23 March 2017
Anchorage Alaska USA - Police have arrested and charged an 18-year-old in connection with graffiti vandalism of a historic locomotive in downtown Anchorage.
The Anchorage Police Department said in a Wednesday statement officers received a tip and then obtained enough evidence to arrest Terrence John Keoni Vicens, who has been charged with felony criminal mischief.
Vicens is jailed at the Anchorage Correctional Complex.
Court records show a charging document has not yet been filed in the case.
Police responded to the retired steam locomotive, at the corner of Ninth Avenue and E Street on the Delaney Park Strip, on Wednesday.
But it's unclear when the engine's tender was covered with graffiti that appears to spell "AMEN".
The vandalism was first reported by local television stations Tuesday.
"The investigation is continuing to include whether or not Vicens acted alone," police said.
Dubbed Delaney Park Locomotive 556 by the Municipality of Anchorage, the locomotive was built in 1943 for wartime service.
The U.S Army sent a dozen such locomotives to Alaska, and they were all used on the original Alaska railroad.
Locomotive 556 hauled passengers and freight from Seward to Fairbanks for 13 years before being placed as a monument downtown in 1956.
It is currently off-limits to the public.
In 2012, it was deemed a safety hazard.
A legislative grant for US$250,000 allowed for asbestos abatement and a fresh coat of epoxy on its exterior, but the condition of the engine proved too costly, so what kids could once climb and play on became what the municipality calls a "static display."
Residents hold strong feelings for the locomotive, outcry on social media followed the vandalism.
Many people have called the Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department wanting to help out, said department contract manager Vikram Patel.
Mike Andersen, president of DAMA Industrial LLC, has volunteered up to US$10,000 of crew labor to remove the graffiti and repaint the locomotive, Patel said.
The Anchorage Sherwin-Williams paint store has agreed to donate supplies to cover the graffiti, he said.
Police estimated the cost of removing the graffiti is between US$7,000 and US$15,000.
Andersen told the city it would take about a week to complete the job.
"The plan is to do it once the temperature has warmed up, so the paint can set correctly," Patel said.
22 March 2017
Mombasa Kenya - Kenya Railways (KR) has received another batch of locomotives and rolling stock that will be deployed on the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).
It consists of three passenger locomotives, eight passenger coaches, and 120 open-top wagons which arrived at the port of Mombasa aboard two ships from China.
The firm received the first batch of the locomotives and rolling stock in January with the second, third, and fourth batches arriving last month.
To date KR has received eight freight haulage heavy duty locomotives for mainline use out of the total 43, two shunting locomotives out of the eight on order, and 330 wagons out of the total order of 1,620.
The passenger locomotives and wagons have all been delivered as expected, five passenger locomotives and 40 passenger coaches.
In a statement to news rooms, KR Managing Director Atanas Maina said that the locomotives will provide vital service to the nation and help address the growing congestion on the roads.
He added that operations on the line will stimulate economic activity especially in the areas traversed by the SGR.
"Given that Kenya's economy is one of the fastest-growing economies in the region, the SGR line will add a lot of value to the transport and logistics scene by increasing mobility, reducing congestion at the port and on roads, and removing major inefficiencies in movement of both people and freight," he said.
21 March 2017
Boston Massachusetts USA - The MBTA could look to replace much of its aging Green Line fleet and about 50 of its commuter rail locomotives in the coming years, officials said.
Steve Poftak, a member of the MBTA's oversight board, said Monday that a draft plan, due to be released in July, will likely recommend the purchase of hundreds of new Green Line cars and many commuter rail locomotives and coaches.
"That's a procurement we need to get underway," Poftak said Monday at the board's meeting.
The board is working on a "fleet plan" for future purchases, such as Silver Line buses to add capacity to the current line and replacement commuter rail locomotives.
The transit agency is adding Green Line vehicles for its extension into Somerville and Medford, and could also acquire more than 200 vehicles to replace two batches of older cars, Poftak said.
The MBTA has long been criticized for its vehicle purchases.
Its Hyundai Rotem coaches were rife with defects when they first arrived, and a batch of new Motive Power Inc. commuter rail locomotives had to be sidelined for months before they could be used.
MBTA fleets typically consist of several kinds of vehicles from different companies.
But Poftak said the agency could move to "simplified fleets" with similar vehicles to help with maintenance.
The MBTA has already committed to paying hundreds of millions of dollars to a subsidiary of China Railroad Rolling Stock Corp. to replace its entire Red Line fleet.
"We have a habit of ordering very, very, highly customized cars," Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said Monday.
