Sunday, November 20, 2011

National Heritage Museum TRAIN SHOW - Lexington MA 12/17-18/11

The HUB Division of the National Railroad Association
... will delight fans large and small with their model train display.

December 17-18, 2011

National Heritage Museum
33 Marrett Road
Lexington, MA 02421

Museum Website

Thursday, November 17, 2011

4 People Indicted for Scamming MBTA Out of Millions

(SOURCE: Foxborough Patch - By Patricia Resende)

Four people including a Foxborough woman have been indicted by a Grand Jury for their involvement in selling millions worth of illegal MBTA monthly passes to riders, according to the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General.

Joceline Townes, 41, of Attleboro along with Susan Gillis, 46, of Foxborough, Andres Townes, 27 of Revere and Alex Saunders, 28 of Beverly were all charged with conspiracy to commit receiving stolen property.

Joceline Towns was also charged charged with receiving stolen property over $250. Gillis, who received the most charges of the group, was charged with five counts of receiving stolen property over $250.

Three of the four indicted will be arraigned in Essex Superior Court at a later date.  Andres Townes remains held on $15,000 cash bail.

“We allege that these defendants conspired to illegally sell passes to the public for profit while defrauding the Commonwealth,” Attorney General Martha Coakley said in a statement. “Corruption of this nature deceives consumers and undermines the taxpayers.  Our investigation with the MBTA into this matter remains ongoing.”

Authorities say that Saunders, Gillis, and Joceline Townes, individually entered into an agreement during different times since November 2007 to sell MBTA tickets provided by Andres Townes. The crew split the profits from the illegal sales, according to Coakley's office.  Prosecutors allege that Andres Townes produced more than 20,000 fraudulent passes worth millions of dollars and that at least $2 million worth of those passes were never in service because the passes had been dated and activated for use as far in the future as November 2012.

The investigation began after a conductor noticed the color of a pass that looked odd. Further investigation into the card showed that, while the ticket was authentic, the MBTA database had no record of it being activated and the MBTA had not received payment for it. It was then that MBTA authorities realized that more than 400 of those passes, worth more than $70,000, were being used by passengers in March of 2011 alone.

The tickets were being advertised on Craigslist, according to authorities. For Andres Townes' role in the plan, he allegedly received thousands of dollars each month based on the crew's sales of tickets.

The investigation was initially conducted by the MBTA and MBTA Transit Police, then referred to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office and brought to the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division.

Boston & Maine Package Ticket

Friday, November 4, 2011

Somerville MBTA Facility Cited with 'Serious' Workplace Safety Hazards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, has imposed $130,800 in fines for 22 alleged workplace safety violations.

Saying workers were exposed to potential electric shocks, chemical burns, amputation and bloodborne pathogens, to name a few things, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, has cited the Commuter Rail maintenance facility in Somerville with 22 alleged "serious" violations of workplace safety.

The Commuter Rail maintenance facility is located in the Inner Belt area of East Somerville, between McGrath Highway and Interstate 93, near the border of Cambridge and Charlestown.

According to a press release sent by the U.S. Department of Labor, of which OSHA is a part, the safety administration "found employees in the facility's diesel, carpentry, truck, pipe and coach shops exposed to potential electric shocks, electrocution, fires, falls, chemical burns, lacerations, amputations and bloodboarne pathogens, as well as to injuries from crushing, slipping and tripping hazards."

The proposed fines for these violations is $130,800, and the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad has 15 days from the receipt of the citations to pay the fines or contest the violations, according to the citations. The citations are dated Oct. 18.

The citations list a number of alleged violations, including the following:

•Workers who clean commuter train cars are exposed to potential bloodboarne pathogens and were not offered the hepatitis B vaccination.
•An exit was partially blocked with flammables storage cabinet and shelving.
•"Employees were exposed to electrical shock, electrocution and fire hazards when working on energized electrical parts without proper personal protective equipment such as voltage rated gloves and appropriate fire resistant clothing."
Read the citations here and here.

