Thursday, January 30, 2014

Rapido Announces N Scale Osgood Bradley Coaches for B&M, New Haven, BAR

Rapido Trains has announced Osgood Bradley Lightweight 10-Window coaches in N scale.  They will be decorated for the Boston & Maine, New Haven, and Bangor & Aroostook railroads. Models are due for late 2014 release.  More info can be found HERE. 

True Line Trains Releases MBTA 010 & 011 in HO Scale

True Line Trains has released an HO scale model of MBTA MP36PH-3C diesels #010 & 011, in DC (MSRP $189) or DCC with sound (MSRP $329).  You don't see many factory decorated MBTA models!  Info can be found on their WEBSITE.  


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Stereoview - Brattleboro VT Railroad Yard

This is a vintage stereoview of the rail yards at Brattleboro VT

MBTA’s Brand New Rail Cars Heading For a Retooling

A long-awaited fleet of MBTA commuter rail cars, delivered 2½ years late by the South Korean manufacturer, is now so plagued by mechanical, engineering, and software problems that it has to be shipped to a facility in Rhode Island to be fitted with new parts.

Even as a T spokesman described the problems with the cars as “standard operating procedure,” rail workers and their union representatives said the situation is unprecedented, and federal officials acknowledged they are “monitor[ing] the situation closely.”

“In my 40-some years of railroad experience, we’ve never seen problems like this,” said Tom Murray, president of the local chapter of the Transport Workers Union of America.

But Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officials say the problems — including issues with doors, air-conditioning, brakes, and signal software — are a normal part of introducing new, more technologically advanced train cars into a transit system.

“Railroad coaches are not like new autos that a buyer drives off the lot,” MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said. “Modifications are made as necessary. . . . This is standard operating procedure throughout the transit industry.”

Harry King — spokesman for Hyundai Rotem, the South Korea-based contractor that delivered the new cars 2½ years behind schedule — said the company is working to fix the problems, investing significant resources and dispatching a full-time contingent of staff to the T’s Somerville maintenance facility to solve the problems.

“These problems have either been resolved or soon will be,” he said.

The MBTA’s $190 million purchase of 75 commuter rail cars from Hyundai Rotem USA was controversial from the start, as T officials in 2008 insisted that the lowest bidder would be able to deliver good-quality cars on time, even though the company had yet to open an assembly plant in the United States.

After T officials’ consternation over what they called “chronically unsatisfactory performance,” threats to cancel the order, and a visit to executives in South Korea, the first cars arrived last spring.

Since then, T officials have insisted publicly that the cars were delivered in fine working order, pleasing customers with nice interiors and comfortable seats. At least 56 of the cars have been delivered, with the rest set to arrive by this summer, and T officials say 32 of the cars have been put into service.

At a Massachusetts Department of Transportation board meeting in November, MBTA general manager Beverly A. Scott said she gave the cars “a 7.5 or an 8” out of 10 but said the problems — a minor toilet issue, for example — were few and fairly mundane.

“Probably the stuff wouldn’t be noticeable to anybody but us,” Scott told the MassDOT board of directors.

But employees who work on the commuter rail cars say they are rife with problems, ranging from faulty heating and air-conditioning units and door motors to poorly constructed undercarriages and problems with brakes and the software that controls signal communication in the cab of the train. Some of the problems have surfaced in tests, and some continued to exist after the cars were put in service, MBTA officials said.

The problems have required the attention of at least 15 Hyundai Rotem staff members who have been working on the cars full time at a T maintenance facility in Somerville — not an unusual part of the process of introducing new cars, transit experts say. But what is unusual is that the cars, even those that have already begun carrying passengers, will have to be taken out of service in coming months to receive new parts at a facility in Rhode Island.

Some of the mechanical problems have caused enough concern that the head of the local chapter of the Transport Workers Union sent a letter in December to state Transportation Secretary Richard A. Davey requesting a meeting to alert officials of “many operational problems [that] have been encountered with this equipment.”

Some of the problems center on the control cars, which are designed to be driven by engineers at the front of the train. The cars cannot be used on rail lines owned by Amtrak, which run south of Boston, because the car’s software is incompatible with the signal system. In some instances, signals inside the train indicate that the engineer has the OK to proceed when outside signals indicate that the train must wait. In those cases, engineers noticed that the signals did not match up and reported the problem.

As a result of the signal issues, on much of the commuter rail system, the new Hyundai Rotem control cars are being used behind the locomotive to carry passengers, rather than lead the train, the MBTA says.

“We’re of the opinion that these cars are really not to par,” Joe English, general chairman of the local Association of Railroad and Airline Supervisors, said in an interview. “These are problems that should have been straightened out before.”

