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Trains Mar 2020


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Kalmbach Publishing Co. - Magazines
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2 Min.
the bn merger was 50 years ago …

jwrinn@kalmbach.com @TrainsMagazine @trains_magazine That most valued of all fortune cookies reads, “May you live in interesting times.” If you are a long-time reader of this magazine, you have seen interesting times with a front row seat to the changing railroad industry in the last half-century. I refer to major mergers and specifically the 50th anniversary of the Burlington Northern merger that brought together all of the legendary James J. Hill lines of the Midwest, the Rockies, and the Pacific Northwest. Depending on your perspective, the merger was a bonanza or a bust: A blanket of Cascade Green erased the individualism of favorites Burlington Route, Great Northern, Northern Pacific, and Spokane, Portland & Seattle. The Powder River Basin sprung forth. If you were a fan, it was a glorious event; if you were not, BN…

1 Min.
on the web

BRIAN SOLOMON PODCASTS Listen to Trains columnist Brian Solomon discuss railroad topics in his biweekly podcasts TRAINS BLOGS Check out what Trains’ staff and contributors say about railroads and train-watching. Photo by George W. Hamlin TRAINS NEWS WIRE Subscribers can access all the latest railroad industry news and updates to stories daily. Photo by David Lassen TRAINS PRESENTS Follow along and watch all the action in our growing collection of new videos Follow us on facebook.com/TrainsMagazine twitter.com/TrainsMagazine @trains_magazine…

2 Min.
safety reports blast seattle, boston transit agencies

TRANSIT AGENCIES ON BOTH COASTS must address critical safety issues in the wake of reports issued in December. Seattle’s Sound Transit and Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority were found to have significant safety flaws in reports commissioned by each agency. The Sound Transit report followed the fatal December 2017 derailment of an Amtrak Cascades train on the Point Defiance Bypass, owned by the agency. The MBTA document came after several incidents, most notably two derailments in a four-day span in June 2019. The report to the MBTA by a three-member panel was particularly scathing. It contended “safety is not the priority” at the agency, and that cost cutting and staff reductions left the MBTA unable to fulfill maintenance requirements and keep its systems fully functional. Notably, it said problems were centered on…

4 Min.
steve poftak

STEVE POFTAK, general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, is facing what may be a career-defining challenge. He has been directed by the state’s Fiscal and Management Control Board, which oversees the MBTA, to begin planning a radical transformation of Boston’s commuter rail system. Following the recommendations of a two-year study by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and MBTA, known as Rail Vision, future commuter operations will include high-frequency service with electric multiple-unit trains, starting on three lines. Poftak sat down with Trains just weeks after getting the Board’s directive. Note: This interview, focused on the commuter plan, preceded release of a report criticizing the safety of MBTA transit operations [page 6]. Q What has the Fiscal and Management Control Board tasked you with doing? A We are tasked with putting together…

4 Min.
the tortoise and the hare

bybillstephens@gmail.com @bybillstephens Blog: TrainsMag.com You’re standing alongside BNSF Railway’s double-track Southern Transcon in the Texas Panhandle. Bearing down on you at 70 mph: A 12,000-foot stack train with five units, their combined 22,000 hp urging the train on to Chicago. This, you conclude as the dust settles, is an amazing railroad that hasn’t lost its sense of urgency. Now transport yourself 1,400 miles north. You’re on the outskirts of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, along Canadian National’s main line across Western Canada, the busiest single-track route in North America. Along comes a Chicago-bound 12,000-foot stack train behind just two locomotives, puttering along at 45 mph and likely to take a siding or two to meet opposing traffic. Now here’s a question: Which railroad is faster overall? Why it’s CN! BNSF certainly seems faster, and its high-priority Z trains,…

5 Min.
from ‘short line’ to short line and back

briansolomon.author@gmail.com @briansolomon.author Blog: briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/ Podcast: TrainsMag.com Shrouded in a press release dated Nov. 20, 2019, was some unexpected, but exciting news. Canadian Pacific announced that it “entered an agreement” to buy back its historic eastern arm in a proposed transaction to acquire Central Maine & Quebec Railway, which operated 481 miles of railroad in its namesake region. CP missed publishing the headline of the year that could have read: “Canadian Pacific to Reacquire Historic Transcon.” Sifting through the announcement, I found no references to the historic significance of the property or the true potential of this important route, so here’s how I see it. CP’s Megantic and Moosehead subdivisions have long rested in my railroad subconscious. In 1972, my family rented a cottage on Maine’s Moosehead Lake adjacent to CP’s tracks, and the melodic sounds of…