Monday, December 9, 2019

More Than 20 Arrested in Blockades of Train Delivering Coal to N.H. Power Plant

(SOURCE: Boston Globe) 

Protesters blocked railroad freight tracks in Worcester, Ayer, and Hooksett, N.H., on Saturday and Sunday, trying to keep a train from delivering coal to a New Hampshire power plant.

“In 2019, there’s no reason for us to still be burning coal,” said Marla Marcum, director of the Climate Disobedience Center. “We’re tired of paying for it. We’re tired of paying for the kind of plant that pollutes the river and causes asthma and contributes to climate change.”

The train was delivering coal to Merrimack Station, a power plant in Bow, N.H. The protests were part of an ongoing effort to shut down the coal power plant.

No injuries were reported. Protesters called the train’s dispatchers before they blocked the tracks so as not to take engineers by surprise, Marcum said.

In Worcester on Saturday, protesters were given warnings and left the railroad tracks without being arrested, Marcum said.

In Ayer, police arrested 12 people on charges of trespassing on railroad property Sunday. All were released on personal recognizance and scheduled to appear in Ayer District Court, Ayer Police Deputy Chief Brian Gill said.

Bow Coal Train 1/26/10
Another 12 people were arrested on a railroad bridge in Hooksett, where they had hung an anti-coal banner, said Rebecca Beaulieu, a climate organizer with 350 New Hampshire, a climate advocacy organization.

They were charged with trespassing and are due in court in January.

Coal Protesters Arrested for Blocking Train in Ayer MA

(SOURCE:  Lowell Sun)

AYER — Environmental activists brandishing signs protesting the use of gas and coal were arrested after they blocked the path of an oncoming freight train during the early morning hours Sunday, authorities say.

Between 15 and 20 protesters — bundled in winter gear — were found by police standing on the train tracks at about 3:45 a.m., according to the Ayer Police Department Facebook page. The group held signs that stated, “Stop the coal trains,” and “Coal Kills.”

After the protesters refused to leave the tracks, Ayer Police said they contacted state police and police departments in Groton, Harvard, Littleton and Shirley to assist at the scene.

According to police, 12 protesters were taken into custody and charged with trespassing on railroad property. They will be arraigned in Ayer District Court on Monday.

The names of the protesters facing charges were not immediately available.

An investigation into the protest forced Ayer Police Sgt. John MacDonald to break away from a motor vehicle accident involving a car into a tree, according to the police Facebook post.

MBTA Safety Review Panel Final Report

Want to read more about the December 9, 2019 MBTA Safety Review Panel Final Report?  Try these links:

Damning MBTA Safety Report Released

(SOURCE:  Boston Globe - J. Ellement)

The MBTA’s safety system was examined by three outside experts and their findings were damning at best. What follows is five of the major conclusions outlined in the executive summary based on interviews with T employees at every level of the workforce.

- The T has failed to include safety concerns in its daily operations, routine maintenance schedules or long-term investment and construction plans, according to the report.

“In essence, safety is not the priority at the T, but it must be. To meet the demands of the future, the agency must address its safety culture – it is critical to every aspect of the agency.’’

- Turnover at the top job, the T’s general manager, has eroded the importance of safety issues at the very highest levels of the region’s primary public transit system, the panel found. There have been nine general managers since 2010.

 “Leadership sets the tone for safety ... the recurrent turnover in general managers (GMs) over the past 10 years has been incredibly disruptive and has placed the agency in a vulnerable position. This may be the overarching reason that we see the level of safety deficiency at the agency.”

- T employees don’t talk to one another, and this is especially troubling because safety concerns raised inside the agency rarely reach the right person or office that can then take the needed corrective action, the report found.

“There is a total lack of routine upward or downward communication within the agency. Employees at all levels told the Panel that the T has many siloes and that communication is rarely, if ever, done across departments. Leadership has not identified or attempted to open channels of communication with the workforce.... The only avenue for communication we identified during this review is a ‘safety hotline’ which does not appear to have received the confidence of the workforce in the field.”

- The T does have a stand-alone safety department but it is an organizational orphan with little ability to play a forceful role in workplace safety and other safety concerns facing the agency.

“The safety department, which should be providing day-to-day leadership for safety initiatives, is somewhat debilitated in what they can accomplish, and lacks the ability to guide the agency at large,” the report said. “For example, the staff is absent in the field to support the workforce and champion a safe work environment. On the other hand, the safety department is grossly understaffed, lacks subject matter experts (SMEs) and is currently not in any position to manage the needs of the agency.”

- The experts concluded that the MBTA’s commuter rail system, which is operated by Keolis Commuter Services, has a far better safety environment than the T’s transit system. The experts noted that Keolis operates under the Federal Railroad Administration rules and regulations.

“It is noteworthy to mention that the commuter rail service is performing well and does not face many of the challenges that were identified on the transit side of the house. The Panel attributes this higher level of performance to the structure provided by FRA regulations, which are clearly defined and have fiscal consequences if not complied with.”

