Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Foot Traffic to Ayer's MBTA Station Detoured by Property Owner's Fence

(SOURCE:  Lowell Sun)

AYER -- Riders on the commuter rail are finding a fence blocking their usual path to the rail station, after private-property owner Phil Berry erected the fence along the lines of his property in a surprise move on Sunday.

The fence, which runs along the track and makes a right angle along Archer's Mobil, redirects people to walk around the lot behind Carlin's Tavern and by the gas station to get on the commuter-rail platform.

The town did not receive official notification, according to a public advisory sent to Nashoba Publishing today by Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand.

"This appears to be a property dispute between Mr. Phil Berry and the MBTA," the statement reads. "The town of Ayer does not own any of the property in dispute."

But MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo clarified that there is no property dispute between the MBTA and Berry, who told the MBTA he has been trying to work with the town and the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority since last year, Pesaturo said.

"The MBTA will work with the town of Ayer, the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority and the property owner to identify and implement a resolution," Pesaturo said in an email.

Pesaturo said the MBTA inherited the Boston & Maine railroad right-of-way decades ago, including "deeded rights" that allow the public to walk over the property to get to the train.

Commuters can typically access the train by walking across the lot Berry owns behind Carlin's Tavern, but the newly constructed fence forces passengers to walk on the outskirts of his property along the gas station.

The town is in consultation with the MBTA and MART over the matter, according to the statement from Pontbriand, but it has no legal jurisdiction over Berry's property or the platform and property owned by the MBTA.

"The town of Ayer will respond to public safety/health emergencies at the train-station platform only," the statement reads.

When reached by phone on Sunday, Berry offered no comment and hung up.

Bruno Fisher, deputy administrator for MART, said the MBTA, MART and the town have been working with Berry on establishing safe access to the station for about a year.

The town received $3.2 million in October for the expansion of the Rail Trail parking lot, but Fisher said one stipulation requires clear access to the station.

Fisher said MART does not have a preference on station access, but is leaving it up to the wishes of the MBTA and the Federal Transit Administration, which approved the grant.

But some parcels along Park Street must be sold before the project comes to fruition, Nashoba Publishing reported in October. Berry also owns property on Park Street.

The dispute, Fisher said, is really between the MBTA and Berry, as the MBTA has the easement allowing commuters to walk across Berry's property.

"I gather it's his contention that he owns the property," Fisher said.

"He's going to apparently try to dictate the pathway that he wants to have used out there for the commuter rail patrons that use that specific station."

Standing near the fence early Monday morning, Police Chief William Murray said police are not making any changes to their regular game plan, noting that their issue is only getting people across the street safely.

The Look of Things to Come... MBTA #2001

MBTA #2001 pushes an inbound commuter through Ayer MA, on the way to Boston.  In time, the sound of EMD engines will become less common on T rails...

Friday, April 25, 2014

Pedestrian Hit By MBTA Commuter Train in Framingham MA

(source:  Fox News Boston)

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. -- A pedestrian has been hit by a commuter rail train in Framingham.

The incident happened at the corner of Waverly and Concord streets. The victim, an unidentified 77-year-old woman, was transported to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. MBTA officials initially said the victim had died, but later issued a correction saying her condition is unknown.

Officials said the victim was hit at the railroad crossing.

The intersection of Rt. 135 and 126 remained shutdown through the morning commute. The Middlesex County District Attorney's office, Transit police, and Framingham police are investigating.

N Scale Rockingham Junction Kit Re-issued

The N-Scale Architect has reissued their N scale wood kit of the Rockingham Junction structures.  According to their site:

This popular station located at the former junction of the Boston & Maine’s Portsmouth - Manchester Branch and Portland - Boston Main Line is NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER !!!  Kit includes BOTH the STATION & FREIGHT HOUSE  Item #10022

Monday, April 7, 2014

Plan to Restore Maine-to-Vermont Rail Service Unveiled

(SOURCE:  Portland Press Herald - Tom Bell)

A Maine entrepreneur is proposing to revive a defunct rail line for freight and passenger service between Portland and the White Mountains region of New Hampshire, with plans to extend the line eventually to Vermont and Montreal.
click image to enlarge

Select images available for purchase in the
Maine Today Photo Store

The driving force behind the project is David Schwanke, president of Golden Eagle Rail Corp., a startup company.

Schwanke, 61, who lives in Norridgewock, moved to Maine a decade ago after a career handling logistics in the motion picture industry. He said he is waiting for the snow to melt so experts can examine the old Mountain Division line, which runs from the Portland Transportation Center to the New Hampshire border in Fryeburg.

