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  •  Railroads are privately owned . (4+ / 0-)

    There are improvements being made all the time .

    "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

    by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 11:41:14 AM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  Railroads are still benefiting from the... (28+ / 0-)

      ...gifts the taxpayers gave them when they were first built and when they were upgraded in World War I after decades of neglect.

      What's needed now is mandated green-sourced electrification, upgraded better roadbeds to handle higher speeds and projects like the Steel Interstate. That will require significant government effort with a payback (unlike the giveaways of the 1850s-1870s).

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 11:48:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And of course, they are for-profit entities. So (24+ / 0-)

        wherever they can cut costs - like pesky safety and staffing issues - they will pursue with zeal.

        Leading to more accidents that 1) no one could have foreseen and 2) public tax-payers get to eventually pay to clean up.

        Certainly, requiring them to carry more liability insurance for their profit-generating activity would be a great first step.

        "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition /= GTFO" Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon + JVolvo

        by JVolvo on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 11:55:29 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That picture says it all... (14+ / 0-)

          ...you're looking at the tail end of a train, where a caboose used to be. Now, it's a flashing rear-end device (FRED).

          Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

          by JeffW on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 12:09:22 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Awesome! Thanks for that link! (nt) (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Rashaverak, hbk

          Stephen Colbert does superb satire. Pity those offended by it.

          by VirginiaJeff on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 12:15:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  (Oops. Meant to attach to comment further up.) nt (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Rashaverak, hbk, Just Bob

          Stephen Colbert does superb satire. Pity those offended by it.

          by VirginiaJeff on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 12:18:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  That's not really true . (0+ / 0-)
          And of course, they are for-profit entities. So
          wherever they can cut costs - like pesky safety and staffing issues - they will pursue with zeal.

          https://www.aar.org/...

          POSITIVE TRAIN CONTROL

          PTC: Advanced Rail Safety Technology

          Positive train control (PTC) is advanced technology designed to automatically stop or slow a train before certain accidents occur. In particular, PTC is designed to prevent train-to-train collisions, derailments caused by excessive speed and unauthorized movement of trains onto sections of track where repairs are being made or as a result of a misaligned track switch.

          "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

          by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:38:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Behind schedule - 2015 goal will not be met (7+ / 0-)

            The article was a nice bit of industry "yay us" till you follow the link to the progress chart and read the last paragraph.

            Only half the locomotives have been fully OR PARTIALLY equipped with PTC (and what does that even mean?).  Only 1/3 of the wayside units and antennas deployed, 1/5 of the radio units.  And they won't meet the 2015 deadline for full deployment - don't give an estimate for when they will have PTC fully functioning.

            Not actually that comforting since the trains are rolling now.

            •  And then there are the DOT-111 tanker cars... (7+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              hbk, JeffW, JVolvo, Eric Nelson, BYw, Rashaverak, jbsoul

              ...still on the lines. Not safe. Tens of thousands of them. The proposal is to replace them. But that will take a long time. Meanwhile, the unsafe ones will continuing rolling.

              Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

              by Meteor Blades on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:58:39 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Canada (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                BYw, Rashaverak

                has started to phase out the old style tankers.  The worst are or will be gone from their rails shortly.  Then over the next 2-3 years the next poorest will be banned.  So what does this mean for the U.S.?  If we don't update our regs, the RRs will send their stock of newer tankers to the north and all the crap tankers no longer legal in Canada will all end up on U.S. rails.

                •  Most tank cars are not the railroad's property. (0+ / 0-)

                  The railroads generally don't own most, if not all, of the tank cars used in the oil trade. There are very large leasing companies that buy, maintain, and lease those oil cars to the shippers who load them. The railroads are essentially providing the crews, locomotives, and the right of way (infrastructure) to move the oil.

                  All of the freight car building companies are going flat out right now, building all types of new freight cars for their customers, not just new tank cars. Freight cars have been ordered in terms of 1000's of cars of one type for just one customer, and the builders all have multiple orders stacked up. This is true for US, Canadian, and Mexican builders.

                  Everyone wants the old tank cars to go away, and I'm all for that, no question. But the car building industry doesn't have the capacity to change the situation over night, nor could taking all the 111's off the rails immediately fix much. Canada can do it because their captive fleets are considerably smaller than the ones used here in the US. We two nations really share the entire fleet of all freight cars for North America, with most cars able to go to and fro across the border in their lifetimes more than a few times. We do share this fleet with Mexico to a degree, but it is much smaller than the US/CAN pool.

