Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Downeaster slowed by track problems - TRAINS Magazine

Downeaster slowed by track problems - TRAINS Magazine

MBTA Cape Flyer Schedule, New Stop Announced


BOSTON - The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority (CCRTA) today announced CapeFLYER weekend rail service to Cape Cod and the Islands will begin Friday, May 23 through Labor Day, with an improved schedule and new station stop at Wareham Village. 

“CapeFLYER is a proven success in giving customers from the Greater Boston area a quick, convenient and car-free option to enjoy the attractions, beaches and restaurants of the Cape and Islands,” said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Richard A. Davey.  “We also hope that local residents will use CapeFLYER to conveniently enjoy all their fantastic region has to offer without having to drive.”

CapeFLYER trains in 2014 will include a station stop at Wareham Village to provide customers with another destination option.  The new station will be located off Main Street near the Wareham Fire Department.  By the height of the summer season, trains will include separate coaches for two of the service’s most popular amenities: the cafĂ© coach and bike racks with tools for on-board tune-ups.

“The CapeFLYER’s goal during the inaugural season was to provide a safe and reliable way to bring people to the Cape and Islands without needing their cars; thereby reducing congestion for everyone coming to Cape Cod,” said Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority Administrator Thomas S. Cahir.  “The first year was a rousing success and we believe that the second year will only be better.”

In its inaugural season, the CapeFLYER had 16,586 riders and generated $290,756 in fare revenue, while reducing traffic and emissions for thousands of tourists heading to one of the country’s most beloved tourist destinations.

The CapeFLYER is a unique partnership between the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority.  For additional information, including a complete schedule and fares, please visit www.capeflyer.com

Pan Am Train May Have Sparked Five-alarm Fire

(SOURCE:  Trains.com News Wire)

OLD ORCHARD BEACH, Maine. – Fire officials in southern Maine believe that a five-alarm wildfire may have been sparked by a passing Pan Am Railways train on Thursday afternoon, WCSH-TV reports.

The blaze destroyed 10 trailers and damaged six others at a trackside campground after some propane tanks caught fire and exploded, according to witnesses. The fires were reported shortly after 1 p.m., not long after Amtrak's Downeaster and a freight train went through the area.

“First we heard the passenger train go by and about five minutes later we heard an old freighter just hauling down the tracks,” Cindy Rowe tells WCSH. “You could see it was sparking. Almost immediately (you could smell) a burning tire smell and we saw that some grass and stuff was on fire.”

The train was later stopped in Portland so that it could be inspected, according to railroad officials. Photos of the fire show smoke and flames along the right-of-way for more than a mile and, according to the local fire chief, other brush fires were reported along the tracks in five communities from Old Orchard Beach to Scarborough.

Because of dry conditions and warm weather, southern Maine's fire danger is high right now. High winds may have also helped the blaze spread, regardless of its cause.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Worcester Man in Sombrero, Poncho Accused of 'Surfing' Atop MBTA Train

(SOURCE:  MassLive)

After a Saturday afternoon pub crawl in Boston, and possibly one too many alcoholic beverages, a Worcester man has been summoned to court after being found "surfing" on a MBTA commuter train.

According to a MBTA Transit Police report, the unidentified 28-year-old man was detained by Southborough and Ashland police when the train's engineer stopped the train at 9:45 p.m. between the two towns after being told that someone was on top of the train. At the time, the train was traveling 40 miles per hour.

The engineer told police that after climbing to the top of the engine, he saw that the "man's body was half over the top rung of the ladder, 'like a child clinging over a shopping cart.'"

"The engineer said the man climbed down on his own power and was brought to Southborough MBTA Station where the police removed him," according to the report.

Transit police have not identified the man, who was wearing a sombrero and poncho when he told municipal and MBTA officers that he had been drinking with friends in Boston since 3 p.m. that afternoon. The man's identity will be made public when he is formally charged with trespassing.

The man told officers that he had become separated from his friends and began walking car to car to find them, but he denied being on top of the train, according to the report. Officers noted that the man's hands "were blackened, which were consistent to being in contact with the outside of the train." He was later released to a friend.

The Worcester-bound train arrived 24 minutes late to Union Station because of the incident, according to the MBTA.

Winter Damage Slows, Cancels Amtrak Downeaster Runs in Maine

(SOURCE:  Portland Press Herald By J. Craig Anderson canderson@pressherald.com)

Amtrak Downeaster passenger service has been delayed or canceled this week because damage along the track has forced trains to slow down dramatically in some places, said the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority’s top official.
click image to enlarge

Amtrak says it could take weeks to repair winter damage to tracks.

An engineer with Amtrak climbs toward the cab of a Downeaster train in Portland in 2009. About 65 people use the train to commute to their jobs in Boston from Portland and from Maine train stations south of Portland.

Rail inspectors determined that harsh winter weather and heavy snow melt had destabilized the ground under about 27 noncontiguous miles of track between Freeport and Boston, said the authority’s executive director, Patricia Quinn, who expects it could take weeks to repair the damage.

Winter-related track damage isn’t unusual, she said, but the delays it is causing this year are particularly severe because the damage occurred in places where the trains normally run fastest.

“Obviously, this is not something we’re happy about,” Quinn said.

The rail authority’s website said two runs have been canceled for the rest of this week – the 686 train that leaves Portland at 2:35 p.m. weekdays and arrives in Boston at 5:05 p.m., and the 683 train that leaves Boston’s North Station at 11:35 a.m. weekdays and arrives in Portland at 2:05 p.m. Quinn said the cancellations would prevent overlapping “delay cascades” and give work crews more time to repair the damaged areas.

