Rail News Roundup #13

 

Today’s Headlines

• Hartford Line to Launch June 16th

• Draft MassDOT 2019-2023 Capital Plan Update Released

• The Vermonter, in the News

• Amherst Station Signage Removed

• News | Recent Rail Crossing Accidents

• Railroad Jobs in the Valley

• Northampton | ‘Golden Spike’ Conference

 

Calendar

June 16th, 2018
Launch of the Hartford Line

July 27–28, 2018
Northampton | Golden Spike 2018
The largest rails-to-trails conference of the year in New England.

 


Hartford Line to Launch on June 16th

The Hartford Line is coming!

Dates to Note (Updated June 4, 2018)

Mon. June 11th | Expanded service on the corridor starts with the addition of three new Amtrak round-trips between Springfield and New Haven.

Fri. June 15th | Ribbon cutting at Hartford Union Station. Special trains, for invited guests, will operate from New Haven and Springfield to Hartford, and return.

Sat. June 16th | Hartford Line CTrail trains enter regular scheduled service today.

Sat./Sun. June 16-17 | All Hartford Line service (CTrail and Amtrak) will be FREE this weekend. 

Mon. June 18th | Hartford Line tickets now accepted for travel on Amtrak trains between Springfield and New Haven, except on the Vermonter.

Mon. June 18th | Hartford Line fares now in effect for all Amtrak tickets purchased for travel between Springfield and New Haven, except on the Vermonter. As example, the one-way adult price to travel between Springfield and New Haven on Amtrak will now be $12.50.

We will provide many additional details in a future posting, before the launch of service on June 16th.

 

In the meantime, please visit the newly refreshed Hartford Line website for further information.

In particular we suggest having a close look at the Rider FAQs section.

Further information

Hartford Line | Official website

 


Draft MassDOT 2019-2023 Capital Plan Update Released

MassDOT has released its draft Capital Investment Plan (CIP) Update for Fiscal Years 2019–2023.

The draft CIP is multi-billion dollar investment portfolio that includes all MassDOT highway and bridge projects, regional airports, rail and transit, including MBTA and Regional Transit Authorities as well as the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

To view the draft plan click on this link:
Draft 2019-2023 CIP Update

 

To view a summary of the proposed rail projects in our region click on this link:

Summary of CIP Rail Projects in the Pioneer Valley
Prepared by Trains In The Valley

 

Comments on the MassDOT’s draft CIP Update can be submitted by email using this address: masscip@dot.state.ma.us

Note that the deadline for comments is Friday, June 1, 2018.

 

Further information

Capital Investment Plan | MassDOT

Capital Program subcommittee | MassDOT Board of Directors

 


The Vermonter, in the News

The Vermonter stops at Brattleboro, VT | June 2013
By Beyond My Ken [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
“Amtrak services’ future still an open question”
By C.B. Hall | Vermont Business Magazine | May 1, 2018

Vermont Business Magazine, in a detailed article, looks at the future of Amtrak’s Vermonter service.

The situation is complicated. In a nutshell, Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson is concerned that there are no plans to install Positive Train Control (PTC) on some of the rail lines used by Amtrak’s trains in the U.S. — including the lines that are used by the Vermonter between Springfield and St Albans, VT.

The Vermont  portion of the line has been exempted from the requirement for PTC but the line between East Northfield, MA and Springfield has apparently fallen into a kind of PTC-limbo for various reasons.

Amtrak, for its part, is talking about the future of the Vermonter in noncommittal terms and is meanwhile conducting a safety analyses of its routes both here and across the country.

“In Vermont, Amtrak is just now beginning to undertake its safety review of routes such as the Vermonter and the Ethan Allen,” Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) noted in an email statement [to Vermont Business Magazine]. ‘It is premature to suggest that these reviews will lead to suspension of passenger service.’ ”

All parties are focused on dealing with the safety concerns but there is no assurances as to what exactly will happen as we move closer to the PTC deadline of December 31, 2018.

Rest assured, everyone we’ve spoken to is working diligently to keep the train running and is very focused on taking the necessary steps to enhance safety along the rail lines on the route.

