Friday, December 20, 2013

Bowser Announces HO B&M EMD F7A w/Sound

Bowser has announced an HO scale EMD F7A in blue, due May 2014.  This model is part of their Executive Line. 

#24028 Cab #4265 $179.95 each
#24029 Cab #4268 $179.95 each
#24030 Cab #4265 w/DCC/LokSound Snd $279.95 each
#24031 Cab #4268 w/DCC/LokSound Snd $279.95 each

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pros & Cons of Portsmouth NH Rail Line Revival

(SOURCE:  Seacoast Online)

The prospect of a resurgence of freight shipped by rail may be a positive development on multiple fronts, however, residents who live along the local rail system and motorists in general are right to express their concerns.

Use of the rail line from Newington through Portsmouth, Greenland and Stratham to the Rockingham Junction on the Newfields-Newmarket town line has been largely dormant for as long as most residents can remember. However, the line was never abandoned and the day was likely to come that its use would rise again. Beyond the shipping of freight — and it is the plan of Sea-3 in Newington to ship propane via the Newington-Portsmouth branch that produced concerns — it remains the hope of many that passenger service could also resume.

Increased freight shipping via railroads can get many tractor-trailers and other commercial shipping vehicles off local and state roads and interstates and decrease the reliance on standard fuels. The operation of trains would also potentially have a regional and national economic impact.

Furthermore, increased rail freight could lead to substantial upgrades of the tracks, which would improve the chances of restoring passenger service that must operate at speeds in excess of the 10 mph currently allowed on the Newington-Portsmouth branch.

With all that said, the many residents whose homes are near the rail lines need to have their concerns addressed. Because of federal regulations, local communities have no legal say over what is shipped on rail lines. However, that doesn't mean the rail company, Pan Am Railways, the Federal Railroad Administration, Sea-3 and its parent company, Trammo, can't address resident concerns in a fair and open manner.

This is particularly true when it comes to shipping a fuel such as propane, or others for that matter.
There are many concerns about the condition and safety of the current tracks that roll through downtown Portsmouth, pass through rural areas of Greenland and cross over Great Bay. The first attempt to assess the condition of the tracks proved difficult. The FRA was not forthcoming with information on the condition of the tracks last week. It provided only a fact sheet on federal track safety standards, and said the latest track inspection report would be made available only through a Freedom of Information Act request, which Seacoast Media Group filed.

The issue extends beyond the current condition of the tracks. According to Cynthia Scarano, executive vice president of Pan Am Railways, the tracks of the Newington-Portsmouth branch currently limit train speed to 10 mph. Ensuring the safety of the tracks to allow for the shipping of propane is step one, but learning more about any potential improvements that would allow faster speeds must be discussed.

The area is not used to seeing trains on the tracks, and the few that do use them crawl along. More trains, traveling faster through areas not used to seeing them, is one reason to bring all parties to the table to discuss how rail commerce can be safely permitted.

All crossings must be thoroughly inspected to ensure there is proper sight distance and signage and, wherever necessary, to feature lighted signals and stopping arms. Any other protective measures, such as fencing in residential areas, should also be considered.

Federal regulations protect the right of interstate commerce along the rail system, and that is a good thing as rail for freight and passenger service, is a vital link; a promising alternative to highways. But that doesn't mean local residents' concerns should be pushed aside. There is promise here. The ability to revive rail service lies in the hands of the business that owns the lines, the businesses that will use them and the federal agency that regulates them. It is necessary that a balanced approach is taken to the revival of the rails.

MBTA Commuter Train Derails in Fitchburg MA

(SOURCE:  Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise, by Alana Melanson)

Workers investigate after an MBTA train derailed as it was pulling into the Fitchburg Intermodel Station on Tuesday night.SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / JOHN
Workers investigate after an MBTA train derailed as it was pulling into the 
Fitchburg Intermodel Stationt. 
FITCHBURG -- A Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority commuter-rail train carrying between 50 and 60 passengers derailed at the Intermodal Station on Tuesday, just before 8 PM (12/17), after several hours of heavy snowfall. 

Police Sgt. Thomas Daoust and Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Curran said there were no injuries in the incident, and that passengers were quickly evacuated from the back of the train and left the scene. 

