a Sunoco [NYSE- SXL] refinery along the Schuykill River.

The Canadian Pacific actually owns no right-of-way around Philadelphia. Instead, the CPR reached the city of Brotherly Love thanks to trackage rights date back to the 1976 formation of Conrail after the bankruptcies of the Penn Central, Lehigh Valley, Reading, Central New Jersey and Erie Lackawana. The Delaware & Hudson was allowed trackage rights into Philadelphia (as well as Newark, NJ Buffalo, NY and Chessie System/CSX's Potomac Yard in Alexandria, VA) to prevent Conrail from monopolizing freight rail service. The trackage rights were included in CP Rail's 1991 purchase of the Delaware & Hudson, but since Conrail's 1996 sale of the former Lehigh Valley mainline between Scranton and Packerton, PA and the 1999 breakup of Conrail itself, the Canadian Pacific has had to negotiate trackage rights over multiple railroads just to reach Philadelphia proper. While CPR still utilizes trackage rights over Norfolk Southern's Southern Tier line to reach Buffalo, the D&H's Potomac Yard service was cut back to Harrisburg, PA in 1989 [while the New York, Susquehanna & Western was the designated operator- NANESB] and the Newark service was cut back to Allentown, PA in 2012.

Canadian Pacific's ceding Philadelphia to CSX and Norfolk Southern reflects a broader trend of cutting back on trackage deemed unprofitable or redundant since the 2011 takeover of the Calgary-based Class 1 carrier by private equity firm Pershing Square Capital. In December 2012, the CPR announced they were seeking buyers for more than 600 miles of former Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern trackage in South Dakota, Wyoming, Minnesota and Nebraska.

CANADIAN PACIFIC/SOO LINE- Fourteen cars of a 94-car southbound Canadian Pacific freight train derailed in Western Minnesota on March 28th. The derailment took place near Parkers Prairie, MN and three of the cars had spilled oil onto the ground. Initial estimates claimed that as much as 30,000 gallons had leaked from one of the ruptured cars, but that figure was later revised downward to less than 15,000 gallons.

No injuries were reported in the derailment, although the cold weather hampered cleanup by giving the oil a thicker, tar-like consistency. The line was reopened within a matter of hours.

SWEDEN- A woman in the Swedish capital was hospitalized and is facing charges of suspicion of reckless endangerment after allegedly stealing an empty commuter train from a depot in Stockholm and crashing it into a house back in January.
Tomas Hedenius, a spokesman for train operator Arriva, said the woman, born in 1990, stole the four-car train at a depot outside Stockholm.

She then drove it about 1.6 kilometres to the end station on the railway line, where it jumped off the tracks, careered for about 25 metres and crashed into a three-story building.

“There were three families inside the apartment building, but no one was injured. At least not physically,” Hedenius said.

The motives of the woman, who worked for a company contracted to carry out cleaning for the train operator, were not immediately clear.

“We have only heard good things about her. We’re investigating how this could happen, and why she did what she did,” Hedenius said.
It is unclear how the woman got the keys to the train, but the Arriva spokesman said that operating the commuter trainsets is pretty straightforward once in the cab.

HOUSATONIC RAILROAD- The Housatonic Railroad suffered its second derailment since November earlier this month. Shortly after midnight on March 15 four cars jumped the rails and tipped over near the entrance of a paper mill in Lee, MA with two high-sided gondola cars spilling construction debris along the banks of the Housatonic River.

Crews spent the weekend cleaning up the derailment and re-opening the line, although a Housatonic spokesman said that the two gondola cars would likely be scrapped on site.

Texas-New Mexico SD9043MAC #113 seen leading a short mixed freight at Hobbs, NM. The 104-mile Iowa Pacific subsidiary is enjoying a revival of oil drilling in the Permian Basin, which straddles the Texas and New Mexico border. JR Leal photo

TEXAS-NEW MEXICO- After spending approximately $25 million dollars on improvements to the right-of-way, Iowa Pacific's Texas-New Mexico Railroad began handling their first unit train of crude oil at the end of January. Ultimately bound for refineries along the Texas Gulf coast, the crude is loaded along the TNMR in Winkler County, TX. Some of the improvements also include a joint Union Pacific/Texas-New Mexico unloading facility for frac sand at the interchange in Monohans, TX that Iowa Pacific chipped in more than $1.5 million towards.

When Iowa Pacific Holdings first acquired the Texas-New Mexico and disconnected sister line West Texas & Lubbock in 2002, there were reportedly only 12 oil rigs operating throughout the Permian Basin. More recent estimates now put the number at 450.

The Texas-New Mexico operates with a motley hodgepodge of motive power, including new SD9043MACs as well as B39-8s from sister railroad San Luis & Rio Grande as well as former Arizona & Eastern GP20s and GP35s.

Before the reinvigoration of drilling the Permian Basin, the TNMR was pretty busy handling fertilizers, LNG, clay, chemicals, aggregates, scrap metal and unit trains loaded with contaminated silt dredged up from the Hudson River in upstate New York and destined for Waste Control Specialists in Andrews County, TX. In addition to those commodities and the new unit oil trains, the TNMR also recieves trainloads of fracking sand and proppants from the upper Midwest at the UP interchange in Monohans.

[Hat tip to Ruckus Rails for the background information on the TNMR- NANESB!]

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