 


Amherst Station Signage Removed

Signage at the site of the former Amherst station | January 29, 2018

The last Amtrak passenger train pulled out of Amherst on December 28th, 2014. Odd as it may seem, someone at Amtrak never got the memo.

In January (2018) we were asked why Amtrak’s signs were still standing in Amherst. After a couple of attempts to get the signs removed we reached out to the office of Congressman Jim McGovern in Northampton for help.

The congressman’s office contacted Amtrak and the signs were finally removed on May 3rd.

 


News | Recent Rail Crossings Accidents

Two serious accidents have occurred at railroad crossing in our region in the past few weeks.

The Republican reported that in the early morning hours of April 14th a vehicle struck the rear of a CSX freight train at the crossing on Memorial Drive in Springfield. Tragically, the driver of the vehicle lost her life in this accident.


Memorial Drive X CSX crossing | Springfield, Ma.

The crossing, shown above, is located at the end of a CSX rail line known as the Athol Industrial Track. The line ends at the Monson Paper warehouse — shown on the right in the image.

Accident records on file with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) indicate that the last accident at this crossing occurred in 1991.

: :

Western Mass News reported that on May 15th at about 2:30 pm a vehicle came in contact with a New England Central (NECR) freight train at the crossing on Stafford Road (a.k.a. Massachusetts Route 32) in Monson.

The three people in the vehicle were taken to Baystate Medical Center for treatment of what police said appeared to be non-life threatening injuries.


Stafford Road (MA-32) X NECR crossing | Monson, Ma.

The crossing, shown above, is located on NECR’s Palmer subdivision. The authorized speed for freight trains at this location is 25 mph and the speed limit on the state highway here is 45 mph.

Accident records on file with FRA show no reported accidents at this crossing as far back as 1975.

::

In related news, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission has been studying the safety of at-grade railroad crossings in our region. Their report is scheduled to be released in November 2018.

See also

Railroad Crossing Safety
Trains In The Valley

Further reading

“Woman killed in train collision identified as Springfield resident”
By Jeanette DeForge | The Republican | April 15, 2018

“Three hospitalized after train hits car in Monson”
By Ryan Trowbridge | Western Mass News | May 15, 2018

“Saving lives where road meets rail”
By Bruce E. Kelly | Railway Age | May 21, 2018

 


Railroad Jobs in the Valley

Ever thought about working for a railroad? Well, do we have the job for you.

By popular demand we’ve now added a new section on the website called [Railroad Jobs in The Valley] with information about available railroad jobs across our region.

 


Northampton | Golden Spike 2018 Conference

Are we a rail trail friendly rail advocacy group you might ask? Of course.

Unused rail lines need to be preserved and protected for public use today and the future.

Coming to Northampton on July 27-28th is “Golden Spike 2018″ — the largest rails-to-trails conference of the year in New England.

Event website
gs2018.org

 

 

Post last updated: June 4, 2018

Rail News Roundup #12

 

Today’s Headlines

• Hartford Line Controversy

• CTDOT Test Trains Running

• Springfield Union Station Platform C

• Images from Springfield Union Station

• Great News for Passenger Rail!

• Conn River Line Bridge Work Planned

• Northampton | Rt. 5 – Collision with Freight Train

• Sen. Lesser Talks About East-West Rail

• Westfield | Proposed Industrial Park

• Berkshire Scenic Acquires Historic Mt Tom Locomotive

 

Calendar

“New Train Travel in Western MA”
with Senator Eric Lesser

Tues. April 17th | 6 – 7:30 PM
Sixteen Acres Branch | Springfield Public Library
1187 Parker St, Springfield, MA

Senator Lesser will speak on the topic of expanded passenger rail service for our region.

This event has been organized by Sixteen Acres Branch Library as part of a series of events related to Earth Week.

Further details
Earth Week at Sixteen Acres Branch Library (PDF)

 


Hartford Line Controversy

CTrail Coach No. 527 | in New Haven, Ct. | April 2018

“Department Of Transportation Tells Lawmakers Leasing Of 30-Year-Old Rail Cars A Good Deal For State”
By Gregory B. Hladky | Hartford Courant | April 12, 2018

In Connecticut a controversy is swirling between the Hartford Courant, the Connecticut DOT, and the legislature over CTDOT’s decision to lease 16 former MBTA coaches from the Massachusetts DOT for the planned Hartford Line service.