John R. Ellement can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

NVRRA Rail Fair 2019 Boxboro MA - October 5 & 6

October 5th & 6th, 2019 
10AM to 4PM 
Boxboro Regency Hotel & Conference Center 
Boxboro, MA 

The Nashua Valley Railroad Association is a model railroad club building and operating a permanent layout in Shirley, MA. NVRRA models the Boston & Maine Railroad from Boston to Mechanicville, NY in the modern era (1980+). RailFair helps defray annual operating costs.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Recent New England Model Railroad Announcements SEPT 2019




Friday, September 13, 2019

Loaded Autorack Burns in Gardner MA

I love how the news says the "train" was on fire, instead of saying a "railcar" was on fire.  Also, I have read that 10, around 15, and 20 vehicles were burned!  Now THAT is getting all the details!  Not to mention the fact Pan Am hauls Fords and one other, Japanese make (which escapes me at the moment) on those trains.  I'd like to know what caused the fire... arson, "hot box", or possibly a hybrid car who's batteries caught fire.  For now, here's all we know:

Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes Railroad Sues Maine Narrow Gauge Museum Over Investment in Steam Locomotive

READ:  Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes Railroad Sues Maine Narrow Gauge Museum Over Investment in Steam Locomotive

It wants compensation for its investment of over $144,000 connected to restoration of a Narrow Gauge steam engine.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad staying in Portland ME

SOURCE:  Portland Press Herald - Randy Billings

The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad is changing tracks. Instead of building a new museum and rail line in Gray, the nonprofit railroad company that has operated on the eastern waterfront since 1993 with popular events like the Polar Express is staying in Portland.

The group recently received zoning approvals to build a new storage facility at the eastern terminus of the 2-foot-wide railway, near the East End Treatment Plant, and is seeking approvals to build a new ticketing booth and passenger center near Ocean Gateway.

The nonprofit plans to pay for the $2 million project with a capital campaign.

Executive Director Wesley Heinz said the nonprofit is finalizing site plans, which he said would only need administrative approval because of the project size and status as an accessory use to the rail line. He hopes to break ground on the new buildings this fall.

“It was all there,” Heinz said of the opportunity to stay in Portland. “We just needed to think outside the box.”

The Narrow Gauge Railroad needs to be out of its current location at 58 Fore St. by Sept. 2, he said. It’s being displaced as part of the redevelopment of the former railroad foundry into a new mixed-use neighborhood, Portland Foreside.

The nonprofit originally planned to move its museum to Gray, where it hoped to build a new rail line, but those plans were abandoned this year.

Heinz said a lack of funding played a small role, but the “show-stopper” was the inability to develop the property located next to a strip mall because it was a wetland.

The new plans emerge at a time of growth for the small rail company. Heinz said ridership has more than doubled in the past five years. Last year, over 60,000 people rode the Narrow Gauge, including the popular Polar Express train in the days leading up to Christmas, compared to 23,000 passengers in 2013, he said.

The nonprofit also is hosting more corporate events, in addition to new family events, including ice cream train rides and a Friday family fun night, which includes music, lights, juice and cookies.

“The business model really supported us staying here,” Heinz said in an interview aboard the train as it rattled along the eastern waterfront Monday. “As ridership grew, it became very apparent that we have a home here.”

Stephanie and Bob Holmes of New York took their 22-month-old granddaughter, Heidi, for her first trip on the train and were pleased to hear it would remain in Portland.
“She loved it,” Bob Holmes said. “She was waving to everyone.”

Plans call for a 1,000-square-foot passenger center and ticketing booth within the railroad right of way along Thames Street, near Ocean Gateway. The railroad also would build a 6,600-square-foot storage facility near the East End Treatment Plant. The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals granted a hardship variance for the nonprofit in May and reduced the shoreland zone setbacks from 75 feet to none.

Heinz said the new buildings are being considered an accessory use to the rail line. Portland has a long history of rail, which the current city has grown up around.

Heinz said that the nonprofit will probably have to use a temporary trailer, or simply sell tickets aboard the train, until the new passenger facility, which will have a waiting area and restrooms, is ready.

The new plan does not call for a museum. Instead, Heinz said a Narrow Gauge exhibit is being established at the Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington Railway Museum in Alna, which also will run some of the Narrow Gauge’s trains.

Jerry Angier, a trustee who is leading the fundraising effort, said the railroad is determined to get the project built.

“We’ll do it as long as we need to do it until we have the funds to make this a success,” Angier said. “We’ll leave no stone unturned. And anyone who will listen will get the sales pitch.”

Friday, May 31, 2019

Friday, May 17, 2019

Looking South Along the Old Worcester & Nashua Railroad

Looking south along the old Worcester & Nashua Railroad in Groton MA.  The line is now part of the Nashua River Rail Trail.  At left is a 1935 US Geodetic Survey marker.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Recent New England Model Railroad Announcements JAN 2019

It had been a while since I sifted through my model railroad new-release emails, so I finally sat down and put together this update:

ATLAS:  EMD GP7 Diesel Locomotive – Bangor & Aroostook

ATLAS:  EMD GP38 Diesel Locomotive – Bangor & Aroostook
MICRO TRAINS:  Weathered 2-Boxcar Set – Boston & Maine (#020 44 696)