Back Issues


Main Page

April 1994


Amtrak, VRE Work Toward Ticket Agreement

Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express are working toward an agreement whereby VRE passengers on the Fredericksburg line may use Amtrak trains at no additional charge between stations that are served by both carriers. Currently, Amtrak serves Washington, Alexandria, Quantico and Fredericksburg, all of which are also served by VRE. The arrangement will offer flexibility of travel making use of Amtrak trains running at mid-day and on weekends.


Amtrak Changes its Smoking Policy

Amtrak has once again ordered a change to its on-board smoking policy. Effective May 1, smoking will be completely prohibited on the California Zephyr, Pioneer, Desert Wind, Broadway Limited, and Montrealer. Passengers who wish to smoke may do so on station platforms at selected stops having dwell times.


Conrail Planning to Close Remaining Towers

According to the spring issue of The Home Signal, quarterly publication devoted to railway signaling and interlocking towers, all of Conrail's towers are slated to be closed by the end of 1996. Included in the issue was a listing of 35 remaining towers, nearly half of which could close sometime this year. Tentatively included for 1994 - subject to change - are the towers at Cresson, Gallitzin, and Midgrade, Pennsylvania. (Midgrade is now only open part time.)


CSXT Ends Alexandria/Orange Trackage Rights on NS

CSXT's trackage rights agreement over Norfolk Southern between Alexandria and Orange, Virginia, was terminated on March 20.


CSXT's Fitzgerald Subdivision Assumes Territory

CSXT trackage between Peachtree City and Manchester, Georgia, on the Atlanta Division, formerly identified as the Manchester Subdivision, is now part of the Fitzgerald Subdivision. Mileposts are from ANB 826.9 to ANB 788.3.


CSXT Ditch Lights to be Displayed for Grade Crossings

On CSXT locomotives equipped with ditch lights, it is now required that the ditch lights shall be displayed approaching all public grade crossings.


CSXT Leases Former Hamlet Shop to Plywood Company

CSXT's former wheel and axle shop at Hamlet, North Carolina, is to be leased by Diamond Hills Plywood Company for use as a distribution service facility generating about 250 carloads in rail traffic annually.


SP to Buy 100 CW44-9 Locomotives

Southern Pacific announced on March 17 that it will purchase 100 class CW44-9 units from General Electric for delivery in the second and fourth quarters this year. SP will also lease three 5000-horsepower units from Morrison-Knudsen during the second quarter.


UP to Buy at Least 140 AC4400 Locomotives

Union Pacific plans to purchase at least 140 AC4400 units from General Electric over the next four-year period.


First Rebuilt GP40-2 for MARC Due this Month

The first of 19 rebuilt GP40-2 units for MARC is expected to be delivered early this month.


Amtrak's Executive Sleeper Suspended

Amtrak's Executive Sleeper between Washington and New York has been suspended temporarily due to an equipment shortage.


A Visit With Gerry Kuncio

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

Gerald Kuncio is the new curator at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore. He joined the staff in late February, replacing John Hankey who left the museum last year to further his education toward a doctorate.

Gerry, 33, is no stranger to the B&O Museum. Following graduate school in October 1989, he was the facility's volunteer coordinator for an eight-month period until May 1990.

Gerry can now lay fame to being a railfan. His interest, however, was originally that of labor and industrial history. He grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and his father, now retired, worked 44 years with the Mack Truck Company. This is mainly what inspired Gerry's interest, fostered even further by attending Duquesne University in Pittsburgh during that city's decline in the steel industry.

He earned a B.A. in American History at Duquesne, and then went on to get his master's at the University of Delaware. He was still not a railfan when he entered Delaware, and he might not be one even today except for the influence of a particular roommate. That roommate was . . . John Hankey!

Well entrenched as a Hankey-inspired railfan by the time his master's thesis was due, the topic Gerry chose was Labor Representation on the Pennsylvania Railroad from 1918 until 1938.

Following graduate school and his eight-month stint at the B&O Museum, he worked three and one-half years in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, with America's Industrial Heritage Project. He and his wife then moved to the Baltimore area for his present assignment.

