Saturday, June 8, 2013

Because One Wasn't Enough- Second Iron Horse Roundup for May 2012

East Erie Commercial GE 85-tonner bringing brand-new VLI (Valor Logistica Integrada) BB40-9Ws from General Electric's Erie plant to the CSX interchange in April 2012. The units are destined for one of VALE mining's railroads in Brazil.
BurghMan photo

GENERAL ELECTRIC- General Electric announced plans to cut as many as 950 jobs at their Erie, PA plant in April. Production will be shifted to GE's new facility in Ft Worth, TX.
The reductions are slated to start in six months pending a 60-day period of talks with union leaders, said Lorenzo Simonelli, head of GE's transportation unit. The new plant in Fort Worth, also the headquarters for Warren Buffett's Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad, is about 20 percent more efficient than the Erie plant, which is more than 100 years old.

The Fairfield, Conn.-based company is the world's largest builder of locomotives.

Simonelli said production of Evolution-series locomotives will be increased in Fort Worth, along with wheels for mining equipment, as output in Erie is reduced. About 10 percent of the work now handled at the Pennsylvania site will be moved to Mexico and third-party manufacturers, he said.

About 200 of the Erie job cuts, more than 20 percent, are linked to declining coal demand, Simonelli said. GE's railroad customers have parked about 3,000 locomotives as utilities that once relied on coal carried by trains to produce electricity began switching to cheaper natural gas from shale formations.
Although the move would put GE closer to major customers such as Union Pacific, BNSF and Kansas City Southern, critics point out that GE is moving from a union facility in Pennsylvania to a right-to-work state where labor costs are lower. In 2011, the National Labor Relations Board issued an injunction that blocked Boeing from shifting production of their 787 Dreamliner from Washington state to South Carolina- a move similar to what General electric CEO Jeffery Immelt is doing by shifting GE production from Pennsylvania to Texas. However, its worth pointing out that Immelt was appointed to President Obama's short-lived 'Jobs Council' in early 2011.

Freshly repainted Massachusetts Central GP38-2 #1750 is seen at Mid America Car in Kansas City, MO on May 25th. The #1750 and #1751 are awaiting relettering before heading east to Massachusetts. Matt Mauner Photo.
MASSACHUSETTS CENTRAL- The Mass Central is expected to take delivery of a pair of  repainted GP38-2s. The units were repainted into a McGuinness style 1960s-era Boston & Maine inspired paint scheme.

Currently the Mass Central operates freight service on 26 miles of a former Boston & Albany branch between Palmer, MA and South Barre, MA. The railway began operations in the mid 1970s after purchasing the current line from Penn Central and motive power includes a GP9, a former Milwaukee Road GP20 and an extremely rare 1947-built ex-Southern NW5 that's been with the Mass Central from the beginning.

Interestingly, while the Boston & Maine did roster GP38s at one point, they were painted a more basic blue and white paint scheme with the notable exception of B&M #200, which was painted red, white and blue colors in 1975 for America's bicentennial.

Former McCloud River ALCo 2-6-2 is seen with a photo freight on the Oregon Coast Scenic railroad on May 4th. The line was severed from the rest of the country by a December 2007 storm. Thomas R Schultz photo
OREGON- The Oregon Coast Scenic railroad reached an agreement in 2012 with the Port of Tillamook Bay to operate excursions between Tillamook, OR and the Salmonberry River Canyon- some 46 miles.

After performing repairs and maintenance on a section of the line that has been out of service for more than five years, the Oregon Coast Scenic ran a test train from Garibaldi, OR to the mouth of the Salmonberry River and current end of the line in April.
The excursion also measured how long the trip would take, Thompson explained, and was an opportunity to shoot photos and video of a train on the track for future promotional footage.

“The last time a steam engine passed through Salmonberry was 1953 – 60 years ago,” Thompson said.

A total of 55 people made the trip, most of them OCSR volunteers and their families and friends. A family with young children that had been ogling the train when it stopped at Wheeler were invited to join the tour. Thompson conducted trip, riding the caboose at the end of the train and manually checking road crossings for traffic.
The 95-mile Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad between Hillsboro and Tillamook, OR was knocked out of service by numerous washouts and landslides during a December 2007 storm, causing an estimated $50 million in damage. Using a fleet of former Southern Pacific and Burlington Northern SD9s, the POTB hauled lumber and forestry products between the Hillsboro and Tillamook. Since then, the POTB and Oregon Coast Scenic have been isolated from the rest of the nation's rail network.

Freshly repainted GP30M #2402 seen in transit on the Union Pacific on the Union Pacific outside of Livingston, IL on April 19th. Kevin Sies photo
ARKANSAS-OKLAHOMA RAILROAD- The Arkansas-Oklahoma railroad has acquired a quartet of former BNSF GP30M's from Larry's Truck and Electric of MacDonald, OH. In addition to the four GP30M's, the A-OK has also acquired a former Idaho Northern & Pacific (ex Wheeling & Lake Erie, nee Southern) ALCo-trucked GP35. The EMD's are expected to replace five former Conrail B23-7s that have been on the railroad since 2005.

