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May 2005


B&O Lounge/Observation Car 3302

[By J. Shelley Hopkins, RailRoad Passenger Cars Inc.] . . .

[Originally written 1995; updated 2003 and 2005]



Tower Operator Doris Sharar Named 'Employee of the Month'

Doris Sharar was recently named 'Employee of the Month' on CSX's Baltimore Division for her alert response to a potential crisis. Working third-shift at Hancock Tower, W.Va., January 9, shortly after midnight, she noticed sparks coming from a car toward the rear of a Cumberland-bound train of empty coal cars. "It looked like a rail grinder or Christmas tree all lit up," she was quoted as saying in the division's newspaper 'Origins.' The train was stopped. During the move to set off the car, one of the trucks derailed, but her action to alert the crew of the situation prevented a more serious derailment from occurring. Doris Sharar began her railroad career with the Western Maryland Railway in 1975 and is now regularly assigned to the tower at Hancock.


FRA Issues Final Rule on Train Horns

[U.S. Dept. of Transportation, 4-22-05]...

Thousands of communities nationwide will have the choice to consider silencing train horns at highway-rail grade crossings based on meeting safety needs, under a final rule made public on April 22 by the Federal Railroad Administration. In addition, the rule provides a process for localities with existing whistle bans to retain their bans.

"At every step of the process we listened closely to the concerns of the public and local officials to craft a rule that balances safety and quality of life issues," said FRA Acting Administrator Robert D. Jamison. "Communities will have significant flexibility to establish or maintain quiet zones for the benefit of their residents while keeping highway-rail grade crossings safe for motorists."

The final train horn rule becomes effective on June 24, 2005, and is the result of a 1994 law mandating the use of the locomotive horn at all public highway-rail grade crossings with certain exceptions. This rule will preempt applicable state laws and related railroad operating rules requiring locomotive horns be sounded, and it also will supersede the previously issued Interim final rule.

The final rule provides for six types of quiet zones, ensures the involvement of state agencies and railroads in the quiet zone development process, gives communities credit for preexisting safety warning devices at grade crossings and addresses other issues including pedestrian crossings within a quiet zone.

The establishment of a new quiet zone requires at minimum that each grade crossing be equipped with flashing lights and gates. Additional safety measures may be required to compensate for the absence of the horn as a warning device. New quiet zones can be in effect 24-hours a day or just during the overnight period between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Communities with a whistle ban in effect on Oct. 9, 1996, the date Congress directed FRA to specifically address the issue of existing bans, and on Dec. 18, 2003, the date the Interim final rule was published, will be able to continue to keep the train horns silent for at least an additional five to eight years as they plan for and install any additional necessary safety measures. Communities with a whistle ban created after Oct. 9, 1996, and in effect on Dec. 18, 2003, will have one year to install any additional necessary safety measures before the train horns will start sounding again.

The rule also establishes the first-ever maximum train horn volume level and will reduce the amount of time the horn is sounded, which will be beneficial to communities that decide not to pursue quiet zones.


TCU in Merger Talks

The Transportation Communications International Union, which represents railroad clerical and car department employees, is looking for a another union with which it can merge. In the March/April issue of TCU's magazine 'Interchange,' International President Robert Scardelletti explained that delegates to the union's 2004 convention had unanimously approved a resolution calling upon him to "actively pursue merger discussions." In the column entitled 'Telling it Like it is,' he wrote: "While our union remains strong today, the continuing loss of members makes it inevitable that a merger with another union will be needed." He added, "The time to act is now, while I can still do so from a position of strength. I will keep you informed as we work through the process and hope to have good news in the near future."


Five CSX Executives Named to New Positions

[CSX, 4-05] . . .

Tony Ingram, executive vice president and chief operating officer, has announced key appointments in transportation: Mike Pendergrass has been appointed vice president-Transportation South; Bill Braman has been named Albany Division manager; Rod Workman has been named Atlanta Division manager; David Hamby has been named assistant division manager on the Atlanta Division; and Bob Frulla has been named Jacksonville Division manager. The new appointments come from labor relations, service planning and transportation teams. "These are key jobs that are critical to delivering for our customers and raising the bar on our performance," Ingram said. "These are all dedicated, proven railroaders who are committed to our core values, live by the accountability model and have the ability to assist us in reaching the next level of operating excellence."


York County, Pa., Rail Trail Projects Updates

[York County Rail Trail Authority] . . .

NORTHERN EXTENSION OF HERITAGE RAIL TRAIL: Planned as a five-mile northern extension, it will follow the Codorus Creek to John Rudy County Park. The Rail Trail Authority is currently negotiating easement agreements with five landowners along the northern-most section of the proposed trail, from the county park property to Emig Road bridge. Landowner response has been very favorable, and these negotiations may be completed by summer.

YORK-HANOVER TROLLEY TRAIL: In September 2004, this trail project became a candidate for a Pennsylvania Recreational Trails grant in the amount of $100,000 for development of a trailhead parking facility in Jackson Township and a section of trail to Spring Grove Borough. Environmental and historical clearances are under way to fulfill the requirements of this grant. Two grants - from Pa. DCED and Bon Ton Foundation - provide a total of $10,000 in matching funds. Through a ground swell of local support, Hanover Borough has obtained $175,000 in state grants to take the lead in developing a section of the Trolley Trail within the borough. These two sections - Spring Grove Borough / Jackson Township, and Hanover Borough / Penn Township - are expected to be the first sections to 'hit the ground' in this trail project.


First Coast Railroad Leases 32 Miles of CSX Lines in Florida, Georgia

First Coast Railroad, a subsidiary of Rail Link Inc., has leased a 32-mile route segment between Yulee and Fernandina, Florida, and Seals, Georgia, from CSXT. Headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, Rail Link operates 10 short lines in 11 states, according to a news report.


EMD Gets New Name, Owner

EMD is now operating under the new name of Electro-Motive Diesel Inc. Greenbriar Equity Group L.L.C. and Berkshire Partners L.L.C. acquired Electro-Motive Division from General Motors Corporation early last month.


Rail Line Through Yukon, British Columbia Being Studied

The governments of Alaska and Yukon will jointly study the benefits of a proposed railroad linking Alaska, Yukon, northern British Columbia and the contiguous United States. The two governments will split the estimated $5-million cost of the study, according to a news report.


Acela Express Out of Service Due to Brake Defects

Amtrak has taken its Acela Express train sets out of service due to cracks found in their brake equipment. It may be sometime this summer before the trains can be restored to service. In the meantime, the company has assembled equipment to protect its Northeast Corridor service, and Metroliners are being used as substitutes for Acela Express.