American Railroads

News each weekday of American railroads. Our focus is on freight rail, but Amtrak and commuter rail are also essential ingredients. Nothing published on holidays.

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Location: Middleburg (Jacksonville), Florida, United States

Published in Trains magazine, Railfan & Railroad, Passenger Train Journal

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Currently, there are more than 30 entrances to the Fulton Street, Broadway-Nassau station complex, many tucked into buildings and difficult to locate. The new center will serve as both entrance and local landmark. It will decongest and rationalize the current station complex that serves nine lines, providing easy transfers among the A, C, J, M, Z, 2, 3, 4, and 5 lines and replacing an underground network of stairs and ramps. This will reduce platform congestion, improving rider safety, and will give better access to people with disabilities.

Tentative plans include a level with retail shops and other amenities, including, potentially, restaurants or public balconies. Two levels below ground, it will be filled with natural light refracted from the dome above.

The famed Marine Grill Murals, designed by Fred Dana Marsh in 1913 and installed in the station as part of a project sponsored by MTA Arts for Transit and the New York City Landmarks Preservation Committee, will be preserved at the site.

In February 2002, MTA Chairman Peter S. Kalikow and MTA New York City Transit President Lawrence Reuter said a contract was let to reconstruct portions of the 1 and 9 subway lines that were destroyed on September 11, 2001.

The 1 and 9 lines serve the west side of lower Manhattan and connect it to critical intermodal facilities such as the Penn Station to the north and the Staten Island Ferry to the south.

The contract was awarded to Tully Construction and Pegno Construction, both of whom have worked for the City of New York to perform recovery and of demolition work on the site since the terrorist attacks. The $92 million job was finished in fall 2002.

Five years ago:

America changed in 2001

By Leo King


In an act of war, both World Trade Center towers in New York City were targets of terrorists flying jumbo jet aircraft hijacked after departure from Logan International Airport in Boston on September 11, 2001. Three days later, President Bush termed it as “The first war of the Twenty-first Century.”

Within an hour of being struck on that Tuesday, both 110-story buildings in New York collapsed. Later, building No. 7 in the trade center collapsed following a fire, and other structures remained perilous. At about the same time, another commercial jumbo jet was hijacked after departure from Dulles International Airport and was deliberately crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

A fourth jumbo jet was hijacked after departure from Newark, N.J. airport, but some men aboard were able to overcome the terrorists. The airplane crashed about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, injuring no one on the ground.

All the passengers and the terrorists died on all four airplanes.

The Federal Aviation Administration shut down all airports within U.S. borders, and international flights inbound to the U.S. were diverted to Canada. The U.S. transportation system ground to a halt – airlines nationwide, including air freight operators and charter aircraft, as well as railroads, particularly in the eastern half of the nation. Only trains kept moving, at least to some degree.

Then-USDOT Secretary Norman Y. Mineta would not permit the air traffic control system nor airports to reopen until 11:00 a.m. Thursday, and even then, on a limited basis and with much greater security. All general aviation aircraft were grounded until Saturday, and then all pilots were required to file flight plans.

The death toll at the World Trade Center was 2,750.

Two PATH lines in Manhattan, using two different tunnels, pass under the World Trade Center. One train was reported missing the next day.

One line terminates under the WTC and has no other stations east of the Hudson; the other runs along Christopher Street and up Sixth Avenue to 33rd Street, one long block east of Penn Station, with four intermediate stops in New York.

In normal weekday operation, there are four routes: WTC to Hoboken and Newark; 33 to Hoboken and Journal Square in Jersey City, midway along the line that continues to Newark.

Pentagon officials revised the death toll estimate downwards to about 190 soldiers and civilians. The number included the people on the airplane.

Major league baseball games were cancelled or postponed until Monday. The National Football League cancelled all of Sunday’s games. The Boston Red Sox rode Amtrak, three buses and several taxies in a 29-hour journey home from Tampa to Boston.

The stock market and Wall Street shut down until September 17.

Amtrak was affected by the events, and all service on the Northeast Corridor was suspended for about six hours. Service around the nation was also affected, with slowdowns and inspections, as were freight railroads, with service slowdowns and some service stops, particularly in the eastern U.S.