                  Oil trains are a massive problem with no quick and easy fix. Like heroin, we simply need to kick oil.

                  And yeah, I know tarantulas don't really act like that at all, so no snarking, this is the internet damnit!

                  by itzadryheat on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 08:22:15 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

            •  They are doing improvements . (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Rashaverak

              Its not a case of them not doing improvements .

              And of course, they are for-profit entities. So
              wherever they can cut costs - like pesky safety and staffing issues - they will pursue with zeal.
              vs
              Behind schedule

              "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

              by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:59:35 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Not sure I agree with you, MB. (4+ / 0-)

        It's hard for me to understand why we treat rail infrastructure so differently from other forms of infrastructure.  Yes, rail companies are (mostly) privately owned, and they also own their tracks and rail beds.  This accident of history has led us to demand that railroads pay for the maintenance and upgrading of that infrastructure.

        In contrast, trucking companies do not pay for highway upkeep, airlines don't pay for airports, and carriers of waterborne freight don't pay for seaports.  (Obviously, they do pay something, usually through user fees.)  The vast bulk of the cost of that infrastructure is borne by the taxpayers.  Rail is the only transportation mode responsible for maintaining the infrastructure it uses to move passengers and freight.

        I think we'd do far better if we recognized that railways, like highways, are simply public services.  Passenger rail in particular may not be able to turn a profit if it has to pay the costs of upkeep of tracks and rail beds.  In my opinion, transportation infrastructure needs to be largely a public responsibility.

        "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

        by FogCityJohn on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 12:59:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  we missed the opportunity in the 70's (7+ / 0-)

          when PennRail was going bankrupt to
          have the railroads taken over, make the rail ROW's public again,  and then the feds own the trackage, and rent rail time.

          Then you get a standard signalling system, standard
          for usage, standard rates and the railroads just own their
          rolling stock and yards.

          •  The railroads have REALLY performed (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Rashaverak, VirginiaJeff

            well since that 70s.   The government did the right thing by privatizing them.   They're now essentially a super-oligopoly that pounds the trucking industry to and fro.   While I'm not normally a fan of near monopolies, the presence of a transportation competitor to highway trucks is worth the market distortion.  

            Government ownership would just give 'pubs reasons to starve them of resources, so everything would be worse.

            I love Amtrak.  They need about 30 billion in maintenance money.  Good luck finding that!!

            From Neocon to sane- thanks to Obama- and Kos.

            by satrap on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:21:47 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  sorry a monopoly is still bad. (0+ / 0-)

              it would have been better to create an open rail system,
              and let the freight railroads bid for rail time every year,
              and build their own yards and rolling stock.

              treat the rail lines like interstates, and have the states
              maintain them but the feds pay the bulk of the construction.

          •  They did take them over. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Rashaverak, VirginiaJeff, Just Bob

            The Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973 basically amounted to a huge bankruptcy proceeding for the northeastern and midwestern passenger and freight carriers.  The federal government paid billions for the liquidated railroads' "rail properties," and then transferred the freight lines to Conrail and the passenger lines to Amtrak.  (N.B.: This is a gross oversimplification of the process.)

            But yeah, Congress didn't take over ownership of the actual trackage and rail beds, so now the railroads are stuck trying to maintain them.  Those costs are one of the reasons Amtrak is unable to turn a profit.  If it didn't have to pay for upkeep, it'd have a lot more money.

            "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

            by FogCityJohn on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:23:35 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  I don't disagree with the theory. But ... (6+ / 0-)

          ...what we're talking about here is nationalizing the railroads (or at least the rails themselves if not the rolling stock). That happened temporarily in World War I and World War II, and briefly again in the Korean War. And the screams then, when more people favored it, were gigantic.

          How we can we make that happen?

          Don't get me wrong. I would love to see it.

          Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

          by Meteor Blades on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:53:04 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I only mean the rails and beds. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Rashaverak

            I also don't think you'd necessarily need to place them into government ownership.  What you would have to do, though, is get the government to agree to pay a share of their upkeep.  It does this now (albeit in inadequate fashion) with Amtrak.

            As you point out, however, this is probably a politically impossible task.  People don't think of rail in the same way they think of other transportation infrastructure.  (It's kind of like the way Americans happily pay taxes to keep pouring asphalt but insist that public transit pay for itself.)  

            In general, we need to work on getting people to accept the idea that publicly operated services can be a good thing.  It's admittedly very tough our current "government-can-do-no-right" political environment.