Schwanke said he would spend $7 million to $10 million to replace railroad ties on the line to bring it up to the standards for many short-line railroads.

He said the study is a necessary step before he can meet with the Maine Department of Transportation, which owns the 45-mile section from Westbrook to Fryeburg.

“We’re making sure our ducks are in a row before we jump into a deep pond and find it deeper than we think it is,” Schwanke said.

The section between the Sappi mill in Westbrook and the New Hampshire border was abandoned by Guilford Transportation Industries in 1983 and purchased by the state in 1994.

Although the rail line provides the shortest route from Portland to points west of Chicago, steep grades crossing the Appalachian Mountains in New Hampshire added to its costs. Guilford, which now operates as Pan Am Railways, concluded it would be cheaper to send its westbound trains through Massachusetts.

Built in the late 1800s, the line once shuttled tourists to grand Victorian hotels, including the Bay of Naples Inn in Naples, the Crawford House in Crawford Notch, N.H., and the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, N.H. The last passenger train ran in 1959.

Today, a section of the line in New Hampshire is used by the Conway Scenic Railroad.

Schwanke said he would expand his railroad in stages, starting with a freight service that would connect businesses in Maine with the Portland waterfront and the national rail system through Pan Am Railway, which operates a railway that extends to the Sappi mill in Westbrook. He said there are 15 companies in Maine that could potentially use the freight service.

In the second phase, the line would extend to New Hampshire and bring passengers to the White Mountains. Schwanke said there would be ski trains in the winter and excursion trains in the summer and autumn.

Eventually, the line would extend to St. Johnsbury, Vt., where it would link up with railroads in Vermont and Quebec that now have trains running to Montreal.

Upgrading the entire line would cost about $30 million, Schwanke said. He said the freight service would be local, and that he doesn’t intend to run freight between Montreal and Portland.

Reviving the Mountain Division line has been a goal of local officials, who say it could move such commodities as gravel, propane and wood pellets. It also could bring tourists to the Saco River Valley and the White Mountains, they said.

The biggest challenge would be creating agreements with so many different entities, said Deborah Murphy, who formerly handled passenger rail for the Vermont Rail System and is now working as a consultant for the project. Murphy said the deal-making skills that Schwanke mastered in Hollywood should prove useful.

Providing both freight and passenger service makes sense because it raises more revenue, Murphy said, adding that there is strong demand in Quebec for rail service to U.S. cities.

Schwanke said he also will seek corporate sponsors for the passenger service, an idea that is new to the railroad industry.

Schwanke outlined his idea March 19 in Standish to members of the Route 113 Corridor Committee, an economic development group in the region.

One attendee, Don Marson, said that Schwanke is an articulate public speaker but that his plans for reviving the line are unrealistic.

There appear to be too many obstacles to overcome, and it would cost too much money to upgrade the rail line in Maine, said Marson, who retired last year as vice president and general manager of the Maine Eastern Railroad, which operates freight trains and summer excursion trains between Brunswick and Rockland.

“I hate like hell to say it, but I don’t think it’s going to be real until I see the money,” he said.

Chalmers “Chop” Hardenbergh, editor of Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports, a trade magazine, said he doubts there are enough potential freight customers on the line to make it viable.

“I think we should be very skeptical,” he said.

Nate Moulton, director of the state’s industrial rail access program for the Maine Department of Transportation, said the state is always open to redeveloping its abandoned rail lines.

“That’s what we bought them for,” he said.

When he meets with Schwanke later this spring, Moulton said, he wants to see a “real business plan” that shows the railroad can safely provide service to customers and make enough money to survive. He noted that a 2006 state study concluded that there wasn’t enough freight traffic to sustain such an operation.

Although the state at times will make capital investments in a state-owned rail line, Moulton said, it won’t subsidize freight railroads.

“We expect them to make a living,” he said.

Maine Two-foot Steamer on Track to Restoration

(SOURCE: Newswire)

PORTLAND, Maine. – One of Maine's best known two-foot gauge steam locomotives, Bridgton & Saco River 2-4-4T No. 7, is on track to being under steam within the next year and a half. The engine is currently under restoration at the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum in Portland.

The nonprofit group has been working on the locomotive since 2008, but suffered a major setback in 2010 when a fire destroyed the museum's engine house. No. 7 was inside the structure at the time and the cab and tender tank were completely destroyed. According to museum Steam Program Manager Jay Monty, those two pieces have been a major part of the restoration, but volunteers have also been focusing on a complete rebuild of the locomotive's boiler. That part of the project is being completed at the Boothbay Railway Museum and should be completed this summer.

