Monday, July 29, 2013

More MBTA Fitchburg Line Weekend Disruption Coming

Lincoln — Joe Nolan, a community outreach official for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), confirmed Thursday that the MBTA will continue weekend commuter rail service from North Station to South Acton until Saturday, Sept. 7.

Originally, weekend commuter rail service was slated to be suspended beginning August 3 at several stops on the Fitchburg line, including Concord, West Concord and Lincoln, due to track work.

Beginning Sept. 7, weekend trains will only run from North Station to Brandeis/Roberts.

Weekend service has already been suspended along the Fitchburg line at stops including Fitchburg, North Leominster, Shirley, Littleton/Interstate 495 and South Acton, and Nolan said these stops, with the exception of South Acton, will remain closed on the weekends in August. The stretch includes a stop in Lincoln.

According to the MBTA, no weekend commuter rail service will be available in South Acton, Concord, West Concord, Lincoln, Kendall Green and at Brandeis/Roberts from Sept. 7 until Nov. 24.

No alternative transportation will be provided by the MBTA, according to the website.

Nolan said the MBTA doesn't expect the restoration of service in August to have an impact on the project's anticipated timeline.

"We were able to make efficiencies in the contract and the completion dates remain the same," he said.

The $200 million “Fitchburg Line Improvement Project” will improve reliability of service and reduce trip times for commuters. It is scheduled for completion by the end of 2015.

Nolan said the project includes construction of a second track between Acton and Ayer and two new stations in Littleton and South Acton.

In addition to these improvements, there will also be improvements to seven bridges and upgrades to the signal system and track improvements to allow maximum train speed to increase from 60 mph to 80 miles per hour.

MM&A Railroad Executive Puzzled by Police Raid

Ed Burkhardt, chairman of the board of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, says he doesn't know why police raided the company's Quebec offices on Thursday, insisting that the company has been cooperating with police and federal authorites.

"If they asked for what they wanted, we would have given it to them," he said in a telephone interview Friday.

Quebec's provincial police raided a Canadian office of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway in connection with its investigation into the July 6 train derailment that killed nearly 50 people.

There was no indication that the investigation has crossed the border into Maine, where Montreal, Maine & Atlantic is headquartered, or into Illinois, where its parent company, Rail World Inc., is located.

Burkhardt said he is unaware of any law enforcement agencies in the United States that may be involved in the Canadian investigation.

State and federal officials in Maine said they have not been contacted by Canadian authorities in connection with the criminal investigation by Quebec police.

Maine State Police spokesman Stephen McCausland said his agency has not been involved to date.

U.S. Attorney for Maine Thomas E. Delahanty II said his office has not been contacted by Canadian officials.

Provincial police released few details about the raid at the railroad's offices in Farnham, Quebec, about 40 miles east of Montreal, but police Inspector Michael Forget told reporters that officials were there to gather evidence.

"Our investigators were on scene ... to find different evidence that I can't comment on," he said. "This raid was done with the help of different partners. We'll be there until we have gathered all of the evidence that we need."

It's not clear what was seized. Photos taken during the raid show police carrying away unlabeled cardboard boxes.

No arrests have been made, and Forget did not say whether any additional searches would be conducted. He said employees of MM&A were cooperative.

The criminal investigation began shortly after the derailment and is separate from an investigation by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, which is looking into whether safety procedures were followed.

The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic train hauling 73 cars of crude oil was unmanned when it barreled into the small town of Lac-Megantic at more than 60 miles per hour, decimating several buildings and claiming at least 47 lives.

Cleanup is still going on and likely will continue for weeks. Colette Roy-Laroche, the mayor of Lac-Megantic, said Thursday that the railroad company has not paid the more than $4 million in cleanup costs. Roy-Laroche told Canadian media outlets that the town is considering legal action against Montreal, Maine & Atlantic.

The railroad company is also expected to face numerous lawsuits filed by survivors of those killed by the derailment. The first lawsuit was filed on Monday in Cook County, Ill., where Montreal, Maine & Atlantic's parent company is based.

The complainants have argued that the railway and its CEO, Ed Burkhardt, neglected safety rules in order to cut costs.

Burkhardt has laid blame on train engineer Tom Harding, alleging he "did something wrong" on the night of the crash.

Because the derailment occurred on rail lines owned by the Maine-based company, U.S. Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree have called on federal officials to conduct a thorough inspection of the tracks. Federal Railroad Adminstration officials have been in Maine for the past week doing just that.

Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority share owner of the Portland Press Herald.