Amtrak conductor Dave Bowe of Boston was online shortly after the first airplane slammed into the World Trade Center. He wrote, “My Amtrak information pager stopped working about 9:30 a.m. EDT, so I imagine the Motorola Skytel transmitter was on top of the World Trade Center. The last message I received was that Acela Express lost overhead power on Hell Gate Bridge about 9:15 a.m. The message continued, the train regained power and continued into Penn Station. This is going to be a long week.”

Worldwide, nations pledged their support to help the U.S. find the terrorists responsible for the attacks. Aiding the resolve was the notion that at least 100 British citizens, 75 Australians, numerous Japanese, Koreans and people of other nationalities died in the World Trade Center disaster. Some 265 floors in the three buildings collapsed.

Virtually all nations had some of its citizens there.

The Senate and House passed a joint resolution on September 12 expressing their collective outrage of the sneak attack on America.

All bridges and tunnels leading to and from the city were closed for at least two days halting bus truck commerce as well as ordinary auto traffic.

By Friday, investigators were still trying to discover exactly who was behind the atrocities.

For the first time in its 30-year history, Amtrak operated its entire system under national emergency conditions – a step away from wartime operations.

Top railroad management in Washington sent a message around the system that stated, “On Sep 11, 2001, a series of terrorist activities began affecting the New York and Washington, D.C. metropolitan areas at about 8:48 a.m., resulting in significant loss of life and property damage.”

Amtrak ordered a system-wide stoppage of trains at 10:30 a.m. (EDT) in conjunction with contracting railroads. The carrier also alerted travel agents that “Extra equipment, one coach unless otherwise noted, was added to trains departing on September 11: Trains 4, 30, 40, 48 (2 coaches), 305, 41, 48, 49, 89 (1 coach, 1 sleeper), 90, (1 coach, 1 sleeper), 14, 703, 712, 714, 716.”

SEPTA and NJT operations on Amtrak property “resumed at 2:30 p.m. Northeast Corridor resumed Amtrak service at hourly intervals, on conventional (neither Metroliner nor Acela Express) schedules, at 3:00 p.m.,” Amtrak said.

BNSF – Following inspection, trains operated at 60 mph. Speed restriction lifted at 5:00 pm CDT.

UP – Following inspection, trains operated at 50 mph to next crew base, where they were held while tracks were further inspected. The hold was canceled at 5:30 p.m. CDT.

CSX – Passenger trains operated at 30 mph unless preceded over the route by other traffic. Restriction lifted Tuesday afternoon south of Richmond, Va.

The Boston Line, Hudson Line, Chicago Line and RF&P remained restricted to 50 mph until track inspections were completed on September 12.

CN/IC – No restrictions.

Norfolk Southern sent out a service alert system-wide following the air strikes. The freight line stated, “Operations are suspended or limited in Northeast” on September 11.

A terse noted stated simply, “In cooperation with local and federal authorities and agencies, Norfolk Southern has temporarily suspended operations in the North Jersey shared asset area. Operations are also suspended or very limited along most of the northeastern corridor, including Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Newark and the Delmarva Peninsula. Customers with traffic moving from, to, or through these areas should expect delays.”

NS began moving its trains again the following day.

Steve Kerch of CBS’s Market Watch told railroaders and railfans alike that travelers were “flocking to Amtrak as disruptions to the nation’s airline system remained suspended.”

Amtrak said Wednesday, in a press release, that it was seeing ridership increases on routes between New York and Washington and in other regions of the country. The rail passenger carrier said it would honor airline tickets for travel to the cities it serves during the disruption.

The enormous increase in ridership would continue through the weekend.

“Amtrak ridership to New York City and Washington D.C. had been building throughout the day,” said Stan Bagley, former Amtrak’s operations vice-president.

Bagley added, “In addition to Amtrak’s regular weekday service, the railroad is prepared to add capacity to trains to meet the needs of guests as may be necessary.”

He said, “Two additional trains, one northbound and one southbound, will be operating out of New York this afternoon at times to be determined.”

Amtrak also issued instructions to its conductors that military or emergency personnel en route to New York City were to be transported free, even if the train was sold out.