"Most of them were unaware there was an overshooting of the platform," Curran said. 

He said one engineer on board sought treatment by MedStar ambulance personnel but signed a release.
Curran said the engineer told officials there were 2,500 gallons of fuel on the train and not a single drop spilled during the derailment, which led to the train going about 10 feet off course but remaining upright.

Radio reports at the scene indicated that a second train was held in waiting behind the derailed train, and that angry passengers wanting to go home became rowdy and threatened the conductor.

Fitchburg police, firefighters and ambulance workers were staying on the scene until MBTA officials arrived, which occurred past press time. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

MBTA #2001, the "T Emblem on Wheels"

The MBTA's first brand new, direct ordered diesel locomotive to arrive since the F40s sits at Boston Engine Terminal.  Numbered 2001, it is the first of a large order to arrive.  Rumor has it it's too heavy for use over some bridges.  (Photo taken by D. Hutchinson during his lunch break, 11/17/13)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Recent New England Model Railroad Announcements



St. Lawrence & Atlantic Wants to Discontinue Freight Line That Connects Portland with Auburn Maine

(SOURCE:  Portland Press Herald - By Tom Bell

The freight railroad that operates on the historic line between Portland and Montreal wants to stop running trains to Portland – and serving its last customer east of Auburn.

The maker of B&M Baked Beans, which relies on trains for deliveries of dried beans from the west, would have to find another way to bring supplies to its plant on Portland’s waterfront.

Meanwhile, some proponents of passenger rail say that removing freight from the line could make it easier to re-establish passenger service between Portland and Auburn.

St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad President Mario Brault said the railroad is losing money on the line between Auburn and Portland because it must maintain the tracks and crossings to serve just one customer.

“For us to maintain operation for this property is a money-losing venture, and nowadays we can’t afford to do this,” he said Friday from his office in Montreal.

On Nov. 7, the railroad filed a petition with the federal Surface Transportation Board seeking permission to discontinue freight service on the 24-mile line between Portland’s East Deering neighborhood and the Auburn city line. Auburn would be the new terminus of the freight service.
A decision is expected before March.

Officials from Burnham & Morrill Co. did not return a phone message, and a spokesman for its parent company, B&G Foods Inc., said he did not know enough about the situation to comment on it.
Brault said he believes that B&M, which has been baking beans in Portland since the 1920s, will be able to have its dried beans trucked in. One possibility, he said, is for trains to haul the beans to Danville Junction in Auburn before trucks deliver them to B&M’s five-story, century-old factory on the shore of Casco Bay.

Trains are considered the least expensive way to move such heavy, low-value commodities long distances.

While the railroad is responsible for maintaining the tracks between Auburn and Portland, the state owns the right-of-way, which it bought for $6.8 million in two transactions, in 2006 and 2009.
The state will not oppose the railroad’s petition, said Nate Moulton, director of the industrial rail access program for the Maine Department of Transportation. “We believe the economic case they are making is legitimate,” he said.

Formerly the Grand Trunk Railway, the line between Portland and Montreal was once hugely important for Portland’s development.

When it was completed in 1853, it linked the city’s port with Montreal, 292 miles away, thus connecting Portland to western Canada and the U.S. Midwest.

Portland became the winter port for much of Canada. In 1916, when Portland’s trans-Atlantic trade peaked, grain elevators on the eastern waterfront loaded 37 million bushels of grain from western Canada onto steamships bound for Europe.

The line ran to India Street in downtown Portland until 1984, when a fire damaged a bridge over Back Cove. That made the B&M plant the end of the line.

Amtrak’s Downeaster serves Freeport and Brunswick on a different line, owned by Pan Am Railways, which also runs freight on a separate line that connects with the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad at Danville Junction.

Advocates for passenger rail service between Portland and Auburn view the St. Lawrence & Atlantic line as the best route.

Discontinuing freight service could help because it would cost less to establish passenger service on a line that didn’t also have to accommodate freight trains, said Tony Donovan, founder and president of the Maine Rail Transit Coalition.

Portland City Councilor David Marshall, who chairs the council’s Transportation, Sustainability and Energy Committee, said the tracks would have to be upgraded to support passenger trains, which run faster than freight trains.