Michaud and Pingree have met with both the Federal Railroad Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, but neither agency has authority to bring criminal charges.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Pan Am Violating Law by Not Reporting Oil Volume in Maine

(SOURCE:  Portland Press Herald, Associated Press)

PORTLAND  — One of the two rail lines over which oil is shipped through Maine is behind on reporting the volume of oil shipments to the Department of Environmental Protection.

Pan Am Railway tanker cars that carry liquefied propane are parked at the NGL Supply Terminal on West Commercial Street in Portland on Monday, July 8, 2013. DEP spokesman Jessamine Logan said Wednesday that Pan-Am Railways failed to report oil volume for April and May as required by law. The monthly reports must be submitted within 30 days.

DEP spokesman Jessamine Logan said Wednesday that Pan-Am Railways failed to report oil volume for April and May as required by law. The monthly reports must be submitted within 30 days.

The Portland Phoenix first reported on the overdue documents Wednesday.

Logan told The Associated press said the state grants leeway for vacations and illnesses that cause delays. But the April report is now more than a month overdue.

A spokeswoman for Massachusetts-based Pan-Am didn't immediately return a call.

Logan says Pan-Am and Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway are the only rail companies that regularly ship oil through Maine.

Railway at Center of Tragedy Struggling Financially

(SOURCE: Kennebec Journal, By Tom Bell

The Maine company that owns the train that derailed and exploded in the center of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on July 6 has lost much of its freight business and is struggling financially.

Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway laid off 79 of its 179 employees Tuesday, with its work force in Maine bearing the brunt of the layoffs.

The train disaster, which killed 50 people just 10 miles from Maine's western border, has severed the company's rail lines in Maine from the rest of its network in Quebec and from national railroads that cross the continent.

Although Montreal, Maine & Atlantic's operations in Vermont are unchanged, the railroad can no longer carry oil tankers east through Maine to a refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick. And it can no longer offer manufacturers east of Lac-Megantic a rail connection to the west.

"We have lost a lot of business," said Ed Burkhardt, chairman of the railroad and president of its parent company, Chicago-based Rail World Inc. "We don't need to run many trains. Revenues are way down."

He said the layoffs are a temporary measure and the railway hopes to hire the workers back once revenues rebound. "We are doing what any company would do," he said.

Burkhardt said he is unaware of the details of the layoffs and does not know how many workers were idled in Maine.

Montreal, Maine & Atlantic, a relatively small company based in Hermon, owns 512 miles of rail. It operates in Maine and Quebec and serves customers in Vermont just south of the Quebec border.

Only 19 of the railway's 80 workers in Quebec have been laid off, according to the provincial branch of the United Steel Workers Union. Two of those employees are managers.

That means 60 of the company's employees in Maine -- more than half -- have been laid off.

The railroad's problems pose a logistical challenge for its customers in Maine that need to get products to market and receive supplies.

Everett Deschenes, manager of fiber and logistics at Old Town Fuel & Fiber, said the railway can still deliver wood chips to his company's plant from suppliers in northern Maine, but the plant is now using primarily Pan Am Railways to ship its product, pulp, to customers to the west. The plant has begun using trucks for shorter hauls.

Deschenes said Pan Am Railways is offering fair rates and not taking advantage of its new rail monopoly.

Cynthia Scarano, executive vice president of Pan Am Railways, said the normally competitive railroads are now cooperating to re-route freight and make sure commerce is not interrupted.

"Everybody is working together as a group to make sure things keep moving through the state," she said.

Pan Am Railways, which has 2,000 miles of rail in New England, offers connections to the west through Albany, N.Y.

Deschenes said it's upsetting to see Maine people lose their jobs.

"I am very saddened," he said. "My boys said they were good people to work with."

The train that exploded in Lac-Megantic was carrying 72 tanker cars filled with crude oil destined for a huge refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick, owned by Irving Oil Ltd.

While the route through Lac-Megantic was an important line for the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, equal amounts of western crude are being shipped from the west through southern Maine via Pan Am Railways and on Canadian National Railway tracks, according to CBC News.

Oil deliveries through southern Maine on Pan Am Railways are now expected to increase.

The St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railway, which runs trains between Portland and Ste. Rosalie, Quebec, where it connects with the Canadian National Railway, has offered help re-routing Montreal, Maine & Atlantic trains, said St. Lawrence & Atlantic's president, Mario Brault.

One of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic's biggest customers is Lac-Megantic's largest employer, Tafisa Canada Inc., which manufactures particle board and thermofused melamine panels.

The factory, which employs more than 300 people, ships 2,500 train cars of particle board annually. It depends on Montreal, Maine & Atlantic to get its products to markets in the west. That route is now cut off because the factory is east of the crash site, which remains closed while crews work to recover bodies and remove tankers. The area is also considered a crime scene.