The number of passengers departing Washington D.C. to New York at midday Wednesday was more than twice that of an average weekday. A train traveling between Richmond, Va., and Boston earlier that day ran with 200 more passengers than normal for weekday service. A midday Boston to Washington train was sold out, which was unusual for that time of day, Amtrak said. It was an extra train added to the schedule for that day.

Bagley noted, “Other trains across the country are experiencing significant increases in ridership as well. The rail service is responding to increased demand by displaced airline passengers for long-distance trains to cities across the nation as some intercity trains are reaching capacity.”

The rail carrier said, “Precautions are being taken to maintain the country’s rail passenger system as a safe and secure mode of public transportation.”

It did not spell out those procedures.

Amtrak reminded its employees, from its emergency headquarters in Delaware, “Today, September 11, 2001, suspected terrorist attacks occurred at several locations throughout the United States. In light of these events, Amtrak operating departments, the Amtrak Police department, and Safety personnel increased vigilance at all Amtrak facilities and train operating areas.

“It is important for us all to be attentive to security and personal safety measures for co-workers, Amtrak guests, and ourselves. If you believe you are dealing with a suspicious package or item, do not touch the item, move yourself and anyone nearby” to an area that is not in direct line of sight of the item, more than 300 feet away from a small item (hand luggage, and so on)”. They also advised staying away from glass and parked cars.

By September 12, the nation was still reeling from the attack, and police, FBI and other security people were at a heightened state of alert.

Another Boston Amtrak conductor, Brian Radovich, was having a difficult day. He wrote online, “As some of you know, my girlfriend Nanette is an American Airlines Boston-based flight attendant. Thankfully, she was not working today, but, unfortunately, a good friend of hers, who lives in her town, was a crewmember on LA bound AA flight 11. This woman has two daughters who attend school with my girlfriend’s daughter. This has been an awful day.”

Rail-related organizations were taking precautions.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers reported it had “temporarily taken its website offline as a precautionary measure in light of terrorist attacks upon the United States.”

BLE official John Bentley said the website had not been hacked.

“It was taken down as a precautionary measure in case cyber-terrorist attacks should begin on the nation’s Internet.” A BLE press release stated the site would be back online “once the threat has passed. Members will be notified when the website is back online.”

National Corridors Initiative CEO Jim RePass noted from Boston, “This terrible day in history is, I know affecting us all, and the aftermath will affect us for the time to come.”

Extra police officers were sent to patrol Amtrak’s Union Station and unauthorized cars parked in the garage beneath the station were being towed, an Amtrak spokesman said.

Police had also closed and blocked all taxi stands next to the station.

In Washington, D.C., it was turning into a commuter nightmare. We learned authorities “shut down all bridges and tunnels which effectively shuts down all train service north and south,” reported the Virginia Railway Express.

“At this time, we are unable to run train service, and all buses are in emergency mode. We advise our passengers if they have an option to get home to take it.”

VRE passengers were able to use Metro service with their VRE tickets.

Heavy internet traffic began clogging Amtrak’s website, and commuter rail line sites virtually everywhere.

Norfolk Southern reported its operations were normal the next morning.

CSX stopped all traffic in and out of greater New York, Boston, and Washington, for a time, and closed its Virginia Avenue tunnel in Washington.

Hazardous materials were barred through the Howard Street tunnel in Baltimore and the ‘Underground tunnel’ in Atlanta. The Howard Street tunnel was the site of a freight train derailment and fire about a month earlier.

Kansas City Southern Railroad kept running but cut train speeds to 30 mph.

Greyhound Bus Lines of Dallas, the largest U.S. bus line, was also directly affected by the tragedy. It suspended operations in large parts of the country as a safety measure after the attacks, the company said.

Reuters news agency reported Greyhound said it had ceased operations indefinitely in the Northeast, as well as in nearly 30 locations nationwide where its terminals are within a mile of federal buildings, from Washington to Billings, Mont.

Boston Conductor Bowe wrote some two hours after his first message, “My Amtrak beeper came back to life at 11:40 a.m. EDT. Effective Immediately, all Amtrak Service “system-wide” is suspended until further notice.”