“I don’t see this as being a step backwards,” he said.

Freight service is regulated by the federal government because railroads are monopolies. Discontinuing a freight service is known as “rail banking” because it allows a railroad to resume service if it can get more customers. If a railroad gets permission for discontinuation – which the St. Lawrence & Atlantic is seeking – the tracks are left in place.

Abandoning a line is more permanent, allowing the tracks to be removed.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad had three customers in East Deering and served them three times a week, according to Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports, an industry trade publication.

By late 2006, the only customer left was the B&M Baked Beans plant.

Traffic to the factory has since declined, and the factory now receives less than one carload per month, according to the trade publication.

Monday, October 14, 2013

NS Heritage Unit #1071 Comes to MA

Photo © Jonelle DeFelice
NS Heritage unit #1071, decorated in Jersey Central Lines livery, was on Pan Am Rail in Massachusettes during late September.  Here it is canned with empty autoracks at Willows (Ayer), MA on September 27, 2013.  Behind and to the right is Ford's unloading facility.

MBTA Announces Winner of Map Redesign Competition

(SOURCE:  Boston Magazine - Steve Annear)

The new MBTA map will be phased in with some tweaks. ‘Map 1,’ the winning design, took home top honors with more than 6,000 votes.

The riders have spoken, and the winner of the MBTA map redesign contest is a guy from Moscow.

After MBTA officials launched the  “New Perspectives MBTA Map Re-design competition” back in April, a competition where anyone could create and submit their own version of the system’s layout, more than 6,000 people picked what was referred to as “Map 1.” The T received more than 17,000 votes as passengers picked between the top six entries received by the transit agency.

The winning map was submitted by Mikheil Kvrivishvili, an interactive and graphic designer from Moscow, Russia, according to a statement from the MBTA.

The public can expect to start seeing new maps in stations as replacements are needed and as new stations open. The new maps will first be placed in the Orient Heights Blue Line station when it reopens early next year, and the new Assembly Square Orange Line station when it opens in late 2014, according to T officials.

Kvrivishvili’s map includes new features that provide customers with more information and more appealing aesthetics, including all surface Green Line stations shown, all SL2 stops shown, an area of the map showing the connections between the Silver Line and the downtown subway stations—enlarged to make it easier for customers to understand how the various Silver Line routes operate—and color-coordinated labels for all of the rapid transit lines.
Officials from the T said the winning map had a “more organized look” than the current version, resulting in a cleaner map where rapid transit lines stand out.

The transportation agency received an “overwhelming response” of submissions for the contest, despite some disgruntled attitudes toward asking people to construct a new version of the map for the T, free of charge. A panel of experts, including the MBTA, academics, urban planners, and mapping aficionados evaluated each of the entries against a set of criteria and the six finalists were released to public voting, but Kvrivishvili’s map received 6,837 votes to “definitely” be named the next system map.

Kvrivishvili’s version isn’t the final map redesign, however. Officials said in a statement Monday that  with “many more” stations in the pipeline, more modifications to the map will be made, such as the addition of the first phase of the Green Line Extension.

“We are entering an exciting period of growth and change in our system and I’m pleased that we were able to work with the public to help usher in some exciting new developments,” said MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott. “As we continue to grow and improve our system, the new map will be a great symbol of the changes and updates were working on as a whole.”


Starving MBTA Will Stunt Boston’s Growth

(SOURCE :  Boston Globe - Opinion/Editorial by Paul McMorrow 9/8/13)

BOSTON IS growing at a pace not seen in the better part of a century. The city now has more residents than it has at any point since the 1970s, and has arrived at the renaissance moment city leaders have been chasing for 60 years. There’s no reason the city can’t keep up with the growth it’s seeing now, as long as it can build places for all these new people to live. 

New homes equal new residents, and new residents equal growth. It sounds like a straightforward equation, but it isn’t. Boston doesn’t control its own development fate. As tough as many of Boston’s neighborhoods can be on developers, the biggest threat to the city’s growth lies with legislators on Beacon Hill. Lawmakers are starving the MBTA of funds the transit agency needs to support the Boston region’s growth. And as long as the T’s finances remain anemic, robust growth in Boston will be unsustainable. 