That often leaves the T as the only agency with similar vehicles, Pollack said, which can complicate maintenance.
21 March 2017
Donner Pass California USA - The fleet of maintenance machinery that keeps our nation's railways and roadways clear comprises some of the coolest machines out there today.
The Union Pacific Railroad's three rotary snowplows are no exception.
Built in the 1920s, the rotary snow plows originally ran on steam, but were converted to diesel in the 1950s.
The monstrous rotaries are still running today, ensuring our country's tracked lifelines remain passable all winter long.
This year, the Sierras experienced the third-snowiest winter in documented history with a mind-blowing 13 feet of snow.
Understandably, flangers and spreaders were unable to successfully clear the Donner Pass on their own, so Union Pacific needed to call in the big guns, the rotary snow plows.
According to retired Southern Pacific Superintendent Bill Lynch, the rotary snow plows "are sometimes called war wagons," as they wage war against Mother Nature.
In the photo above you see the Union Pacific Roseville Division working hard to clear the tracks and ensure safe travels for freight and passenger trains.
The rotary snowplows were tasked with clearing fourteen miles of the snow-covered Donner Pass.
20 March 2017
Kidderminster England United Kingdom - A festival of locomotives marked the start of the Severn Valley Railway's steam season, with thousands of people attending its spring steam gala.
The event started on Friday and ran until yesterday, with between 2,500 and 3,000 people attending each day.
It featured a top line-up of visiting locomotives, supported by members of the SVR home fleet.
Among the star locomotives visiting this year was LMS "Ivatt 2" number 41312, which made its first visit to the Severn Valley track in 16 years.
It was joined by an SR Battle of Britain number 34081 "92 Squadron" and BR Standard 9F number 92214, one of the most powerful locomotives in Britain.
The visiting locomotives were supported by members of the SVR's home fleet, including numbers 813, 1450, 1501, 2857, 7714, 7802 "Bradley Manor", 7812 "Erlestoke Manor", 34027 "Taw Valley", 34053 "Sir Keith Park" and number 43106.
Visitors were able to take steam train and brake van rides, as well as get on board evening services.
People also enjoyed looking at the new exhibitions at the Engine House Visitor Centre at Highley.
Chris Thomas, station master at Bridgnorth, said, "It's been very busy. We had about 2,500 people here on Friday and 3,000 on Saturday. It's a good turnout. It's certainly busier than last year but we have had quite good weather. People have been enjoying themselves and seem to be very pleased with it. We also have a large number of old carriages. The oldest coach we have is 105-years-old."
Learn more about the Severn Valley Railway in this article.
21 March 2017
Cheyenne Wyoming USA - Lovers of trains and history, rejoice.
Union Pacific's "Living Legend" steam locomotive number 844 will travel more than 1,600 miles to make a round-trip from Cheyenne, Wyoming, to Boise and back again.
The trip will mark the 92nd anniversary of the iconic Boise Depot.
It will arrive in Boise in the late afternoon on Saturday, 22 Apr 2017, at the Depot, 2063 West Eastover Terrace, and be part of a community celebration on Sunday.
Steam locomotive 844 was the last of its kind built for Union Pacific Railroad in 1944.
It was a high-speed passenger engine in its glory days.
It pulled well-known trains like the Overland Limited, the Los Angeles Limited, the Portland Rose, and Challenger.
When diesels replaced steam to power passenger trains in the late 1950s, 844 was relegated to freight service, but was never officially "retired."
The locomotive has been making public appearances for decades.
It has been to Boise a few times, said local train expert and historian Eriks Garsvo, but not since 2010.
It was an inquiry from Garsvo that helped bring the train to Boise for this special event.
It's a big deal for train enthusiasts, he said.
Members of local railroad groups are already staking out their spots along the route, he said.
"It's a piece of American history for sure," he said.
Garsvo himself will have the honour of getting on the train and riding it into Boise to open the Depot festivities.
The locomotive underwent recent upgrades at the Union Pacific shop in Cheyenne to get ready for its three 2017 excursions.
In addition to its Boise trip, the 844 will also travel to Omaha, Nebraska, for the 2017 College World Series in June and to Cheyenne Frontier Days in July.
Its stop in Boise will be part of a community celebration to mark the Depot's anniversary.
Festivities will take place from 11:00 to 17:00 on Sunday, 23 Apr 2017.
Free tours of the Boise Depot with Garsvo at noon and 14:00 were quickly filled, but even if you don't have tour tickets, there will plenty of things to see, including a large selection of model trains and vintage cars.