As curator, Gerry is responsible for the "care of the collection." He has a second title, too, that of director of interpretation, which has responsibility for how the museum presents itself to the public.

Of the B&O Museum, Gerry says: "Without a doubt, the museum has the finest collection of railroad rolling stock on the East Coast, if not the entire country." As to its role, says he: "The museum needs to work in two different directions . . . (1) to work more closely with railfan groups and research organizations - like the B&O Historical Society - to ensure upkeep of the collection; and (2) to tell the railroad story in a broad context and explain how development of the railroad - especially the B&O - is tied to the development of industry and the concept of modernization."

He added: "I don't think you can understand industrialization and modernization unless you understand the role that the railroads played. I think too many academic historians downplay or ignore the role of railroads."

My final question of Gerry was whether he had ridden trains. "Of course!" was his reply. He explained that he had often used trains across Pennsylvania and down the Northeast corridor. He's ridden many of the tourist lines, too, but he has yet to make a truly long-distance trip. This will change, though, as he's planning soon to venture to Chicago aboard the Capitol Limited.

I asked him to be sure to wave as he passes Miller Tower.


Trash Train Planned for Montgomery County

[By Sol Tucker] . . .

Moving trash by train to an incinerator has been an effective way to reduce overcrowded landfills, with the opportunity to burn trash instead of covering it with dirt and trying to forget about it. Many setbacks accompany the building of a new incinerator served by rail, such as location, funding, and environmental concerns.

A new incinerator in Dickerson, Maryland, nearing completion, is Montgomery County's solution. This incinerator, which will be served by CSXT, could provide two to four trains a day on the Metropolitan Subdivision.

The trains would originate at the trash-packing facility in Derwood (Milepost BA 19.6) where the trash will be loaded into containers on flats or gondolas, then transported to Dickerson (Milepost BA 35.5). The trash would be unloaded and burned at the Potomac Electric power plant, and the empties would be returned to Derwood.

The facility in Derwood is being upgraded with a new area cleared for a right-of-way where a new siding serving the plant will be put in place. The new track adjacent to the old existing Sears siding (see photo) will connect to the main track at the west end of the power crossovers at Derwood. New environmental smoke-cleaning stacks are in place at the Dickerson site.

Early plans call for the use of two locomotives, and a caboose for reverse movements. An engine at both ends may be required depending on whether or not they could run around the train at both ends of the run.

If the project stays on target, the trains may be running by late summer or early fall.


Rex of Miller Tower

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

He appeared at the tower during a snowstorm in early February. He wore no collar. He stayed . . . and he stayed . . . and he stayed.

He was a very friendly dog, and he soon claimed the top landing just outside the tower door as his "post." There, from his lofty perch, Rex (the name I gave him) could keep an eye on all that happened, and he made himself a committee of one to welcome all who came to his adopted domain.

And what a thrill it was each day to arrive at the tower to Rex's friendly greeting. He would show his delight at my arrival by the tones of an especially happy bark, and by placing his front paws (mud and all) high against the door of my car (and then against me when I got out). He also thrilled at grabbing my arm with his teeth in a most friendly sort of way.

Rex's bountiful appetite was satisfied by gifts of food; a dish left over from a much earlier visit to the tower by a cat was brought out of storage for the occasion. An old rug was brought in for his resting comfort.

It was concluded that Rex was probably a rather young dog, perhaps not yet fully grown, definitely of the "hound" variety. He would no doubt make a good hunter; his talents as a watchdog were already being shown.

About a week after Rex's arrival, some photos of him were taken and affixed to posters explaining his plight. They were displayed at convenience stores in the area. We wanted to find his owner. There was no response - not even a nibble. (No pun intended.) We also looked for lost and found notices in the paper.

As time went on, and with hope growing dim that Rex would ever be claimed, it became apparent that something ought to be done for his more permanent benefit. There was concern for his safety, since he liked to chase trains. There was also concern for his health (shots, worming, etc.) and that he ought to be neutered (lest someday a dozen little Rexes might come around seeking similar refuge). So after four weeks of his presence at the tower, and with due thought of how things might or might not work out, I took Rex home with me.