Boston has been meeting the boom by adding height downtown and filling in its outlying neighborhoods. And whether it’s at the huge new Filene’s tower downtown, or on Roxbury’s old Bartlett bus yard, or at Jackson Square and Forest Hills in Jamaica Plain, or at the old Boston Herald plant in the South End, or in the Seaport, the housing developments rising are oriented around the MBTA. It’s the same story in Cambridge, Somerville, Quincy, Medford, and Malden, where major new housing initiatives come tied to direct subway access, and in Worcester, Lowell, Haverhill, and Brockton, where Boston-bound commuter rail lines have helped sell major downtown projects. 

This is as it should be. Boston and its surrounding communities wouldn’t be able to physically accommodate the growth they’re seeing now if every new resident arrived in a Buick. The alternative needs some serious work, though: Boston-area development is pumping thousands of new riders into a system that doesn’t work as it is. 

Beacon Hill lawmakers plugged the T’s operating deficit earlier this year, essentially level-funding an inadequate level of service, and leaving a huge list of key capital projects unfunded. The region’s economic future hinges on a transit system that’s physically incapable of meeting the need. 

Beacon Hill has two choices, then. Lawmakers can realize that a down payment on growth around the urban core will pay dividends statewide, and put some real money into new subway cars, diesel engines, track work, and buses. Or, they can let the metro region do what Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Denver, and Portland, Ore., have done, and allow the Boston region to raise its own transit funds, from a regional payroll tax, new local sales taxes, or some other means. If the Boston area is going to keep growing, there isn’t a third option. State lawmakers need to get on board, or get out of the way.

Paul McMorrow is an associate editor at Commonwealth Magazine. His column appears regularly in the Globe.

CT Rail Mishap Takes $62M Chunk Out of State Economy


A recent 12-day disruption to train service between Stamford and New York City cost Connecticut's economy $62 million, according to an analysis released by the state's Department of Economic and Community Development.

First obtained by the Associated Press, the analysis by Mark Prisloe, an associate economist at DECD, concludes that the gross state product took a $62 million hit, that the service disruption resulted in lost productivity equivalent to 260 jobs, and that the state lost $2.5 million in revenue during the 12 days.

The analysis utilizes an estimation method developed by Regional Economic Models Inc.

Maine Rail Review Prompted by Quebec Train Explosion Finds Safety ‘Adequate’

(SOURCE - BDN Maine - By Nick Sambides Jr)

AUGUSTA, Maine – A state rail safety review Gov. Paul LePage ordered in response to a Canadian rail disaster that killed 47 people in July found no significant safety flaws in Maine’s 1,150-mile rail system, officials said Wednesday.

“It appears that existing rail safety practices are adequate, and that a tragedy like Lac-Megantic should not occur in Maine if the private railroad operators follow their own safety practices and those of the [Federal Railroad Administration],” the 16-page report states.

LePage ordered the report after a parked and unmanned Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway train hauling crude oil from the Midwest lost its brakes and derailed on a sharp curve in Lac-Megantic, Quebec on July 6. The train’s detonation destroyed the center of the town and spurred safety reviews on both sides of the border.

The Maine Department of Transportation’s report is the first to be released. LePage said he was pleased with its findings.

“When that horrible event in Lac-Megantic happened, we increased the focus on the safety of the rail system in Maine,” LePage said in a statement. “But I continue to be optimistic about the steady growth of this industry, which provides good jobs and contributes to the state’s economy.”

MaineDOT, which will closely monitors the investigation into the cause of the Lac-Megantic tragedy being conducted by Transport Canada, will continue to work closely with the Federal Railroad Administration to ensure that there are timely safety inspections of Maine’s rail infrastructure throughout the state, officials said. The FRA is also conducting a review and assisting with the Canadian investigation. 

Federal law governs rail activity. The FRA oversees enforcement of railroad safety regulations regarding tracks, grade crossings, mechanical and rail equipment, operating practices and procedures, and the movement of hazardous materials, officials said. Maine transportation officials assist them with this.