On Friday, the Congress gave its consent to military action. It provided $40 billion to help cover the cost of retaliation and rebuilding. Partisanship fell by the wayside. The Senate approved a resolution supporting President Bush in military action against those found responsible for the attacks, 100-0. The House vote was 420-1. The body approved the use-of-force resolution night before.

The four aircraft, and where they went:

· American Airlines Flight No. 11, a Boeing 767, Boston to Los Angeles, 92 people aboard, departed Logan International Airport on time, 7:59 a.m. Crashed into North Tower, World trade Center, New York.

· United Airlines Flight No. 175, a Boeing 767, Boston to Los Angeles, 65 persons aboard, departed Logan on time, 8:15 a.m. Crashed into South Tower, World trade Center.

· American Airlines Flight No. 77, a Boeing 757, Washington Dulles International Airport to Los Angeles, 58 people aboard. Crashed into Pentagon, south side.

· United Airlines Flight No. 93, a Boeing 757, Newark, N.J. to San Francisco, 45 people aboard. Crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers overcame terrorists and diverted the plane from its intended target. Its intended target remains unknown to this day.

FRA, EPA want safer coaches

The Federal Railroad Administration and several car builders and railroads are searching for better ways to build passenger cars. The FRA and the Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice of proposed rulemaking on August 24, which was published in the Federal Register.

“Trends in new passenger car orders, recent experience with train accidents, concern about emergency communication, and technological advances in emergency systems provided the main impetus for these proposed enhancements and additions to FRA’s standards for passenger train emergency systems,” the agencies noted.

Among the changes will be passenger car fleet composition, the National Transportation Safety Board’s safety recommendations on windows, the need for emergency communication systems, including public address and intercom systems, and incorporating APTA’s standards for emergency evacuation units, among other requirements.

Multi-level passenger cars with passenger seating in intermediate levels have become more prevalent and now account for more than 15 percent of all passenger cars, the FR document stated, and noted the intermediate seating levels in these multi-level passenger cars are normally located at the far ends of the cars and are connected to the upper and lower seating levels by stairs.

In addition, exterior side doors are also normally located toward the ends of these cars to facilitate boarding and de-boarding.

“Given the constraint posed by station platform lengths and the desire to minimize station dwell time, railroads have turned to multi-level passenger cars with intermediate seating levels to meet much of the increased demand for service, to the extent vertical clearances permit their operation,” according to the document.

“In light of the growing use of multi-level passenger cars with intermediate seating levels, this notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) addresses the need to provide more explicit emergency system safety standards for these passenger cars.”

Four years ago, the NTSB noted, on April 23, 2002, a BNSF freight train collided head on with a standing Metrolink passenger train near Placentia, Cal., resulting in two fatalities and numerous injuries on the Metrolink train. Though not a contributing factor to the fatalities or injuries, the force of the collision blocked the rear end door and also blocked the rear stairway linking the upper and lower seating levels to the seating area on the intermediate level at the rear of the Metrolink cab car.

Although passengers in that intermediate level seating area exited through an emergency window, “no windows on the intermediate level had been designated for rescue access, and consequently no instructions for emergency responders to gain access to the intermediate level through a window had been posted.”

In a February 20, 2004 letter to the NTSB, FRA noted that its existing regulations do require that windows intended for emergency responder access on every level of a multi-level passenger car be clearly marked and that clear and understandable instructions for their removal be posted at or near the windows on the car’s exterior. See 49 CFR 223.9(d)(2). FRA also sent a letter to passenger railroads to make this clear in the event there was any confusion about these requirements. Nevertheless, the NTSB’s recommendation highlighted the fact that several related concerns were not specifically addressed in FRA’s regulations. One of these concerns was specifying minimum numbers and locations of windows intended for emergency responder access to passenger cars, as 49 CFR 223.9(d)(2) addresses only marking and instruction requirements and does not provide any express requirement that any such rescue access windows exist. A second prominent issue concerned specifying minimum numbers and locations of emergency window exits on any level of a multi-level passenger car – not just main levels.

FRA informed the NTSB that it was reviewing and considering the necessity of making amendments to its safety standards for passenger trains.

