Monday, February 25, 2013

Not All NH Trains Alike: A Freight Line's Sobering Perspective

SOURCE:  NH Union Leader

If its proponents have anything to say about it, the fix is already in on a so-called New Hampshire passenger rail "study'' to be done at great taxpayer expense.

With the exception of the clear-headed Chris Sununu, the Executive Council went along with Gov. Maggie Hassan last week in endorsing the study the House had earlier approved.

Passenger rail fans say the study is a big step forward in bringing passenger rail to southern New Hampshire. As for recent past studies, which debunked the idea? Well, they clearly were no good, say the train fans.

The only thing clear here is that rail fans won't be confused or deterred by the facts. The public, however, may want to take note of recent remarks by someone with some experience in railroading.

In a piece we ran last Friday, Pan Am Railways President David Fink was quite clear. Pan Am runs freight trains through New Hampshire and New England. It does so without taxpayer subsidy. Passenger service, on the other hand, will require huge amounts of taxpayer loot in New Hampshire, just as has been the case elsewhere. Fink cited Minnesota.

"There, a 40-mile rail line was upgraded at a cost of approximately $317 million for service into Minneapolis in 2009. Since the operation of the first train, ridership has consistently failed to meet projections, and the taxpayers of Minnesota are paying a subsidy of approximately $1 million per month to support a service that is failing to meet even muted expectations."

No problem with "muted" expectations here.

The passenger rail choir is loud and proud. It now includes some Nashua and Manchester businesses that insist they could attract more workers if they could be allowed to live in hip Boston and merely hop the train to work up here in the sticks.

This, they say, is the "big picture" that we need to look at. The train is an "investment."

If that is so, how about a rail tax on the willing? How about letting these people and businesses who say "build it and they will come" pay for it? Dave Fink and Pan Am pay the freight.

Let the passenger pushers follow that example.

Maine Railroad Crossing Liability Bill Blasted by Opponents

AUGUSTA -- A bill that would limit railroad liability for accidents at private crossings will not be approved as written, state legislators said Thursday after hearing from people opposed to the bill.

The bill, which would affect all private crossings along the state's 1,200 miles of railroad track, was criticized heavily during a public hearing of the state legislative judiciary committee.

"We understand there's a huge problem," Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, said in the midst of testimony from a crowd of about 30.

The bill will be rewritten before the committee revisits the issue, Valentino said.

Many landowners who spoke against the bill were concerned that it did nothing to protect them from recent efforts by Pan Am Railways to dramatically increase fees assessed for maintenance of the crossing.

Cynthia Scarano, from Pan Am, said the company was not opposed to the idea of a bill that regulates maintenance fees.

In February 2012, Belgrade residents who cross railroad tracks to reach their camps began receiving notices from Pan Am that increased the assessments for maintenance of their crossings. Some who never before paid a fee were asked to begin doing so, and others saw their fees increase, in one case from $130 to $1,470 annually.

For similar agreements on crossings that go over state-owned railways, owners pay maintenance fees of about $350, according to Nate Moulton, who testified on behalf of the Maine Department of Transportation.

Pan Am's 2012 letters also told residents that they would be responsible for carrying $10 million in liability insurance.

The resulting uproar eventually led to the bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Dennis Keschl, R-Belgrade.

Bill supporters said that if railroads had no liability at private crossings, they would have no reason to ask landowners to assume the liability and insurance costs.

Affected residents, however, testified that the bill did nothing to ensure that the railroad would follow through on its commitment. They also wanted the separate issue of maintenance fees to be addressed in the same piece of legislation, so Pan Am and other railroads' fee structures would be regulated.

Belgrade resident Ron Fluet said the bill, which was drafted after meetings involving railroad representatives, legislators and the transportation department, should have included protection for the residents from the beginning.

"The way we've been dealt with by them just does not seem honorable or credible," Fluet said.

Scarano, a Pan Am executive vice president, said the railroad has backed away from its initial efforts to collect maintenance fees and is open to a bill that would include maintenance fee regulations.