No. 7 was built in 1913 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works and ran on the B&SR, and later the Bridgton & Harrison, until 1941 when the railroad was scrapped. At the time, the B&H was the state's last two-foot gauge railroad. Later that year, No. 7 and sister engine No. 8 were purchased by Ellis D. Atwood, a Massachusetts businessman who set up his own two-foot gauge railroad around his cranberry bogs in South Carver, Mass. The Edaville Railroad ran as a tourist attraction until 1992 when the entire collection (which included four original Maine two-foot gauge steam locomotives and dozens of freight and passenger cars) was returned to Maine and set up as a museum on the Portland waterfront. No. 7 remained in Massachusetts for nearly a decade and finally returned to Maine in 2002, where it ran under steam for a year before being sidelined. In 2008, the group began another full restoration of the engine.

The Edaville built the locomotive’s current boiler in 1959 and during this most recent restoration, volunteers repaired the shell and installed a new firebox, dry pipe, flues, and stay bolts. Last week, Monty estimated the boiler would return to Portland in mid-summer. Meanwhile, the new tender tank is about 95 percent complete and ready for the final mounting on the frame.

In the past year, the museum has raised more than $40,000 for the project, however the group still needs another $10,000 to cover the re-assembly of the locomotive. Anyone interested in helping should visit

When No. 7 is restored to steam in 12-18 months, it will be the museum's only operating steam locomotive. On March 29, former Monson Railroad No. 4, a 4-4-0T, made its last run before being sidelined due to the expiration of the engine's Federal Railroad Administration certificate. The event included photo runs and a night photo session.

Quebec, New England Study ‘Montrealer’ Restoration

(SOURCE: Newswire)

GREENFIELD, Mass. – Transportation officials on both sides of the border are looking at reestablishing passenger rail service north of St. Albans, Vt., to Montreal, the Greenfield Recorder reports. The Inland Rail Study is looking at a 484-mile route from Boston to Montreal. Currently, Amtrak's Vermonter terminates in St. Albans.

The expansion was the topic of a recent meeting of the Franklin County Regional Planning Board.

Amtrak operated a New York City to Montreal train through Vermont, called the Montrealer, from the 1970s until 1995. That year, the train was replaced with the Vermonter and New York to Montreal service continued as the Adirondack in New York west of Lake Champlain. However, public officials have long wanted to restore the service through the Green Mountain State.

The Inland Rail Study is undertaken in collaboration with departments of transportation in Quebec, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut and support from the Federal Railroad Administration. It is unclear of the exact route of the proposed train, but it would likely follow the current Vermonter route. Amtrak and its partner freight railroads are already working on track to increase speeds on the route.

Connecticut Seeks Providers for New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Passenger Rail Service

(SOURCE: Newswire)

HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut will seek proposals from companies to begin operating New Haven-Hartford-Springfield passenger service in 2016. The announcement comes this week from the office of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

"Like the I-95 corridor across southern Connecticut, the I-91 corridor through the center of Connecticut is a vital artery for economic development and jobs growth," Gov. Malloy says. "Enhancing commuter rail service between New Haven and Springfield will benefit commuters and their employers, and will reduce traffic congestion by taking cars off the road, with the added bonus of reduced pollution."

"As the gateway to New England, the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail program will also facilitate improved service to Massachusetts, Vermont and eventually Montreal," the governor adds. "New train service will connect communities, generate sustainable economic growth, help build energy independence, and provide links to travel corridors and markets within and beyond the region."

The Connecticut Department of Transportation will be seeking proposals in the next 6-12 months. Current service is provided by Amtrak, which also owns the line.

“The state of Connecticut believes that the benefits to the customers of our new service can best be realized in the marketplace. We intend to issue a Request for Proposals that will invite state-of-the-art, proven strategies for the highest quality operations, customer service and maintenance,” DOT Commissioner James P. Redeker says in a letter to Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman. “While federal and state statutes drive open competition, the importance of competition to high-quality service is equally or more important.”

The letter to Amtrak concludes with, “We appreciate the long-standing favorable relationship the Department and Amtrak enjoy, and we encourage Amtrak to pursue this new opportunity with us.”

Commissioner Redeker also says that Amtrak will remain responsible for existing services on the line.