Prior to the Lac-Megantic tragedy, there were 1,021 FRA observations performed in 2013 from January through June on railroads in Maine. Since Lac-Megantic and LePage’s order, FRA and state inspectors made 581 additional inspections of the state’s five privately owned freight rail carriers, including MMA.

Inspectors found defects, but none that warranted rail line shutdowns, officials said. Maine Department of Transportation spokesman Ted Talbot said the defects ranged from excess foliage blocking signage to cracks in rail lines.

He did not have a count of the number or type of defects. That information, he said, is FRA data that his agency is not allowed to release. All concerns and defects observed were sent to the railroads and FRA for correction and follow up, he said.

Ed Burkhardt, president of MMA parent company Rail World Inc., did not immediately return a telephone message Wednesday. MMA President Robert Grindrod was in court in Canada on Tuesday, a representative from his office said.

Historic Rutland Railroad Coach Finds a New Home

(SOURCE: - By Ali Freeman)

RUTLAND, Vt. -  "It's pretty interesting to see them lift a train -- and to rotate it," said Rutland resident Donna Zeller.

Zeller was among dozens of spectators who gathered on West Street in Rutland Sunday to watch a crew move a 51-ton railcar. The sight of the 60-foot car being moved drew a crowd -- and so did the railcar itself.

"This is the original 1913 passenger rail car that came in and out of Rutland and throughout Vermont every  single day.  So passengers were really coming in and out on the train you see, and it's a once in a lifetime opportunity," said Tom Donahue with the Rutland Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The railcar was donated by the Vermont Rail System -- and thanks to $5,000 in donations from the Vermont Country Store and Omya, the train was restored and moved to its permanent location next to the Vermont Farmers Food Center.

"It's one of the most visible places in Rutland. It's a very well traveled road -- it's virtually two blocks away from downtown Rutland," said Food Center's Greg Cox.

Cox said every Saturday more than 2,000 people flock to the site for a farmers market, so it will be a great place for people to enjoy a piece of Rutland history. "We want to have this as a public treasure, open to the public as often as possible so people can see and really touch and feel what the train history of Rutland was," he said.

Cox said they will be building a shelter around the train and will be open for public viewing October 22nd. The railcar will be free for everyone to explore. Donahue says railroads are a significant part of Rutland's history -- both freight and passenger trains have been rolling through the city for over a century. "It is a very, very important -- not only part of our history -- but a part of our future. Rutland is still a major switching yard for the entire State of Vermont," he said.

And although some locals were just there for the heavy machinery, others say they can't wait for it to be stationed in the city permanently. "This is good. There are a lot of people that comes to the farmers market. Trains are really important to Rutland history, so having it here is really pretty cool,"  Zeller said.
Bringing back a 100-year-old railcar, to take the city into the future.


MM&A Sale Could be Completed in 2013

(via Newswire)

BANGOR, Maine – A bankruptcy court sale of the beleaguered Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway could be completed in December, The Canadian Press reports. The sale would hinge on the establishment of a process to award compensation to victims of the July 6 derailment in Lac-M├ęgantic, Quebec that killed 47 people and damaged much of the city's downtown.

Court filings indicate interest from eight potential buyers as of Friday, the report says. Seven had signed non-disclosure agreements to receive confidential data.

Under a proposed sale schedule, expressions of interest would be due to the court on Oct. 31 and a lead bidder would be chosen Nov. 15 to start the process. A formal auction would be held Dec. 13 with court approval in Maine and Quebec on Dec. 16.

Interested buyers would be able to bid on the road's entire assets or just those in the Canada and U.S., but must be prepared to continue rail service.

The railroad's total assets are estimated between $68 and $118 million dollars. The railroad's $25 million insurance policy would also supplement the sale price for the victims' fund.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

New MBTA Diesel Headed to P&WRR

Brand spankin' new MBTA diesel #2001 is reportedly on it's way to the Providence & Worcester railroad for final setup. Will we soon see it plying MBTA rails??

10/14 UPDATE:  The unit should be on P&W property as I type.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Micro-Trains Factory Weathered B&M Boxcar

Micro-Trains has released for mid-September an N scale factory weathered Boston & Maine boxcar.  Item number is 031-44-440, MSRP $26.70.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Maine, NH Denied Federal Grant for Long Bridge Rail Line

(SOURCE:  Seacoast Online - Deborah McDermott)

Maine and New Hampshire transportation officials learned this week that the states did not receive a $25 million federal grant to build a rail line as part of the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge replacement project.

