Sunday, March 11, 2012

March 11, 2012 weekly rail news

If you're in the Twin Cities and would like to meet up with some other folks who are interested in transit and urbanism, I'm going to be at The Republic at Seven Corners in Minneapolis on Tuesday evening for the most recent iteration of BURP.

A Spring 2012 update on the Central Corridor from the City of Saint Paul:

Local blog Nokohaka did a short piece on the HMV Free-Way, a microcar developed by a guy from Burnsville that was manufactured in the late '70s and early '80s.

I've never been to/through LAX, though two of my old roommates flew through recently and were telling everyone via Facebook how much they hated it. After reading about some proposed transit options for connecting there over on The Transport Politic, I looked up LAX's layout and was struck by how similar it was to that of MSP—except for the fact that LAX has nine terminal buildings wrapping around its main access road while MSP's Terminal 1 is, well, Terminal 1. My sense is that they really ought to work on unifying those buildings with pedestrian and people-mover connections. (By the way, does anyone know the mode share split between cars and transit for MSP? LAX apparently only has 1% of travelers arriving via bus transit right now, though 9% of employees use it.)

Some Sturm und Drang about the Southwest LRT line from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie. Kurt Zellers doesn't like it, Mike Beard doesn't like it. But businesses and others along the route want it. I would not underestimate the lobbying power of influential people in that corridor.

Train and engine workers at Minnesota shortline operator Progressive Rail have unionized under the United Transportation Union and reached their first agreement with the railroad.

The Minnesota Commercial Railroad has retired one of their unusual locomotives following a crankshaft failure. Locomotive #59 is a GE C36-7 which was originally built for an Australian ore mining railroad (Hamersley Iron). Because of its origin, it became known as the Crocodile GE (a play on Crocodile Dundee).

Minnesota doesn't produce any fossil fuels—our energy production is mostly focused on things like ethanol, biodiesel, wind, and a little solar. But, the oil and natural gas industry has been consuming greater and greater amounts of fine silica sand for fracking. Down in Winona, huge sand piles have been appearing close to the center of town, sitting there like the tip of the iceberg when it comes to issues surrounding the mining practices that have been going on. (I mention it because much of the sand gets moved out by rail and has led to a resurgence for some regional short lines.)

Over in Wisconsin, the Scott Walker administration is finding itself in a bit of hot water over the maintenance base for the Talgo trains they ordered. Apparently the idea of mothballing the trains as soon as they come off the assembly line is floating around. Amtrak claims not to have enough room at their shops to handle the trains and would require a multi-million dollar expansion (though perhaps only 1/5 to 1/10 the cost of the proposed Wisconsin facility). The tail end of the article also includes a nice tag: "a Journal Sentinel analysis last year found the state could wind up paying more to keep the current Milwaukee-to-Chicago service than it would have paid if the service had been extended to Madison." Yep, pretty much...

I've been hearing some noises over the past few months about how a major Canadian Pacific shareholder (Bill Ackman's Pershing Square) has been demanding that the railroad replace its CEO and make other changes in order to become more efficient. CP management sent out a letter to shareholders in response this past week criticizing the demands.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has released a report for the derailment of VIA Rail Ocean train #15 two years ago on Feb 25, 2010. The train entered a siding at 64 mph after the crew blew past a signal obscured by snow under the assumption that they had clear tracks ahead.

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