A number of the alleged violations seem similar to the sorts of risks do-it-yourselfers expose themselves to during weekend projects around the home: using improperly adjusted saw-blade guards, using extension cords with missing ground pins and plugging things into electrical outlets without faceplates, to name a few hazards.

Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad statement
MBCR treats safety with the utmost seriousness. The company trains every engineer, conductor, and mechanic to make safety his or her top priority. This approach has resulted in significant improvements in workplace safety, as shown by the company’s reduction of workplace injuries by 58% in the past year. According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), MBCR has the second lowest rate of workplace injury in the passenger railroad industry.

MBCR has worked cooperatively and collaboratively with OSHA over the past six months to address all safety and workplace concerns. In that period, MBCR has abated or is in the process of addressing all of the issues identified by OSHA. The company will continue to work closely with OSHA and the FRA to ensure the highest possible level of safety for employees and customers.

Name That Photo: Bradford MA

The four vintage photos below came in a lot I purchsed a few years ago.  There were no notes on the backs as to their location.  Since most everything in the lot was from New England, I was hoping these were as well.  I sent out a mass email to various rail-folks, and the result is I now know the location: Bradford (Haverhill) Massachusetts.  Now I need the rough date!  Anyone have an idea?  SEE UPDATE!!!!

Looking north-east
Note the brick buildings...
The overall area as it appears today
Note the old bridge abutment just visible at left of the current bridge
This branch track seems to be where the passengers cars were located in the first view
This seems to be the only building still standing from the bridge views

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Atlas Announces N Scale B&M MEC 'Geeps

Atlas has announced a Boston & Maine GP9 and Maine Central GP7, due the second quarter of 2012.  Models will come as DC or DCC.


Atlas N MEC GP7

Atlas N B&M GP9

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Amtrak Passengers Stranded in Palmer MA Due to Rockslide

PALMER, Mass. (AP) - Amtrak officials say a train got stuck overnight in central Massachusetts with 48 people aboard and they are being taken to their destinations by bus.

Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham says the train from Chicago to Boston got stuck in Palmer about 10 p.m. Saturday. A rockslide caused by the snowstorm that slammed the Northeast was blocking the tracks.

Graham says the passengers had electricity and heat the whole time and got free food and drinks. Buses arrived about 11 a.m. Sunday to take them to destinations between Palmer and Boston. The Lakeshore Limited train had left Chicago on Friday.

The storm has forced Amtrak to suspend train service on several routes in the Northeast.

SOURCE: Storm stranded Amtrak train in Palmer WWLP.com

Pan Am Rail Sues Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports and Editor

Nov 1, 2011 - The parent company that operates a regional freight railroad covering most of northern New England has sued a small, Yarmouth-based trade publication for libel.

Pan Am Systems Inc. of Dover, N.H., has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Bangor against Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports and its editor, Chalmers "Chop" Hardenbergh.

In its complaint, Pan Am claims Hardenbergh published untrue information on multiple occasions about the company and its former chief executive, David Andrew Fink. Both Fink and Springfield Terminal Railway Co. of North Billerica, Mass., also are named as plaintiffs.

In a reply brief filed last month, Hardenbergh and his Portland attorney, Sigmund Schutz, asked the court to dismiss the claims. They called the suit "a constitutionally impermissible attempt to silence a journalistic voice."
Pan Am Systems was founded in 1977 as Guilford Transportation Industries. It is privately owned by Timothy Mellon, an heir to the Mellon banking fortune, and shareholders that include Fink and his son, David Armstrong Fink.

The company's Pan Am Railways division owns subsidiaries that include Boston and Maine Corp., Maine Central Railroad Co., Portland Terminal Co., and Springfield Terminal Railway Co. It operates a network from Schenectady, N.Y., to Mattawamkeag, Maine, and has lines in New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut.

In its complaint, Pan Am cites what it calls factual allegations made in past issues of Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports. It cites stories dealing with operating safety, service and Fink's departure from Pan Am management earlier this year.