The first order of business on his first day home was a bath. (He didn't mind it.) This was followed by lessons on what a leash was all about. Next was a visit to the . . . VET.

The doctor took one look at Rex and said: "That dog looks like he's from WEST VIRGINIA!" (I'm not kidding, that's what he said - and this was some 80 miles from the nearest part of that state.) The doc identified Rex as a black and tan coonhound, a noted hunting dog, but he's probably not a purebred.

Rex weighs in at 40 pounds, and stands 19 inches at the shoulders. The doc thinks he's fully grown. I hope so. The way he eats, I was fearful that he might grow to the size of an SD50.

He gets along rather well with my other dog, Penny, a 10-year-old mixed terrier about half his size. This was my biggest concern. But he has some behavioral problems to overcome.

I took Rex for a visit to a lady in the neighborhood who works with the Animal Rescue League. They specialize in finding homes for orphan pets - just in case! But unlike a pound, Animal Rescue won't destroy the animal, if it's healthy. This is a comfort. But I think Rex sensed what was going on. On our way back home, he seemed especially thankful, in his own certain way, that I had not left him behind.

I hope things will work out. I'm trying. I think Rex is trying, too.


A New Look for Bowie Tower

Photo taken February 18, 1994, by Matt Atkinson

The former Amtrak tower at Bowie, Maryland, was recently painted in preparation for its permanent display in a park next to the Northeast corridor main line. The tower, along with a freight building and former passenger waiting shelter, have been painted gray with a burgundy trim.

The structures were acquired by the city of Bowie from the railroad and moved a short distance from their former location in July of 1992. Passengers on trains will get a quick glimpse of the tower as they speed through Bowie, and they may get the impression that it belonged in its new location all along.

This tower was the third such structure to serve Bowie. According to historian Robert Williams, who was an advisor to the project, the tower was built in 1913 and stood until 1932 at Severn. It was then moved to Bowie where it was in use until 1988 when it closed. Its bay window was added in 1959, otherwise the building is basically the same as it was when it was built.


The Poughkeepsie Bridge

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

Several years ago, when I first visited Poughkeepsie, New York, I had the great pleasure to marvel in the splendor of the famous railroad bridge crossing high above the Hudson River at this location. Trains no longer use the bridge, and probably never will again, but I needed no trains to appreciate the grandeur of this more than a mile-long monument to engineering.

The bridge, which is now included on the National Register of Historic Places, has been out of service since a damaging deck fire on May 8, 1974. The bridge was then owned by Penn Central, which had inherited it from the New Haven. The New Haven acquired the bridge in 1905 from the Central New England & Western for which the bridge was built in 1888.

Following the fire, Penn Central decided that repairs would exceed their worth, and the bridge was retired from service. It was no longer the vital link to commerce it once was. Conrail subsequently inherited the property from its predecessor Penn Central, and it was decided to unload the property in a fire sale. It was sold to a private individual for one dollar.

Ownership following the fire sale has resulted in a somewhat murky trail. Three different individuals are said to have owned the bridge at one time or other. Property records show a current owner, but that person reportedly insists that the bridge no longer belongs to him. A second individual has claimed ownership, but refuses to present proof. And an attorney has gone on record as representing a client claiming to own the bridge, but declines to disclose who that client is. Meanwhile, over $200,000 in back taxes is owed to two different subdivisions, and fines by the Coast Guard at the rate of $22,000 per day have accrued since 1986 for the owner's failure to maintain navigation lights for river traffic.

It could be a simple matter for the affected subdivisions to foreclose upon the property for their unpaid taxes, but to do so could place the burden of liability, upkeep, and/or possible mandated demolition of the bridge upon those subdivisions.

So with this stalemating, the bridge could very well have been doomed to rust to the day of Armageddon. But where there's a will, there's probably a way. Enter, now, the POUGHKEEPSIE-HIGHLAND RAILROAD BRIDGE COMPANY.

Under the spirited leadership of William Sepe, a Poughkeepsie resident, a cadre of concerned folks have organized for the purpose of refurbishing the bridge for use as a hiking and biking trail.

