Whistle Stop – In The News

Reproduced from the  newsletter published by the Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum, Knoxville, TN.

611 TO STEAM AGAIN? By now everyone should be aware that there is a study

underway to determine the feasibility of returning N&W 611 to excursion service. In

case you missed the story, go to http://www.fireup611.org/main/index.php. A sweet 5-

minute video has been produced and is available on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDKru1iE80s.

[WARNING: If you’re not into Rock & Roll you might not care for the background music featuring Bon Jovi, but that’s why your device has a mute option.]

 

NS TO DISCONTINUE CERTAIN RAILCAR SORTING OPERATIONS IN ROANOKE

NORFOLK SOUTHERN announced on February 25th that it will cease regional railcar classification operations at its Roanoke Terminal Hump Yard. This will mean the elimination of about 140 positions. The Terminal will continue to provide service to local customers, and to be a hub for through train operations.

The Roanoke Hump operation has seen steady decline in the volume of general merchandise cars handled by about 30 percent since 2006. At the same time, system-wide improvements in the railroad’s operations have freed up network capacity such that classifications operations now performed at Roanoke are no longer necessary. “The employees who work at Roanoke are dedicated and efficient,” said Terry Evans, Vice President, Transportation. “But the geographical location and layout of the hump yard make it not only expensive but redundant within our network.

Most of the affected positions are Carmen, who inspect and repair railcars, and train crews, who conduct switching operations in the yard. Some track maintenance positions are affected. System wide, NORFOLK SOUTHERN anticipates hiring between 850 and 1,150 employees in 2013 to keep up with attrition. These positions will first be offered to employees affected by the Roanoke change and employees furloughed at other locations. 

GULF & OHIO RAILWAYS ACQUIRES 4-4-0 FROM STONE MOUNTAIN SCENIC

[Original source: trains.com] GULF & OHIO RAILWAYS has successfully acquired and

moved STONE MOUNTAIN SCENIC RAILROAD 4-4-0 No. 60 from Stone Mountain, GA to Knoxville. The railroad will evaluate the locomotive for possible restoration and operation on the railroad’s “Three Rivers Rambler” tourist train, which operates out of Knoxville. The railroad had previously restored ex-SOUTHERN RAILWAY 2-8-0 No. 154, built in 1890, for passenger service.

Baldwin built No. 60 in 1922 for Texas’ SAN ANTONIO & ARANSAS PASS RAILWAY. In the 1930s, it became TEXAS & NEW ORLEANS RAILROAD No. 220, and was renumbered 260 in Baldwin built No. 60 in 1922 for Texas’ SAN ANTONIO & ARANSAS PASS RAILWAY. In the 1930s, it became TEXAS & NEW ORLEANS RAILROAD No. 220, and was renumbered 260 in 1950. In 1954 Paulsen Spence acquired it for his LOUISIANA EASTERN RAILROAD, which was to be powered by steam locomotives he had collected over the years. Upon his death most of his collection was scrapped, but No. 60 escaped. It was purchased in 1962 by the STONE MOUNTAIN SCENIC RAILROAD, which named it Texas II for tourist service at Georgia’s Stone Mountain State Park. The engine last operated in 1983, although it continued to occasionally “pull” Trains, while pushed by a diesel, until 2002.

G&O acquired the engine from STONE MOUNTAIN SCENIC, which still operates using a pair of ex-SOUTHERN RAILWAY FP7s and an ex-CHESAPEAKE & OHIO GP7.

Greensboro/High Point passenger rail on upswing

Edited by Chip Deyerle for Days of Steam from an Amtrack posting.

Ridership on Amtrak trains through Greensboro and High Point grew steadily in the past 15 years, in keeping with a nationwide trend favoring shorter routes that link major metropolitan areas.

A recent study by the Brookings Institution found that regional Amtrak routes covering less than 400 miles account for most of the rail network’s 58 percent gain in passengers since 1997.

Not surprisingly, the report pinpointed such densely populated regions as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles as the greatest sources for growth in passenger numbers that rose to more than 31 million last year.

But the researchers also singled out North Carolina for steadily increasing ridership and for providing more financial and administrative support to its regional routes than many states. North Carolina’s homegrown rail service includes the Piedmont and Carolinian routes with a total of six stops daily at each of the Guilford County terminals.“In North Carolina, you do have a long-standing commitment to passenger rail and that’s important,” said Robert Puente’s, the author of the study and a senior fellow in Brookings’ metropolitan policy project.

In addition, the report highlighted the rail stations in Greensboro and High Point among 20 metros nationwide that at least doubled their passenger numbers since 1997, a benchmark year when Amtrak’s operating framework underwent major reforms. Puentes and his fellow researchers found that Amtrak service in the two cities grew by 152 percent in the 15-year window,

from 68,600 riders to 173,246 last year. The report looked at Greensboro and High Point as a single unit because it focused on metropolitan areas”, he said.

The report complimented North Carolina for providing a total $4.7 million yearly to support passenger rail, particularly the Piedmont route using state-owned engines and cars. The Piedmont runs only intrastate from Charlotte to Raleigh, while the twice-daily Carolinian keeps going to New York. It’s unclear whether the state’s current level of support will continue under the new administration of Gov. Pat McCrory. During his previous tenure as Charlotte mayor, McCrory championed that city’s light rail system, but state government faces steep budget challenges that could make passenger trains a target.

McCrory’s press secretary, Crystal Feldman, said residents will have to wait to learn whether any rail service is on the chopping block. “The governor will not release any details of his proposed budget until he presents it to the General Assembly later this month,” Feldman said in an email last week.

The state already has 30 railroad improvement projects in the works, many linked to the Southeast High Speed Rail corridor aimed at boosting travel speeds between Washington and Charlotte, said Nicole Meister of the N.C. Department of Transportation. “That’s going to help both freight and passenger travel,” Meister said of the track and crossing improvements between Charlotte and Raleigh.

The Brookings report found that ridership on Amtrak routes longer than 400 miles gained only slightly in recent years, accounting for just 17 percent of overall Amtrak fares last year.

The study pointed out that although the Carolinian stops in six other states and the District of Columbia, North Carolina is the only one contributing to its operation, a total of $2 million per year. The train makes 12 stops in the state, more than twice as many as any of the others.