Monday, November 19, 2012

Iron Horse Roundup for October/November 2012

EGYPT- At least 49 schoolchildren in southern Egypt were killed when the bus transporting them to school was struck by a speeding train at the village of al-Mandara on Saturday.
The bus was carrying more than 50 children ages four to six when it was hit near al-Mandara village in Manfaloot district in the province of Assiut, a security official said. He said it appeared that the railroad crossing was not closed as the train sped toward it.

Books, school bags and children's socks were strewn along the tracks near the blood-stained, mangled bus. Parents of the missing wailed as they looked for signs of their children. An Associated Press reporter at the scene said many of the remains were unrecognizable.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Residents in Assiut complained that there were not enough ambulances in the area that could respond quickly enough and that the ambulances themselves were ill-equipped to deal with the emergency.

At al-Mandara village, angry families and locals gathered near the tracks, shouting at officials. Some chanted: "Down with Morsi!"
This is the biggest disaster in Egypt since the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Mohammed Morsi took power in the wake of last year's 'Arab Spring' popular uprising. With frequent accidents and outdated equipment, Egypt's rail network has long been considered unsafe and accident-prone.
A pair of New Jersey Transit GP40s seen delivering 21 new Bombardier multilevel commuter cars at Dunellen, NJ on November 17, 2012. The cars are sorely needed after Superstorm Sandy damaged or detroyed 25% of NJ Transit's passenger cars after they were sent to a low-lying rail yard before Superstorm Sandy made landfall in late October. Robert Pisani photo

NEW JERSEY TRANSIT- New Jersey's commuter railroad agency has been dealt a considerable setback in their attempt to resume full service in the wake of Sandy after officials had decided to shuttle locomotives and rolling stock to a low-lying yard in Harrison, NJ ahead of the superstorm.

At least $385 million in equipment- including nine dual-mode locomotives, 84 multi-level commuter cars and NJT's computer equipment for dispatching- were damaged in a tidal surge at the Meadowlands facility while more equipment was damaged at the agency's Hoboken terminal and rail yard.
"If there's a predicted 13-foot or 10-foot storm surge, you don't leave your equipment in a low-lying area," said David Schanoes, a railroad consultant and former deputy chief of field operations for Metro North Railroad, a sister railway serving New York State. "It's just basic railroading. You don't leave your equipment where it can be damaged."

Most of the avoidable damage came at NJ Transit's Meadows Maintenance Complex, a sprawling 78-acre network of tracks and buildings in an industrial area of Kearny that is surrounded by wetlands. The complex is the primary maintenance center for the agency's locomotives and rail cars, with both outdoor and indoor equipment storage; repair, servicing, cleaning, inspection and training facilities; and the agency's rail operations center, which houses computers involved in the movement of trains and communication with passengers.

The yard sits in the swampy crook where the Passaic and Hackensack rivers come together. Elevation maps show that it lies between 0 and 19 feet above sea level. The National Hurricane Center was predicting a storm surge of 6 to 11 feet along the New Jersey and New York coast on top of an unusual tide that already had the rivers running high.

Forecasts were that the storm would make landfall on Monday, October 29, somewhere along the New Jersey or New York coast. On Friday, October 26, executives from the New York City subway system and all of the region's commuter rail systems - NJ Transit, Long Island Rail Road and Metro North Railroad - decided they would halt all service Sunday night.

NJ Transit's last trains left their originating stations at 11 p.m. on Sunday, and workers spent the next 12 hours securing equipment, said Weinstein.

At NJ Transit's emergency command center, reports streamed in from the governor's command center in Trenton, county emergency management officials and the National Weather Service, which provided frequent updates on the storm's progress. Monitoring those reports and advising the agency on what to expect from the storm was NJ Transit Police Capt. Robert Noble, who is well-versed and trained in monitoring storms, Weinstein said.
On any given weekday, New Jersey Transit carries an estimated 136,000 people between New Jersey and New York's Penn Station. NJT got some relief in the form of 21 new bilevel Bombardier commuter cars assembled in Plattsburgh, NY that arrived on Nov 17th.

Shortline operator Morristown and Erie has reportedly been contracted by the agency to repair at least ten of the damaged NJT locomotives at their Morristown, NJ shops.

Mass Coastal GP9M #2008 seen trundling down the Falmouth line past the cove at Bourne, MA with a trash train enroute to the Otis transfer station in August 2008. Ryan Parent photo
MASS COASTAL- Chicago-based Iowa Pacific Holdings acquired a controlling interest in the parent company of two southeastern Massachusetts shortlines in late October.

Iowa Pacific announced the acquisiton of Cape Rail, Inc- the parent company of Mass Coastal and Cape Cod Central- last month. Cape Cod Central hauls seasonal excursion trains on Cape Cod while Mass Coastal handles freight on the former New Haven Falmouth Line in addition to a pair of lines that serve New Bedford, MA and Fall River, MA from a CSX interchange in Taunton, MA. Both the Fall River and New Bedford lines are reportedly prime candidates for a proposed expansion of MBTA commuter rail service to Boston's South station. Mass Coastal has operated those lines for the last two years.

Other railroads in the Iowa Pacific fold include the Permian Basin Railways in New Mexico, San Luis & Rio Grande in Colorado, the Mount Hood Railroad in Oregon and the Saratoga & North Creek in upstate New York.

Norfolk Southern SD60 #6920 seen at Brea, OH with intermodal train 21G.
Dan Davidson photo.
NORFOLK SOUTHERN- Norfolk Southern unveiled a specially painted locomotive honoring veterans just prior to Veteran's Day.

Photographers got a glimpse of red white and blue (not to mention copious amounts of black) SD60M #6920 at the railroad's Altoona, PA facility before it headed south for a Veteran's Day event in Norfolk, VA. According to a press release, the special paint scheme required 26 employees (two of whom were veterans) and 66 gallons of paint. The railroad also stated that military veterans currently make up about 14% of their current workforce and they were ranked #32 by GI Jobs in their list of top 100 military and veteran-friendly employers.

After the Veteran's Day weekend ceremonies, the #6920 resumed regular service and was spotted leading intermodal freight 21G through Ohio.

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