Archive for the ‘Trails to Rails’ Category

Amtrak’s woes

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

The Amtrak train from Chicago to Seattle has been averaging 3-5 hours late recently, in no small part due to Warren Buffet’s influence at stopping the building of the Keystone XL pipeline. He controls the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad. A recent derailment caused Amtrak to have to reroute a train with a 12 hour delay.

Let’s say I wanted to go from Charlotte to Chicago in the train in a few days. Here is what Amtrak proposes:


I can catch the train from Atlanta to Washington DC at 1:30 AM – in one of the few neighborhoods I would not want to drive into during the day. I would arrive in Washington DC in mid morning, with a six hour layover (assuming the train arrived on time). Around 4 PM, I catch the Capital Limited routed via the old B&O mainline through West Virginia through Pittsburgh and arrive in Chicago after 17 hours, a travel time of around 31 hours. The only seat available is a roomette, which would cost me $934.

If I hop in my car, it’s about a 13 hour drive going through Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

Let’s say I didn’t own a car and rented one from Enterprise. A three day one-way rental would be around $450, plus gasoline of course.

If I find somebody on Uber to drive me to the airport, I can be in Chicago in two hours (plus TSA delay). My hypothetical trip is on the 24th, so my one way fare would be $315.

If I push my hypothetical trip out for a month to July 24

Amtrak is $283
Rental car stays around $450
Airplane is $161

To their credit, Amtrak just decided to withdraw from the silly plan to develop a common train for use on the Northeast Corredor and on California’s high-speed train to nowhere.

Trails to Rails

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

You may have noticed there is a blog category of “Trails to Rails”. It wouldn’t be shocking if you thought that was a typo. šŸ˜‰

As the United States has deliberately been weakened by deindustrialization, one marker of “Progress” by the Left has been the rate at which destroyed railroads have been converted into bike paths (using gasoline excise tax dollars, of course).

A continuous flat deeded (or easement) strip of land connecting two communities is a very valuable resource – they have often been used for pipelines and fiber optic cables. Typically an easement will say something like if the railroad abandons the right of way for some period of time, the easement ends and control returns to the landowner.

Making a bike trail is a way to hold the rights to the ROW even though it no longer has tracks. The Rails to Trails contract typically has language allowing the railroad to tear up the bike path and put down a new roadbed and convert “Trails to Rails”.

Introducing the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad

As was commonly done, large amounts of unprofitable trackage was spin off from the major railroads to small privately owned railroads. Freed of onerous union rules and operating rules designed only to protect obsolete jobs, these railroads typically could survive by giving local businesses service the big guys never could.

The Wheeling and Lake Erie has had a miracle. This thing called fracking came along. The railroad is springing back to life – hauling sand to West Virginia and Pennsylvsnia from The Midwest, and hauling the condensed hydrocarbons (Butane, Propane, etc) that are by products of natural gas production to Toledo, Ohio for further processing.

Now there is real Progress!

Find the Motive

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

I stumbled on this video due to my history of looking at railroad videos.

This was a bankrupt short line railroad with 62 miles of track that was carrying a few cars a week between Lometa Texas where it connects with the BNSF to Brady The 100 year old track was so bad it is limited to 10 mph. The FRA had ordered the Gulf, Colorado and San Saba railroad to stop using a crossing on a 4 lane highway because the crossing signals had no electrical power.

Then a funny thing happened – the best, cheapest fracking sand in the country lies right along the railroad.

The bridge crosses the Colorado River – it had been burning since Sunday Afternoon and this video was from Monday.

Back in the days of Steam Locomotives, sparks used to cause fires like this. They’re almost impossible to put out, especially so in the middle of nowhere. Damage is estimated at $10 million. Note that this was a bridge made from wood – imagine the trees that were needed to make it in 1910

Xinhau gets it right

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Or at least they didn’t get it wrong.

Every major news service has the main fact of the train derailment near Baltimore wrong. The train did not hit the truck – the truck drove into the side of the train at an unprotected private crossing.

Why would a truck in broad daylight drive right into the side of a moving train?

Clue #1) There is a large rail yard just to the South of the grade crossing

Clue #2) The truck hit the cars near the end of the train

Clue #3) The train was headed for Georgia, yet the derailed cars were North of the point of the collision

The train was backing up through the crossing and the truck driver would not have seen a locomotive nor realized the train was backing up. At a public crossing, the train’s crew is required to stop short of the intersection, and a flagman prevent vehicles from entering the crossing – but this was not a public road.

Getting Our Fair Share

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

The LIRR is spending $40 million to upgrade one station that carries 6,000 passengers a day on 59 trains, which means a capital expenditure of $6,666 per rider (assuming it comes in on budget)

The monthly fare is $276 for the roughly 1 hour ride into Manhattan.

Typically when transit people want to inflate numbers, they’ll count the trip into town and back as two “customers”

So if the station was the only expense for providing the service, that makes the payback period (not including interest if they float bonds) of 24 months.

A “pocket track” is a holding area in between the two existing tracks. This will allow them to hold a train that ends at this station while trains that continue down the line to go by. Most likely the trains that run further will make this their last stop before the Jamaica station, skipping 8 stations. Once the express train goes by, the local pulls out from the pocket track and follows the express, but stopping at every stop, reducing the crush of people getting on closer to the city.

I’m not arguing that it isn’t needed, but that it should come out of the LIRR operating revenues, not New York or Federal money. You just know a big chunk of this is going to have artwork funded and minority set asides and of course all done by union labor.