            "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

            by FogCityJohn on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 04:57:59 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Trucking companies, along with every single person (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          hbk, JeffW, Rashaverak

          who buys gasoline or diesel fuel DO "pay for highway upkeep".

          There are both Federal and State Motor Fuel taxes on every gallon sold, and those tax dollars fund the Federal Highway Bills which expand and maintain the Federal Interstate Highway system.

          They also help fund roads projects in the various states.

          Large (commercial) trucks alone pay an additional 3.5 cents gas tax, per gallon.

          "I like paying taxes...with them, I buy Civilization"

          by Angie in WA State on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:54:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  As I said, they pay something. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Rashaverak

            But the vast bulk of the money comes from the ordinary taxpayer.  Moreover, the highways themselves are public property and their maintenance is the responsibility of the federal government.

            "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

            by FogCityJohn on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 04:50:45 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Fuel excise taxes pay only about (0+ / 0-)

            1/3rd of direct road costs in the U.S.  In most states highway fuel is exempt from or incurs reduced levels of sales tax, meaning it is actually subsidized rather than paying its way.  Heavy trucks cause the majority of road damage by traffic.  

            Federal fuel taxes haven't been raised since 1993, are not indexed for inflation, and are about 1/3rd what they were per mile driven in 1960.

            Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

            by benamery21 on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 09:58:13 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  You want to electrify all the railroad system (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        satrap

        in the USA ?
        You want to make to make what % of the overall rail in the USA high speed ?

        Railroads are still benefiting from the...
        ...gifts the taxpayers gave them when they were first built and when they were upgraded in World War I after decades of neglect.
        How so ? If you or I buy a railroad that is down / beat up , today and try to fix it up , make it pay , how would we be benefiting from something that happened so very long ago ?

        "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

        by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:19:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yeah, it's just impossible to try to (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          indycam

          Europeanize our rail system at this point.  By that I mean electrify it.  It would be good, but the VAST size of our network makes diesel the only option.

          We're ok.

          From Neocon to sane- thanks to Obama- and Kos.

          by satrap on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:23:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  How are they benefiting? Free right of way... (7+ / 0-)

          ...provided by the federal government.

          In addition, the land that went with that. When Union Pacific Corporation spun off into rail and non-rail operations in the late 1990s, it owned 7.5 million acres of land in Western states that had been part of the giveaway in the 19th Century. From these it continues to make money from natural resources, including vast reserves of coal, oil, gas (and uranium).

          When the 10-mile-long Alameda Corridor to connect the ports to the rail hub near downtown Los Angeles in the late '90s, the right-of-way that had been given by government to Southern Pacific was sold to the Alameda Corridor Project for $235 million.

          Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

          by Meteor Blades on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:47:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  So all the railroads got free right of ways /land (0+ / 0-)

            or just some ?
            Once again , if you or I buy a railroad today , how are we benefiting from something done so long ago ?
            50 miles of track , connecting not much to not much .
            We are not buying a major railroad .
            Do you think the selling price is going to reflect that someone got it for less or for free long long ago ?

            http://news.google.com/...

            http://www.railwayage.com/...

            DeVries not only runs a railroad —he outright owns one (Rogue Valley Terminal Railroad, formerly White City Terminal Railroad), putting him in the rarified environment of Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway investment fund outright owns BNSF. As the cliché goes, DeVries' 13-mile railroad may not be as long Buffett's BNSF, but it's just as wide in track gauge.

            "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

            by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 02:35:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  It's not a matter of buying a railroad... (3+ / 0-)

              ...My bank account wouldn't even handle an upscale "e" gauge model railroad.

              In terms of the big boys who are the ones hauling 400,000+ carloads of crude oil, almost all of it from the Bakken formation (and a little from the tar sands), their new operations are still benefiting from the giveaways. Otherwise, they wouldn't own their own rights-of-way now. The two biggest chose to spin off their coal, gas, oil, uranium, gold, timber rights on millions of acres of land GIVEN to them by the taxpayers into subsidiaries with overlapping boards of directors in the '90s.

              Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

              by Meteor Blades on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 03:01:55 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Are you going to make two or more sets of rules ? (0+ / 0-)

                Some for the big and some for the small ?

                Some or a few , Railroads are still benefiting from the...
                ...gifts the taxpayers gave them when they were first built and when they were upgraded in World War I after decades of neglect.
                Lets not lump them in altogether .