Joyce Taylor, chief engineer for the Maine Department of Transportation, said Friday the states still intend to go forward with plans for the rail line, which would carry nuclear waste in and out of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

The Long Bridge is the No. 1 red-listed bridge in New Hampshire and is nearing the end of its useful life.

Taylor said, at this point, she doesn't know how the two states will make up the difference or whether those discussions will result in a delay in construction. Work is expected to begin on the $160 million replacement in fall 2014.

"We were very hopeful, but we knew going into it that Maine's had a lot of success with TIGER funding," she said, referring to the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant for which the states had applied. "This is pretty rare money, so we knew it wasn't for sure."

The federal Department of Transportation on Thursday awarded $474 million in the 2013 round of TIGER grants. Maine received $6 million for a breakwater replacement in Eastport, and New Hampshire received $1.4 million for improvements to 42 miles of the Northeast Rail Corridor between Rochester and Ossipee.

The two states sought a grant for the Long Bridge rail line because federal highway money cannot be used for rails. TIGER funding is one of the few means to fill the funding gap, state transportation officials have said.

According to MDOT spokesman Ted Talbot, Maine and New Hampshire transportation commissioners Dave Bernhardt and Chris Clement have already spoken about the issue, and more meetings are scheduled with top transportation officials as they "work to identify how we can close that gap."

The U.S. Navy has indicated it doesn't intend to budget money for the rail line. To date, no other use is made of the rail.

"We just have to regroup," Taylor said. "Both states need this bridge."

New Hampshire Northcoast RR TIGER Grant


A $1.4 million TIGER grant was awarded for the upgrade and repair of 42 miles of mainline between Rochester and Ossipee on the New Hampshire Northcoast Railroad.

"New Hampshire Northcoast Railroad from Rochester to Ossipee is an important economic link for Strafford and Carroll counties, connecting the region to the national freight network," New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan said. "Funds from the TIGER grant will help support critical repairs and upgrades in order to increase the weight limit of rail car shipments and the speeds that trains can travel, as well as to improve safety and reliability. These improvements will assist in our efforts to support growing businesses, attract new industry to the region and help build the foundation for a stronger, more innovative New Hampshire."

B&M East Buskirk NY Depot Demolished

While technically not part of New England, below is a photo taken by John "Cully" Cullinan of the old Boston & Maine East Buskirk NY depot. It was located next to the Guilford/PanAm Southern mainline and was once a whistle stop for westbound B&M passenger trains to Troy (and beyond). 

On 9/18/13, the depot was demolished by the new property owner. One more vintage railroad structure gone... 

Photo by John "Cully" Cullinan

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Pan Am Railways to Appeal OSHA Decision Over Whistleblower

NORTH BILLERICA, Mass. — Pan Am Railways Inc. intends to appeal a U.S. Department of Labor decision that the rail company violated the whistleblower rights of one of its Waterville employees, according to a Pan Am executive.

On Tuesday, the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration ordered Pan Am Railways to pay $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages to an injured worker. OSHA said in its release that Pan Am retaliated against the employee and accused him of lying when he filed a Federal Railroad Safety Act complaint.

Pan Am Executive Vice President Cynthia Scarano said on Wednesday that there were discrepancies in the employee’s report to OSHA from his hearing with the railroad company.

The employee, who currently works in a railyard in Waterville, filed a complaint with OSHA on Dec. 6, 2011, claiming that Pan Am had subjected him to disciplinary action for reporting an injury and unsafe working conditions, according to a statement released on Tuesday by OSHA. The Department of Labor does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.

After the filing on Dec. 6, 2011, a second disciplinary hearing was held on Jan. 4, 2012, where Pan Am Railways alleged the employee made false statements to OSHA and the railroad.

Scarano said after the incident on the railroad there was a hearing conducted by the railroad and disciplinary action was taken against the employee for the incident. She declined to comment on the incident itself.
After the first hearing, the employee then filed a complaint with OSHA stating that the discipline was a retaliation against him, said Scarano. The railroad then held a second hearing.