The Hartford Courant, through their news and editorial pages, contend that CTDOT made an ill-advised decision when it decided to lease 30-year old coaches from MassDOT.

CTDOT, according to reporting in the Courant, said “they had planned to electrify the Shore Line East route and shift M-8 cars from Metro North’s New Haven Line to CTDOT’s Shore Line East service. That would have allowed the DOT to use CTDOT’s Shore Line East locomotives and cars on the new Hartford Line. But those plans fell through when it became clear that all the M-8 cars were needed to handle surging ridership on the New Haven Line.”

The Connecticut legislature has held meetings with the DOT Commissioner to discuss this issue and is considering public hearings on the topic.

Its important to remember that the older coaches used by some passenger railroads in this country are perfectly safe to operate as long as they are properly maintained and inspected. As example, the Amfleet I coaches used by Amtrak for its service between New Haven and Springfield are all over 40 years old.

As of last week, according to the Courant’s reporting, CTDOT has received four of the rehabilitated coaches at its yard in New Haven. Four other coaches were at a Rhode Island facility for painting and rebranding. Eight of the coaches were still in Massachusetts.

It is expected that Governor Dannel Malloy will formally announce the official start date for Hartford Line service when he cuts the ribbon at the new Meriden station on April 19th. At this event it should become clear how the State of Connecticut plans to move forward with the launch of this new service in May 2018, or not.

Further reading

Recent stories on the Hartford Line | Hartford Courant

 


CTDOT Test Trains Running

CTDOT test train | Windsor Locks, Ct. | March 11, 2018

The Connecticut Department of Transportation’s contractor for the CTrail Hartford Line service, TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts, started running non-scheduled test trains between New Haven and Springfield in early March.

These trains serve as training for locomotive engineers and train conductors to learn the tracks and territory between New Haven and Springfield.

In a related development, CTDOT has indicated that an agreement is now in place so that Hartford Line tickets will be valid for travel on all Amtrak trains between Springfield and New Haven when the new service starts, with the exception of the Vermonter.

This means that with a Hartford Line ticket passengers will be able to board any Amtrak train on this line (except the Vermonter) without the need for a reserved Amtrak ticket.

 


Springfield Union Station Platform C

Earlier this month MassDOT released the long awaited bid solicitation for the project to construct a full-length high-level boarding platform at Springfield Union Station.

Site Logistics Plan excerpt | High Level Platform Project
Springfield Union Station | March 30, 2018

 

Platform C (on the left) – looking east
Springfield Union Station | March 6, 2017

The project will involve the removal of the existing low-level platform between tracks 4 and 6 (known as Platform C) at Springfield Union Station. In its place a full-length high-level platform will be constructed.

Passengers will access the new platform via a refurbished stairway (known as stairway 5) on the west side of the concourse level or via a new elevator from the center of the concourse level. The historic stairway on the east side of the concourse level (known as stairway 6) will not be reopened as part of this project.

 

Stairway 5 | Springfield Union Station | March 6, 2017

 

Bids for the project, which is valued at $6.5 million, are scheduled to be opened on April 18, 2018.

 


Images from Springfield Union Station

Here are two notable images from Union Station that we thought would be interesting to share.

Concourse level | Springfield Union Station | March 26, 2018

Some have asked, “what inside the gray boxes down at Union Station?” The answer — the ticket machines for the CTrail Hartford Line service. The machines are in place and wired up but will remain covered until the service launches.

The screen on the left will eventually show departure information for Amtrak trains (and we hope CTrail Hartford Line trains too) from this station.

 

Inside Springfield Union Station | looking North | February 23, 2018

We don’t have any information on what the arrangement was that allowed this Peter Pan Bus promotion to be placed on the back side of the information board in the main waiting hall. One would assume that Peter Pan is paying quite a lot of money for signage in such a prominent location.

 


 Great News for Passenger Rail!

