ZINIO logo

Trains October 2020

Add to favorites


Read More
United States
Kalmbach Publishing Co. - Magazines
12 Issues

in this issue

1 min.
from the editor

jwrinn@kalmbach.com @TrainsMagazine @trains_magazine Nobody is more surprised and delighted to see “The Rock,” our cover subject, return than, well, thousands of railroad enthusiasts across the Midwest and across the country. The Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific was indeed a mighty fine road, and its cultlike following will be amazed to see it rise from the ashes 40 years later — as a Mississippi short line. The Rock reprise reminds me that in American railroading there are endless second acts. Here in Wisconsin, where Trains is located, fans still mourn the late, great Wisconsin Central, part of Canadian National since 2001. In July 2020, CN announced it would divest itself of many former WC branches. Care to lay odds on whether we see a 21st-century WC come along to operate them?…

5 min.
larry gross

ANALYST LARRY GROSS, president of Gross Transportation Consulting, publishes the monthly “Intermodal in Depth” report that analyzes international and domestic intermodal volume trends. He is a frequent speaker at transportation conferences. Prior to starting his consulting practice, Gross had a long career in intermodal equipment development and sales, most notably the Road-Railer intermodal system. Trains chatted with Gross about the future of intermodal. Q Intermodal has been the rail industry’s growth engine for a long time. But growth had slowed and then stopped even before the pandemic hit. Why? A We have to keep in mind that intermodal is really two separate markets. There is international (i.e., import/export) and domestic — and they are driven by different economic factors. The first decade of the 2000s was all about international, as imports from…

3 min.
long distance: stable, snubbed

AMTRAK’S DECISION to add three weekday Acela round trips, and Pennsylvania’s reinstatement of the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian and 18 Keystone Corridor frequencies in early June, led to a 110% revenue increase over May, to $12.4 million, for the combined Northeast and statesupported business groups. Passenger miles rose 128% to 40.9 million. Yet with no trip additions, the 15 longdistance trains totaled $19.4 million in revenue and 88.1 million passenger miles in June, accounting for 61% of system dollars and a whopping 68% of passenger miles in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, company officials told Congress in July most long-distance service would be cut to triweekly on Oct. 1 [see “How to Kill a Network,” “Passenger,” September 2020] unless Amtrak receives the $10 billion proposed by a House committee. Separate authorizing legislation…

2 min.
news briefs

HEATING UP: Metra’s fight with Union Pacific over three UP-operated Chicago commuter lines has escalated. UP said it would stop providing some support — including equipment maintenance — this fall, leading Metra to ask for a Surface Transportation Board injunction to preserve service. Metra also asked the STB to affirm UP has a commoncarrier obligation to operate trains even without a contract. UP, which sued Metra in December 2019, says it has no such obligation and that the matter should be decided by the court. Above, Metra and UP trains meet in La Fox, Ill. Two photos, Trains: David Lassen CONSTRAINED: Durango & Silverton efforts to repair washout damage to its line near Silverton, Colo., were halted by the U.S. Forest Service, as was a fire-mitigation program to clear trees along…

3 min.
put extra rail capacity to work

bybillstephens@gmail.com @bybillstephens Blog: TrainsMag.com/obstower Suppose you’re a Class I railroad CEO who wants to renounce your membership in the Cult of the Operating Ratio, the term analyst Anthony B. Hatch coined for the way the industry worships the metric that measures efficiency and profitability. Wall Street demands strict adherence to the cult’s call for ever-higher profit margins. Yet this has strangled volume growth by forcing you to focus on only the most profitable traffic. Now times are tough. So you want to keep the carloads and containers you already handle — and gain business that doesn’t currently polish your rails. What’s your first move? Start a few pilot projects and see what develops. Precision Scheduled Railroading has created a huge capacity dividend as railroads move tonnage on far fewer but ever longer trains. Now…

4 min.
the illusion of improved output

briansolomon.author@gmail.com @briansolomon.author Blog: briansolomon.com/trackingthelight Podcast: trainsmag.com During the last century, one of the chief drivers for change to American railroad practices has been the desire to improve labor productivity. Railroads tasted the benefits of widespread productivity improvement in the 19th century when more powerful locomotives, combined with the advent of automatic block signaling and fail-safe air brakes, enabled railroads to significantly increase the size and speed of trains, allowing crews to do significantly more work. After 1914, antitrust legislation, increased emphasis on safety, and ever-expanding spending on public highways curtailed railroads’ ability to fund infrastructure expansion. This limited their ability to develop new routes, tap new traffic, or expand their business through traditional means. In response, railroads sought greater operational efficiency through further labor savings, facilitated by a series of rapid technological advances in motive power…