The problems have caught the attention of the Federal Railroad Administration, and officials say they are keeping an eye on the T’s handling of the new cars.

“We are aware that concerns have been raised about the new Hyundai Rotem cars being introduced to the MTBA’s commuter rail operations,” Dickson Mercer, spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration, said in a statement. “We are working very closely with the equipment manufacturer, [the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co.], and the MBTA to resolve the issue and will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

In a phone call from the Hyundai Rotem assembly plant in Philadelphia, where he visits monthly to check the progress of the remainder of the T’s order, MBTA chief financial officer Jonathan R. Davis said he is aware of the mechanical problems, but is confident they will be resolved.

“I’m encouraged that Hyundai has identified the issues that need to be addressed,” he said Friday. “I don’t think that this is anything abnormal for any transit authority that is receiving new cars.”

The terms of the T’s contract with Hyundai Rotem say that the company is responsible for paying for all repairs and maintenance work in the first two years after the cars officially enter the T’s fleet. Though the T has the option of sending the cars back if they are deemed unfit for use on the rails, Davis said he has no intention of taking that step.

King, of Hyundai Rotem, said assertions that these cars are more problematic than others introduced to the T’s fleet in the past are because commuter rail cars, in general, contain more complicated technology.

“These modern commuter rail cars are complex and exacting machines,” King said.

Commuter rail workers acknowledge that the new cars are much more technologically advanced, but said that did not explain all of the problems they have seen.

“When a car is 35 years old, you’re going to have these kinds of things break down,” said a commuter rail electrical worker who asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to speak publicly. “You should not have that kind of issue on something that is 35 days old.”

Not everyone agrees that the issues are as serious as the rail workers say.

Alan G. Macdonald, a member of the MassDOT board, said the complaints from workers may be exaggerated.

“My understanding is that there is some work that still needs to be done, but it might not be unexpected that there will be problems with the cars,” Macdonald said. “I don’t believe they’re beyond being taken care of.”

But Jonathan H. Klein, a former chief mechanical officer at Amtrak and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, said taking the cars out of service to replace major parts at an out-of-state facility is a different order of magnitude.

“If cars have to be taken wholesale back to another factory site for reworking, it is a definite sign that the manufacturer has lost control of its quality, its configuration and safety management, and its delivery organization, or all three,” Klein said.

“The T made an obvious mistake in awarding a contract to Rotem,” Klein said.

In Philadelphia, officials at the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority have experienced similar problems with the 120 cars they received from Hyundai Rotem between 2009 to 2013. Six issues were flagged for unacceptable performance, spokeswoman Jerri Williams said: doors, the heating and air-conditioning system, propulsion, brakes, signals in control cars, and auxiliary power systems.

Now after extensive work with Hyundai Rotem, Williams said, almost all the issues have been resolved, except for the doors. On some trains, doors that malfunction must be locked, and passengers are told to enter and exit through adjacent cars.

“The only thing that’s left is the doors, and there continue to be efforts put in to do a design retrofit,” Williams said. “But we’re still not satisfied with them.”

Monday, January 27, 2014

Gov Patrick Proposes $12 Billion in Transportation Improvements

(SOURCE:  TRAINS Newswire)

BOSTON – Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has proposed a package of $12 billion in transportation improvements with strong investment levels for rail and transit, the National Association of Railroad Passenger reports.

“We invest in our transportation infrastructure because roads, rail and bridges create a foundation that supports private sector investment and expanded opportunity for all our residents,” Patrick says.

Rail and transit projects outlined in the plan include:

  • $1.3 billion to complete the Green Line Subway Extension, providing full service to Somerville and Medford by 2020.
  • $835 million to begin the $1.3 billion replacement program of 43-year old Red line vehicles and 31-year old Orange Line vehicles, as well as improvements to tracks, signals and systems.
  • $254 million for South Coast commuter rail to Fall River and New Bedford via Stoughton. It includes early action improvements to ties, signal systems and bridges, and beginning preliminary engineering for the project.
  • $252 million for implementation of diesel multiple unit service on the Fairmount Line and expansion of the Silver Line to Chelsea.
  • $34 million for the Housatonic Railroad, including the rehabilitation of track and signals.
  • $31 million to complete track and signal projects necessary to restore permanent, seasonal Cape Flyer passenger service to Cape Cod.

Bankruptcy Court Confirms Railroad Acquisition Holdings as MM&A Buyer

(SOURCE:  TRAINS Newswire)

BANGOR, Maine – A U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Maine has approved the sale of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic assets to Railroad Acquisition Holdings for $16.85 million. Railroad Acquisition Holdings is an affiliate of New York-based Fortress Investment Group, owner of the Florida East Coast.