“Upon receiving that complaint, we felt as though the two testimonies conflicted,” she said. “We had another hearing to establish the testimony, but no action was taken after that hearing. OSHA’s decision is in response to our second hearing, not our first hearing.”

Scarano explained that, under the Railway Labor Act, the railroad must have a hearing to establish the facts of an incident or accident. The first hearing was testimony from the employee while the complaint submitted to OSHA was written by the employee’s attorney, she said.

A second hearing was held to clear up the discrepancies, she said.

“OSHA found that the employee engaged in protected activity when filing the complaint, and the railroad took retaliatory action by charging him with lying and by holding the second disciplinary hearing,” OSHA said in a statement released on Tuesday. “Such adverse action can intimidate employees from exercising their FRSA rights, even if the charge is later dropped, as it was in this case.”

“Employers must understand that their employees have a legal right to file a whistleblower complaint with OSHA without fear of retaliation,” said Marthe Kent, OSHA’s New England regional administrator. “Responding to an employee’s complaint with threats of disciplinary action is not acceptable and prohibited by law.”

Pan Am Railways was also ordered to take corrective action, OSHA said. It must expunge all files and computerized data systems of disciplinary actions and references to the hearing notice and January trial. Pan Am must also post notices about its FRSA whistleblower rights at all its Maine locations and internal website.

OSHA also ordered Pan Am to pay reasonable attorney’s fees and compensate the employee for wages and benefits lost due to attending the January disciplinary hearing, according to the release.

A timeline of when the appeal will be filed and how long the process could take was unknown, said Scarano.
The rail company stresses safety, she said.

“Safety is the No. 1 priority with our railroad,” Scarano said. “We take it very seriously.”


Pan Am Rail Fined $50,000 by Labor Department

WATERVILLE, Maine (AP) -- The U.S. Department of Labor has ordered a Massachusetts-based rail company to pay $50,000 in damages to a worker in a Maine rail yard who said he was subjected to disciplinary action for reporting an injury and unsafe working conditions.

The employee in Waterville filed an OSHA complaint in 2011 against Pan Am Railways in North Billerica saying he was subjected to a hearing and letter of reprimand.

In January 2012, Pan Am held a second hearing. The Labor Department says Pan Am shouldn't have held that hearing.

OSHA found the worker, whom it did not name, engaged in protected activity when filing the complaint, and the railroad took retaliatory action by charging him with lying.

Cynthia Scarano, the railroad's executive vice president, said Pan Am is appealing the decision.


Seashore Trolley Museum Needs Volunteers for Pumpkin Patch Days

The Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunk Maine needs volunteers for their annual Pumpkin Patch Trolley days.  Below is information provided by the museum for those interested in helping them out this year:

2013 PUMPKIN PATCH Dates are Sep 21 & 22, 28 & 29.
We still need volunteers from 9:30 to 3:30 on those days in a number of areas.
If it is your intention to volunteer, we need to know IN ADVANCE, by September 16th. (We will have sandwiches and sodas for volunteers, so we really need to understand who will be here, and when, for planning purposes.)

Please email Sally Bates by Sept 16th  with the following info:

1.       Your Name, email, phone #
2.       Which day(s) you are volunteering for
3.       If you are bringing a youth or a group of youths under 18, WE NEED TO KNOW HOW MANY AND please understand that you must supervise them; they cannot go off on their own to work
4.       Which areas you PREFER to work in. 
These are the areas where volunteers are STILL needed:
                                                              i.      Monitoring and guiding children’s games  NEED MORE PEOPLE ALL FOUR DAYS
                                                           ii.      Pumpkin painting area: supervising, cleaning work area, restocking paints NEED ONE PERSON ALL FOUR DAYS
                                                          iii.      Face painting  NEED ONE MORE PERSON FIRST WEEKEND; NEED TWO PEOPLE SECOND WEEKEND
                                                          iv.      Shipping –  Check in at pumpkin patch - add tags to crates, check-in pumpkins, and provide ticket stub  NEED MORE PEOPLE ALL FOUR DAYS
                                                            v.      Shipping – Movers/Loaders at pumpkin patch - Moving pumpkins by cart or carry from field to platform, load mail car  NEED MORE PEOPLE ALL FOUR DAYS
                                                         vi.      Shipping -  Handlers on Mail Car - Loading/unloading the mail car, organizing them on board  Need one more person for second weekend
                                                        vii.      Shipping - Return/Unloading at Visitor Center NEED MORE PEOPLE ALL FOUR DAYS                 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Fitchburg Railroad Station, Boston MA

