Monthly Archives: March 2009

Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad

Located in Nevada City, California, the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum is dedicated to the preservation of local transportation history and artifacts from the narrow gauge railroad era.

In addition to the railroad, this Sierra foothills county boasted such turn-of-the 20th century transportation as an electric streetcar line, a steam powered automobile, and the first commercial airport in the United States.

Visitors are offered a docent-led historical tour of the museum, railyard, and restoration shop. Exhibited in the main gallery is Engine 5, an 1875 Baldwin that began service hauling lumber, then passengers and freight for the NCNGRR, and finally as a movie engine at Universal Studios in Hollywood. The railyard houses a collection of wooden rail cars, some restored, others awaiting their turn in the restoration shop. The shop is usually a busy place with volunteers doing rolling stock maintenance and other restoration projects.

(Visit website here)

Japan: Blurring the line between bullets and trains

This is a nation addicted to speed.

And to ride Japan’s super Shinkansen, or bullet train, is to zip into the future at speeds reaching 186 miles per hour.

From Nagoya to Tokyo, the scenery whizzes past in a dizzying blur as the sleek engine with its bullet-like nose floats the cars along elevated tracks — without the clickety-clack of the lumbering U.S. trains that make you feel as though you’re chugging along like cattle to market.

These days, Californians dream of a future with high-speed elevated rails that would link Southern California and Las Vegas in less than two hours, or L.A. and San Francisco in just over 2 1/2 .

Japan, meanwhile, will soon have a class of train that could make the trips in less than half those times.

This is a nation where it’s not nearly enough that the trains run on time — they’ve got to break land records. And even that’s not enough.

By 2025, a network of bullet trains connecting major cities is to feature magnetically levitated, or maglev, linear motor trains running at speeds of more than 310 mph.

(Read article here)

Bullet trains could arrive in Valley in 2015

High-speed rail could be operational in the Central Valley as early as 2015, proponents told the Visalia City Council in a Monday evening work session at City Hall.

Plans call for the 800-mile system to be built in eight phases, said Thomas Tracy, regional manager for the California High-Speed Rail Authority. The system would untimately run from Sacramento to San Diego, but the first section would be a 175-mile stretch from Merced to Bakersfield and include four stations — one in the Visalia area.

Visalia Mayor Jesus Gamboa welcomed the news.

“I think we’ve shown that Visalia meets all the criteria [for a station],” Gamboa said. “We’ve been at this a long time.”

Preliminary plans call for the line to run roughly parallel to Highway 99, serving downtown areas of major cities along the route. Robert Schaevitz, vice president of URS Corp., consultant to the rail authority, equates the Central Valley to a drag strip, tailor-made for a lightning-fast rail line.

(Read article here)

$8 billion could help revive travel by train

Americans started falling out of love with trains 50 years ago, when thrilling silver airliners left locomotives far behind.

Now, President Obama and leaders in more than 30 states say it’s time to embrace trains again — but newer, faster ones that can transport passengers past gridlocked airports and highways on electrified railroads at up to 200 mph.

They’re betting billions of federal and state dollars that high-speed railroads can someday move travelers between major U.S. cities within two or three hours just as they do in Western Europe and Japan. And along the way, they argue, such systems can ease travel congestion, reduce the nation’s dependence on oil, cut pollution and create jobs.

(Read article here)

Railroad/intermodal shipping: BNSF, CSX announced improvements for intermodal container service into new markets

Class I railroad carriers BNSF Railway Company and CSX Intermodal said yesterday they have expanded their intermodal container service for new locations in the Southeast region of the U.S.

The carriers said they will now serve Charleston, S.C., Savannah, Ga., and Miami, Orlando, and Tampa, Fla. along with service it already provides in Atlanta, Ga., Jacksonville, Fla. and Charlotte, N.C.

“With the new service, we closely watch to see what happens with it,” said BNSF spokesman Jim Rogers. “If it is popular, we will expand it to better meet the needs of [shippers]. There is always hope to expand a service…and that is what happening now.”

And BNSF group vice president Steve Branscum said in a statement that the initial success of this service—for BNSF, CSX, and shippers—acted as an impetus to expand into more locales.