Burkhardt, the railroad's chairman, said it's uncertain how long the area will remain closed and when train traffic can resume.

He said Tasifa Canada and his staff are developing a plan to truck products a short distance, then load them onto rail cars west of the disaster site.

Burkhardt said he appreciates the offers of help from other railroads.

"It's a strange business," he said. "We are enemies one day and friends the next. We fight on one thing and cooperate on another."

New England Model Railroad Items at 2013 National Train Show

(Information from the Model Railroader magazine website)

New England related model railroad items on display at the 2013 National Train Show, July 19-21:  

Alco S-2 diesel locomotive:  Boston & Maine (black, red, and white in two numbers); Upgraded tooling, five-pole skew-wound motor with dual flywheels, and directional light-emitting diode headlights. Direct-current model, $149.95; with ESU LokSound Digital Command Control sound decoder, $259.95. Fourth quarter 2013. Ready-to-run. Master Line. Atlas Model Railroad Co., 908-687-0880,

Electro-Motive Division GP7 diesel locomotive:  Boston & Maine (McGinnis scheme. SoundTraxx Sound Value decoder (prime mover, three air horns, and bell), acetal handrails, and E-Z Mate Mark II knuckle couplers. $189. October 2013. Sound Value line. Ready-to-run. Bachmann, 215-533-1600,

Electro-Motive Division SW1 diesel locomotive: Boston & Maine.  Five-pole skew-wound motor with dual flywheels, directional lighting, and all-wheel drive and electrical pickup. $99.98. Ready-to-run. WalthersMainline. Wm. K. Walthers Inc., 414-527-0770,

Alco S-2 diesel locomotive: Boston & Maine (black, red, and white in two numbers. Die-cast metal hood and chassis, prototype-specific radiator shutters, and directional light-emitting diode headlights. Direct-current model, $119.95; with ESU LokSound Digital Command Control sound decoder, $239.95. Fourth quarter 2013. Ready-to-run. Atlas Model Railroad Co., 908-687-0880,

Alco RS-3, diesel locomotive:   Vermont Railway. Two road numbers per scheme. Directional lighting, Scale Speed motor, and blackened metal wheelsets. $119.95.Third quarter 2013. Ready-to-run. Master Line. Atlas Model Railroad Co., 908-687-0880,

Alco PA-1 diesel locomotive:  New York, New Haven & Hartford.  Paragon2 sound and operation system, plastic shell with die-cast metal chassis, and can motor with dual flywheels. PA-1 and PB-1 sets, $249.99; single PA-1 or PB-1, $199.99 each. October 2013. Ready-to-run. Broadway Limited Imports, 386-673-8900,

Chesapeake & Ohio-style cupola caboose:  Boston & Maine,  Grand Trunk Western, Providence & Worcester (one number). Two car numbers each except as noted. Weighted and detailed underframe, window glazing, and Accumate knuckle couplers. $18.95. Ready-to-run. Trainman series. Atlas Model Railroad Co., 908-687-0880,

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

MM&A Oil Train Tank Cars of Flawed Design

An article by David Crary of the AP/Kennebec Journal regarding the runaway MM&A oil train that crashed in Canada had a rather interesting paragraph:

The tanker cars involved in the crash were the DOT-111 type — a staple of the American freight rail fleet whose flaws have been noted as far back as a 1991 safety study. Experts say the DOT-111's steel shell is so thin that it is prone to puncture in an accident, potentially spilling cargo that can catch fire, explode or contaminate the environment.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Boston, Hartford & Erie Bond

Runaway MM&A Oil Train Explodes Near Maine Border; Quebec Town Center in Ruins

LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec — A driverless freight train carrying tankers of crude oil derailed at high speed and exploded into a giant fireball in the middle of a small Canadian town early Saturday, destroying dozens of buildings, killing at least three people and leaving an unknown number of people missing.

The disaster occurred shortly after 1 a.m. when the runaway train with 73 cars sped into Lac-Megantic, a picturesque lakeside town of about 6,000 people near the border with Maine, and came off the rails. Witnesses said the town center was crowded at the time.

Four of the pressurized tank cars caught fire and blew up in a fireball that mushroomed many hundreds of feet up into the air. The train was transporting crude oil from North Dakota to eastern Canada, likely to New Brunswick, news that is bound to revive questions about the safest way to carry the oil needed to service North America’s economies…………………………..

An official from Montreal, Maine & Atlantic, the firm that operated the train, said the train had been parked some distance away from the town and no one was on board when it derailed.

“We’re not sure what happened, but the engineer did everything by the book. He had parked the train and was waiting for his relief … somehow, the train got released,” vice president of marketing Joseph R. McGonigle told Reuters………………… READ WHOLE ARTICLE