Source: Rail Passengers Association Blog | March 22, 2018

“Great News for Rail Passengers in Fiscal Year 2018 Budget!”
Blog post | Rail Passengers Association | March 22, 2018

To make a long story short — the recently approved Federal Fiscal Year 2018 budget includes historic increases in funding for Amtrak, passenger rail, and transit at the federal level.

 


Conn River Line Bridge Work Planned

MassDOT has issued a bid solicitation for tie replacement and the installation of a second main line track on two bridges on the Connecticut River Main Line (CRML).

The first bridge (known as Bridge 34.82)¹ carries the CRML high above the Deerfield River and the second bridge (known as Bridge 34.95)¹ carries the CRML over the Pan Am Southern’s Fitchburg Main Line and the so-called Greenfield Running Track.

Both bridges are shown on the map and in the image below.

Locus map – CRML Bridge Project | Greenfield & Deerfield, Ma. | MassDOT

 

Connecticut River Main Line Bridges 34.82 and 34.95
Viewed from Hope St – looking south | Greenfield, Ma. | April 2018

The project calls for the installation of 1,650 new wood bridge timbers, structural modifications on each of the two bridges, installation of a retaining wall, construction of new track, and the installation of 1,500 track feet of continuously welded running rail and 3,600 linear feet of bridge guard rail over bridges 34.82 and 34.95.

Work will also include spot ditching, maintenance crossing installation, track surfacing and aligning, as well as removal and disposal of debris.

Bids for the project, which is valued at $3.1 million, were scheduled to be opened on March 29, 2018.

The project is expected to take 320 calendars days to complete once MassDOT issues a Notice to Proceed to the contractor.

 

¹These numbers indicate the milepost (a distance measured in miles) along the rail line. On The Connecticut River Main Line this distance is measured from Springfield.

 


Northampton | Rt. 5 – Collision with Freight Train

Vehicle collision with freight train | Northampton Ma.
Northampton Police image | March 16, 2018

“Holyoke man injured in Rt. 5 collision with train in Northampton; cited for drunken driving”
By Patrick Johnson | The Republican | March 16, 2018

The crossing is for a railroad siding that leads from the MassDOT-owned Connecticut River Mainline to the Packaging Corporation of America facility on Route 5 in Northampton.

Apparently the driver of the vehicle did not notice the flashing red warning lights at the crossing.

Active signals were installed at this crossing just over a year ago, after a similar accident.

Further reading

New Grade Crossing Signals go up in Northampton
Trains In The Valley | January 12, 2017

 


Sen. Lesser Talks About East-West Rail

Senator Eric Lesser spoke on WGBY-57’s program Connecting Point on March 14, 2018 on the topic of the future of East-West passenger rail service in our state.

Anyone interested in the idea of connecting eastern Mass. with western Mass. by rail should be encouraged by the political leadership on this issue that Sen. Lesser continues to offer to all of us.

 


Westfield | Proposed Industrial Park

Westfield MEPA Plan | Page 10
Source: https://ma-westfield2.civicplus.com/DocumentCenter/View/5833

The City of Westfield is moving forward with plans to develope a 66-acre industrial park on city-owned land between Turnpike Industrial Road and Cabot Road.

It has been reported that the design will include provisions for possible rail access into the property. If this were to happen the site would be served by the Pioneer Valley Railroad which already serves a number of freight rail customers in the vicinity of the proposed industrial park.

Further reading

“Westfield submits state paperwork to create industrial park”
By Hope Tremblay | The Republican | April 4, 2018

Westfield MEPA Plan presentation (PDF)
January 10, 2018

 


Berkshire Scenic Acquires Historic Mt Tom Locomotive

Boston & Maine SW-1 diesel locomotive
Former Mt Tom power plant, Holyoke, Ma.

“Scenic railway museum acquires historic locomotive”
By Tony Dobrowolski | The Berkshire Eagle | April 4, 2018

The Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum (Lenox, Ma.) has acquired a rare 1941 Electro-Motive Division locomotive from the now dormant Mt. Tom power plant located in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

The 77-year old locomotive (shown above) was picked up from the power plant site by Pan Am Railways in late February and is now resting at its new home in the Berkshire Scenic’s rail yard.