Food will also be for sale on site if you're in the mood for a picnic.
The locomotive itself will not be open to the public but visitors can get an up close look at the historic train.
Here are the train's scheduled stops in Idaho:
21 March 2017
Wellington New Zealand - Following a request for KiwiRail board papers on the decision to replace the 30-year-old electric locomotives on the North Island Main Trunk (NIMT) with diesel locomotives, we received a heavily redacted copy of KiwiRail's "Better Business Case: NIMT Performance Improvement" late last year.
The NIMT is electrified between Te Rapa (just north of Hamilton) and Palmerston North only.
The route is serviced by diesel locomotives from Auckland/Tauranga to Hamilton, by electric locomotives from Hamilton to Palmerston North, and by diesel locomotives from Palmerston North to Wellington.
The requirement to change locomotives at Hamilton and Palmerston North is said to add about 1.5 hours to the transit time (although a lot of freight trains have to stop at Hamilton and Palmerston North for re-marshalling wagons anyway).
The KiwiRail board's position is that replacing electric locomotives with diesel locomotives would improve rail freight transport on-time performance between Auckland and Christchurch, and so achieve modal shift of freight from road to rail transport.
KiwiRail considered four options:
1) diesel locomotives from Auckland to Wellington;
2) new electric locomotives from Hamilton to Palmerston North plus diesels;
3) second-hand electric locomotives from Hamilton to Palmerston North plus diesels;
4) a mixed fleet of diesels and refurbished electrics via a control system upgrade.
The third and fourth options were eliminated as being too complex.
From the first two options, diesel locomotives from Auckland to Wellington were chosen.
The analysis found the lower capital costs of diesels more than offset the lower operating and maintenance costs of the electric locomotives.
An option not considered by KiwiRail was dual-mode locomotives.
These are driven by electric motors powered by either the onboard diesel-powered generator, or the overhead electric wires where the route is electrified.
They have been operating successfully, or are planned to, in the United States, Canada, China, India, Britain, Poland, Italy, Spain, and South Africa.
They would have all the benefits of one locomotive from Auckland to Wellington, but with electric traction from Hamilton to Palmerston North.
The cost of European-designed Bombardier dual-mode locomotives is NZ$7 million to $8 million each.
That is approximately 50 percent more than the cost of a new diesel locomotive.
However, the lower operating and maintenance costs of the electric-mode will more than recover that capital cost difference.
And because the diesel-mode will only be used for the beginning and end of the journey, the diesel components will have a much longer life than a diesel locomotive.
Automated switching between power sources would solve KiwiRail's concern about the current time delays at Hamilton and Palmerston North.
Unlike the proposed new diesels, they would avoid greenhouse gas and noxious emissions for the electrified part of the route, because 80 percent of New Zealand's electricity is generated from renewable resources.
This is an option that must be considered.
The best long-term solution would be completion of the electrification of the NIMT.
The original electrification of the line from Palmerston North to Hamilton was one of the greatest engineering enterprises of the 20th century.
Engineers in Railways, Electricity, and Public Works Departments widened rail tracks, strengthened bridges, and enlarged tunnels, or made open cuttings.
Now the two ends, Auckland to Hamilton, and Wellington to Palmerston North, need to be completed.
Compared to the mountainous central region, these sections are straight forward.
Also, some lines near Wellington and Auckland are already electrified for metropolitan rail services, although the electrical capacity will need to be upgraded on the Wellington suburban line to Waikanae to also accommodate freight trains.
Once the entire NIMT is electrified, the dual-mode locos would be able to run on electrics for the whole journey.
The chief executive of KiwiRail claims that the cost of electrifying the remainder of the NIMT is $1 billion, and that to electrify the entire North Island would cost more than $4 billion.
Funding would be a matter for government, if it considers this a priority for land transport funding.
There is no evidence that this option has been considered.
KiwiRail has merely allowed for future electrification of the NIMT by agreeing to leave the electric lines in place.
KiwiRail has considered its best commercial interests as a State Owned Enterprise (SOE).
However, a switch from electric locomotives to diesel locomotives on the NIMT will increase greenhouse gas emissions, which goes against New Zealand's commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change of December 2015.
KiwiRail says there will be a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions through a mode shift of freight from road to rail, if a faster, more reliable service is provided by new diesels than the current 30-year-old electric locomotives.
But similar mode shift benefits could be expected from new electric locomotives, or dual-mode locomotives.
If the Government is serious about tackling climate change, it must take the lead on national interest issues.
Roger Blakeley, Keith Flinders, Alex Gray, and Bob Norman.