The A-OK runs between McAlester and Howe, OK and leases a 36 mile former Union Pacific branch between Shawnee and Oklahoma City. Commodities handled include coal, frac sand, wheat, plastic, corn, acid, aggregates, lumber and feed. The 118 mile former Rock Island line between Shawnee and McAlester had been dormant for several years due to an unstable bridge over the North Canadian River. The AOK has been working to restore service between McAlester and Shawnee, and progress was made at the end of 2012 when the AOK successfully reopened the bridge over the North Canadian River.

Florida East Coast SD40-2 #714 is seen with Jacksonville-bound intermodal freight #226 as it crosses the San Sebastian River in St Augustine, FL on March 10th.
Bob Pickering photo
FLORIDA EAST COAST- The Florida East Coast has begun repainting units in a red and yellow scheme reminiscent of the line's early diesels. This would not be the first time the FEC has painted a unit in what has been referred to as Flagler or Champion colors- more than a decade ago, GP40 #2000 was painted in similar colors as a one off.

FEC's motive power fleet consists of GP40s in a dark blue and white scheme, SD70M-2s painted in colors closely copying the Alaska Railroad (blue and gold) or Rail America (red white and blue) and former Union Pacific SD40-2s that have been operating in UP's Armour Yellow for years. So far, the colors have been applied to the former UP SD40-2s.

The move is likely an effort to boost the railroad's corporate image ahead of an anticipated increase of intermodal traffic that is expected to coincide with the widening of the Panama Canal. The massive project is expected to be completed in 2014 or 2015 and the FEC has been working with the Port of Miami and Port Everglades to include on dock rail facilities as part of their expansion plans.

The Florida East Coast was acquired by Fortress Investment Group [NYSE: FIG] in 2007- they also owned a stake in Rail America until their 2012 sale to Genesee & Wyoming. Although the FEC was largely operated independently of other Rail America properties, some of the new SD70M-2s were delivered in Rail America colors (while still lettered for FEC) and Rail America subsidiary New England Central received GP40s and SD40-2s from Florida East Coast beginning in 2009 before they were relettered for the NECR in 2011.

Painted in Delaware & Hudson-inspired colors, Saratoga & North Creek B39-8 #8524 is seen trundling through the golf course at Stony Creek, NY with the railroad's first revenue freight train on February 11th. John Sesonske photo
SARATOGA & NORTH CREEK- It was a short, one car train- reminiscent of a bygone era for shortlines in the Northeast- but Iowa Pacific is hoping this could be just the beginning.

A lone boxcar carrying garnet bracketed by a Saratoga & North Creek B39-8 and Delaware & Hudson painted bay window caboose left North River, NY on Feb 11th in what was the first freight movement over the former Delaware & Hudson branch in more than 25 years.

“We’re open for business,” Iowa Pacific President Ed Ellis said Wednesday. “We’ve broken the ice here. We’re thrilled that Barton is working with us. We’re hopeful this means we’ll be moving a lot more different things moving forward.”

Lumber, logs and rock tailings from an old mine in Tahawus are other possibilities.

In Corinth, officials are optimistic that freight service will lure new industry to the former International Paper Co. site.

“This is what we’ve been waiting for, not just passenger service,” Supervisor Richard Lucia said.

A rail spur goes to the former International Paper property, whose large old buildings have been razed. In addition to rail service, however, the location has ample water, a waste treatment plant, landfill and a new million-dollar electric substation.

“I still feel this is the best heavy industrial site in eastern New York,” said Jack Kelley, director of economic development for Prime Companies, an Albany-based realty firm. “Freight service makes it even more desirable for someone to move in.”

Most recently, an Italian solar panel manufacturer expressed interest, but plans never moved forward.

Kelley said he believes anything from wood products to natural gas power generation make sense for the site, or perhaps an intermodal facility similar to one in Mechanicville where products could be unloaded for transport by truck to their final destination.

“There aren’t an awful lot of places in this area where trains can sit while they’re loaded and unloaded,” Kelley said.

Barton’s facility in North River is at the south end of a recently reopened 30-mile stretch of track from North Creek north to Tahawus. Barton’s garnet abrasives are used around the world for waterjet cutting, coatings removal and other special uses such as surface preparation.

At the north end of that line, in Tahawus, NL Industries owns a former ilmenite mine that was used to make titanium during World War II. The line sat idle for many years until Iowa Pacific readied it for re-use last year, despite objections from environmental groups.

A portion of track runs through Adirondack Forest Preserve.

Ellis said a large market exists for waste rock to be used in road building and similar large-scale construction jobs. NL Industries has hired a firm to find potential buyers, he said.

“I believe there will be stone moved in 2014,” he said, adding that freight revenue should account for about half the railway’s revenue within two years.
The dormant line was purchased by Warren County in the 1990s and the Upper Hudson Railroad operated excursions over a portion of the line until 2010. In 2011, Iowa Pacific was awarded the contract to operate the entire 57 mile line and began operating passenger excursions between North Creek and the Canadian Pacific interchange in Saratoga, NY in July 2011. The line also directly interchanges with Amtrak's Ethan Allen and Adirondack passenger service as well.

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