The proposed passenger service will operate at speeds up to 110 mph, cutting travel time between Springfield and New Haven to as little as 73 minutes, according to the state. Travelers at New Haven, Wallingford, Meriden, Berlin, Hartford, Windsor, Windsor Locks, and Springfield will be able to board trains about every 30 minutes during the peak morning and evening rush hour and hourly during the rest of day, with direct or connecting service to New York City and multiple frequencies to Boston or Vermont (via Springfield). Future stations also are planned at North Haven, Newington, West Hartford, and Enfield.

Passenger Rail Board Nomination Draws Criticism in Maine

(SOURCE: Newswire)

AUGUSTA, Maine – The nomination of an outspoken passenger rail critic to a board that operates a passenger rail service seems like a contradictory move, but that is precisely what Maine Gov. Paul LePage has done. Recently, the Republican governor nominated Robert McEvoy, a Brunswick resident who has been critical of the Northern New England Passenger Authority's plan to construct a 55,000-square-foot maintenance and layover facility at the northern terminus of Amtrak's Downeaster, the Portland Press Herald reports. McEvoy is a retired highway engineer and lives about 240 feet away from the proposed facility.

On Thursday, the Maine Legislature's Transportation Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for McEvoy, but members of Trainriders/Northeast, a grassroots advocacy group for passenger rail in New England, promise to fight the nomination. The group's chairman, Wayne Davis, said McEvoy's nomination is purely political.

“Now for the first time, we have someone who is appointed to the board who is openly hostile to existing authority policy, and we think that is a mistake,” Davis says.

LePage's spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, denies that the pick is political. She notes that McEvoy was nominated by Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, a Democrat. Recently, LePage sent a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration raising concerns about the Brunswick facility that would hold three train sets and would mean trains would not have to deadhead from Portland every morning.

“No matter the board of the commission, the governor takes all candidates into consideration based on their qualifications,” she says.

While LePage has had a hostile streak towards Amtrak and the Downeaster service, which runs daily between Boston, Portland and Brunswick, the train itself has been wildly successful in recent years. In 2013, the year following the Brunswick extension, the Downeaster carried nearly 50 percent more passengers between Portland and Brunswick than rail officials expected in the first year of service. From Nov. 2012 to Oct. 2013, about 52,000 people rode the train between Brunswick and Portland. Officials had only projected 36,000.

Former New Haven FL9 Locomotives Scrapped in NJ

(SOURCE: Newswire, By Steve Glischinski)

MORRISTOWN, N.J. – This spring, the “Streamliners at Spencer” festival in North Carolina will bring together nearly 20 examples of streamlined motive power, including former New Haven FL9 No. 2019 from the Railroad Museum of New England. While No. 2019 has been preserved and restored, three of its sister locomotives met a different fate: They are being scrapped this week at the Morristown & Erie Railway yard in Morristown.

The three locomotives, former Amtrak Nos. 485, 486, and 487 built in 1957 for the New York, New Haven & Hartford, were owned by RRPX, a railroad leasing company owned by Morristown & Erie owner Wes Weis. Weis tells Trains News Wire the FL9s were scrapped because they had been stripped for parts and were vandalized.

In addition to the FL9s, three Alco locomotives were or will be cut up by C&K Scrap Metals of Newark since they have major mechanical or other issues.

According to Weis, a former CN M420W that was scrapped had a broken Hi-AD truck, seized turbo, and the drive had failed between the main generator and the auxiliary generator. Ex-Canadian Pacific C424 No. 4231 had a failed prime mover while out on lease. Former Erie Mining RS11 No. 7205 had been for sale for four years with no takers, and had been vandalized.

The FL9, New Haven Class EDER-5, is a dual-power locomotive capable of operation as a diesel-electric or an electric powered by a third rail. General Motors Electro-Motive Division built 60 units for the New Haven between 1956 and 1960. They were the last F units built.

FL9s served the New Haven and successor Penn Central, then several owners including Conrail, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and the Connecticut Department of Transportation. A total of 12 FL9s were sold to Amtrak, with six, including the three scrapped units, remanufactured between 1979 and 1981 by Morrison-Knudsen. Amtrak finally retired them in June 2002.

Two other FL9s, ex-Amtrak Nos. 488 and 489, operate on Morristown & Erie affiliate Maine Eastern Railroad pulling excursion trains between Brunswick and Rockland, Maine. Former Amtrak No. 484 operates on the Orford Express tourist train out of Sherbrooke, Quebec.

There is several other MTA/Metro-North and Connecticut Department of Transportation FL9s preserved, and CDOT still owns six out-of-service FL9Ms stored at New Haven, Conn.