All other runs are expected to take an average of 35 to 45 minutes longer than normal because rail officials have issued “slow orders” for the damaged areas. The orders require the trains, which normally run as fast as 80 mph, to slow down to as little as 10 mph.

Delays likely will continue for another week or two but become shorter each day as damaged areas are repaired, Quinn said.

She said she is not certain whether the cancellations will continue into next week. “It’s my hope that we won’t be in a position to have to cancel trains next week,” she said.

Brian Beeler, manager of passenger services for the rail authority, said he has received dozens of telephone calls and emails from passengers who have been affected by the delays.

“We’ve certainly seen some very irate customers, and then there are those who are taking it in stride and saying they understand why this is happening,” he said.

Beeler said repairs are being handled by the track’s owner, Pan Am Railways, which is responsible for maintaining the 138 miles of rail between Brunswick and Boston. The line runs for 116 miles between Portland and Boston.

Amtrak owns and operates the Downeaster trains, and the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority manages the transportation system.

Beeler estimated that 65 people use the Downeaster to commute to their jobs in Boston from Portland and from Maine train stations south of Portland. In New Hampshire, 150 to 180 people use the train to reach their jobs in Boston.

Wayne Davis, chairman of the passenger-rail advocacy group TrainRiders/Northeast and a volunteer at the Downeaster’s Brunswick station, said commute times for the trains running between Brunswick and Boston have been extended by as much as 53 minutes since the weather damage was revealed by a geometry car, an automated track-inspection vehicle.

“Nobody wants to ride the train if they’re going to be 53 minutes late,” Davis said. “You’re going to be late for work, and you’re going to be late getting home.”

Bill Lord of Kennebunkport, who used to ride the Downeaster to his teaching job in Boston, doesn’t ride the train regularly any longer, but he serves on the board of directors for TrainRiders/Northeast.

He said it’s good that repairs are being done now, before the tourist season.

“Too many times, we get caught up in getting to work on time. No one wants to be delayed, but people need to realize that this is a safety issue,” Lord said. “It is not going to be a quick fix. The reality is, these things take time.”

The Downeaster’s on-time performance in March was 81.3 percent, and its 12-month average was 74.9 percent, according to Amtrak’s website. About 1,400 passengers ride the Downeaster on a typical day, Quinn said.

The Downeaster’s ridership has grown steadily since it started running between Portland and Boston in 2001. Service was extended to Freeport and Brunswick in 2012.

In the service’s most recent fiscal year, which ended June 30, ridership increased about 5 percent over the previous year, with a total of about 550,000 riders.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

1898 NYNH&HRR Cotton Bale Delivery Notice - Durfee Mills, Fall River MA

Westford Officials: Concerns Growing Over Pan Am

(SOURCE:  Lowell Sun)

WESTFORD MA -- The May 6 meeting between local officials and Pan Am Railways will go beyond the Feb. 19 train derailment, and also focus on the need for track repairs and herbicide spraying, Town Manager Jodi Ross said.

Ross said she doesn't want the meeting to focus on the past, but on how to move forward and improve communication with the Billerica-based rail company.

"I think that in that communication improvement, we'd like to know exactly what products are being transported through the town and also understand the condition of the rails," Ross said. "We've heard they're in poor condition."

Further, Pan Am will start spraying near Stony Brook from May 1 to July 1 to "control nuisance vegetation" in the ballast portion of the railroad right-of-way and also near switches and signals.
"We don't use pesticides according to our town policy," Ross said, "but we don't have any jurisdiction on what the rail does on their (area)."

Relations have been tense between local officials and the company since five cars carrying liquid petroleum gas hopped the tracks. Town officials were not notified, and learned about the incident when Fire Chief Joe Targ drove by the next morning. Ross has said she and Targ were threatened with arrest for trespassing at the site.

She said she has not heard from Pan Am since that day.

Pan Am has been cited with a wide gauge track issue which typically carries a $5,000 fine from the Federal Railroad Administration. The state Department of Environmental Protection has ordered the company to evaluate whether Stony Brook was contaminated.

The meeting will include the town's representatives on Beacon Hill, state Sen. Eileen Donoghue, D-Lowell, and Rep. James Arciero, D-Westford. plus representatives of U.S. Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, and Rep. Niki Tsongas. Markey's spokesman, Eben Burnham-Snyder, said Pan Am responded in a timely manner to their requests for scheduling the meeting in Westford.

"I'm certainly hopeful getting all the necessary parties around the table we can come up with a game plan and understanding as to how these incidents will be handled," Donoghue said. "This last incident underscores the need for that."

In a statement to The Sun, Tsongas said she and her colleagues want Pan Am to discuss this matter in a more "open manner."

"The goal is for transparency and open communication to assuage lingering public safety concerns related to derailment, as well as to give the community a chance to address all its questions about the overall health, environmental and safety impact of the Pan Am line," she said.

Arciero added he is pleased to have the opportunity to express his "strong concerns" face-to-face with Pan Am next month.

"It's clearly unacceptable that such an incident as serious as a train derailment would not automatically trigger notification of state and local officials," he said. "Protection of public safety and water supply of the residents of the town is a non-negotiable point."

The meeting with Pan Am will be held on May 6 at 3 p.m. in Town Hall. Residents with questions or concerns are encouraged to email Ross directly at jross@westfordma.gov.