Old ‘bag’ abandoned in tunnel;
FDR may have used it in 1940s
Richard Staropoli is trying to crack a case that’s been stuck in a tunnel for more than 60 years.
About two stories under the Waldorf-Astoria hotel on 50th Street and Park Avenue in Manhattan is an abandoned car, that appears to have been a baggage car or possibly a mail car, on unused tracks leading out of Grand Central Terminal.
Metro-North Railroad officials said the car has been there since at least 1946 and possibly before, the Stamford Advocate reported today.
Although some historians have dismissed the abandoned vehicle as an old postal or freight car, Staropoli, assistant to the special-agent-in-charge of the New York bureau of the U.S. Secret Service, has noticed some unusual features: light armor plating on the outside; detailed wheel suspensions under the car that would provide maximum comfort for the train’s cargo; and markings indicating the car was once used by the U.S. military.
Because it is just a few feet from a secret platform and elevator connecting the tunnel to the Waldorf, which was most notably used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II, Staropoli believes the vehicle is more than just a freight car.
“This may be a car that was kept here whenever (Roosevelt) was in New York,” Staropoli said during a recent visit to the site. “This is not just a train car built to carry tools.”
About 100 feet to either side of the abandoned car are tracks still used by Metro-North trains in the Park Avenue tunnel, but the section with the abandoned car remains unused and unkempt. The ground is littered with broken concrete, pieces of metal piping and plastic soda bottles. Railroad officials are not even sure whether the third rail in the area has power. And some wonder whether the car could be carted out if a rightful owner is determined. It may be fragile and unable to run on the existing tracks.
Those are all questions Staropoli plans to address after he finishes his investigation, which started about three months ago after he watched a television show on what exists in the tunnels under New York City.
It included an interview with Dan Brucker, a Metro-North spokesman, who speculated that the car might have been used by FDR, but Brucker, and the show, provided no empirical proof. That’s what Staropoli wants to collect.
Staropoli hasn’t seen the car’s interior because its doors are padlocked. Inside, he believes there may be serial numbers detailing who owns the car. But while he waits to see the inside, he has collected evidence from what is on the outside.
With a small flashlight, Staropoli shined a beam on some lettering on the train’s side – MNM CX.
During the 1930s and ’40s, a train marked with “MNM” likely would have belonged to the Minneapolis Bulk Corn Processing Co., Staropoli said.
But it was the “X” that really caught his attention.
“An ‘X’ marking usually indicated that it was something not owned by a legit railroad,” Staropoli said. “Anything that was classified by the military, was marked with an ‘X.’”
MN are also the letters for Metro-North.
There’s more evidence suggesting the car has a military connection. It is covered with a thick coat of reflective blue paint, dubbed “MTA blue” by Staropoli because it matches the colors of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. But on the rear of the car, some of the blue has peeled off, revealing a military green surface.
The exposed surface also shows no signs of rust, despite the dark, dank conditions in the tunnel. That’s because the car was made of industrial-strength steel, Staropoli said.
The train most closely recognized with FDR’s visits to Grand Central is the Ferdinand Magellan, which served as “Presidential Rail Car U.S. No. 1” from 1943 to 1958.
That observation car was acquired by the Gold Coast Railroad Museum in Miami-Dade County, Fla., in 1959.
Skeptics have asked Staropoli why a second rail car would have been used exclusively by Roosevelt, when he had the Ferdinand Magellan.
But Staropoli says Roosevelt had the second car so he could get away without drawing attention during an emergency.
NS amends governance guidelines
Norfolk Southern Corp. (NYSE: NSC) reported today that its board of directors has amended the company’s corporate governance guidelines to include majority voting for election of directors in an uncontested election.
The amended guidelines provide that any nominee for director who receives a greater number of “withhold” votes than “for” votes for his or her election will resign. The board’s governance and nominating committee then will consider the resignation and recommend to the board of directors whether to accept or reject it. The board of directors will act on the committee’s recommendation within 90 days after the annual meeting of shareholders.
Norfolk Southern will disclose the board’s decision on a Form 8-K furnished to the Securities and Exchange Commission within four business days after the decision, including an explanation of the process by which the decision was reached.
The complete text of the corporate governance guidelines can be found on the company’s website at www.nscorp.com under the “Investors” tab.
Norfolk Southern Corporation is one of the nation’s premier transportation companies. Its Norfolk Southern Railway subsidiary operates approximately 21,200 route miles in 22 states, the District of Columbia and Ontario, Canada, serving every major container port in the eastern United States and providing superior connections to western rail carriers. NS operates the most extensive intermodal network in the East and is North America’s largest rail carrier of automotive parts and finished vehicles.
Labor demands Amtrak stop outsourcing
Transportation labor leaders today called on Congress to stop Amtrak’s Board from trading away the safety, reliability and efficiency of the national passenger rail system through “destructive and misguided efforts to break-up Amtrak and outsource as many jobs as possible.”
At the biannual meeting of the Executive Committee of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), the organization’s 31 member unions endorsed a policy statement that stresses the need for Amtrak management to recognize the critical role that Amtrak employees play in the success of the passenger railroad.
Edward Wytkind, president of TTD, said, “Congress must stop the Amtrak Board’s outsourcing agenda. Amtrak workers are specialized and highly trained men and women with a vested interest in the survival and success of the carrier. Lawmakers must send a message to Amtrak’s Board and the company’s new CEO that they reject outsourcing that gambles away the future survival of our national passenger railroad and threatens the livelihood of 20,000 Amtrak workers.”
“Amtrak workers are already the lowest paid in the industry and many have gone seven years without updated contracts or wage increases,” Wytkind declared.
“Using outsourcing schemes to lower wages and slash benefits at a carrier supported by taxpayers is simply outrageous and should not be tolerated by Congress,” he document continued.
Amtrak targeted outsourcing of jobs ranging from reservationists to food service to maintenance repair.
In the statement, transportation unions call on Amtrak’s management to “include its workers and unions in determining how to provide services to passengers in a manner that is cost-effective, efficient, and reliable.”