This service was originally established in October 2006, when BNSF and CSX first announced plans to create a high-volume intermodal rail corridor on lines connecting California, Atlanta, and the Southeast region of the U.S. When the service first went live, it was comprised of two daily intermodal trains between the West Coast and the Southeast in each direction, with plans to grow corridor volume with the expansion of the West Coast to the Southeast intermodal market.

(Read article here)

Union Pacific Railroad says it has no control over drug smuggling

The Union Pacific Railroad has been butting heads with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for years about drugs found in railcars traveling across the border from Mexico.

The U.S. Department of Justice this week filed lawsuits against the railroad seeking $37 million in civil fines for not preventing the use of railcars to smuggle more than 4,200 pounds of marijuana and 260 pounds of cocaine from Mexico through Calexico, Calif. and Brownsville.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found the drugs during inspections from 2001 through 2006.

But Union Pacific first filed a lawsuit against DHS in July last year in federal court in Nebraska, seeking the court’s determination that the federal government unlawfully applied statutes relative to the smuggling of illegal narcotics from Mexico in trains.

The railroad also contends that it cannot send its personnel into Mexico to inspect the railcars for drugs, because they would not be allowed to carry arms or use drug-detecting dogs. Personnel “would have no legal authority and would be forced to turn over drugs to unreliable authorities in Mexico,” Union Pacific contends.

Furthermore, “UP employees would be subject to arrest in Mexico and would be unarmed in the face of vicious drug gangs.”

(Read article here)

Ride the Alaska Railroad

The Alaska Railroad slices up the middle of the state, into the heart of a place that is camera-ready and bountiful beyond belief.

The rail line begins in the little seaport of Seward, chug-a-lugs north to Anchorage, past Denali National Park and finally to Fairbanks, an almost 500-mile jaunt of day trips throughout Alaska’s short, short summer.

Why the train? Because, unless you’re a moose or have moose tendencies, parts of the 49th state are accessible only by rail.

Why the train? Well, does your rental car come with a bartender? Or a fresh-faced young tour guide? The train is also an affordable throwback — comfy, almost clubby, with way more wiggle room than a plane or car.

Why the train? Because your dog sled is in the shop. Honestly, quit asking so many questions and climb aboard.

(Read article here)

A link to railroad history

No doubt you are familiar with the image of a train chugging forward, spewing out a fat column of steam. You may have even drawn it yourself. But you’ve probably never seen such a sight on a commercial railroad.

That’s because railroad engines today are usually powered by a combination of diesel and electricity.

Years ago, though, most train engines burned coal to heat water. That created steam, which drove a piston, which in turn moved the train’s wheels. When the steam escaped the engine, it let out a gasping noise – the “choo-choo” sound – we all associate with old trains.

All that steam trailing outside the train meant a loss in heat and energy, which could have been used to power the train. To save energy, most railroads in America switched to diesel locomotives after World War II. However, one railroad – the Norfolk and Western (N&W) Railway in Roanoke, Va. – continued to use steam engines.

At the time, a professional photographer from Brooklyn, N.Y., named O. Winston Link, decided to take photographs of N&W steam engines before they disappeared.

No one paid Mr. Link to take photos of the trains – his project was just a hobby. From 1955 to 1960, he took 2,400 photographs of N&W trains, in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland.

Eventually, Mr. Link became famous for his photographs. And today you can see his collection at the O. Winston Link Museum in Roanoke.

(Read article here)

Biden rolls out $1.3 billion for Amtrak

Vice President Joe Biden continued the administration’s rollout of the recently passed economic stimulus package Friday, highlighting $1.3 billion in federal funding for Amtrak.
Vice President Joe Biden called Amtrak “an absolute national treasure and necessity.”

Vice President Joe Biden called Amtrak “an absolute national treasure and necessity.”

The money for the rail service, which carried almost 29 million passengers in the previous fiscal year, will go primarily to infrastructure repair and improvement.

The $787 billion stimulus plan includes a total of $8 billion for improvements in rail service, a crucial investment to help ease traffic in the congested northeast corridor running from Boston, Massachusetts to Washington, Biden argued.

It is “a necessity for a great nation to have a great [rail] passenger system,” Biden said. “I’m tired of apologizing for help for Amtrak. … It’s an absolute national treasure and necessity.”

The $1.3 billion will roughly double the size of Amtrak’s capital investment program over the next two years, according to the vice president’s office.

(Read article here)