“We think this is a very good sale for the state of Maine, for the region, for the railroad. Fortress is a proven operator. They have access to capital and I think this will ultimately be a very good thing for the state and for the railroad,” Robert Keach, the railroad company’s trustee in its bankruptcy proceedings, tells the Bangor Daily News.

RailWorld holdings and other investors had purchased the property from the bankrupt Iron Road Railways in October 2002 for $50 million. There were no competing bids at that time.

Concurrent with the railroad sale, Great Northern Paper announced that it would halt production at its East Millinocket mill for up to 16 weeks while the company creates a new business plan and retools production, according to the Daily News. Great Northern filed for bankruptcy on the same day the MM&A was created, shutting down for an extended period. At the time it constituted 25 percent of the short line's traffic.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

French Firm Keolis Wins MBTA Commuter Rail Contract

SOURCE:  Boston Globe - Martine Powers

Keolis — a French transit company with experience running rail systems in the United States, Europe, and Australia — will take over operation of the Massachusetts commuter rail system starting July 1, the state Department of Transportation’s board of directors decided Wednesday.

The company won the state’s largest operating contract in history with a bid that was 6 percent lower than that of the current operator, the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co., which has operated the system since 2003.

MBTA general manager Beverly A. Scott, making one of the highest-profile decisions since she took over the T a little more than a year ago, said the agency will save $254 million over the term of a full 12-year contract.

“Keolis’s proposal presents the best combination of technical quality and price, and is more advantageous to the MBTA,” Scott said.

For the 127,000 people who ride the commuter rail’s 14 lines each day, much will remain the same. The new contractor will have no control over fare prices, and most of the trains and other equipment will remain the same. The new company will, however, face more frequent inspections of its trains and stiffer penalties for poor service.

Keolis officials now must mobilize quickly to take over the system in just over five months. By Feb. 1, the company’s Massachusetts operation, Keolis Commuter Services, is expected to have a management team in place, Scott said.

Keolis’s chief executive of international operations, Bernard Tabary, who flew from Paris Tuesday for the vote, said the company is prepared for a quick takeover.

“We’ve been working on this bid for over two years, and that includes mobilization,” Tabary said. “It’s going to be a lot of work, but it’s positive work, and we look forward to it.”

On Tuesday, state officials revealed the price tag for the contract: $2.68 billion over eight years, with the possibility for two two-year extensions that could bring the total price to $4.3 billion.

Keolis will be paid $304 million in the first year of its contract. This year, Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad was paid $316 million for base operations.

Much of the difference between the two bids came down to profits, Scott said. Keolis’s estimated profit margin was 77 percent lower than its rival, achieved in part with a promise to pay lower salaries for administrative positions.

The Massachusetts contract will be the biggest US system for Keolis. Some transit specialists suggested that Keolis may be willing to operate the system with a smaller profit margin in order to have a major American commuter rail system in its portfolio, a feather in its cap that could open doors to other high-profile transit contracts in North America. Keolis currently runs the Virginia Railway Express, a commuter rail in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., with 32 trains and 21,000 passengers daily.

Scott’s recommendation of Keolis as the winning bidder was unanimously approved by the MassDOT’s board of directors. Scott said the French company scored well on a number of criteria.
Aside from the pricetag, in other measures considered during the procurement process, Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad received an overall rating of acceptable, while Keolis received a higher overall rating of good. For example, Keolis has a better record on engineering services, management, and information technology, according to the T. But Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad has a better record of contracting with minority businesses.

The T will also save money on the new commuter rail contract because potential rewards that would be paid to the operator for meeting on-time performance — a controversial practice during Mass. Bay’s tenure — were removed from this contract. Scott also told the board that the contract contains more potential penalties for poor service, $12 million per year versus $3 million per year.

“Bottom line, in the new contract these incentives and offsets have been eliminated,” Scott said.
The new contract also increases daily inspection requirements for the trains, puts in place a remedial action plan if Keolis fails to meet expectations, and allows the T to relieve Keolis of certain duties if they are not performed well, for example, snow removal. If that were to happen, Keolis would not be paid for that work.

Before making its decision in a public meeting Wednesday, the MassDOT board listened to two hours of public comments.

The Rev. Bruce H. Wall, who had lambasted Keolis last month for allegations of discriminatory practices, made an about-face, saying that after talks with the company, he “wholeheartedly” endorsed Keolis.

James O’Leary, chairman of Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad and a former general manager of the T, told the board that he believed the procurement process had failed to conduct a thorough vetting of the companies, a move that was particularly galling, he said, after 10 years of partnership with the T.

“After all that, we had a sum total of a 45-minute interview,” he continued. “We can only conclude that our proposal was never seriously considered or understood.”