Imagine if you will a promenade over a mile long, between respective palisades over 200 feet above the river, offering majestic vistas. This is what is envisioned, and the concept enjoys growing support. After all, since the bridge is THERE, why not let it be USED for something. If the idea succeeds, the Poughkeepsie Bridge would then become the longest pedestrian bridge in the world. Think of the notoriety THAT would bring!

There are, of course, some legal hurdles. The question of ownership will have to be established, along with some sort of resolution or waiver of past fines and taxes. The organization is now pursuing these matters in carefully orchestrated directions. Meanwhile, the organization (the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge Company), has openly asserted a physical presence by beginning certain improvements upon the bridge (including repairs to the navigation lights), by decorating the bridge for Christmas, by flying a flag from the structure, and by conducting walking tours for the media and others. This presence in itself could even create future ownership through what's called "adverse possession," if other measures fail.

The organization has acquired some valuable credentials which will surely be of help in its efforts. First, it has received an IRS tax ruling allowing donations made to it since October of 1992 to be tax-deductible. Second, in February, the Legislature of Dutchess County, New York, officially proclaimed 1994 as the "Year of the Railroad Bridge," and urged all of its citizens to "actively participate" in the programs and efforts of the organization. And third, the Coast Guard has mandated that the bridge must be "returned to a transportation use" to avoid its being demolished as a navigation hazard. (A hiking and biking trail does qualify as transportation use.) Moreover, demolition of the bridge is estimated to cost $20-million, or more than ten times the value of the structure's scrap.

With these ingredients in place, the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge Company has begun the very important effort toward raising money. (It needs lots of it!)

Memberships in the organization have been established under nine different categories, and walkway planks are being sold at $20 apiece upon which one may designate a name (such as an organization, firm, person, canary, etc.) to be inscribed thereon.

The organization publishes a quarterly newspaper entitled Crossings which updates members and others of developments to restore the bridge, including letters and essays about the Poughkeepsie Bridge and its history. It has a distribution of about 12,000. The organization also sells T-shirts, videos and photo plates.

Folks from Maryland are no doubt familiar with the annual Chesapeake Bay Bridge Walk, and similar events are also popular on bridges in other parts of the country. But that only happens once a year. The Poughkeepsie Bridge, which would offer a similarly spectacular opportunity, would be open to the public year round.

The idea of restoring an old bridge to hiking and biking use is not a new one. A former highway bridge built in 1891 spanning the Tennessee River at Chattanooga, Tennessee, was recently converted for that purpose. That bridge, known as the Walnut Street Bridge, has a 2370-foot pathway, 100 feet above the river. The Walnut Street Bridge is now said to be the world's longest pedestrian bridge. But this claim will easily be broken if the Poughkeepsie idea reaches fruition. The Poughkeepsie Bridge is nearly three times as long, and over twice as high.

For more history on the bridge... CLICK HERE

Dispatchers' Clock Displayed at B&O Museum

Pictured next to the clock at its new location is B&O Museum librarian Anne Calhoun

The Bull Sheet, in its issues of December 1990 and October 1993, reported on the saga of the veteran Ball's Standard clock that for many decades had graced the wall of the B&O Baltimore Division dispatchers' office at Camden Station. It was estimated that in its long B&O tenure the clock had ticked away nearly two and one-half billion seconds as it guided its subjects through countless moves and train meets. It is the clock by which the dispatchers noted the time that was recorded to complete train orders and clearance forms throughout the division.

A note affixed to the clock's pendulum chamber offered a brief look at its history:


The office at Camden Station closed in 1983, and to its new dispatching home at Halethorpe the clock was moved. But since electronic digital timing was part of the new facility, the old clock was relegated to a remote corner where it was allowed to run down. There it stayed until a decision was made to move it to a more prominent location where dispatchers could use it in preference to the digital timing if they chose. Later, when the digital system failed, the old clock returned to glory as the principal means of keeping time.

The clock was in use until the very day the Halethorpe office closed on September 13, 1993, and then it was moved to the B&O Museum.

It is now displayed at the top of the stairs as the first clock visitors will see in the room housing other displays in the museum's clock collection. They keep it wound, and it keeps good time.