She said the initial round of letters were sent by the engineering department before administrators had screened them properly. The maintenance fees were assessed by a person who had been hired specifically for that job. A different person has since been chosen for that work, she said.

Keschl said he intended the bill to be a starting point that would bring the issue to the state's attention rather than a final solution to the problem. He testified that he favors including residents' concerns but said the issue is so complex that it will be difficult to legislate.

Moulton agreed, saying legislation would need to address about 20 types of existing agreements, some of which date to the 1860s.

Representatives of the Small Woodlands Association, the Maine Snowmobile Association and the Maine Trial Lawyers Association also testified in opposition to the bill, because it would have an unintended consequence that could threaten the liability status of landowners who allow public recreation on their land. Legislators agreed to modify the language to avoid that consequence.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Container Firm Eimskip to Offer Maine Service Via Pan Am Rail

(via newswire)

PORTLAND, Maine – Icelandic shipping company Eimskip has signed a contract with the Maine Port Authority to offer container service out of the International Marine Terminal in Portland. The company will add Portland, as a port of call at the end of March, replacing Norfolk, Va. Eimskip said the main objective of the change is to shorten transit time between North America and Europe and to offer biweekly port calls.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage met with representatives of Eimskip and Pan Am Railways in January to discuss the new container freight service. Eimskip will partner with Pan Am to offer access to North American markets. “We are very excited to be working so closely with Pan Am Railways through Portland, Maine,” Eimskip CEO Gylfi Sigfusson said. “Pan Am has been very helpful working with us to make this possible, and we believe that our work together is critical for success moving forward.”

Eimskip runs a network of 49 offices in 17 countries and operate 17 vessels. It has been sailing to the United States since 1917.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Custom HO Southern New England Railroad Boxcar

The South Shore Model Railway Club of Quincy Massachusetts has a new 2013 club car for sale with two different logos. 

These cars celebrate the 101st anniversary of the start of construction of  what has become known as “The Titanic Railroad”, the Southern New England Railroad. Owned by the Grand Trunk Railway of Montreal, the railroad was to connect the Grand Trunk-owned Central Vermont Railway at Palmer, MA with the Port of Providence, RI. The Grand Trunk’s president Charles Melville Hayes died aboard the Titanic, and interest in the line died with him.

The American made models represent boxcars that might have been, had the railroad been completed.

SHIPPING: $5.25 for one car; add $1 for each additional car east of Mississippi / $2 west of Mississippi.  (Massachusetts residents please add 6.25% sales tax before shipping costs.)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Upcoming New England Model Railroad Shows

27th Annual Model Railroad Show
Whitefield Lions Club
Augusta, ME

February 16th, 2013
10:00AM - 3:30PM

National Guard Armory
Western Avenue
Augusta, ME

Under 12...FREE

More Info:
Steven Laundrie
50 Fairview Ave.
Randolph, ME 04346

5th Annual Model Train Show
Wallingford, CT

April 7th, 2013
10:00AM - 3:00PM

Mark T. Sheehan High School
142 Hope Hill Road
Wallingford, CT

Seniors (60+)...$5.00
Ages 5-17...$1
Under 5...FREE

More Info:
Phyllis Drescher


Worcester Model Railroaders Annual Show & Open House
Auburn, MA

February 24th, 2013
10:00AM - 3:30PM

Auburn Elks
754 Southbridge St
Auburn, MA

Admission: $5.00
Children Under 12...FREE w/ adult

More Info:
Ralph A. Kimball, Jr.


Bay State Model Railroad Museum Spring Open House
Roslindale, MA

March 2nd & 3rd, 2013
11:00am to 4:00pm

Bay State Model Railroad Museum
760 South Street
Roslindale, MA 02131

Children (5-12)...$3.00
Children (Under 5)...FREE

More Info:


Vermont Rails Show
Champlain Valley Exposition
Essex Junction, Vermont

March 16, 2013
10:00AM – 4:00PM

$5.00 for adults
$1.00 for children between 6 and 12 years old
FREE for children under 6.
Special admission of $5.00 per family with an active military identification.

More Info:

Ron Piro
6 Peacham Lane
Essex Junction, VT 05452