                "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

                by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 03:15:28 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Any railroad, big or small, that carries... (3+ / 0-)

                  ...highly volatile liquids ought to do so safely, don't you agree? Having adequate insurance to cover accidents, good safety equipment and good rules of the road should apply to them all. Right now, they don't.

                  As for the benefits, I think I've made my points on that subject. It was an aside based on your comment that privately owned railroads are always making improvements. Yes. But many of those are mandated and deadlines for those are often missed.

                  I don't agree that the entire U.S. rail system can't be electrified. It can't be done tomorrow, to be sure. But it can be done, starting with the nation's seven Class I railroads.  

                  Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

                  by Meteor Blades on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 03:33:33 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Always ? (0+ / 0-)
                    your comment that privately owned railroads are always making improvements.
                    There are improvements being made all the time .
                    If you change the word slightly you change the meaning slightly.

                    All the time railroads are fixing and upgrading .
                    They are not always fixing and upgrading .

                    But it can be done,
                    You might run some people out of business , people who own small railroads . The freight they haul may go by truck in the future , and that would be a backward step .
                    Any railroad, big or small, that carries...
                    ...highly volatile liquids ought to do so safely, don't you agree?
                    I accept that there will be accidents , with railroads , trucks and pipelines . I hope to reduce them as much as possible within reason .

                    http://freightrailworks.org/...
                    95,264 miles of class 1 .
                    If you don't do them all at one go you will have a mixed fleet ?

                    "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

                    by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 04:11:13 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I am not going to get into a semantics... (3+ / 0-)

                      ...discussion with you about the supposedly slight difference in meaning between "all the time" and "always." If your point is that they are they aren't continuously engaged in this practice but only continually, fine, I'll accept that.

                      Yes. Accidents occur. That is what insurance is for. If your argument is that the taxpayers should pick up the the tab when there is no insurance or inadequate insurance by a private, profit-making operation, then what should taxpayers get in return? We don't allow even poor people (in my state) to drive without car insurance. Why should we let railroads do so?

                      We had a mixed fleet of locomotives in this country until the mid-1960s. If you're saying we permanently must have diesel locomotives, you and I just don't agree.

                      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

                      by Meteor Blades on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 04:36:19 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  "If your argument is" (0+ / 0-)

                        That is not what I said or meant .

                        I made a comment to you ,
                        http://www.dailykos.com/...

                        The oil companies , the railroaders and the insurance people should get together and work out the oil train insurance problem , but I doubt they will unless forced .
                        If you're saying we permanently must have diesel locomotives, you and I just don't agree.
                        I accept that there will be diesel powered locomotives , boats , cars , trucks and airplanes for a great deal longer .
                        "fake" diesel from renewable sources ...

                        "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

                        by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 04:56:38 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                      •  ... (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Rashaverak

                        http://www.railway-technology.com/...

                        The rail industry looks set to invest heavily in natural gas as a next-generation locomotive fuel, but is that short-sighted? According to hydrail advocate Stan Thompson, investing in a system that is also compatible with hydrogen is a better and more responsible investment in the long-term.

                        "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

                        by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 05:02:23 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                      •  An example (0+ / 0-)

                        http://www.ncbr.com/...

                        Union Pacific plans safety improvements after oil spills

                        LOVELAND - Union Pacific Railroad (NYSE: UNP) has taken steps to improve railroad safety, chief executive Jack Koraleski said Wednesday, as concerns mount over crude oil spills from rail cars.

                        Koraleski made the comments in an interview with BizWest during his visit to Colorado on Wednesday. The company said this week that it is investing $11 million in the next few months in rail line improvements in Colorado and Wyoming. Funded by Union Pacific without taxpayer dollars, the project began July 9 and will be completed by mid-December.

                        Union Pacific will replace 43,300 railroad ties and install 12,800 tons of rock ballast on its lines. Crews also will renew surfaces at 43 railroad crossings. The effort is one of multiple projects that Union Pacific plans to complete this year to improve safety and operating efficiency as well as reduce motorist wait times at crossings.

                        "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

                        by indycam on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 08:57:15 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

              •  "e" gauge? (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                itzadryheat

                Not familiar with that one.

                Google suggests this may be O-Scale (or 0).

                I assume that you are not referring to these.

                Me, I favor three-rail H0 (Maerklin).

                N Scale gives you more bang for the buck, space-wise, if your eyesight can deal with smaller trains.

          •  Check this one . (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            BYw, Rashaverak

            http://globegazette.com/...

            Union Pacific intended to abandon the line.

            The purchase means businesses along the line will have more access to rail shipping and farmers will have access to more agriculture markets, representatives of the project said.