“Traditionally, conductors and assistant conductors have been relied upon to relay information to passengers in both normal and emergency situations through face-to-face communication or by use of the PA system,” the federal document noted, but “with smaller crew sizes, passengers may not be able to communicate to the crew a medical emergency, report a fire on board the train, or provide notification of other safety issues as quickly as may be necessary.”

For instance, a passenger in the last car of a train needing to report an emergency situation could potentially have to walk the entire length of the train to communicate with the conductor.

“Further, if the conductor became incapacitated, passengers would need to communicate directly with the engineer.”

The FRA also noted that the NTSB accident investigation report of the February 9, 1996 collision near Secaucus, N.J., that involved two New Jersey Transit Rail Operations (NJTR) trains and resulted in three fatalities and numerous injuries, touches on the importance of emergency communications to prevent panic and further injuries.

According to the NTSB report of the accident investigation, although the train crews said that they went from car to car instructing passengers to remain seated, passengers said that they were not told about the severity of the situation and were concerned about a possible fire or being struck by an oncoming train. They therefore left the train and wandered around the tracks waiting for guidance, potentially posing a greater hazard because of the leaking fuel from train 1107.

“No crewmember used the public address system to communicate with passengers. By using the public address system, all passengers would have received the same message in less time than it would have taken the NJT employees to walk from car to car,” according to the federal officials.

Engineer loses keys, track charts;

now IG gets into Metro-North act

A report by the inspector general of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority found Metro-North Railroad officials were asleep at the switch when it came to securing keys to trains and tracks, and sensitive diagrams and manuals.

The findings were the result of an investigation after Larchmont police recovered a backpack in an alley that belonged to a locomotive engineer who had left it unattended on a train, according to Saturday’s Journal News of Westchester, N.Y. The bag contained train keys, switches, diagrams of overhead power and all current equipment, emergency instructions for train evacuations, charts of all train tracks, including those in Grand Central Terminal, and security measures.

Some of the keys and documents are still missing. This was the third time the same engineer had lost and replaced a set of keys without being disciplined. Those lapses and the inspector general’s findings were first reported by CBS-2 News.

During his investigation, MTA Inspector General Matthew Sanseverie found the railroad had failed to safeguard access to its keys, switches and sensitive documents. The railroad routinely bought thousands of door keys, controller keys and switch-lock keys, and distributed many of them but had no way to track who held them.

“It’s hard to understand how nobody realized or appreciated the sensitivity of those items and the need to control their distribution and their whereabouts,’’ Sanseverie said yesterday. “The clincher really is that there are just so many of these keys being ordered on a regular basis and there is just no justification for it. A lot changed after the September 11 attacks and a lot of things we used to do have to be changed.’’

The report on the railroad’s security lapse comes a day after Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., released a Homeland Security report card that gave rail and mass transit security a failing grade, calling it “woefully unprotected.’’ It also follows recent terrorist attacks on trains in London; Madrid, Spain; and Mumbai, India.

Sanseverie recommended the railroad discipline the engineer and develop a secure system to control the purchase and distribution of keys and manuals needed to run the railroad. He also suggested that Metro-North require employees to report the loss of keys and manuals, and distribute such information on a need-to-know basis.

“The bad news is we found a situation like this that existed,’’ Sanseverie said. “The good news is we got a very positive response. With one exception, they recognized the validity of our observations.

“We recommended that the engineer who lost his backpack for the third time be disciplined... and Metro-North declined, citing a prior practice.’’

For now, Cannito said the railroad’s short-term solution was to centralize key distribution and require employees to sign for keys.

He said the railroad “is moving toward serializing keys, starting with the door key to the Genesis locomotive, and developing a computer-based program to track the distribution of the keys and manuals.’’ Among other measures, Cannito said, the railroad will require employees to report and document lost and stolen keys.

Although Sanseverie has widened his investigation to review similar practices at Long Island Rail Road and at NYC Transit, he said the transit agencies themselves should take a closer look at the way they operate.

“We really have to look to the railroad to do something to identify these vulnerabilities,’’ Sanseverie said. “By the time the inspector general gets involved, it’s because something’s gone very wrong.’’


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