Friday, August 26, 2011

August 26, 2011 weekly rail news

Fun stuff:
  • Not quite in the rail vein, but MPR's Midday program with author/historian Larry Millet (he of Lost Twin Cities fame) from last Friday was pretty interesting. Some railroad-related bits included brief discussions of James J. Hill's other houses, and the mention that some mansions in the Lowertown neighborhood of Saint Paul were destroyed to make way for railroad expansion in that area of the city. His upcoming book is Once There Were Castles, which talks about many of the old Twin Cities mansions from the 19th and early 20th centuries that have now disappeared.

Construction, planning, and funding news:
  • Repairs have begun on the train station in Minot, North Dakota which was inundated during the Souris River earlier this year.

  • The Stillwater-area rail line most recently used by the Minnesota Zephyr dinner train will become the Brown's Creek Trail. It will allow cyclists and other users of the Gateway Trail—which currently ends in the middle of nowhere—to get all the way into downtown Stillwater without using roads or highways.

  • Saint Paul Union Depot:

    • Mortenson, the design-build contractor for the Saint Paul Union Depot rehabilitation and restoration, has set up two webcams on either side of the concourse to allow people to watch the activity. Here are links for the east and west sides.

    • The Union Depot's Facebook page got some images of the planned train deck layout.

    • A new SPUD mailing list was set up this past week through Yahoo Groups.

  • Three contractors who built the Hiawatha Line are paying the federal government $4.6 million over false claims that they subcontracted to disadvantaged business enterprises.

  • I took some pictures of Central Corridor construction last weekend, adding to my collection. One of the major developments was the appearance of bridge members for the crossing of Interstate 35W (the existing Hiawatha Line bridge is on the left):


  • Update (8/27): Three more things:

Incidents (Amtrak nationally, Upper Midwest for freights):
  • Hussein Abdi Hassan of Minneapolis has been sentenced to 15 months in prison and fined more than $310,000 following a bomb threat he made near Great Falls, Montana last winter. He made the false threat after being thrown off the the train for drunk and disorderly conduct.

  • David Voeltz of the MNRailGroup mailing list reported a few incidents. On or before August 21st, there were apparently derailments in South Dakota near Wendt (unknown railroad), and Blunt (Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern). There had also been a BNSF derailment—ironically of a wrecker crane—near Bath. That one had been reported in the Aberdeen American News, though I haven't found a story online.

  • On August 23rd, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake centered at Mineral, Virginia shook much of the East Coast. Some minor damage occurred in the Washington, D.C. area, where Amtrak and commuter trains were slowed as a precaution.

  • The California Zephyr derailed after striking a crane boom west of Benkelman in southwest Nebraska at about 8 AM today (August 26th). The locomotive was completely toppled on its side, though most of the passenger cars remained upright. Only nine people with minor injuries were reported.

  • Hurricane Irene has caused Amtrak to cancel service along the coast, and is causing further trouble as the storm moves northward. The New York City Subway is going to be shut down at noon on Saturday the 27th for the first (planned) time ever, partly because their trains don't operate reliably with sustained high winds. Several bridges may also close due to wind, and the potential storm surge is a concern because it could inundate some subway tunnels. The surge has prompted evacuations in vulnerable areas of the city. The upside for evacuees is that fares will be waived between 8 PM Friday and the shutdown time on Saturday.

  • Amtrak is continuing to move toward proper e-ticketing and has begun testing new portable ticket scanners aboard the Downeaster which runs from Boston to Portland, Maine.

  • The Association of American Railroads is suing the federal government over Amtrak on-time performance rules that were implemented a few years ago under the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA). They claim that current practices essentially make Amtrak a "lawmaking and rulemaking authority", even though it is technically a private company.

1 comment:

  1. Sigh. Not only is it completely pointless to raise top speed for just 24 miles while very low-hanging fruit (*cough* Metuchen *cough*) are unaddressed even in the Vision, but also the claim that there's heavy commuter traffic in future 186 mph territory is false. Beyond New Brunswick, New Jersey Transit doesn't need more than the two outer tracks.