            The FCED and two other economic development organizations formed North Central Iowa Rail Corridor LLC to buy the line.

            The LLC also signed a 10-year lease-to-own agreement with Iowa Northern Railway to operate the rail line. Iowa Northern and the rail group have an agreement with Canadian Pacific to access that company’s east and west lines.

            Dan Sabin of Iowa Northern said trains should starting running at the end of the month.

            The Union Pacific was reluctant to operate trains with fewer than 100 cars,  which made it difficult for businesses along the 28 miles of track to use it, project representatives said.

            Iowa Northern operates smaller trains, including some with five or 10 cars, Bilyeu said.

            "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

            by indycam on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 03:00:35 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yes, the new line didn't benefit from... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Rashaverak

              ...giveaways except for the right of way. Before that, Union Pacific had stripped off its free land (and the mineral resources that accompanied it) into Union Pacific Corp., the parent company, leaving the Union Pacific Railroad able to sell lines it wants to abandon without giving up the land. But UPR remains the principal operating company of UPC. Slick trick.

              Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

              by Meteor Blades on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 03:32:19 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  A lot of people know we gave land to the railroads (0+ / 0-)

            Most don't realize it amounted to more than 10% of the area of the lower 48.  It wasn't just ROW, it included land up to 40 miles on either side of the tracks to sell to help finance construction.

            In total 180 million acres was given away in this manner, and extensive fixed interest federal loans were also provided.

            Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

            by benamery21 on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 10:13:00 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  I want to electrify as much of the railroad system (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Eric Nelson

          as possible.

          Just look at what happened to the Milwaukee Road.

          The track bed was, in many cases, beginning to fail, and car shortages brought on by financing schemes scared off some of the new business. The line wanted to improve its books and looked at some of the assets it had, including a copper wire running for 656 miles. It was worth about $10m. The railroad could finance diesel engines, sell off the copper, and come away, in the short term, with their balance sheets in good shape. Oil was cheap in 1971, so the operational efficiencies of electrics were not dramatic, especially since the old parts for the motors were becoming harder to find. Of course, for the same $39m it cost to finance these diesels, the remaining gap could have been electrified and the diesels there transferred east. This would have been far better in the long run, but less so in the very short term.

          This decision was justified by saying that the infrastructure had passed the end of its useful lifespan, although this was, generally, not the case. The supporting poles were wearing out. The caternary wasn't, and the engines had plenty of life left (electric motors tend to last a very long time). The power sources needed some updating, but with mostly-free hydroelectricity, they could provide power for time to come. The track was in worsening shape, but that had nothing to do with the energy source for the trains operating. The Milwaukee was a bit desperate but more shortsighted and narrow-minded, and chose to abandon the electrification.

          The timing could not have been worse. Copper prices dropped, and the railroad only received $5m from the scrap. At the same time, oil prices quadrupled, and suddenly electricity would have been significantly cheaper. The track condition hobbled the line more, and travel times slowed considerably. By 1977, the line filed for bankruptcy, and asked the Interstate Commerce Commission to abandon the line. They did so in 1980.

          Had the chips fallen slightly differently (had there been slightly more foresight in the management) the Milwaukee could have linked its electrification in to a nearly 900-mile long system from Seattle to Montana. With slightly better maintenance, the line could have thrived during the oil crises, with dramatic operational advantages based on electricity, and may have considered spreading the wire east. But they didn't and instead the railroad is now abandoned, the only transcontinental line to be completely abandoned in the history of American railroads. Since then, oil prices decreased significantly, and no one has built a significant electric freight line (the only major electrification has been the Northeast Corridor from New Haven to Boston, built almost exclusively for passenger use).

          Of course, diesel hit $5 a gallon last year, and may only go higher. In the 1970s, electrification would have had a four-to-ten year payback time for the Milwaukee Road. It's a long-range investment—one which might be doable with some foresight and an ownership which looks far down the road. Or track, as it may be.

          Link

          Steel Interstate

      •  Like the millions of acres the Federal Gov't ceded (4+ / 0-)

        to them for the grand gesture of building the railroad tracks across the nation, which they've made fortunes off ever since.

        "I like paying taxes...with them, I buy Civilization"

        by Angie in WA State on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:45:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  You're right. I kind of oversimplified (6+ / 0-)

      something that's a bit more complex.

      Original railroad infrastructure -- including commercial track -- was built by companies using direct or indirect government subsidies, through such things as public/private partnerships, federal backing of bonds, tax breaks, etc. Companies also benefited by receiving monopoly rights to certain corridors.