Stereo view of the Fitchburg Railroad station, Boston MA. 
One of the towers was moved to Truro MA, on Cape Cod.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

MBTA Cape Cod Weekend Service Extended Six Weeks

(via the newsletter)

BOSTON, Mass. – Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority's popular CapeFlyer service between Boston and Cape Cod will run until October. The trains started operating on Memorial Day weekend and were originally slated to end on Labor Day weekend, but the popularity of the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday service has led to a six-week extension.

“Continuing Cape Rail service through the fall will be a boost for residents and tourists alike,” Gov. Deval Patrick says. Since the service began, it's attracted more than 11,000 customers, more than enough to cover the $165,000 annual operating cost of the train. Tickets cost $20 for one-way or $35 round trip between Boston's South Station and Hyannis, where passengers can transfer to buses or ferries. Operated in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, the CapeFlyer is the first regularly scheduled passenger train to run to Cape Cod in nearly 25 years.

“This service has been a huge hit with Cape visitors, and we are pleased to keep the trains running for the busy late summer and early fall weekends following Labor Day,” says Richard A. Davey, secretary and CEO of the state transportation department.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

State Ownership of MBTA Expected to Improve Service

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) announced Tuesday that the MBTA and its Commuter Rail contractor (MBCR) have completed the final steps in their acquisition of the CSX rail lines on which Worcester/Framingham commuter trains travel, opening up the line to increased service opportunities for passengers.

“By taking over the dispatching duties this week, the state can now give absolute priority to passenger service along the line,” said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Richard A. Davey.

Dispatching is among the final elements of the agreement between CSX and the Commonwealth, which took ownership of the railroad right-of-way last year.  “Controlling operations and maintenance along the line is a critically important part of our concerted effort to not only improve reliability, but also increase service between the state’s two largest cities,” said MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott.

This week’s transition provides for multiple benefits:

MBCR has direct control (dispatching) of all train and maintenance activities on the 45-mile long line. Dispatchers at South Station can, and will, give priority to Commuter Rail trains over freight trains when necessary.

There is greater flexibility in managing train movements to address any operational situations, such as medical emergencies and downed trees, that may develop.  In addition, Commuter Rail operators can now dispatch extra trains or extra engines without going through a cumbersome – and time consuming -- paperwork process first.

Commuter Rail dispatchers can now communicate directly with train crews.  Prior to this week, MBCR dispatchers would have to relay questions or directions through the CSX dispatchers in Selkirk, New York.  This communication was not immediate and many times would delay response to unscheduled events along the line.  It’s now easier to turn an ‘express’ train into a ‘local’ or a ‘local’ train into an ‘express’ train.

Heat-related speed restrictions will be significantly reduced.  The CSX Corporation imposed speed restrictions on all of its railroads if temperatures exceeded ninety degrees anywhere on the East Coast.  This corporate rule, which sometimes resulted in unnecessary delays along the Worcester/Framingham Line, no longer applies.  In addition, stepped-up maintenance work will result in improved track conditions, making rails less susceptible to ‘heat kinks.’

The MBTA remains on schedule to increase to 20 the number of roundtrips between Worcester and Boston this year, fulfilling a commitment made earlier by the Patrick Administration.

With the completion of the new and fully accessible Yawkey Station this fall, more trains will be able to service the station now that the MBTA has complete control over dispatching.

Since taking office in 2007, improving the state’s transportation infrastructure has been a key priority of the Patrick Administration. As part of the Massachusetts State Rail Plan, the Administration has strategically invested close to $1 billion in the state’s rail system through competitive grants, public funds and private sector capital. These investments, some ongoing, represent the most significant improvements in the Commonwealth’s rail system as a whole in decades.