"The substance of the lawsuit is plainly set forth in the complaint," Pan Am's lawyer, Thad Zmistowski of Bangor, said in a written statement. "My clients have alleged that they have been defamed in print by the defendants on numerous occasions and that their reputation has been wrongfully attacked. We look forward to our day in court."

The complaint says Hardenbergh published defamatory information, and the coverage caused economic damages and harmed the plaintiff's reputation. It seeks an award of unspecified punitive damages.
In his response, Hardenbergh says the railroad and its chief executive are highly visible figures and that the plaintiff's claims of malice would fail, "because they do not allege any facts sufficient to raise a plausible inference of negligence."

Hardenbergh said in a written statement released by his lawyer that "Pan Am has not produced any facts showing that any of the statements are false."

He pointed to one instance, a December 2010 statement that Pan Am failed to station a locomotive or a crew in Concord, N.H. "This is completely true. I just published an article last week saying they still have not stationed a locomotive or a crew there, even though they promised in 2009 to do that."

Other statements are "pure opinion," said Hardenbergh. "One merely calls Pan Am's service 'bad.' That's an opinion. It's still a free country."

Hardenbergh started his weekly newsletter, which covers freight railroads and ports in New England and eastern Canada, in 1994. It now includes a website and e-bulletins and has 350 paid subscribers.

Hardenbergh has extensively covered Pan Am and has long expressed critical opinions about its service and operations. In an interview today, he declined to characterize his relationship with the company or speculate on what triggered the lawsuit, citing the advice of his lawyer.

In his latest newsletter, Hardenbergh said he is facing substantial legal fees, even if the case is dismissed. He has set up a legal defense fund at the Preti-Flaherty law firm and is soliciting contributions.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ayer, Littleton at Odds With Pan Am's Stormwater Management System

AYER -- As construction of Pan Am Railway's expansion of a rail-to-truck automobile-transfer facility nears completion, state and local officials are concerned about the standards of Pan Am's stormwater-management system.

The automobile unloading facility sits about 8 to 9 feet below the surface of the Spectacle Pond aquifer, Ayer and Littleton's drinking-water source.

In January 2010, Pan Am completed construction of an 800-car facility off

Willow Road
. By Thanksgiving, Pan Am hopes to complete the expansion of the facility, which will be able to house about 1,500 vehicles, according to Pan Am Executive Vice President Cynthia Scarano.

Ayer has asked the state Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency for technical assistance in looking at the effectiveness of Pan Am's stormwater-management system for Phase 2.

MassDEP has told Pan Am that improvements need to be made to the system.

"In looking at the proposal that Pan Am has offered, we believe that work needs to be done to the stormwater-management system," said MassDEP spokesman Joe Ferson.

He said Pan Am needs to make changes to its plans to put the same level of protections in place that the railroad had with the first phase of its project.

In Phase 1, Pan Am used Stormceptor devices to manage runoff. Now Pan Am has installed Water Quality Outlet devices, said Scarano.

She said only the brands are different, but the standards are the same.
MassDEP disagrees.

Department of Public Works Superintendent Daniel Nason is pressing for Pan Am to use the same brand of stormwater-filtration devices for the sake of uniform construction, maintenance and crisis-management protocols across the Pan Am offloading facility, he said at a Board of Selectmen meeting in July.

Both DEP and the EPA signed off on the Stormceptor system during the first phase of construction.

This latest disagreement between the town and Pan Am is the latest in a line of clashes. The town fought with Pan Am in federal court over permitting in Phase 1, which resulted in a settlement that allowed the town to monitor construction of the automobile-transfer facility.

Scarano said the facility is used to transfer Ford automobiles from the rail lines to trucks, so the cars can be delivered to dealerships throughout New England. The expansion of the facility allows its capacity for transferring vehicles to increase.

The proximity of the facility to the aquifer is what has state and local officials concerned.

Congresswoman Niki Tsongas will hold a meeting to address growing concerns with Pan Am's expansion.

"It's important that the concerns raised by Ayer and Littleton residents regarding Phase 2 of this project are heard and addressed," Tsongas said in a statement. "That is why I will be hosting a meeting that will bring together all of the affected parties and authorities involved in this matter including the EPA, DEP, Pan Am, town officials and other elected officials."