      Although commercial tracks are maintained by their respective companies, I don't think their have been any major technological improvements made in quite some time.

      It should be noted that Amtrak passenger trains relies on commercially owned tracks and pay fees to the railway owners.

      Thus, I think a renewed public investment in the nation's interstate rail system would be a win-win: expanding the rail network and improving the safety and effectiveness of commercial transport of freight; and doing the same for Amtrak's passenger service.

      Stephen Colbert does superb satire. Pity those offended by it.

      by VirginiaJeff on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 12:13:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Uh no. Have you seen a railroad viaduct (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rashaverak, JeffW

      lately? They are a mess.

    •  On some railroads. (6+ / 0-)

      Others, like the Montreal, Maine, and Atlantic,, now known as the Central Maine and Quebec, are shoestring operations that use duct tape and chewing gum to keep running.  They use cast-off trackage formerly owned by bigger railways.

      Look at the degree of maintenance of the right-of-way in this photo:

      This was taken right after the Lac Mégantic disaster.  The locomotive was part of the runaway train.

      If you want to really wretch, visit the CM&Q’s home page.

      “Safe. Reliable. Secure."

      •  I'm not so certain that picture (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Rashaverak

        you're showing is part of the trains 'main line track'.  You could be looking at a photo of a little used part of track used for parking trains, etc.

        The MMandQ main line was well maintained.  It really wasn't lack of maintenance that led to the accident.  It was a series of Three-Mile-Island-like rare events that combined to lead to epic disaster.

        From Neocon to sane- thanks to Obama- and Kos.

        by satrap on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:14:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The photo was taken on the line through L-M. (3+ / 0-)

          See:

          Here.

          Investigators and police officers (SQ and RCMP) on train tracks in Lac-Mégantic where a series of locomotives came to a stop after some of their cargo, oil tanker cars derailed Saturday in downtown Lac-Mégantic. A fire and explosions followed causing many deaths and loss of property.
          Link.

          As to MMA maintenance practices…

          MMA's service and business practices had been subject to ongoing complaints from Fraser Papers Inc. and its successor Twin Rivers Paper Co. about missed pickup and delivery deadlines as well as poor track maintenance.
          2012 Sainte-Rosalie abandonment
          MMA suspended freight service on July 16, 2012 over the Ste Rosalie Subdivision without prior notice to its customers. This 38 kilometres (24 mi) rail line connecting the MMA main line at Farnham, Quebec north to Sainte-Rosalie in the Montérégie region of Québec was inspected in May 2012 by Transport Canada and was deemed to be non-compliant with recently updated "Rules Respecting Track Safety"[32] implemented by Transport Canada. The non-compliance was due to ongoing cost-cutting by MMA which resulted in deferred maintenance to the track between 2002 and 2012. MMA claimed the new "Rules Respecting Track Safety" was a force majeure and sufficient reason to terminate train operations[33] without first complying with Section 140 of the Canada Transportation Act[34] detailing requirements for "Transferring and Discontinuing the Operation of Railway Lines". The CTA legislation states that railway companies must give one year advance notice.[35]

          Two local clients affected by MMA's suspension of service, F. Ménard Inc. and Meunerie Côté-Paquet, have since initiated lawsuits against the railway.

          In 2013 MMA attempted to abandon the right of way and sell it to local municipalities. Because of the poor condition of the tracks on this section, if the sale were successful, the rails would likely be removed and the property converted to a rail trail.[36]

          (I realize the selection immediately above relates to the Ste.-Rosalie spur, but still.)
          Burkhardt refused to publicly disclose the amount of liability insurance[47] but acknowledged in mid-July “Whether we can survive is a complex question. We’re trying to analyze that right now.”[48] Questions were also raised about the condition of the line; on July 11 a Magog newspaper reported one in ten railroad ties to be rotten with many spikes loose enough to be removed by hand.[49]
          On September 12, Transport Canada shut down part of the MMA line[75] after an inspection of six track segments found substandard rail conditions which included a concentration of defective ties on a section near a propane storage facility.
          On December 18, 2013, the rail line from Sherbrooke was reopened through Lac-Mégantic with numerous restrictions, such as a prohibition on transport of dangerous cargo; a train's manifest being released no less than four hours ahead; no parking on tracks within 4 km (2 mi) of the town centre; a conductor and engineer must both be on board; and a train's speed must not exceed 16 km/h (10 mph).
          Link

          10 mph!

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