Monday, June 13, 2016

AMTRAK 188 NTSB Criticism by Railway Age Magazine Columnist Schanoes

Reiterating: The reason Amtrak 188 derailed is that the Northeast Corridor is a Pennsylvania Railroad line based upon 19th century civil engineering. The curve at Frankford Junction should  be reduced to one percent allowing for 90 mile per hour operation. IF it were built to 90 mile per hour standard then a 106 mile per hour mistake is not likely to cause anything more than passenger discomfort.

The Northeast Corridor is obsolete and overburdened with multiple tasks: Amtrak, transit and freight.                                                                                                                                                            
The NTSB speculates that operator distraction to a radio communication by a SEPTA crew member about being subjected to rock throwing vandalism might have contributed to the Amtrak engineer's distraction. That might be the case. It is official speculation. But, as accident investigations are much like the expression, "For the want of nail a shoe was lost, a horse was lost, a battle was lost, a kingdom was lost,"  speculation is not an investigation finding.
IF SEPTA was not sharing the railroad then there would not have been the distraction leading to over speed through a needlessly sharp curve?                                                                                       

Why is the Northeast Corridor so lacking in security that a rock throwing vandal can hit a SEPTA or any other train? That kind of vandalism has been happening for decades.

Curvature on the Northeast Corridor must be eased throughout its length.

The Northeast Corridor right of way must be secured in order to prevent vandalism,  let alone potential sabotage / terrorism.

Looking at the exchange between a columnist with the trade journal, Railway Age Magazine, one can see valid criticism of the NTSB and its Amtrak 188 investigation findings beyond this writers basic and fundamental contentions. Columnist David Schanoes has a wealth  of railroad operations and engineering knowledge. Check it out at

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Real Reason Amtrak 188 Wrecked

The real reason Amtrak 188 wrecked was that an 1864 railroad right of way alignment had never been eased. IF the curve at Frankford Junction had been eased to 1%, then Train 188 would have been above the speed limit of 90 mph but the train would have NOT derailed.

The Northeast Corridor is an amazing demonstration of what can be accomplished over alignments designed in the 1850's and 1860's.

Here is the New York Times article discussing the NTSB report:

What is engineer Bostian's status? Is he operating freight locomotives? Ironically, being a freight engineer means you work with a conductor in the locomotive cab.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Making America Great Again

Making America great again. What does that mean?

Governments gain revenue by taxation, debt, and or currency debasement. Revenue comes from one source or another or a combination of the three.

Making America great again requires a commitment to govern. A philosophy of less government, small government is questionable. It may be romantic belief on the part of the believer.
But how does a country with over three hundred million people  have less government, a smaller government?

Austerity is one approach. That lessens taxation. It does nothing for debt. It does not make America great.

The issue inherent to income distribution inequality is that the type of income for the highest incomes is not wage income. It is investment, ownership income. Investment and ownership income is taxed at a lesser rate than wage income.

As the assumption is that high speed rail HSR 200 mph + will be government investment, similar taxation of investment and ownership income is a way to generate the government investment resource for HSR as well as other needs.

The frequent phrase, "the top 1%" really is addressing the enormously disproportionate income earned from investment and ownership income. That's where the money is. That is how with equality of taxation of investment and ownership income in comparison with wage income is of such concern. It is why trickle down economics became trickle away economics.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Idea for HIGH SPEED RAIL Pennsylvania Keystone

High Speed Rail (HSR) refers to a railroad capable of speeds over 110 miles per hour. Systems exist where sustained speeds over 200 mile per hour are regularly operated.

HSR requires curvature of less than 1% for 200 mile per hour operation.

The grade of a railroad should be as modest as possible. The goal should be to have not grade over 1%.

Any HSR system for the United States means construction to New York and Washington, D.C. The route to those major destinations will cross the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is crossed by railroad lines built in the 1840's and 1850's.
The grades of the Pennsylvania Railroad (Northfolk Southern today) and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (CSX) exceed the gradient and curvature required for HSR. Both are essentially freight railroads encumbered by Amtrak passenger trains. Both routes over the Alleghenies are functionally obsolete and not subject for consideration of HSR. Their logic for future freight service are subject to review and consideration for future freight volumes.