Ronald J. Hartman, chief executive of the rail division at Veolia Transportation, Mass. Bay’s largest shareholder, warned that the T did not know enough about the differences between the two companies. “My only question is, Do you really know what you’re getting with the proposal you’re about to review?” Hartman said. “And do you know what you would have gotten from our proposal, had you had that kind of in-depth discussion and evaluation?”

Scott countered that the T had conducted several written exchanges with each bidder and that the MBTA responded to more than 1,000 questions from both.

Though the MassDOT board voted unanimously in favor of Keolis, their questions seemed to indicate that it was not without some reservations.

Board chairman John R. Jenkins said he needed to know that the T had a plan in place to quickly usher in a new contractor, a process that will cost the T $9 million. Jenkins said Governor Deval Patrick had expressed concern that there might be interruptions in service for commuters.

“They’re going to have to get their feet on the gas pedal,” Jenkins said after the meeting. “They’ve got to keep this thing moving in order to make sure that we do get there on time.”

Janice Loux, another member of the board and a union organizer, said she was also concerned that the smaller pricetag for Keolis’s services could have an effect on union workers’ next contracts.

“The proposed savings are remarkable, just remarkable!” said Loux, with a touch of sarcasm in her voice. “Has the general manager verified that the savings are true and achievable? What are the impacts to the size of the workforce, labor agreements, and benefit packages?”

She continued, “I’m looking forward to seeing this workforce taken care of.”

Representatives of various commuter rail unions — including former state senator Steven A. Tolman, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO — expressed similar concerns, saying they were dismayed to learn of the change. 

Daniel N. Tavares of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said he doubted Keolis would be able to offer improved service while receiving millions less than its predecessor.

“There’s training, there’s a learning curve; a new company coming in just doesn’t sound responsible,” Tavares said. 

Andrew Mannion, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said he was concerned that the deal would go the same way as the T’s much-criticized contract with Bay State Transit in 1999, a maintenance contract that was given to the lowest bidder, only to blow up when the company proved incapable. 

Mannion said union officials would not accept lower salaries for members. “Under no scenario would we agree to terms that does not fairly compensate our members,” Mannion said.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

MA Transportation Panel Schedules Vote on New Commuter Rail Operator

Mass. transportation panel schedules vote on new commuter rail operator - Daily Journal

2014 Amherst Railway Society Railroad Hobby Show 1/25-26/14

2014 Amherst Railway Society Railroad Hobby Show

Eastern States Exposition Fairgrounds
West Springfield, MA

Saturday January 25, 2014: 9:00am - 5:00pm
Sunday January 26, 2014: 10:00am - 5:00pm 

Maine Eastern Railroad to Host MEC 470 Fundraiser 4/12/14

The Maine Eastern Railroad has partnered with the non-profit New England Steam
Corporation to offer a public Touch-a-Train open house event on Saturday, April 12,
2014, as a fundraiser for the restoration of Maine Central steam locomotive #470.

Held at the Maine Eastern’s roundhouse in Rockland, ME, the Touch-a-Train event will
be a rare opportunity for the public to visit a working railroad maintenance facility. The
event is family-oriented, and children are encouraged to come and enjoy the sights and
sounds of American railroading. Visitors may climb aboard and explore the cab and
engine room of a -vintage FL9 diesel locomotive (built in 1957), recline in the comfortable
seats of a 1940s Maine Eastern passenger coach, and learn about railroad snow removal
operations while standing inside the Maine Eastern’s 1946-vintage snowplow.

Visitors will also be able to explore the Maine Eastern’s operating turntable, built in 1921,
and the 1922-vintage wooden roundhouse. The railroad’s dining car will also be on site,
selling beverages and snacks as visitors walk through.

The event coincides with the Maine Rail Group’s first annual Maine Rail Fair, being held
on the same date at the nearby Owls Head Transportation Museum. Visitors are
encouraged to visit both events and experience all aspects of Maine railroading.

Admission to the Touch-a-Train event will be free. However, the non-profit New England
Steam Corporation will be collecting donations towards the restoration of Maine Central
steam locomotive #470. The locomotive, currently on display in Waterville, ME, will be
operated on the Downeast Scenic Railroad after restoration is completed and will have
the opportunity to operate on the Maine Eastern, as well. Any and all donations, no
matter how small, can make a difference in the speed and success of #470’s restoration.

For more information about the New England Steam Corporation and its mission to
revitalize #470 and steam railroading in Maine, please visit
or contact the organization at

Sunday, January 5, 2014

POSTCARD VIEW: Bangor & Aroostook #203 at St. Francis, Maine 1910

Vintage postcard view of a Bangor & Aroostook steam train at St. Francis Maine.  The engine is #203, built in 1893 by Manchester Locomotive Works.  The engine was rebuilt in 1921, and finally scrapped in 1930.