Local activists in Littleton and Ayer held a meeting to rally local and state-level support with the premier of ABC's television series, "Pan Am," a drama that revolves around the Pan American World Airways during the early 1960's.

"For people in Ayer and Littleton, "Pan Am" means oil spills and not the glamorous brand it was associated with back then," said Beverly Schultz, Spectacle Pond Association president.

In 2009, a Middlesex Superior Court jury convicted Pan Am Railways of failing to report a hazardous spill and contamination on its railyard property in Ayer in 2006. The conviction resulted in the company being fined $500,000.

State Sen. James Eldridge, D-Acton, attended the meeting held by the Coalition for Aquifer Protection last month.

"The concern now is that Pan Am is not upholding their end of the bargain in terms of the water-monitoring equipment," he said.

"There needs to be proper enforcement by the DEP and federal government to make sure those protections are there," he added.

The Littleton Board of Selectmen are also pledging its support to enforce stronger standards in Pan Am's stormwater-management system.

Town Administrator Keith Bergman said there is great concern for the quality of water in the aquifer with the expansion of Pan Am's facility.

Bergman also noted that the term "rail-roaded" comes from the fact that American law grants a special status to the railroad.

DEP and the EPA do not regulate the railroad, it is overseen by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Schultz said there is an immediate concern to ensure the storm-water management system is up to standard because Pan Am has almost completed its construction.

"There is more work to be done and we're highly concerned because they're about to pave," she said. "We would have a system that might contaminate the water."

Schultz said that contaminated water would not only affect residents, but businesses like Nestle and Cains that use water from the aquifer.

"They area all coming here because we have the cleanest water in the whole area," she said. "They could leave Massachusetts if there was a contamination in this aquifer."

But Schultz did say that Pan Am has been cooperative in meeting with the town, although they are not required to have any local approvals.

Scarano said that residents shouldn't be concerned about the protections that are in place.

"We have committed to a state of the art facility and we will continue with our commitment," she said.

SOURCE: The Lowell Sun / By Sarah Favot, sfavot@lowellsun.com

CSX: Heavy Snow, Fallen Trees Slow Service in MA, Northeast

CSX Service Bulletin: October 30, 2011 - 4:30PM

Heavy snow, fallen trees slow CSX service in Massachusetts and Northeast

October 30, 2011 – 4:30 p.m. – CSX freight service operating in Massachusetts and other areas of the Northeast has been slowed significantly today by the weekend’s severe weather. Customers with traffic that originates, terminates or passes through this region should expect delays of 24-48 hours as crews clear lines of snow and fallen trees.

Widespread commercial power outages also are impacting service. CSX equipment and personnel have been deployed across affected lines to restore service as quickly as possible.

Family Says Passing Acela Caused Woman’s Death

(via Trains.com Newswire)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The family of a Rhode Island woman who died after falling on a train station platform has sued Amtrak, the Associated Press reported. The family of the woman says she was knocked to the ground by the force of a passing Acela train that resulted in her death 11 days later.

The survivors of 91-year-old Ruth Tomlin Gronneberg, who died June 28, filed the complaint Oct. 26 in U.S. District Court in Providence. The lawsuit says she was hospitalized June 17 after a blast of air from a passing Acela knocked her to the ground as she waited for her granddaughter on the Kingston station platform.

An Amtrak spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Amtrak to Replace Two Bridges on Northeast Corridor November 5-6, 2011

(via Trains.com Newswire)

WASHINGTON – Amtrak will replace two bridge spans on its Northeast Corridor at Stonington, Conn., next week. All through service between New York and Boston will be suspended from 4 p.m. on Nov. 5 through noon Nov. 6.

During the outage, Amtrak will replace the spans, which are more than 100-years old, using barges to remove the existing structures and float in the new bridges. This marks the final stage of a multi-year $22.1 million project, funded in part through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Amtrak said it will not provide alternate transportation, and recommends passengers reserve space on trains that will operate prior to the corridor closing.