Remarkably, a railroad was surveyed and  proposed in 1906 called the New York, Pittsburgh and Chicago Railroad. ( See the trade journal, "Railway Age" for 08/24/1906.) Crossing Pennsylvania no grade would have exceeded three tenths of one percent. This would have been accomplished by tunneling. The route went west from New York across the center of Pennsylvania. It was to have been an electrified freight railroad with curves not exceeding three percent. Being electrified it would have had substantially less expensive operating costs than being reliant upon steam locomotives not withstanding the favorable grades. Had it been built it would have been a major competitor to the steam railroads. It would have changed the course of American transportation history. The bank crisis of 1907, the panic of 1907, ended the effort to build it.

The story of the New York, Pittsburgh and Chicago Railroad is related to make the point that the Allegheny Mountains can be crossed with a favorable gradient. That was going to be accomplished with steam powered, mechanical shovels using ropes to move the boom and operate the scoop. Dynamite would have been part of the effort. Substantial physical labor would still have been part of the effort. But, it would not have been as limiting as manpower, horsepower, mulepower and black powder had been in building the Pennsylvania, Baltimore and Ohio, and Erie Railroads in the 1850's.

Today an HSR will be built with diesel powered trucks, hydraulic backhoes, bulldozers and dynamite.

So, what is the potential market for HSR from New York to Chicago?

NTSB Amtrak 188 Document Release

The NTSB document release can be found here:

There would have been no loss of life if the NEC had had the modernization and improvements to have prevented the derailment.

Where is the demand to ease the curvature?

Where is the demand to upgrade the NEC and alongside the upgrade build a 200 mph HSR?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

What"s The Market For HSR Chicago to New York / Washington?

What is the market for HSR assuming 200 mph average speed? That average speed would mean a five hour trip from New York to Chicago.

Looking at the quarterly city pair air fare analysis by the US. Department of Transportation a picture can be assumed. in the second quarter of 2015, the average daily number of passengers for Chicago to New York was 11,251. Unlike air travel, HSR passes through and exploits other intervening markets.
Chicago to Indianapolis the count is 186, Chicago to Detroit is 1,303, Chicago to Cleveland is 1,368, Chicago to Pittsburgh is 1,065, Chicago to Harrisburg is 234,  Chicago to Philadelphia is 2840. The total is 18,247. Add another 5,838 for Chicago to Washington for potential 24,085 daily market.

Begin by looking at Chicago to New York. In and by itself that load factor represents 11,251 daily passengers. Along the route 186 air passengers travel between Chicago and Indianapolis. Chicago Detroit is 1303.  Chicago to Cleveland is 1368.  Chicago to Pittsburgh is 1065. Chicago to Harrisburg is 234, Chicago Philadelphia is 2840. Chicago to Washington is 5838. That's a daily air fare gross of $5,512,655.00

Looking for other city pairs along Chicago to New York to Washington D.C. travel market reveals additional potential revenue. Indianapolis to Philadelphia has a number of 434 passengers. Indianapolis to New York adds 1006. Indianapolis is another 1125. That represents a total gross air fare of $684,425.00. So on and so as the chart below is followed intervening market areas exist for a High Speed Rail passenger train for Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

The opportunity is a daily $8,549,885.00 or an estimated $3,120,708, 025.00 annual gross. Admittedly this is a ham fisted 365 day multiplier to reach the three billion dollar gross. Yes, a High Speed Railroad from Chicago to the east coast may capture a portion of the air travel. Air travel city pairs is hard data. The potential market to attract motorists is a guess. The number of persons making long distance trips from Chicago to New York is nearly impossible to establish. Average vehicle daily count numbers at points along an Interstate give only vehicle density. The number of tractor trailers and the number of automobiles can be published. Where the origin and the destination for the vehicles on the Interstate might be located cannot be identified. As the volume of motorists far exceeds the number of air travelers the potential market is vast.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

New York Times Update Wreck 188, Frankford Junction, Philadelphia, PA

Today's update article misses the point that severe curvature on the Northeast Corridor and the curve at Frankford Junction, Curve 298, should not exist. Curvature must be eased. Had a 1% or less curve confronted Engineer Bostian there would not have been a derailment.

Here's the link to "The Wreck of Amtrak 188," :